While other “experts” are teaching tricks and hacks that only give you vanity numbers or stop working once the algorithm changes, Jennifer Elia at Secret to Visibility Online uses proven, sustainable, and scalable techniques and systems. These have been tested and refined during her over 12 years of experience in content creation and social media marketing.
Jennifer lives in rural South Dakota on her small family homestead, with her husband and four children.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Jennifer Elia: My story really begins years ago, as a child when I decided that the perfect job would be getting paid to research and write. They were two of my favorite hobbies as a kid. However, everyone told me jobs like that don’t exist. So, I ultimately became a college professor.
In between semesters one year, I needed to earn some extra money. I decided to check Craigslist for a short-term or part-time gig. What I discovered and landed was a ghostwriting job for a major online magazine. That opened up a whole new world of freelancing and online business. My dream job not only existed, but I could work for myself.
Over the next 12 years, I immersed myself in content marketing, content creation, and social media management. Along the way, I learned so much about how to show up online and use social media. I became aware of the fact that most business owners have no idea why they are on social media and even less know how to use it effectively. So I began giving mini-coaching sessions to my clients.
Then 2020 hit, not only did the world change as we knew it, but I went through a massive cyberattack that wiped out everything I had built over the previous decade-plus. This became the catalyst and springboard to reinvent my business doing what I loved best, helping businesses with a strategy for authentic and effective selling online, especially through social media.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jennifer Elia: Sure, before rebuilding and reinventing my business, I had to live through everything crashing down around me. That was painful and I honestly almost gave up. I had had this idea for a new version of my business but it felt insurmountable in the midst of 2020 chaos. However, my dear friend and mentor, Katie Hornor of Handprint Legacy sat me down and set me straight. I was already a member of her Queens Mastermind, but felt suddenly unworthy of being among other business owners that were moving forward while I was sailing backwards. It was a rough time for sure; emotionally, financially, and mentally.
It was late one Wednesday night and she coaxed me onto a Zoom call, she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her exact first words to me were, “Don’t go looking for a job, or go through your home looking for something to sell on eBay, or any else to make quick money. You have a gift, I only want you to focus on building your business. You can do this.”
I still didn’t completely believe that, but I was inspired to at least try because of my love and respect for Katie. We spoke again a few days later and I told her that I was considering doing a webinar to lead people into a course that I had fleshed out the night before. Katie asked me how long it would take me to get that off the ground and I muttered something about weeks or months, maybe. I was so unsure and still feeling overwhelmed.
Katie looked me in the eye and said, “Take out your calendar and pen. You are doing this webinar next Monday. No excuses.” So, I plowed ahead with 58 people signing up for that first webinar and 6-course sales. It was the boost I needed. Even though I have refined and retooled the program since then, that was the start that never would have happened if Katie hadn’t been there for me. She never doubted my ability and wouldn’t let me quit.
I have to commend one more person for my success though. I still needed my confidence boosted, and my messaging solidified. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing, I just needed someone to first make me work hard enough to get to the next level, and second focus my attention on getting there. That’s when Sajad Hussain of Cause and Effect Consulting entered my life. I spend six months knowing that I needed something or someone to push me over the hump to the next level. His 6-week Bootcamp was just what I needed. I entered thinking that I just needed more accountability and productivity, that my hang-up was my messaging.
Actually, all of that was true, But, I also needed to get out of my head and truly believe that I could reach the goals I was setting. Not only that, I needed to uplevel my goals and see myself as the expert I was afraid to admit I was. Sajad pushed me hard, and there were times I wanted to quit. However, he did exactly what I needed him to do. My business did more than just get over the hump, it soared. New possibilities and doors opened before me with an ease that I had only dreamed were possible. It was hard work but it was also is recently support, coaching, and personal attention that made all the difference.
I was always capable of this, but it took Sajad to make me own that fact and enter the business circles with confidence and drive. He accomplished more with me in just 8 weeks than I could have done alone in a couple of years. I am so thankful to both of these coaches. They believed in me until I was ready to believe in myself. That is priceless.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Jennifer Elia: The most common mistake is marketing without a plan or vision. Everyone “knows” they need to be on social media, but they have no idea why. They think just being on social media markets their business. However, it is a tool, not a marketing plan. You need to know how to use it.
The truth is that social media marketing is no different than any other marketing. You need to build brand recognition and know-like-trust factor set yourself up as the expert, and show your audience why they need what you have. Social media isn’t a billboard, it’s a conversation.
I see far too many businesses thinking the trick is to be on more platforms or employ more tricks and hacks. Neither of these work. Tricks and hacks only lead to vanity numbers that don’t convert or techniques that quit working as soon as the algorithm changes. The best platform to be on is the one where your ideal clients are waiting, and you will be consistently effective.
More isn’t always better. Effective and authentic are the name of the game.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Jennifer Elia: Resilience can be overused but it really is the key to any success. I’m not downplaying the events of the past 18 months. There have been so many factors that have rocked our worlds. It has been incredibly stressful and uncertain. Only the resilient have not only survived but thrived in business. However, resilience is necessary for every business. Any business that you know of as successful or a household name was resilient. There are always ups and downs in business. No journey is a straight line without hiccups or failures. The biggest businesses around have had some massive setbacks and failures.
