Wow. I can’t believe I just wrote the title, “2018 Year in Review!” I truly can’t believe that 2018 is almost over. I’m excited about the new year, but honestly not quite ready to be there yet. I don’t want to skip the slow and sweet Christmas season in an effort to prepare all the things for a new year. True to my personality, I have a tendency to never finish anything. Including the year! I’m always moving. Always looking for the next thing to do. While it helps me accomplish a lot, I am eager to rest.
So instead of goal planning and action listing, I decided to press pause, look back, and celebrate what has already happened! Let’s see where this goes!
January through March
After Crew was born, I took maternity leave that would last through March. That time with him and our little family of 5 was so sweet! While I may have opened my computer a few times, it was only because I wanted to and there were no strings or deadlines attached. I actually designed a new website in January for myself HA! It just so happens to be the design for this year’s best selling product: The Bun Up Template (although I had no idea I would be selling website templates at the time!). Thankfully, my amazing assistant Emily Yost held down the whole MMC fort for me to enjoy every minute of snuggles and design playing during maternity leave. Love you, Emily!
I also joined a group coaching program with Christina Scalera to help grow my template shop. At the time, I was only selling the marketing templates, but the experience with her gave me the confidence to pursue expanding the product line later in the year. My biz bestie Kat Schmoyer joined the program with me and we had SO MUCH FUN learning each other’s business models and becoming more than just biz friends. When our time in the program was over, we decided to start our own little mastermind and have been doing (almost) weekly calls since. Those hours have been such a blessing to my life and business and I am so grateful for her friendship!
With a 4 month leave coming to a close, naturally, I started gearing up for what I wanted my business to look like as April approached. Taking a leave was the best thing I’ve done for my business in a long time. That space away from the daily grind, the email inbox, the to-dos, and shoulda done those’s was so refreshing. Leave gave me the freedom to get clarity for what mattered in my life and especially my business.
A theme kept popping up in my mind over and over: I want to simplify this business. Strip it down. Do only what matters to serve my customers well and stop the rat race of everything else. I know that may sound DUH or even cliche, but that theme has been the driving force in all of my business decisions this year. Instead of more, I want quality. And that meant letting go of some things in my business. Things like the Facebook group I was hoping to grow, daily posting on the IG feed, and even the YouTube strategy I was working on (and paid for support on!). Things like shifting plans for sales goals and our team objectives.
In letting go instead of jumping back in full steam ahead, I had even more mental space to just dream. And it was then that an idea sparked. Before I went on maternity leave, I had begun helping my dear friend Laura Foote on a new website she could be confident in. The design was inspired by a previous website of mine during my wedding planning days. She loved it so much that she literally wanted me to recreate it for her photography business. Since I had been using Showit 5 awhile, had my bearings with the platform, and knew how easy it would be for her to change as she desired in the long term, I excitedly jumped at my first client website design in over a year.
In all that space, it hit me. I could finally do a project I had been dreaming about for a long time: Website Templates. I explored creating website templates in the past, but the barrier to entry was too high for both my customers and my bottom line. But Showit solved those problems. I called Laura and asked her if she would be comfortable with me selling the remade design as a limited release template and she graciously agreed. Then I emailed the Showit team to ask if I could be a designer. They said yes! (Her website design was the basis for our 2nd best selling product this year: Leftover Peonies!)
My business was about to take a wild ride!
April through July
When April arrived and I got back to work, Project Showit 5 Website Templates, officially kicked off. I got down to business to finish Laura’s website and strategically think through how to build the templates in a way that anyone could pick up and run with. My goal was to make them very easy to edit while also providing high-touch resources like video trainings to help my customers walk step by step through the entire process.
In simple terms, creating the website templates was a beast! But SO fun.
Out of the gate, I knew I wanted to create an exclusive model for the product line. The last thing I wanted for my customer’s public facing “storefront” was for 187 other people to have the same look. And they had to be good. Like you hired me to custom design your website good. I pulled out some trusty printer paper and a good ‘ole fashion pencil and started drafting design concepts like a mad woman. Interestingly enough, I was sketching for very specific people in our industry. People who didn’t ask me for a new site, HA! It wasn’t that their sites are bad, but their brand personalities and offerings just inspired me. I still haven’t told them!
