About Kelly McCausey

Kelly McCausey hosts the Solo Smarts podcast and loves being a solopreneur, operating unique online businesses and helping others find their own online success.

Here are my most recent posts

Eighteen Months After My Big Rebrand

It was more than a year and a half ago when I realized I needed to make a big change. After more than nine years in the ‘work at home mom’ niche, I had an empty nest and an increasingly awkward sense of self when I sat down to blog and podcast content for that niche.

When you love your niche the way I did (do!), you’re slow to notice that you may no longer fit in with the people you’re talking to. But that’s the key – when you realize you’re talking TO them, not WITH them. I realized I was having a bit of an identity crisis!

After much thought and consideration, I felt most authentic identifying myself as a solopreneur and decided to embrace that niche.

Solopreneurs are entrepreneurs who run a business on their own on purpose, light and tight. They don’t have plans to take on employees one day or grow into a big corporation. This sets them apart and means they need different resources than the typical entrepreneur who does dream of that sort of growth.

My First Rebrand Image

So in the summer of 2011 I made the big announcement, I was going to change everything up and rebrand from Work at Home Moms Talk Radio to Solo Smarts. Basically, I’d still be talking about building online businesses that can be done from home and interviewing the people who do it, just focusing on the online solopreneur (men and women) instead of moms.

When You Rebrand, You Worry.

How will my market respond? Will the moms I’ve been working with all of these years feel like I’m leaving them behind? Will they misinterpret my change as a message that I feel like I’ve outgrown them? I did not feel that at all.

Thankfully, I’ve always been transparent with my blog readers, podcast listeners and email subscribers. I was able to simply share my heart and the thought process I was going through. They knew my son was grown and out of the house. They knew I didn’t have the work at home mom lifestyle anymore.

Letting them in on everything in advance, I set out to change the name and look of my blog and podcast. Then I extended the change to my shopping cart and membership site. It was a lot of work. In spite of my efforts, there was some confusion in the months after as people who weren’t paying close attention noticed the changes and asked questions. I expected that and didn’t let concern me.

I was pleased to note that while I did lose about 15% of my mailing list over the next year, I actually experienced an increase in engagement with my subscribers. The subscribers who stayed loved the change and loved being on the inside, knowing what was coming and being able to watch it all take shape. I chose to believe that the moms who left my list did so because they really needed to learn from someone IN their situation. I wasn’t in it anymore so it wasn’t a rejection of me or my new brand, it was an embracing of themselves.

When A Rebrand Involves A Change in Gender Focus, You Worry.

My market was moms for so long and that meant I only talked to and worked with women. I never aimed even a tiny amount of my content to a co-ed crowd before. When I completed the rebrand to Solo Smarts I purposefully chose a man for my first podcast interview and continued to include men in my schedule. I loved it of course but I’ll admit it felt unnatural at first. I also intentionally avoided interviewing anyone focused on a mom niche. This meant turning down a lot of interview requests at first but that isn’t a forever thing. Work at home moms are usually solopreneurs and I still love the niche, so I’ll definitely be interviewing some great WAHMs in the future.

The reason behind leaving them out for awhile was to help me make a clean break. I wanted everything about my new brand to say this is for men and women and not all WAHM focused anymore.

I also turned down requests to be interviewed on WAHM focused blogs and podcasts. This was painful because I love any chance to get exposure but in light of the rebrand, it wouldn’t have been the right exposure.

I recently sought out my best guest blog content hosts and asked them to update my bio to include my new brand and update my link to Solo Smarts. They’re happy to do that. I’ve asked others to simply delete my content or remove my name if it’s not going to serve my new brand well. Again, they’re quick to cooperate and I appreciate that.

The wrinkle in the mix is my membership site. Mom Masterminds turned into Solo Masterminds but members wanted to keep it focused on women. I decided to embrace their wishes and only accept female members. The reason being that it has always been more than a business community, inviting men in would change the way we relate to one another. Every once in awhile a man will express some regret on this, but that’s OK. Everything else I do is non gender focused.

I’m Not Worried Anymore.

 

Eighteen months later, I believe I’ve accomplished my goals. It’s rare these days for someone to refer to me as being a ‘WAHM’. It’s unusual for someone to say that I’m the ‘mom business expert’. Opportunities to speak to a co-ed business crowd finally started coming in over this past year. I’ll be teaching on podcasting at a live event next month and I do believe the room will have as many men as women, that’s pretty exciting.

