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Mack’s Musings

An Integrated Approach to Video (Mack’s Slide Deck from #WistiaFest)

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

An Integrated Approach to Strategy

Video is an incredibly powerful tool that is integral to creating a connection with your customers. But it takes a whole lot of channels and a whole lot of effort —in addition to video—to build your brand and your community and to accomplish goals for your business.

Like social media, email marketing, search, other forms of content, and offline efforts, video is just one tool that needs to fit into a larger marketing strategy.

This slide deck is a case study of the first time that Mack Web used video in our integrated marketing strategy. Inside you will find our roadmap. Our process. What we actually did: the goals we set, the strategy we followed, what we measured, and how it all turned out in the end.

(Feel free to walk through the deck yourself – it’s pretty self-explanatory – or have Mack walk you through it by watching the video of her WistiaFest talk.)

The Videos

If you’d like to see the actual videos that we created, take a peek at these. Each video provides a community building tip and a little Mack Web personality. Creating the videos this way really helped us to build brand awareness and a connection with our audience and to earn sign-ups for our community building guide:

Why Build a Community

Building Community Takes Personality

Building Community is a Team Effort

Make Friends with Other Communities

Our Guide to Building Online Communities is Finally Here

But Wait, There’s More

If you really want to experience the power of video, check out these speaker intros that Wistia created for each of the speakers at #WistiaFest. What a great way to honor each speaker and raise the energy level in the room before taking the stage.

I bet you can’t name anything that rhymes with Fogelson.

 

Quest-Post

Why Follower Count is Bullshit

By | Data and Analytics, Mack's Musings, Social Media, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement, Web Marketing | 7 Comments

Quest-PostIt’s impossible to communicate the value of social media efforts when you’re using a metric like follower count. It’s easy to measure, but it doesn’t mean anything.

You’ve got to put in the work to measure the right things so that you can determine whether your efforts are actually making a difference.

I’ve got a whole lot of reasons for (and proof of) why you should be measuring social media success differently. In an effort to provide a few suggestions on how to do that, I’ve put together this case study. A slide deck that tells the story of my own two-year, follower-building effort.

Enjoy.

Keeping Your True Self Intact with Boundaries (and Trust)

By | Mack's Musings | 13 Comments

I’ve recently learned that when your kid starts lying it’s a sign of intelligence. A big cognitive advance worth embracing. My son must be really smart. He most certainly would fail a polygraph at three and a half.

e-cookie-1

This is Easton. He’s cute for a reason.

 

Teaching Easton what it means to be trustworthy has been an interesting journey. How do you explain the concept of honesty to someone who still wears a pull-up at night? This is one of those phases we’re supposed to chalk up to “normal childhood development” and hope he re-calibrates before he ends up in a correctional facility.

When you’re teaching your kid why it’s important not to lie, you start to think about whether you’re a shining example yourself. After some slight self-reflection I’m afraid I fall a tad short of perfection.

It’s not like I’m a compulsive liar. In fact, I’m pretty much tipped a little too far on the transparency side of the scale and could probably learn to be a bit more discrete. It’s more the little white lies side that are concerning. It’s the equivalent to the seemingly harmless “I washed my hands with soap mom! I’m telling the truth!” fabrications. For me, it’s the tiny commitments I’m continually breaking with myself that are starting to take a toll.

Admitting there’s a problem

A couple weeks back, I had lunch with my husband (who is undeniably and unconditionally my biggest supporter) and he made a casual comment that he can’t tell the difference between when I’m working and when I’m texting with friends or looking something up online. It was a subtle wake-up call that there really isn’t much of a difference in my life these days. I’ve been working all the time.

I tell myself these little lies about how it’s just the stage we’re in as a company. It’s just because we’re short-handed on the team right now. I’m just writing this one email so that I’m not obsessing about it all night (or all weekend). I’m just jotting down a few thoughts in Evernote real quick. I’m just going to schedule this one more meeting even though I’m already overloaded this week.

Every single one of these small exceptions ends up in a teetering stack at the top of a very slippery slope that eventually collapses into absolutely no separation between “life” and work. No breaks. No downtime. No room to breathe. No space. Which ultimately results in less and less time for me to fully be present, in the moment, and enjoy some sort of life outside of work.

For two years it’s been time to re-introduce some boundaries. Setting them isn’t the hard part. It’s trusting myself to stick to them.

Making some space

A few months ago I hired a personal assistant. I wrestled with this decision for quite some time. When you’re a small (but mighty) team and you have limited resources, spending the money on a personal assistant just doesn’t seem like the best use of our cash. I’m extremely glad I took the plunge.

Her first priority was to help me introduce some boundaries into my schedule. So we put the no meetings block rule into place. This meant that my “work day” would be made up of two time chunks: 9 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm.

If a meeting gets booked into the first block of the day, then immediately the second block gets closed. All meetings would then be stacked on top of each other in that first block so that I could get them out of the way. Then, once that block of time passed, my schedule would open up and I’d be free to work on the things that I needed to get done during real, actual work hours so that I could bring less work home and allow myself that gift of space.

meeting-blocks

At home my boundaries started with cutting off easy access to my phone. I put it away so that I’m not tempted to breeze by and pick it up. If I need to make a note about something for work I use my shit list.

No, really:

macks-shit-list

I’ve cut down tremendously on how much I work at night and the time I spend on email (both at work and at home). When I leave work, I quit all email. I go to bed sooner and I get up thirty minutes earlier so that I can go through emails in the morning before the kids are up and before the team needs my feedback.

I’ve been adjusting to these new parameters and doing all of this good stuff at work and home for more than two weeks now. At first I was allowing meetings to creep into my no meetings blocks so I had to get that under control (and now my assistant fully controls my schedule so that I don’t even have to say no). It also took a few days to adjust to being away from my phone at night (I felt like a crack addict for at least three days). The shocker is that the work isn’t really piling up. No one’s dying. Everything is getting handled.

And for the first time in a long time I feel like I can breathe.

