Book Review: My Life as a 50+ Year-Old White Male

How a Mixed Race Woman Stumbled into Direct-Response Copywriting and Succeeded! – By Carline Anglade Cole

My Life As a 50+Year-Old White Male

The Quick Overview


A foothold to success

Besides making the big time as an A-list copywriter in the US, one of Carline’s claims to fame is being mentored by the ultra-famous Clayton Makepeace, who sadly died in March 2020.


The catchy title of this copywriting book is what Makepeace drummed into her understanding: how to get into the head of your audience. And that’s exactly how Carline learned to make big money in the world of direct-response copywriting. 


Authentic storytelling

Carline writes with an endearing level of honesty and vulnerability. She includes warming stories about her humble childhood and quirky family influences that helped form who she is today. Her story includes her career path from customer service rep to freelancer, and the shifting of gears as her business grew in success.

‘I quickly learned that whenever Clayton Makepeace made me cry, my income increased…If I wasn’t focusing on my 50+ year-old white male market—he told me to “put on your big girl pants and write like a man!” ‘


What’s Great About It


It’s fun

Like Carline herself, the book is upbeat and lighthearted—an easy read. It’s full of stories, some that made me chuckle, others that made my jaw drop.


A female fighter

It’s refreshing to hear from a famous female copywriter when, historically, most of the masters of the craft are male. Women are much more prevalent as copywriters today, but it’s not often I’ve heard from women at the top of the food chain.

As a mixed-race woman prioritising her family in a predominantly white male work culture in the 90s, she had to find her own way through prejudices. She faced disparaging comments like, “Oh, she probably has to go home to her kids again.” She became an advocate for people of colour through her regular reminders to publishers and designers to make sure more than one race was represented in the marketing material.


A spiritual investment

Carline’s values mean she invests precious time into growing her spiritual life. That was a breath of fresh air to me—something unexpected when you’re reading about copywriting. She allows her faith to guide her choices and ethics in all aspects of her life, including work. As a result she intentionally invests her energies into her family and into helping others, and doesn’t take on work that opposes her values.  

‘I decided I would turn down any project that didn’t bring serious and positive benefits to my customer. I was not gonna help grow a crappy product… These folks are counting on me to look out for them!’

I found myself hanging onto her stories about how she makes her faith a foundational part of her work and personal life.


A friend-and-family network

The charming thing about Carline’s family is how they’re along for the ride, and how she welcomes the impact of their influence on her copy. Grandma got Carline interviews with random people, her cousin helped her research, and her children’s different personalities taught her how to write for different audiences. There’s an entertaining story behind each interaction in the book.


Financial aspirations…

My eyes were opened when Carline revealed charging $2500 for a one-hour consultation. I have new aspirations about where a copywriting future could go!



What’s Not So Great


Excessive use of exclamation marks!!!

The darn things are scattered like weed all over the book. Generally speaking, the exclamation mark turns up the nose of writers because it’s seen as a shortcut when a person is too lazy to use better words.

Sure enough, Carline has a chapter titled ‘Learn the Rules—and BREAK ‘Em Whenever You Can!

I first heard Carline speak on David Garfinkel’s Copywriters Podcast, and her bubbly nature drew me in. She’s big on writing copy that sounds conversational, so I guess she simply writes as effervescently as she speaks. And you just have to realise – this is who Carline is. She’s being her unique self. She explains how embracing this understanding was transformational in forging her way to success.

‘If I tried to talk like most of the doctors who represented my products—my prospect would be bored as heck! … I’m actually giving the doctor MY voice. My easy way of talking to a customer. My ability to make a complicated idea simple enough for the prospect to say, “Aha!” ‘



After spending AUD$60 (incl postage) on Amazon in November 2020 I was deflated by the small, 175-page paperback that arrived in the mail. It’s printed on thin paper and some of the graphics are illegible because of their tiny size and poor resolution.

Perhaps its saving grace is access to an online stash of Carline’s own direct-response marketing copy. Book buyers can access seventeen of the promotional magazines she wrote, cover to cover, and a number of one-page ads.

