#26 Top 5 on How to Package Content and Be an Expert – Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time

InfoLitHead
Your brain on “little bundles”

As part of my quest to get nominated for world’s worst professor, last month I actually coached a group of students through a procedure I call “Business Stalking.” This is where you have a target (someone you want to speak with/stalk), determine where they are going to be speaking,  and then you rush the stage afterwards.  Since this time I’ve received many emails, specifically referring to “business stalking” which was probably five  minutes of a two hour talk.  And I realized, really, really clearly: It’s about packaging.

Below I list my top 5 observations about effectively packaging content based on:

  • Doing it.
  • Years of consulting and teaching to people who are/can be very picky (big organizations, 18 year-olds).
  • My background as an award-winning curriculum developer…oh…wait…okay…they are telling me the scrawled crayon star from my kids does not constitute a real “award.” Dang.

Other sources of inspiration from this post are:  Writing for Maria Shriver’s site, advice from amazing mentors, the – The Four Hour Work Week, uber-talented designerDonald Bullach who recently – kid you not – did our high school reunion memory book in what is EASILY the coolest high school reunion memory book EVER.

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What is this, where I am, who are you? If this is your first time here, this is the insider’s blog for The Hot Mommas Project. We are a women’s leadership project housed at the George Washington University School of Business in DC and have an audacious goal of becoming a million dollar venture/organization…while being led by a mom working part time. Our big thing right now is the Hot Mommas Project Case Study competition. Click here to nominate someone.  Click here for about page.

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The Top 5 of Packaging Content

1. Credibility. And you are….and you’re with? The Law of Superlatives. Right out of the gate you’ve got to answer the question, “Why should someone listen to me?” Superlatives create credibility. In this new economy crowded with messages and free agents, it is critical to make sure you are REMEMBERED. And, no, it should not be for your criminal record. Here is an example: The Hot Mommas Project (aside from being named “The Hot Mommas Project”) is “The world’s largest library of teachable role models for women and girls.”  What’s the superlative one can associate with you?  In what area are you the best, fastest, biggest, etc.?   Another angle is to crunch some numbers for the wow factor.  How many clients have you successfully placed? How many thousands of dollars worth of media impressions have you generated for your client?  When I ran a consulting firm full of the original “Hot Mommas” consultants, I advertised our 94 perent success rate in helping clients plan their annual goals in one day. The bottom line is: If you’re not special, make a placeholder and go out and find something that makes you special. Yes, you can actually do that. Specific sections of Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week are very helpful on this topic.

For the ladies – special note: Superlatives may, at times, resemble bragging which can be a tricky one for women. There is a good deal of research indicating women  are not always strong self-marketers. (I teach about this in my class. Yes, it’s true and yes, it’s a big deal.)  So put on your big girl undies, move through the list below, and get pep talks from advisors and friends where you need them. Guys, you too (except the big girl undies part…not that there’s anything wrong with that).

2. Story –  “Here to There.” Make the superlative even more impressive by pairing it with your story. Robert Tuchman is a great example of this. His book agent contacts me, tells me about the $70 million dollar sports marketing company his client built, and wants to know will I review Robert’s new book Young Guns? It’s a “go” for me when I hear: 1) Robert was 25 when he started the company and 2) His first office was a one-bedroom apartment. The “here to there” quality is great on a story like Robert’s. His PR person clearly understands this. What is your “here to there” story? What constraints were you under when you built the company, product, etc.? It adds to the story, and people like stories. For instance, I built the Hot Mommas Project case library in seven months while working part-time. I am still not sure anyone actually cares about this fact, but, the idea of it is inherently appealing. America loves underdogs. America loves people who triumph in the face of adversity.

3. Organization – Make Little Bundles. We love little bundles. Not just because it is such a cute little word combo, we love it for two real reasons that will make your life easier:

a. If you have too much information – making little bundles helps you scale the informational K2 so to speak.

b. If you have very little information – making little bundles helps package what you DO have.

Examples: The Hot Mommas Project right now is SWIMMING in data. It’s too much. We have surveys, cases, more surveys. So what to do? I devise a three hour class on mentoring. I lay out the class plan, and what will be covered in each class. Next, I structure each class with intro, wrap up, lecture, and interactive exercises in each one hour module. Last, I run it by someone who gives me feedback, and helps me make it better. Then I get with a free conference call service and market it (see #4).