Looking out for myself

There’s a heaviness I feel when I’ve disregarded the boundaries I’ve put into place. When I’ve said yes too much. When I’ve given every ounce of energy away along with all of my empathy, patience, and compassion. When I’ve left nothing for my family and certainly not myself.

I’ve been learning that setting boundaries and being strong enough to keep them is a reflection of how much you care about yourself. I need to care enough about my well being that I’m willing to say no to a client, a colleague, or even a team member who requests a meeting during a no meetings block. I need to be able to trust that I will put my phone away at home and get in that play room — fully present — with my kids, just like I promised I would.

I’ve been learning to better recognize the intense cycles of this job as an entrepreneur. The extreme mental demand at all hours of the day. Apparently there’s a big disregard for personal space when you’re running a business which is why you’ve got to set boundaries and defend them like your life depended on it. These boundaries come in the form of small promises that you make to yourself and when you continually allow them to be broken, you quickly realize that you’re not only overwhelmed and headed for a nervous breakdown, but you’re cheating your family, your team, and chipping away at your best self.

I’ve got a lot to teach those two little nuggets of mine. I want their memories of me to be playing with them, laughing, and snuggling (I LOVE to snuggle) instead of working on my laptop, being glued to my phone, or always needing to get something done. And even if I didn’t have kids, prioritizing me above my work and keeping my commitments to myself gives me purpose and meaning. It reminds me that not everything that makes me feel alive, happy, and satisfied has to come from my work. Because it doesn’t.

So I’m setting some limits and cautiously standing guard. I need to be able to trust that I can actually have a life outside of Mack Web and keep my commitment to honor and take care of myself. When I actually do it, I prove to myself that I can, it feels really good, and I trust that as things shift (again) around here, I’ll be able keep myself in tact.

 

 

This Job

By | Mack's Musings | 17 Comments

ry-and-e

It’s Sunday just before noon. I’m headed to speak at my final conference of the year. I purposely booked my flight in the afternoon so that I could have more time with Jon and the kids.

There’s anxiety in the kitchen as Ryan notices my suitcase by the door.

Tears well up in her beautiful baby blues. She doesn’t want me to leave. I wipe her face with my fingers and tell her to close her eyes.

“Can you picture me in your head, Ry?”

She squints, using all of her might not to open her eyes and look at me.

“Can you see me?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“OK. Anytime you miss me just close your eyes and that’s where you’ll find me.”

I pull out of the driveway and sign I love you at the window as I wave to her, E, and Jon. I’m relieved I booked a quick trip. I’ll be back in less than 3 days.


“I never learned to count my blessings. I choose instead to dwell in my disasters.”
Empty
Ray LaMontagne


If you had handed me a script of what was going to unfold in my life over the last couple years, I would have called you crazy. When I reflect, my throat gets tight and I have to fight back some pretty heavy emotions.

And not entirely from joy.

I signed up for this job as an entrepreneur completely blind to the sacrifices that would be made. Time with my kids. Time with my husband. Time with myself. Stuff I won’t get back. Things I can’t undo. In 10 years, will I regret that I wasn’t entirely present during these years of my kids’ lives? Worse, will I be able to forgive myself when the lament finally settles in?

All the recent success we’ve had aside, this job has left me feeling pretty broken. I’ve wrestled with extreme self-criticism, doubt, and guilt. The isolation. The relentless pushing and driving. The extreme highs and even more severe lows. Utter exhaustion. Defeat. Hurt.

And now I’ve got my big girl pants on.


“Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m wiser and I’m older. All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.”
Wake Me  Up
Avicii


I get it now. It took me a while but I can clearly see that everything in this job is a cycle. Stuff gets accomplished and crossed off the list but there will always be more impatiently waiting right behind it. It’s up to me to drive the rhythm.

I understand now that I need to make the time to look for those extreme spikes in the pattern of my work, identify where I’ll need some space, and communicate that beforehand to Jon and the kids. And, just as important,  prioritize time off with myself when the push is over so that I can rest, recover, and be completely present with my kids and spend some much needed time with Jon.


“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”
Counting Stars
One Republic


Every time I go away to a conference I am torn. It’s really hard to leave my kids.  And even though I enjoy the change of pace and am fulfilled from time with friends, I question whether it’s worth it. Do the gains that I make for my career and the business really mean more than the time I’m trading with my family?

What I have come to understand about this job is that I derive an incredible amount of satisfaction, passion, and joy from it and that’s nothing to feel shameful about. The key for me is to learn to prioritize my family over my work and not criticize myself when I don’t.  I am Mack the Mom and I am Mack the Entrepreneur. Sometimes one requires more attention than the other and I’m learning how to tell which one that is. I’m not making a choice between the two. I just need to give my all to both and know that it can’t happen at the same time.


“Even on my weakest days I get a little bit stronger.”
A Little Bit Stronger
Sara Evans


This precarious balance between this job and my family is truly a daily exercise in mental and emotional strength. But I can see now that this job is a gift. Like parenting, it’s been a daily lesson in self-awareness and personal growth. I am grateful for the constant reminder and perspective on priorities, meaning, and purpose. That even though I indulge in and crave the validation of what we’re accomplishing at Mack Web, that I would be empty without the love and true reward my family brings.

My dad always tells me, “you’ll never get it wrong and you’ll never get it done.” This job is relentless and I’m sure it’s not going to let up any time soon. But I’m not going to punk out and I’m not ready to quit.

This is the job.

Make Friends with Other Communities

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Online Community Building Videos, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Make Friends with Other Communities

Making friends is an important part of building community. When you go to meet-ups, conferences, and events and get to know the people who are doing great things, you not only get to be a part of what they’re doing, but you get to leverage their communities.

So be a friend, share the cookies, and sign up for our free community building guide.

(Only 4 more days until launch!)

 

Some (slow and powerful) Progress

By | Mack's Musings | 24 Comments

I found myself all choked up today after dropping Ryan off at pre-school. She had her five year old checkup and had to get her Kindergarten shots. She was trying so hard to be brave but she couldn’t hold back the tears. I told her that sometimes when we get scared we cry because it’s a way of releasing the anxiety and frustration we feel about something.

