Predicting The Future In Your Business
Thanks for joining me on this second episode of the podcast. I'm your host, Jason Brown, the co-founder of SERPWoo. In this podcast, I'm going to help you to learn how to predict the future with your business to ultimately help improve you become a more successful entrepreneur.
I'll tell you a little story. I actually got my start in business when I was in seventh grade. I used to buy, sell, and trade baseball cards and I always knew that I had a gift of being able to kind of look down the road a little bit and know when to get out of a business, but then to also get into another business. When I was in seventh grade buying, selling, and trading baseball cards, I was pretty much the only person in my grade, in my classes, doing this. As other boys in the school saw me doing this, saw me making money, they started jumping in on it too. I kind of then moved into basketball and football and hockey cards. When they jumped into baseball, I knew at that point I was getting competition and there was only so many other kids to go around and trade with that I needed to expand out. I got into basketball, football, and hockey cards.
It didn't take too long before the other kids who were trying to jump in on it to actually take that same idea. I was already prepared. I knew that now that I had eyeballs watching me that I needed to be prepared for the next curve that was coming down the road. Even though I was doing football, basketball, hockey, and baseball, I was already buying up comic books. I was waiting for the day that these other kids got into basketball, and football, and hockey. They slowly trickled in. As they were trying to take that market, I was now dealing in comic books. I had a wide inventory of where I could actually do baseball, basketball, football, hockey, comics.
I was creating in essence a blue ocean, at least within my sphere of influence, while they were trying to play catch-up. Eventually, these kids did get into comic books, but I'd already knew that that was coming as well and I had already expanded into selling candy and soft drinks. I was always able to be able to look at what the future was, be able to jump into that industry, and be able to handle a curve when it was thrown at me. If I wouldn't have been prepared for all these other students to jump in and start selling and buying and trading baseball cards, I could've pretty much gave up at that point and crushed, but I was able to expand ahead of time into those new markets, in the comic books, and later get into candy and soft drinks, that I always always one step ahead.
That's what I want to be able to help you today be able to forecast and look at and be prepared for because there's so much information out there today about being able to be productive with your time and organized with your time and plan your days out and do Pomodoro and eat that frog and getting things done and do these agile methods for planning out your day. Then even at the end of the week, reflecting back what you did that week. There's really nobody talking about looking forward, looking at these curve balls that might be coming down in your industry or your company.
Sure, plenty of people talk about goals and help you with goal setting, saying, "Well where would you like to be in three months or six months or a year or five years?" Those goals are great. It's great to have those goals. A lot of those goals are, "I want to be the number one consultant in my industry. I want to be a millionaire. I want to have released 10 new feature on my software as a service. I want to be selling three new products on Amazon." Nobody's actually telling you, "You need to be prepared and you need to be looking forward past your goals at what could be coming down the pipe. What could be a curve ball for your and your company within the industry?" That's what I want to talk about today.
One of the ways that I've been able to help myself predict what was coming to my industry, what could be the future, what I might need to get out of or get into has been planning every week possibilities of what could happen with either my company, features within my products, or even platforms that I sell on. To kind of give you an example of that, if any of you all have a gratitude journal or a weekly planner, you might spend Sunday night or maybe even just one night out of the week planning your day, putting in appointments, planning out what you're going to do on Monday and Tuesday as far as your business is concerned. You might even theme your days, like on Mondays I have it that the overall theme is that I'm doing marketing. On Wednesdays the overall theme is financial. No matter what business I'm working in, I know that on Mondays I'm doing marketing. Wednesdays I'm doing financial. I've got other days that are themed out as well.
If a lot of y'all do do that, you might also spend one day of the week, typically the end of the week, reflecting on what went good and what went bad for that week so that you can make next week better and either catch up or improve upon your reflection that you had on the prior week. What I've kind of done is I've kind of added on top of that. On that same that I'm doing a reflection or the day that I'm planning out the rest of my future week that's coming up, I like to think about what potential problems could come up either with my company, my industry, the platforms that I sell on, anything that can affect me. The goal is not to work on that during the week that's coming up. I just like to spend that time to think about what could impact me and do I have a plan B for it? It literally is something I think about each week, because there's so many possibilities out there. I don't spend hours on it. I try to spend roughly 30 minutes on it. The most I've ever spent is an hour doing this type of thought process.
