Episode 99: Free Up Your Time with Systems—with Danielle McGinnis

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. In this podcast, we are going to talk about systems. specifically, systems for your consulting business that are going to enable you to bring in more income. And I mean that very specifically because if you are busy doing all of these things for your business that could be automated and could be baked into some system, that means that you are not doing things that are generating revenue. So the goal is to get to the point where you are only doing what only you can do. And that's what we're going to talk about. Some of the specific systems that will let you do that.

I brought on Danielle McGinnis who is from Cutting Edge Operations. She is my systems person. She's my operations lead. She runs a business where she helps people with their systems. We're going to dive into all of the different systems that you can tap into that's going to make your life easier. It's going to give you more time in your life, more freedom in your life and let you focus on generating that revenue that you want and delighting your clients. So let's get started.

I want to welcome you to my podcast today. My guest is Danielle McGinnis, who I'm super excited to have on the show. Danielle, welcome.

Danielle McGinnis: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Deb.

Deb Zahn: You are welcome. Now, you've been on before where we talked about how absolutely essential it is to have a virtual assistant. But since then, you've had many, many changes to what you do. So we are going to talk about one of... Well, I know it's your favorite topic, and it's one of my favorite topics, which is we're going to talk about systems today, and specifically, systems that consultants can use and put in place to make their lives easier. And we'll dig into that. But let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Danielle McGinnis: OK. You're right, I was on almost a year ago…

Deb Zahn: Oh, wow!

Danielle McGinnis: ...and I was a virtual assistant at the time. I have since pivoted into the role of online business manager. An online business manager is just more of a leadership role instead of the task-oriented role of a virtual assistant. So I'm the owner of Cutting Edge Operations. I specialize in building systems and automations for busy entrepreneurs.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I'm one of those busy entrepreneurs, so I know how much easier it's made my life. And I just want to point out because you'll never say this, but when we started with you as my virtual assistant, you always had this in you and you always had these abilities. You've since augmented your skills and done things like that. But you were operations and systems-minded and focused the entire time. So, you know I love this pivot that you did. I think it's exactly right.

So when we say systems, for those that are not gigantic nerds like us, what do we mean?

Danielle McGinnis: In short, a system is a set of procedures that's put in place to accomplish a task. But I'm going to take that a step further and get into my nerdy part of it. It's a set of automated procedures put in place to accomplish a task.

Deb Zahn: We love automation. Automation, for those who aren't familiar with that because I had to figure out what that was, is, it's a process that once you set it up, you don't have to touch.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: They just do their thing. I know, as an entrepreneur, and certainly when I first started as a consultant and then when I started this business, there was nothing automated so I did everything. And it took...Oh my goodness! So much time. But let's talk about that. So, if someone is a consultant, what would they get out of having systems? I mean, I know the answer to that but I'd love for you to tell consultants who maybe don't get how beautiful it is why they should think about having systems in place.

Danielle McGinnis: I would start by saying, consider your current state…

Deb Zahn: Oh, that.

Danielle McGinnis: The reason I do this is because as entrepreneurs, as solopreneurs, sometimes we think, well, we've got to do all the things. We've got to do all the things ourselves. We're not ready to hire a team. So we just do, do, do, do, do. Then what results is overwhelm. So, the opposite of overwhelm, feeling overwhelmed, would be to have freedom and time and have a sense of accomplishment. That's what you get out of it. You get your time back.

Deb Zahn: I'm obviously so emotional about this because I think I described it to you as it felt like death by a thousand paper cuts.

Danielle McGinnis: You did.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Because there's always more than what you think. So when you first start your own business, regardless of what type of business it is, you probably have a decent idea, but you really don't know. You really don't know all the steps that you need to take.

Danielle McGinnis: Right. And oftentimes, what we focus on is the client-facing piece.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: So, what do we need to do? What do we need to do to get the revenue coming in? So what happens is, as a result, the backend of the business is so often overlooked, and then by the time you go to tackle it, you're like, "Ah! Where do I start? How do I do this? I need help."

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or the proposal or contract is already late. "Oh my God! I forgot to send an invoice. Oh my gosh! This is really important. Wait, wasn't I supposed to reach out to someone?" All of that can cause you to actually not get business or not serve your clients in a way that makes them adore you.

