My WAYMISH Moment OR Why I Love MailChimp

One of the keys to success in business is understanding the things we do that keep us from being successful  (and then stop doing them), just as we must understand the things we must do in order to be successful (and then do them). Without both of those pieces, failure is almost a certainty.

WAYMISH is an acronym for “Why Are You Making It So Hard” [for me to give you money?]. Hopefully it goes without saying that all the WAYMISHes within your business are part of what is keeping you from success. (By the way, if you are wildly successful but still putting up roadblocks for people trying to give you money, then perhaps you are in a situation where qualifying your prospects is key to your success. Not the case here but it is often true.)

I want to share a recent experience that just screamed to be shared as a WAYMISH moment.

I manage an email list for a client. The list has 37,000 names, and is composed completely from their customers. They don’t even have a signup form on their site (a mistake that I am working with them on fixing…). This is a mainstream company that sells a piece of specialized engineering software that has been around for decades. In other words, they are almost the opposite of a spammer. They are a professional company, communicating monthly with their own customer base.

The list is currently managed by MailChimp. I love MailChimp. I’ll tell you why later on. And I am sticking with MailChimp. I know that everything we need to do can be accomplished through them. But I admit that I had a brief flirtation with aWeber. Many people recommended aWeber to me, particularly for their autoresponders. So I thought I should at least check it out. After all, this client spends $240/month just for their email service. I wanted to make sure they were getting the best possible value.

So… to the WAYMISH moment. I started at MailChimp.com, where I see a simple, clearly visible tab – Pricing. Great – I can quickly see how they compare to aWeber. When I click on the MailChimp tab, I see their pricing for all levels – even up to 500,000-subscriber lists! They have examples of lists and pricing up to 3,000,000 (yes, that is 3 million… a world I don’t yet visit).

Next I popped on over to aWeber. Oh – look at this! They also have an easy to see tab marked “Pricing”. (Just try finding that at Constant Contact, another competitor of both of them…) So I click on the pricing tab, and here’s what I see:

Hmm… a lot about signing up, and a lot of focus on lists with less than 500 names. I’ve got a list of 37,000 and growing. Ok, there in very small print there’s a reference to those of us with more than 500 names on our lists. (Honestly I am not sure I have ever worked with a list that small… although you do have to start somewhere…) And here’s what I see next:

Oh dear – although the magic curtain of “more than 500″ is now unveiled, they really don’t want to tell me what this is going to cost. “Contact us”. (You never write, you never call, and you don’t even give me your contact info.)

I’m looking all over the page. Surely there’s an email button that will let me send them a message (I mean, after all, this is an email marketing company…). Finally in the upper left, I see a button for live chat. I push it, and I am asked my name, my email address (why?????), and my question. I type in, “I am looking for monthly pricing for a list with 37,000 names.”

I wait a few moments, and finally someone begins to chat. They ask how they can help. Naturally I am thinking, “I just told you that…”

It goes like this:

Me: I am looking for pricing for 37,000-subscriber list.
aWeber: Can I have your website, please?
Me (a little cloud of annoyance beginning to form, but let’s be nice): (I enter the client’s website)
aWeber: Did these subscribers sign up at the website?
Me (my annoyance cloud is building to a thunderhead): Does it change the pricing?

At that point I was late for something else, so I closed the chat window. An hour or so later, I was determined to get my answer. Again, I was sure that I had missed their email contact form. Finally, in the tiniest font size, at the very bottom of the page, just above their copyright notice, I found the phone number.

I called. A real person answered – progress! And sure enough, once again, I found that they were insistent on investigating my list before they would even give me a price! I know there is an intimidation sales technique that involves making sure the buyer knows you have the upper hand, but let’s look at this situation. I had heard good things about the company. I was trying to do some very simple research on pricing before I went any further. I was seriously thinking about switching over to them, fickle soul that I am.

And here’s how they could have saved themselves time (which mostly definitely equals money) – by just giving me the number! Because I was fairly astounded when I learned it would be $288/month – over twice what a list that was half my list’s size would be!

I don’t want this to be just another whiny blog about how someone got ripped off. I do feel slightly ripped off – of time (the most precious thing in my life). But mostly I think is an absolute brilliant example of how not to do business. I was put on the defensive twice, unable to get a simple answer to a very simple, clearly-stated question, and then I was given a price that made absolutely no sense at all.