To give you an example, I know a lot of people that sell on Amazon. An example of what an Amazon seller could be thinking about is what just happened where Amazon pulled or actually decided to block anybody who hasn't sent in their first FBA shipment. You're actually blocked from selling in Q4 this year. This just happened. You won't be able to send in an FBA shipment if you haven't sent in one before. You won't be able to send on in until mid-December. You're effectively blocked from Q4 and selling on Amazon. As anybody knows, Q4 is the biggest selling season on Amazon. If you are somebody new to the industry, or new to Amazon, and you've done all this research with getting a product, getting a manufacturer, getting it all together, getting the shipment together, getting the labels together, learning about all the requirements for other state taxes. If you haven't sent in that first FBA shipment, you're screwed for this quarter.
Maybe you're somebody that does sell on Amazon right now and you're merchant fulfilled and you haven't sent in your first FBA shipment, but you were considering it because now it's Q4 and you thought now is the time to jump in to do it, you're screwed as well. You're going to have to almost effectively wait until Q1. As somebody that would've been a seller on Amazon, these are things that I would have been thinking about in my journey each week, thinking about how I'm going to plan my week out, what the reflection was of that week. Now what could possibly harm my business or detract from my business or impact it. At some point one of those thoughts would have been, "What if I couldn't sell on Amazon anymore?"
Now that question isn't valid because at some point I will be able to sell on Amazon. It's going to be Q1, but if I was somebody new to Amazon and I haven't sent in my first shipment yet, or if I was somebody who is selling on Amazon and I'm merchant fulfilled and I haven't sent in my first FBA shipment, at some point in my journey, I would've asked my question, "What if I can not sell on Amazon?" A modification of that question might have been, "What if I can not get on FBA?" One of those solutions that I could have worked out in that 30 minutes or an hour could've been quite possibly, "I'm going to set up my own store on Shopify. I'm going to then buy ads on AdWords. I'm going to try to sell this myself. I might even try to jump to Ebay because even though Ebay is not Amazon and it's not fulfilled by Amazon, the whole point is Q4 is big for anybody that's on Amazon or Ebay. I'm going to go ahead and get Ebay set up and started."
If you're not thinking about these things ahead of time, you would've been smacked in the face this week when Amazon came out with the news that if you haven't sent your first FBA shipment in, you're screwed this quarter, and now you'd be behind the eight ball trying to get on Ebay or behind the eight ball on trying to set up a Shopify store and get ads running on AdWords. Now if you're already there, that's great and you would be thinking about other problems and other issues and coming up with other solutions. I'm just trying to give you an example.
Another idea, if I run with the Amazon example, is that a lot of people new to Amazon, and by new I mean this is maybe their first year or second year, even some experienced sellers are going through this, but for a lot of new people they think Amazon is just, "I'm going to copy somebody else's idea. I'm going to get in manufactured in China or white labeled. I'm going to send it to Amazon as FBA. I'm going to under price everybody else. Maybe I'll stay at the same price. Then I'm going to buy a lot of five star reviews, that are either fake reviews that I've bought or I'm going to get them for an exchange of my product that's heavily discounted so that I get that verified review. I'll get 100 of those and I'll start selling like hotcakes."
If I would've been that Amazon seller, somewhere within that year, somewhere within my journey of planning out my week every week, I would've some point have asked the question, "What if I can no longer rely on these five star reviews? What if I can no longer rely on my manufacturer in China? What if Amazon takes away all my reviews?" This is exactly what's happening this month actually, that has came out also that Amazon is getting stricter with these discounted reviews. They're getting stricter with who already has these reviews. Some of them are getting taken away.
Even if we don't look at Amazon itself, one of the questions might've been, "What if I can no longer get my product from my manufacturer in China?" That's already starting to happen. The Chinese, if you're not aware, know about everybody getting a product manufactured in China and selling it on Amazon, and they are coming over and setting up shop on Amazon themselves. It might come as a big surprise to you all, but a lot of those manufacturers, they're already copying and selling your product in China under a different name or they're setting up shops on Amazon and selling your product under a different name. A lot of the times, they come in and piggy back and steal your SKU and sell underneath your SKU with a fake product. At some point, you're not going to be able to rely on your manufacturer possibly. You need to ask these questions every day, or at least every week. That's how I do it. "What if, what if, what if?" That's going to be able to help you know where there's a curve coming in your industry and you've already got a plan B hopefully in place for when they curve does happen.
I kind of look at it as the same way as driving. If I'm driving on the road and I've got a straight shot, it's just a straight road because I'm on the highway, I can see everything crystal clear perfectly in front of me. I see the people getting on from the on ramp. I see people exiting. I see the semi-trucks changing lanes. I see the motorcyclists up in front of me. I see possibly a speed trap or at least a cop that's pulled somebody over. I know everything that's getting ready to happen. If my highway or my road or my lane starts to curve and I can't see what's on the other side of that curve, I'm basically going on blind luck.