Note: Another good way to create little bundles is to Q&A with yourself. For instance, I might ask myself “Self, why is mentoring important?” Then, depending on how things are going, I might ask myself, “Why is mentoring particularly important for women?” Then, if I am feeling very bold, I might ask myself, ‘So, why should I care?” And so on and so forth. In general, this type of approach is helpful not just for media training, but for devising REAL PowerPoint presentations. I especially advise this approach to presentation creation if you’re a “Rambler.”

4. Market. You may be in charge of marketing. Even if you’re not, your CMO and Director of Marketing and their brother and sister and dog were probably just laid off, so it’s good to know how to market. I break this section into “Guerilla Marketing” and “Walking Upright.”

Guerilla Marketing. Here is an example of how I approached Guerilla Marketing Hot Mommas Project content this summer. Once you’ve got your little bundles, it’s time to market them. Boy, that sounds really bad.

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Guerilla Marketing Case study: Hot Mommas Project Summer Teleseminars

Courses tested: Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership I  and II, Virtual Mentoring, and “Getting to 5: How to Quantitatively Raise Your Work Life Balance Score.” Two of these generated the most interest…which do you think they were?

Guerilla Marketing Steps (post-content development): Here is the brain dump – Titling, title testing (on Twitter and site based on adjix.com clicks), post on site, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email it to the Hot Mommas Project database, print a schedule on the back of my business cards, and post a big decal on my car [Gotcha : -) I would never put a decal on my car, only my husband deserves that type of humiliation for leaving the seat up and other atrocities]. I also posted on Teleseminar Nation, but got nothing from that.

Did you know – the SEO bonus factor? EventBrite was recommended to me by digital media firm iStrategyLabs. EventBrite has a double benefit of good SEO, so The Hot Mommas Project will be using that for event registration going forward. Press releases on 1888PressRelease.com – of which I’ve spoken in previous posts – also provide traffic. It crashed our site last year, in fact.

This process worked. So, if I wanted to “rinse repeat” and do more of it, I could. In transitioning to “Walking Upright,” I have:

  • Plans to research Alex Mandossian who I’ve heard is the teleseminar guru.
  • Plans to partner with Information Experts, and possibly Learning Tree International, to pilot their web training platform.
  • Making the content pretty, relying on the brilliant  Donald Bullach, an uber-talented designer, and ideas from  ReBrand.com. Here are some other cool web designs.
  • Begun to seek out event planners to see “how it would work” for a larger Hot Mommas Project event which – to be honest – I have zero desire to plan but everyone seems to want one.
  • Made a list of all the Guerilla Steps so my virtual assistant in India (not kidding) can help me with it.

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Walking Upright. Critically important is to have an eye on the big prize. Who goes BIG with content? How did that happen? Do you have any connection to them or people who know that model? I know from personal experiences with major business speakers that even THEY don’t always know the best model and are continually figuring it out. I’ll hear one famous speaker say “I need to get on Twitter and Facebook more” and hear another one say, “The book company is not doing a great job of making sure critical masses are at my speaking engagements” or “My PR company is not getting me the coverage I need.” So, just realize that even Goliaths struggle with it too. I am looking at the three models below in developing my “walking upright” marketing strategy.

5. Economics. This is where the walking upright crowd has it. For the economics to work with content, you must seriously have your act together. I certainly did NOT when I first started writing Hot Mommas Project cases. When we started winning awards people said, “Are you going to sell the cases like at Harvard Business School?” I tried that approach for about – ummm – 6 weeks and “threw it on the ground!”

Currently, I see three realistic economic models for expert content:

A. Publishing and Entertainment. This is what my mentor Amy Millman calls the Martha Stewart “Omnimedia Model.” It’s the job of people in publishing and entertainment to know: a. What people want and b. To give it to them. They push content out there to as many people as possible, and then sell advertising around the promise of reaching that customer base. Martha Stewart started with a magazine and worked up and out from there to the huge company Omnimedia. Magazine, show, product. What started as content has become a movement.

B. Conferences. If you’ve ever seen a top-notch event planner in action, it’s quite a sight to behold.  Business events and conferences typically get sponsors to cover the costs, and sell tickets to make a profit. Of course, it could go up or down in either direction with the sponsorship and ticket fees, but this is a good rule of thumb. Event planner calendars typically go out three or more years in advance. You’ve got to get up early in the morning if you’re going to run your own event. My personal preference is to let someone else run the event, and come in as a speaker. Look up the conferences and events in your area, contact them about speaking or being on a panel. In SXSW you can propose your own panel! In the massively walking upright category of conferences is HSM’s World Business Forum at which I was a featured blogger this past year. I am doing due diligence, behind my computer, and expect to be out from behind that computer speaking and making people less scared of women and our brains (us included!).

