EE050 – Shauna Armitage – Effective Strategies for early stage start-ups

Tony Winyard – Health, Breathing, Sleeping, Mindset & Movement Coach

A few years ago Shauna wasn’t in a great place. She had a decent job but she was vehemently opposed to the way her boss was conducting business. When she stood up for her clients, she was fired. With her husband only 3 weeks away from a 6-month deployment in the Middle East and with 3 young kids at home, she was stuck without too many options. This was when she decided to start her own business where she could conduct operations with integrity. Ultimately, this has led to a big shift in her own life where she’s been able to create a life that she loves. Treating her clients with respect and being a part of their team instead of simply ” a contractor” has shown them that she cares deeply about their success and that she’s invested in their growth. Shauna talks about how she created this dynamic with her clients on this week’s show.

Shauna helps early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

Topics discussed include:

  • The future of digital marketing
  • The gig economy and freelancing
  • Marketing strategy
  • Working for yourself



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(All transcriptions are done using through a system of artificial intelligence and so on EVERY episode there are quite a few mistakes as AI is far from perfect when it comes to transcribing the human voice. However, it is a very time-consuming process to go through each transcript and correct all the errors. For quite a while I had the transcribed docs sitting on my hard drive in the belief that one day I would eventually get around to correcting all the errors and could then upload each transcript to the show notes for each episode. The reality is that isn’t gonna happen for quite a while as I simply do not have sufficient time to be able to do that. So please accept my apologies for the number of errors but I hope that these transcripts are in some way useful to you.)

Episode 50 – Shauna Armitage – 03-09-2019.mp3

[00:00:00] Exceeding expectations. Episode 50.

[00:00:06] Welcome to the podcast where we give you ideas and how you can over deliver to receive better testimonials and get more referrals and recommendations and reach bookings and so on. This week’s episode is with Shauna Armitage who is a freelancer and helps businesses and especially starts up businesses. So we’ll be hearing more about Shauna in just a while. If you like the podcast why not share it with people who you think may get value from either this episode or any of the previous episodes. I had one leave a review for us on one of the platforms such as I choose that would be really helpful. That really helps spread the word out to more and more people to more reviews we get and more people are likely to discover the podcast if you have any ideas for people you would like to hear interviewed. Please do let me know. So now it’s time for this week’s episode. And here is Shauna Armitage.

[00:01:17] Exceeding expectations my guest this week Shauna Armitage. How are you a Shauna. I’m good. How are you today. I’m very well thanks and you’re over in Denver Colorado. Yeah right around that area and you just cleared up a complete misconception I had because I was under the impression that Denver scared it must be really cold. Apparently that’s not the case.

[00:01:38] It can be cold in the winter but we’re kind of at the spot where the Northwest meets the southwest. So we’ve got the red rocks and we’ve got the cactus and then we’ve got the Rocky Mountains. So there’s lots of kind of.

[00:01:54] Different different climates that meet in this area.

[00:02:00] And yeah you were saying You’re from Maine sir is that quite different I would imagine.

[00:02:04] It is Maine it is very cold and snowy.

[00:02:08] I came in and said you grew up in Maine. But how long did you live there.

[00:02:12] I lived there from about the time I was seven. Right through the end of college and then for a few years as a young adult. But when my husband joined the military we got stationed out out here in Colorado and we love it.

[00:02:29] In your business are you telling me that you a growth consultant. Are you working on a marketing strategy and so on so Juna tell us a bit about that and how that came about how you got into that.

[00:02:41] Yeah absolutely. I actually originally went to school got my first degree with a minor in education and a major in history and then decided I didn’t want to be a teacher and went back to school and got a degree in professional writing because I thought that would translate to a lot of different places. So business writing writing for the Web all sorts of great stuff. And when I graduated there weren’t a lot of jobs available in the US. We really our economy wasn’t doing great in 2011 and that’s kind of when the gig economy got big so I started freelance writing I started picking up projects and. Over time I realized that there was a word for what I was doing. There was actually a whole business for what I was doing and it was marketing writing. For other companies really lends itself to marketing and sales. So that’s when I started really honing in on my skills and working towards becoming a better marketer.

[00:03:40] And so what will happen from that.

