Meighan O’Toole Helps Small Businesses Define, Establish, And Build Their Businesses Online | PoP 322

Meighan O’Toole Helps Small Businesses Define, Establish, And Build Their Businesses Online

Do you need some help defining, establishing and building your business online? Are you stuck for ideas about what to share on social media with your audience? Have you ever heard about re-purposing content?

In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Meighan O’Toole about how to leverage social media and marketing to your advantage and how to target your ideal clients.

Podcast Sponsor

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Meet Meighan O’Toole

Meighan O’Toole helps small businesses define, establish, and build their businesses online. Her passion is zeroing in on what businesses do best and helping them translate that message into their larger online strategy. Previously she ran “My Love for You” one of the first art blogs online, and then dove into Silicon Valley where she worked as a social media strategist for Yahoo, and community manager for Wikia, and then WIRED Magazine. She lives and works outside of Boston.

Find out more about Meighan here:

Website: https://www.meighanotoole.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meighanotoole/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meighanotoole/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meighanotoole/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/meighanotoole/

Meighan O’Toole’s Story

In 2007, Meighan launched, My Love for You, an art blog dedicated to sharing art she loved geared at women like herself; from yarn bombing to fine art. By surrounding herself with talented artists from all over the world and creating content through studio visits, interviews, Q&As, and podcasts she experienced the magic of the Internet first hand. That website garnered over 3 million views and 1.7 million visitors.

After managing and running her blog for just over 2 years, she was approached and hired by Yahoo! to help strategize and develop their corporate social media verticals in Silicon Valley based on the work she had performed for her own website and Twitter feed. She then went on to work as a community manager for Wikia (Wikipedia’s community site), and WIRED Magazine in San Francisco, CA

Although she learned a lot and had incredible opportunities, she never felt quite right in the corporate tech world. She realized that her true passion lies in connecting people like herself to resources that made life and work much more interesting. In 2012 she launched her own company dedicated to helping others build their business online.

In This Podcast

Summary

In this episode, Meighan shares some insightful tips on how to market yourself online and things to avoid doing.

Common Marketing Mistakes

People make emotional decisions around marketing.

  • Not thinking they need a newsletter/email marketing – studies show this is four times better than marketing through social media
  • Not relying enough on data
  • Marketing without having a clear strategy
  • Thinking that you are being repetitive – re-purposing content is okay
  • Overthinking it and just not doing anything
  • Spreading your message really thin – rather choose 1 to 3 social media platforms and focus on these

Email Marketing And Newsletters

Having a newsletter is all about building relationships with people and showing your own expertise. This is a great way for people to know you and learn what your strengths are. Create content around who your target market is interested in and make sure that you are bringing value to your readers.

Marketing Strategy

Think about your areas of expertise, what is that you focus on with your clients and create content around this. Think about where your ideal client is and target them there.

Keeping Your Social Media Up To Date

Create a schedule of when you’re going to post and keep your social media up to date.

When people are searching for you the first place they are looking is online, If your social media posts are not kept up to date people may perceive this in a negative light.

Facebook Chatbots

This is basically automated messaging, it’s a way to stay on top of and manage client relationships.

Many businesses are using this functionality so that they can maintain a high level of customer service.

Analytics

Things you should pay attention to:

  • Make sure you get to know your website traffic and where it’s coming from
  • What content they are looking at – you can get an idea of what you should create more of
  • Look at social media numbers and your newsletter traffic

Concentrate on your relationships, you can’t do this alone.

Useful Links:

Meet Alison Pidgeon

 

Alison Pidgeon, MA, LPC is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling LLC. What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.

Alison Pidgeon is now working with Joe Sanok to provide business consulting, with her niche being adding insurance to a practice and growing from a solo to a group practice. View her consulting page for more information.

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

MEIGHAN O TOOLE SMALL BUSINESSES DEFINE ESTABLISH AND BUILD THEIR BUSINESS ONLINE
POP 322

[Having anxiety with your website should never happen. Creating a website is a milestone for your private practice and should be celebrated like one. My friends and colleagues over at Brighter Vision know this situation all too well and have come up with a process to make your website experience as easy, fluid, and enjoyable as possible. Trusted by thousands of therapists around the world, Brighter Vision is the website solution that your private practice needs. As a gift to my listeners, Brighter Vision is offering a month off of their services. Go to brightervision.com/joe to get one month free of your Brighter Vision subscription. Again, that’s brightervision.com/joe.] This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Alison Pidgeon – Session Number 322.