A few minutes after getting her shots and regaining her composure she told me that she had been real brave. She just had a lot of ‘frustration’ and so she needed to cry a little.

Mack and Ry
When we finished up with the doctor, I brought Ryan back to pre-school and left her on the playground with all of her friends. All the kids gathered around to gawk at her Tweety Bird band-aid, wondering if it hurt. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s going to Kindergarten next week, or maybe it’s because there have been so many blessings pouring down on me these days, but the ‘frustration’ got the best of me and I needed to cry a little, too.

Letting go

Mack Web contracted with a business consultant back in June to facilitate StratOps. It’s a strategical operations exercise for your business that helps you take a hard look at where you’ve been, where you want to go, and what it’s going to take to get you there.

StratOps normally kicks off as a two-day, off-site retreat with select team members (because Mack Web is a small team, all six of us participated). Then, once you’ve had a couple months to work through all the stuff that came out of the initial retreat, the facilitator comes back to do a scrub. Progress is checked, challenges are discussed, new initiatives are set. And the process repeats.

stratops-mackweb

After our first run of StratOps – two days of intense questioning and looking at the hard truths – the team agreed on four initiatives we were going to work on for the next three months. Team leaders were chosen and tasks were assigned. And for the first time ever, nothing was assigned to me.

I had no idea that’s how it was going to play out. And actually, I was really uncomfortable. I felt anxiety about whether they would be able to accomplish this very important stuff and guilt about the extra load the team would need to carry in order to get it done. Our facilitator assured me it would give the team a sense of ownership that would catapult them forward.

She was right.

StratOps was my first big girl lesson in letting go (which was, ironically, a challenge one of my mentors had given me just weeks before). I didn’t realize how much I was holding on to until I was away for a week at MozCon. It’s amazing how much clarity you get when you go away. In the months leading up to my trip, we had hired three people. They were new and their roles were new and I was working hard to train them at a level that was new to us, too.

I thought I was being thorough and leading by example. But in actuality I was holding them back. I had done the hard work of hiring well and it was time to get out of the way.

Letting go not only lightened my load, but there’s stuff happening right now. Better stuff. Stuff that I never could have put in place by myself. The team seems more in control. More willing to take initiative and try things out. It’s kind of amazing how it was just that little thing to start with and now it feels like a whole new company.

Learning (not) to react

When I went to Seattle, I took one of our new Strategists with me. Moz was generous enough to provide each speaker with a comp ticket, so I took Julie. She was the more seasoned of our three new hires and I was grooming her for leadership. I wanted her to experience first-hand the power of conferences in our industry and what better first one to take her to than MozCon?

A week after we got back she quit.

What’s amazing about Julie (and a big reason why I hired her) is that she gets people. She’s a gentle observer. She’s incredibly intelligent and she can read people and see things that sometimes I can’t.

When we were at MozCon, Julie told me she was amazed by how at home I seemed in that space. Those people were my people, she told me. She could see how happy I was and how much it energized me to be around everyone. Watching me at MozCon helped her to get me and it also helped her to get herself. She realized that it didn’t matter what role we moved her into at Mack Web. She had to find that for her and it wasn’t here.

I don’t think either of us have regrets. We joke about how Julie is Glinda our Good Witch and that she was meant to come to Mack Web to help us figure some shit out. And we did, and we still are, but her leaving brings clarity on roles that we would not have had this soon if Julie decided to stay. And that clarity will take a huge load off the team and really help our company this year.

And so it goes.

I was actually really surprised at my reaction to Julie’s news. I was calm. I didn’t get overly emotional about it. I realized that this is just part of the process of people. They will come and go. We will do good things together and I will learn a lot. And the less I choose to have a Jerry Maguire reaction, the better:

Perception

I do a lot of yoga and one of my favorite teachers says this a lot:

How you do anything is how you do everything.

So for now, I’m working constantly to figure out how to do things different. How to do things better. How to enjoy more. How to just leave things alone. Between growing Mack Web and raising a family, I’ve got a whole lot of opportunity to practice.

But the good thing is that I’ve figured a few things out:

  1. My kids are all that matters.
  2. None of the travel and speaking and exciting (but emotionally exhausting) Mack Web stuff that I get to do would ever be possible if I wasn’t married to a man like Jon.
  3. I’ll never get there. Just like raising my kids, this running a company thing is always going to be full of struggle (and I have to remind myself of this every. single. day.). There isn’t really a balance. But I do what I can with what I have and I know that there is going to be some really good stuff along the way.

There already is.

 

More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Building Online Communities

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

So I’ve written just a little bit about how to build online communities.

It’s only because I’m so extremely passionate about it. And I’ve lived it. In the last year we’ve experienced first-hand the amazing benefits and opportunities that open up when you do the work to build your brand, your community, and your company.

What follows is a curated compilation of a community building series I’ve written on the Moz blog (along with a Mozinar and a slidedeck from a speaking gig). Certainly there will be more to unfold, but here’s all of the community building goodness I have to give (in one convenient place):

Building Community with Value

The first in the series, Building Community with Value, explains one of the most fundamental concepts to building a community around your business: the 80/20 rule. The gist of this ‘rule’ — no matter what your ratio ends up being — is that social media is at its best when it’s driven by valuable content (that’s not all about you). One of the most meaningful ways to build relationships, trust, and your community, is to share other people’s great stuff. The 80/20 has been a great accelerator in our community building efforts. Give it a shot and see how it works for you.


How to Identify an Online Community for Your Business

The best part about building an online community is that you don’t have to start from scratch. There are so many great communities, people, and companies online who would love to be part of other great communities. All you have to do is find them. If you’re working on building your community, How to Identify an Online Community for Your Business is a great place to start.


Attract Customers to Your Community with Content

This is one of my very favorite posts in this community building series. I remember when I was writing this post I was telling my husband Jon that I was frustrated because I wanted to explain the difference between self-promotional content and customer-focused content and I couldn’t find any effective examples. He sent me a couple of emails he had recently received from Patagonia. They were perfect.