Yet, they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and charted a new course. They learned from their mistakes and turned failure into opportunity. That is the true measure of resilience. We often think it is about just holding on to the raft as the waves crash over us. However, truly resilient people(and businesses) not only hold on they use the force of the wave to push them further than they thought possible.
It can be incredibly scary and overwhelming at the moment but vision and drive keep those who can do better moving forward despite the fear.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Jennifer Elia: I feel like the biggest factor that makes my company stand out from the competition is the way we serve our people. There are no cookie-cutter social media campaigns or strategies. Everything is rooted in proven techniques and systems, but we customize that for every single client. We do what is best for their brand, in their voice, and aligned with their values.
Also, the marketing plans we set up can be used on any platform, including offline communications. They are rooted in solid marketing practices, not platform-specific tricks. We teach our clients how to communicate with their audience in a way that is authentic and builds community. If social media were to disappear tomorrow, our clients would have a framework that could easily be adapted to whatever comes next. It’s not about the technology, but providing value. building connections, and selling ethically.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Jennifer Elia: Well, I think the first is that I am stubborn. I don’t give up until I get the job done or find a new way to get the same result. I believe this goes back to resilience. I don’t fail even when nothing is working because I am too stubborn to give up.
In addition, I am incredibly dedicated to my work and my people. Loyalty and commitment are extremely important to me. When you commit to something, you need to follow through. Not only that, don’t do the bare minimum, go above and beyond what is expected. That is how I operate my business and my life. I don’t want to just coast through anything, I want to deliver serious service and value.
Lastly, I am a problem solver. Katie, who I mentioned earlier, remarked once that most of the time when I send out a message for help in our mastermind, I end up finding the answer before anyone else has a chance to help. I never stop learning, experimenting, and trying. Truly, I believe that there is nothing I cannot do or learn. So, I don’t let problems stand in my way. Actually, they motivate me to do better and increase my success.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Jennifer Elia: You know this is a funny question. I can remember early on learning about branding and building a personal brand. Most of me wanted nothing to do with it. I was happily working behind the scenes, creating copy, building programs, and running marketing campaigns, I didn’t need anyone to know who was doing it. However, I should have still been building a personal brand. Behind the scenes, I was a great success and I easily went from job to job, client to client via referral. But, when life fell apart, I realized how much I had missed out on.
Here I was with over 12 years of experience trying to build a presence online. I had spent over a decade preaching to clients about doing exactly what I had failed to do. This really didn’t help anyone, especially me. I soon realized that personal branding isn’t about having everyone look at you, it’s about getting known for your own zone of brilliance.
Zone of brilliance is a phrase that my friend Dawnita Fogelman at Prairie Dusttrails uses and I have chosen to borrow it. It’s not that I need a spotlight on me everywhere I go. However, I want my light to shine to help further my clients’ and followers’ legacies. Having a solid brand has boosted my company and gives my team a better framework to work within.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Jennifer Elia: I do not like micromanaging, I think that is the worst way to get results. My preferred leadership style is raising all ships. You know the saying a rising tide raises all ships, right? Well, when leaders empower others in their organization, everyone does better. We all have gifts, we need to allow those to shine.
Provide a structure and establish good communication, but then allow team members to do what they do best. This has worked every time, and I always learn something new from the contractors and team members I employ.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Jennifer Elia: I think we are all born with dreams, gifts, and a mission. None of those look alike. Too often we try to fit kids into a box, or lead them on a pre-designed path to “ensure success.” But, whose success? Who defines that success? Everyone has a different version of success, and this world is riches when we all use our gifts and fulfill our personal mission by stepping into our zone of brilliance.
Entrepreneurship is a learned skill, but I believe it is something that exists within each of us. Instead of just pushing kids to “go to college.” We need to be encouraging them to discover their unique gifts and mission. Not everyone will lead to starting a business, however, I believe there are many more people who should be entrepreneurs than we perceive.
Instead of asking where kids want to go to school, we should be asking what their message is and how their gift can change the world. Entrepreneurship builds great leaders and innovators. We need innovation in every aspect of life. So we need to provide opportunities to nurture than inner drive and give young people the chance to see what entrepreneurship is all about.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Jennifer Elia: My favorite quote above all that applies to my life, my business, and my drive for the future is from St Catherine of Sienna.
“Be who you were meant to be and you will set the world afire.”
Can you imagine what this world would be like if every person set it afire with their gifts and service? There is so much to learn from that quote. In all I do, I strive to be exactly who I was created to be. That isn’t the same as anyone else. As I said in the last question, we need to foster that inner mission and let young people discover exactly who they were created to be.
This is how we cure cancer or solve the world’s biggest problems. It isn’t about more money or problems being too big. Really there is someone with that gift and mission, have we allowed him or her to live it out? That is a really big question.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jennifer Elia for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jennifer Elia or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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