INTRODUCTION

[JOE] Well, we’ve got another podcast take over by Alison Pidgeon. Today she’s going to be doing an interview with Meighan O’ Toole. Meighan O’ Toole helps small businesses define, establish, and build their businesses online. And her passion is zeroing in on what businesses do best in helping them translate that message into their larger online strategy. Previously, she ran My Love for You, one of the first art blogs online. And then, dove into Silicon Valley, where she worked as a social media strategist for Yahoo. Yahoo! and community manager for Wikia, and then, Wired Magazine. She lives and works outside of Boston. So, without any further ado, I give you Meighan O’ Toole being interviewed by Alison Pidgeon.
[ALISON] Today, I have with me Meighan O’ Toole. She’s a digital strategist and I’m so excited to hear all about her ideas that we can apply for marketing and our private practices. Welcome, Meighan.
[MEIGHAN] Thank you so much, Alison. I’m so excited to be here.
[ALISON] Yeah, we’re so excited to have you. So, tell me a little bit about your journey to doing what you do now because I know you’ve had some pretty big jobs at some pretty big companies. So, tell us a little bit about your history and kind of how you came to do what you’re doing now.
[MEIGHAN] Sure. So, the sort of Reader’s Digest version that is probably a little bit longer than it should be, I started out in retail. I wanted to work as—I started out in high-end retail. I wanted to open my own boutique and that was sort of where I was headed in the early aughts. And then, this whole thing of the internet started, or became new to me. It has already started but I discovered it and I started messing around on maybe what you guys remember as Myspace and Friendster. And, in my spare time, I started teaching myself HTML, CSS, and really, I started blogging on Myspace. It’s sort of embarrassing. But, it really opened me up to like this whole new world of how I could share ideas. And then, I started to realize that there’s this whole world beyond my space and blogs that people create. And fast forward, in about 2006, I created a blog that was geared towards women in art. And it was basically, I noticed that I was going around the web to different websites to read about art and learn about art, which was sort of like, you know, something I was interested in.
I would go to craft sites and then I’d go to new contemporary sites and then I’d go to, you know, graffiti sites. And I realized that they are all very gender-specific, and sort of siloed. And so, I decided that I would create my own blog and it’s called—and if I have known that it was going to be a raving success, I would have chosen a different name. But, at the time, it was called My Love for You as the Stampede of Horses. You can still find it online under My Love for You. And yeah, it just—it took off. It was one of the first sort of really like recognized art blogs and from like 2007 to 2010, I ran it. I helped launch a lot of careers in the art world. I taught myself how to podcast and so long story short, I sort of discovered the internet and changed the trajectory of my career.
All of a sudden, I was running this small business, you know, selling, advertising, working with people, partnering with companies to do giveaways. And Yahoo! Approached me in 2010 and asked me if I would consider helping them with their social media in their headquarters, sort of like they wanted to take the top-tier social media sites like the Yahoo! on Twitter, Yahoo! on Facebook, and bring more of a creative edge to them. And, at the time, I was like people get paid to do this? So weird. They’re going to pay me to like post on Twitter and so that’s how I fell into the tech world. All of a sudden, I had, you know, created this own project of my own and it started to get attention. And yeah, I went on to work at Yahoo! and then went to work for Wikipedia. Their profit—for-profit site called Wikia. And then, I went on to work for Wired, all in San Francisco. And basically, I found that I really didn’t like working in corporate tech. And I had all this information that I had learned around marketing and building a business online. And people kept saying to me like, “You really need to start a consulting business because there are so many of us that don’t understand this. But, we can’t work with huge, you know, firms.” And so, I started my business in 2012 and I’ve been working with small businesses ever since to help them build and expand their businesses online.
[ALISON] Wow. That’s amazing. So, use– your blog was a full-time job for you?

BLOG AS FULL-TIME JOB

[MEIGHAN] It was. It, um—I worked in retail at the time. And so, I would go home, and I’d work on its night. I was, I think I was in my late 30s. And um, you know, I was working as a manager and yeah, it was just sort of like this side project that all of a sudden could become a business. And so, I moved back to California. I was living in Boston for a few years. And I moved back to California and, yeah, Yahoo! reached out to me and I had—I think I was running the business like for six months. I was sort of laying awake at night wondering like how, how to make it all work. So, when Yahoo! proposition came, I thought, “Wow, this is um, this is really cool.” But, it turned out it’s just not be a very good fit. But, you know that happens. It was a very corporate, very tech.
[ALISON] Uh-huh. Yeah, yeah. I imagine that for somebody who obviously has an entrepreneurial spirit, you might have felt kind of stifled working in like a corporation.
[MEIGHAN] I absolutely did. And it was the first time I’d ever worked in an office in my entire life and I was 38. I worked in, you know, corporate retail for a long time but it was very different. And yeah, I just—that’s exactly what it was. I felt stifled. I felt like I couldn’t move quick enough. You know, we would—one of the things that I like to tell people is we would—I would create a Facebook post and—at Yahoo! and then, it would have to be seen like three other teams. This like a sentence, you know, and it was just very—This was in 2010 so things are very different back then. Things have changed a lot but yeah.
I was stifled. I felt like the ideas that I thought I was supposed to bring to the table, like, they just kind of had no place to breathe anymore. So, I only stayed there for a little longer. It was actually very tumultuous time for Yahoo! So…
[ALISON] So, tell me now what types of businesses you work with and what are the—you know, what are the common things that they’re reaching out to you for?

TYPES OF BUSINESSES

[MEIGHAN] Sure. So, the types of businesses I work for now sort of vary. I work with a lot of service and product-based businesses. So, I work with a lot of women, mainly women. But, I work with a lot of women that have service-based businesses like for instance, some of my clients right now, one is a financial advisor. The other is—two of the other women that I work with right now are designers and illustrators. I work with somebody who does copywriting. I mean it really runs the gamut but what people come to me for is, you know, they have a pretty successful business, or they have a good idea and they really need to start to expand online. And what that means is how to use social media, how to create content, how to get involved in email marketing. It’s sort of all over the place. But, it’s really helping people figure out what tools to use, how best to get their message across.
[ALISON] Yeah, so, for as much as uhm, I’m sure we’ll get into about what we should be doing as business owners online. I’m also always interested in learning like mistakes do you see people making commonly when it comes to trying to advertise their business or have a presence online.