When that happens, listen, planning out your week, making a reflection of your prior week, using kanban systems for productivity and planning all that out and doing pomodoros, that's all great for here and today, but none of that means anything if tomorrow all of your fake reviews have been taken away from you. None of that means anything if your manufacturer in China no longer sends you your product and you're having to scramble to find another manufacturer and send them your dyes or send them your plans for your product. None of that means anything if after you've done that, there's three copy cats from Chinese sellers selling your exact same product on Amazon for cheaper with better reviews.
This isn't just about Amazon. This is for any business. What I'm trying to stress is no matter what you're doing today, whatever advise that you're getting today, normally it all covers what's going on right now. Not enough people are looking to the future to help ensure that their business is still running, still profitable, still impacting and problem solving well into the future.
Another piece of advise that I have to help you prepare for what's coming around the curve is whenever people are flocking to talking about jumping into a certain topic or idea, that's a large indicator you need to look the other direction. Now you might be currently in that situation. You might be wanting to jump into that same situation. That's fine also, but you need to recognize that you have to have an exit plan or at least a plan B. The Amazon reviews is the perfect example of that. Lots of people are making money with these discounted and give away reviews. Lots of people will probably still make money. Lots of people made money in the past with it. As you can see, the hammer has cracked down on these giveaway and discounted reviews. They're being heavily monitored now. So many people jumped into it and talked about it that all the eyeballs are on people who do these discounted and giveaway reviews, whether it's the people who are actually selling a product or the people who do the reviews.
Whenever there's a large group of people doing something, talking about it, getting into it, or if it's the normal for your industry, a lot of the times you just need to sway past that or at least have an exit strategy, plan B, if you're currently in it. To give you a personal example, at SERPWoo, we have a keyword finder tool that lots of other of our competitors also have a keyword finder too, or at least the keyword research tool. A lot of these tools are the same whereas they've giving you ideas for keywords. They're giving you metrics on keywords. One of those metrics are going to be volume. Typically a monthly volume for phrase match of that particular keyword. The big secret that a lot of people don't know or maybe they do know is a lot of this volume data comes directly from Google itself and the way that a lot of tools are getting it is that they scrape the Google keyword tool.
Now that Google has removed from giving away these volumes to everybody who uses the tool, now they're kind of switching to, "We're going to do a range. We're not longer going to give you the exact keyword volume." There are some exceptions to that, but largely, they're going to give you a range now. The range that they give you isn't for that specific keyword. It's actually for a lot of similar keywords. You might be looking up one keyword and it might be buy blue widgets, and you see that it has very high volume. What you might not know is that that's a range and that it's not just for blue widgets, it's actually going to be for lots of similar blue widget keywords, highly similar. That range, that keyword volume range, is all of those together. What has happened, at least in our industry, is that a lot of keyword tools or services that offer keyword research with volume have suddenly dried up overnight or discontinued their keyword tool.
Here at SERPWoo, we had made it very clear in the beginning that we were never going to scrape Google's keyword tool and therefore we're not affected by that. That's kind of looking down the road. At some point in building our tool and in building our features, we were able to look down the road and ask ourselves, "What's going to happen if Google takes away this tool." Now we never expected that they would modify how you could use the tool, but we asked ourselves, "What if Google took away this information or took away use of this tool?" We would have a lot of users who'd be very unhappy. One important aspect of our service would dry up. We were able to plan ahead of time and not go down that road so that that's not an option for us, which is why we're still in business. We're still able to offer our keyword tool and other people are now drying up left and right.
The point is, once something becomes hot and talked about and it's talked about a lot and a lot of people are jumping into it and a lot of people are gathering around it and trying it out, or if something is the normal in your industry like I just told you about the Google keyword tool, for me at least that's a signal that I need to stay away from that. Now I'm not saying that you still could not enter into that market and pick up some bread crumbs or enter into that market and make a huge splash, but you're opening yourself up to that risk of there's going to be a dead end or there's going to be a curve and you're not going to be prepared for it and then your business dries up or is at least severely impacted.
The way I personally look at it is, I need to stay away from that market. It's just like the gold rush in the 1800's. Everybody wanted to go west to mine for gold because that's what was hot. That's what everybody was doing. Everybody was jumping into wanting to be a gold miner. By the time somebody got to California or to other states where there were gold like in the Yukon, which is not a state by the way, I recognize that, but when they got the Yukon or the got to California and they were looking for gold, there were already thousands of miners there who've already claimed their spots, have already dug areas, mined, panned, dredged for gold. By the time you got there, there was really nothing left. There was some dust if you could even find it. There might be a few little nuggets, but for the most part, your efforts are going to be futile. It's already been done. It was already what was talked about and hot. It was pretty much what was normal for everybody who went west looking for gold.