If you want to Attract Customers to Your Community with Content, you’ve got to create two kinds: foundational and community building. Patagonia does an amazing job of this and it’s all detailed in this post.


How to Build an Online Community for Your Business

Lucky for me, we have an amazing designer at Mack Web and her name is Natalie. She’s responsible for creating the spectacular info-graphics that we use to explain how we build community. In this post, How to Build an Online Community for Your Business Nat provides the illustrated version of this step-by-step processes.

If you’ve got an hour or so, you can also listen/watch this one Mozinar style.


Think Differently: How to Accomplish Big Goals for Your Business

This is not a Moz post, but even better, it’s a slide deck from my first big industry speaking gig. When I was on that stage at SearchLove, I challenged the crowd to Think Differently: How to Accomplish Big Goals for Your Business. This deck represents the community building process that we developed and tested on ourselves and our clients. My talk walks through this entire process (from buy-in to reporting) so that you can emulate it for your business.


Meet Your Community Building Team

After I had been writing and speaking about building community for several months (and of course working with our clients), I started to receive a whole lot of requests for role support. Who do we hire to do the work? Do we need one person for every single role? How do we build an ideal team?

I wrote Meet Your Community Building Team on the Moz blog in an attempt to encourage as many companies as possible to un-silo their existing marketing department and effectively build their ideal community building teams.


The Fundamentals of Building and Managing Your Community

Essentially, this Moz post is the final entry in this community building series. The Fundamentals of Building and Managing Your Community breaks down the important elements of both building and managing your community.

Specifically, the post highlights one of the most effective concepts we’ve used in community building—the Goals not Tools pyramid. In essence, you want to make sure that no matter what you’re doing — whether it’s building community or working on other important facets of growing your company — you start from goals. Identify the big picture of what you’d like to accomplish before jumping into the tools that will get you there.


Bonus! Mack Web’s Free Guide to Building Online Communities

So that about does it (so far) on Moz posts and the community building series, but if you like what you’ve read so far, then you’re in for a real treat. Mack Web has been developing a free, step-by-step guide on building online communities. This guide, written in true Mack Web fashion, will come in the form of a handy-dandy PDF and will incorporate all of our community building wisdom in one pretty little package.

If you don’t want to miss out on all the fun, sign up here. It will be your early Christmas present.


What Else Would You Like to Know?

As the year continues to unfold, and we continue to develop, iterate, and collect data about building community, there will be a whole lot more to tell you. What is it that I haven’t covered that you’d like to hear? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below.

 

The Making of SearchLove

By | Events, Mack's Musings, Web Marketing | 4 Comments

There are so many phenomenal speakers in our industry that it’s really easy to think that there isn’t a whole lot of work involved when you’re asked to speak at a conference. Come up with a topic and description, throw some slides together, rehearse it a time or two, and then get on that stage.

Not exactly.

A couple weeks ago I had the honor of speaking for Distilled at SearchLove Boston. It was my first time speaking in the industry and it was an amazing experience. I learned a great deal about what it takes to get prepared.

I won’t deny that I am an over-achiever and how I prepared for SearchLove may not be even close to what the other speakers went through. But for those of you who are curious about taking the stage and what’s involved, here’s a glimpse into a first-timer’s preparation.

In the beginning

Your session title and description is requested a couple months before you speak and well before you have your talk written. This made me a little nervous because this was my first gig and I had no idea how everything was going to shake down once I actually started writing my talk. So I decided to go with something more general so that no matter what I ended up focusing on, it wouldn’t be completely off the mark.

I decided to go with this:

Think Differently: How to Use Content, SEO, and Social Media to Achieve (Big) Goals for Your Business

SEO, social media, and content marketing are perfect for building community, but ultimately they’re only the tools. The true objective is to meet your business goals, growing your company into what you want it to be.

Mack will reveal a sustainable approach and process that goes beyond the tools, focusing instead on who and what a company should be and on building a thriving community around your brand.

A few weeks after I turned this in, I had a conference call with Rob Ousbey where we discussed what I was planning on covering in my talk. We chatted through a bunch of ideas and Rob gave me the run down on the level of the audience (advanced), what they typically like to hear (actionable tips), and that I needed to write my talk as if I were speaking only to the other speakers. He explained how this would help me cut out any parts that would be too basic, and focus only on things that would bring great value to the audience.

After our call, I sketched out a few notes and stuck them in a folder. And then, over the next few weeks, I carried around this little notebook and took down thoughts and ideas so that when I finally had the time to work on my talk, I could get right to it.

Starting with research & ideas

Before I started writing anything, I looked at a TON of decks to get some inspiration. Jon Colman, Mike King, Rand Fishkin, Rhea Drysdale, Wil Reynolds, Ian Lurie, Will Critchlow, Aleyda Solis. I tried to get exposure to as many different styles and approaches from the speakers in the industry who I respect most. I also watched several videos from past SearchLove conferences.

Then I read a great book that Rand had recommended called Resonate by Nancy Duarte. It was full of great recommendations on how to structure your talk and what it takes to fully understand your audience and their journey.

Taking Ian Lurie’s advice about never starting your slide deck first, I began drafting my talk by writing down all of the ideas I could think of related to my session title and description.

I didn’t even touch a computer during this phase. I just wrote down (and flushed out) all of the ideas I had been collecting in my notebook over the last few weeks. I tried to organize them into topics and exhaust all the stuff I wanted to say about each idea. I didn’t filter anything. I just got it all down and then stacked all the ideas from each topic into individual piles and paper clipped them together.

Then I let it sit for a week or so. I continued to marinate on the stuff I had put together and wrote down additional ideas in my little notebook as they came. I also had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Wil Reynolds. I very much respect his speaking style and I was hoping to get some insider’s tips from him since he had spoken at SearchLove many times.

My biggest take away from Wil was that my job was to make the lives of the audience easier. What was I going to tell them that was going to help them walk away and better do their jobs?