COMMON MISTAKES

[MEIGHAN] Oh sure, yeah. This is something I’m actually really talking quite a bit about. So, yeah, to answer your question, this is something I actually just sent out in my newsletter today. There’s a bunch of things that I see that people do. But, a couple of things to really narrow I on that are very common are people make sort of emotional decisions around marketing that really hurt them. So, I try to tell people to figure out the data like really on data and also to—one of the things that I also see is that people think that their business is really special, which it absolute is. Your business is totally special. But, for the most part, marketing is—can be done for anybody. And so, something I see a lot, one of the biggest issues, for example, one of the biggest issues I see is that many businesses think they don’t need a newsletter. They don’t think they need email marketing.
One actual study shows that email marketing is four times more—it’s four times better than marketing through social media. It’s more direct to marketing. And it has a much more—there’s basically more like I’m stomping over my words now. Now, that I got distracted. But, basically, it’s the ROI is much better than social media. And so, one of the things that I see is that customers will say, “Oh, I can’t do a newsletter. I can’t annoy my clients.” And this is something that has been proven time and time again that email marketing works, and it works for pretty much every business. So, what I see is people, they don’t—they don’t know anything about email marketing. So, right away, they associate it with their own email marketing, their own email experience. Like, they don’t like email. So, therefore they don’t want to use it.
But, studies have shown that it is actually really powerful marketing channel. And so, that’s what I mean when people say, oh, like, they’re special, like, it’s not going to work for them. And that’s just not the case.
[ALISON] Yeah, let me ask about that for a minute because I—I think in our field, you know, I typically don’t hear. And I haven’t had this experience myself from other counselors that own a private practice like, “Oh, I—you know, I get tons of clients from my email newsletter.” You know, I’m guess I’m just wondering like is that—I’m surprised to hear you say that it’s that powerful because I—I haven’t really heard that from other folks that they’ve been like converting people to become clients from an email newsletter.
[MEIGHAN] Yes. So, it’s really about approaching it and thinking about it in a different way. So, every time you send your email, I’m not talking about like that you’re going to get a sale every single time you send your newsletter. Obviously, that’s something great, or you know, not to be crashing a sale. But, you know what I mean, like you’re not going to convert into an appointment every single time. You might not. But, the point of having a newsletter is—this is something that I really love to talk about is building relationships with people. And, so getting in front of people with your newsletter is a way to show your own expertise and share what you do really well. And it’s a way to build relationships with your readers and to let people get to know you and who you are, and you know, where your expertise lay. And so, that’s really the crux of marketing is like building relationships. And I think that one of the things that has happened in the past five years, specifically around social media, is that people get really crazy and they think they need to have a massive following. That’s just not the reality. The reality is you need to be building relationships with people and one of the best ways you can do that is for the newsletter.
[ALISON] So, for example, a counselor, what kinds of things would they put in their newsletter?

NEWSLETTER

[MEIGHAN] So, that is actually—as I was saying, I was thinking about, you know, you guys, as counselors, are probably tied to—there are certain things that you cannot share, right. Like, you can’t share—they just think that there’s—probably you can help me out there about it.
[ALISON] So, anything that’s—that would be really personal. We have to be careful what we disclose about ourselves. Yeah, and so, for example, like I wouldn’t like include a picture of me and my kids, you know.
[MEIGHAN] Right. Right.
[ALISON] That’s too personal.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah. And that also brings you back—brings you back to figuring out your marketing strategy. This is another thing that where I see people sort of get lost in the weeds is that they have no clear marketing strategy. So, for me, like sending a picture of me and like my dog to my newsletter would be way off brand for me. So, and that’s something people get really tied up on social media. They’re like how personal is too personal. Well, you need to figure that out before you start.
You need to figure like what you want to talk about, who your ideal client is. So, then you know exactly what you should be narrowing in on. And that will really help you define the kind of content you’re sending. So, what I would recommend for counselors and therapists is to really think about what your areas of expertise are and what is it that you focus on with your clients. And I would talk about that like create content around that. You don’t have to get personal. You can keep it every aboveboard. And really just figure out like what did—why do people come to see you, and share, and create content around that.
[ALISON] Okay. So, like for example, we send out a newsletter every month. We include some—like one or two blog posts that we posted that month. We might also send any sort of like event that’s happening or if we’ve hired a new therapist, we include that in there. And that’s pretty much that gist of it. Yeah, is that kind of what you’re talking about?
[MEIGHAN] Exactly. Yeah. And that’s another thing that I see people get really tripped up on is that when they send their newsletter, they think that it has to be absolutely fantastic that they have to have all this exciting information. And that’s really—and that ends up tripping people up. And they just don’t send it because they feel like their content isn’t that exciting. But, all you need to be focusing on is that you are informing and adding, you know, bringing value to you readers. So, like, everything that you just named is perfect. Like, you’re sharing the blog posts. You’re sharing resources. That’s all great. It’s perfect.
[ALISON] Yeah, and I think that’s something, you’re right, people get tripped up on thinking that they need to create like brand new content for this newsletter. When really, you could just repurpose the stuff that you’ve already posted on social media, or you’ve already put on your blog because chances are most people missed it.
[MEIGHAN] Absolutely, yup. And that’s another thing that people get really tripped on is that they think that they are these content manufacturing machines, and they’re not, right. They’re there to serve your clients and so you always want to keep that at the forefront of your mind. And what that means is when you’re creating content, like you’re not a blogger, right. Like, that may be part of like your marketing, but you should be sharing those blogs on your newsletter. You can look at your newsletter as a service to your clients in a way that they’re— it’s an easy way for them to be able to get your content.
They don’t have to go and look for it. So, another thing that I see people do is they’re like, “I posted that on social media. I don’t want—I don’t want to repeat myself.” Well, we all know the adage that it takes seven or eight times for people to actually remember or recognize something. You should think about that when you repurpose content. You know, people that follow you on social media and you know, maybe visit your website. There is so much noise out there. Chances are that they missed it. And even if they didn’t miss it, they’re not taking score. You know, they’re not saying, “Oh, my god. Sure, I’ve already seen this.” And if they are, they’re probably not your ideal client.
[ALISON] Exactly. Yeah, so other mistakes do you see people making commonly?

