I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach my 2016 Year in Review episode.
Like many other people, this year has felt particularly long. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this was a record year for celebrity deaths and crappy politics. I promise not to go into either, although the celebrity deaths, particularly a couple of the musicians we lost this year reminds you how short life is because their music can take you back to a time and place in your life instantly. Both Prince and George Michael were huge when I was in high school (we had some fun music in the 80’s). I lip-synced songs by both musicians at school (one was for a dance and one was at an assembly, in front of the entire school… wasn’t shy back then either).
All that being said, the last thing I want to do is write about or focus on the negativity… we’ve all had plenty of that and it’s time to turn the page on it.
My intention with this episode and post is to look back as objectively as I can, acknowledge what worked, what didn’t, and share why I’m so excited about 2017.
The easiest way for me to break down 2016 is in chunks… we’ll look at each quarter of the year (hopefully I can remember everything worth sharing without having to go back to a calendar).
First Quarter of 2016
It’s a little crazy when I think about what was happening at the beginning of 2016 and where I was headed (compared to where I am).
I had hired Jason Hornung to create a Facebook ad strategy for my ‘podcasting done for you’ service. We started working together in December of 2015 and in January I flew back to Wisconsin to spend a few days with him and a few other entrepreneurs as we worked through our ad campaigns, strategies, copy, and funnels. The whole enchilada.
To say it was an intense (but amazing) few days is an understatement.
I learned a TON about Facebook ads in general (and will be going back to his training when I get ready to launch my next campaign), had a very successful campaign (more on that in a minute), and walked away with an education unlike anything else I had experienced. What I mean by that is that is was like a lightbulb finally went off for me after all these years. After having spent the last couple of years in a mastermind (which was a great experience), I understood the value and importance of having a solid foundation and mastery of the fundamentals. I’ve been talking about this for months (mastering the fundamentals) and will probably continue to talk about it because it’s made a HUGE difference.
Outcome of Podcast campaign:
My investment with Jason wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it. It was a $15k investment: they did all the research, created my funnel, ad & worked with me on testing and tweaking. I also spent a couple days in his office with a few other entrepreneurs to dive deep into Facebook advertising. It was really a great experience (a little overwhelming in that there was a LOT of information). My total ad spend before shutting the campaign off was $2500. I got one podcast client ($7k) and ended up with her on a recurring retainer as well (so the campaign itself was paid for). During this time I also signed another podcast client ($6k… the first one included a site makeover and we gave her a discount for being a podcast client), so between those two clients and the retainer I’ve made my investment back completely. I turned the ads off after a month because it still needed more testing and tweaking (it was converting well, I gained about 900 subscribers in the process) and wanted to step back and evaluate things.
During this time I also had website clients I was working with so I felt a little squeezed (hence ending the ‘done for you’ element of my business).
It is without a doubt worth hiring the right people for mentoring. I got very clear after having worked with Jason that the only type of mentor I would hire was someone who could help me with a tangible piece of my business (i.e., not the general mindset stuff or waiting for me to tell them what I needed. I have my therapist who is a smart business woman and is also like a life mentor to me. At this point in my business I want applicable business strategies based on data and results).
Direct response marketing isn’t just about putting up an offer and a good looking landing page. Understanding the principles behind what you’re doing makes all the difference in the world.
I also got very clear that I’m not here to be the technician for anyone else.
Second Quarter of 2016
Without being too dramatic, this is where the year seemed to get a wee bit harder.
I made the decision to sell my house (that I had been in for 15 years and bought with my husband, although he was only in the house for a year and a half before he passed away, so it kind of always felt like ‘my’ house). I loved the house but knew I wasn’t going to stay in it once my son graduated high school (2 1/2 more years). The yard was huge and even though I loved my pool, I was tired of taking care of it. It also felt like it was time to close that chapter of my life.
The house sale was a long and tiring process, but it all worked out, we closed in December and I’m starting 2017 off with that all behind me.
The second quarter was also when I made the decision to scale back my team significantly.