This got me to thinking that I needed to better understand the audience. I needed more info on demographics, pain points, and what they were really coming to SearchLove to learn. This made me nervous because I felt like I was running out of time, but I knew that this would make the difference between a good and great presentation. Wil had suggested conducting a survey, so I started figuring out what it was going to take to put that together.

Getting some direction

Instead of just asking a bunch of questions that I thought would help me get a better understanding of the audience, I decided to ask some industry peers. I wanted to get some feedback from a few friends who had either worked for or with some of the people and companies who may be represented in the SearchLove audience.

I also asked Lynsey Little and Lauren Brady, head of Distilled’s events, to provide me with some basic demographic information about last year’s audience.

So I sent an email to Nick Eubanks, Bill Sebald, James Agate, Chris Gilcrist, and Joel Klettke, and gave them the low down in order to get some input:

I received a bunch of diverse feedback from that group, so I put together a spreadsheet to make sense of it and organize it all:

At that point I could see that I really only needed to ask 6 questions to get the answers I needed. So I created a survey on Survey Monkey and with the help of Distilled, we pushed it out on social media to collect some data.

We didn’t get a ton of people who took the survey, but it did help me to get some clarity and focus my talk:

All of the survey work I did helped me to see that the pain points I needed to address with this audience boiled down to a few important things: buy-in, siloed teams, proving ROI, what to measure, how to change perspective, how long does it take to get results, and how do I get consensus in a larger organization.

I wrote these pain points down and hung them on the wall of my office so that as I continued to work on my talk I would be reminded to keep focused on these things.

Drafting my talk

Once I had pain points and knew exactly what I wanted to focus on, I had to figure out the best way to communicate the solutions to this stuff. Will Critchlow had reminded me to focus on my process strengths, so I broke this stuff down into stages.

First on a piece of paper:

And then, because I was going to have Natalie (our designer) create a graphic to illustrate all of this stuff once I was ready to put it in my deck, I also did a pretty version with colors and stuff all flushed out like this:

From this sketch, while Nat worked on the graphic, I began drafting my whole talk in an actual blog post. This way, I could flush out the narrative of the stuff I really wanted to say (stories, case studies, examples) and then later pull out the key points that would go onto the slides.

It took a while for me to write the blog post, but it really helped me to learn the material. So in a sense, I was rehearsing while I was preparing which really helped me in the end.

Creating the deck

Lucky for me, I’ve got Nat to help me make things look really good. She and I worked together to create the look of about 5 or 6 different types of slides. From there, I could go through the blog post I had written and pull out only the info that was going to make it onto the slides.

With the different types of slides to choose from, it allows me to create the whole deck without needing a designer (Nat does all the graphic work and saves them in a folder for me to use), it brings some variety, and it helps me to say things in different ways (making a bigger impact).

Here’s the basic slide types I used:

I’m very picky about the message that goes on each slide and it takes me a long time to get each slide just right. I like my decks to tell as much of the story as possible so that the people who never hear the talk can still get all of the value.

Once I had everything in the deck, I sent it to Courtney (our content strategist and the voice of our brand) to read the whole thing and make notes about each slide. She’s the grammar police so she’ll tell me if what I’ve said isn’t quite right, or, if I’ve completely blown it and missed a transition, connecting piece, or need to flush something out further (she seriously is my saving grace).

Practice

Once the deck had been through the wrath of Courtney, I spent some time by myself talking through it out loud. This helped me to eliminate some slides, move some things around, and add anything that was missing.

And then I was ready to practice.

And this is going to sound a little crazy, but I don’t like to practice in front of people before I present. I’m not afraid of public speaking and it makes me really uncomfortable to work things out in front of a few people vs. actually being in front of the actual crowd of a few hundred (or more). So I just prefer to work things out (out loud) on my own.

What usually works for me is I stand in my basement (by myself) and give my talk to the wall several times (I’m weird, I know). I write down notes as I go through it and work through transitions. I get as familiar as possible with the flow so that when I’m on the stage I am comfortable, relaxed, and I can feel like I’m having a conversation with the audience.

The finished product

In the end, after all of that work, it all comes down to this:

On the other side

Now that I’ve conquered my first big industry speaking gig, here are the most important things I learned:

  1. Speak about what you love
    I will always make sure that I’m writing and speaking about stuff that I’m really passionate about. It’s a lot of work to do all of this. When you’re running a company and preparing to speak simultaneously, you have to push really hard and it’s easy to get tired and want to give up. If I wasn’t speaking about something I cared about, it would be hard for me to stay motivated to deliver such a quality product.
  2. Use real content
    Whenever I’m writing or speaking, I make sure my content is real, authentic, and communicates what’s actually going on in real life. So the process I spoke about at SearchLove was something we had actually been working on at Mack Web throughout the previous year. This also helps because it provides actual data, case studies, and challenges that I can talk about first-hand. Another bonus is that using real content is a great way to leverage and make the most of everything you’re doing. Because I was using real-life stuff, as I wrote my talk it was a raw look into what we were actually doing at Mack Web which helped me to see what we needed to work on with our own clients and in our business.
  3. Know when to take a break
    Because this was my first big gig, and it was for Distilled (I idolize and heart them a whole lot), I wanted to do a tremendous job. I worked harder on this deck than anything I’ve done in the last year. I’m good with that part, but the part I’m going to let go next time is all the anxiety. I had some pretty hefty expectations about having my deck done and rehearsed weeks ahead of time. That just wasn’t very realistic. With all I have going with Mack Web and my family, preparing for a speaking gig at this caliber was a lot to handle. The balance of my career and family was really tough during this time. So now that I’m on the other side, I realize that it may always be last minute getting these things together, but that I will get it done and I will do my best. I always do. I just need to allow myself more room, more flexibility, and take a break from the entire thing even when I feel like I don’t have the time to give.

Even though speaking is a ton of work, it’s so incredibly rewarding. Sure, it’s great to get Mack Web the exposure, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m speaking because I love it. It’s such an awesome feeling to be on that stage. And it’s really great to know that I can help people just by talking about something that I’m so incredibly passionate about (plus I absolutely LOVE all of the people and friends I’ve made).

