A Fun Way to Get A Discount

I’ll admit it. Sometimes marketing is boring. And really, I don’t like doing it much. However, it’s something that every business owner needs to take care of, so I thought, why not do something a little fun and out of the ordinary?

Therefore, I’ve set aside several (I’m not saying how many) sessions of my one-on-one strategy planning sessions for a special price. Usually, it’s $500 for me to spend half a day asking you questions about the details of your business and then producing a high-level integrated strategy for your online marketing. These special sessions will be offered for half price–only $250 for 4-hours dedicated to your business success.

How do you get one? Well, that’s where the fun part comes in. During the last week of September, I’m “hiding” various coupon codes around the Internet (and maybe a few offline places as well). So it’s a little like a scavenger hunt.

Each code is a unique or unusual English word, so this is a little like Scrabble or maybe a crossword puzzle.

And finally, each one will only “work” for the first person who redeems it, making it a little like a lottery ticket.

How to play:
1) Find one of these words. They’ll be labeled clearly so you’ll know when you see one.

2) Go to http://www.ardeacoaching.com/half-day-strategy-session/ and fill in the form at the bottom of the page, putting the word you found in the “Coupon Code” field. (There’s also more info on the offer at that page.)

3) Either wait and see if I tell you that you were the first to find that code, or go back out there and find more to submit them as well! Your best chances come if you find all of them!

Note: One “win” per business. If you happen to be first on two of the words, for example, I’ll give you the one with the earliest time stamp, and give the other to the next in line for that word.

And to get you started, one of the unusual English words that can be used as a coupon code for 50% off the half-day strategy session is ACCIPITRINE

Posted by Michael J. Coffey  |  0 Comment  |  in Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Ardea!


Yes, today’s the day Ardea Coaching (in its new form, focused on digital strategy and analysis for small business owners) is a year old.  My last day at my old job was July 4th.  I took a weekend, and started my new self-employed life on the 7th.  Happy birthday, Ardea!

According to stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (1994-2010, and summarized here), that means that roughly 22% of the other businesses that started last July 7th have shuttered.  While being in the top 78% most successful business startups isn’t a terribly high bar, it’s certainly one I’d like to be above rather than below.

What have I learned as a (third- or fourth-time) one year old business?

First off, it’s always harder than you think.  I mean, my previous job was counseling small business owners.  I talked to multiple entrepreneurs every work day for nearly three years.  I knew it was tough.  I would say that in every group presentation I made for prospective startups.  And yet, I still found it harder to actually do than I remembered.

I think this is because there are so many challenges on so many levels.  Sure, there are the regular challenges that even those not in business experience, but entrepreneurs take on twice as many of, like “This isn’t what I ordered,” or “Oh, crap. When was this bill due?”  Then there are the bigger, more strategic, business-problem solving kinds of challenges that non-entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about, like “Where am I going to find new customers?” or “What’s the best intranet software package for my business?” or “Is it going to be better in the short and/or long run to give pay raises or better benefits to my employees?”  (I’m not struggling with that last one yet–still just me.)

But the kicker is the psychological level.  As YouTube educator CGP Grey sometimes puts it in the two podcasts he does, you’ve got a “monkey brain” that you’re constantly trying to train…or at least control.  Or at least distract long enough that you can get something done.  Layer onto that the strain of having this constant battle between “I’m the master of my own life.  I can do whatever I want because I own this place!” and the undercurrent of abject panic that if you don’t get the next project done–right now–you might miss a mortgage payment next month.  Yes, I can choose to play Minecraft or Myst Online all morning on a weekday because there isn’t any boss to scold or fire me, but that decision carries with it all the internal mental and emotional bargaining between the Id and Superego that rivals trying to get to the gym or sticking to a diet.  Plus actually trying to get to the gym and stick to your diet as well.

It’s crazy.  And if you don’t think it is, then you are.

But there are cool benefits as well.  Not only am I constantly learning, since my industry is one that surfs on the waves of technological innovation, but I’m also frequently learning about myself.  I’m reminded over and over again that I can do things as easily as breathing that other people just can’t wrap their heads around.  And, more humbling, that there are things other people seem to do effortlessly that I’m safer to not even try because I’m so bad.

But I’ve reached a point in this blog post where the part of my brain that’s prone to worry is getting a little panicked and thinking by writing more about my experiences has reached its effective cost/benefit point and if I keep doing it, I’ll just be wasting time that could be spent finding more clients, or making the slides for next week’s presentation, or… or… or…

It’s enough to drive one crazy.  But thank goodness I’m self employed…

Posted by Michael J. Coffey  |  0 Comment  |  in Uncategorized

My Services Bullseye

I’m not a web designer.

Things would be so much easier if I were a web designer. People know what web designers do. They immediately have a sense that the work has to do with graphics and colors and space and the ubiquitous “look and feel” of a website. It’s easy, straightforward, and accessible.

I am not a web designer.

And yet, when I say I’m a digital strategist, I often hear “you mean like a web designer?” in response. “Nope,” I sometimes tell them, “I’m just about the opposite of a web designer. I make sure a website is effective at carrying out the owner’s goal, whether it looks good or not.” I’m also not a social media community manager, and I don’t ghost-write blogs.  All things people assume I do when I say “digital” or mention that I help small businesses with their online marketing.

So I made The Services Bullseye.  Or, rather, I wrote about it and took a stock image of a target as a way to illustrate what I wrote (you’ll see why below).  The bullseye is the collection of things I really focus on doing, and each ring out are things I do because they support stuff closer to the center but become less and less “what I do.”


