On navigating highs and lows in business…

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When running your own business, you are constantly dealing with crap. Its just the bottom line, and not everyone is built for that.  I signed up for it and I choose to deal with it in a positive and productive way in the macro. That being said, the reality is that it can be very tough and tiring in the micro.

Being an Entrepreneur, especially at the helm of a service business is much more grind than glory.  You constantly have to navigate volatile and erratic market conditions, different (and often counter productive) client personalities and employee development and idiosyncrasies, while also maintaing an offensive mindset, despite being mired in defense on the daily. You must be razor sharp and always tweaking and improving, otherwise you can lose….quickly.

Just this past week our company signed on 2 new clients, both of whom came from referrals who are very pleased with our service. Good stuff, right?  In the same week however, we had to fire an irrational and unprofessional client (first ever, but probably not the last) AND we had one client notify us that they wouldn’t be renewing at the end of their contract, despite us executing on every original KPI, especially a 10 to 1 ROAS via paid social over the last 10 months. Completely illogical!

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We all face ups and downs each week and it is our ability to absorb, digest and adapt that makes all of the difference. You need to always remain on an even keel to win. Never let a good deed get you too high and more importantly, never let a misstep get you too low.  Maintain balance and take everything as a lesson and a chance to evolve on your journey.

Remember, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

-Charles R. Swindoll

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Sircle Squad: Marisa Folsom

We recently sat down with Marisa, a (2 semester) photography intern to learn a bit more about her. Here is what we learned:

Marisa

Full name/nickname? Marisa Folsom

Nicknames: I don’t have too many, but a couple are Mari and Misa, but Mari only really makes sense in Japanese.

Age? 21

University and Major? Fordham University, and I’m double majoring in Visual Arts (with a concentration in Photography) and New Media & Digital Design.

What made you choose Sircle Media? I didn’t really know what to expect when I was asked to come in, but my first day at Sircle Media was so hands-on and I had such a great time shooting with Jenna and Ticha that I immediately wanted to intern here.

Most surprising discovery/realization after working here? I think I was most surprised by the amount of trust and confidence the team has in its interns. I’m used to internships that have interns do smaller tasks, but I was surprised to be assigned real work immediately and to see my photographs up on our clients’ social media platforms so soon after!

What is the best part of your internship? Working at Sircle Media has really been unlike any other one of my internships. I love how friendly and welcoming the environment is, and how confident in my abilities my supervisors are. It’s great to be able to do some real hands-on work while simultaneously having fun!

What can you tell us about Adam or your supervisor? My supervisors Jenna and Ticha are awesome, and working with them has been equally as awesome. They’re both so welcoming and friendly, and I’ve felt part of the squad from day one, whether I’m shooting, editing, or in front of the camera. They give me great suggestions and directions for my photographs and edits, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Simultaneously seeing them do their work has been very informative, and gives me new ideas that I might not have come up with on my own.

Advice you would give to a future intern? Be confident in your own abilities! There’s a reason why you’re here and the rest of the team is confident in what you do, so show them what you’ve got.

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On the #SircleSquad

Sircle Squad Happy Holidays 2016

I love my team!

They are weird (in the best kind of way), fun, inquisitive, hard working and super amazing. Though I don’t personally celebrate Christmas, I am especially thankful today for the miracle of Sircle and for all that they give to my company each and every day.

When I hire, I always look for good people who seem to care and to have the “get it factor” when it comes to business and life in general. Ones who realize that hard work is not a bonus, but rather a foundation. Ones who understand that customer service is so important and that clients should always be treated fairly and honorably.  I believe if you put these type of people in a position to win, they will come out on top.

When you start a company from scratch and by yourself, you have many good and bad days along the way. During the darker moments, you might get discouraged and lose sight of why you started in the first place. It is my team (both at work and at home) that keeps me motivated to outwork and out hustle the competition, so I can provide for all of us. I like being in that position and I thrive when under that sort of pressure.

Winning comes down to working together as a team, with a common goal and vision for what you want to achieve. I set the stage, but these guys are the actors that make the story come to life. Together we make wonderful things happen.

If you have a team that motivates and supports you, let them know it.  They deserve the praise and the recognition more than you probably even recognize!

Merry Christmas.

 

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Interview with Cereal Entrepreneur

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I was recently approached by Cereal Entrepreneur to do a profile on me and they just posted it on their account today.  I am thrilled they wanted to chat and I hope my words are seen as useful and productive to those who read it.

Here is an excerpt from the full interview:

“I have been in digital marketing, e-commerce and branding since 1999. I spent a decade on the client side and felt very strongly that agencies were just missing the mark when it came to service and truly understanding what brands and SMB’s really need. I set out to create an anti-agency model that put service first, after which @sirclemedia was born.