The drawback of the resources is having to relinquish an email address, which means you’re added to Carline’s Copy Star mailing list. That means an email every single day, many of which are excerpts from the book you’ve just read. That takes on a distinctly spammy hue for me. Easy enough to unsubscribe, I suppose.


Last Few Thoughts


A Bit of Show, A Bit of Tell

While Carline states at the beginning that this is not a book that teaches copywriting, by the end of the book, I felt I had learned a fair amount.


Through her story, which includes the ‘Carline Routine’, the reader gets the low down on:

– how she approaches the tasks at hand

– what she does when she’s stuck

– how she writes promos fast

– how to collaborate effectively with designers


Tips and Tricks

From her personal experience Carline demonstrates some of the harder lessons to be learned:

– there is no such thing as 100% success rate

– how important it is to ‘shut your pie hole’ and stay humble when accepting critique

– how to keep pushing your own boundaries.


Although a bit US-centric, the FAQ chapter at the end holds more than one pearl of wisdom from someone who has done the hard yards.


That’s a Wrap

Having read this copywriting book, it’s enlightening to know more about a woman who is a highly successful copywriter, who speaks my language and is relatable. The way Carline connects with readers in this book demonstrates exactly how she’s flown so high.

It’s worth a read.


Expert Electrical installing solar

Getting the Team Right to Go

How Team Changes got Expert Electrical through a COVID crisis

Someone has to have the guts to make the difficult decisions in a crisis. In a rapid plummet of sales caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Expert Electrical had to act quickly. It turned out that having only half a team was not such a bad thing after all.


Sun Seekers

It’s not beyond Ben and his team to pitch their tents around a fire somewhere miles away from the city, to complete a job. They’ll be up in the early hours to kit out a bush or beach property with off-grid power—solar panels, inverter, batteries and generator. Because they’re electricians, they’ll also fix up the switchboard connections to get all the home appliances, like air con, operating on green energy.

Expert Electrical off-grid solar panels
Off-grid solar power
Expert Electrical taking solar to the country
Power out in the country

Expert Electrical is Ben’s baby. A reputation, evidenced by multiple Google reviews, of being an ‘honest’, ‘professional’, ‘very helpful company’ that is ‘easy to talk to’ has seen the company grow substantially over its 10+ years.

I’m interviewing Leesa. In the leadership team of three business partners, she oversees business administration alongside Joran who takes care of operations and Ben who is the head electrician. We’re in an arty cafe in the middle of industrial Brendale, North Brisbane, and though I’m only an acquaintance I feel like I’m talking to a friend. Leesa’s role frees Ben to be out with his team doing what he does best: custom designing solar and electrical systems for homes and businesses.

Leesa is wholeheartedly supportive of her team.

‘In a saturated industry, we are so much more than just solar. Our team has knowledge beyond the standard solar retailer. Our guys do best where more complex solutions are needed… Customers are starting to recognise us for our experience.’

Expert Electrical setting up off-grid power
Off-grid power systems
Expert Electrical solar lighting up the dark
Solar power lighting up the dark


When COVID hit


The impact of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 changed everything. Since working from home was a requirement where possible, the office that usually bustled with six people contained Joran alone, working hard to hold the fort.

Electricians were permitted to carry out essential visits with the appropriate precautions of masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing, but their scheduled visits shrank. Online communication robbed the sales team of their usual face-to-face rapport and they felt hamstrung by working only on phones and screens.

Working from home introduced a new stressor for staff with children: homeschooling.

“The dual role really pushed our boundaries,” Leesa said. “My routine was to help the kids until 1pm, and then start work. After work, I’d help the kids with their homework, and then pick up the last of my workload for the day. I was usually working until about 9 at night.” The team soldiered on despite limited availability from their usual support staff.


Making It Work


Keeping Virtual Company

With the imperative of social distancing in the battle against the virus, a team accustomed to the friendly comings and goings in the office – a chat and a joke here, a phone message there, a quick lunch together – began losing touch with each other.

They had to find other ways to keep the communication lines going.

Team meetings via Zoom twice a week was a good workaround.