OTHER COMMON MISTAKES

[MEIGHAN] Uhm, well overthinking it, you know, really thinking like that, “Oh, I can’t repurpose content,” which is something that is super important. So, I see people get tied up in overthinking it to the point of where they just freeze, and they don’t do anything. Another thing I see is this get back to like my comment about being a content, you know, publishing house. Like, we run a business, right. Like, and that’s like—we’re in a business to serve our clients. We’re not necessarily there to create content. Obviously, content—if you like to create content, great. I love to create content. That’s how I fell into this business. But, I know not everybody is like that. And so, one of the things that I try to recommend is like choosing one or two social media verticals and choosing between a newsletter and a blog.
Like, not going, you know, zero to 60 where you’re posting on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, you know, Facebook, have a newsletter, have a blog. Because chances are, if you do all of that, you’re going to start to spread your message really thin. And you’re not going to do a good job. So, I recommend that people choose, you know, between one to three social media platforms. Two is optimal. And then, if you want to—if you’re ready to blog, wonderful. I love it when people want to blog because you can always repurpose that as a newsletter. But, you should also have email marketing in there too. So, it really depends on your bandwidth but that’s one of the things that I really see people sort of overdoing. It’s thinking that they need to be everywhere when you really need to identify where your clients are, and then choosing the marketing channels, and just doing a really good job at them.
[ALISON] Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. I wanted to ask you about social media. I think what you’re talking about is you see people trying to do everything at once. You know, we have consulting clients that think they have to do all of that all at the same time. And we kind of help them narrow down, okay, where is your ideal client hanging out? Because every social media platform has, you know, it’s you know, highest, you know, demographic and you can look up all that information. So, you know, obviously we’re running service-based businesses that we’re trying to get a localized audience to come to therapy. So, are there certain social media platforms that you think are better than others just in terms of that? Or do you think it really just depends on like what sort of demographic you’re trying to target?

WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM

[MEIGHAN] Yeah. I mean there’s no one-size-fits-all right. And, it’s really important to figure out like where—one of the things I always suggest is to look at where your industry is hanging out. So, look at your peers, look at your competition and see what they’re doing and where they are because that’s going to give you a good idea of where you should be. And that’s another example of like you’re not reinventing the wheel here, right. Like, if you are coming to marketing online, sort of right now, or you’re starting to come to warm up to it, there are people that have been doing it for years in your industry and it’s really important to like to take a look and see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. And, one of the things that I try to mention to people is like don’t let this—don’t do this as like a compare and despair exercise.
This isn’t about like what you aren’t doing well. This is about like what you can do better in your business. And also, sometimes, you can see what other people are doing in your industry and see how you can do it better. So, I think it’s important to really do an audit online of like where your industry is and what they’re using, and also be open to iteration and like when new platforms come out, which we don’t see as much anymore. But, when they do come out like really making informed decisions around, if you need to start a new marketing channel.
[ALISON] Yeah, that’s a really good idea too. And you know, I don’t know how much you, uhm post things on Pinterest, or use Pinterest as a form of marketing. But, for me and my practice, you know, my ideal client is definitely on Pinterest because we—you know, serve women who are, you know, having kids and you know sort of that age range. And so, I was like, “Oh yeah. So, Pinterest would be the perfect place to be except I can’t figure out how to target women who are local to me. So, I don’t know if that’s even possible or if you have any thoughts about that. But, I’d really love to hear your answer.

