Dennis Yu

Excuses: I’ve Heard Them All

Where have you been? And hundreds more excuses than I am able to remember. I’ve heard them all. These are all important things you should take care of– for which you have a valid reason to miss work. But what is not okay is abandoning the team and the clients— only telling them AFTER the fact. Let team members know BEFORE you need to take a day or two off– so they can cover for your part. An unfortunate pattern we see with people new to digital marketing is using excuses to cover up reliability and performance issues. Digital marketing is hard– there is so much to learn and so much to do that it can be overwhelming. Too Much Freedom Plus, you have all this freedom, which is easy to abuse. Not that you are lazy or do not want to work– but because friends think you are “available” all the time, they invite you out to do things. So you want to be nice to friends and hang out, thinking you will get back to your projects later tonight or tomorrow. Except that never happens, and you fall further behind– since more distractions come up, all from well-meaning people who think you are not doing anything. A shift worker does not understand a digital marketer since their view of work is like a factory job when you show up at a certain time for your shift. If you are at home sitting on the couch, why not text all day, play with the dogs, and goof off? They do not realize you have project deadlines— team members counting on you and clients putting their business in your hands. Once Things Start Catching Up With You So when you realize you are behind, feeling “all by yourself” in your home, it is easy to go into excuse mode. “Let’s see… what is the best excuse I can come up with?” is what you are used to doing. We can usually think of something since if you look for something bad, you will find it. And that excuse might legitimately cover you for a day or two, but not for the months you have continued to struggle. So then you get caught in a loop of being so far behind, team members and courts chasing you down, and feeling unmotivated. I would rather watch Netflix and play video games to avoid the situation that is only getting worse. Allow this to continue and the clients will fire us. The team will believe you are not reliable and do not care. Communication and Discipline Instead of Excuses The root of this is you not having learned team communication skills and not having the discipline to work in an environment that does not have physical supervision. Sure, you would be more reliable if you had to drive to an office and be there by 8 am each morning and have a rigid schedule. There is much good about being a wage slave. But if you can learn the discipline to work in digital marketing, you can have amazing time freedom and be wherever you want. You have to decide if you are going to focus on excuses after the fact or whether you are accountable and proactive. Do you want to be the receptionist or factory-type worker that responds only when someone comes to the counter or calls? Or are you a leader who takes charge instead of moving only when someone tells you to? It’s Not Too Late for You If you are reading this, you have fallen into the most common trap of new digital marketers. The good news is that it is an easy trap to escape from, as thousands have learned on their path from beginner to pro. Resources Read “How I Manage 1,000 Emails a Day“ Read “What to do when you feel overwhelmed“ Read “The Importance of Lightweight Touches“ My friend, are you wondering why I asked you to visit this post? If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s because we didn’t hear from you for a few days. We tried to reach out to you, but you failed to get back to us. And when you finally responded, you most likely attempted to justify your absence and lack of communication with a “valid” reason. That’s why you’re here. I created this post to show you where I’m coming from. I hope that by now, you understand why I am so critical about good communication. This blog post is my best attempt to explain this most painful problem. I hope that starting today, you will work on your weaknesses so that we can get back on track. Why Don’t You Start Now? Do those five things, and you will see your teammates start applauding you instead of chasing you. And you will be able to experience the awesome freedom of digital marketing instead of working in a dead-end job in some place you have to drive to each day and back, doing the same boring thing in an endless cycle. If you want to grow, you are in the right place. And you should expect that learning new skills is a challenge you should be up to. Now let us get going since the team and our clients are counting on you and rooting for you!