Note: For you perfectionists – Remember that even the pros experiment and test. Think “pilot” on TV, think “test market.” Don’t let doing things perfectly dissuade you from making progress. Even the big boys dip their toe in the water first.

3. Screwing everything up is the “Freemium” Model – Read more about that here in a  previous post. My friend in content management says, “Something for free, the rest for a fee.” This is pretty much the Freemium model.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

What is the difference between a cheesy salesman and you? Credibility. Use your brain and know your stuff.Learn and practice. Bring others into it at every step. As Hot Mommas Project case author Yana Berlin says, “A leader is nothing without her followers.”  Are your points resonating?

Not quite there yet? If you don’t have your supreme-being content yet, you can still become familiar with these guerilla tools: Twitter, Facebook, and SEO. More on press and buzz here.

The focus factor. Oh, yeah, BTW – I’m supposed to be writing a book right now. Yes. So, here is another rule of content development: FOCUS PEOPLE! I’m hoping to produce a little mini bundle like this, taking inspiration from Rohit Bhargava.

Related links:  Must-reads. Word on the street is this will change your thinking about the relevance of your voice.

Groundswell (Blog) – Winning in a World Transformed By Social Technology

33 Million People in the Room – How to Create, Influence, and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking

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Know a dynamic woman over the age of 18? Nominate her to be a role model and tell her story at www.HotMommasProject.org. Emailsupport@hotmommasproject.org with your nomination.

Want to let someone know you believe in them? Sponsor a case writer with your nomination. Every $25 allows a case to be permanently archived on our educational site. Mention your nominees name and email in the PayPal note.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #11: Top 7 Low/No Cost Stuff To Use In Business

The alternative title to this post is, “How to fake like you’re a big company” or “Running it lean and mean.” Let’s get right into it since I’m on vacation in Vermont.  One little story, then onto the top 7.

(Note: See past posts for our long-standing, co-dependent relationship with coffee. Nintendo recently rejected a sponsorship request from us. Starbucks MUST be involved in some way. WE ARE SOLICITING ANY AND ALL IDEAS FOR SPONSORS FOR OUR CASE STUDY LIBRARY, KICKED OFF BY OUR COMPETITION OCT 13.)

Intern for the Hot Mommas Project? Now that's a man confident in his masculinity.

Intern for the Hot Mommas Project? Now that's a man confident in his masculinity.

Hey everyone, welcome Achin to The Hot Mommas Project! He is a George Washington University MBA student. Here, he holds the Indian equivalent of Starbucks.  He is in India right now and will join us in the fall.

 

 

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INTERLUDE [Samba music plays, rudely interrupted by “You are My Friend” the horrific Barney  themesong]

Setting: The Posh Frey Honda Pilot (recently downgraded from an Acura MDX as Kathy has a gripping phobia of investing in depreciating assets).

Location: Driving from Lake George (our rainy-day plan) back to Vermont (our vacation location, where there is nothing to do in bad weather).

Josh (my husband): [Seeing a shirtless, blonde Grizzly Adams looking hitchhiker] “Hey! Let’s pick him up.”

Kathy: “Ha! Yeah.” [Pause] “Well, we do need to start looking for a new au pair.”

Josh: [After passing shirtless Grizzly Adams] “He could have been a good one.”

Kathy: [Feigning “interested friend” voice] “Your new aupair is so great! Where did you find him?” [Feigning response] “Oh, we found him on the side of the road one day on vacation.”

Josh: [Feigning response] “Yeah! Just south of a federal correctional institution in New York! No problem.”

And so goes the cost-effective search for a new au pair for the Frey family.

END INTERLUDE [Barney Theme song ends]

P.s. Did you know there is a full-on anti-Barney trend? Riveting.

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This is a really odd, tangential method of transitioning into the Top 7 Low/No Cost resources for businesses (no, we will not suggest you pick up Grizzly Adams hitchhikers for subsidized staff members):

1. Advice. Advice is the best free thing you can get.  How to get good advice:

– KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. If you are someone who thinks, “Oh, I’ll just figure it out” you’re in trouble.  I’ve noticed the willingness/ tendency/ propensity in certain people to spend 5 hours on the internet searching for something versus 5 minutes on the phone solving the problem.  I make sure my interns don’t do this (see item #7). I have a list: “STUFF I DON’T KNOW THAT IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THE HOT MOMMAS PROJECT.” Then, I search for smart people who can help me with those issues (see next item).