TARGET LOCAL CLIENTS

[MEIGHAN] Yeah, so, here’s a couple—here’s another way to look at that—is when I learn about somebody, when I learn about a new business that I want to work with and a new brand, one of the first things I do is I search for them online. And almost always their social media is what comes up first. Or, I go to their website and I click on their social media. So, another way to think about keeping your social media fresh and interesting is for the clients that are working with you right now or want to work with you. So, that’s one way to think about social media is that people are going to check your social media to see who you are. So, think of it that way.
But also, in terms of targeting people, you know, I’ve gotten a little bit away from learning the ins and outs around that sort of deep dive. But, I do know that on Facebook, you can use your newsletter tot target people on Facebook. And so, I’m sure that there’s got to be a way on Pinterest. You can do that too where you upload your newsletter list into the backend and you target people that way. And I’m pretty sure, you can probably target—have you looked into targeting in Pennsylvania like where if you can actually do that when you boost posts on Pinterest?
[ALISON] You know, I haven’t. And I know that they had come out with a feature where you could like to tag your location or something. And I’m just trying to do that but then I don’t know I guess I just lost steam.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things also with service-based businesses that we—and you’re going to hear me come back to this time and time again on this interview is like how important relationships are to us. So, if you create, you know, if you build your Pinterest account for your current clients, they might tell other people about it and I think that that’s something that’s also that gets sort of discounted now. People forget about word-of-mouth marketing. It’s still alive and well and is still really important. And really focus on the people in front of you. So, I would recommend like, you know, you’re totally right like your client is on Pinterest. And so, I would—I would still focus there and create pins that are for them. And hopefully, the people that are following you there will pin them and, you know, word-of-mouth happens that way.
[ALISON] So, in your experience, do you find that people are using social media as like further sort of research when they’re deciding what sort of business to buy from?
RESEARCH ON DECIDING WHICH BUSINESS

[MEIGHAN] Oh, absolutely, yes.
[ALISON] So, it’s not necessarily like, “Oh, I saw this thing on Pinterest and now I’m buying it.” But, it’s more just like further confirmation of “Okay, this is what I thought it was or it’s not.”
[MEIGHAN] Yep. Exactly. And I think that you now that’s one of the things we started to talk about before we started the interview is that people tend to think that they have to build this massive audience through social media when that’s like that doesn’t happen so much anymore. I mean it still happens on some level but the chances of going viral on social media just like– are slim to none because the organic reach is slim to none. So, one of the things that you’re going to see a lot more as we move deeper and get older in the internet is that there’s going to be a lot more pay to play, right. So, we’ve been sort of in the golden era of social media over the past five to eight years where like people were able to build their businesses on social media and that’s just not a reality for me most people that are coming to it right now. And so, but it’s still important to have a presence because you want to take care of the people that are following you and your ideal clients that will come and look at you online and check out what you’re posting.
You never know when you’re going to snag, you know, a new client. And so, it’s always important to have your social media really geared towards your ideal client and up-to-date. And I don’t mean posting every single day like that’s another thing that I try to ask you is that you don’t need to kill yourself posting every single day. Just create a schedule of when you’re going to post and just keep your social media up-to-date. You know, like, there’s nothing worse that when I look at somebody online that I’m interested in working with and I look at their website or look at their social media and they haven’t posted in like 10 months or a year. Like that doesn’t give me any solid information. So, it’s important to really keep that up-to-date.
[ALISON] Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because I see so many counsellors that do that like, you know, you’re sort of clicking around. You find their website then you see “Oh, they have a Facebook page.” Check the Facebook and they haven’t posted in like three months and then, for me, then I start to wonder like wow how well are you taking of your business if you can’t like to keep your Facebook page up-to-date. Like I start to wonder like how well they are actually running their business?
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, and if you’re thinking that, right. Like what are people that are coming, you know, I think that that is a common thought process like well, who are these people, like what are they doing? And this is a new way in which we vet people, right. We vet everybody from like hiring to buying. It’s all happening through social media and that’s why it’s important to keep that stuff fresh and up-to-date. And like I said, you don’t need to kill yourself but like having things, you know, not you know, three-six months a year old on there is really important.
[ALISON] Yeah, you just need to be consistent. So, people see like, “Oh, yeah. They are maintaining this.”
[MEIGHAN] Exactly. And a lot of people now use social media as customer service, right. So, like they’re going to go to Facebook or they’re going to go to Twitter. And they’re going to reach out to somebody there. And that’s another reason why it’s really important to keep your social media up-to-date.
[ALISON] Ah so, I’ve seen now on– especially, when you have a business Facebook page. There is some way that you could like instantly, I guess IM people who might be interested. We haven’t gone down that path yet. But, I’m curious. Do you know anybody that is using that feature?

FACEBOOK IM FEATURE

[MEIGHAN] I know a lot of people that use Facebook bots now to keep on top of their customer service on Facebook specifically. And I can tell you. I just– I ordered a booklet that took two weeks to get here and I just get it today. And actually, didn’t get it. I got an empty envelope with nothing in it. And the first thing I did was I went straight to Facebook and I messaged them.
[ALISON] To complain?
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, I mean, not to complain. It would be like where’s my package?
[ALISON] Right. Yeah. Because I was just thinking, you know, so many people, especially when they’re hurting and they’re seeking counselling, they want to get some kind of response like right now that they can, you know, have an appointment or they know, you know, they’ll be able to see a counsellor in the near future and so I can see where with some parameters that might be helpful to have maybe an assistant or somebody answering it, you know, through the Facebook page so people feel like, “Oh yeah, there’s good customer service and…”
[MEIGHAN] Absolutely. Customer service is so important. It’s the difference in, you know, keeping somebody for life or losing them immediately.
[ALISON] Yeah, because I think that what happens a lot of times especially when counsellors are first starting out and they’re just, you know, in practice by themselves, they maybe they don’t have the money to pay for an assistant to answer the phone and then they’re trying to, you know, call patients back like. At the end of the day, or whatever, and like people just sometimes just go down a list and like the first person who answers the phone is the person they make an appointment with.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, absolutely and especially in your industry where you said like where people are hurting, and they need like immediate assistance or maybe they don’t need immediate assistance. But, in their mind they do and it’s really important to like take care of them in that aspect.
[ALISON] Right. Exactly.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, and I think there’s a way to– I don’t know a l lot about bots but I know that the thing that people use them and then they can be very helpful.
[ALISON] So, when you say a bot, can you sort of explain in layman’s terms like…