Danielle McGinnis: I agree. It's definitely about client experience in the end. Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking, "Well, if I send this invoice in this order instead of the order I'm supposed to send it in, the client will never know. They'll never know what's going on and how unorganized I am in the backend." But ultimately, it does come out. It does eventually come out. There's something that gets missed or skipped, and in the end, we do want our client experience to always be top notch.

Deb Zahn: That's right because that's how you build a robust consulting business. So let's jump in and talk about, if I were a new consultant or I'm a consultant and my backend is the sausage making ain't pretty, what do I need to do to think about? What systems do I actually need?

Danielle McGinnis: I would start by looking at your task list. Write out some of the current things you're doing. I know, Deb, you said when you decided to hire a virtual assistant a couple of years ago, you had this list that said, "I hate that.”

Deb Zahn: I hate this.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah, things I hate doing. So I think in terms of the systems, write down things you wish you didn't have to do yourself. That's always key. Ask yourself, "If you didn't have to do them," but start by saying, "Should I be doing this?" I say that because there are some tasks in our business that probably we do them, we started doing them when we started our business. But is it really required? If it's something like alphabetizing or color-coding the apps on our phone, which takes you two hours a day, you have to ask yourself, is that bringing in revenue to your business? Is there value? Because it may be time to let that task go if the answer is no.

Deb Zahn: Let's pause there because you just said something really profound that I want to highlight because I think that's so important. As the business owner…so if you were the boss of your consulting business, which if you have a consulting business, you are, you should spend the majority of your time doing things which generate revenue, which is bringing in business and serving your clients and delighting them so that they come back for more and they brag about you to other people. If you're stuck in the muck doing all of these things that you shouldn't be doing and that either someone else or some system can do for you, you are losing money even if you don't know it.

Danielle McGinnis: Correct. Absolutely right. And that's along with what you said, the next step. Once you identify what path needs to be continued in your business, then you say, "Can it be automated?" That's the next question you ask. And then, can you delegate it? If you're in a position to hire a team member, maybe there's not a system, but maybe there's a person. But systems oftentimes eliminate the need for teams initially.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: That's what makes them so cool.

Deb Zahn: And it's a great place to start because then you can figure out what can't a system do that I really do need a human being to figure out how to do. So let's go through some of the actual systems that would be things that consultants really should have in place.

Danielle McGinnis: OK. There's a lot of systems out there that you can purchase. My advice is always find the system that accomplishes the most tasks that you want to do instead of having to have a system for scheduling, a system for proposals, a system for invoices. Do your research to find out a system that does as many of those things as possible because if you don't, you have a million different systems in place and now you've just flipped from manually doing the tasks to now manually keeping up with the different systems. So, you just flip-flopped.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. You've automated the inefficiency.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah, exactly. So that's the first step. So one thing that I recommend is a program by the name of Dubsado.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: As you know, I love this program…

Deb Zahn: Oh, we call Debsabi because I can never remember the name.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes, we call it a lot, actually.

Deb Zahn: We call it a lot of different names, but then you constantly remind me what it's actually called.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes. Dubsado is that program that's going to allow you to capture leads. It's going to allow you to send out proposals, contracts, your invoice, any questionnaires if you've got a needs assessment for your clients. All of those things, automatically. You can set up appointments with your clients. It's one platform that houses all of these different things. And the one thing that's awesome about Dubsado is the customization features. Sometimes when we're capturing leads manually, like somebody might send us a DM on Instagram or send us an email, we personalize that message to them, depending on what they've said.

So in Dubsado, we have the ability to actually customize our emails that go out as opposed to like if I buy a new pair of shoes at DSW and it just is an automated message. You can tell there was no thought whatsoever put into it. Dubsado actually allows you to nurture your leads and your clients while still giving you the automation that you need. The hands-off automation.

Deb Zahn: That's right. As opposed to, so one is sending out sort of a stale auto reply, which people can tell that it's not really you. The other option, which I have been guilty of because I have such bad short-term memory, is I just forget to get back or there's a long delay in getting back. In which case that lead that was warm or hot is now cooling down and you might again miss an opportunity for a sale because you have not set up an automated process that still can have that personal touch that makes sure that you actually do it and you know where you are at any given moment with any client.