Lucky for me, I’m getting back on that stage in July at MozCon. I’ve got my work cut out for me (again), but now at least I’ve got some great experience to stand on.

Looking forward to it.

 

Preparing for abundance

By | Mack's Musings | 22 Comments

So it’s Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Kids are up around 7. We’re headed to Boulder to meet Jon’s mom who’s visiting from Arizona. We’re going to stay at a hotel, have some fun at the pool, and go to a graduation party.

Sounds great. Except for the fact that actually getting there is going to be completely and utterly painful. It always is.

Even though we’re up at 7, we don’t leave until 9. It’s not like we’re taking our sweet time reading the paper and sipping coffee. It’s a whirlwind: up and down the stairs 200 times. Getting ourselves packed, getting the kids packed, applying sunscreen, putting on bathing suits, avoiding tantrums, eating breakfast, and shoving snacks into tiny little plastic containers.

We get in the car. The journey to the hotel is less than 40 miles away but it takes us an hour to get from our house to the Harmony exit, just 6 miles away.

Jon and I haven’t eaten yet, so we stop by Starbucks to pick up coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Jon realizes he doesn’t have his wallet. We have to go back home.

Finally en route. Kids are watching a DVD. For about 20 minutes, complete euphoria. Then Easton’s headphones don’t work anymore. Jon pulls over in an attempt to fix. No go. Easton is getting impatient. Wants his headphones back. Last resort: ditch the headphones and put the movie on the whole stereo system so that all of us can listen for the duration of this incredibly relaxing and blissful journey to Boulder.

Welcome to my life

Aside from the special trip to visit family in Boulder over a holiday, this is pretty typical of life on the weekend. The mass chaos that ensues when attempting to enjoy an outing as a family. The constant struggle to balance the break I so badly need, the limited time I get to spend with my husband and kids, the chores that need to be done to support our family, and the precious few hours I’m awarded to keep up with this tiny little passion of mine that I call a company.

But this is life. And instead of always pushing against, I’m finally learning to surrender.

The month of May

So the flywheel is starting to turn at Mack Web, but for some reason, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep expecting the surge of interest to wane and we’ll be right back where we were. Before all of this started to happen.

But things are different now. The team keeps telling me to prepare for abundance. I could be wrong, but this feels like an upward trajectory and we better hold on tight.

But with success comes a lot more of everything. This is what the month of May looked like:

Signed & onboarded two new clients
Trained a new team member
Got ready for another
Had daughter’s 5th birthday
Had husband’s 45th birthday
Mother’s Day
Bought a car
My 94 year old grandma died
Wrote my SearchLove presentation
Made the trek to Boston to speak at SearchLove

Not to mention the normal daily stuff like:

Meals for the family every night
Lunches for the kids every day
Baths
Laundry
Grocery store
Yard work
Reading to stay on top of the industry
Leading, managing & supporting the team
Time with my husband
Time to myself
Time for yoga
Sleep

At times, I was feeling a little like Joe Pesci:

I’ve got absolutely nothing to complain about. I’m blessed with two healthy and amazing kids, a wonderful husband, and a thriving company. Sometimes it would just be nice if I didn’t feel all of those blessings at once.

It’s always going to be like this

How lucky am I?

But for the longest time, I was having so much resistance to so many things in my life. I wasn’t seeing it as abundance. It was all just more work. More to handle. More to balance.

I’m not sure what happened but all of a sudden it feels like my perspective has changed.  I started to realize that my life is always going to be like this. I have a choice to look at it as a burden I have to bear, or I can see it as abundance.

Because the thing is, this is life and it’s happening right now. Not when the kids are older and Easton doesn’t need help going to the bathroom anymore. Not when Jon and I have more time for us because the kids don’t always need constant attention. Not when Mack Web is out of its current growth stage.

It’s always going to be something. So I’m learning to look at it through a different lens and appreciate the abundance. All of it.

Because I really don’t want things to be any different.

Even though there’s a great deal of pain that comes along with the success Mack Web is experiencing, I’m full on embracing it.

When I’m making lunches and doing dishes after a 14 hour day, instead of hating my life, I’m picturing my kids eating their little ham & cheese sandwiches on those cute little Hawaiian rolls.

If it takes me over a month to write a Moz post because I have to do it in 2-3 minute increments standing in the corner of my bedroom because that’s the only place I can find any peace, so be it.

When I’m running out of patience, compassion, kindness, and empathy because I’ve got too much to handle, I will have the breakdown I deserve and keep on pushing.

This is the life I have been blessed with. Bring it on.

 

How we accomplished (big) goals with content & social media marketing (in just 10 months)

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | 72 Comments

I printed this off of one of Rand Fishkin’s decks at the beginning of 2012. It’s the analytics from the Everywhereist’s site. It shows her journey over a span of two years. It’s been hanging in my office as a source of inspiration.

And now we have our own:

This is the lift in Mack Web’s traffic between April of 2012 (when we started using content and social media marketing for our company) and January of 2013 (when we started seeing some really big results). That’s just a 10 month period.

Sure, we’re in a web savvy industry. And yes, we are in fact marketers so some of this stuff may come more naturally to us. But we’re no different than many companies out there. We have limited resources (a team of 4). We have a small budget for this (ok, more like no budget). We have a whole lot of other things that do in fact take priority. But we still made the commitment and did the work.

And it’s paying off.

Both personally (in my career), and at Mack Web, we have experienced a tremendous number of victories in less than a year. But none of them have come without effort. We have pushed harder in the last 10 months than in the last 10 years, but these efforts have catapulted us to another level. And that’s pretty awesome.

What follows is a narrative of the steps we’ve taken, the things we’ve done, and the mindset we cultivated to move us forward. And we think what happened is a pretty marvelous case study of what can happen when you put in the effort, when you persist in the face of underwhelming results, and – most importantly – when you pursue your passion.

