In episode 79 of Amplify Your Business, we are pleased to welcome Stephanie O'Brien, Founder and President of Carmella Consulting! Entrepreneurial at heart with over 13 years in business providing marketing and professional coaching services in the Canadian Rockies, Stephanie always looks for opportunities to collaborate and elevate the status quo. Check out this week's episode to learn more about Carmella's unique approach to business coaching, and what Stephanie has learned in her years as an entrepreneur.
(1:28) How did Carmella Consulting get started?
I first came to Banff when I was 13 to join a ski academy (my dad owns and operates several ski resorts), and I like to say that I never left. I skied for many years and eventually moved into professional coaching, with social media and event planning as a side hustle. Once I started having children, I realised I couldn't be away from my family for the majority of the year as a ski coach, and so I transitioned to doing social media full time. Over time I hired more and more people, but I didn't have the business systems and processes in place that I needed. That's when I started working with Kevin Simpson, a business and professional coach. Over the period of a few years, we built a commercial enterprise that now runs without me!
Over time I realised the people around me were far better at their jobs than I was, and so I essentially replaced myself by hiring a COO for the business. It wasn't long after this that I realised what I wanted to do was business coaching of my own. I was lucky that my own coach invited me to join his firm! I love coaching professionals for the same reasons I loved coaching kids: because it lets me live vicariously through the successes of my clients.
(6:03) Walk me through how you were able to step back from your business. What's the secret?
I don't think there is a secret. I do believe there's a formula and a recipe to it, and that once you go through it once it becomes a lot easier. The key for me was to go through the process of documenting and mapping out all of your internal processes and practices. I like to call our internal maps the "book of Carmella".
This has also been a huge key to our own growth - we've opened offices in Jasper and Kimberly, and I have a goal to open offices in five mountain towns across the Rockies. One of the first things we do is partner with the local destination marketing organisation and the regional chamber of commerce for these towns. We then integrate ourselves in these communities by offering $1,000 of free services per month, as well as intending to hire local and purchase commercial real estate in the area. This helps us to create an ecosystem that supports economic impact in these mountain communities, with the ultimate goal of making them thriving, culturally connected business hubs.
We've also had great success in growing our coaching business. An ideal client comes to us for coaching and marketing services, but we've had many coaching clients grow by as much as 400% through the COVID-19 pandemic since they joined with us.
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(9:16) Tell me more about this coaching business. What is your approach to these clients and what trends do you see with them?
We have clients across all industries, so these trends are different from client-to-client. But ultimately, our formula stays the same. We like to call it the "Five Ways", or the five things you can change to increase your profit, and it focuses on increasing customers, revenue, and profit. Those three things are the result of something else. For example, if they want more customers, the first thing we do is look at leads. What qualifies as a lead? How many do we need? What tactics are we using to get leads? To answer these questions, we work with our clients to create something called a "10x10", which features 10 different strategies that we hope will drive about 10% of the total number of leads we need. For each tactic, we track cost-per-acquisition, cost-per-conversion, and all the different conversion points along the way. This enables us to step back and see exactly which of our tactics are generating the most leads, and invest in them.
We then assess the conversion rate - the best indicator for how good clients are at selling. We like to follow our "Formula for Change", which goes like this: customer dissatisfaction x vision + first steps, the answer to which must be greater than the resistance to change. We also do an assessment of the personality, profile, and behaviour of the audience, and we tailor communications as needed, working and reiterating so we can up our conversion rate and get more customers.
Next, we look at the number of transactions. This will vary depending on the type of client, but our goal is to increase this by at least 10%, which typically comes down to providing great customer service. Then, we look at dollars per transaction made - how can we offer our clients the best possible value for the money they are paying us. I like to use the analogy of chicken wings - some people will clean every shred off the bones, and others will put them down after a couple bites. You can apply the same approach to clients - have you cleaned the bone and offered them everything you can, or are you putting things down after taking one bite? The key here is to ensure your internal processes are on point so you can deliver maximum value. Each of these aspects I've talked about should work together to increase the amount you have "left in your jeans" at the end of the year.
(17:05) Which of those five aspects (customers, conversion rate, number of transactions, dollars per transaction, and profit) do you find produces the best results for clients, especially within the last couple years?
One big surprise for most businesses is that they never felt they had to market before, but now they're forced to explore different ways to get in front of people. Another trend I'm seeing is towards personalization. Many of our hotel clients are finding success with reels, but realtors are doing great with YouTube. LinkedIn messaging (we like to use the nine word message) is working well for consultants and other B2B clients. This is a short message that invites their connections to get together for all sorts of events and discussions. The key is to not add too much fluff. We're also doing lots of work in LinkedIn organic posting and using creative ways to improve client ROI.
(24:34) In your years providing marketing and coaching, are there any common mistakes you see businesses making?
Useful content vs. publishing content is a big one. Our own litmus test at Carmella asks: is the content memorable; is it valuable; is it relevant; does it increase ROI; and is it timely? I think this would solve a lot of problems clients are having with their marketing if they took the time to answer these questions. I also see lots of clients who don't have a set marketing budget - they may have plans to do marketing, but no long term vision and objectives of their own. Acting without intention will get you nowhere. One more thing I would add is to consider how to apply leverage to marketing. Leverage the people in your businesses and the content you produce. For example, if a company in a mountain town produces a video, they can get a lot more from that video if they also consider how they might get the local business association or destination marketing organisation to also share that video. Bringing more organisations together can help a business to get a voice much louder than its own.
(30:42) What other tips might you have for the audience?
We like to follow the formula of "be times do equals have." Be often refers to the manager or business owner, the do is the strategic planning, and the have are the results you want in a business. Of course, anything times zero still equals zero. If we don't focus on the human aspect of our business and create a culture that drives these individuals, one of those factors will still be zero. At Carmella, we look after each other and drive each other. We cannot forget that we are human organisations.
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