Every business owner has a story to tell. Have you ever considered sharing it in a book? Dan Janal interviews “Small Business Stacey” on the Top Business Leaders podcast to get her tips on how to do it. #SmallBusinessSuccessStories
Stacey: Great to be with you, Dan.
Dan: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us your story.
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"Before working with Stacey I was a struggling realtor. Today I am the #1 producing agent in my area. I could not have done that without Stacey's marketing brilliance."
Stacey: Oh boy, my story. Your listeners might want to grab their bag of popcorn and certainly a box of tissues because it’s a story! So, I’ve always been a serial entrepreneur. My first business was doing outsourcing before it was even a buzzword, and I did that for 10 years. And, then I sort of had my midlife crisis and realized that I needed something fun and different to do.
So what else would you do besides start a Hawaiian coffee and smoothie business? It makes sense, right? Well, that’s what I did. I’m in the Washington, D.C. area, and in two years I literally took over the area. I had two stores at Dulles Airport, one store in a mall, and three food trucks. I was one of the first trucks in the area, also with 10 of these mobile Tiki bars that we were taking over the D.C. area. So Dan, the growth was great, but so was the “crash and burn” because, you see, this was 2008 and the economy just came to a halt.
Nobody was going to the mall just to get a smoothie. Nobody was traveling, and I was paying the highest rents in the country. Nobody was doing anything. And, I woke up one day, $500,000 in debt; and I did not know where my next customer was coming from. Those were really dark days. And, I remember after working many 120-hour weeks, driving home one day, I just started crying. But I mean, not just crying, like literally bawling and heaving; and I literally couldn’t catch my breath. I had to pull over on the side of the road. It probably took me five to 10 minutes to get my composure. And, I remember it so vividly. When I finally came through, I remember what was playing on the radio, which was Kelly Clarkson’s, “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger.” I was like, that is my new theme song!
So, when I got home, I walk in and there’s a big mirror in my foyer. I looked in that mirror with my tear-soaked face; and I said, “Stacey, you are at your proverbial ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment. You are at that fork in the road, and you need to decide whether you’re going to throw in the towel, give it all up, lose your house, your business, your family….”
You know, I was depressed — I could possibly lose it all or fight to save my business. And, I’ll tell you what Dan, I looked at it not from an emotional-decision standpoint, but from a business standpoint. When I looked at my numbers, I knew that I could and should have a profitable business. What was holding me back was that person looking in the mirror — ME. I was not doing the marketing. So, from that moment, I got into action — literally, and I mean that literally and figuratively. I went into my office and said, “What can I do right now to get my business growing?”
I laid out six simple steps, which became the formula that I use to help my clients grow their businesses. It’s also the foundation of my book, Small Business Marketing Made EZ, where I help and teach small business owners how to grow a successful business.
Well, did it work? Yeah. In two years I transformed my business from $500,000 in debt to a seven-figure profitable business. And, people started hearing about it, and coming to me saying, “Stacey, God, I hear you’re doing all these great things with marketing. Can you teach me how to do it? No, forget that. Can you just do it for me?”
I was like, “Yes I can,” because I actually love doing marketing. So, I then started the Small Biz Marketing Specialist where I help small business owners get their marketing done. Today, I have both do-it-yourself, done-with-you, and done-for-you programs; as well as a coaching and mastermind program. But, whichever way I’m helping small business owners, it’s really all based on what I call the “ACTION system,” which is laid out in my book. Six Simple Steps To Get Your Marketing Into ACTION.
Dan: That’s a quite a story! It’s very EZ. Thank you for sharing that with us. Tell us more about the book because that’s what we’re focusing on. So first of all, let’s double check the name of the book and why you decided to write the book?
Stacey: The book is called Small Business Marketing Made EZ, and it’s not E, A, S, Y, it’s E. Z. And, I think that’s a really important distinction because too many small business owners are always thinking they just want to hit the “easy button” and wake up tomorrow with $10 million in the bank. Now, small business marketing is easy — E.Z. Yeah, you might have to put some sweat and grease into it, but all you have to do are six simple things. And, that’s what I’ve laid out in the book. I created an “acronym action.” Each letter stands for how you put together your marketing plan.