Customer visits also had to change. Usual services to inspect solar systems with testing equipment became a collaborative effort between clients and technicians on Zoom, searching together for numbers and data that could give the necessary story. That wasn’t easy for everyone, but Expert Electrical coached even their elderly clients through it. In a short space of time, the company had transitioned to performing 95% of their work online.


Cutting the Overheads

Leesa went straight to the company financials to scrutinise fixed and variable costs. All overheads needed to be cut. Debt needed to be managed and the company needed to make use of reprieves where available.

She knew these decisions needed to be made quickly, before the company bled too much revenue and could not be saved at all.

As an accountant in a previous role, she had seen the sorry state of clients in the GFC of 2008 who held on instead instead of cutting costs. Those that took quick action fared best. Now it was Expert Electrical’s turn to do the same.

Difficult decisions were made. Since there was no government support yet on the horizon, the business had to let staff go to survive. The team was reduced from thirteen to six.


A New Staffing Structure

Expert Electrical Team
The Expert Electrical Team

With a much smaller team, roles within the company had to be restructured. Drawing on the strengths of each team member, leadership, warehouse, admin, servicing and sales roles were developed and training was provided. It paid off—Expert Electrical started to get better outcomes.

Clear staffing roles meant less uncertainty around who did what, and that meant less tasks slipped through the cracks.

A new CRM (Customer Relations Management) software system also helped. It soon flagged areas lacking efficiency, and these were given more attention. Queries were filtered via the system to the person best suited to resolve it, rather than the first available person tackling any and every query. It also enabled customers to approve quotes online –  great for CovidSafe practice.


The Resilience Factor


Leesa’s business experience stopped her from panicking. Knowing she needed to stick to the formula of getting back to basics and cutting costs paved a clear path of action. As the streamlining of staffing and operations gained traction, company efficiency showed a marked difference and sales picked up after a worrying plummet. For Leesa, the good fruit of difficult decisions was assuring. It felt like a worthwhile cleansing.

It was also a comfort to Leesa, Joran and Ben that Expert Electrical could lean into their relationship capital.

More than ever, they relied on word-of-mouth referrals and worked on retaining their customer focus, and that got them through. Maintaining quality service as a priority was a helpful anchor in steering the business into their new chapter.


Tips from Expert Electrical


Design staff roles to be proactive rather than reactive

Without designated roles, only the squeaky wheels get the grease, and whole sections of business can be neglected. When Expert Electrical restructured their staffing, maintenance and servicing avenues came to life. Taking time to analyse business tasks takes a small business to the next level of efficiency, which strengthens a team in crisis.

Expert Electrical installing solar
Expert Electrical in action


Where there’s stress, go back to basics

In business there are things you can control and things you’ll never control. A panicked state can blur those differences. Stopping to re-evaluate your practices and getting back to the bare essentials can be just the cleansing your business needs.

“Work out what your bottom line is and what you need to do to keep the doors open, and maintain that as your first priority.”


Every customer interaction is an opportunity

Whether it’s following up a sales lead, installation, a phone call, or after sales care—all are opportunities to show a customer that someone cares about their concerns. An unhappy customer can damage a business, but happy customers are the ones who spread the word to friends and family.

‘We’re not the cheapest providers, but we win work because of our interaction. Sometimes we make a sale just because we spend half an hour answering questions on a phone call. Customers tell me, “You guys will do the job and care about it.”’


Moving Forward


Expert Electrical has made a huge turnaround since the pandemic dented their sales in March last year. Their dynamic streamlining of business operations resulted in record-breaking numbers in the last quarter of 2020 and onwards. Now they’re on to new things. Look out for their roadshows—a new development to show off their off-grid, mobile tiny home independently powered by solar energy.


See For Yourself


Read the numerous five-star reviews that Expert Electrical has on Google, coming in thick and fast.

Expert Electrical commercial solar panels
Expert Electrical commercial solar solutions

If you’re looking for solar or electrical expertise Expert Electrical is ready and waiting to treat you with friendly and professional service.