Here are all the things that, in my not at all humble opinion, aWeber did wrong:

  1. Why such focus on small lists (unless perhaps that is their niche -  I can’t say)? It made them look unprofessional to me – not one of the “big boys” of email marketing.
  2. Why hide key info and make me search for the link to display it?
  3. I should have been given a choice of chat or email support. Chat is a time sink.
  4. There was absolutely no reason to quiz me about my list before giving me pricing.
  5. Have pricing that makes sense! Why does a 37,000 name list cost over twice what a 25,000-name list costs?
  6. Don’t make it hard for people to call you. Encourage them to call you. The telephone is a powerful sales medium.

So, MailChimp, once again you have won my loyalty, if only through the bone-headedness of your competitor. I love how easy it is to find information on your pages. I love how your reports look. I am sorry that I got a bit fickle, but really, it was just a flirtation.

And for those of you reading this who don’t yet have a list – here’s a great thing. MailChimp is absolutely FREE for up to 1,000 subscribers. Not just for the first month but forEVER. They have clearly placed themselves in the “serious” category in terms of email marketing with this brilliant move. A BARGAIN for us at $240/month.

What about you? Have you had a WAYMISH moment recently? Did you flirt with trying to buy something, only to find yourself blocked by hard to find information, rudeness, stupid policy, or all of the above? And did it make you take a hard look at yourself, and your own business, to make sure that you aren’t doing something like this inadvertently?

How do I find my passion?

Your passion – do you know what it is? If you do, great! I am so so happy for you. I hope that you are living a life based around it. Passion is the most amazing driver of human behavior that there is! If you don’t, then follow this simple exercise to find out.

It’s not that rare to realize that you really are not sure what your passion is. Some people are lucky enough to find it early in life, and the rest of us may always wonder. Sometimes I could identify pieces of it, but then I couldn’t really put it all together. When I was in high school, the standard answer to “What do you want to do when you grow up?” was so often, “I’m not sure, but I want to work with people.” At least that’s what the girls all said – it was what we were expected to say.

Little did I know I’d grow up to be an often alone scientist and a computer programmer. Although I’ve worked with plenty of people, they have not been the center of my work universe.

Take out a piece of paper, and write down at least 10 things (but let’s say no more than 20) that are supremely important to you. It can be anything. It could be “spending time outside every day”, it could be “world peace”, or it could be “knitting”. I hope you get the idea. This is your list. Don’t think too hard about it. As a matter of fact, don’t give yourself more than 5 minutes to make the list. After all, these things are supremely important to you. So it shouldn’t take a lot of thought to figure out what they are.

Now, starting at the top of your list, compare the first two things you have written down. If you could do only one of those things, which would it be? No cheating! You don’t get to say it is a tie. You can do one, but you cannot do the other – period. (Don’t worry, it’s only a thought exercise! I promise you’ll still get to do what you want.)

Whichever one you chose,  now compare it to your #3 item. Again, make an either/or choice. You must select only one of them. (I just know that some of you are trying to say they are equal but that’s just not allowed! Life does not always let us take every path – we make choices.) Now take the winner of that comparison and compare it to your #4 item. Continue this process, each time coming up with only one winner. When you have gone through your entire list, whatever item comes out as the winner of your final comparison is your #1 passion. Write it down on an index card, and cross it off your list.

Now repeat this exercise exactly as you have just done, except that now you no longer have your first choice on there. Start at the top, do a comparison of only 2 items, and continue down the list. When you are finished, write down that passion on an index card and cross it off your list.

Repeat until you have your 5 index cards. Put them down in front of you. Does it ring true? You do not have to feel that these are complete definitions of your life. Your passions may very well change. But I can promise you that once you have identified these and made a commitment to build a life around them, you will be unstoppable.

When I last did this exercise, it turned out that there was one (not so small!) change that needed to happen for me to pursue all of my 5, that they really did all fit together. And within a very short time, events happened that allowed me to do this. Events that might have been traumatic just a few months before were welcomed, because I could see that I was moving toward my real goal – a life based on my true passions, not my ideas about them.

I do not think that those passions have always been the same for me. This exercise is worth doing at least once a year, perhaps more often if you are moving through many goals quickly. But don’t do it too often. The idea is not to give yourself a moving target. Identify your passion(s), and then go for it!

After you’ve done the exercise, let us know how it goes. I’d love to hear more about how you are working with your own passions!

