Laura Smith is a wife and mom of two little littles, plus she runs an online business at IHeartPlanners.com. And actually this is the second time Laura has been on our show! I am excited to have her back, especially because Laura has agreed to get really real with us and talk about a really juicy topic. You don’t want to miss this one!
On the Podcast
1:11 – What’s New With Laura
2:55 – Bravely Talking About Failure
4:23 – Disconnected Freebies
8:46 – When Hiring Help, Doesn’t
12:48 – Affording To Fail
14:28 – Laura’s New Plan
16:26 – When Deadlines Set You Back
20:00 – The Course BLowing Laura’s Mind
20:26 – More Successes Than Failures
26:14 – Advice if You’re Afraid of Failing
27:27 – Laura’s Adorable Mommy Moment
What’s New With Laura
Wow, so much has changed since we first had Laura on the show back in 2014! Her little girl was just 12-weeks-old and the business wasn’t quite 2-years-old yet. Not one thing feels the same! That little girl is now almost 2 ½ and she has a 7-month-old baby boy. Her family made the move from Pittsburgh, PA to Iowa, and her business is incredibly different.
Laura says, “So much has changed! Not one thing is the same. I don’t think hardly anything I was selling when I last talked to you is what I sell now.” She has shifted away from physical products to digital, since, like many people these days, she has found that digital products work better with her lifestyle; they’re less stressful and more profitable.
Back then, Laura was a true solopreneur, but now she has a ton of people helping her with her business – and plans to expand that. One of the best things Laura says she has done in her business is bring on people to help so she’s not doing it all herself.
(And I know we say this all the time around here, but hiring help is truly this AMAZING thing. It’s a game changer.)
Laura Bravely Shares About Failure
For Laura, this past year she’s hit her biggest failures and greatest successes. And we are all so so lucky that she’s agreed to let us peek behind the curtain.
In terms of revenue, profit, and growth, 2016 was Laura’s best year. That said, it was also the year that she tried many things which totally bombed. “If you find the magic way to go through business and have everything work out perfectly, let me know!” Laura joked. “The bigger you get, the bigger the successes and the bigger the failures.”
Laura agreed to talk about her failures in order to encourage other women. (Thanks, Laura!)
One “Failure” from the Year: Disconnected Freebies
One major thing that didn’t work out well for Laura was a launch she attempted in September.
After not being heavily involved with her business while welcoming a new baby and moving, she poured a lot of time, energy, and money into this launch. This launch was supposed to be her first big venture after coming back, and a way to boost sales before the end of the year.
She hosted a free challenge with a partner to kick off the launch, and everything was running smoothly…except she only made 10 sales in September, whereas the prior year, selling the same product, she made over 700 sales!
Laura is still really glad she did the launch, but was hoping for more of a change in her business, and for sales to really pick up!
So what about marketing going forward?
Laura says it was definitely a learning experience as far as marketing. She remembers mentioning briefly during the planning stages, “I don’t think the connection between my free challenge and the product at the end is really tight. Eh – I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Learn from Laura! If you doubt your own idea, or hear an offhanded concern about your strategy, don’t dismiss that warning bell.
She says anytime you offer a freebie that should then lead to a sale, make sure there is a tight correlation between the freebie and the product you are selling. You want the product you’re selling to be the next logical step for people after consuming the freebie. In Laura’s case, she had a TON of people excited about this amazing freebie she offered – with lots of engagement and participation. But when it came time to offer the product, which was fairly disconnected from the freebie, it just didn’t work.
I see this all the time in new business owners! Their freebie doesn’t connect logically with their product. It’s easy to get excited about building your list, but it’s hard to take extra time to make sure everything connects. Don’t skip that step.
And as Laura learned, it’s easy to feel like they’re tightly correlated in your mind than they really are. I think this analogy is perfect: “I loved my freebie AND I loved my product. Wouldn’t everyone else? No. Just because you love puppy dogs and chocolate, doesn’t mean you need to do a puppy dog challenge and sell everyone chocolate.”
When Hiring Help Doesn’t Pan Out
Overall, hiring help has been one of the best things Laura has done in her business – both in terms of personal sanity and helping her business grow. She is a HUGE fan of hiring help, whether that’s hiring people to help directly in your home, someone like a Virtual Assistant, or a web designer to build your website.
