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March 10, 2022

Online Marketing Trends for 2022 with Jen McFarland, Women Conquer Business

Online Marketing Trends for 2022 with Jen McFarland, Women Conquer Business

Online Marketing Trends for 2022 with Jen McFarland, Women Conquer Business

Shelley Carney: Hello. Welcome to Messages and Methods. I'm your host, Shelley Carney. 

Toby Younis: I’m Toby Younis. I'm her co-host in this. First of all, tomorrow at 11:00 AM mountain time, you'll hear Shelley and Jen on their program called Women Conquer Business. Tomorrow's program is Dissolving Information Overload. At one o'clock Shelley and I will be on Videotero and we're going to talk about this latest shot that we took. It has been posted both to my Instagram account and to my Facebook page, featuring the color yellow. Shelley did the styling on it.

Shelley Carney: We’re going to talk about lemonade.

Toby Younis: I couldn't remember the exact statement I had to look it up. It's when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. So I called the photo when life hands you lemons. We'll talk about how we set up the shot, the equipment we used, and then we'll show you that equipment on our Amazon page in case you want to get the same pleasure out of shooting these shots that we do. 

Then last but not least, I do want to remind you that our book, Women In Podcasting has been published and I have my copy.

Shelley Carney: Our guest is Jen McFarland, the founder of Women Conquer Business. We met Jen at the She Podcasts conference back in October and Jen and I started working together, collaborating on her podcast, Women Conquer Business. We do that as a live stream now, every Thursday morning.

Jen is also a digital marketing expert, and she's going to share her knowledge when it comes to digital marketing. 

Let's get started by having you tell us about yourself and your business.

Jen McFarland: You introduced me very well. My name is Jen McFarland. I am the founder of Women Conquer Business. I have over 25 years of digital marketing experience, some of which predates digital marketing. I was working at newspapers, doing graphic design, and then working on larger-scale projects.

Women Conquer Business primarily helps women entrepreneurs with all of their digital marketing needs. I like to specialize specifically in marketing operations. That means integrations and getting things from start to finish as quickly as possible. I also have a podcast, as you said, for about three years called Women Conquer Business.

I have a new initiative called Epiphany Courses. What we're doing with that is taking some of this knowledge that I've shared speaking in different settings and sharing it as an online course with people who maybe can't work with me in person. That is everything that I have going on at the moment.

Toby Younis: It sounds like a busy life. I like the idea that you've transitioned through several eras from analog to digital marketing. But what we're trying to focus on is digital marketing as we know it now. What I wanted to ask was what did you learn about digital marketing in the last year? What new things did you see?

Jen McFarland: This is so fascinating to me and it's grown into e-commerce as well. We've experienced over 10 years' worth of growth since the pandemic. That goes back two years technically. It's because all of these companies dusted off projects about going online and started implementing them.

It has been one of the most exciting times in the history of digital marketing. What I've learned most in the last two years is that there is always more to learn because it is shifting and changing.

Toby Younis: The Moore's law effect, where we used to see changes every 14 months because of the size of processors. It's completely different. You have to expect change more often than that and you have to be malleable enough to adapt to it very quickly.

Jen McFarland: In project management, we would call it structured flexibility. You have enough structure for products you're offering as a business owner, you have an idea of how you want to deliver it, but you have enough flexibility that you can change and shift quickly.

That's not necessarily something we've seen in the past. Now I think it's just going to continue at this pace, at least for the foreseeable future.

Shelley Carney: Since you have so much background in all the different mediums of marketing and digital marketing perhaps you can pull out your crystal ball and answer this question.

How will digital marketing for entrepreneurs and small business owners change in the next 12 months?

Jen McFarland: What we're seeing that is fascinating and provides a lot of opportunities, particularly for startups and small business owners, is how video has been shifting and continues to shift. We're now seeing a lot more, even on Amazon or Pinterest with shoppable posts. A web story is a different way of taking video, making it more than what it's traditionally been on social media and making it a vehicle to sell your products.

We know that people love video. They love to engage. They love to learn more. It's no longer optional. For the longest time, we would say you can do a video if you want. Now we need to start focusing on video. I think that will only continue to grow and shift for small business owners in the next 12 months.

Toby Younis: You'll probably know from your clients because we know from our clients, the idea that the market is going to require them to go to video is a difficult transition. That leads us to the next question. What do you see as the most significant obstacle entrepreneurs are going to face in making this kind of transition into 2022's definition of digital marketing?