And I do want to say before we go on. So we're talking about Dubsado because you went out and looked in the world and said, "How can I make this better for Deb and my other clients?" And you found this and you love it and you think that although it's not 100% perfect, it's got most of what we need. So we've been slowly transitioning my piecemeal systems approach into a single approach. But even if it doesn't do everything, there are other systems that I know that you can do a zap for, and I'm going to have you describe to folks what a zap is because it sounds really cool and I only sort of know what it means.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. It's like tomato, tomato. I don't know. Some people say Zapier, some people say Zapier, but that's the name of the program. It's called Zapier and it basically allows two programs that would never integrate on a normal basis, it allows them to integrate.

Deb Zahn: Nice.

Danielle McGinnis: So for instance, I'm going to use you for an example, Deb. Right now, one of the zaps that we have is, when we set up a new client for you in one of your coaching buckets, they gain access to your course. So that's something that Dubsado would not usually be able to grant someone access to your online course. Those are two totally different platforms. Zapier allows you to connect those two things together. So a hint, I like this because you don't know what time of day, for instance, someone is going to purchase. Again, it's all about client experience.

So if you're sleeping at night, at midnight, and someone decides that now is a great time for me to access that content that I purchased from Deb, there's no waiting because with that zap, everything is automatic, and it's based on the client's behavior.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. You don't have to wait until I'm out of bed, and I've fed all the cats. You can actually get it now. So if I'm a consultant, there's this sort of pre-client stuff that I have to do. So these are lead capture, outreach marketing, etc. Let's talk about some of those and how those can be automated. And then let's dive into the, once I'm actually nurturing someone and cultivating them for a specific project, then there's cool things that systems can do for me. But let's start with the pre. So I'm trying to get clients. What kind of systems can help me?

Danielle McGinnis: Honestly, still Dubsado lead capture system, just to be able to have a questionnaire and qualify your leads because not all leads are good leads.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: That's something that I've learned. So it's a simple questionnaire that would link to a scheduler to be able to chat with people for them to learn more about your services and your products that you offer. That's the most basic bare bones workflow that every consultant should have to begin with, is a lead capture process.

Deb Zahn: That's right. A lead capture, for those that don't know the terminology, basically means...A lead is someone who may become a client. You don't know for certain, but there is at least something that they've done that would show that they're interested in you. They've sent you an email. They've sent you a direct message. They reached out on LinkedIn. They downloaded one of your free tools. They did something. And now there's somebody who has either interest in you and potentially desire to work for you and now you want to capture that because you actually want to follow up on those. That's what lead capture is for old people like us.

Danielle McGinnis: Right. And with the program that I've been talking about, Dubsado, here's where the customization comes in because you can actually give different questionnaires depending on how they found you. So if I've found you on Instagram, you may have a different questionnaire, and then the emails that would come to that new person are going to be specific to the way that they found you. So once again, it allows you to still nurture these people without sending out emails in multiple different directions, from multiple different platforms. It's a great time saver.

Deb Zahn: One other thing obviously that consultants have to do is they have to do marketing. They have to figure out ways that people are actually going to find out about them who don't know about them today. And there are systems that help you with that. Then there's actual outreach. So when you're reaching out to actual human beings to talk about potentially specific things that you can do for them, you need to be able to have systems that actually monitor that and let you know what you should be doing. So let's talk about...because those are really key things that are about generating revenue and what either Dubsado or other systems can do to help you do that.

Danielle McGinnis: OK. Once you reach out to these people, Dubsado tracks all of that. So it keeps everybody in a nice...I don't know, a nice bucket, I'll say. But then you can qualify them again. They're qualified automatically actually based on what platform they've come to you through. So you've got tags in Dubsado. So you've got Instagram, whatever. So what you could do at this point is you can then direct your outreach to these people.

So, Dubsado would allow you to do it within the platform so you can send emails directly in the platform to these people. Or going back to that program, Zapier, we talked about, you can actually create a zap so that when someone creates your lead capture form in Dubsado, that they're added to your email list. And then there's another way for you to nurture them through your email list because you would then know what they were interested in. How they got to find out about you.

