Launch4Life, started by two sisters Janet Elie and Gillian Whitney, helps small businesses learn to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for themselves. Janet has over 30 years in the Financial Services Industry in marketing and management, coupled with 5 years of intensive dedication to online marketing and social media applications. Janet has coached and trained small business owners on how to adapt to the social media world.
Tools / Books / Resources mentioned:
Tools: Camtasia, Mailchimp, Acuity (bookkeeping), Paypal, SEMrush, Asana (project management), zoom
1:03 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Don’t be afraid to go against the tide to define your business.
Janet introduces her business which trains small businesses to do search engine optimization (SEO) for themselves. It is an interesting concept because most other SEO businesses actually do the SEO.
4:02 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: First start your business and then iterate the business to find the right direction.
Janet talks about the transition from corporate life to entrepreneurship. She wasn’t happy with her corporate life, attended a Tony Robbins conference, and decided to take control of her life. Even though she started with helping insurance agents find better prospects, she evolved her business to train business owners to do SEO for themselves.
7:55 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Define your customer ‘Avatars’ with specific details on their pain points, dreams, and aspirations.
Janet talks about her target customers who are little bit tech savvy, in their 40, 50 and may be 60s. Janet found that customers who are not tech savvy turned out to be nightmare clients.
9:05 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Building a customer pipeline is key for a sustainable business.
Janet talks about building customer pipeline by going to conferences, building an email list, and relying on referrals. The large conferences can be intimidating but help in building email list.
10:29 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: It takes at least a year to get going so don’t expect overnight wonders.
Janet talks about the first three years of her entrepreneurial journey where the first 6 months were about tweaking her web site. It took one year to stand on their feet and a good amount of 3 years to find a solid ground. During these 3 years, they kept tweaking business model and website design.
13:16 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Finding a reason to stay motivated is very important.
Janet talks about her motivation and drive to keep going. She thinks about the alternative of either being a couch potato or go back to work neither one is appealing.
16:45 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Use tools sparingly and wisely to build and grow your business.
Janet lists all the tools that they use in their business. The tools are listed at the top but Asana for project management, Acuity for bookkeeping are couple of new tools that were not mentioned on the show earlier.
19:52 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on knowing your customers, competitors, and marketing your offer.
Janet gives 3 specific tips for prospective entrepreneurs. (1) Do your market research to find out if your idea is a viable business (2) Study your competitors to differentiate your offerings (3) Business is 20% product/service and 80% is marketing.
23:02 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Email list is key. Quality over quantity for long term success.
Janet talks about few things that she would right if she were restarting her business today. (1) Building an email list from day one (2) Focus on quality blog articles over quantity (3) Create some free online courses to give free value.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone, welcome to the Agile Entrepreneur Podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. Today we have Janet Elie from www.launchforlife.com. Hi Janet welcome.
Janet: Hi Ramesh, how are you I'm happy to be here today.
Ramesh: Very good. So first let me introduce Janet to our listeners. Janet has over 30 years in the financial services industry in marketing and management, coupled with five years of intensive dedication to online marketing and social media applications. Janet has coached and trained small business owners on how to adapt to the social media world. Hey Janet, this is a great concept that you have here launch for life. Can you just please go over what your business is about.
Janet: Absolutely. So, this is a business by the way that has evolved over time, you know I think that's probably the one big takeaway is that you might start on one journey and then you end up being someplace else. But basically, our business is really dedicated to helping small business owners, who are already somewhat tech savvy. Meaning they probably build their own WordPress sites, they are doing their own email marketing. So, they kind of like want to be controlling things and they are worried that they're not getting enough traffic to their website and they've heard about these words called SEO, they don't really know what it means or how to apply to their business and, so we're launch for life helps them is helping them sort of unbundle all the different parts of SEO and then see how to apply them step by step. We often say that we help people do everything in baby steps. So, we try to use layman's language and we do coaching and we have a number of different services that will help them build their SEO and then eventually be able to get the right traffic going to their website and this would be opposite of just outsourcing it to an SEO agency, where you're basically going to just like hand over the keys to your kingdom to them then they're going to run it for you. This is really meant for the person who says I don't want to do that, maybe I can't afford that. But I really want to learn how to do this myself and that's our business.