– HOW TO GET A NETWORK: Social media allows for relationships never before available to folks outside of the right schools or social circles. Go to www.Alltop.com to see who the players are in your industry. If they’re blogging, you can reach them.  I have also seen entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from EO (forum) and like groups. Personally, I have relied on all of the above plus I have specifically sought out role models/business luminaries I admire and am in varying stages of contacting them/working with them. For example: Ted Leonsis, Bob Prosen, Guy Kawasaki, and Stewart Friedman. The latest are Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and I am trying to get in touch with Gina Bianchini who co-founded Ning with Marc Andreesson of Netscape.  Based on this, Esther – my right hand woman – approached Senator Lieberman (whom she idolizes) at the movies, told him about the Hot Mommas Project, and is emailing with him. Go Esther!

– EXAMPLE: I posted the following on Twitter the other day

how atrocious is our website? We need free help for exposure. anyone? www.hotmommas.org

2. Low Cost Web Templates. I thought I was all cost efficient using the $5 GoDaddy template when I first took the Hot Mommas Project online.  Good: It’s cheap. Bad: It sucks. As we became more tech-savvy, I realized: a. It was pathetic-looking and b. It was incredibly slow  (shared server, not dedicated server).  Here are some resources suggested by Frank Gorton (fgorton on Twitter), who is a social media expert and worked with AOL and Monster.com, among others, during his career:

– http://www.wordpress.com –  Good templates, says Frank.  Even though I am doing our insiders blog on wordpress, I didn’t realize that you could use a wordpress template for your whole site (click here for Hot Mommas Project non-insiders blog). Frank recommended this to us based on our needs at this stage of the project (Nutshell of our project: Building world’s largest women’s case study library. Kicking off w/ case study competition launching October 13, 2008. Read more here.)

http://www.templatemonster.com– Frank told us about this, and Achin (new intern) had heard of it too. I have zero time (as I am doing this part time, have two kids, and yada yada) and really need to rely on others to cut through the mess and act as the social media Consumer Reports for me.

http://www.ning.com. Everyone thinks Ning is awesome (“awesome” word count from past 2 blog posts: 3). You can start a community for free using their software (with a Ning address), and for a nominal fee use your own address. It was founded by Gina Bianchini and Mark Andreesson.  Here is a cool video c/o Robert Scoble.

3. Low Cost “Other Stuff” for Our Site. Aside from the basic “how to pimp out your blog” items (see first post reference to Seth Godin’s article on this), Frank specifically noted the following beyond the basic widgets and RSS stuff:

www.Vimeo.com – get a free account and build video content. Frank suggested we film our Hot Mommas Project case study protagonists to connect people with our educational tools and take “role models on paper” to “role models on film.” We had dreamed of doing this for a long time, and were even approached by some Hollywood folk, but this is quick and does the job.

www.Brightcove.com – Here are some syndication products from Brightcove (think “Alliare” – inventors of ColdFusion software).  This could be useful if the above (Hot Mommas video case studies) are a hit or there is other content we want to syndicate (like our research on best practices in work life balance).

http://www.Twitter.com – Twitter – it’s everywhere. Frank suggested having a Twitter widget on our site would, again, humanize it and help connect people with our cause: Providing academic tools to serve as role models for women and girls (Cool Daddies beta – too!).

If you’ve ever gotten an email from Guy Kawasaki, here is something he uses that he lists as part of his signature: SpinVox(will convert voicemail to email). You can also usually find lots of fun widgets on Guy’s blog.

4. Low Cost Developers and Designers.  Achin, our newest addition, found a developer in India to convert our whole site onto a blog template if we don’t have the fortitude to do it ourselves. Frank uses a developer who charges him about $12 per hour. Contact Frank (fgorton) if you want to know who this is. Here is who Achin found for us: http://www.compose.co.in/.

P.s. Re Designers, I’ve heard of folks using eLance. I use Brad Imburgia who developed the Hot Mommas Project logo. I also used our interns to do some work. (see #7) I’m sure India also has designers.

5. Low Cost and Professional Sounding Phone System. In love with eVoice (I’m pretty sure these are the eFax people). Husband knows the guy who runs Got Voice Mail, also.

6. Low Cost and Professional Looking Printing. Big fan of Vista Print. If you plan far enough in advance, can be UNBELIEVABLY cheap.