[00:03:43] Well I had a bunch of different marketing positions I was the Director of Content at one company. I worked as an SVOD coach for another big organization and their web department and. I got what I thought was my big break. When a friend of mine was going to start a digital agency and he asked me to come on and work on it with him. So I was really excited about that. Thrilled to be a part of it. And it didn’t go as smoothly as as I had wanted it to go where I had expected it to go. So. For the first couple months things were great. We were bringing on new clients. Things are moving forward. And then my friend started hiring more people and a lot more people than we really needed. So there was a lot of people on the payroll and not really that many clients to support all these people on the payroll. And then slowly. We’re starting to get negative feedback from the clients that we had this you know landing page wasn’t created and we’re not happy with this thing that’s going on and Instagram and all of this feedback. And I was kind of the in-between between the client and the friend of mine who was running this agency. And. These things were all so important for these small businesses and start-ups. Marketing is a huge part of making money and getting your business off the ground. So when things weren’t getting done but they were still paying this. They were still on a contract with us. It was really frustrating for them. It was a bad experience. And that bothered me so I would talk to him about it and he didn’t really like the pushback. He had a way of doing things he was happy with it and he wasn’t really interested in my two cents. So after six months of that he actually fired me. He said that I wasn’t a good culture fit anymore and he let me go. So I had left a stable job to work with him and that was a really scary experience. I had never been fired before in my life. And that’s kind of when I realized that. I could do this better and I had the skills and marketing strategy and everything else around marketing that I could really do good work for these kinds of companies on my own.

[00:06:16] It was pretty scary I imagine it was pretty scary.

[00:06:19] It was it was a hard time too. My husband was about to deploy to the Middle East for six months. I had three kids at home. So just going out and finding a traditional job was not in the cards because I’ve always worked remotely. So. I had never wanted to be an entrepreneur.

[00:06:37] I was always fine working for a great business that I really believed in and just collecting my paycheque and having that stability. And I think that was kind of the moment that it stuck to me that. That path isn’t necessarily stable either because just because you’re working for a company doesn’t mean that that they’re engaging in good business practices and that they’re going to be able to keep you around long term.

[00:07:07] So I knew that I could do a better job if I went out and did it myself. So I to pick myself up and I started the business.

[00:07:17] And so what would you say looking back on it now. What were the things you found hardest to when you started to do your own business.

[00:07:25] Definitely client acquisition because when you’re working for somebody else they just give you the work right. They just bring it to you and say Here accomplish this. But when you’ve got your own business you are the business owner you’re the executioner or you’re the the marketer or the salesperson the H.R. department. So I had all of these things now on my plate and sales was definitely my least favourite thing to do. I like to do the work. I didn’t like to go out and find people and try to sell them on my services.

[00:07:59] You said before we were talking about one of the things that you do that is quite different to many of your competitors is about your contracts.

[00:08:07] Yes. I don’t have them. That is one way that. I really strive to provide an exceptional experience for the people that I do work with because it’s scary being. Contracted to work with one person or one agency or one firm. It’s really a leap of faith. So you can do all of your research you can read their testimonials you can read their case studies you can talk to people who have worked with them before as references but ultimately until you get in there you don’t really know if you’re going to survive or if you’re going to be a good fit working together and.

[00:08:52] Working for.

[00:08:54] This old friend of mine in the agency that was one thing that I saw that really tripped people up he would always offer a discount if you signed with with him for three months or six months or whatever it was. But then as soon as the contract was signed and the check was received.

[00:09:16] It was like they weren’t a priority anymore. It was like it was just on to the next sale. I’m of the opinion that having one customer for a year for two years for life is so much more valuable to me than just.

[00:09:35] Going off and getting the next sale it’s really those relationships that matter and that’s what I took with me into my own practice is that I didn’t want people to feel trapped. I wanted them to say you know what this isn’t a good fit. I don’t really want to work together anymore I wanted them to have the freedom to do that. And I think that’s very contrary to what you typically see with marketing agencies or in marketing. They want to lock you in for a certain amount of time.

[00:10:09] And so did that approach. Did that surprise people or your potential clients.

[00:10:14] It did. Usually people wanted to know how how long the contract was going to be or if they were going to be any special discounts. And they don’t do discounts because I know what my worth is and how valuable I am to these companies. But what I do give them is is no contract. They’re free to leave at any time. And that was surprising to them and I think that it gave them. Just this level of comfort that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. Like if this woman is not a good fit for us we’re not stuck we can move on and we’re not going to have wasted thousands and thousands of dollars working with her if she’s not going to really be dedicated to our success.