Jen McFarland: There are a lot of different things. I think that for many entrepreneurs, it comes down to mindset. I hate shifting into things that are between the ears, but when it comes to video, it seems like that is always the case. People have a lot of resistance to it because they're afraid of what they look like on video.

They're afraid of so many different things. For some reason, that is a deeper dive into exposing themselves to customers than any other means of marketing. I see a willingness to engage as the biggest obstacle.

Secondarily, there's so much information out there about marketing that we incur analysis paralysis. We always have to worry about that combined with resistance. If you haven't done a video before, it's something that you're going to have to work on and find ways to practice. Understand that it's a process and it'll take time and that's how you overcome it.

I think that you both know that. You both have a lot of tricks up your sleeve for how you get people to begin to engage on video.

Toby Younis: We want them to be comfortable. It is one of the bigger obstacles and a lot of our clients are in the older age group. That's our expectation. Although they believe that entering the world of digital marketing is important to whatever they're trying to accomplish when you tell them some of the requirements like live streaming and podcasting and blogging continually, that makes them uncomfortable. Especially like you said, the video part.

Jen McFarland: What I tell my clients when I'm working with them is let's take a baby step. I also share what I did, which is I did a lot of Facebook lives to myself. You can set the audience as only you and you can practice. There are a lot of ways that you can work through that fear. Then when people understand the possibilities with video and how it can become all of these other things, that's how people realize from an efficiency standpoint it's a big loss if you don't do it.

Toby Younis: That's the biggest sales pitch. If you can help them to realize that if you do take this big jump into video, you're not just creating video, you're creating the opportunity for lots of other content that you would not have previously imagined and it won't require much additional effort. So that's a really good position to be in.

Shelley Carney: It's a good way for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and personal brand people on a smaller scale to be able to participate in marketing with those bigger companies. We can go live, we can talk about ourselves, our products and services, and interact with customers. Whereas the bigger brands, they're just going to be sending out commercials and not interacting. They're going to be talking as a company or a brand. We have an advantage when we do use video as a small entrepreneurial business.

Jen McFarland: The only obstacle you have as a small business owner is yourself. You can do anything with any amount of money you can create. You can change on a dime, pick a thing, stick with it for a while and see what happens. Don't shift all the time, but don't create obstacles that aren't necessary.

Toby Younis: Don't expect overnight results.

Jen McFarland: No, sadly.

Shelley Carney: We are working with digital marketers in many different fields and there are fundamentals that some people do need to have in place before they can reach out and work with a coach or a consultant.

What should a prospective client have in place in their business before you may best help them with digital marketing?

Jen McFarland: I'm a little bit different in that I help a lot of brand new businesses. I also help people who are in a position of growth. There are two different lanes to work with me as a brand new business.

Before you do any marketing, you need to have at least a minimum viable product and some customers so you know who we're talking to. And some goals. Goals help me with knowing what we are trying to do. Then I can come in and be more effective.

Now that said, you don't have to have a website to work with me. You don't have to have anything. I do that a lot with my clients that come in through Prosper Portland. I work with the Inclusive Business Resource Network and the whole point is to get people started. I'm perfectly comfortable with people who don't have a lot in place.

The second group that I work with are people who are in a place where things aren't working. When you work a lot with integrations and try to grow, certain breakpoints tend to emerge. I work with businesses where things aren't working and they don't know why, and they don't know what they need to change. We make a few tweaks and it helps them.

Those are the two areas, but even for the people who are in a position of growth, you still have to answer a lot of questions about your business and have a lot of clarity. Sometimes what isn't working is that you set something up when you had a whole different set of ideas about what your business was, and then the marketing doesn't work anymore.

Those are the people that I work with. You don't have to have a ton in place, but you do need to have a really solid idea about your business.

Toby Younis: This is one of my favorite questions because I love storytelling. Tell us a story about something that you learned from working with a recent client.

Jen McFarland: In working with my clients, I've started to see a pattern among people who come in with a case of the shoulds. What that means is they come in and say I should have a Facebook group, but I don't.

I'm going to stop you right there. Who told you that you have to have a Facebook group? They come out with all of the information, all of the friends, all of the people who said that they should have it. I say, do you want to have a Facebook group? This has happened several times. They say, no. Then don't have one.