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JustWorks has a Justspamming Problem from Super Aggressive Salespeople

It is true that all businesses want growth, but those that are doing business for the sake of business do not have a long run. Trying to reach Justworks after 7 times in a row of ignored messages over the last 5 weeks. You guys cold-called me TWICE at 3 am, even after I told you to stop. Sucks to be woken up on vacation– and then be told “Well, since you’re already up, I’d love to ask you a few questions about your payroll needs.” Your guy promised to resolve this, but you can see what happened and where we are now. Maybe Isaac Oates, the founder, will look at this screenshot below of what happened and do something. The next step is to turn this into a blog post, so it can rank on JustWorks and Isaac Oates. You can see we’ve made valiant attempts to reach them many times in the last 3 weeks. JustWorks Aggressive Attitude They want growth in business at all costs. I totally get it. But if you do too much of this (read the reviews on the company and see how many clients got destroyed, then left hanging) by untrained people, it will eventually catch up to you. Even if you raise $143 million (yes, I agree that’s impressive), you can’t outrun these sorts of problems, like what happened to me. I promise Justworks that we’re seeing this through until they finally acknowledge what they did to me and fix it. It’s not personal. It’s aggressive young dudes making as many calls as they can; business, boiler room style. Yeah, no one likes outbound. If you assume responsibility for everything, turning your phone to silent while sleeping could have fixed this. But does this give the salesperson the right to call me multiple times even after I said not to? If I had to imagine why their system failed it would probably be something in the request to schedule a time.  The call disposition doesn’t record as removed from the list so the automation keeps pushing for a call. Maybe this person isn’t empowered to deviate from the pre-determined paths.  I’m leaning toward this being an unfortunate edge case that maybe affects a smaller percentage of their prospects. Even with the best automation, you still need competent humans to use the tools. Otherwise, you get Robo dialers who mindlessly read scripted responses. companies should have a process that works independently of whether one person screws up big time. An owner can never condone that type of intrusive outreach. Every company has a persona and it is relatively obvious what Justwork’s persona is.  The stereotype is true. Justworks wouldn’t work for me!

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Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors: What It Really Takes to Build a Successful Marketing Agency

This is a guest post by Nick Jaworski of Circle Social Inc. Owning multiple 7-figure digital marketing agencies, I never found the typical social media crowd very helpful. There are a lot of smoke and mirrors in the digital marketing world. Fake gurus are everywhere, but even the bonafide have never appealed to me very much. When I started my agency, I wanted to build something meaningful and impactful. And one thing I learned about impact over the years is that the bigger you are, the more impact you can have. I quickly realized that the majority of the experts out there were one-man bands. Maybe they had a couple of VAs or a Community Manager helping them out, but they’re not what I would now consider to be a large or scalable business. As I’ve learned over the years, that’s about as far as most people want to go. Whether it’s fear, lack of know-how, or just no interest in taking on the huge amount of work and responsibility that comes with growth, most agencies don’t make it past the 3-4 person stage.  I’m a big admirer of Dennis and all the work he’s put into helping young people and really having an impact on the world by sharing his knowledge. He also knows what he’s talking about. When I first started my agency, I had so much to learn and, like many in the same boat, scoured the internet for people to learn from. However, all I ever heard were platitudes like “content is king,” “marketing is about building relationships,” or “tell your story.” From the get-go, my agency was focused on return on investment. What really attracted me to digital marketing originally was the data. The fact that I could tie our work to real ROI, where I could prove our value to our clients. This is where Dennis stood out. I could tell from reading his content that he had true expertise in helping real companies. That’s why I was very interested in sharing my experiences on his blog as he’s the real deal. When I entered the realm of digital marketing, there was something glaringly missing from me in the world of social media and marketing influencers I found online. None of them owned large companies with a lot of staff.  Instead, as I started to network and get into the world of business, I saw all these people running 8 and 9-figure companies, but I never saw these people online. These people led or had built huge companies and most didn’t even have a Twitter profile. More than that, many of their companies didn’t either! That told me that following the online social media crowd was unlikely to be the road to success. Speaking with Dennis, I wanted to share a real story of what it truly takes to grow a successful agency. I registered my business in 2016 but didn’t actually launch it till late fall, so almost 2017. By the end of 2020, I had scaled it to a full-service agency with a consulting wing, marketing wing, over 20 full-time, W-2 staff, and a national reputation as the foremost expert in our niche. Our largest client does over a billion dollars a year in revenue, while most land somewhere in the $10-300 million range. That’s a pretty cool success story, but the reality is that it’s extremely rare and it took a tremendous amount of effort, risk, and investment to get where we are today. This article is not going to feed you a lot of BS about overnight successes and “passive income.” It’s going to talk about the never-ending real work and sacrifice that goes into it. Unemployed and Starting the Business I had been a teacher and, eventually, a school administrator ever since I left university. I had developed a reputation as a turn-around guy for schools, someone who could come in and fix failing programs. This led to me being called in by the largest daycare operator in the US to fix one of their most troublesome schools in Indianapolis, IN in 2015.  That turned into a nightmare. It was in a low-income area with lots of drugs and gun violence. We had just had a shooting at the school less than a year before and now the program was on probation by the state for the third time in less than 4 years and was going to be shut down. My job was to come in and turn it around.  After a year of 80-hour work weeks, no organizational support, and the challenge of finding quality teachers willing to work in one of the more drug-infested, violent areas of town for $8 an hour, I finally got the school re-licensed by the state and on track to national accreditation. It was an amazing accomplishment, but I didn’t want to be there. It’d been hell, so I asked for a transfer to a new school. Instead of transferring me, they told me that, since I clearly didn’t want to be there anymore, they no longer needed me. I was let go that day. That was the last straw. I’d been in education and working for other people for nearly two decades. I was burned out. So I decided to start Circle Social. I started it out of my house in-between caring for my daughter. We had just $2,000 in the bank and my wife was only making $10 an hour, so we couldn’t afford daycare. Circle Social was off to a pretty inglorious start. I was writing 1,500-word blog posts at $10 a pop under the company moniker, but really I was just a freelancer since it was just me and these were piecemeal projects. You see, nobody starts a business charging high fees. Most who do are quickly realized to be frauds by their clients. Their business may limp along for even a couple of years but eventually folds. To succeed in business, you have to charge