You’ll find them here:

(07) 3195 3633
(Look out for their new website launch in March)

Or find them on Instagram


Alfina of Alfina's Cake and Coffee

Don’t Give Up

How Alfina Saved Her Cafe from a COVID crisis


“How am I going to pay the rent?” was the first thing Alfina thought (after swearing) when the prime minister announced COVID-19 restrictions for cafes like hers. It was a sleepless night, but at 4am the plan came.


A Community Gem

You’ll probably only find Alfina’s Cake and Coffee through word-of-mouth community networks, because it’s one of those hidden gems. The cakes are what grandma used to make – homebaked, rustic, and always delicious in that wholesome-ingredients-kind-of-way. Favourites like lemon meringue will always be on the menu, but you can also count on new creations based on Alfina’s inspiration for that day. That’s because, as the only staff member, Alfina bakes all her own cakes.


But there’s something else. An intangible golden thread runs through this cafe: the way it connects people.


How many cafes have you visited where the friendly conversation at the next table spills over to include you? When last did you hear people around you break out in song… or even dance… while you were tucking into a spongy piece of chocolate mud cake?

You’ll be genuinely welcomed at Alfina’s, and that in itself is the reason some of her customers are no longer lonely. It’s how a cancer sufferer found a haven of positivity during her unforgiving treatment. In Alfina’s words, “It’s the kind of place where there’s always someone to talk to, and where you’ll get a job to do if you hang around long enough.”

And that’s exactly how things have always worked there. One of the regular customers built the bookshelf that now holds free secondhand books, and the giftware shelves are filled with jewellery, honey and handcrafted toys made by locals. Volunteer staff have always rallied round her, finding meaning in being part of this special place in Eaton’s Hill, Brisbane.

That was before COVID.


Afina's shop - homemade goods

Alfina's rustic choc ginger cake


When COVID hit


Alfina had just returned from celebrating her mother’s 80th birthday in Cairns, (and had started running out of toilet paper) when the restrictions hit. Concerned friends and family called, but Alfina had no idea what to tell them. She had until lunchtime the next day to make a plan or close the shop.


To close would mean losing her only source of income.


At the best of times there was not abundant profit after bills were paid, so she could not afford to have debts pile up. Despite government urging landlords to be lenient, her landlord did not offer any reprieves.


Making It Work


Becoming a Takeaway Shop

Alfina’s first plan was only one idea, but it was enough to keep the doors open.

To become a takeaway venture almost overnight, the shopfront would need to tantalise passersby. Since indoor seating was no longer viable, the the deli counter full of tempting treats and special savouries was moved within a metre of the front door, spanning the width of the shop. A few socially-distanced chairs were dotted around outside for waiting customers. Then Alfina waited.

It worked.

Local people emerged from their work-from-home tethers, keen for a change of environment. And cake, it seemed, was the comfort they were looking for.


A Volunteer Army—For Milk

The daily morning shop for milk supply was part of Alfina’s everyday routine until pandemic panic decimated grocery store supplies. Milk—essential for coffees— became the most precious commodity of all. With individual purchases limited to two bottles per customer, the coffee service was in jeopardy.

But this didn’t stop Alfina. She got up two hours earlier each morning and followed an itinerary of shops until she had the supply she needed. Later, her army of volunteers kicked into action, using their quotas on her behalf. This comradery shortened her shopping trips and her very long working hours.


The clincher: Friday Night Platters

Alfina's Friday night platters

Ultimately, this ingenious ‘platter pivot’ was how the cafe survived a COVID crisis. The cafe’s deli counter boasts authentic European meats and locally sourced products. Cheeses and chocolates come from Tasmania, the Gold Coast, and Melbourne.

The ‘Friday Night Platter Evening’ at the cafe had previously become popular. Families would bring their own wine and sit down to a light meal of savoury meats, cheeses, olives and fruit from the deli. When dine-in restrictions changed the landscape, it meant no more Friday nights.

But it left an itch that needed scratching.