I had something similar happen with a different client who is amazing and has so much personality vibe that he can talk to anybody. He felt like he couldn't do that because that's not what the marketing narrative is. But if you're willing to do things that other people aren't, you’ve got an advantage.

In terms of what I run into again and again, is people feel like they have to do this or that and it may not be a good fit for them. They feel like they can't do anything with marketing because of that thing that they don't want to do. What I communicate to people is that it's not important to do what everybody else says. It's more important to do the thing that fits in with who you are as a person. The man who could talk to anybody, he could sell to anyone in person and make tremendous sales. There are a lot of people in this world who can't do that. So do that thing you're super good at.

For the people who think that they have to have a Facebook group, for example, you don't have to do anything that you don't want to do. You have to do some things that make the most sense and be where your people are. For a lot of people that is not a Facebook group, it's something else.

The moral of the whole story is you have to be careful about the information you listen to, the guidance you take, and what you view as being absolute when it comes to marketing your business. Because there are no absolutes. Fundamentally, marketing is how you get the word out about something.

So find what works. If it stops working, then you may have to make some adjustments. I talked to a lot of people who haven't even tried anything and they are in this fearful spot where they don't want to do anything because they don't want to do the one thing that everybody's telling them they have to do.

Shelley Carney: It is important to be true to your vision and once you've made those business decisions of what is your offer and who is the target audience then stick with them. Even when opportunities come up like we had this morning. 

We had an opportunity to do something that was something we could do. It sounded fun, but it had all these components that were not a part of our business model and we would have to go way outside of our zone of genius to do them. At that point, we said no, this isn't us. This is not a good opportunity for us. The more clarity we have, the more easily we can discern what's right for us and what's not.

We've defined our offer. We've defined our target audience. We've defined who we are and what we do and why we do it. It's not a good idea to try to go outside of that at this point.

Toby Younis: What made it even more difficult is this came from a past client, somebody who is a strong prospect for our current business model.

She might have met her objectives, but it wouldn't have helped us grow our business. It was hard to say, no, because she is a prospective client for our streaming content distribution services. But it was a good decision. It doesn't help us and all we'd be doing is a favor for a friend that would eventually lead to resentment and confusion.

Jen McFarland: I posted something about this on Twitter. It was a retweet, I can't take credit for it. It was, “Most of marketing is not deciding you need to change everything all the time.” That also flows into your business. Most of owning a business is making good decisions. All these people say you have to say yes to everything for a year. It's actually that you have to know what to say yes to, because otherwise if you get so far off mission on all these vanity projects, it doesn't help you. You end up drifting into the ocean.

Shelley Carney: Then you're not in charge. Other people who come to you with offers and opportunities that may not fit you are in charge. That's not a good way to go.

Let's talk more about websites. How does a website affect marketing success?

Jen McFarland: The thing about a website is it's two-fold. On the one hand, it's a place that you own. So it's not susceptible to all of the algorithms that are out there on social media. It's not something that is going to change unless you change it. It's a landing spot for everything.

I spoke to a client last night who didn't have a website. I said you don't have a website? He said I have a Link Tree. That's not the same thing.

Having a website affects your marketing success because it's a place where you can clearly define your mission. It's a landing spot where you can put all of the goodies about yourself. Your website can become a detriment if you make it into a scavenger hunt, meaning people will have to hunt everywhere to find things.

You have to realize that your website has to be a reflection of the customer experience, not a reflection of your internal organization, meaning you can't use a lot of jargon. You can't get people lost. It's not a scavenger hunt. That's not how a website works. People don't want to dig around to see if you're going to help them or what it is that you do. A website is a treasure hunt. That means every page has a treasure. Tell them what you want them to do. Make it extremely clear for people because you only have about three seconds.

It does affect marketing success because it's that place where you can always send people back to when you have a new podcast episode or a new blog post. If they’re not sure what I do they can find my services page. These are really good places where you can send people so that you're not reliant on a Facebook page or anything else out there. You get to control the dialogue and the message without a lot of ads or distractions that are taking them away from the core message that you have.

Toby Younis: We get a lot of people who come to us as a result of pressure from the people they know about their position on social media. What is the importance of social media and how can we best use it?

Jen McFarland: When I work with a brand new business, the guidance that we have is to set up your profiles everywhere and then send people to where you are most active. That means to set up that Twitter account and then tell people, thank you for finding me on Twitter, I'm most active on LinkedIn. Or, I'm most active on Instagram or whatever. Then you give them a link to that.