Ramesh: Okay so search engine optimization, SEO business that's
what you're in and the reason you believe that it's important because most of the businesses especially on the online, if they want to get any traffic or any and to be success online, they have to go through the search engine optimization, so the googles of the world can discover your website and then or the traffic can flow to your website. That's why okay.
Janet: Yeah because I often notice that you know people are, if I build a website then they will come. You know it's kind of like Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams. You know he built the baseball field and nobody showed up, crickets. And so that's where when they get to that point in their business and they say okay what do I do now? That's where we can be there to help them.
Ramesh: Alright, so let's say, let me look at and so you have 30 years of experience in financial services industry and then suddenly one day you realize or decided that I want to start this company. How did that transition happen? Why, I mean how did you get the experience in this SEO, can you just explain how you came up with the idea on how you got into this business please.
Janet: Sure sure. So, it's kind of a cute little story. So, I was you know I'm in my late sixties, 68 and I was getting close to retirement and I had a career where I was traveling all around the country. So, every week I was you know getting on a plane and going somewhere and I was working for a company where I was doing their requests going to visit clients and not liking the story that I was telling them. But unfortunately, because I’ve got paid a salary, I had to do their marching orders right. So, I was trying to figure out well how can I be happier at doing this job. So, I decided to go to a Tony Robbins event, it was called unleash the power and I went there to get the inspiration, so that I could do a better job at delivering their marching orders and what it came away with after that four days is, there's no way that that's going to happen when you're trying to do something for somebody else. Unless you really like it, there's no way that you can have a paradigm shift in what you're doing and so what I came away with is I needed to start my own business and Ramesh at that point, I had no clue what it was that I wanted to do. So, it evolved over time and it basically started that I thought I work with insurance agents, right? What are insurance agent’s big problem? Prospecting. The old ways of prospecting weren't working anymore. So, I thought well I’ll just build them a really good mousetrap, so that they'll be able to go and prospect better. But unfortunately, they were, yes, they're entrepreneurs in their own way. But they weren't willing to make the change, the paradigm shift that they needed to do to be successful with anything that I was recommending. So, I said okay I like what I'm doing, but this is the wrong audience. So, I need to go find the right audience and that's how launch for life developed. So, it started out you know kind of we put the life in there, because we actually thought you know we were working with life insurance and then also launch, because I had attended also a Jeff Walker product launch formula conference. Which if you want to, we'll talk a little bit about that. But anyway, so when I put the two words together, I thought well I can launch your business and then it didn't really matter whether I was working with life insurance agents or just small business owners, entrepreneurs, their business is their life right. So, if I'm going to help you launch your business and it just seemed to work together. So, our business just evolved from that.
Ramesh: Great, so you decided to go into this business and then did you start on your own? You had partners? Did somebody help you?
Janet: My business, I have a business partner and she happens to be my younger sister and it was funny, because she was working with me when I had my corporate job. Because there were a lot of things that I just couldn't get to on a day-to-day basis, so she was helping me. Funny thing about Gillian and I is we don't even live in the same state Ramesh. So, we use zoom all the time to collaborate. So, it's amazing that you can have a business and your partners, or your co-workers don't even have to be located right next to you. So, we just decided to start this business together, because she had also gone to the Tony Robbins event with me. So, we kind of play off each other's strengths and that has made us very successful business partners and we're still partners together today, and we just love working together.
Ramesh: Great, great. So now we have built the business, you've started the business. Now you're in the process of building, so who are your customers?
Janet: Our customers are kind of like I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast and that is they are small business owners or entrepreneurs. People who have to be tech savvy. We have tried to work with people that are not, and they became my nightmare clients. Because you know when I wanted to hand over the keys, they didn't know what to do with the keys. So, we have to work with somebody who already understands WordPress sites, already understands what SEO means, already has an email platform. So basically, we're working with people who are already in the realm of doing online marketing and specifically probably we are more focused on people that are in their 40s and 50s .so we do have a couple of millennial clients, we have a couple of GenX clients. But mainly we're working with people that are sort of late 40s, 50s, maybe even a little early 60s.
Ramesh: So how are you getting these customers? Are the customers located in your cities, are they remote customers? How do you go about that process?