Before long, families started asking for these platters as a takeaway. Not missing an opportunity, Alfina and a friend designed appropriate COVID Safe packaging. The neat box was perfect for Zoom virtual dinner parties, and the orders kept coming. They were a hit over Easter especially, and remain a standard item from the deli today.


The Resilience Factor

The meaning the cafe held for some customers during enforced isolation, spurred Alfina on. For a group of ladies in a nearby retirement village, the coffee run was their only outside contact in a day. One lady said, “You saved us – we would have gone insane.”

One elderly lady used to visit daily to order a sandwich, just to break the isolation. Alfina would make sure she only started making the sandwich when this particular customer arrived—it gave them more time to chat, socially distanced, of course.

Alfina enjoyed how life went back to basics for a time, with families going out together. “It felt like back when I grew up. Everyone was just nice.”

Yet, as much as the café helped others, Alfina maintains that it was the constant support of the café community that got her through the crisis.


Tips from Alfina

Alfina of Alfina's Cake and Coffee

Don’t give up: Stick to your gut feel and work it out

“People are surprised that I wasn’t ever shut,” Alfina says, with a twinkle of pride. Hard work is nothing new to Alfina. She has had to put in the hard yards to make life work for her and her children since their father died. ”My life hasn’t been easy – I’ve raised them myself, always put them first.”

To Alfina, persevering through this challenge continued to model to her now-adult children the value of hard work in getting where you want to be.


Solutions evolve over time

“If it doesn’t work the first time, try a different way.”

Alfina reflects that she only had initial solutions, but each new solution gave her the next step, which was all she needed, and that way she kept going.

On Mother’s Day in March, Alfina was still experimenting with ideas. COVID Safe practices took extra time, and a fourteen-hour day was not sustainable. By Father’s Day in June she’d found an efficient structure for service, working smarter rather than harder. Alfina now has a time of day by which all baking has to be done and gets home at a decent hour.


Moving Forward


Just about everything changed at the cafe, but it didn’t happen all at once. What worked in March would no longer work now. But some things have stuck, like having the deli near the shop entrance. The permanent changes have been good for business. The happy community of customers stuck with Alfina through it all, and are back in full sing… er… swing.


See For Yourself

  1. Visit Alfina’s Cake & Coffee to indulge in one of Alfina’s delicious home-baked goodies and a cuppa. 
  2. Order a platter – phone, or message via the Facebook page, and you’ll be able to collect within 24 hours.
  3. Pop in to select something from the deli or giftware selections.
  4. Come in just to say hello — Alfina loves a chat.
  5. If you have an idea that’s not on the menu, speak to Alfina – she’ll make it if she can.

Contact details:

Alfina’s Cake & Coffee

(07) 3325 5820

6 Bunya Park Drive, Eaton’s Hill, QLD 4037


Deli box from Alfina's Cake and Coffee




Finding the Silver Lining

How Clean as Can Bee Harnessed New Opportunities

In March 2020, Clean as Can Bee business partners, Paul and Craig, walked out of a growth seminar brimming with ideas. They couldn’t wait to get started on restructuring the company to harness its organic growth. But when COVID-19 restrictions kicked in just days afterwards, they lost three quarters of their customers. Plans were about to change in a way they could never have predicted.


Cleaning is Not a Dirty Word

“We are sick and tired of the way people look down on the cleaning industry and its workers, considering both to be of low socio-economic worth.”

As I interview them in their home-based office, the vibrancy with which co-owners, Paul and Craig, explain their vision for Clean as Can Bee is refreshing.
“Whenever we get together, we want to talk about our passion – how we can grow our business to help more people and their families. Besides that we’re quite boring, really.”

Starting out fresh from Canada, Paul, his wife and his son combined their collective strengths to form a cleaning business. Gaining a reputation for quality real estate exit cleans, they expanded to residential and commercial jobs. But the business was never only about creating a family legacy. For Paul, it was about who they could bring with them on the journey.

“You only need to turn on the news to see the latest industrial relations breakdown within the cleaning industry. It’s not well regulated, resulting in a systemic problem of money-hungry cleaning services taking advantage of workers.”

Clean as Can Bee takes a different approach.