The reason you claim all of that space is two-fold. One, you want to make sure that you have taken advantage of all the places where you can have a brief business description and your website, so people can find you. That expands your digital footprint.

Two, and this isn't true in all business sectors, but it does happen in some: it prevents other people from claiming that space and taking it from you. You want to have all of the things claimed, your Google business profile, Yelp, and all of the social media platforms. There are so many different platforms that are industry-specific. For example, if you're in the wedding industry, be on The Knot. Claim your space in all of those places.

Then find the one to two social media places where you are the most active. Coincidentally it's best if it's the same places where your customers are. It doesn't matter if you like Facebook or not. If that's where your customers are, you’ve got to be active there.

It can help you with your marketing.

The reason it helps your marketing be more successful is what we're finding now. This is something that has exploded, especially since COVID, people are looking at you, they're looking at reviews, they're looking at your website and then they want to engage with you on social.

Sometimes it's deciding if they want to be a customer, they want to learn about your products. They want to know how you do you when nobody else is looking. But it's also a place for customer service. People sometimes reach out on social media, so it's important to be there.

All of these add up to business legitimacy. It's one key factor when you show up everywhere, but you're only active in certain places so that it's legitimate. But then it's also the customer service part, which is that our customers now have expectations around being able to reach out to us, not just on a website, but also on social media,

Shelley Carney: I was talking with my husband about that earlier this week. While we were standing in line at our local Smith's grocery store I was a little disappointed in how slow it was going. We were standing in long lines and there were not many lanes open. I was on my Smith's app on my phone and there's a way to send them a message. I sent them a message to please hire more cashiers because the lines are too long and too slow. A few minutes later, I got a call from Cincinnati. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer. I didn't think about it until later, but I should have answered because it was probably a call from Smith’s parent company, Kroger, checking in with me about my comment.

My husband said the same thing goes for Southwest Airlines. They scan social media constantly and if anybody's having an issue and tweeting about it, even if they're still at the airport, they will call you or tweet back at you. They will immediately reach out to have that customer service conversation with you to see what they can do to make things better.

These large corporations are very cognizant of social media and we, as small business owners, need to do as much as we can to step that up as well.

Jen McFarland: Absolutely. People out there are probably thinking this sounds overwhelming. I don't want to do all of that. But it doesn't happen that often.

I've been in business for several years. Most of the time if it's a client, they know how to reach you. In the work that I do they reach out directly. They have my phone number, they have my email. It's bigger companies that are more likely to be blasted on Twitter.

For small businesses, it can be about I saw this video. How can you help me? It's a lot more lead generation that you can get from social media. Especially if you provide a lot of service in what you're sharing on social media.

It shouldn’t be all about yourself. It's about community and commenting on other people's posts. From that, they get to know you and people will reach out.

Shelley Carney: How can we use email marketing most effectively?

Jen McFarland: Email is one of the top five things that you can be doing in your business.

A lot of people are saying email marketing is dead. Don't believe them. Email marketing is a big deal and it can help you. We were talking about the website being one place for your captive audience, meaning you own it. Make sure that you provide opportunities for people to opt-in because that's the other place where you own that space.

You can control the messages that you send out. If people opt-in, it means they want to hear from you. So be sure that you share about yourself on email marketing. Full disclosure, I have not been emailing as often as I need to. It does help with staying top of mind. It helps with people understanding what it is that you're doing, and how you're helping the community.

It doesn't have to be expensive. A lot of email services are free. You can get started and add a free offer to your website or your Facebook page or anything like that, and make sure that people have an opportunity to subscribe and hear from you.

Toby Younis: There was a time when the phrase “Content is King” was used by people like me to tell clients why they should be creating content. I'm not sure that has changed enough so that we can't say it. In what ways are content creation and distribution important to an entrepreneur's marketing?

Jen McFarland: One thing that has re-emerged is the importance of SEO. It fell off everybody's radar for a while. Now when you talk about what's happening with digital marketing, all of a sudden people are saying SEO is really important again. Did it stop being important? No, it never did. It is fundamental.

The reason content creation is fundamental is that content is typically words, at least until Google catches up with visual and auditory interpretation. Although Google is catching up and getting better about making video searchable, get that content out in a way that they know what it is that you're talking about and they can direct people there.