Deb Zahn: One thing you had also told me, which I think sounds fabulous and I didn't know, is it can also connect with my email system. Often, what happens when you're talking with prospective clients is there's multiple emails that happen for various reasons, and it might be the CEO and then the COO jumps in or whomever, and you can actually track that all together in one place so you can see, wait a minute, what is this conversation been about? If you need to go back and remind yourself, which I have to constantly, rather than searching in your email and hoping that you saw everything.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. That's the beauty of it because it tracks the conversations by client. So if I go in and I say, "OK, well, when was the last time that I followed up with this person and what did I say, or what am I waiting for? Was I the last person that emailed them or am I waiting for them to get back to me?" So Dubsado is a CRM, a customer relationship management system. So it's going to have all of that information, and again, it makes it easier on you because you don't have to go to your inbox. Actually, I'm going to back up, Dubsado is integrated with your email box.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: But you could, if you want to, go to your inbox and sort by this person, but it would be much more time effective just to go into the platform, go to client X and say, "OK, what was the last thing that was discussed? What forms did they fill out? What's their problem?" And proceed with your outreach accordingly.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I'm actually thinking of a recent example. So I'm talking with a prospective client right now, who I actually worked with before a couple years ago and we did something where we produced a product, and wouldn't it be great if I had that all in one place and didn't have to go searching through my files because now I need that again to refresh sort of what did we talk about last time? Is there anything that I can use in this that actually would be something that is stored somewhere and easily searchable?

Danielle McGinnis: Yes, and it's actually on both ends of that. So if you choose to, you can activate what's called the client portal so that your client can also go into their client portal that's made in Dubsado so that they also can see, OK, what's the last thing Deb sent me? Is Deb waiting for something from me? So instead of them going to their inbox, they log right into their portal and they say, "Oh, she emailed this form. I've got to complete this before our next coaching call." It also allows for, there's times that you can...time sensitive actions that you can place in there. So say you say, "I've spoken to this lead at this time, and exactly three weeks from today, I want to send them a reminder email that says this."

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or give them an article that you wrote or a podcast that you were on or something that, again, gives them a touch point that feels very personal, but you've actually built that personal touch into it now it's automated.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: Oh, that just makes me so happy. So, leading up to being a client, you got to track everybody that you're out there talking to. You got to track leads that come in so that you appropriately follow up with them. You need to track the outreach that you do to make sure that you stay on top of it and you do the right thing. Let's talk a little bit about marketing because this is something that's certainly has come up with new consultants that I've been coaching who maybe use social media for their personal lives, which in which case they're like, "Oh, my dog just did something funny. Here, let me post that." Or, "My kids just got new pictures. Here, let me post that."

But it's really different when you're trying to get people to be aware of you and interested in you from a business perspective.

 

So we use a number of systems that actually help us make all of that so much easier. Talk a little bit about what some of those are and what they do so that if you're, for example, posting on social media, your life is every...And this is what I said to someone, is you don't want to wake up every day and think about, "Oh gosh! What should I post today?" That's a waste of your time. What can you do instead with systems?

Danielle McGinnis: So, one system, a program that we use frequently to help us to plan out our social media content it's called Asana.

Deb Zahn: Yes. Loving Asana.

Danielle McGinnis: In this program, it's very robust because there's a lot of different views. Basically, you can put whatever you want into Asana. But it allows us, I'll speak of the way we use it. We use it to schedule out your social media. So, like you said, instead of waking up on a whim one day and saying, "Well, today I'd like to talk about this," it will allow you to actually plan out your content and their recurring tasks in there, so that if every Monday, for instance, you want to talk about, I don't know, your new client offer, for instance, Asana will grab the text. It will hold the image you wish to use, and you can just house everything in one nice little system.

And it's also, I'm going to say, taking it a step when you have a team, it's absolutely awesome because it allows you to speak to all your team members, again, getting out of the inbox.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: The emails get lost. They get lost all the time. So Asana allows all that communication regarding the task, in this case social media, to remain within that task so it doesn't get lost. So if there's a post to go out and you're like, "Hey, what's the status of this? Are we waiting for the graphic?" Then speaking of graphics, templates, templates, and more templates.

Deb Zahn: Now, before you get into the templates, I want to say one more thing about Asana. Asana is a project management system, so we use it for our entire process, for our podcasts. I use it if I'm developing something brand new or I have a project that I'm doing and there's team members and everybody gets alerted at the right time. So everything gets tracked in one place. But you know my favorite thing about Asana, is that sometimes…

Danielle McGinnis: The unicorn?