The Bullseye:

  • Strategy: helping decide on an overall approach to marketing online, such as choosing the right social media sites to reach your customers, or whether Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is going to be worth the effort.  Developing key pathways from a potential customer’s first discovery of the business all the way through to repeat purchases.
  • Analysis:  Looking at your Google Analytics data, or Facebook or Google+ Insights, or your keyword performance data in your Moz account.  Wherever the data comes from, I’ll dive in, check for obvious problems, and pull out actionable insights.  Where you might just see charts or tables or graphs, I transform them into recommendations like, “You should switch from using the term ‘teahouse’ to ‘tea house’ because 6x as many people search on it.”
  • Testing: Sometimes you don’t have the data to analyze…yet.  That’s where testing comes in.  Whether it’s different designs, or color schemes, or headlines, or position of the button, I set up tests to see what changes work, which don’t, and which make do difference either way.  This is where we determine whether you need to change your design at all, or whether the proposed adjustment is effective at increasing your sales.

The Middle Ring:

  • Training:  There are lots of things to learn as a small business owner, and sometimes the best thing for your strategy is a tool, or social media site, or an approach that you know very little about.  That’s why I do trainings; I’m an educator at heart, and it supports your being able to carry out a better strategy.
  • Tool Setup:  Many websites already have Google Analytics or some other data collection system installed when I first start with someone, but sometimes not.  Perhaps you’ve got GA, but not Google Search Console, or Bing Webmaster Tools.  I can help you set those things up so they are collecting their own unique types of data.  This means any analysis I would do for you includes more facets of what’s going on, resulting in better answers and deeper insights.
  • Social Media Account Setup:  Similar to tool setup, sometimes you just need some help with what the best practices are for branding your social media accounts or setting them up in a way that supports your business goals.  Since this, too, gets another source of data started, it directly supports analysis.
  • Simple Website/Domain/Hosting Setup:  Don’t have a website at all?  Well, as I said, I’m not a web designer (or a web developer).  However, I know a couple of tricks about getting a professional-looking website up quickly and cheaply.  It probably won’t win a top design award, but really, is that one of your business goals?  (And when was the last time you said, “What a gorgeous website!  I don’t know what they’re selling, or if I need it, but I’ll buy it because the site design is so good!”)
  • SEO Triage:  There are lots of things that can harm your search engine optimization, and lots of simple things that help it…while simultaneously being good for your online customers or prospects.  Ensuring you’re doing these basic SEO things right is what I call “SEO triage.”

The Outer Ring:

  • Content Templates/Guides: If you’re not used to blogging or making social media posts, I could work with you to build that skill or develop some templates that are appropriate for what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Editorial Calendar Creation:  Knowing what you’re going to post, and when, and where, is important and lets you plan and do some prep work in advance.  But you know your own business and expertise areas better than I do.  I can help you organize some of that into a calendar, but it really is an area where the important pieces (the individual decisions about what you’ll write about) need to come from you.  I can help provide the structure for that, however.
  • Scheduling Posts.  If you’ve written a bunch of posts and have an editorial calendar for when you’d like them to go live, I can help you schedule them so that it’s automatic.  But really, I’d rather teach you how to do it so that you’re more self sufficient (see “Training” in the middle ring).
  • Primary Research.  Sometimes I do this as part of my analysis, but things like researching good keywords for you, or finding out data about your competitors, is really something you should be involved with personally.  This is mostly because you have a better sense of your target markets, and are more likely to notice something that is a key bit of information due to your more in-depth understanding of your business.
  • Content SEO:  Beyond the “triage” level of SEO, there are lots of things you can do with your content–images, videos, text, even metadata–that helps your ranking.  Again, I’d rather teach you the best approaches rather than actually editing your text, for example.  But sometimes there are things that are easier to adjust myself rather than explain to you why you should adjust it.  (There are also some simple “technical SEO” things that I’d put in this category, too, like looking at how your links are coded, for example.)

Missing the Target:

(aka “stuff people sometimes think I do, but I don’t”)

  • Website Design: The closest I get to being a “designer” is being able to identify colors, or the locations of elements on a page.  “Yup, that’s green all right” or “The sidebar is on the left side.”  If you value your business, do not hire me to do design work.  I’m aesthetically impaired.
  • Graphic Design:  Same goes for making infographics or the like.  I pretty much suck at anything artistic.  That’s why I used a stock image in this post.
  • Web Development:  A webdev is someone who likes to play with computer code.  I like to play with data.  Those are different.  If you want your site to look good, hire a designer.  If you want it to do something, hire a developer.  And if you want to know how effective it is, or what to do next, hire me.
  • Advanced Technical SEO:  Following on web development, there’s all kinds of arcane technical, code-level SEO stuff that I’m not that into.  My specialty is not making small fiddly coding changes that make it easier for Internet-indexing robots to get the information you want them to have.  If you want the full depth of everything that can be done in SEO, it’s probably better to hire someone who specializes in SEO.  I, on the other hand, can help determine whether improving your ranking in search engines the best approach to build your business.
  • Content Creation:  Although I’ve been paid for my writing, and as an editor, I’ve decided I’m just not going to create content for other people.  There are ghost writers and photographers and other content creators out there who are simply better and love it more.  If you don’t want to create your own articles and pictures, definitely get someone who can.  But that someone is not me.  I would be happy to help you narrow down what you should be looking for based on your situation and goals.
  • Sales:  Also not my strong suit.  It’s very important, but not something I can effectively do for you.  Where I can help is making sure that if you want your website to be one of your sales “employees,” I can make sure it’s pulling its weight and being the best salesman your website can be, using analysis and testing in a cycle of constant refinement and improvement.


Posted by Michael J. Coffey  |  0 Comment  |  in Uncategorized
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