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You can’t please everyone, so don’t make the same mistake I did.

You can show your care in a couple of sentences. But don’t make the mistake I’ve made with one Office Hours subscriber specifically, where I’ve given him hours of my time privately to help him build his brand. He wanted me to join his podcast several times, then canceled and no-showed, which is not good form.   He didn’t follow through on the specific recommendations I gave him– which is key for anyone in our program, even if just courses, group coaching, or private one-on-one coaching. We are teaching at intermediate to advanced levels– we don’t have much beginner-level content.   But if you present yourself as an industry pro who is teaching others about how to expand your brand via digital, I’d assume you’re not a beginner yourself. We are not right for everyone.  We aren’t trying to please everyone— just the top folks in the industry to start, who in turn can then teach their communities. I admire that our subscriber wants to be a big personal brand that teaches others how to grow their personal brand.  But he’s not at the level of a partner– he needs to be a specialist (learn how to do digital) or a business (client) first. Watch for people who want to be partners, but need to start at specialists or businesses. Think about their expectations and look at it from their point of view – as if they were actually a partner – to see the gap in expectations.

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The key to your email inbox

Want to know the secret to never missing a thing? I use the Boomerang by Gmail tool to bring back messages that people don’t reply on. The downside is that if the other person continually doesn’t reply, then you get a chain of these where you have to keep chasing them. This works most of the time– a lifesaver if you’re a business owner that is the last line of defense in your business. But it also means you have to be willing to deal with stuff like in the screenshot below. Some people will say that you should fire people who can’t get organized or to ignore clients that can’t reliably respond. Yet some of the most loyal people I’ve known over the years were in this state of disorganization and are now solidly on top of their communication game. I believe communication skills are more important than any sort of digital wizardry– that a reliable team beats the super genius. Amen?