[00:11:02] And so how have the result was paid from implementing them.

[00:11:06] They’ve been great.

[00:11:08] I think that any one that is seriously interested in working with me they love that. I think that’s just one less roadblock or one weight off their mind in terms of getting started but they don’t have to worry about putting themselves in a financial hole which is a big deal for start-ups. If you pick the wrong freelancer and you have a contract with them for months and months then you’ve dumped all this money into it and and you’re not seeing results where small business owners they’re kind of playing more of a long game. Where they’re OK with bringing in customers slowly but in a Start-Up environment they’re not because they’re bootstrapping or they went to angel investors or a venture capital firm and they got a whole bunch of money and there’s a point where that money runs out.

[00:12:06] So six months of money invested into a freelancer that’s not going to be a good fit is a really really huge detriment to their business.

[00:12:20] And so as a freelancer what typically order surpluses that you’re referring this is so hard to explain because it’s really customized for each individual business. So I positioned myself as a CMO for hire a fractional CMO or marketing director for these companies. So usually they’re they’re small enough for their funding is not large enough that they’re they can’t hire somebody full time but they know that they still need these services. So the way that I do it is it makes it affordable for them. But it’s not a full time job for me. So I have the freedom to to work with other companies as well which is which is great. So the things that I offer them are marketing strategy whether it’s digital marketing or traditional marketing off line could be anything from what we’re gonna do on social media to the content that we’re going to put together to helping them.

[00:13:21] Work through their funnel and create their email automation or set up a sales but it could be anything. And it really depends on. What.

[00:13:34] The company needs because each company has different goals. The e-commerce fashion brand that I work with they have much different goals that they need to reach than the software companies that I work with.

[00:13:51] And before you were talking about one of the things that you do that you work really hard on is customizing it. So how in what way do you customize it. So this was another thing that really bothered me about working in a digital agency is that we would work so hard to get that contract signed and get that first check and then when it came to actually strategizing.

[00:14:14] It all looks the same. It didn’t matter if it was that e-commerce company that was a fashion brand or if it was a software company that worked on a subscription model. It was all the same. You know we were doing blogs for them we were managing their Instagram and all of those things can be very valuable but they’re not valuable in the same way.

[00:14:36] Instagram is not valuable for a software company the way that it is for a fashion company. So. I wanted to run my business in a way that felt like it had integrity and felt like it was catered to my client not what was just good for me or what was just what I felt like I was good at. So. That to me is such a big part of offering an exceptional experience is treating the clients like they’re individuals and not just treating them like they’re you know everybody else.

[00:15:18] And so you wouldn’t be running gets an annual competition is of companies such as five or 10 people around and so on is are the competitors to you.

[00:15:28] I think so that would be more along the lines of content creators or graphic designers. And what I do is more of an executive position. Usually if someone says we have this plan and we want you to write or we want you to manage our social media. That’s not a good client for me because they’ve already decided what their strategy is going to be. And I work with the companies that know that they need help for marketing but they don’t know what the best way to do it is or the best platforms to use or how they’re going to target their ideal customer. So I work at a much higher level. But once we have that engagement I do work more intimately in their businesses. Like I said creating leaning pages or helping with e-mail sequences because. It can be expensive to then hire all these different people to do these different roles. And that’s kind of the point is the all in one package that you’ve got your marketing direction and I manage your marketing team essentially.

[00:16:38] So if a company is interested in working with you what would be different about what you did and from the other freelancers they might approach.

[00:16:47] Well I mean the contract is a big thing. I think that I the way that I work I fall kind of into a very unique category.

[00:16:59] And I think that’s what makes me different. So you’ve got your marketing agencies that they just they take on a bunch of clients and that’s how they make money is based off of the volume of clients. And then you’ve got more these consultants or marketing or business coaches and they’re. Going to maybe build a strategy for you but they’re not going to help you execute it. You kind of have to figure it out. After they’ve built a strategy for you. So I kind of fall in between those on the spectrum where. I don’t try to take on a whole bunch of clients and just fit them all into like a blueprint or a roadmap. And we do the same thing with all of the different clients. But then on the other end of the marketing consultant. I’m not that either because I’m not just going to make a strategy for you and then handed off to you and wish you luck and hope that you can figure it out. I fall in between in the sense that. I do a good deal of the work that may be a marketing agency would do for you. Of that those smaller execution pieces. But I also do the high level strategy and I don’t think that there’s a lot of freelancers out there who act as a fractional CMO who kind of bring those two things together and do all of that.