They have a catchy vision. Staff recruit more staff because they love their jobs. Their motto rings true as they raise the image of the cleaning industry: Teaching the world that cleaning is NOT a dirty word.



Clean As Can Bee | Happy Cleaners


When COVID Hit

Business restrictions laid out by government on 22 March had immediate impact. All residential cleaning contracts were placed on hold to avoid the risk of contagion in peoples’ homes. In a knee-jerk reaction, fifty percent of commercial customers cancelled jobs, large and small.

There was no guarantee that Clean as Can Bee would get those customers back.

As the weeks passed, the remaining commercial customers had far less need for cleaning, since many of their employees were working from home. More work was lost.


Making it Work


Sourcing New Work

It was a dilemma. Clean as Can Bee had to let go of their reliable income streams – residential and commercial cleans. They were forced to seek new cleaning avenues.

But cancelled jobs meant more time to think, and ideas on the back burner became conversation pieces. What about mountain bike cleaning? Motorbike cleaning? Carpets?

They had nothing to lose by activating new ideas.

Over the next 2 months they identified an additional three vertical markets that could make them a better business. Aiming to become a one-stop shop for real estate, they would make carpet cleaning and yard care their business. Decision made, they got cracking on streamlining the processes.

Finding Workers Got Harder

Quality cleaning staff had always been scarce, but with the government rollout of JobKeeper, few people were in desperate need of work. Recruitment agencies yielded nothing.

Applications from higher end income earners looking for supplements to their JobKeeper allowances were a short-lived glimmer of hope. Unused to manual labour, all of them fled at the first signs of hard graft, like cleaning blood off the floor of a medical clinic. Guarding against a high staff turnover, Clean as Can Bee quickly ended that path.

“Our customers often want to know who will be cleaning for them,” Paul said. “They love our cleaners, and they love the fact that the same cleaner stays on.”

The staffing roadblock facilitated a new idea.

Craig turned to contacts servicing the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) to explore employment of a person with a disability. The plan worked! More on that below.

Real-time number crunching

To qualify for JobKeeper for their staff, Clean as Can Bee had to provide clear numbers to the government. Eligibility required certain changes—the single touch payroll for a start. It sparked another opportunity.

Paul knew that their accounting processes could be better streamlined by adjusting business structures for organic growth. Now seemed like a good time for change.

Guided by ATO compliance guidelines for COVID-19, Clean as Can Bee permanently implemented new pay structures. Shifting workers from being subcontractors to employees meant they would secure employee benefits. While this was a lot of work, the restructure placed the business in a position to grow exponentially faster.


The Resilience Factor


Generosity – A Chance to Give Back

What would motivate a business to provide free services when everyone else was holding on tightly to their money? That question sparked this interview. The answer, it seems, sprang from a deep faith and the foundational company value of generosity.

“We’ve been very blessed,” says Paul. 

He has always seen the business as a God-given assignment. “It’s not just a [marketing] strategy… I don’t drive a brand new car. We want to be genuinely generous. I want a large business to be able to help more people. The more you can give away, the more families you can help. Every employee has a family around them.” This is the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. When the going gets tough – which it does – Paul draws strength from the meaning behind all that they do.

Once the business took stock of what they could still accomplish in the lockdown, they wanted to help their customers. Free cleaning for floundering businesses, like the one that could no longer afford their warehouse and needed an exit clean, was a no-brainer.

Another way they helped was by becoming government-approved to sanitise by COVID Safe protocol. They were able to relieve customers of mandatory extra cleaning regimes, and provided the additional time and disinfectant supplies free of charge.


A bright future with NDIS candidates

It took some trial and error before the new NDIS recruit found his groove, but once Clean as Can Bee identified a job that built on his strengths, it opened up a new section of business that they’d always considered – car detailing.

“He is keen, he is fun and he is really, really good at what he does,” Craig said.

They discovered that people with a disability are generally more eager to work than those without. It  was a breath of fresh air at a time when there were many obstacles to overcome.