Dan: Great. Now, why did you decide to write the book?
Stacey: You know, as you alluded to in the beginning, I have a story. And, so, so many people when they hear about being $500,000 in debt, they’re like, “How do you overcome that?” Right? And, I am really passionate about helping small business owners. That’s why my nickname is “Small Business Stacey.” I felt that it was a way for me to give back to the small business community by sharing my story, but also my lessons learned — what I did to transform my business. Because what I did works not only for me, it can work for anybody.
Dan: And, how has the book helped you?
Stacey: Well, the book has helped me in many ways. I think it was a therapeutic process to start, because it helped me get all my thoughts out, and all those ugly times. And, I think there is a process that’s helpful. What it’s ultimately helped me do is grow my business. It’s helped me get my name out there, and establish myself as a credible and authoritative person. Because in the marketing world, everybody does marketing and everybody claims to be a guru, yet nobody practices what they preach. I am somebody who practices what they preach. I take the lessons that I learned in transforming my coffee smoothie business — which by the way, I still run today; and I use the same marketing practices that I help my clients with. I test everything out on that business. So, I do practice what I preach. And, I share the large amount of lessons and workbooks and templates in the book, so people don’t have to feel like they’re just starting from scratch. And, it’s not a book based on just selling you something. It’s really a blueprint, if anything. I would actually call it the “key to the future success of any small business.”
Dan: Great. You talk about having an acronym. That’s a clever idea. I do that with my clients, too. I was writing a self help book with five principles, and one of my clients said, “No, no, no, no. People don’t want to know about five principles. They want to know the ‘Amber Method.’” Amber was her first name. She said, “Isn’t that kind of vain, you know, using my own name?” And I said, “You’ve obviously not been in the National Speakers Association for long, because everyone does it.” And she had to figure out what Amber stood for and it wasn’t that hard a thing to do. So, How did you decide to choose your word and make your principles apply to that word?
Stacey: Well, it was sort of two things. I am always preaching that people need to get into action. You can’t just sit on your rump, as I said, and expect $10 million to show up in your bank account tomorrow. You need to get into action. So, I actually started working with a coach who helped me get really clear on what my brilliance was and how to share that with the world. And, he’s like, “You’re always saying ‘action.’ Let’s make that the focus of the book.” So, then I started sitting down, and I was like, “Well, what words from what I’ve done in my system could fall into ACTION.” And, amazingly enough, it was just so simple for me to put that into place. A is for attention, C is for connect, T is for transactions, I is for invest, O is for on-going, and N is for nurture.
Obviously, I go more in depth in the book about that. So, the second piece of how it all came together, as you will see on the cover of my book, is that people say I have “big guns.” That’s because I’m always out there (sort of) making a muscle pose, and I wear a green shirt that says “I Heart Small Business.” That’s why, again, I’m known as “Small Business Stacey.” So, the idea was sort of action that ties in with a comic book character: Wham Bam Kapow! Getting Your Marketing into Action. So, it really all just sort of came together, and then I was able just to bang it out — I started telling my story, putting it into each piece of the formula.
Dan: That’s great. And, I know you’ve mentioned the six points several times before, until we actually told people what they were. So, I’m sure that people are the at the edge of their seat saying, “Tell me the formula.” Tell me the formula can make you buy the book. Well yeah, you should buy the book to learn more about the formula now that you know what the steps are. So, I think we’ve strung people along for as long as we could — before they’re chomping at the bit. So, that’s really cool. Okay. When you wrote your book, tell me about the stories that you have. Do you write about yourself as the hero or do you write about your clients as the hero or both? And, how do you decide how to do that?
Stacey: You know, mine is a little bit of both because people really want to know my story, and I share the good, the bad, and the ugly — obviously in much more depth than I was able to share here with your audience today. But, I walk them through where I was, when I was at that proverbial fork in the road, how I went through that process, and how I came up with the action formula. Then, I get into more specifics, like giving people the blueprint; and I talk about client examples. So, it’s not just me sort of chest-beating, it’s me really sharing how other people are using this formula for their success, as well.