It started like this:

The turning point

We decided that if we were going to tell our clients that they had to do something, we had to do it too. Lead by example. If we test this stuff out on us, we would have first-hand knowledge of how it may work for our clients. Granted, it’s different for every company (especially those in industries that are not as savvy as ours) but we at least had to take the lead in paving the way.

We’re always telling our clients that in order to get results, you have to be committed to (and passionate about) doing the work. So, in April of 2012, we made ourselves a client and started doing stuff on a regular basis in order to work toward our goal.

We started experimenting on us.

We set a goal

Back in March of 2012, Mack Web set a (5 year) goal during a visioning retreat:

BE THE GO-TO EXPERT FOR WEB MARKETING IN THE WEST

We’re kind of an ambitious bunch and we knew this was a lofty goal, but we had 5 years to get there so we were dreaming big. At a higher level, this is how we were going to work toward getting there:

Brand Awareness
   
Constantly work on our brand awareness through our blog (posting one valuable piece each week), PR (getting out in our community), seeking speaking engagements, and attending conferences.

Mentorship

Find mentors in the industry. How did they get where they are now? Why are they doing what they’re doing? What wisdom do they have that could help us with where we’re going?

Idols

Explore other companies we aspire to be like (not just in the SEO industry). What is their culture like? What kinds of cool things do they do? Borrow those things and make them our own.

Knowledge

Invest time in on-going training & knowledge. Participate in online tutorials, watch webinars, read, engage in our community, and attend conferences.

We created a strategy

Our small (but mighty) team had our work cut out for us, but we were up for the challenge. We wrote a strategy and assigned the appropriate actionables. We determined that we were going to use SEO, social media, content, and email marketing as our tools.

In a nutshell, my initial responsibility was to be the face of Mack Web. I would go to conferences and also speak if we were asked.

As the CEO, I was also going to take on finding additional mentorship and making friends (and forging strategic partnerships) with other companies that we respected (both locally and globally) in the industry. 

The entire team was going to be responsible for content on the Mack Web blog and I was going to seek guest blogging opportunities to pull in more exposure from a larger and more diverse audience.

Lastly, we all were going to be held accountable for investing time in our individual and collective knowledge base (to benefit our clients and the company). We were going to commit time individually each day, and then also once a week for more in-depth training.

We knew we’d need to set aside the time to dedicate to getting these efforts done, so we created Innovation Friday. Every Friday, without fail, we would spend five hours on us. No client work. Just Mack Web.

We were on our way.

We learned stuff
(and reached out in real life)


In addition to setting goals and having a strategy, we invested a TON in knowledge. But more than that, we actually applied the stuff we were learning.

There are many ways to learn things these days: go to meetups, tradeshows, or conferences, watch webinars or videos, listen to podcasts, read blog posts and books. Hands down though, going to conferences has, by far, been the most powerful catalyst for us in the last 10 months.

I went to three conferences last year: In April, LinkLove, in July, MozCon, and then in November, SearchLove.

Mack Web’s growth in the last year has everything to do with these conferences for two very different and important reasons. First, I made new friends and strengthened existing relationships with people who have been a tremendous help and inspiration. (No matter how impressive your prowess in your industry, never ever underestimate the human element).

Just as important, I assimilated and applied what I had learned. Over a series of weeks, I would pass the wealth of knowledge on to the team and we would use Innovation Friday to watch videos, chat about key takeaways, and implement any necessary training. Then I would evaluate our systems, processes and approach, and we’d integrate the new information. 

Once I took the plunge and started going to these conferences, I found them — exhausting though they were —absolutely addictive. There was a huge rush of energy and an overwhelming tide of new and exciting and information. And when I realized the kind of momentum the company was getting from it, I knew I was hooked.

That conference attendance, paired with the voracious amount of reading we were doing, allowed us to change old routines and do what was best for the client, making all of the difference in our success.

I started working toward a focus
(in my guest blogging)

When I was at MozCon, I had breakfast with Jon Henshaw  and he gave me a piece of advice that has been a major contributor to all of the good fortune I’ve experienced in my own career in the last 10 months:

Find your focus. Decide what you want to be known for in the industry. 

Don’t just write blog posts, write with intention. Post less frequently if that’s what it takes. Instead, collect your ideas. When you do write, make those posts epic.



I’m telling you. This works.

It took me a while (5 months to be exact) to figure out my focus. It wasn’t until the end of the year, after I had gone to all three conferences that I finally realized what I wanted to be known for. By this time, Mack Web had pretty much made it through our internal transformation. There’s still more work to be done (there always is), but we had made it through the hardest part. This gave me a ton of clarity and I had finally figured out what I wanted to focus on. It was all of the stuff we were experimenting with on ourselves and doing for our clients. This is where I found my passion.

I scrapped an off-topic Moz post that I had spent more than 8 hours on over the holidays and began the year with Building Community with Value. It was a relief that I had finally found my groove.



In those 10 months, I wrote more than 25 posts. 7 of those for SEOmoz, 5 as a guest on select industry blogs, and the rest on the Mack Web blog. It’s really only been in the last 3 posts that I feel like I’m starting to gain traction. All because (at least it seems) I have an intention.

After I figured out what I wanted to focus on, I wrote a strategy for myself (ironic, I know). I know exactly what I’m going to blog about and when. I know whether to say yes or no (or soon) when somebody asks me to guest blog, or speak, or help them with a side project. I don’t have as much anxiety when I’m with my family or that nagging worry that I’m getting behind. It’s all mapped out for me (for the next few months at least). I have peace of mind.

We measured the results

You’ll be delighted to know that we are now super famous. I am an overnight success. 

Oh, and also a millionaire. Every night I go swimming in my vault of gold, like Scrooge McDuck.

And I didn’t even have to write a book.



Although it would be pretty exciting if all those things were true, here’s the more realistic (yet very awesome) truth of my individual and our collective efforts as a team:

We increased our traffic by 168%


In just 10 months, we’ve increased the traffic to our website by 168%. But more importantly, we are experiencing results doing something that we are very passionate about and that adds value to our company and our community.