Car detailing


Tips from Clean As Can Bee


Let Go and Look For the Silver Lining

Too many businesses try to survive whatever event knocks them by holding onto the things they’ve always done. The secret is to let go when a strategy is no longer feasible and look for the silver lining in every situation. If you hold on too tightly, you might end up losing it anyway.

Seek New Opportunities

A business needs to continue to expand its borders and search for new opportunities. That way, when business is lost, which is inevitable, there is new business waiting in the wings to replace it. Roll with the punches and keep a finger on the pulse of what customers need from you right now.

New Plans Take Time to Grow

Implementing growth ideas during a crisis takes time. New products or services initially might only replace the business you’ve lost, but you won’t be going backwards. When the crisis is over, you’ll find yourself operating at a higher level, and better placed to thrive.


Moving Forward

Paul and Craig view COVID-19 obstacles as a blessing. The need to survive the pandemic facilitated better understanding of their business, leading to a more complete business model.

And the other good news: They’ve re-signed contracts with ALL their previous residential and commercial customers.

Clean as Can Bee continues to grow at a remarkable rate year on year. Their future, says Craig, looks brighter than ever.


See For Yourself

Clean as Can Bee would love to hear from you.

  • Do you have a similar story to theirs? They love a good chat.
  • Do you know of potentially good cleaners looking for work in the North Brisbane area?
  • Want a quote?
  • Want to share a message of support?

You’ll find them here:

  1. Visit their website:
  2. Phone or text to let them know how they can help: 0404 258 785
  3. Send an email:

Don’t Stop Training in the Off Season

How SBIM Capitalised on COVID Downtime

The first COVID-19 restrictions hit Australia in March 2020 but it was the first of April that loomed like a dark cloud for SBIM in Brisbane. Anticipating a cascade of phone calls after issuing quarter-end invoices, the team braced themselves for a deluge of non-payments. If that happened, the walls could fall down.


A Sticky Business

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll want your business to pop up strategically in online searches, particularly the prominent ones like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. You want to be found, you want your customers to like what they find, and you want them to act on it. This is the kind of marketing that SBIM offers.

But wait! There can only be one No 1 on an online search results page, right?

So what happens when your digital marketing agency also has your competitor as a client? That’s where SBIM is different. If you engage with them, you’ll be the one and only business of your kind in your industry.

SBIM | Meeting Room

Our meeting room for this interview was one you’ll see in the video on SBIM’s website, and it resonated with the rest of the neat office, with company colours splashed across decor and the team’s polo shirts. (In case you’re wondering, SBIM stands for ‘Small Business Internet Marketing’.)

As the owner, Gary’s thoughtful answers demonstrated a no-nonsense thoroughness that was mirrored in his COVID-related responses. The team’s easy friendliness in the open-plan office echoed a value that has a lot to do with SBIM’s survival through a pandemic: they value people. It’s what makes their customers ‘stick’.

When COVID hit

The problem with media being our main source of information in the beginning was, of course, that media reports were sensationalist.

“If you believed it—projections were catastrophic. Many panicked,” Gary said.

Yet, after SBIM sent out their invoices on the first of April, the phone lines remained quiet. A good sign. Invoices were paid. First crisis averted.

The real threat came as May, June and July crept in.

The marketplace braced for a potential recession, and SBIM phones remained quiet— too quiet this time. After years of relying on healthy monthly intakes of new business, SBIM sustained three months of zero new customers.


Making It Work

SBIM | Don't panic

Sifting Facts from Fiction

For Gary, it was a conscious decision not to panic. Instead, he sifted out the facts from the sensationalist misinformation. He spoke to his established team of trusted advisors – consultants and accountants, especially helpful times like this – and took their advice to hold onto staff and keep cash in the business. Armed with this information, he reassured his team while seeking objective facts to shape further action.

“We didn’t want to contribute to the noise,” Gary said.

How Were the Customers Going?

Marketing someone’s business requires getting to know them well, over time. Gary and his team used the quarter-end mark as a catalyst for checking in with each of their customers. The contact was welcomed, and working relationships grew stronger with customers knowing someone was looking out for them.