But the reality is, It can be very scary to hire help! You have to invest some money up front, with no guarantees about how it will turn out.
Early last year Laura wanted to build out funnels that were a bit more sophisticated than what she had been doing — more complex than just offering a freebie which leads to a sales pitch for a product. She wanted to test out ads, opt-ins, and limited-time offers.
Laura knew that with a brand new baby and a toddler, there was no way she would get those funnels set up with the team she had. She wanted to hire the job out to experts who could get the job done.
Long story short, she paid an expert over $6,000 to set up these funnels – and the results have been, well, nothing. She paid about $600 in ads and only made $400 from the initiative.
Laura is quick to clarify that this experience didn’t make her run into a dark hole and say that funnels and Facebook ads would never work for her. On the contrary, Facebook ads actually DO work, and they do work for Laura. But they did not work for her in this specific situation. The moral of the story is three fold:
- Sometimes you have to try a few strategies before finding what works. Do your homework, but it won’t always work out the way you think it will.
- When you do choose to hire someone, as much as possible, try to start them off with a mini-project first. (Laura tries to find a one-time project that she can pay a new help $50 to complete to test and make sure everyone is compatible. In Laura’s case, she knows this expert has gotten results for tons of other people – but their fit wasn’t good.)
- Take financial risks that fit where you are in business. Had Laura tried this sales funnel project 3 years ago, she would have had to shut down the business! Back then she didn’t have $6,000 to lose. At this point, while losing a chunk of change is a bummer, her business will be fine for the long haul. Take risks appropriate to your stage in business, and do it with forethought and wisdom. Have the expectation that nothing in business is guaranteed.
Can you Afford To Fail?
Sometimes I see new business owners want to throw all of their money and life savings into a project, but it doesn’t work that way, because what will you do if you lose that entire investment? As your business grows, then you can make more calculated risks about investments.
At the time of recording, Laura has been in business for 4 years and she has worked with a ton of people that did help her business, and ran many successful launches. But even then, she STILL makes mistakes. “Just because you’re newer (and have a failure near the beginning) doesn’t mean you’re terrible at business and should run away. That’s not true! If you need to cry, go have yourself a good cry, and come back and make a plan of what you’re going to do now.”
Laura and I both agree that the only thing separating a successful business owner from a not-successful one is whether or not they keep going after a setback.
Laura’s New Plan
What I love about Laura is that she didn’t let a few setbacks set her back. With regard to sales funnels, she’s back in the saddle! Her motto is: “You never know until you try!” She is continually trying and testing new strategies and she’s experienced huge successes with sales funnels. In fact, she had one funnel that brought in way more than the $6,000 she lost working with the expert.
Through the funnel that failed and then the successful new strategies, Laura’s lesson learned is: “Had I just said, these aren’t for me, they don’t work for my business–I had a bad experience I’ll just bury my head in the sand–I would have lost so much. As far as funnels, you’ve got to test different things. You can’t throw an ad up in 30 minutes, and then if it doesn’t work, say, ‘My audience doesn’t respond to ads.”’
Though expert advice disagrees, Laura has found that running ads directly to a sale has worked very well for her audience. She can’t tell you why! But most of the time, she does better running ads straight to a sale rather than an opt-in. There’s just something about her audience that loves a good sale!
The moral of the story isn’t “Maybe your audience will do this or maybe they won’t,” but to take the time to see what works for YOUR audience.
When Deadlines Set You Back
Laura’s final example isn’t so much a setback, but more of a net neutral.
She worked very hard on another funnel (it’s been the year of funnel success and failures for her!) and it again did not convert. It was neither a loss, nor a profit. They made back their investment, but couldn’t make it profitable.
Yet again, this was another case when she should have listened to the voice in her head. There was a big mismatch between the freebie and the product she was offering. It’s easy to see that disconnect in someone else’s business, but not yourself. You would notice, for example, if a friend wanted to offer a freebie on dog training and sell a chocolate box subscription. It’s just harder to see it in yourself.
When you’re working hard on your project and you’re really excited, you just want to get it out of the door ASAP! Laura says if she had held back and been patient, this product wouldn’t have been as disjointed.