Dan: Wonderful. You know, I worked with a number of clients who bring their memoirs, and they hit a wall because it’s hard for them to be vulnerable or to relive past experiences. And, even for business writers, when I asked them to write more stories, they said, “Well, I don’t write, I don’t. I’m not a storyteller. You know, I’m a bottom-line person.” Then I asked them the Tony Robbins question, “Well, if you could write a story, what would the story be?” And, then they tell you the most wonderful stories where they are caring, nurturing, and helpful. Exactly the kind of person you want to work for or have working for you as your consultant.
So getting back to your side of the story, when you were very vulnerable — I don’t know that many people would share the fact that they were in debt for $500,000. That’s a lot of money. Did you have any qualms about being vulnerable and opening yourself up to that? And if so, how did you overcome that?
Stacey: Dan, you bring up a great point. Because you think, oh, well, if I’m writing a book, I have to be so professional. Because now I’m going to be an authority and people would like put me up on a pedestal. So, I can’t say anything bad about myself. You know, I have to be this perfect person. And, actually it’s the complete opposite, which humanizes you. And, I have a saying in marketing that “all marketing is H-to-H, human-to-human.” People buy from people.
Also, all of us have crap in our lives. All of us have crap. And you know what? By sharing your story of that crap and what you learned from it, it helps you teach others so they can hopefully not have to go through that. And, it humanizes you and makes you relatable. So, you know, yes, was I scared to tell people I was $500,000 in debt. Yes. And even talking about it today, it still brings a tear to my eye. But you know what? I am just now so passionate about: one, that it is never going to happen to me again; and two, that’s why I’m going out and telling the world about it via the book as my medium — so that they never have to experience that.
Dan: I’m just taking notes here. That’s excellent. Your passion definitely comes through, which is wonderful. It sounds like it was easy to write the book, and I know it isn’t. What problems did you overcome in writing a book that will help our listeners write their books?
Stacey: You know, it is hard to write a book. For me, everybody has a different approach of how to do it. Some people can just take a bunch of blog posts and have them made into a book. Some people can hire a ghost writer like you, and tell the story and then have it done. For me, what worked was to lock myself in a room one day each weekend, for like eight weekends, and literally bang it out. And yes, I would hit that plateau: “I don’t know what to say. It’s not flowing. I can’t get it to work.” But, what I will say is that I worked with an editor, so I got the core pieces into the book, and then the editor did her brilliant work and made it sound real. So, for the audience out there, that’s in the process of writing a book.
Definitely get a team of professionals around you to help you get it done. If your way of telling your story is by recording it, then record it, and give it to somebody else. You can put it into words if that’s the best way, and if you like writing, then lock yourself in a room like I did. But, don’t feel like it has to be perfect. You can have a team around you who can edit it, design your cover, and help you promote it — the whole process of it. But, I’ll say, get into action and do something!
Dan: Excellent. I’m working with a client now who is involved in government sales, and as you can imagine, he writes and speaks like a bureaucrat — which is not how people want to read. So, I’m having a lot of fun turning what he has written. It’s probably good, if he’s writing for his peers, but not good for the general public that he wants to hire him as their coach or trainer or consultant. So, I’m having fun returning government speak into English, but I couldn’t do it by myself either. I know I needed his input in order to make that happen. So it does take a team to really create a great book.
Let’s talk about how you use your book in your marketing. How do you get the word out? How do you use the book to go to networking meetings? Tell us how you use the book to actually get new business.
Stacey: You know, to me, my book is a very thick business card. I give them out widely and greatly. I actually give out a free copy on my website. People just have to pay for the shipping. This is my business card because it really is my story and helps people understand where I’m coming from, even before I talk to them. So, when I have a prospective client, I always send them a copy of my book before we even have a conversation. When I’m on people’s podcasts like I am with you, I want to give them a copy of the book so that they understand who I am. To me, the book is a huge, incredible marketing piece. Not only can you have it in a print format, but you can also have an online version and use Audible. So, that’s the next thing on my list, to actually record my own book and then have it published on Audible.