I made a good amount of money in 2015 but a LOT of it went out to expenses (and the Mastermind… again, no regrets). I was tired of the pressure to pay so many salaries (all of this fell on my shoulders, no business partner or spouse to lighten the load… martyr much? 😉 ). The hardest decision with this was in deciding to let my project manager go who is also one of my best friends. Fortunately she totally understood (and my goal is to bring her back with LeadSurveys in 2017… not that she knows that yet).
Part of going back to the fundamentals is going back to business basics as well.
You guys know how much I love my tools, apps, plugins, etc., but I needed to get rid of the bloat in my life.
Personal and business.
I also had a ‘client from hell’ in the second quarter of the year which pretty much set me on the trajectory that I had to end this side of my business.
While it wasn’t really the plan when I was going through it, I realized that I needed to get back to how I wanted to FEEL in my life (Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map is a great book to help you get clear on this). Freedom is hugely important to me. This is also why I desire the income I do… not to buy a bunch of ‘stuff’ (the last thing I want is more crap to take care of)… but to have the freedom to do exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it.
Whether that’s traveling, taking a nap, floating in the pool or simply spending a day with a friend.
When you get clear on what you want and how much is enough, it’s easy to reverse engineer that and map out how to get there. When I was in the mastermind the thing that everyone seemed to want was ‘ a six figure a month’ business. Some people were very clear on their ‘why’ behind this, but a lot of people weren’t. If you’re not driven by money (meaning you can’t do something ‘just for the money’), you can really get yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Which is what I had done.
I had gone a little sideways from doing the things I wanted to do (teaching, training, coaching, podcasting, creating) because I didn’t feel they were ‘high ticket’ enough.
Fortunately I think the ‘high ticket’ days are behind us.
Third Quarter of 2016
The third quarter of the year was spent clearing things out for both my move and in my business.
I found my new place (and cannot begin to tell you how much quieter it is… which makes for a very happy Kim), got moved in and settled and cleared a bunch of ‘stuff’ out of my life (selling, throwing away, etc.).
This is also when Jon and I launched the Freedom Papers Podcast, which then became Hustle Free (you can learn more about that transition here). I haven’t had that kind of momentum in a long time (until now with LeadSurveys). It was an idea that took a hold of us and something we’re still figuring out as we go (we’re moving to ‘seasons’ and will be back in January). During this time I also changed the way I was doing my email marketing.
As a subscriber and customer of Ben Settle I knew I wanted to test the daily email method (or almost daily email method).
I was ridiculously nervous about doing this (and have taken a little time off over the holidays) but it’s one of the best things I’ve done (and wish I had done sooner).
Active Campaign is now one of my top 5 traffic sources, I have more engagement, have connected with more subscribers, tripled one affiliate income source and sold more of my own stuff (which is kind of minimal) than ever before.
My goal was simply to stick with it.
And it paid off.
I finally released my Thrive Opt-in Funnel course (which I haven’t promoted much) and am looking at adding more ‘mini-courses’ in 2017.
Email marketing, writing, and learning copy fall under the fundamentals I was mentioning earlier.
I know my writing has improved (probably because I spend more time editing than I ever have before) and I’m actually enjoying learning about copy. Go figure.
When I talk about mastering the fundamentals this is what I’m talking about. Taking the time to write something, re-read it, edit it, write multiple headlines, split test them… all of it. Taking the time to really understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you can achieve better results is amazing. I may sound like a complete numpty with this, but all of that felt really boring before… until I started applying myself with zero expectation of the outcome.
That’s when I started to get results.
When you see that something you created ( a piece of content), can work for you over and over again it makes the process of doing it ‘right’ much more appealing.
Fourth Quarter of 2016
This last and final quarter of the year was sort of uneventful, but in a good way.
I finally made the decision that I would wrap up these last and final website projects and be done with that. The only websites I’ll be taking on in the future is for coaching clients or personal referrals. Other than that, it’s time to draw the line in the sand.
I’m officially closing down the outsourcing side of my business (I’ll have a developer and designer that work with me on an hourly basis when needed, but I’m not supporting anyone else in this capacity moving forward). This will be completely phased out by April of 2017. This was something I could have grown throughout the last few years but was never something I wanted to do. When I was in the mastermind I had one of my mentors refer to this as my ‘crack’ (that sounds harsh, but it was funny at the time). By offering this to coaching clients I could give them a bonus of x amount of hours of design & development support while I coached them, then inevitably most would stay on using the team).