The whole point of creating content is to answer common customer questions over and over again. It takes so many touchpoints for somebody to come and work with you. It's also so that you can drive traffic among people who don't know you to get there.

It’s important because you can create a lot of content and it's not costing you anything. When you start to do things like streaming, you can even do Streamyard and it can be free. This is something that doesn't take a lot of money, although it does take time. But that time will pay off. That's why it's really important.

This livestream video is creating social media posts right now for you. This interview is creating social media posts. You're going to make a book out of it. You're going to get a lot of mileage out of this time that we're spending together and it's not costing anyone anything except for time.

The main thing about creating a lot of content is making sure that you've allotted the time and built the infrastructure to manage it well. But creating content always pays off as part of marketing success, because you're giving people the information that they need to make a decision about you.

Toby Younis: I want to add a couple of points to what Jen said. It looks like we're taking advantage of having Jen on the show, she's giving us her time and sharing her expertise, what does she get out of it? One of the things that she gets out of it is at the end of this show, she'll get links to both videocasts and audiocasts that she has the freedom to use in promoting herself. If people want to know more about Jen, they can go to this video and learn what she's all about just by listening to this conversation. 

The second thing I want to point out is Jen made a very important point about how Google and other search engines index words. We remind our clients of the value of a good title, a good description because you have up to 4,000 characters to make that description, and a set of tags that work for that. When this becomes a video, rather than a livestream, we'll have a complete title, a complete description, and a complete set of tags that go along with it.

What search engines count on is that you've written a credible title, a credible description, and are using credible tags to describe that video and that helps in your search engine findings. So when you look for Jen McFarland, eventually you'll see this video in her Google listing, because her name will be in the title, description, and tags.

Jen McFarland: Then take advantage of things like closed captioning. If you want, you can make a transcript and add it. 

As guests, we are also getting exposed to new audiences, people that I don't know. What I get out of it is talking to somebody new and answering questions. It is exposure to another audience and it is a good exchange of time. It is very useful.

That's why for my podcast, people want to be interviewed. Even when I hadn't had a show in a year, it never stopped. Now that Shelley and I brought it back, I get so many requests to be on the show because everybody knows they can be exposed to somebody else's audience. They're going to get a blog post. They're going to get all different kinds of information.

That's why you always see these kinds of content creation communities popping up because it is something where you can learn about other people and share a lot of information that is useful to everybody.

Shelley Carney: Within the last couple of years a lot of events were canceled. I know that you used to go out and speak to groups and that's been curtailed, so you have experienced this as well. What are the best alternatives to face-to-face networking and other events?

Jen McFarland: I've since stopped doing it, but I helped to organize and create something called Nationwide Networking, where we were using Meetup for online networking. That group is still active.

I also have organized coworking times where we have an event and people can come and talk about what it is that they're working on and what it is that they do. There are all different kinds of online communities that have sprung up as a result of no face-to-face networking. As somebody who can help people who live anywhere, I love it because I can keep meeting people and doing things and pop into different events.

A lot of networking is moving into the online space and I don't know how much of it is going to go back. Certainly, some of it will go back to being in person. We have some events here in Portland, Oregon that are amazing and they're not going to stop being in person because it's much better in person and they haven't been able to revive it in the online space.

I think there are a lot of places where you can go and meet other people online.

Shelley Carney: I've been doing a lot more online networking lately. There seem to be many more opportunities popping up for quick networking and people are getting very practiced at using breakout rooms. You can join a meeting and then go into smaller breakout rooms and have intimate conversations and then come back to the main meeting. It's getting more and more accepted and everybody's getting more practiced at it.

Jen McFarland: Even though we are getting practiced at Zoom and everything, we had Zoom bombers come into one of our networking events. I did a tutorial video about it because I couldn't believe that it was still happening after a year and a half of the pandemic. So you have to be savvy with how you manage the tools.

We had 60 people networking, many of whom we didn't know. All of a sudden these people are crashing in and sharing videos and all kinds of stuff. The host whose Zoom account it was on didn't have it locked down the way that I do, so other people could share their screens. It was pretty awful for about three minutes. Then I realized I had admin rights so I deleted those people.

It's not easy if you're running the networking event, but it's super easy to join and engage and meet awesome people. I've met so many cool people throughout the pandemic.