[00:18:28] For customers or clients instead of just one under the other either. All strategy or all execution.

[00:18:39] Is there a particular type of client that you prefer working with.

[00:18:44] That’s a tough one because I’ve always wanted to be open. I always want to be flexible. I’m one of those people that really believes that you don’t have to have industry experience to do well marketing in that industry because it’s really about understanding the company and their goals and then their audience and how to speak to their audience and are what’s the audience pain points and things like that. So.

[00:19:17] I don’t really focus on a specific type. I do tend to work with a lot more technology companies like apps and software companies just because that tends to be that’s what’s in Start-Up right now.

[00:19:34] The Start-Up community is it’s a lot of technology.

[00:19:40] You mentioned before about it. You know you got your degree in professional writing as soon as you found that’s helped you in any way that maybe you wouldn’t have expected it did.

[00:19:49] It definitely did. I. Think that. Up until that point I didn’t really know a whole lot about. Blogging or about how you write differently for the Web than you do for your term paper. And it definitely taught me a lot of things that were more practical that maybe you don’t usually learn in college and all of those skills from. Writing for the web or writing for businesses. Those kinds of things were much more applicable in real life than just those English classes that you take or those writing classes that you take in college.

[00:20:36] So when a company comes to you and they need to help with you know a market in a direction they’re going into strategy and so on. What are the typical mistakes they make before approaching new well boys. How is it you’re really able to help them and what is it that they’re not seeing.

[00:20:54] Well a lot of times it may not be lack of vision. It could just be that they don’t have the time or the skill. So with these companies a lot of times the founder is the CEO and they’ve got a very specific skill. That’s why they founded the company. So they’re a tech person or they’re a visionary when it comes to fashion and design. So marketing isn’t really something that they’ve they’ve taken a deep dive into. So they need to make sure that their energy is spent on the vision and that they bring me on because they know that marketing isn’t isn’t a skill that they have and it’s not one that they need to develop because they need to focus on the mission behind the company. So it’s not always lack of vision but sometimes. People struggle when they’ve come to me because they vote. They focus on the vanity metrics so they’re focussing on how many Instagram followers they have or how many emails that they’ve collected instead of. Is Instagram. Driving traffic to your offer. Or are the emails that you’re sending. Actually converting into paying customers. So. With marketing and especially with the world of social media it’s really easy to get caught up in. What looks like success but. A lot of times and especially with start-ups you’ve got to take a step back and look at the individual pieces of your marketing strategy and a lot of times shift where you’re spending your energy away from these big platforms that make us less successful. And in two strategies that actually convert that actually create positive experiences and make sales and relationships between the company and their customer.

[00:23:02] So have there been any clients that you’ve worked with who you’ve suggested something to them which they really didn’t expect and it’s produce much better results than the neighbour may be expecting.

[00:23:15] Yeah absolutely. So. I have this one client and they wanted to start a podcast. And I said listen. If you want to start a podcast that’s great. Podcasts are awesome. They’re great now. But what’s your goal with the podcast and they’re like oh well it’s just it’s just another piece of content. I said listen we have minimal resources. So if you’re just doing this for content it’s not worth your time.

[00:23:44] Having a podcast and I’m sure that you can attest to this is how having a second business it doesn’t do anything for you if you’re not marketing it. If you’re not editing it if you’re not constantly bringing in new new guests for it. So you. For some people podcasting is just a hobby. That’s fine. But as a business strategy it has to do something for you to get your customers and they’re like OK well we hadn’t really thought about it that way. So I said either we need to kill the podcast or we need to have the podcast work in our funnel to actually drive customers to the software. So what we ended up doing is as we were looking for podcast guests we were looking for people who were a good fit to potentially use our software. So as we bring on a new podcast guests they always have a conversation about the software they do a demo about the software and a lot of times the podcast guests end up being customers lives.

[00:24:55] And so they say it did podcast went in a very different direction from how they were expecting it to go then.