How to Market in Uncertain Times

With most of SBIM’s customers working in professional fields like law, medical practice and accounting, they had not been as hard hit as the travel and hospitality industries. Despite that, they still had to make decisions about how to market their business in the midst of a pandemic.

“We were keeping our ear to the ground,” Gary said. The cost of digital advertising dropped quite suddenly as big advertising platforms like Facebook and Google strove to drive more online traffic in the absence of the big spenders spending.

Based on reliable sources and discussions with his business advisors, Gary presented his customers with two feasible marketing options. Either they could access approximately 25% more online advertising without spending more, or they could maintain their existing level of advertising and save. Pausing marketing campaigns altogether ran the risk of losing momentum already gained in the marketing lifecycle, growing from awareness to hard sales.

Many customers took the opportunity to capitalise on online marketing.

As a result, in a very short space of time, SBIM built more online stores than ever before.

Of course, SBIM faced the same two choices.

The Resilience Factor

A fresh project

At this lopsided moment in time, Gary realised that business growth pre-COVID had led to SBIM neglecting their own marketing. It was a pitfall when strategising for scalable impact in the long run.

Gary took his own advice and tripled SBIM’s inhouse marketing efforts, capitalising on the low-cost window. New purpose renewed the team’s energy levels at a time when so much else seemed to be flagging.

SBIM White Room
The White Room in action

The SBIM White Room, usually busy with customer video production, became busy with capturing and editing SBIM’s own interviews. Content generation on marketing strategies, and quality edutainment clips proliferated. Over the next few weeks, the team built up Insta and YouTube followings.

The result of their consequent marketing surge? “That’s paying back big time,” Gary reports.

Relationships matter

As business slowed, Gary took stock of what he still had, and he became especially grateful for SBIM’s strong existing customer base. Relationships built over years through trust and proven results meant that customers trusted SBIM’s advice along the bumpy road too. Only one customer out of the entire database terminated their services throughout the pandemic restrictions.

“A period of three months with no new clients proved that we could survive without new business. It reinforced that we have a resilient business model where recurring services underpin our stability,” said Gary.

In the revitalised business plan moving forward, the focus on customer relationships heightened, with service and customer results being key.

Tips from SBIM

Find Advice You Trust

Surround yourself with trusted advisors, a pool of people you can go to for honest feedback, rather than feeding off the general public. Many business owners listen to too many opinions. If you look long enough, you’ll find ten different points of view that all conflict. 

Gary’s advice is to hitch your wagon to people who can give you solid, unbiased, unhyped strategies. Listen to your trusted inner circle of influence, and then trust your gut feel. Make space for your own judgement, and make your decisions based on a combination of the two.

Don’t Stop Training in the Off Season

“I knew we were going to come out of this. I just didn’t know how.”

Being a cyclist himself, Gary knew they had to keep going based on what they knew for sure to be true, and to keep getting ‘fit for purpose’.

“Don’t stop training in the off season – that’s when you get stronger.”

A previous employer, a large music retailer who knew that success would not last forever, was where Gary first learned this. He has seen this wisdom repeatedly proven over his working career. Gary maintains that recessions or downtimes are the times to stay calm and tap into past experiences—your own or from others. That way, you’ll be ready to catch the wave when the upturn comes.

SBIM | Don't Stop Training in the Off Season

Moving Forward

SBIM not only survived COVID, but came out the other end a better business. The rigours of navigating a pandemic forced Gary into a deeper understanding of his business, becoming more conscientious about business growth planning, and being better placed to look after customers.

“We want to remain the go-to people for sound marketing advice, as we were able to be through the uncertainty.”


See For Yourself

Interested in digital marketing for your business?

Because SBIM is interested in getting you results, they work on a ‘no lead, no pay’ guarantee.

  1. Book a discovery session via phone or the website.
  2. A team member will identify your needs and whether SBIM can provide what you’re looking for, whether it’s more traffic, more leads or more sales
  3. If it’s a good fit, SBIM will work with you achieve the marketing goals of your dream business.

Contact details:

Phone: 1300 781 609

Office 1/ 162 South Pine Rd, Brendale, QLD 4500