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This is what I use for Zoom calls

For video, you can get fantastic results with a simple Sony 5100 and wide-angle lens, or splurge a bit and get a Sony A7R4 like me. The key is the wide-angle lens, which gives you that nice creamy blurred background, makes your room look really big, and is reachable from your desk— don’t need to get up to turn it on or off. The second is audio— use anything but the laptop mic and speakers. Even a cheap powerdewise lav mic or Blue Yeti will be a huge improvement. But if you want to go next level, get your mic off the table to eliminate that pesky noise when you touch the table. And get your mouth within 12 inches of it so you don’t get an echo. For lights, one cheap $40 light is all you need. But you can get more lights for your background or for shooting a whiteboard, like me. The other accessories are not critical. I like to have TVs to let me see guests I’m interviewing, and slides I might be presenting (on the laptop or on a TV behind me). I have a cheap Logitech speaker system (sounds great), and some other doodads. If you want the full set-up guide, step-by-step, to help you at any budget, with cheap, quality, and pro-level options, comment VIDEO below and I’ll send it to you.

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed…COMMUNICATE. If you’re not sure what to do next…COMMUNICATE. If you’re not feeling motivated…COMMUNICATE. Not asking for help is a sure way to spiral down when the inevitable challenges come. And no matter how good your reasons may appear, the end result of failure is still the same– you didn’t get your project done and you didn’t ask for help to save it. When you take action, even if small, that momentum can build you up from 2 miles per hour to 100 miles per hour. You need to just get out of your paralysis. It takes courage to COMMUNICATE when you’re feeling down. Asking for help is not a weakness– hiding is a weakness. This is the #1 thing we teach young adults (which applies to all of us– me, too)– to be reliable communicators all the time. If you’re facing a challenge right now, are you asking for help or trying to be Superman to solve things all by yourself?

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Don’t ever say you were BUSY if you kept ignoring messages.

Executives know that BUSY is a polite word for “low priority”. You weren’t too busy to go to the hospital if you were ill, too busy bingeing on Netflix, or too busy with other items on your list. Don’t be ashamed of your choices, since you don’t have to say yes to everyone and everything. Tell them it’s just not a priority. Or say that it is a priority but you lost track of their messages and lost track of your time. If you’re under 30, most people are quite lenient about that. I say no to stuff not because I’m too BUSY, but because I don’t want to trade that for another hour of sleep, another hour of working out, an hour with people important to me, or a business project that is important to me. Not everything can be important. You’re never too busy for the things that matter to you.

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As painful as it sounds, you have to allow people to fail.

But have safety nets in place so that the price of failure is a bruised ego instead of catastrophic loss to your client or your company. Coach them along the way and provide positive feedback, so iteration allows for minor course corrections. Are you going off the rails? And if not, why aren’t you giving your team enough space to do so?

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Let me share with you one of the most powerful phrases I know…

This is what you say when your friends hit you up for free consulting. After all, you’re a social media marketing pro, and social media is free– so your help is free, too, right? You and I spend all day long just hanging out on Twitter and Facebook doing teenager-type stuff– not anything important. So naturally, they can “pick your brain” for “only a minute” to help them with their ads, a strategy question, or whatnot. Here is the phrase I learned from a mentor of mine: “You know I do this for a living, right?” You’d not expect them to offer their services for free to you, either— free meals if they own a restaurant, free homes if they build houses, free tax advice if they are a CPA, and so forth. So why should digital marketing services be any different? If it’s a quick question you can answer right there– do it. But if it’s more, you can use that magic phrase to wake them up. They’re not consciously trying to take advantage of you– they just don’t know any better. You can also send them a link to an article that you wrote or one I wrote– maybe a video. So give away your content for free– shared transparently via videos, articles, and podcasts you’ve made. Just don’t give away your time. And if you know it’s more than “just 5 minutes”, say “I’d be happy to help you. This is going to be more than 5 minutes to do it right, so you can book time with me at [link].” Which sends them to your Power Hour page to buy a consulting slot— not to your calendar to give away time for free. Time is your most valuable asset– it’s so precious that you must charge for it and ensure others respect your experience. Otherwise, your entire day will be filled with distractions from people who don’t value your time, yet are the most demanding. And if you find yourself “too busy” to pay your bills and pursue your priorities, this is likely why.

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