Along with being really good, they had to be unique. Showit 5 Website Templates were already a thing. The market was already saturated and growing. I knew I could whip up a line of minimal fine art esque templates and have a bunch of people in the creative industry who would like that style. But it had already been done. So I had a decision to make, go the safe route and hope it can sell, or do something crazy and do what I knew really well. And if you know me, you know I love me some color. And I love to create “out of the box” bold designs. I crossed my fingers and hoped that someone out there just might be like me. Someone who didn’t have my design ability and wished that they could find colorful, bright, and bold options to represent their businesses and brands.
During this time, another dear friend, Lauren Carnes, reached out and asked if I could help her zhush up her brand and a Showit Template she got from The Palm Shop with an eye for conversion and her brand story in mind. She also wanted to build a resources page and wasn’t quite sure how to tackle some of the more custom elements that would entail. I really took her love of food and ran with it in building the custom portion of her resources page (and convinced her to name it the pantry!) including the shelf of “staple” freebie downloads and her “recipe box” for sharing her favorite tools and resources in business. I even convinced her to come out from the gray and white box and into the color-loving side of the world and we added a delicious shade of RED to her brand refresh palette! I still can’t get over that gorgeous shade. It brought her whole messaging strategy to life in such a compelling visual way!
Helping Lauren complete her site gave me another idea: I need to build the templates for actual people. People outside my specific business model. I needed to get perspective on the needs, desires, fears, and hang-ups that my actual customers would have. I had already started that process with Laura which was extremely eye-opening from a photography client perspective, but I wanted to branch out even further.
So I put a call out on Insta and mysteriously asked for friends to reply if they fit a very specific set of qualifiers. Things like, “You need a new website. You love COLOR. You have some sort of B2B direction in your business like a VA, social media coordinator, coach, and etc. And you must be a fun-loving and friendly person (haha!).”
The response I got to that was overwhelming! I assumed no one would reply and over 35 people raised their hand in the first 24 hours. I knew I was onto something. I poured over the responses and pitched the idea of building a custom website at a reduced rate to 3 of them with the understanding that I would flip the design into a template for sale.
I started the design process with them and was busy building the entire product line framework BTS. During our time together, a similar theme kept popping up in conversation, “Let’s not just design for design sake. Let’s design these websites to convert.” That theme would become the biggest unique value proposition for my entire line up of website templates and brand positioning.
I committed to creating stunning and unique designs that were built to convert.
When July came around, I packed my bags and drove to Atlanta with baby Crew for a girls weekend away with the gals of my mastermind and a few new friends, too. That weekend gave me the confidence to push forward and get the job done all whole being such an encouraging and uplifting time with friends. Love you, ladies!
After I got home, I built yet another website for myself (can you tell I like to change things up?) so I could actually sell the templates well and refreshed my own brand to clearly convey my UVP of owning my design style and “helping creatives convert online.”
I’m not gonna lie, July was coo coo bananas. Building a new heavily detailed e-commerce site from scratch and finishing product production was NUTS. There was a week mid-July where I literally only slept 5 hours total to get it all done. Work-life balance was not a thing in that moment. I had over 150 people on a waitlist just for the website template launch, so I had to get it done!
On July 25th, aka Christmas in July, I launched the biggest project of my career and my first summer promotional sale. J and I were actually on vacation during the launch and could not believe our eyes as the sales started to roll in. In a matter of hours, we made over $6,000. And hit $8,000 by the end of the sale. I don’t say that to brag, but rather to explain that that win was a major turning point in my business. After years of learning, strategizing, shifting, and trying to put a finger on the right product plus the months of hard work it took to build the line, I had finally found my niche. My thing. What I was really good at. What I could confidently share with my customers to help them grow their own businesses. I’m tearing up just thinking about those days and my sweet customers who believed in me. What a JOY!
August through October
In late August, I co-hosted my first in-person event with Kat: The Business Intensive. For 2 days, we deep dived with 12 creative business owners looking to grow and get strategic. Magic happened in that room as the light bulbs went off and I am so grateful for every single woman who traveled to Jacksonville. Kat and I thrived together as an educator team and she was a Mama rock star as she juggled 12-week old baby Micah, while being extremely present with the group the whole time. Seeing her as a mompreneur after her hard season of waiting was such a beautiful answer to prayer!
When the adrenaline settled after such a big push in July and the Intensive in August, I started working on the long-term strategy of marketing our new products and planning out new templates to add to the line-up. With a slow and steady mindset. It was time to put family first again after such a crazy month!
I slowly started putting the puzzle pieces of the plan together and began feeling a bit of tension in marketing my business. My brand reach was hitting a ceiling and I couldn’t figure out the right path to take. Up until that point, my blog was the “main hub” of my marketing plan and every other traffic channel came under my blogging efforts in terms of importance. But I knew I needed to refine my email marketing strategy and make my newsletter the priority. I also had a hunch that it was time for me to begin a targeted Facebook Ad strategy to break through the ceiling I was in.