In fact, one of Laura’s goals for this year is to set fewer deadlines in her business. Deadlines do help you get things done, but arbitrary deadlines can make you push out products that aren’t quite ready – or haven’t been tested thoroughly.
Don’t get me wrong! We’re definitely fans of setting deadlines at Brilliant Business Moms, but it’s good to know when you need an extra week or two to put the finishing touches on a product that you can think it through and take the extra time. And Laura shares that your relationship with deadlines can change along with your stage in business. When you’re first starting out, deadlines help you get the work done. But further in your business, maybe you can take more time to refine your work regardless of deadlines.
The Course Blowing Laura’s Mind
Thinking about how your stage of business can affect how you treat your business, Laura gave us a quick recommendation of a course that really has been helpful to her as a seasoned business owner. It’s Todd Herman’s course The 90 Day Year, and he talks in depth about the different stages of businesses.
More Successes Than Failures
Lest you think Laura’s business has been full of failures, we want to spend the remaining time highlighting her successes! Laura’s optimistic approach to failure is so inspiring. She doesn’t let it get her down, she tries to learn and moves on to the next success. And some great successes she’s had! 2016 was her biggest year to date; she had by far the most revenue, had the most profit, and reached the most people.
One success she experienced was getting a really profitable funnel up and running! Funnel-building is something she’s not been able to do up until this point in her business. Every business owner has limited time, and previously she had focused most of her attention on limited-offer launches to her whole list. Laura realized that she was not capitalizing on the opportunity to make sales right as a new subscriber signed up to her list. And now that she has, she’s excited about the ability to stabilize her income through funnels without having to work hard on launch after launch.
Another great success for Laura this year was launching her course List Building Academy. This is her first product outside her usual scope, and it’s designed to show other bloggers how to build a profitable email list. At the end of 2015, Laura remembers struggling to know what direction her business should go. She was conflicted about deviating from her home organizing/planners/printables blog theme, and adding a course about building an email list. It is true that if you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be effective at anything, and Laura is usually the person who wants decisions to make sense objectively; but she thought it was time to follow her heart in this case! She was SO excited about creating content for her List Building Academy course that she decided to go for it. And we aren’t surprised that it’s been a wonderful product addition to her business!
In other news, Laura had a baby boy this year – so that was a total win! And her family moved halfway across the country.
She hired a new team member who has been amazing for her business. Laura says, “If you’re not always talking about how amazing the people who work for you are, you don’t have the right people.” Laura says her team has been a total lifesaver, and they do some things better than she does! Especially with a new baby and a big move, her team allowed her to hardly work at all, and yet things could continue to move forward in her business.
And I SO agree! When you find the right people, it’s incredibly freeing for your business! The things you struggle with, others can do ten times faster. It allows you, as a business owner, to play to your strengths.
Advice if You’re Afraid of Failing
Success and failure go together sometimes. I wanted to know what advice Laura had for someone who fears failure.
Laura’s advice for those of you who might be struggling with the fear of failure is straightforward: “Don’t let the fear stop you from trying. And don’t look at failure as a bad thing.” She doesn’t see her past year as a negative at all, or that she’s personally a failure. Failing is part of learning.
Just like Laura’s new baby boy who falls down a lot while he’s learning to walk – and that’s okay! Falling – or failing – is part of learning and growing. I love how Laura approaches this: “If you’re afraid to take any risks or try anything new, it’s going to be hard to grow in the online world that’s changing very quickly.”
Take risks. Embrace it. You will fall down at times, but it’s totally okay. Get right back up.
Laura’s Adorable Mommy Moment
Laura’s daughter is totally mesmerized with her hands when they get wrinkled in the bathtub. She’ll proudly announce, “Hands all rinky bathtub!” Laura thinks her daughter’s pronunciation of ‘wrinkled’ is so precious. (And I do too!)
Laura has loved watching her daughter become a big sister and love on her little brother. Recently Timothy (Laura’s little boy) was crying and Laura asked her daughter why she thought Timothy was sad. Her little girl said, “Because Timmy wants daddy!” Kids are so sweet!
(I am really looking forward to Holden becoming a big brother! I can’t wait to see that sibling interaction.)
Keep In Touch With Laura
Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!
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