I kind of think about that analogy and I think about that story that if this is what's normal and if this is what everybody else is doing right now, talking about and jumping in, I just need to stay away from it. At least I need to think about it, get into it, and have a plan B or be prepared for the curve. It's very similar to real estate. I'm sure many of y'all remember the real estate bubble of the past few years where everybody and their brother who was not qualified jumped into the real estate market either as an agent or broker or some type of investment flipper. All of these people were doing real estate who were not qualified to do so. Even if they were qualified, it's what everybody was doing. Everybody was going out and owning a second, a third, a fourth home. There were strippers who owned five condos and still had student loan debt. It's what everybody was doing. That should have been a large enough signal for the smart people to have an exit plan or to have a plan B or avoid it entirely and focus on something else.
As we wrap up this episode of the podcast, what I would like everyone to do is focus on the future of your business every week. It's fine to plan out the next week of your business. It's fine to reflect on what happened the prior week with your business, but you need to look past your goals and you need to ask yourself two questions each week. The first question is, "Is what I'm doing in my business what everybody else is doing because it's the hot thing? It's what everybody's talking about. It's what's normal in my industry and business. Are all the new people jumping into this too?" That's the first question.
The second question is, "What parts of my business or maybe even my business in general, what could go wrong and what could impact it? What am I depending on that could suddenly be gone tomorrow or change tomorrow whether good or bad?" You need to plan for both, good and bad. When you plan for good, you're able to take advantage of your planning to be able to scale. When you're planning for bad, you're able to look at what's coming around the curve, something stops you in your tracks and you've already got a plan B or at least can move past what's going to stop you because you've already implemented something else to begin with.
Those are the two questions you really need to ask yourself each week. Each week you really need to focus on different aspects of that question. It's not going to work if every week you just generically say, "Well, what's going to stop me from selling on Amazon?" That's going to be a good question if you can always come up with different answers each week. At some point, you're going to have to probably modify that when you can no longer think of things that can stop you from selling on Amazon and you modify it to, "What if I can no longer get my product from my current manufacturer in China?" Or, "What if I can not get my product from China to begin with?"
These are all valid questions that you can ask yourself. You also need to focus on that first question of, "Is what I'm doing the hot thing." If it is, if it's what's normal or if it's what's hot, you're going to have a lot of eyeballs on your industry or particular feature of your business or component of your company, and there's a lot of eyeballs there. When there's a lot of eyeballs, there's a lot of scrutiny. That's kind of what happened with the Amazon reviews. That's also what's happened as a development over years of people of using the Google keyword tool and their volume metric.
If you ask yourself those two questions each week, you're going to be able to predict the future to some degree so that when your career or your business starts taking a curve, you can go through that curve with confidence and handle anything that's on the other side.
Just like usual, I'm going to throw out a business idea that hopefully one of you all can run with. This is going to be a permanent feature of this podcast. Just like with the last podcast, the business idea that I'm going to throw out there hopefully one of y'all pick it up. Maybe you'll even partner with me or at least send me a royalty check.
Whoa. Stop the press. This is actually an edit that I had to insert into this podcast later on after I actually published the podcast. The edit is this: the business idea I'm getting ready to give you is much more relevant. I actually recorded this podcast a couple weeks ago. I had it sitting on the back-burner. I was getting ready to release it this week. Then I realized that I needed to insert this edit. The edit is this: Edwards just recently has brought out a new extension for your AdWords ads. That extension is basically a text messaging extension. You can have an extension now in your ad that says, "Text the word widget to 313131," or whatever your message is. The idea I'm getting ready to give you, now that I've kind of let the cat somewhat out of the bag with this edit is so much more highly relevant now that you're getting ready to listen to it. I'm getting ready to get you back to the podcast. Just keep that in mind that the idea is more highly relevant now considering this new move from AdWords. Let's get back to the show.
There is not any software or service provider that I currently know of that does any type of automated marketing with short code SMS texting. The reason why I know this is I actually had somebody approach me a few months ago. They were doing a radio ad. This client is a pretty well known university in the Midwest. In case any of y'all don't know, I actually do some paperclip marketing for colleges and universities, helping them with their online degree lead generation efforts. They were doing a radio spot and they wanted a way to measure the effectiveness of the radio spot.