Deb Zahn: Yes, sometimes, they know me. Sometimes when you click a task to say you're done, a different type of unicorn will shoot across the screen, which gives you that beautiful dopamine hit, which you know I love sometimes. And you steal my unicorns sometimes.

Danielle McGinnis: Sometimes we steal each other's unicorn.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you steal them sometimes. I'm like, "No, that was mine."

Danielle McGinnis: As an OBM, I can't take an unchecked tasks list.

Deb Zahn: I know.

Danielle McGinnis: So if there's something that has to be checked, I just have an itch until I can check it off.

Deb Zahn: I know. And the price of me forgetting to check things is I lose my shooting unicorn. So that's OK. So yeah, talk about templates because again, if you wake up every day and you're like, "Oh, I need to create a graphic for this social media post," you're going to waste so much time producing content and less time actually getting business.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes. And I am not a social media expert, but one thing that I do know is that a cohesive feed in your social media platform is important. So that means when somebody looks at your profile on social media, whether it be Instagram or Facebook, what they should see is some level of cohesion. So that means the colors should all kind of marry together, the type of image that's posted. So once again, it's very difficult. When you get into the weeds of creating the different graphics, you can take hours to design new things.

Deb Zahn: Hours.

Danielle McGinnis: Very easily. It can take you much more time than it should. So I use a program called Canva.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: In that program, I just create templates. Different templates for social media, square templates for Instagram, or the vertical ones for your Instagram story. So this saves time because like you said, when you wake up in the morning and you say to yourself, "I need to post something," at this point, you're not, A, snapping a photo of something that may not necessarily go with your feed, but you've already got a template to put that content into-

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: And then you can just post it and get moving on.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And it's sized, so you don't have to think, "Oh, wait! What's the size for Instagram stories? Wait, what's the size for LinkedIn?" It automates all of that.

Danielle McGinnis: Correct.

Deb Zahn: So you're just paying attention to what it looks like. And it saves all your old stuff, so that if you want to use the same type of graphic because it matches your branding, but you want to change some of the words or the color, like I do every Monday with my motivational quotes, it will take you minutes instead of taking you hours.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. One thing I wanted to add about changing things but keeping the template the same, your person who's viewing your profile, they start to get used to the type of content that they see from you.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: That's very, very important on social media. They want to know what to expect and they constantly come back for that content. But sometimes, if we post an image of this and an image of that, it's a little bit hard to follow. And when they're looking at a feed, they don't necessarily know what it is you're talking about or what you're trying to put out. So templates are the way to go. It's not the only way to go, but it's a good start. Then from there, if, say you have a lot of content and now you've got a lot of templates as well, the next thing that you can automate is actually the posting itself. Choose the social media platform. We use a program called HootSuite.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Which I love.

Danielle McGinnis: It's awesome. It allows you to upload your captions, your graphic, your hashtags all in one place, and then you can schedule the posts accordingly. And not to just one platform, but you can schedule that post to multiple platforms all at once. So if you want to tweak it a little bit for Facebook, instead of having to copy and paste that same caption, you can make changes live right into HootSuite before you hit the schedule button. Which, again, saves time.

Deb Zahn: It does. And I will tell people because this has been really life-changing for me since I started using social media for marketing, which I didn't do when I first started as a consultant. And now the world has changed a lot, so I think it's a great idea, if I want to do it in one batch. If I'm going to do videos, I want to do them all at once. If I'm going to do graphs, I want to do it all at once. So we will plan everything out in Asana so I know what I'm doing and I actually planned it out. Well, this year, I'm planning out a whole year. Last year, I planned out six months at a time.

Then I don't have to think about, "OK, wait, what am I posting today? What am I posting today?" You put it all into HootSuite. Every single post gets scheduled. Everyone is going to go to the platform it's supposed to go in and exactly the format it's supposed to. And then you don't have to think about it. It just happens.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly. And that's the thing I'm actually going to be talking about in my social media post next week, is plan for the future. Because sometimes when we're thinking of systems, we think, "Well, I'm fine right now I can do this or I can just quickly do this," and then tomorrow, when you're really busy and you don't have time to check your email, you don't have time to plan content, you don't have time to do all the things. That's when these systems are so important because then you can rest assured and have that peace of mind knowing that operations will continue even if you don't have time to stop what you're doing right now and dive in and do these individual things.