I like working with businesses and learning their stories. I like helping owners and marketers craft their message and then present their unique selling propositions and reasons for being. Sales comes easy to me, because the passion and understanding are there and that creates a very solid foundation for working with clients.

I work both in service and in marketing because it allows me to help businesses sell their products and offerings to others. This is the path I chose, because it allows me to play to my strengths and provide an element that most brands are missing. It is one thing to believe you are great, but it is harder to get others to agree.

I’m convinced that if truth, honesty, hard work AND excellent customer service are your north star(s) then you will win in the end. The commitment to remarkable service cant just be on the surface, it needs to run deep. Ultimately, business decision makers want to trust a partner, who will have their best interest at heart and will work hard to advance the client’s needs before their own. That is where we focus.”
Q: How’s Sircle Media different?

A: Most social media agencies are looking to offer project work OR retainers that are itemized solutions and not solving the real problem. Businesses really need an employee mindset when running point on social media and we really work to fill that role in a unique way. I always say we are more of a staffing agency that an traditional marketing firm and we are filling a mission critical role, just in an outsourced capacity.

Q: What’s your advice to others entrepreneurs?

A: Focus on the important stuff and work hard, smart and fast. Don’t get too high or too low and just remain committed to and focused on moving the company forward and leaning in on the pros and on reducing the cons along the way.

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SirceSquad: Shannon Adriaan

We typically have interns from The USA only, but we met Shannon from South Africa and fell in love. She has an incredible “can do” attitude and a great personality and we just had to have her. We thought you might like to learn more about her too, so we asked her some questions. Enjoy:

unnamedFull name and nickname?

My name is Shannon Adriaan.  Recently I have been called ShanSwag which is my favorite nickname that has ever been given to me- and I’ve been given A LOT.

Age?

I’m 22 :)

University?

Currently in my last year of my graphic design course at Inscape Design College, in Cape Town South Africa.

Major?

The graphic design course covers EVERYTHING within graphic design. We don’t focus on a specific field so I am super diverse at the moment. That also means we get a lot of work assigned to us within the 3 year course.

What made you choose Sircle Media?

My dream is to come and move to America, get a farm, get my horses and work. Been dreaming of New York my whole life so when it came to looking for an internship I wanted to grab the opportunity and Sircle Media gave off such a fun, energetic energy which I love. I have loads of energy so its great to find a place that I can feel comfortable being energetic with too.

Most surprising discovery/realization after working here for a couple of weeks?

No surprises just yet, but since I’m interning remotely and my hours go into 1am, I have realised I need a proper coffee machine. LOL

What is the best part of your internship?

I’m all hands on deck for the internship because I love to learn new things about the industry I’m about to go into. I love being able to develop on my own skills and learn new things in the process!

What can you tell us about Adam or your supervisor?

There isn’t one person who I have spoken with, who I don’t think is lovely. They are so great to deal with, from the one-to-one communication, to the mass e-mails, everyone is super friendly and on board! That part is so so refreshing and great to see.

Advice you would give to a future intern?

If you’re not a coffee lover, become one. ;)

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SircleSquad: Emily Habashy

Emily Habashy

This summer we have an excellent roster of amazing interns on the #SircleSquad and we thought it would be a good idea to share more about them with the world. Talented college students have always been a key component to the Sircle Media offering and most of our current staff members originally began in the intern role. We sat down with Emily, one of our graphic designers this week, and this is what we found out:

Full name and nickname? Emily, and no nickname! (boring, I know.)

Age? 20

University? Pratt Institute

Major? Communication Design

 

What made you choose Sircle Media? I chose Sircle because I wanted to work at an agency that combined advertising and graphic design in its creative process, and could tell Sircle did just that! When I visited, everyone was really nice and the environment seemed fun!

Most surprising discovery/realization after working here for a couple of weeks? I like seeing the “behind the scenes” work on a social post. What seems like an effortless post on Instagram actually may have taken many people, many props, and many, many shots to pull off.

What is the best part of your internship? The best part is working with a variety of different clients that each have a distinct branding flavor, which challenges me to step out of my comfort zone.

What can you tell us about Adam or your supervisor? Everyone in the office is cool, down to earth, and clearly cares about what they do.

Advice you would give to a future intern? Absorb everything. Part of being a good creative is learning as much as you can, from books, movies, websites, and the world. And ask questions. Knowledge is power. Also, read “Steal Like An Artist.” It’s good stuff.

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Why I Started Sircle Media and What Makes It Different?