Toby Younis: People are becoming more astute at using products like Zoom, or in our case Streamyard. They're improving their audio and video capabilities. They're improving their lighting so everybody looks good. What I've noticed though, is if you're an introvert at a live networking meeting, you're going to be an introvert at a Zoom networking meeting as well.

Shelley Carney: But it's easier when you get to do the breakout rooms, you don't have to try to break into large conversations. You're given those prompts so they expect you to go in there and have a conversation and it's more natural at that point.

Toby Younis: You probably had a time where people would say, how do I get more media coverage? How do I get articles and case studies and those things written about me? We get people now who are asking the same thing. How do I get media coverage? What do you recommend when they start asking for that kind of thing? Or is there an alternative? Is media coverage as important as it used to be in the analog age?

Jen McFarland: It depends on what industry you're in and who you help. If you have a new product, certainly it can't hurt if it's in the New York Times. That doesn't hurt anything.

For small businesses that don't have a budget to hire a PR person, there are always tools like Help A Reporter Out where you can go. I don't know if you've heard of HARO or not, but you see all the story pitches and you can pitch. I've landed in a couple of places with that. 

I recently was filmed as part of a documentary, but that was because of a blog post. You can attract media attention that you don't expect if you create good content and you take a stand on something. The blog post that got noticed was me taking a controversial stand on a piece of software called Click Funnels. It drew attention to me as “the voice of reason.” It's just offering an alternative opinion. So you can end up, without a lot of effort, getting into news media.

But there are so many places now. If you're a local business, make sure that you talk to your local media people and see about getting interviewed. Reach out, do some press releases. These are not very hard and you'd be surprised what you get in return. Now, if they do interview you, or you do get coverage, do everything that you can to get a link back to your website. The purpose is to make sure that people can still reach out to you and find you.

I feel that PR is a little more advanced. Typically it requires some sort of budget if you want to do it super well.

Toby Younis: It also seems to be meant for the larger organizations that have a staff that focuses on public and media relations. For the solopreneur, it may not be as important.

Shelley Carney: This next question I put in our list of questions because of Jen. I ask everybody this question, but I think I'm excited to hear Jen's answer most of all. What marketing functions can we automate and how do we do that?

Jen McFarland: The question isn't, what can we automate? It's what can't we automate? It all depends on your budget and what it is that you want because anything is possible.

What I will say is don't automate for the sake of automation. Don't automate the things that are better done as a human, because there are some things where the human touch matters. The functions that you automate are mundane. You automate the things where you are having to type in things. The low-hanging fruit in any organization is when are you putting information in multiple places? That's the first opportunity to build out an integration.

An example of that is I know a lot of people who before COVID would do pop-up events and they'd have a piece of paper on the table for people to sign up for a subscription on MailChimp or whatever. You get that sheet of paper back thinking I'm going to put it in MailChimp when I have time. It sits around for a long time. Maybe you lose the sheet or maybe you go back to read it and you can't read anybody's handwriting. So the whole exercise is lost.

Other platforms do this as well, but MailChimp has something called MailChimp Subscribe. If you have a tablet, you can have that at the table and say, would you like to join my email list? People can put their email addresses in themselves and you don't have to do any work then. If you have something like a client-customer relationship management platform (CRM), that's a place where you track customers and all the people that you have touchpoints with, then you automate the connection between MailChimp and that software. Then you're not having to type in the person's name. You have a record of it automatically. The same thing is true if you have customers that you invoice out of QuickBooks. Why not send them over to your email platform?

We do some business functions over and over again. We need to find ways we can leverage that so we don't have all these tasks sitting around that we never get back to.

Those are the big things that we can automate. How do we do it? A lot of times it's about selecting the tools that can talk to each other. So before you add something new, find out if it's going to talk to the other things that you're already using. It doesn't make any sense if you have to do something manually just because something is a slick tool. Find the things that talk to one another and add the tools that make your life easier.

Just because something has a lot of bells and whistles, doesn’t mean it’s making your life easier if you have to put in a lot of work to make it happen every time. Automation doesn't have to be difficult. You just have to focus on your broader goals. 

Automation should always support whatever is mission-critical in your business to make it easier to deliver on that.

Toby Younis: I made a transition into a marketing consultancy back in the nineties. One thing that hasn't changed from that period to today is that one of the first questions I get from our clients is how am I going to generate leads? That always seems to be one of the most important things. They know that things have changed about it. They're not even sure how a lead is defined anymore. But it's still a question on their minds. 