Solopreneurs are Smarter

One of the things I did that really help to cement my new brand was to write a book. Solopreneurs are Smarter is a small book where I get to share what a solopreneur is and what makes them unique. If you’ve made a big branding change or plan to, I encourage you to think about a book. What you’ve published says a lot about who you are and who you want to reach!

Does Local Business Have to Mean Having An Office?

I’m curious about the opinions of the small business owners who read this blog. Do you think that you have to have a public office space to be taken seriously as a local businessman or woman? A fellow shared an opinion with me recently that went something like this:

If you don’t invest yourself into a physical presence in the community (ie: rent office space) other business owners will not respect you or send you their business.

I was both surprised and to be honest, a bit peeved about it. In this high tech, high speed world I am 100% virtual. Why should I have to house my desk in a retail office space in order to be seen as ‘in business’ by other small business owners.

Many small business owners have rejected the confines of big business with it’s stuffed shirt attitude and entrepreneurs have given up corporate politics to enjoy being able to run their own businesses their way.

But has the small business community given birth to its own snobbery?

I realize that at least in part, this guy’s opinion is based on his knowledge of the local small business environment – but I think it is an attitude shared elsewhere as well. In some small way, some business owners feels like more of a business person when they leave their home to ‘go to the office’ or to ‘open the store’.

I’m as much ‘in business’ as they are – I don’t want or need a storefront or office space to build websites and consult with my podcast and internet marketing clients. Do you really want me to charge you the prices I’d have to charge if I had to carry an extra $1500 or so in monthly expenses just to look at a different set of walls and sit under a different set of lights?

It’s time to shake off these old fashioned attitudes. The lines between small office and home office is blurring so far as to disappear.

What Does Your Internet Presence Say About You?

A local website design firm noticed that their area chamber of commerce website hadn’t been updated in awhile and contact them to offer their assistance. The chamber’s decision makers were pleased to take them up on their offer and scheduled a meeting to discuss their needs.

The design firm came to the meeting with a proposed new design with an updated look with a blog component.

They discovered at that the person in charge of the website at the chamber was ‘very happy’ with the current design and only wanted to hear what they would charge to ‘keep it up’. With a few carefully chosen questions they learned that the existing website design has been created by her college aged son nearly five years ago.

Taking a deep breath, the head designer decided to give it to her straight.

“Your existing design was perfectly appropriate when it was developed, but it has a dated look that isn’t serving you well in 2008. As an organization that services and promotes businesses for an entire community, don’t you want your internet presence to represent that you are up to date and on the ball?”

As a mom, I can imagine that being asked to consider that the proud handiwork of my child is outdated would have been hard to swallow. Chances are it was a source of pride to be able to say that the website was created by her son. Fortunately though, she was a savvy business woman first and saw the validity of their argument.

She was willing at that point to take a look at their proposal and ended up hiring them to give the chamber website a complete update.

What about your online presence? What does it say about your business? Should you consider updating the look of your website?

Being Focused Allows You To Act Fast

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When you build a business with extreme focus you are positioned to move quick when the need arises and that is often something that business owners with a fractured focus have trouble with.

I have one target market and know it well. Because I’ve chosen to devote myself to this one snug market of business owners it is easy for me to stay in tune with their needs. When an opportunity comes to introduce them to something new I can spring into action with minimal additional research.

I can decide fast, act fast and see results fast.

Can you say the same? Share why you could say yes or no :)

If Your Focus Changes

Brand Changes

It’s not at all unusual for an entrepreneur to start in one direction only to change their mind and turn towards something new. If the change is dramatic you know you’ll be starting from scratch as far as developing a new business brand, but what if the change is more subtle or takes place over time?

When is it time to scrap the old brand and go for something completely new?

When is it ok to ‘tweak’ what you have to avoid a complete do-over?

Wendy Peirsall tackled a big branding decision and knows the great challenge of facing these questions. A year or so ago Wendy launched eMomsatHome.com with a clear ‘mom’ focus but over time the popular site outgrew its ‘mom blog’ roots.

She tweaked and adjusted her website to incorporate the differences as much as she could without giving up her ‘eMoms’ brand – but it was like trying to redecorate a convenience store to look like a shopping mall.

Wendy had to let go of the old in order to let the new be all that it could be. After much brainstorming, gathering of opinions and advice, eMomsatHome.com relaunched in April as Sparkplugging.com. The little mom blog that was bursting at the seams is now a thriving blog network with an exciting future.

It took guts to scrap her existing brand and start from scratch developing a new identity but now she has a brand that can grow.