BOTS

[MEIGHAN] Yeah. So, a bot is basically– well, let’s use it in the sense of we’re taking about with Facebook. So, Facebook over the past few years has really started to push Facebook Messenger as an actual tool for businesses to use. And, there are bots you can now sign up for or have people create and all they are is automated messaging. It’s just a way to just stay on top of and manage client relationships. And so, they’re just referred to as bots and robots because they are– they’re just a script that’s running in background. So, if somebody messages you, there will be an automatic reply.
[ALISON] Okay, so is that something that’s pretty using to like download or set up on your Facebook page?
[MEIGHAN] It’s really easy to set up messenger and there are definitely companies that are springing up all over the place to help you create bots for your business. And, I could do some quick research after we get off and send you some links.
[ALISON] Okay, that would be great. I’ll put them in the show notes.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah. Yeah because it’s definitely a really cool way to just keep on top of like managing your client relationships. So, then, at least people know that they’ve been heard right and like that’s one of the first things that like you learn in customer service that like people just really want to be heard.
[ALISON] Yeah, I wanted to ask you a little bit more about, you know, advertising digitally, whether it’s a website or social media, or however you want to kind of advertise your practice in that space. Do you think that is the place where we could as private practice owners convert clients, or do you think it’s more ancillary stuff that helps us convert clients? But, maybe isn’t the thing. I guess the example I’m thinking of is like, you know, a counsellor that might run a Facebook ad and like lots of people click on it and you know, maybe click through to the website or whatever but it doesn’t really result in the phone ringing and people making appointments. So, is there a way, you know, maybe we should be thinking about that differently? Maybe it’s not necessarily like, “Yes, I’m going to run this Facebook ad and five are people are going to call.”

CONVERTING CLIENTS

[MEIGHAN] Yeah, it’s definitely comes down to expectations. So, one of the– there’s two things that I always think about in your business are expectations and iteration, right. So, marketing is part science, part art, right. Like, there’s never going to be like I said at the beginning of the call. There’s no one-size-fits-all. And so, while one person might get great results from a Facebook ad. I might not. You know, it just really depends on your client base and it– there’s so many factors. So, one of the things that I always recommend is like working with somebody that knows their stuff around the marketing channel that you want to work with.
Like there are great people out there that know a lot about Facebook ads. There’s a lot of people that know a lot about Google AdWords. And so, it’s important and you can take courses to teach yourself, which is also something you should do as a business owner is that professional development, it’s really important to stay on top of that. But, really, like you know, one of the things that I said in the beginning was also like not basing your decisions in emotion but facing them in data. So, one of the great things about Facebook ads and advertising online is that you get a lot of data, right.
When you actually pay for advertising, you can see who’s clicking on stuff. You can see who’s coming back to your website. And so, really figure out like what you’re looking for and what your– like, what your actual results are. I feel like I’m getting a little bit caught in the weeds there.
[ALISON] No, it’s okay. I think. I think that’s a really good point because I think a lot of times, what happens is you know, especially in our field, when we go to school to become counsellors and psychologists, and we don’t learn about the business end of it like some of us don’t like the business end of it. And we just sort of want to like throw money at the problem or we want like buy a book that tells us like the exact step-by-step, you know, plan for how to market our practice. When really, like, there’s so many things that go into, you know, what marketing strategies are going to work for you and what art– you know, what isn’t going to work for you. And it can vary depending on your ideal client, your geographical area, whether you take insurance, whether you only take self-pay clients/
Like, there’s so many facets to it and I think sometimes people get a little frustrated because they just like want, you know, the exact answer. When really, it’s a little bit of trial and error, you know. Like, run a few different Facebook ads and see like you said, look at the data and see what’s more popular or did one Facebook ad generate some phone calls versus another one didn’t.
[MEIGHAN] Exactly. Yeah. And I mean I think that that’s a frustration that we all come up against in everything, right. Like, we always want an answer right away. But, unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. And that’s exactly how it is in business like you’re never going to get like, I mean, you’ll be– sometimes, you can figure things out on the first try. That’s great. But, for the most part with advertising, it’s a lot of iteration and like figuring out what works, you know, paying attention to like, you know, break down to your call of action like what you’re actually saying and your copy.
I mean, that is all stuff that’s really important and it’s another reason why people should really be tracking their analytics like seeing who’s coming into their website, like really knowing that stuff is really important. So, when you do start to delve into advertising and like direct marketing, and you know, all of that stuff where you’re actually spending money, it’s really important to know your stats. So, you can see, “Oh, wow. Like, this is actually– I’m getting a lot of return on investment here. This isn’t working at all.”
[ALISON] So, for example, you know, there’s a lot of different statistics and pieces of data when you look at your analytics. Is there any maybe just one or two things that would be really helpful to sort of hone in on?