When one of your clients asks you, how am I going to generate more leads? What do you say?

Jen McFarland: It depends on the industry. It also depends on what's working now. It's amazing to me how many people haven't explored word-of-mouth marketing all the way. It’s one of the strongest ways to generate leads and you don't even need a marketing consultant. It's very low tech and very easy to talk to all of your friends and get people excited about what it is that you do as your first way to generate leads.

You can also generate leads with opt-ins and freebies. Give people a taste of what it would be like to work with you and let them download it.

But you can't just do that and then drop off. It's about extending the conversation after that and following up with people. A lot of people fail to follow up. You may have an interesting conversation but you have no methodology, automation, or system for follow-up. So a lot of people lose leads. They have hot leads and they're not following up. 

Why don't I have any leads? Because you weren't following up with them.

The other steps around attracting more leads depend on the industry. You could do a lot with pay-per-click advertising. You could do some things on social media that help you attract leads. Some people have a large following and they just have to say “comment below” and they've got all kinds of leads from people who want to hear more.

The one thing that I don't recommend is sliding into everybody's direct messages and pushing something. Consumers have gotten incredibly wise and they don't want to hear your offer like that. That's why it's so important to get people on your email list and get people engaging with you on a one-to-one level, in a way that they have opted into and that they want.

I would say something to not do in addition to the direct messaging is, don't buy a list. Don't buy an email list because people treasure their email addresses. That's a quick way to get trashed to spam, and then it affects delivery rates for everybody else on your list.

Lead generation is another piece that doesn't happen overnight. I've reached a point in my business where now I get a lot of referral business. I have so many return clients. It's becoming easier and easier to work and sustain without having to hustle all the time.

Find what works for you. I find that for me, going out and speaking to groups is incredibly fast. Because I don't need everybody. I just need a handful of people. Some people like my brand of how I talk about things and what I do. There are a lot of people who don't and I say go with God. I don't need everybody. That's the way that you have to look at it. People can’t expect leads in droves.

Make sure that you have a system in place that you can manage and follow through on.

Toby Younis: As long as we're on the topic of lead generation, what do you think about advertising on some of the social media platforms like Facebook?

Jen McFarland: Advertising can be incredibly effective. A lot of the Facebook followers I have on my page are due to brand awareness campaigns that I've run. I'm thinking about running some ads for the podcast now because it's a great way to grow listenership for a podcast. For some businesses, social media ads can be effective in lead generation.

It can even be effective, depending on the product, at making a sale outright. It doesn't even have to be a touchpoint. There've been a lot of people who are making micro offers. We've done small offers on AppSumo. We've done different small offers that are doing well for us. We're using them not so much to make money but to do some list building. Then when we offer more expensive courses, we've already got people in the fold who have taken a course. They see the new course and think I could pay for this because I already know the value I'm getting. So it can be incredibly effective.

The key with pay-per-click Facebook ads or any social media ads is the targeting. Make sure that you have things set up on your website and that you have the pixel and you can retarget people. Choosing the right keywords and also excluding the wrong people means you're not just blowing through a budget and you’re getting in front of people that are engaged with what it is that you do.

But once you have those audiences set up, they can be tremendously effective.

Toby Younis: Thank you. I feel like we should be using it more.

Shelley Carney: That's attracting leads, but let's get into the converting of those leads. In your experience, what works best for converting suspects to prospects and then into clients?

Jen McFarland: This is not a one-size-fits-all formula for people, but when we think about a sales funnel, that is basically what this question is all about. For those of you who don't know what a sales funnel is, how do you get a lot of people interested so that you can get down to the one to two clients that you're going to have coming out the bottom of the funnel?

I had a client once who joked and said, I don't want a sales funnel. I want a pipe. Meaning all the people come in at the top and they are clients at the bottom. That's generally not how it works. You might come into contact with a ton of people and for some people they're like, that's nice, it's not for me.

Effective marketing will always attract the right people and it also deflects the people who aren't a good match. My business called Women Conquer Business is not attractive to some people. I've had people get in my face about it. After I get over the discomfort of that I realize it's effective because my business is not designed for that person and we got to that fact a lot quicker.

An effective funnel is about attracting the right people and it's about having other people decide that you're not for them.