Deb Zahn: Wait a minute. Are you saying we can take a vacation? I mean, it's-

Danielle McGinnis: Sure, absolutely.

Deb Zahn: So I have gone on, before, nice, long luxurious vacations and no one...except for anything I posted about them, like pictures in my bikini, which I did not do. But unless I tell people I'm on vacation, you don't actually know that I'm on vacation because my marketing continues even when I'm away. And that is really, to me, one of the benefits of being the owner of your business. Your business doesn't own you. If you automate and if you have these systems in place, it gives you time. It gives you freedom. It gives you the ability to step away when you need to step away and focus on doing what only you can do.

So I'm going to hit on, if we could, just a couple other systems because I know that we really could do like four episodes of these. But I just want to tick off a few and then tell me if I forgot any. So, Dubsado will do things like scheduling, communications, proposals, contracts, amendments, whatever your onboarding process is with a particular client. Invoicing, which I have a separate system. I use FreshBooks. Other people use QuickBooks to be able to automate all of that and I think that there's going to be zaps attached to make that run smoothly. Then an email list I think is actually really important for consultants.

So I do want us to talk a little bit about that and why that's important to have a system for it. Let me first say, what you do with an email list is these are contacts who in some way you've either worked for them, they're in your market, you know them, they've opted in to say, "Yes. I think what you say and do is valuable enough. I want you to have my email." It's an opportunity to nurture folks within your market or past clients or prospective clients by giving them valuable content and insights and strategies and a feel for who you are as a person on a regular basis. Or if you have a particular offer, you now have folks that you can send it to. So that's the beauty of one. Talk about the system we use to actually do that easily.

Danielle McGinnis: The platform that we currently use is MailChimp. So what we do in MailChimp is we have set templates once again that are sent out. So when someone subscribes to your newsletter, they get what's called a welcome sequence that's a series of emails that's introducing you to them. Like you said, they've trusted you enough to give you their email address, and at this point, you're kind of convincing them that that was the right thing to do. So you are explaining who you are and what value you're going to continue to provide them through email. And that's the key, is continue to provide them.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: So you always want to continue to have content that you send out to your email list because I know it's the worst thing ever to not hear from someone for months at a time, and then when they're offering something, the next thing you know you've got three emails in two days and you're like, "I haven't heard from you in six months."

Deb Zahn: That's right. And now you're out of business and you need something and now you're talking to me. Yeah, that's yucky. So the whole point is you're nurturing an actual relationship. So I think of it as like, I know it's a friend of mine's birthday today because I have alerts set up for my friend's birthday so I don't have to try and remember. I know my husband's, of course it's on Halloween. But I know my husband's, he darn well better know mine. But I have alerts set up to remind me, it doesn't lessen the relationship, it enhances it.

And you think of email and sending out things that are actually helpful to your audience as another way to do that, but that shouldn't rely on you remembering to do it or trying to send the mail out individually. So many mistakes can happen. What MailChimp does is it actually automates it and it will automate sequences of emails if that's part of what you need to do.

Danielle McGinnis: Correct.

Deb Zahn: And you can segment, which I love. I love that I could actually go in and say, "Who is a client? Who is a lead? Who is somebody who's in my market?" There's a gazillion different ways that you can actually segment your market so that they get content that's most relevant to them.

Danielle McGinnis: Right. Then what also happens with MailChimp is you can gauge their interest. You can start to see what behaviors they take once you send them the emails, and then there's a whole nother sequence of emails that you can actually send to these people. And that's important because for instance, I like shoes. My husband does not. So if he keeps getting flooded with these emails about buying shoes, he really couldn't care less.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: Now, he's into trucks and all that boy stuff, so if we're both getting the same emails, it's going to be very beneficial to know who's interested in what so that you make sure you give them more of it. We don't want to give them the thing that they really don't care about because then they're not going to open your emails and then you can't nurture them further.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or my husband, who would be interested in meditation cushions and books about Zen, and if you sent him trucks, he'd be like...or shoes, he'd be like, "Why are you sending me this?" So it lets you personalize it to who you're talking to.