I wrestled for weeks with what to do with my blog while not wanting to add more noise to everyone’s ever-growing inboxes. I turned to my trusty Insta story friends and started the conversation about gating my content (aka only giving access to subscribers). I got a mix of negative and positive feedback and still wasn’t sure what to do. So I reached out to a long time customer of mine, Yasmine Kashefi.
Yasmine has an extensive background in business operations and funnel strategy. At the time I reached out, I knew she was working for a firm, but turns out that the day I slid into her Insta DM, she was working her very last day. What started as a conversation hoping she could point me in the direction of some support turned into a Google Hangout with her to share my pain points. She raised her hand to help me and within a few days, I added Yasmine to the team. As a previous brand design client and template customer of mine, she already understood my brand, product line, and ideal customer really well. It was such a natural fit. We immediately got to work on refining my messaging and figuring out a content marketing plan for growth that felt authentic.
Enter the monthly guides. A 180 turn on my marketing distribution plan. Instead of putting all my best content on the blog and sending everyone there, I poured as much value as I could into our first monthly guide that would be exclusive to my email besties for the month of October. We decided to offer the guides in the shop after each month was up at an affordable price for future new friends in case they needed the help, and made it clear to my subscribers that they had till the end of the month to get it for free.
Yasmine helped me create a plan to also use the monthly guides as the benchmark for my Facebook ad strategy so I could start generating new leads. Emily and I got to work creating a workflow for the all the touch points of distributing the guides. I wrote and designed our first guide, Secrets of Magnetic Brands and built the entire funnel. You wouldn’t believe how much work goes into them! I then shipped all the details over to Yasmine to build our first ad campaign and sent the MMC Mail Club their first monthly guide the second week of October.
I was so nervous. Would my audience like it? Was I going to spend SO much money in ads being the month before Black Friday? Was this going to flop?
It worked. Big time.
My subscribers RAVED about the guide. The response of praise was staggering! Many people reached out to say that they couldn’t believe how valuable the guide was and before I knew it, they were sharing it all over Instagram Stories without me asking. I even had a sweet follower ask if I had graphics I could give her so she could promote it for me!
And Yasmine worked major magic on the ad side. I honestly have no idea what she does or how she does it, but she is good at it! Before the campaign launched, we had a conversation about how I should expect $3- $4 a lead. She was seeing other campaigns with a lower cost per lead around $1.80 – $2, but she wanted me to be ready for the investment should it be near or above industry standard.
After turning on the ads, we were quickly seeing CRAZY cost per leads coming in at $0.60 – $0.80! And they weren’t rising even after a few days. I gave her the green light to scale that baby up and in a matter of 3 weeks, Yasmine helped me bring in over 1,000 new leads into my email list. With our funnel strategy, we averaged a cost per lead of less than $1 for the entire month. Girl is a superstar!
We crossed our fingers and repeated the whole thing again in November. Knowing full well that November is the most expensive time to run ads with holiday sales and steep competition. I let Yasmine do her thing and she produced big time, again. She ran ads the entire month to the November guide and brought in over 1,000 more leads at an unbelievable average cost per lead of $1.09.
In mid-November, I also led a breakout at my fave creative conference, Creative at Heart, on how to leverage Pinterest for business and had the best time ever with all my creative online buddies turned real-life girlfriends. If you haven’t been, you should just go. Trust me on it, mmkay?
Then I hosted my 2nd Black Friday Sale and the results quite literally shocked us. I wrote a whole post on what went down that you can dig into here.
Blown away. That’s all I can say! Ever since the Black Friday sale, I’ve just been resting and processing over how this year was a whole lot of hard work that paid off. I am so grateful for my team and the way they love my business as much as I do. I’m so grateful for J who stepped away from his career in July. He has been helping so much with the kids these past 6 months and we are now looking forward to integrating him into the business in 2019! I’m so grateful for the best friends in business that anyone could hope for. And I’m grateful beyond words for my customers and clients who make this all happen. Blown away.
I’m not ready for 2018 to be over. I want to enjoy it just a little bit longer.
I think I will. 😉
Merry Christmas, sweet friend. I hope you get to enjoy these last days of 2018, too! I’m taking a few weeks off to savor the season, but I can’t wait to be back here soon and share our plan and strategy as we start the new year!