ANALYTICS

[MEIGHAN] Yeah, so, on– I would make sure that you, you get to know your website traffic, and where it is coming from. So, whether you use Google Analytics, or you use WordPress stats or your Squarespace stats. All of that stuff is going to give you some sort of top-level information. And you want to know, I would track like, how often people are coming to your website and where they’re coming from. And then, another really cool thing to check out is like what content they’re looking at because that will tell you what content is doing really well on your website, and like what you should probably create more of.
Another thing to pay attention to is like looking your social media numbers like how many people are following you, how many people are engaging in your posts, your newsletter traffic, how many people are on your list, you know, what are they clicking on. This is all stuff that I would recommend taking a look at and you can get super nerdy about it, and create a spreadsheet, which I personally recommend because then you can look month over months where you’re growing.
[ALISON] Yeah, I think the hard part about our field is that, uhm, you know, people tend to not want to interact on social media, especially if they’re a client, which is…
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, yeah.
[ALISON] Or, like you know, they don’t want to leave Google Reviews or things like that. So, even like a huge organization like won’t have any Google reviews.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, yeah.
[ALISON] Uhm, so, sometimes it can be a little hard to tell like what people are responding to and what or not. But, you can still see, you know, the data of like who’s clicking on what and all that stuff even if they’re not liking or sharing it.
[MEIGHAN] Exactly. And so, I would recommend paying attention to, like, reach. That’s really important and impressions. So, you can get all of that information on social media. Now, when you have business accounts, so like on Instagram, you don’t even have– you don’t– there’s no such thing as a business account on Twitter. But, there is on Pinterest and Facebook obviously. And so, you can see that stuff and it’s interesting that you bring that up because even though like you guys work in an industry where yeah, people don’t want to be like, you know, shouting from the rooftops maybe about like how, why, they’re working with you.
What is sort of constant across all industries is that there is fatigue around commenting and liking. So, what has happened over the past few years is that social media companies are actually tracking impressions and reach because people aren’t liking and commenting but they are interacting with the content.
[ALISON] Oh, interesting. So, there’s still– so, if there’s like an article, they’re still clicking through to read the article but they’re not just commenting.
[MEIGHAN] Exactly.
[ALISON] Okay. That’s good to know. Yeah, maybe we’re all just tired of it.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, we’re all really exhausted.
[ALISON] So, I know we kind of talked about the mistakes people make. What do you think are the things we should be focusing on in our private practices so that we can have good digital marketing and get some attention four our businesses?

GOOD DIGITAL MARKETING

[MEIGHAN] I mean, I say this to everybody and I said it earlier relationships. It’s all about relationships. It’s all about the people that are in front of you and the current clients who have in making them feel really good, you know, going out of your way to create a really good experience for them. So, then they tell other people there’s nothing worth more than, you know, word-of-mouth marketing that has so much more emphasis than like a Facebook ad. So, it’s really important to focus on customer service and relationship building. And even in your own industry, I think outreach and networking is also really important, like making sure that you’re helping others in your industry. It’s so easy to like to put your head down and like not focus on giving back. And I think that that’s really important.
[ALISON] Yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up because obviously, marketing is, you know, many different things. We can market online. We can, you know, take someone out for coffee and talk to them about what we do. And I found that in my own business that at the two-year mark, our biggest source of referrals was actually word-of-mouth. And so, you know, they may not be, you know, leaving comments on Google but they’re telling their friends in person and that’s– that’s really huge. So, I think, you know, maybe looking at what we do online as an extension of those relationships.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, exactly. That’s such a good way to phrase it.
[ALISON] Yeah, so, if I’m meeting, you know, if I know somebody in person like a doctor who refers to us or something, you know, maybe I can somehow figure out a way to, you know, blog about, you know, how we’re working together to help clients or whatever that is, you know, and do it then you sort of see it as an extension of those relationships.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, I mean, it’s really, I can’t express enough how important that is. I have people that– so, I actually pivoted my business a little bit this year. I went back to when I went consulting when I was doing a lot of course and workshop creation. And one of the things that I first did in December and January was I just mentioned on my personal Facebook page that I was launching these new services and people hired me that have been following me for years because of that.
People reached out to me that I’ve like known for years, that I’ve built relationships with and this is all because of my personal Facebook page, which like I don’t really consider, I mean, it is social media but it’s like people that I know in real life. And so, that was a really cool experience to realize like, “Wow, I was like booked solid through February just by like working within my own network.
[ALISON] Oh yeah. I think we often forget that like we’re already know people who could make natural referral sources for us and we don’t necessarily reach out to them as often as we should or at all.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, and I think that social media has really damaged that and it’s something I really try to talk to people a lot about. Like, I’d love to talk to people about social media and help them around it. But, it’s one thing I’ve definitely moved away from because there’s such a like fanaticism right around it that is so unsustainable, and really doesn’t help businesses in the long run. When people get obsessed with like posting on social media and like get really caught up in what we refer to as vanity metrics like the likes and the comment sand the follows, like those don’t pay the bills, you know. So, while it’s important to have that. It’s really only a part of you know, a piece of the puzzle.
[ALISON] Right. So, how do you recommend to clients like to have a more balanced kind of you view of that because I think you’re exactly right. You can get really far in the weeds with figuring out what am I posting, how do I post, oh I got to take a picture to post later today like it can get time-consuming pretty quickly. Yeah, so what do you recommend? Like, how do people balance that out?