Dan: Clever. I’m curious. You’re very good verbally. You’re a good talker. Did you “talk” your book or did you write your book? Did you type it first or did you speak it?
Stacey: I typed. I’m actually much better at typing and with words, than I am with speaking. And, interestingly enough, though, the process of recording the book has been very, very difficult for me. On the positive side, Audible has very strict requirements for the quality of audio. So, it’s almost like I’m just going to have to go into a recording studio because I’ve sent them a few samples, and they haven’t passed their muster. I would also encourage people who are doing their own book to do their own audio version of it. That’s because I’ve heard the ones where they hire somebody to read it for them, and — as you alluded to the tone and the passion — if it’s truly based on you and your story and what you believe in, then it really should be your voice.
Dan: Very true. A friend of mine gave me that same advice over lunch the other day. He has a book by Harper Collins. It’s selling very well. They just sold the Chinese rights and some other rights. It’s a great book, but he didn’t do the audio. And, a friend of his listened to the audio was not impressed with the guy doing it. But, he didn’t have much say in the matter. Also, he’s too close to it, so he wasn’t really sure if he was objective enough. A friend of his who listened to the audio said, “You know, they didn’t do any favors. And, that’s a shame because this is a book that could have big potential on Audible because it’s in sales, and sales books do well.”
It’s not your typical sales book, and it’s shown that it has legs. So, it’s a shame that he didn’t get the right talent, but it wasn’t his choice. It was his publisher’s choice, unfortunately. And, they got a guy who just couldn’t care less. And you know, that was a shame. That’s too bad. So, what other advice would you have for doing audio? Tell us a bit more about those restrictions that Audible has. I don’t think many people know about that.
Stacey: Well, I guess if you go to the Audible website, they have a section on there that talks about their requirements: their audio requirements and publishing your book on their platform. Obviously, no muffled sound around you. It needs to be very high quality. And, I tend to have a nasally kind of a voice. Also, depending how close or how far you speak into the mic can impact this. I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you know, stuff yourself in a closet with pillows all around you and record.” But, I tried doing that and that didn’t pass their muster, either. So, I don’t know. I’ve never truly had success in publishing on Audible yet, and it’s been a process. Maybe that’ll be my next book: How to Get your Book Published on Audible. But, I think it’s just a great complimentary piece to have that in addition to your printed book.
Dan: Great. Now, I know from the sales figures that I’ve seen on Publishers Weekly and other places that Audible and audio books are definitely outselling other media, and it’s the way of the future. People want to listen to books in their cars when they’re walking, when they’re working out. It makes a lot of sense. Let’s go back to something you said earlier about you sending the book to everyone, and then they feel like they know you. Can you give me an example or a story about when you met with a new prospect who had seen your book, what their reaction was, and how that transaction went?
Stacey: Well, I’ll send it to a prospective client, one, so they get to know me. And, two, so they understand my approach to marketing, because I lay out my system, what is in there, and what I do for my clients. So, that helps humanize me; and, the prospect who gets something physical in the mail now has a greater appreciation. I’m also a big proponent of using direct mail. I think sometimes people just look for the cheap way, just wanting to send an email or a text or, you know, just quick and easy. There’s something powerful about direct mail. Not only do I send the book, but I autograph the book for them. I have a customized bookmark that I include in there, as well. I have a little note card that I include with the book that talks about them, what I’ve learned about them, and that I’m excited to continue the conversation.
And, I also have these little printed sticky notes that say, “Get into ACTION.” That’s a keeper, right? They’re going to keep it on their desk. And, any time they write a note, my branding is right there in front of them. So, it keeps me front of mind. And, as my book is written in very sort of storytelling kind of way, it’s not a difficult read. Most of my clients can go through it over a weekend.