[00:25:01] Yeah I think that they were just looking to to have that content and take on any guests that would fit. But moving in the direction of making it the sales engine. There was less that we had to do to market it. On our part and it was more about giving us the opportunity to have valuable conversations with people who could potentially be our customers instead of just interviewing them and then everyone goes on their way.

[00:25:32] And how do you think things will change with marketing and digital marketing in the next few years.

[00:25:39] I think that we’re already starting to see a shift towards more intimate experiences.

[00:25:49] Where.

[00:25:51] People are realizing that marketing and digital marketing in general it’s not as easy as a lot of these big companies make it look and that instead of doing a huge. Content push where you’re logging or instead of starting a podcast just for the heck of starting a podcast that you really have to be intentional about the strategies that you’re using and all of the strategies that you’re using has to have the end goal of creating a more intimate positive experience with the end user because people can shop on Amazon.

[00:26:37] Now there’s there’s social media managers there’s no service industry is everywhere and the Internet makes all of that so much more accessible to us.

[00:26:50] So if you want someone to shop with you or become your brand advocate you can’t be talking to hundreds of people. You’ve got to be talking to them directly to that one person. So I think digital marketing is starting to move away from. These massive numbers where you’re just trying to get a whole bunch of people in your funnel and it’s moving in the direction of creating more intimate relationships with your customers.

[00:27:22] So so for what you do I’m presuming from some of the things that you said you don’t really need or necessarily need to meet physically with your potential clients you can do it all online or is that not the case.

[00:27:34] Yes. That is the case. I actually have one client who lives by me and the rest of them are in different parts of the country. Which is great. And the gig economy is is getting big because people are not liking corporate anymore or maybe they’re just having a hard time getting hired and corporate so they take a series of small jobs and then realize that they they can actually make a living doing that. And that’s what happened with me and. I now only work remotely. Like I said I do have one client that’s close by me and we have in-person meetings every week. But other than that. With things like Zoom or Google Hangouts I can still have meetings and I can still see the people that I’m working with and do my work from wherever it is that I happen to be.

[00:28:30] And do you think you will expand internationally.

[00:28:33] Absolutely. I used to work. I used to work with a company in Australia. And for a while I was working with this great company in Israel. So I would be happy to work internationally. It just has to be the right fit.

[00:28:51] Before we finish I mean what are your general thoughts on exceeding expectations.

[00:28:56] I was so excited to come on your podcast because I don’t think many people are having these conversations. That’s about growth hacking or tips and tricks to make things easier. And I think exceeding expectations. It’s not about making things easier for yourself. It’s about creating genuine relationships with the people that you’re trying to work with or that you’re trying to sell to. And just bringing the human element back into business instead of trying to do business with everybody or had these big numbers. It’s about. Bringing things down to a slower level and really making sure that what you’re doing whether it’s building relationships or the products that you’re that you’re putting out. It’s it’s all about quality not about quantity. And I think that’s really how you’re going to exceed the expectations of people these days.

[00:29:56] And would you say that you really learned that from that experience you had in that company where things they weren’t treating their customers so well.

[00:30:05] I absolutely did because I was a little worker bee back in those days. I wasn’t running the company. I just knew that I wanted the best for the companies that I worked with. And it didn’t occur to me that that wasn’t everybody’s end goal in business to see their clients succeed or to see them do well. And that seemed like a very strange disconnect to me that as the service provider or the freelancer or whatever you want to call it that you wouldn’t be overly concerned with the success of your clients.

[00:30:42] So I think that that that experience taught me a lot about how I wanted to be treated and how I thought it was important to treat other people in business.

[00:30:57] Shauna if people want to find out more about you and your services where would be the best places to go.

[00:31:03] You can find me on Instagram at Shauna Armitage and my Web site has lots of information about what I do and that’s at Shauna Armitage Parkus Shauna.

[00:31:17] It’s been a it’s been fascinating speaking to you and thank you for taking your time to be on the show. Yeah. Good luck good luck for the future. Yeah.

[00:31:25] Thanks to Episode 51 with Joel Hawbaker he’s a teacher and a professional speaker and also a football coach and a few other things he does as well. And we hear about how he goes about teaching people and we hear about teaching in school from a different perspective than maybe we often would hear about. So that’s next week’s show. Joe Hawbaker. Hope you have a fantastic week. Please leave a review for us on the phone cost platforms and have a great weekend. Thanks.

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