If you're thinking this is all very confusing, I’ll ask, how do you get customers now? That's your first funnel. How are you getting customers now? How do people learn about you? How do you engage with them in a way that gets them interested in what it is that you do so they sign up?

For a lot of people, a traditional funnel would start with meeting someone at a networking event. I followed up with them. Maybe we had a consult and they said yes. That's fundamentally what a funnel is. The best way for me to convert is to meet with someone myself. That's how we feel each other out. It's like an interview process because I don't want to work with everybody either and you have to honor that part of it.

But for some people, if you have a low-cost product, you may not have to ever get in front of anybody. Then it's about how you are conveying the value and the irresistible offer you make to your customers. How are you using content and video and sharing with people the value of what it is that you do? Then are you delivering the goods? Part of that type of funnel where you're doing it all online is you're relying on customer satisfaction and positive reviews so that you're not just churning. Churn is when you get people in but they never come back. You don't want a lot of that.

You want a lot of people who want more of your products because that's how you're going to earn that recurring income. All of these factors play in when you as a business owner are working with somebody like me and asking about conversions. I want to know how you've been doing it. That's why, before I work with people, I want you to have some clients.

Then we can talk about how to translate that into the online space. Or we talk about how to get you even more of what is already working. That's a lot of how all of this works in terms of converting. It's different for everybody.

Some things are massively effective. I don't know if you've noticed, I have a lot of personality so I can convert people because I get genuinely excited about what other people have going on and that can lead to a lot of sales.

Toby Younis: This is the fourth time that we've interviewed Jen. Every time I leave one of our conversations with Jen, I have a page full of notes of things that I have to further research to improve my knowledge of digital marketing because she's so forthcoming.

Shelley Carney: She always gives us actionable tips we can do right now. That's why we keep having her back.

Tell us your most important takeaway tactic or advice for small business owners. Then we'll get into where people can find you on the internet.

Jen McFarland: I think a lot of people forget that nobody knows your business as well as you. When you're going to bring somebody in like a marketing person or someone to help you, whether it's sales or marketing or any other part of your business, get grounded and firm on what it is that you do. Then you're more prepared for that conversation. Don't just start with all of the things that you've heard from other people. Start with what it is that you decided that you need and the good people will understand you. They can decode whether it's marketing or sales or whatever it is you need.

That's really where the gold is. The more you know about who you are, what you want, and where you're taking your business, the better off you're going to be as you take new steps and make inroads into any aspect of your business.

Toby Younis: I think that's what made it so easy for us to say no to our friend and client. Because we decided that's not what we're doing anymore.

Shelley Carney: Tell us where we can find you on the internet and if you have any free gifts for people.

Jen McFarland: I feel like I'm everywhere on the interwebs. You can find me at  In terms of the freebie, it's  and that'll give you links to my social. The free opt-in is about growth hacking and how to make changes in your organization a lot quicker. It provides access to my entire marketing automation station, which is a series of eight different tools that'll help you with your business. That page also features the latest podcast episode and a few of my favorite blog posts that I've written. So that's a really good place for you to see and learn more about me.

The other place where you can find me is on Epiphany Courses  We're working on pushing out even more courses right now. The latest one should be dropping here in the next week or so. That's my other business that's focused on online business courses. I’m very excited about that because it's about having short and sensible online business courses. I know business leaders don't have time for 16 modules in 12 hours. This is about helping you make better decisions in your business quicker.

I'm active on LinkedIn. I'm also active on Twitter. I like Twitter a lot. You could find me, Jen McFarland, just about anywhere.

Shelley Carney: That's all we have for questions for Jen today. We do want to let you know that Jen and I have a Women Conquer Business show Thursday mornings and that's at 11 o'clock MST, 10:00 AM PST.

Jen McFarland: We’ll talk about information overload and why you should start marketing anyway.

Toby Younis: If you are interested in being a guest as a digital marketing expert on our program, Messages and Methods, you can go to our website and register as a guest at  We look forward to having the same kind of conversation with you that we have had with Jen.

Shelley Carney: That's all we have for today. We appreciate you, Jen, for being with us again and sharing all your knowledge and expertise with us, and offering advice to our audience. I encourage everybody to reach out to Jen, especially if you have questions about why things aren't working in your automation systems or you need to have some kind of a streamlined flow to your work. Jen is excellent with that and she can give you all kinds of tips. So make sure you check out her website, Women Conquer Business.

Jen McFarland: Thank you so much for having me. This has been great.