Janet: That's always the tough part. It is trying to get the right customers. Some of them are local where I have you know gone out to different meetups and conferences and built relationships with people like that. Some of them have been referrals and then of course we try to build an email list, so that you know people will find out about our services. So that when they're ready to make this big decision they're already on our list, they've already grown to know like and trust us and so it's truly a combination of different things. It's making sure you have blogs and it's all the things that we try to teach people with SEO. It's not an easy thing, it's like sometimes you go to these big conferences so just go build an email list, aha easier said than done. But at the end of the day it's a combination of things and you know and some ads to try and get people to find out about your business and then offer some free things, so they get to know you and then when the time is right, they're going to buy.
Ramesh: That's great. So, if you could talk a little bit about how long you've been in the business and how your journey has been in the sense like, hey first six months was like this and first year was this and then when you started actually feeling comfortable about the business. The journey of the past years.
Janet: Oh, it's certainly been a journey and I think any small business owner is going to go through the same thing. We just think that oh we're just going to build our product and then we open the doors and then everybody's going to be standing outside like, you know we wish we were Apple with the new iPhone. But it doesn't work that way in our business or in our world. So, it took us a fair amount of time just to build the business and I would say it was a good year. Because we had to build a website, which took time. We built our own WordPress site, so we built that and by the way we've been through three generations of building our website. So, what we started out building initially has evolved, because technology has evolved in what people want to see you know responsiveness on websites has changed. So, you know we had to make several changes to our website over time. In fact, we just did a version recently where we just upgraded everything. So, it was then we had to build our email platform, then we had to get out all our social media sites and we had to pick up business cards. Then we had to get people to know who we were and then of course as I said we learned you know who are the customers that we wanted to work with. So, I would say that, I don't even know if we're comfortable yet Ramesh. I think we're feel like we're in a better place today. But it's definitely been a hard journey. Because you think you have got everything in place and then you find out that you need something else and then you get that in place and then you find out you need something else. So, nobody who is an entrepreneur unless you know they got tons of money and they can have other people help them with everything, nobody you know and us included, the journey as always comes with obstacles and challenges. But I would say an answer to your question, it probably took us a good year before we felt like we could open the door so to speak and I would say probably the last year and a half maybe so is when we feel like we've had a really viable business where we've been making money. So, think about that, that's like three years.
Ramesh: So, I'm actually that's what I keep hearing the second and third year is probably the toughest ones. Because first year is still discovering. So, during these tough times a lot of people quit, motivation is very important. So, I mean did you think about quitting and how did you find the drive to keep going?
Janet: Believe you me there were a few times I wanted to quit. Because you just go, maybe I don't have it, maybe you know maybe I made a bad decision, maybe I don't know enough, maybe I don't have enough money. You know there's all those things. But I had a drive that number one when I looked at the alternative and I think this is the key thing you have to look at the alternative. If I quit what are my other options and there were a couple of things that were driving my decisions. Number one, that it certainly wasn't ready to stop working and become a couch potato. So that was number one and number two like what else do they want to do? Do I want to go sell insurance? No, I don't want to do that. So, I said no, I want to keep going and three things actually, start working with my sister and we were a great support for each other. So, if you happen to have a partner that's always great. Because then you sort of keep bucking yourself up and we just said you know what? We're brilliant. We really have, we know a lot of stuff and we have a really good story to tell. So, we just need to keep going. Because you know what the world needs us and that is sometimes what drives you, that you have something you want to share and if you quit, then people aren't ever going to have that.
Ramesh: That's great Janet. I mean it's a very inspiring in terms of, because all of us go through those kinds of moments.
Janet: Yes, we do. You just say, am I not good enough? Do I not have what it takes? And so, you just have to remember what is your vision, what is your goal and just make sure that you keep that foremost in your mind and just stay on course.
Ramesh: Right as you are going through this evolution of the business, I'm sure you were using a lot of tools in various areas and can you just share the tools that have been most successful for you in helping build a business?
Janet: Sure. So, first thing is when you first get into business unless you've got a ton of money, you really are working on what we call a shoestring budget, right. So, you want to try and use as many tools as possible that don't cost anything or very small costs. So, we kept that very much at the forefront of all the decisions that we made. So, we never wanted to be a penny-wise pound foolish. So sometimes we did need to spend money where we thought money should be spent. But we always did our research first to see what we should have. So, first thing first right you got to have a website. So, you just can't be in business without it. So, we had to make the decision, should we build our own WordPress site, or should we get a Wix or a square or something like that. Well we knew that eventually we wanted to own our own website, we didn't want to rent it. So, we made the decision to have a WordPress site. So, we bought you know WordPress, GoDaddy, Domains you know then there was you know the hosting. So, at GoDaddy we had a Divi site for our theme and all those different types of things and then we slowly built our site ourselves. By the way we had no prior experience Ramesh on how to build our website. But we learned step-by-step how to do it.