HOW TO POST

[MEIGHAN] So, I recommend creating a schedule of like what your content looks like what you’re going to post and when, and really sticking to that. Like you mentioned consistency earlier. That is so important and then really schedule in outreach into your business. Like, make sure you are going to, you know, events in your industry or your– you belong to a Facebook group or, you know, where you’re interacting with others and getting in front of people.
That can really help. You also need to figure out what works best for you as a person. Like, in your business, so, for me, I get really bogged down when I have to create a lot of content. Like, I do love to create content but if there’s no feedback loop there for me where I’m getting like– like interaction with people, it can feel really deflating. So, for me, it’s really important to do things like this, like get on a podcast, reach out to people in my industry that you know, are peers of mine, and you know, get together like have a mastermind where I meet with them once a week, you know, things like that where you are making sure that you are not in like in tunnel vision.
[ALISON] Yeah, you have to make sure you’re seeking people outside of just interacting with people online.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, and I think another thing to think about it too is that it can feel really overwhelming but you really only need to do one or two things to like change things up. You don’t have to change everything, right. Like, I feel like for me I’m one of those people that I always have to remind myself that I don’t need to from 0 to 60 like I’m of those people who are like I’m going to start to do yoga again so therefore I have to do every single day for the next three weeks. I’m like that’s just crazy, right.
Like, why don’t I just start once every two weeks, you know. And that’s I try to explain that in terms of marketing like just start with something one thing and start there.
[ALISON] Right. Yeah. That’s really good advice because I think, you know, we’re also trying to be counsellors and give therapy and make sure that we’re there and present with our clients. And then we don’t want– also want to be bogged down by like trying to do 8 things at once.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah, exactly. And yeah, I mean you’re in a business because that’s the business you want to be in, right. Like, you don’t want to spend your entire life marketing. And that’s why it’s important to be consistent in the marketing so you don’t get wrapped up and like that’s all you’re ever doing.
[ALISON] Yeah, that’s great– great idea. One last question for you, Meighan. If every councilor in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know.

ADVICE TO LISTENERS

[MEIGHAN] So, I’ve already basically said it. But, really concentrate on your relationships. That is– Okay, I’m sorry but I think it’s the one thing I’d say over and over and over again is you can’t do this alone. As small business owners, relationships are imperative to our survival and success. And so, really, you know, have social media, your newsletter blogging. Make sure you’re doing that stuff. But, also make sure that you’re reaching out to people– you’re working with those people that are in front of you right now and doing the best you can.
[ALISON] Thank you so much. That’s great advice. We really appreciate you coming on to the practice of the practice podcast today. It was great talking to you. I learned some new things. So, I think our audience will also appreciate some of the nuggets of good advice you gave us today.
[MEIGHAN] Good. Thank you so much for having me. I love talking about this stuff. So…
[ALISON] Awesome.
[MEIGHAN] This is really great to be here.
[ALISON] Good. And can you tell us a little bit about how we can find you online.
[MEIGHAN] Yeah. So, you can find me at my website, which is meighanotoole.com. My first name is spelled M-e-i-g-h-a-n-o-t-o-o-l-e.com. And that’s really where you can find everything. You can sign up for my newsletter there. You can learn about my services. And then, you can find my social media buttons there to follow me if you want.
[ALISON] Awesome.
[JOE] What a great interview. You know, one thing that we really value here at Practice of the Practice is moving forward even if it’s not perfect. Now, some of that sound with Alison’s wasn’t perfect because her levels were a little lower than kind of other levels of Meighan. But, you know what, it was a great interview. And so often, we have this mindset of everything has to be perfect for it to count. But, what if I had thrown that interview out or I had spent hours, you know, trying to figure out the levels between them. That would’ve been such a waste of my time in regard to doing the good work that we’re trying to do.
Not that you probably wouldn’t have liked it to be a little bit cleaner. But, you know what, like it happens. And one of the big takeaways that I’ve taken from so many of the top performers is they move forward even when it’s not perfect, and change, and iterate, and learn from it. So, I want to encourage you to take imperfect action this week. And if you don’t have an amazing website, you’ve to go over to brightervision.com/joe to connect with Brighter Vision. They are amazing. They do great work. They have just been such supporters of private practitioners. So, brightervision.com/joe. And then, next week, we have Tara McMillan.
Let’s listen to a little clip from that.
[TARA] That’s not how business ownership works. You can get paid to own your business, right. It’s not about doing the work. It’s about creating the business. So, a seven-figure business. That business owner is thinking in terms of how I am building the value, the capacity, the systems, the processes of this business, and how am I using that then to benefit my customers.
[JOE] Thanks for letting us into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome week. And we’ll talk to you soon.

[Today’s podcast is designed to provide accurate and intuitive information in regard to the subject matter covered. It’s given to the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinic, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one. And, thanks to the band Silence is Sexy. We love your intro music!]

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