7. INTERNS. This is a biggie, so, if you do not care about interns stop reading now. When thinking low or no cost, my personal favorite is interns. My favorite place to list them is at GW’s career site. You can also integrate your post in with NACElink which lists nationally. I also have friends who have used Craig’s list (under part time or your industry). In 1 or 2 years, these interns are going to cost someone $40,000 to $70,000 plus benefits. So, why not receive help from their fabulous brains NOW. I have had to learn to do the following to be successful with interns:

– LIST AT THE RIGHT TIME.  Think student. When are they looking for internships? Post in between January-April for the spring semester (by May you’ve probably lost them to finals). Post by early August for Fall. Post in the Fall before Thanksgiving for the Spring semester. I cannot tell you how many business owners contact me during finals in May and say, “Can you tell your students about this internship?” I give it a 1 in 100 chance at that point.

– BE GOOD AT TRAINING If you suck at mentoring, or don’t have the time or interest, don’t bother.

– HAVE AN “IT” or specific thing they can do.  There is no such thing as too much definition or clarity. Consultants, project managers, and individuals who think this way can usually easily get their brains around this.

– HAVE A WAY TO MONITOR the “it.” I discuss this in an earlier post. It is easier if you have done a good job setting a clear goal or “it” (mentioned above). I am CONSTANTLY adjusting this based on what I see in the person’s performance (e.g., If I sense they are overloaded, I stop sending lists of things to do and re-focus them a la “HERE’S WHAT WE MUST DO BY TODAY.” I will ask them to tell me, with hours by tasks, how they are spending their day…in this way, we work on time management together).

– HAVE SPACE FOR THEM. I have had experience with the student population through teaching. One thing I’ve learned is: It is HARD for most to work on their own and deliver what they say unless they are EXTRAORINARY. So, ixnay on the virtual/independent working.

– HAVE A COOL COMPANY NAME/INTERNSHIP NAME. We got infinitely more resumes with the Hot Mommas Project vs. Vision Forward. hot-mommas-internship-flyer_summer2008.

– SELECT GOOD ONES. I try to select interns where I see a minimum 1/4 ratio. That is, for every 1 hour I spend with them, they can do 4 hours of work. If I can combine several interns into the one hour, great, that is an exponential amount of work being done when everyone goes on their merry way to do a project.  A list of questions I ask is below:

HOW TO INTERVIEW INTERNS:

Interview #1: Phone interview. Min = 15 mins, Max = 1 hour

a. What drew you to the Hot Mommas Project? (Desired answer = They are interested in/passionate about the project. This is KEY.)

b. Tell us about _______________. (Ask about several items on resume to get a sense of  responsibilities). We ask about GPA if there is a problem. Below a 3.0 is a red flag (see “e” and “f” below).

c. What are your top 3 strengths? Draw from group projects, other internships? (We like to see social sophistication and a drive to succeed. If this is not apparent, we ask another question later).

d. What is something on which you’d like to work or improve. (We like to hear them admit a real weakness vs. some B.S. At this point we figure they are an over-achiever type anyway, a couple chinks in the armor show self-awareness which is ESSENTIAL for self-correction).

e. How do you organize yourself? Explain an example – beginning to end – using a major assignment or work project. (We like to see someone with an actual process for organization. If they suck at organizing themselves this means your tasks will not get done, as much as you may like them in the interview. You can turn a B+ into an A, you cannot turn a C or D into an A is our experience).

f. Do you tend to overextend yourself? (This is BEYOND CRITICAL for students who are doing MANY MANY things and often will get into the semester, freak out, then bail on you. Ask this up front. Dig a bit.)

g. What questions do you have for us? (We like smart questions, but, many are overwhelmed so we assign it to them for the next interview. We say, “Come with three questions to the next interview” if they proceed to the second round.)

h. Of the items I’ve described, what sound the most interesting to you? (If you have some flexibility and can match the intern’s interests to specific functions, you’ll have a greater chance of a happy worker.)

Interview #2 (if we ran out of time, but had a good vibe about the person, we’ll send some of the above questions for them to answer via email in between Interview 1 and 2).

a. What additional questions do you have about the project? (They should have been assigned 3).

b. What ideas do you have for the project? (They were assigned a “task” of coming up with 1-3 ideas to make sure they “get” the project).

c. Are you interested in the project (usually already apparent by end of first interview and email interactions in between interviews 1 and 2)?  (If we like them) Rate your interest from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. If not a 10, what would make it a 10? (Take notes to integrate into their job during the internship to – again – create happy workers).

d. (If we like them) We’d like to formally offer you the __________internship. (Discuss start date, weekly schedule, their ability to continue beyond one semester, confirming they understand the internship is unpaid, making for-credit arrangements, other logistics. WRITE THIS DOWN and make sure you EACH HAVE A COPY.)

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PARTING THOUGHTS: Gotta run, on vacation, need to go look for hitchhikers.