Even though Mack Web has been around for 10 years, last year felt like our first. It was the first time in 10 years where I felt that not only were we really helping people build their businesses, we were also adding value to our own.

It really feels like we matter now. Like we’re making a difference. This may have been the hardest we’ve ever worked, but it’s also the most satisfaction we’ve ever experienced. This is what keeps us pushing ahead.

I’ve been asked to speak at some big conferences

I can hardly believe that I’m actually writing this, but this year, I’m speaking at both SearchLove Boston in May, and MozCon in Seattle in July, two of the top conferences in our industry. 

The fact that I’m speaking at even one of these conferences (the same ones that I attended wide-eyed and awe-struck last year) is an honor, and with two, I think I’m going to have to just pack it all in — it can’t get any better than this.



To grow into being considered among the top industry experts who will appear on that stage (especially within a 10 month window) is a huge accomplishment. For me, the experience is reward enough, but yes, I do anticipate it will contribute to Mack Web’s growth this year.

I became an SEOmoz Associate & we’ve signed some clients

Another exciting result of all this hard work is being asked to be an SEOmoz Associate. Carrying this title is an incredible honor and accolade (that, and they have a tremendous following: more than 200,000 on Twitter; 100,000 on Facebook, and 31,000 on Google+). I am proud to represent Moz each month when I write for their blog.



SEOmoz is an amazing company and community. They are admirably passionate about educating and being helpful and I can’t say enough about how they’ve contributed to our growth.

In the last few months, we have been receiving (qualified) leads from my posts on SEOmoz. This is not only flattering, but it is especially exciting because we spend so much time educating and qualifying our clients. To acquire potential clients that are not only avid SEOmozzers, but avid SEOmozzers who have read and resonate with what I’ve written, we’re definitely heading in the right direction.

Update: Mack Web has now signed clients off of our content marketing efforts on Moz. That’s all I have to say about that.

How to make all of this work for your business

Over the last 10 months, we’ve figured some stuff out (through good old fashioned trial and error). If you decide to take the plunge with SEO, social media, and content marketing to build your business, here’s a few things that may help smooth out the road ahead:

Have a goal and break it down
Make some lofty goals, but then make sure that you also break them down into baby steps; actionable, chewable pieces that you can digest and actually work on along your journey.



Share the responsibility for your goals with your whole team. Even if you’re a small company, don’t let the burden rest on just one person (like the founder or CEO) or you won’t get very far. Everyone can be accountable and take responsibility for a part of the plan. (You may, however, have one person who is assigned to managing or facilitating the strategy so that accountability is maintained).

Be sure to assign specific tasks and deadlines or they won’t happen. Just as if you were your own client, create an execution calendar. Have weekly meetings to keep each other on track. This will allow everyone to communicate and if someone has hit a roadblock or has a challenge they’re struggling with it can be solved instead of completely derailing all of your efforts.

Keep in mind that you may not ever get to your actual end goal, but that doesn’t really matter (if you’re doing the work). You’re going to have some great things happen along the way that may even lead to bigger and better things that you hadn’t foreseen or originally intended.

And don’t forget to celebrate. You’re going to be working hard and it’s important to bask in even the smallest victories.

Go to conferences (or other places where there is learning and people)

Don’t just learn digitally. Get in there. Learn first hand and meet people face-to-face. It’s called relationships. It’s what makes things great. It’s also what manifests serendipity.

There’s something that happens when you’re in the moment, wading around in the palpable energy of all of those great people at conferences that kind of just puts things into motion. Social media does not work without the human element. You’ve got to put yourself out there and be with people.

So, do that, and then read. Read a lot. (We may have mentioned this once or twice). Read stuff from people inside of your industry, and read stuff you’re interested in outside of your industry. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read until your eyes bug out of your head. Do it. Make it part of your routine. Since we made learning a priority as a team, everything improved: creativity, innovation, productivity, and delivery.

When you read, pay attention to who you’re reading and curate their stuff. Share it on social media, and, if you’re writing, integrate it into your blog posts. Create a little group of people that you think are awesome and keep tabs on the people you respect. Maybe someday you’ll go to a conference and you’ll get to have a beer and be friends in real life.

That’s the best part.

Find your groove

Bottom line, set some goals and have a strategy. It works.

But above everything else, and especially if you’re thinking of using content as a tool to reach your goals, think first about what you’re passionate about. If you choose something to focus on and write (and even speak) about, it better be something you really love.

But before you just select your focus based on your passion, do some research. Is there someone already out there writing and speaking about the topic that you’re passionate about? If so, how can you be unique? What can you add to the conversation? In your writing especially, you want to be generating stuff that is better than what’s already out there. Not only for your audience, but also so that your content has a nice cozy little place in Google’s index.

For me, I just got out there and started writing about the stuff I knew and had experienced with our clients. In the end, ruminating on my journey in my company brought me clarity on where I wanted my focus to be. It may be that way for you too. Just be strategic about it because when you have intent, the (positive) results seem to come more naturally.

Being passionate is more important than any other tool, tip, or technique

This last year hasn’t been about the web marketing that we’ve done for Mack Web. On a personal level, this last year has been all about discovering my passion for building this company into something remarkable. This passion that I feel about Mack Web comes from the same passion I feel for the culmination of SEO, social media, and content marketing (all the tools we’ve used to build our community and experience these results). This is something I wish I could instill in everyone who wants to take this web marketing journey.

If you read this and think, “ok, so what you’re saying is I have to write exactly 25 blog posts, and go to three conferences (which ones were those again?), and get really focused,” then you’re completely missing the point.

There isn’t an exact formula. There isn’t a magic path to take. The truth of it is that you could do all of these same things that I just described and not experience any of the success. You’ve got to be passionate, care about your business and your community, and keep doing the work.

Here’s to working toward big goals

So we haven’t received the Best Web Marketing Company in the West award (I’m pretty sure Ryan Seacrest will be contacting us directly any day now), but, as you can see, the ‘smaller‘ victories we experienced in those 10 months have more than compensated.

We may never reach our five year goal, but this journey is pretty sweet. I think we’ll stick with it.