I kind of came up with the idea that at the end of the radio spot, that they could text a message to a short code. Just to make it a little bit simpler, let's just say that it was agreed upon that they would text the word, "Online degree," to 313131. What that would accomplish is the school would now know somewhat the effectiveness of their radio ad based on the responses of people who texted to that short-code. Also, on the flip side, that would give the school and me the opportunity to be able to market to these people specifically. Now we've got their cellphone number. Now we've got a way to contact them while they're driving. Even though I don't condone texting and driving. We can reach them in a fashion other than relying on somebody being at their desktop or their laptop and being in front of a computer and filling out a long form to get an application for a degree.
In my research, what I realized is these short codes are very expensive. Testing was going to prove problematic. Twilio, Plivo, I think is the name, they are pretty much two of the top people that I could find that have easy API coding documentation to be able to do the short-code. Then I ran across a few companies that actually rent, share out a specific short code like the 313131. Those companies, one of them was easytexting.com. The other one was Avid Mobile. I called up both companies, talked to them about their solutions. I was going to go with easytexting.com. I will say this, I have a Twilio account. I have a Plivo account. I even tested out Avid Mobile. Even with easytexting, none of these companies have it set up where anything is really automated or simplified for the end user.
I'm not putting these companies down. They offer great services. Easytexting and Avid Mobile are more cost effective if you don't want a dedicated short code number and you don't mind using just one number like 313131. You can pick your own keyword that people text. The problem with all of these companies they only provide you the infrastructure upfront to know when somebody texts the keyword to the short code. You've got an inbox that's similar to an email inbox. You can see who has text that and you can see your cell phone number within an interface, but that's truly about it.
This was a large concern for me because I wanted something that when the student texted the word, "Online degrees," to 313131 there would already be a system in place that would allow me an auto-response, like a message that says, "Thanks." Or even better a URL that appends their cellphone number to the end of the URL so that when the user presses it on their cellphone, when they get it as an auto-response, they now land on a mobile optimized lead form that has the cellphone number appended to the end of it so that we can get that into the form through a hidden field.
None of the companies even had that. None of them had an automated response. I actually had the code in PHP, that part of it up as a test example as a MVP basically, a minimal viable product to be able to sell to the university. If I go further past that, I also wanted something that could market to these people. If you did text the word, "Online degrees," to 313131 and now you've gotten my auto-response, which is simply a URL with your cellphone number pre-appended to it ... They press it on. They land on the lead form. If you fill that out, you hit a thank you page. If you don't fill it out and close it, I want to know that that happened.
I then had to proceed to build a pixel. This pixel had a database. The database basically told me who got the auto-response URL. Who actually pressed it, who then actually landed on the landing page with the lead form. Who filled out the landing form and hit the thank you page. This database and this pixel is able to record all those events. Then, now that I can tell who's hit the thank you page and who hasn't, I can now basically re-market through SMS texting the users who did not hit the thank you page, who obviously didn't fill out the form. I could hit them up two or three days later. Hit them up through SMS texting. Try to get them to come back and fill out the lead form. Maybe even try to send them a message that might alleviate their typical fears, which might be financial aid, which might be transfer credits. Anything that I could do to re-market them through their cellphone on SMS texting.
Then you could take that one step further and re-market with a different message to people who got the auto-response URL, but did not press it to land on the landing page to begin with. Then I wanted to send that information based on different variables and filters to an enrollment counselor who could then possibly call them on their cell phone maybe two or three weeks later if somebody hasn't got further down the funnel and actually filled out the form and got to the thank you page.
That entire system, which is pretty common for us digital marketers when we do email or when we do paperclip lead generation is not available whatsoever in the SMS short code texting arena at all. If there is a company that does it, I would be pretty well surprised because I did a lot of research into this trying to sell this idea to a large university. I was very motivated. In the end, I actually coded a lot of the stuff myself to try to sell the idea to the university. If there is a company that currently does this, there's still a huge market because if there's a company that does this that I've missed, they don't market themselves very well.
If there's no company whatsoever, this is an entire blue ocean that somebody out there listening to this podcast right now could pick up and run with and possibly create and make easier and problem solve for people who are looking to reach customers, prospective customers, through another channel other than email or paperclip or SEO, to be able now to reach these people through their cellphones, through text messaging.
Now, if anybody wants to run with this idea, if anybody wants to look into it, let me know if you pick it up. Let me know if it's successful. I would really happy to know. I want to throw these ideas out there. I want to make sure that they're valid ideas, that people love these ideas. Hopefully somebody takes it and starts a new career with it.
If you've got any questions, concerns, or comments, please leave them below and I'll see you next time.
Jason Brown is the Co-Founder of SERPWoo as well as a serial entreprenuer, digital marketer, web programmer, author, speaker, & mentor
At some point, he would like the bigger companies in his space to stop trying to steal his and his partners concepts and ideas and have them innovate on their own instead.