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I sat down for a session with someone I have been mentoring recently and they asked me why I created Sircle Media and whether or not we are still consistent 4 years later with the original thesis.  It is a great question (from a smart young woman) and it got me thinking…

I created Sircle Media based on an observation that nearly all small businesses need to be engaging in and growing their digital and social agendas, yet most lack the ability to do so on their own. Couple that with the fact that most digital/social/web agencies don’t deliver a real holistic approach, nor do they take a client POV when creating and implementing against their strategies. As a result you have a gap in the market and I felt it needed to be filled.  We think like a client and we work to implement strategies that are consistent with our client’s goals taking into account their budget, business, inefficiencies and personal and vertical idiosyncrasies. We arm them to win, specifically for them.

Social media management in an outsourced capacity has become our biggest seller (by far) because it has become a “must have” and it is very hard to hire for the position.  You need someone who is motivated, clever and talented who can write (both in short and long form), can create content (through the lens or photoshop), can strategize and drive your social agenda and can oversee the communities on various social platforms.  They also need to know how those efforts tie back into a bigger digital strategy and need to have the business acumen to understand how to bring them all together.  It is impossible to find someone with all of these talents and who a company can afford, at the price point they typically want to pay.  We provide a collection of these talents all rolled into one entry level price point. It is a real USP and differentiator for us and something that most businesses we speak with are very attracted to.

I had been on the client side for 10+ years, having owned a large B2C company and we were big marketers.  I worked with all kinds of agencies and was always disappointed.  My client side experience taught me what I wanted and more importantly what I definitely did not want as a client. That helped shape Sircle into a customer service driven, client first mentality type of organization, that makes clients feel they are heard and well supported.  When I first started out, I did everything (literally EVERYTHING) myself and created processes and procedures that worked, pursuant to the core brand ethos of providing “Four Seasons Hotel Type Service” to all clients. Then I staffed, to fill the roles needed to deliver upon them and have been scaling and iterating ever since.

As we enter our 5th year, I remain more convinced than ever that brands need to have a real social and digital media strategy and that has only increased in importance over time.  They also need to have someone who can do it at a palatable price point AND who thinks with a company/client first mindset.  It is really gratifying seeing Sircle continue to grow, to exceed client expectations and to deliver upon that original thesis every single day!

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What does Sircle Media do?

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We help brands and businesses win online. Too abstract?  Well let me explain it a bit further.

Most companies are trying to do more online, generate business from their own e-commerce store and/or strike up a conversation with clients/customers/prospects via digital channels and just don’t know how. Either they don’t have anyone on staff who is skilled in these areas (so we fill that void) OR they do, but those people often don’t know how to approach marketing in the year that we live in. So many senior marketers are employing old and/or safe tactics without understanding how to navigate the current terrain. This is a recipe for disaster.

You see, many Marketing Directors have earned their roles over the last decade, and given their trajectory they didn’t have to get into the trenches on social media.  As a result they lack the fundamental understanding of how to use it and how to explain the merits to their bosses. It is safer to stick with what they know, than to experiment and explore with social.  We look to join their team and help them change that way of thinking and really make a difference through their social efforts. We make it clear that their brand is “on social media” whether they choose to engage in it or not. Those that get it, are one step closer to harnessing the power of it.

We believe that business drives social and not the other way around. First we define what the goals are for the company and then we lay in a social strategy commensurate with those goals.  Once we know what we want to do as a team, then we solve for X.  Social is about much more than Tweets and Likes and we create a much deeper and holistic digital plan.  Website traffic is mission critical as it generates opportunities for an immediate sale and also creates a pool of people to retarget, email and/or communicate with via social channels.  We want to get a lot of potential prospects into the ecosystem and then deploy multiple tactics to continue the conversation and move them down the funnel towards transacting with us.

We tell brands:

  1. Don’t try to sell online and then not have Google Analytics (or an equivalent) to analyze the data.
  2. Don’t have Google Analytics setup, but not look at the data.
  3. Don’t spend money on print, radio and TV and then argue about not wanting to spend on social because you can’t measure it.
  4. Don’t stop spending on Facebook because it is pay to play. Start spending on Facebook because it is the most powerful Ads platform ever.
  5. Don’t email “blast”. Have a real CRM strategy in place and email with some purpose.

In the end of the day, stop talking about what doesn’t work (especially without proof) and start focusing on understanding the market and figuring out what does.  Things change and tools evolve.  If Gary Vaynerchuk put the video above out today, it probably would have been posted natively on Facebook first because that is what the times demand.

It is hard keeping up with the changes, that is true.  Good thing we are here.

 

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Social Media- Beyond Fans and Followers

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I think one thing that sets our agency apart from the others is that I’m a salesman first and foremost.  Because of this, my wiring is to build businesses, generate revenue and close sales.  I’m not a creative who decided to open an agency and I’m not a PR person reinventing himself in social.  I am a business builder who is looking for ways to add revenue to the bottom line and grow.   This is an important distinction because I think most business owners still think social media is important, but does not generate dollars and this just isn’t true. Every day I get up, come into the office and get to work to prove the doubters wrong and to help my clients win online.