The problem with this was that it fell under the category of doing something ‘for the money’.
I didn’t want to manage people, which meant I had to hire someone to manage people.
Not everyone was able to communicate effectively with the outsourcers so they needed more direction, which then cut into my time which they weren’t paying for. I spent far too long in retail management and had no desire to manage people in this business, yet here I was.
All because someone else thought it was a good idea and it brought in cashflow.
Which is what I told myself for the last few years.
That cashflow came at a price… and it’s not one I’m willing to pay anymore.That cashflow came at a price... and it's not one I'm willing to pay anymore.Click To Tweet
Content, CoSchedule and Promotion
I’ve started going back to my previously published content to optimize it and promote it. I’ve done this all with Coschedule and a couple other tools you’ll hear more about in 2017. It’s time consuming but SO worth it. At the end of the day you’re going to pay for it one way or another… either with time or money.
I’ve done the paid traffic thing. It works. I’ll definitely do more paid traffic in 2017 but it should compliment the organic strategies. I have over 400 posts on this site, tons of videos on YouTube, podcast episodes… you name it. I want what I’ve already created to be converting better. Which is what my focus is and will continue to be in 2017.
This is another one of those ideas that has grabbed a hold of me. I talked about this in last week’s episode (listen here), but it’s a simple survey option for generating leads with your website (think survey monkey meets Thrive Leads). I’m doing this with Gordan Orlic of WebFactoryLtd. and we should have a version 0 ready to go mid to late January.
I’ve wanted a SaaS product for a LONG time. I love software and feel like everything I’ve done has brought me to this point. I don’t think I could have imagined a better scenario if I had tried. Gordan is fantastic to work with, I’m learning a ton and we’re solving a real need in the marketplace. I am SO excited about this I have a hard time putting it into words.
I also participated in another mastermind, run by Carrie Dils, for 12 weeks (end of the 3rd quarter, part of the 4th quarter). It was simply to hold one another accountable and reach our desired goals which we set in the beginning. I connected with a few new women who are all amazing in their own right, stayed focused on my goals and found a ton of value in this group. New connections with women I’m honored to know and realized that I like the shorter concept (12 weeks vs. ongoing Mastermind).
Here’s where I may get a little woowoo on you guys.
This last quarter of the year has been all about Trust for me.
Trusting that what I’m doing is enough.
Trusting that doing what I enjoy most is more important than the money and doing something for the money never works anyways.
Trusting that even though I may not get the daily confirmation or results, doing small actions consistently far outweighs the BIG actions.
Trusting that people want what I’m doing.
Trusting that in the end, all is well.
Why I’m So Excited about 2017
I’m tempted to say ‘because it’s not 2016’ and drop the mic…
In all seriousness, it’s the first time in a LONG time I’ve felt this clear on what I’m doing and WHY I’m doing it.
The idea that the majority of time will be spent focusing on my business and my projects makes me feel giddy.
I did a lot of personal work and reflection in 2016… I’ll continue to do that this year but with more compassion for myself and trust in what I’m doing. The idea that I’ll be spending more time creating and connecting makes my life feel lighter. Of course adding in a new SaaS product will keep me on my toes, but that’s O.K. As someone who loves learning I fully expect to enjoy every moment of the journey.
I also stayed home this year.
2015 wore me out with the all the traveling I did …. not so much because of the travel itself, more because some were mastermind trips and they were non-stop the entire time I was there. I’m looking forward to a few more actual vacations this year. Exploring new places and unplugging a bit more.
Along with the vacations though I want to do more in-person connecting.
Maybe a live retreat style event or 1 day workshop where we get together and work through each person’s business (homework to be done prior to coming). Maybe some meetups… who knows.
A good balance of downtime and connecting.
Whatever this year looks like, I’m entering it with open arms to embrace all that it brings.
Links from this Episode
Danielle LaPorte’s book – The Desire Map
Interview with Jason Hornung