Ramesh: I was about to ask you about that.
Janet: That is hard, that is hard. So, I guess the big thing was my sister did have some experience building courses and that was something that, so she had been a tech writer. So that somewhat gave us some help and she kind of understood some of that. She knew how to work Camtasia. So, some of those things that she already had that knowledge in. So, we built the website, the next thing we knew was that we needed an email platform. So, we actually bought Aweber, which was a cost program and decided that it just didn't offer the features we wanted, so we did a lot of research and we ended up using MailChimp. Which was great for somebody first starting out. Because you know it's free for the first two thousand subscribers and twelve thousand emails a month. It's a great way to get started, you can have automation and all those you know fancy bells and whistles that you need to build your email templates and your newsletter. So that's what we started out with. We also knew that we needed a program called Acuity, which is what we use when we have bookings. So, people can book, we had to have PayPal. We had to have a blog. So that was another reason why we wanted a WordPress site. Well then, we had to have Yoast, so we have a premium Yoast, because we wanted to take it to the next level. We own SEMrush which is kind of an expensive program and you know but we needed that if we were going to do the SEO that we need for our customers. But basically, what we did, I'm trying to think if there's anything else that we've used. Oh, we use programs like Asana. Which again they have a free version and we use Zoom. We love Zoom, that's probably our biggest tool that we use. There is a free version, but we have the paid version. Because there's the two of us, we often meet other clients and so therefore it requires the paid version. So, I don't know, you know I don't have the list right in front of me. But that's probably a good start to all the tools that we needed to have.
Ramesh: So that's good. So, most of them I'm familiar with. Asana what do you do with that?
Janet: It's a project management program. So basically, what it does is because we have so many different kinds of projects, we needed to make sure that we could keep them organized and so there is a free version Ramesh and so basically what you have to do is you go in there it's www.asana.com and once you're in there, you can create different projects and then you can assign yourself a task within that with a due date and then if you have a partner, it's great. Because then you can each see what you're doing, and it does a lot of great stuff and its online and you can also get the app version.
Ramesh: Great great. So now I'm sitting in home listening to the podcast. I want to get started with a business. So what tips can you offer me that I should start looking at?
Janet: It's interesting. By the way just as a side note I'm also a score volunteer and so I often do volunteer work, working with people that are just first starting up their business and it was interesting, I was talking to somebody yesterday and he wanted to build a brick-and-mortar store and he said I don't know where to start. And I said well you know it's kind of like that sound of music song, you know you got to start at the very beginning. So, you know the first thing is you got to do research. You know you get this great idea, but first you got to go find out is it viable. You know like what I did is like I built this business for these life insurance agents, but I didn't do my research first to find out, is this something that even was welcomed in the world right? We sometimes think that we know what people want. But we have to go and find out what our customers want. So, I told him, I said what you need to do is you need to go and survey at least a hundred people. If there's already, if you already have competitors out there you have to find out what does they like about what's out there, what don't they like and then find out what would they want that would be different that they might come to you and in that maybe you'll see what your niche can be. Which is kind of what we did with our business is we had to go out and survey and found out that there were people who just didn't want to go to SEO agencies, but didn't know what the alternative was. And somebody that would teach them in layman's language, because you know you read a lot of blogs and people teach you all this you know highfalutin language and nobody who's just starting out doesn't understand it. So, it's important to do your research and then when you're ready to start you need to go and learn what are all the tools that you're going to need. One of the things that I always tell people, 20% of your business is your product or service. The other 80% is marketing. So, if marketing is not your expertise, you've got to go learn it. You got to learn about having an email platform, you got to learn about what kind of website you should have, what social media platforms you should be on and you know it's funny I actually do a training that I call it my online marketing machine and I teach them all the different components that you need to build your online. Because even if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you still need to do online marketing. Because marketing is today you know we don't have enough marketing dollars to just you know put advertisements out there. We have to find ways for customers to find us, because they're doing their own searching.