Social media has evolved over the last few years and it’s moved away from fans and followers and more towards a holistic digital approach. This has been our take on social from day one which I think gives us a leg up and helps us get ahead.  Helping clients understand this is usually the hardest part, because some even say that they hired us because they feel competitor pressure to get in the game, but they are fully expecting that it doesn’t lead to sales.  Not only does it directly generate revenue, it also helps them convert sales in other, less tangible areas too.

When we work with clients, we look at their website, content, emails, promotions, search and social as all being part of an ecosystem.  We then develop strategies that help our clients navigate that ecosystem the right way.   Some of our greatest success stories are felt behind the scenes in sales, web traffic and email captures and often less so in fan growth or retweets.  This wider view on social is mission critical if you want to truly succeed.

When we start with clients we go deep and we reverse engineer a plan based on their main objectives.  Now they usually have many, so we have to create a balanced approach to social media.  That being said we always recommend that they get their house in order first.  Some have Google Analytics, but never check them or worse don’t even know how to.  Some capture email addresses, but don’t send out emails.  Some post on social networks, but never respond when people speak to them on those channels.   Things are just a mess.

The truth is that social media is just a new term for the internet.  Social networks are just some of the tools you use to navigate today’s web, but not the only ones.  You really need to have a wider view on social media, and somebody at the helm who can drive the ship and keep you on track.  I touched on this in a piece I wrote for Forbes a few months back and I live it every day. Managing a brand’s social media is a full time position (or multiple full time positions) and needs to be integrated into your bigger digital strategy.

As retail continues to struggle and more and more consumers turn to the web and mobile, you need to make sure your thinking and your approach are in order.   Your web traffic, fans, followers, emails, prospects and of course your customers, are all opportunities to tell your story and grow your business. Be wise, or you are planning your demise…

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First Hour: A Morning With Our Founder Adam Brown

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Here is a little piece on our Founder, Adam Brown in Creator Magazine.  It highlights his routine and how he approaches each morning. Enjoy! (Credit: David Grossman)

Adam Brown is a specialist in what might be considered one of the hardest writing styles imaginable: a relatable human being on social media. As the founder of social media strategy firm SircleBrown told Creator that one of his favorite parts of his job is getting “to play entrepreneur on various projects daily.” Below, the WeWork 42nd Street member takes us through the beginning of his day, shaping his morning decisions around his company’s various needs, his personal life, and Drake.

WeWork: Are you a morning person?

Brown: I am definitely a morning person. I firmly believe that an actively engaged entrepreneur’s brain never really turns off, so when my eyes open (to quote Drake) I go zero to a 100, real quick. My wife can’t stand my morning whistling and “chipperness,” but I just cant hold back. New days bring new beginnings, and I am always ready to hustle and make great things happen. On weekdays, it is get up, get focused, and kill it; on weekends, it is time with my daughters.

WeWork: What time do you usually get up?

Brown: 5 a.m. on Mondays and then between 6 and 7 a.m. the rest of the week. I have always tried to start my workday super early, and I try to get as much done as humanly possible by 9 a.m. I like the feeling of being ahead of everyone else who are just getting started.

WeWork: What gets you up every day?

Brown: On Mondays, I use my iPhone alarm clock, although 90 percent of the time, my eyes open before it goes off. I also have two built-in alarm clocks in my apartment, named Sydney and Riley, that take care of things the rest of the week.

WeWork: Tell us about your morning routine.

Brown: Wake up, spend some quality time with my family, check online channels, shower, dress, and walk out the door.

WeWork: What do you do during your morning commute?

Brown: I used to walk to work every day when I lived about a mile from my office, which was amazing for my health and for clearing my mind. Nowadays, I either take the subway or I travel to work by Via, answering emails and reading articles to get a head start.

WeWork: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the office?

Brown: At 6:30 a.m. each weekday morning, a calendar alert pops up on my phone:

Monday: new product development

Tuesday: sales and prospecting

Wednesday: strategy and creative thinking

Thursday: company culture, HR, and processes

Friday: client accounts review

Things will always fly at me from all angles, so I find it helpful to be reactionary and address them as they come. Having a routine helps me make sure each area gets proper focus and attention.

WeWork: What’s your secret to not stressing out in the morning?

Brown: I scroll through my Instagram and Twitter early in the morning, and I try to read only positive stuff like uplifting quotes and pictures, or tweets about where my industry is going, etc. I do not read the news, and I stay away from email for the first 30 to 60 minutes of my day. I don’t want to see any fires or issues until I am in full stride.

WeWork: Tell us what you eat for breakfast.

Brown: Usually it’s some organic all natural cereal with almond milk or a natural bar, and always a black coffee.

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