Passion – where it all begins

I celebrated my 4th wedding anniversary last month (thank you thank you it was wonderful and we are still very happy). As most relatively “newlyweds” (with two almost grown kids!), we get the “How’d you meet?” question quite a lot. And, well, the truth is that we met on Match.com. If it didn’t happen to you, it might be hard to relate to getting excited remembering your true love’s first email to you, but I do remember that email. I remember that he wrote about our close-in-age boys, our mutual gerbils, and our love of snow (actually I distinctly remember that he said he loved how I “waxed poetic about snow” – be still my heart!). I also remember how disillusioned I was at that point, with the idea that I could meet someone this way. Because up until then, something key had been missing.

So why am I telling you about how I met my husband in a business blog? Is this going to get all steamy?

Sorry, no, strictly G-rated stuff here! This blog is all about having fun at your business and in your life.

But what I remember most about my Match.com quest was the profile that had to be filled out, the questions asked, and how it really made me think hard about what kind of person I was looking for. Just what was that secret sauce that would draw me to someone? It wasn’t eye color, skin color, height, or weight. It wasn’t about having a particular job.

It was passion. Not the romantic kind – that comes naturally when there is an attraction between two people. Of course I wanted to meet someone with whom I shared a mutual passion for each other. But I was looking for someone who had a passion for something. I wanted to meet people who had real passion in their lives, who were living life as if every moment mattered, going for something they cared for deeply and making that happen.

What are your passions? Do you know? Where does “interest” end and “passion” begin? And is your business, or something that you do in your business, one of those passions? Do you even know what your passion is?

Does this woman ever stop asking questions?!

In my next post I’ll teach you a shortcut to finding your passion, and I’ll also share some resources that will help you turn that passion into action and a life that you love.

And if you just so happen to be “between relationships” right now, I highly recommend Match.com. Here’s a hint about my top five passions – my son and my husband are in the top 2 spots!  Let’s figure out what or who are in your top passion positions, and then work on making sure your life centers around them.

Are you having fun yet?

And if not, just what are you doing?

I started this blog with the intention of sharing my experiences in buying, marketing, systematizing, and eventually selling a small business, and having fun while doing it. Did I laugh the entire way through this process? I did not! I have had more than my share of sleepless nights, of worry, and of “genuine” crises. Although mostly I have dealt with reasonable, helpful people, I have also been bullied and sadly, even taken to court, by companies I thought should be trying to work with me, even if things weren’t going exactly as they’d hoped. I have also had moments of triumph, of fun, of joy…

In this blog I wish to share with you the many lessons I learned and continue to learn, some major, others minor. But when all was said and done, I decided that I’d start with the one thing that I did more and more of as the years went by – I learned to keep smiling and to keep laughing, even during the “crises”. I think I got more comments on that than on any other thing I was doing – that I stayed happy through it all.

Think of this blog as “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” mixed with Michael Gerber and dozens of other business gurus who really do have something important to say. But it has to start with your own smile.

This is not one of those “I built a company that makes millions and oh yeah I only work 1 hour a day and so just do exactly what I did and you’re bound to make millions, too” blogs or books. I’ve read those, too. I still read them. I read a lot. Maybe I’ll even write one someday.

But right now, I’m here for you, the owner of a small business, probably a retail store or other local business, catering every day to customers who both love you and will leave you without so much as a farewell. I’m here to help you with both the difficult and the mundane, to find a way to build a business that you really do love – or to have the courage and strength to leave one that you do not.

So my challenge for today is to ask yourself if you’re having fun running or working in your business. If not, why not? Are you not making your financial goals? Are you working too many hours? Or did it just become ordinary at some point, just a job? Have you stopped running a business and started working a job you may not even like?

If it’s become mundane, or… even painful, try this. Start with gratitude. Look around you and express your gratitude for all that you have. Express it out loud to your staff and to your customers. Tell your vendors and suppliers how much you appreciate them. Do you have neighboring businesses? Drop by and say it to them, too. Tell them how much you appreciate the synergy that exists between you, or just how much you appreciate the people there, or the businesses themselves. And how about just the business itself? When did you last express your appreciation for having your business in your life?

When you start to feel that cloud, try some gratitude. Put it first, and the smiles will come. Make the decision to have fun every day with this, and you will succeed. Maybe you’ll even write one of “those” books. Start with a determination to have fun, to enjoy the journey, and the rest will be truly easy.

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