If you’ve changed your focus over time, ask yourself if your brand needs some tweaking – or even a do-over. It’s very possible that your current website is confusing potential clients and sabotaging your efforts to improve your bottom line.

Don’t let a little starting from scratch scare you off.

Targeting a Niche: How Obvious Do You Have To Be?

After a great conversation with a coaching client this week I have been thinking about how different businesses target a niche and I’d like to tap the great pool of branding knowledge here for some input.

Sometimes a business goes for the obvious approach.

In the Virtual Assistant industry there are providers who have niched themselves to a particular group of potential clients by declaring the niche in their name. (Internet Marketers VA, Writer Support VA, New Media VA) It’s clear to anyone who sees their business card or visits their website that they are niche focused. Their choice of name attracta their desired niche while at the same time discouraging others which is exactly what they want.

Why do they want to turn some potential clients away?

They know they are more likely to secure a long term relationship and a premium pay rate with clients who needs their specialized experience and skills.

My client who is in the financial advice field wants to know if she should move in that direction or not. She has been getting great word of mouth referrals for clients in the medical field, should she somehow create a brand for her business around that clientèle?

Unlike the VAs mentioned above who have specialized skills for specific markets, the services provided to these clients are really no different than those provided to others but she has definitely spotted trends in the financial challenges medical providers face.

Is that enough to declare a specialty? Should she adopt a brand that targets medical professionals?

Would it be her ticket to really setting herself apart from others or should she stay with her current non-niched brand and let the referrals come as they may?

What questions would you ask to clarify things and what advice would you give?

Where Focus Will Get You

On this, my first post here at Small Business Branding, I am going to talk some serious smack about our fearless leader, Vera Raposo.

Ok, that’s a fib.

I’m actually going to brag on her so much it will make her mother blush ;)

I met Vera almost four years ago through our mutual friend, Alice Seba. Vera jumped on board as one of the first members of our mentoring website, Mom Masterminds. She was a serial small business entrepreneur with a taste for something new. She took to internet marketing like a duck to water and pursued every learning opportunity she could lay her hands on. It has been a pleasure to watch her take what she learned, apply it to a topic of personal interest and turn it all into one of the most focused internet businesses I have ever seen develop from scratch.

Notice how I put the emphasis on ‘focused‘?

I have a professional passion in business and that is to see the people in my target market creating focused businesses. I want to convince everyone listening to my podcast and reading my blog posts that choosing one target market to become totally focused on is paramount to their success.

It pleases me to no end that Vera can serve as a ‘poster child’ for this focused business message!

Take a look at what she’s done.

  • She chose a topic: Scrapbooking.
  • She chose a message: You can make money with your Scrapbooking hobby.
  • She served up free quality information: ScrapVenture.com
  • She served up love for her topic and community: ScrappersTalkRadio.com
  • She served up entry level paid resources: ScrapVentureReports.com
  • She served up a specialized membership site: ScrapVenturePro.com
  • She served up premium coaching: ScrapVentureCoaching.com
  • She served up an income stream: ScrapVentureAffiliates.com

Without looking to the right or to the left, with unwavering focus, Vera has embraced a target market and become what I call a ‘Master Translator’ of internet marketing knowledge, breaking it down into the language and applications that fit her market perfectly.

Hey Kelly, if Vera’s a ‘focused business poster child’ what do you think
about her taking on Small Business Branding? This is completely outside
of her original target market isn’t it
?’

Awe… you know me so well already :)

Yes, Vera’s new venture flies in the face of everything I teach about a focused business. She’s taken on an entirely different target market after all. But, as much as it may shock you – I’m in full support of Vera’s choice and I’ll be glad to explain why.

You see… Vera is special. She is one of the few who has not just given lip service to the ideas of using technology, automation and outsourcing. She has built a firm foundation and a scalable system. She has developed a reliable support structure that enables her to not only manage, but grow her existing business without having to have her hands on every activity.

Because of this, she had reached a point where she can pursue another area of passion.

If she were still in the building stage; if she were still trying to keep her fingers in every pot – I’d be calling a ‘focus foul’ at the top of my lungs! But, I’m not. Rather, I’m pleased as punch about her amazing progress and can’t wait to see where this leg of her Entrepreneurial Road Trip takes her.

I’d like to invite you to come on over to Work at Home Moms Talk Radio this week and listen to my feature interview with Vera. We talk all about her ‘Road Trip’. You’ll gain some valuable insights, get to know Vera better and find ideas to help you on the road to where you’re going.