Ramesh: Right right so it's a great advice. So, Janet this is very good. So now let's, if you were to go back I know it's about three years you've been in the business. So, then what would you do? So, the whole concept here is the agile entrepreneur. So, do we can speed up things for other people, so they don't have to make the same mistakes that we've been making. So, what would you do differently?
Janet: Okay a couple things, a couple things for sure. I mean I probably give you a long laundry list. But I’ll give you a couple of things that I think are critically important when people are starting out. That is, build your email list right away. Build your email list right away and that is so critically important even and I know somebody who has a business and what he did was, he just built a very quick email site you know nothing fancy. He got his email, his email platform and he started to just offer a lead magnet for free. He didn't even have a product yet. But he had a lead magnet of something that he thought would be interesting for the people that eventually he wanted to be his customers. So that by the time he had something that he wanted to charge for, he already had a couple thousand followers. We did not do that. We built everything first and we built the email list last. So now we always tell our customers, build your email list first. It's like don't resist that list. Because again it's like I go back to the Kevin Costner story with build Field of Dreams, it's that you know he built the base, spent all his energy on the field and then nobody showed up. You have to let people know you're building the field. So you have to and that's what I tell people today is build that email list, get it started, come up with some kind of a freebie what we call it you know a lead magnet and something that's going to get them to start building you know, get building that list and then eventually you know when you got something to sell, then you've now got your audience and it makes it so much easier if you can do that and then the second thing is blogging. Blogging is probably, now looking back it's probably one of the most artistic incredibly important components of your business. Nobody's really teaching blogging very well. So, you know you kind of have to piecemeal it all together and I'm not even sure that we would teach anybody all about blogging. Because I'm not even sure we're an expert. Well I know we're not an expert. But I can see how blogging is so important to your business. Because you know we have a great website and we were religious. Oh, we should blog right. So, every week, every Monday morning hmm we posted a blog. They were probably about four or five hundred-word blogs. They all had great content. But guess what? We were building them without meta descriptions, without keyword phrases, we didn't have internal links, we didn't have backlinks. Our images were oversized, I mean we were literally you know I could now do the top ten reasons how not to do a blog. And so, we had done all that. So, we just thought if we created all these blogs, then Google will love our blogs. Because we're putting out all this fresh content. But hadn't realized that we were doing them wrong. So now we have a hundred blogs and we're now having to go back and redo them. So, the biggest advice I would give to anybody is, its quality over quantity. Do less blogs, maybe you do one really awesome blog a month. But make it big, make it at least 2,000 words, make sure you've got good keyword phrases, do your internal links and you know and your backlinks if you can and then off to make sure your graphics are optimized properly and that you have at least 5 graphics, that's what I’ve learnt now is you've got to have at least 5 graphics in your blog post and those are what's really going to help drive your traffic. So, blogging, email lists, two big things. So that's the other thing. You really need a WordPress site if you're going to blog, if you're going to blog properly. Because get a Wix site or any or Shopify, it's just not going to work.
Ramesh: Yeah anyway WordPress is the dominant platform out there. So, Janet this is a very inspiring story. I mean to tell you the truth in terms of how you've evolved from one business to another business, so any last-minute thoughts?
Janet: Well our business still is evolving. Just you know I think it's awesome that you're having a podcast. Because this is something that we want to do one day and it's kind of like on our to-do list. But we're not quite there yet. One more thing that I didn't mention in our call which I think is very critically important is we also built online courses and that was another tool I forgot to mention. We use a program called Thinkifi, www.thinkific.com and online courses are great if you'd like to build a business where you can be sort of making money while you're sleeping. So, you take all of your knowledge, you put it into an online course. Because people are looking for those kind of digital marketing tools these days. You know learning online and so that's another great way to be able to share your products. So, I don't know, have fun you know like really love what we do, and I think if you don't love what you do, then you either need to find another business, you're not in the right business or because we started out building websites and we hated it. So, we just said okay then that's not where we want to spend our energy and our time. So, I think always look for does your business fit your choices. Which for us would be profitability, likability and where we live you know like lifestyle. Lifestyle is a very important component and then I don't know if anybody wants to learn how to do SEO, come talk to me.
Ramesh: Definitely definitely I think this will be a very good podcast. So good luck with the business.
Janet: Thank you, Thank you.
Ramesh: So, thank you very much for your time today.
29:27Janet: You're quite welcome.