Michelle Willard – Newspapers will be around FOREVER

Michelle Willard

Tell us a bit about what you do.

Well, it’s an interesting story, my career. I originally did archeology, but the recession of 2008 forced me out of the field. One of those ‘last in, first out’ situations. My main job was to write the technical reports for the firm, which I really enjoyed doing. Once I got laid off, I wanted to have a more stable career.

So, I went with newspapers. Newspapers will be around forever.

I went and got a second degree in mass communications, which only took about a year. I did newspapers for a couple of years before that started to dry up too. Once again, I had to pivot. One of the people I met while working for the newspaper, Tim, said he might have a job available in his marketing department. I’ve been working for him as a social media manager since 2017.

How did you make your first sale?

I guess my first sale was me, being able to go to Tim and explain how the skills I learned in journalism could be applied to his business, beyond just being able to promote something on Facebook and Twitter. In journalism, something could happen, and you need to have something up in 15 minutes. I can take complex information and quickly turn it into something that people can easily understand.

I do a weekly blog for Tim’s 3-D modeling software. I don’t personally use it, but I can interview people that do use the software and explain how they use it. I even interviewed a guy from Marvel who used our 3-D Modeling software to mock up backgrounds as a reference for drawing his comic panels.

What do you find unique about running a business in Murfreesboro?

It’s very relationship-driven in Murfreesboro. I have a lot of trust from a lot of people because of my time working in the newspaper.

It’s much easier to network here than it is in Nashville, and I’ve tried.

How do you advertise your business?

I don’t, really. I should, I’ve got a website. I don’t have any social media because I’ve got a full-time job. On top of that,  I write true crime articles on the side. Most people just know me.

For my job, I focus on social media and email marketing, mostly.

For Murfreesboro Voice, it’s a small part of what I do, but it’s the most visible.

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

For Murfreesboro Voice, it’s the fact that it’s crowd-sourced, so we’re always looking for new people to contribute to the site.

It’s also just hard to sell. Convincing someone to give us $100-$150 to advertise their business on our site when they can boost a post on Facebook, which isn’t as effective, can be really tricky.

Have you ever had to pivot your business to make it grow?

Last year was when we bought 3-D modeling software, which is targeted at both hobbyists and professionals. Being able to market to both the creative people using it for art and the people using it for business has been the biggest pivot for me. It’s been very interesting, marketing this software to people that use it to mock up backgrounds for comic panels, then turning around and marketing it to people that use it to visualize crime scenes to a jury.

Michelle Willard with BoroBusinessLab

If you could wave a magic wand and make your business change, what would you do?

I wish Facebook was more transparent because it’s very frustrating, the decisions they make and how they impact smaller businesses. A Like isn’t the same thing as a Heart, the reach of posts and status updates are fluctuating all the time. It’s very frustrating and it seems very arbitrary.

From a digital marketing perspective, what are you doing to get more customers?

For selling the 3-D software, which is where the future of the company is, good, quality blogs are the best thing we’re doing. It’s difficult because you can’t do that all on your own, you need to have someone that can write complete sentences and turn complex ideas into digestible articles.

Analytics as well. I don’t want to waste time on something that isn’t going anywhere. I have tons of spreadsheets, and I use Google Analytics all the time.

What’s a business lesson that you’d be willing to share?

The things you think will work, might not work.

Your experience may tell you that something will work, but it just won’t. That’s another reason why analytics are so important. They can help prevent that from happening.

What’s a podcast or book that’s inspired you as a business owner?

borobusinesslab.com – wink-wink (I promise, she said this)

The more professional you are with a podcast, the less successful it will be. People want to see a personality, regardless of what it is. It may not resonate with everyone, but it should resonate with enough people to market yourself.

Advertising is giving someone a solution to a problem they didn’t know they had. So by humanizing yourself through your personality or even mistakes, you become relatable to people and they will become more open to doing business with you.

What do you use for your to-do list?

KJ Kim Coaching, she’s a life, business, and storytelling coach. I go to her yearly workshop for getting organized. I use a daily planner because it feels really good to mark that sh*t off your to-do list.

What apps or tools do you use for social media?

I use Hootsuite, old school Hootsuite. It keeps my social media managed. Other than that, I have people that help me with it. For instance, I have a girl help me with the blog’s images. That’s a day-long process, and it can be tricky to get high-quality images. You really need a good eye for art, which this girl does. I use Google Analytics to assist us as well.

Read more about Murfreesboro Voice here.

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