Here’s a great example: I sent this book to a very large healthcare technology company that has over 50 employees, and they were looking to bring somebody on to help with their marketing. They were interviewing a bunch of different, big name marketing agencies; and, I’m known as the “small biz” marketing specialist. I sent them a copy of the book, scheduled a follow up call, and landed the account. So, out of all of the competition, I got the job — and it’s my largest client today. I really attribute that to the book.
Dan: Congratulations. That’s great. And, that’s exactly what we’re trying to prove on this show: that the book can lead to big business. You know, I call it a book, it’s a big business card — you called it a very thick business card. That’s great. It sounds like you self-published the book, correct?
Stacey; I went through KDP.
Dan: Okay, so you self-published. Everyone makes mistakes self publishing a book. So, let’s learn from your mistakes. What did you wish you had done differently or what did you realize after the fact that you would’ve done?
Stacey: My process was actually pretty smooth, but I will say I did not do it myself. I had my editor do it for me. I had never set up an account and they have requirements about the format and the whole structure of everything. So, in my book I talk about doing what you do best, and outsource the rest. I took my advice, and I did what I did best and outsourced the rest. While I might be great at writing a book, I’m not the best at how to format and publish a book. So, I hired somebody to do that for me.
Dan: Got it. KDP makes it very easy, by the way. So, I do it for a lot of my clients, too, because it really is quite simple. They’ve really made self-publishing very easy. It’s the copy editing, the layout, the proofreading, the writing, and the editing that still has to be done. But, as far as getting your book online and in people’s hands, it couldn’t be any easier. When I wrote my first book in 1991, self-publishing was really a whole different ballgame. It was not easy. And, now it’s like anyone can easily print a book. So that’s really cool. Stacey, as we wrap up here, why don’t you tell us how people can get in touch with you and who your perfect client is. So, if they’re listening, they can get in touch with you.
Stacey: Well, thanks for asking. My home base is smallbizmarketingspecialist.com (small BIZ marketing specialist.com). That is my home base. There are lot of free resources on there that any small business owner or not-so small business can tap into and take advantage of. I also run a free Facebook group. So, if you go to Facebook and type in small biz marketing success, and then look under the groups tab, you’ll see my group. That is a great community for you to join. Network with your fellow small business owners, ask questions, share your struggles. It’s a very active and engaged group. And, for anybody in your community who wants to reach me personally, they can do so via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. (So that’s SMALL B, I, Z, S, T, A, C, E, Y @gmail.com.)
Dan: Great. And, I can’t let you go without asking one more question because small business means different things to different people. You said small, your largest client is 50 people, and you thought that was big. There are people who think $300 million is a small business and there are people who think that $50,000 is a small business. So, who is your perfect client? So, if they’re listening here, you won’t be wasting their time and they won’t be wasting your time, if they’re not a good fit.
Stacey: It’s a dichotomy. It’s interesting. People view small business differently. I have a client who was a solo-preneur. I work with a lot of solo-preneurs. I’ve helped a realtor become number one in her area. I work with an electrician, and I work with a dessert shop on Main Street, but I am a perfect fit for a larger growing company, let’s say 15 to 50 employees, who is growing and wants to get to the next level but doesn’t have a full time marketing person in place to do that. So, I and my team would be a great fit to help that organization because we can come in from day one and get the strategy and the plan in place. And, as I say, get your marketing into action.
Dan: Perfect. Thank you so much for visiting with us today. This podcast was brought to you by “Small Business Stacey,” the small biz marketing specialist.” Want to know the six simple steps that will double, even triple your business in the next 30 days? Go to smallbizmarketingspecialist.com/transform, and finally achieve the successful and profitable business you always knew you would have. That’s small B I Z marketingspecialist.com/transform.
Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small - and not so small - businesses one marketing plan at a time. She helps business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE profit. Stacey's in-demand "Small Biz Marketing Success Coaching and Mastermind Program" is transforming the businesses - and lives - of those who want wealth, freedom, and market domination. Her highly acclaimed book "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" lays out the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of Cups To Gallons, the place where independent coffee, smoothie, juice bar, ice cream, dessert and snack shop owners go to learn how get into lucrative catering so they stop selling by the cup and start selling by the gallon. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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