Danielle McGinnis: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And again, all of this can sound like a lot of work, but the whole point to automating it is to do all the upfront work at the beginning. It gets automated. It gets baked into a system. Then you don't have to think about it unless you want to refine something or the occasional time when things get tweaky or something doesn't work with the system, then you have to pay attention. But let's actually, before we end this talk about setting it up because I get to be on the podcast going, "Oh yeah, I totally love that. I use that." And I had nothing to do with actually putting it into place.

And I am proud I had nothing to do with putting in place. I'm a systems person, I do that for my clients, but there are people like you who are so much better at this than I am thinking through every single step of a sequence in a process that needs to happen and then automating it. This is something that you're doing with some clients now where you will do the system set up for them in the same way that you've done it for me. So talk a little bit about what you're going to be doing.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes. So all systems start with standard operating procedures. That's really the start. There has to be a process that exists in order for me to build a system based off of that process. Some people have that already identified. You were one of those clients who did. You told me, "This is what I do," so it was much easier for me to say, "OK, I'm going to take this and automate it." Well, some people need to take it one step further where they need to actually sit down and think about task, procedure, task, procedure, and then you can start to automate it. So it all starts with that standard operating procedure; what is it that you are doing? What are the steps that you follow? Then we get into how we can automate that to make it a system.

Deb Zahn: And sometimes what we also do, which I find very helpful, is we'll talk about, what are we trying to accomplish? Then often you suggest a different sequence, which is why you're so helpful because you're like, "No, no, no, that step, we seem to be creating friction there." Friction basically means you're making it a little more difficult for someone to do something. We could skip that and we could have them go straight there because every single step that you have a prospective client take increases the likelihood that they drop off at that moment.

Danielle McGinnis: True.

Deb Zahn: So the whole point is to try and have as few steps as possible from you getting in some type of contact with them to them saying yes. And the fewer steps you have and the more pleasurable that experiences, the more likely you're going to get a yes. And you also would have helped me think through, how do you do that? So that it's a great experience on the other side.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. That's important that you have someone else look over it with you because once again, especially if we've just started our businesses, sometimes we just follow through these certain steps and we don't always go back and say, "Well, does this make sense?" Or, "Is there a way to shorten this? Do I have to do all 10 of these steps to get to this end result?” Or "Could I do the same thing in five steps?"

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: So the important part is to brain dump it first, then you can go back and cut things out, or you can add things together. You can combine certain tasks or automate them, of course.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Danielle McGinnis: But yeah, it's very key to have someone else look over these processes with you to make sure that they're running as efficiently as possible.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. So if someone was interested in enjoying the benefits of what you do so they can be happy and smiling, giddy like me, how do they find you?

Danielle McGinnis: I have a website. It's www.cuttingedgeops.com. I'm also on Instagram. So those are the two main places. I'm also on LinkedIn as well under just Danielle McGinnis on Instagram...Oh, excuse me, on LinkedIn. So you can find me there as well. Those are the main platforms if someone were interested to work with me.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. Well, let's hit the last question because it actually...The last question I always ask as you know is about life balance. And systems, in my mind, create life balance. If I didn't have systems, then I would not be able to be talking to you right now because I'd be busy doing something. So how do you bring balance to your life?

Danielle McGinnis: Well, I always make sure that I have family time in place. So for me, my husband is also self-employed, and so sometimes our schedules don't always go together nicely. But me, personally, I've instituted start and stop times for my business every day. So like you said, I set up systems within my business and I set up systems within my client's businesses to ensure that I can work within those start and stop times. And I do have spiritual activities that I partake in twice a week and retail therapy always helps…

Deb Zahn: No, at-home retail therapy.

Danielle McGinnis: Yeah. Unfortunately, I miss the mall.

Deb Zahn: That's all right. Well, Danielle, again. It may not feel like it to everybody listening, we really just scratch the surface of the types of things that you can actually automate so that you can focus your time and attention on the things that only you can do. But thank you so much for diving into these pieces and we will have a link to where folks can find you on our show notes. But also, if you want to see social media done right, follow Danielle. Your branding is beautiful, your consistency, your message.

Danielle McGinnis: Thank you.

Deb Zahn: A tremendous value of people are trying to figure out how to make systems work for them, just wonderful stuff.

 

Danielle McGinnis: Thank you. And thanks again for having me. It was a pleasure talking about systems, and I love it.

Deb Zahn: Your favorite topic ever.

Danielle McGinnis: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Thanks, Danielle.

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