5 Online Assets That Are Worth Your Time

You know you need online assets, but which ones are really worth your time? I asked myself this question as I prepared to launch my company, HipHire, which is a new platform that connects companies with quality part-time candidates using a unique matching system.

While HipHire’s concept and our platform are new, the way we get in front of our best customer probably feels familiar to you. Skim through this list and you’ll see that we use opt-in offers, blogging, social media and more. You’re likely already doing most of these things to market your own products and services.

But is it working?

In the tech startup world, being able to launch and gain traction quickly is hugely important. To make sure I was spending time on the online assets that were truly worth it, I did a combination of hypothesizing, testing, tweaking, and testing some more. This process led to rapid adjustments when things weren’t working, which meant more efficiency and better success in the end.

If you’ve ever wondered if your online assets were worth the time you’re putting in to them, here’s how to start testing.


Landing Pages with Specific Opt-ins

landingpagesHipHire has two main business segments—companies looking to hire and candidates seeking part-time jobs. Instead of creating one opt-in offer for each audience, we created multiple opt-ins, each with their own specific landing page.

For example,

  • Our landing page for the Founders Club targets an elite group of Kansas City businesses who benefit from choosing HipHire early.
  • Our landing page for candidates seeking part-time summer jobs speaks directly to the needs of that particular job candidate subset.
  • We even created a landing page and opt-in offer specifically for you (yep, you!). Knowing what we do about the readers of this blog, we created something you’d find useful.

This focused approach makes readers feel you’re speaking directly to them. We tested a lot, and as we’ve fine-tuned this niche marketing, we’ve seen greater conversions.


Blog Content and Community

blogcontent

photo credit: pexels.com

In the months leading up to our launch, we provided information for job candidates and companies looking to hire. Even though our platform hadn’t launched yet, we kept in touch and kept people coming back to the site.

With the blog, as with everything else, I tested. I kept a close eye on analytics. When something didn’t work or when we found a vein that engaged people, we rebuilt the editorial calendar based on that knowledge. Being willing to change gears saves time and money by shifting energy from non-productive actions into profitable directions.


Social Media—Personalized

Social media

photo credit: pexels.com

Social media is about real connection.

I learned this lesson by trying to grow my number of Twitter followers. I followed 100 businesses in my target market each day. I had ditched using automated responses, so when somebody began following me back, I found relevant information about the person or company to create a personalized reply. I got creative, taking a picture of a handwritten note or making a video.

One person wanted to Skype to learn what I was doing because they were impressed that they received a custom message from me. This blew me away. The simplest level of communication and nobody is doing it? That strategy started adding 50 followers a week, but it wasn’t just numbers. Twitter became about real engagement and connection.

Personalizing each tweet may not be scalable, but focusing on quality personal connections makes a difference.


Mobile Ease

Mobile

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Our target market lives on mobile devices. We needed to go beyond mobile accessibility for the HipHire platform. We needed mobile ease.

One of the ways we did that was to show HipHire users that we can really deliver before asking them to set up a profile. We streamlined the profile process: type in a few key details (name and the like), then click, click, click, submit.

Making sure your site views correctly on a phone is pretty standard, but have you made your process simple for mobile users?


Visual Content

visual

photo credit: pexels.com

People want to know what the product looks like. They want to visualize themselves using it. That was a challenge for HipHire in the beginning because we started building awareness for the service before our platform was live. We got over this hurdle by providing “sneak peeks” throughout the process.

Since our audience was likely to be mobile, we showed mobile screenshots. This use of visual content demonstrated how clean and simple the process really is and helped build excitement as we neared our live launch.

To make your online assets really worth your time, focus on three Cs: customize, connect, and (when testing shows you should) change.

What tweak to online assets has been the biggest change maker for you?

 

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Brian Kearns is an entrepreneur and the founder of HipHire. He’s passionate about connecting employers and workers who share a vision of the ideal workplace culture. He believes that the key to finding quality part-time people is through a better employee fit.

5 Reasons to Hire a Marketing Consultant Even Though You Don’t Want To

Marketing consultant

photo credit: inneedofhelp08 via photopin cc

I’m a marketing consultant, so the title of this post may not appear too shocking, but let me start off with why not to hire a consultant.

Consultants aren’t magicians. Don’t go looking for someone to fix your marketing if your product doesn’t make sense. Don’t expect a consultant to swoop in and get you more clients if you don’t have a methodology that allows you to stand out. And finally, don’t hire a consultant so you can abdicate the all-important role of marketing to an “expert.”

A really good consultant won’t take your money unless they believe they can actually help you and, no matter what you believe your burning need is, you should hire a consultant to help you in the following five areas first and foremost.

You need a real strategy

A good consultant will demand that you spend time building a firm foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting traffic. Until you find a way to change the context of how your ideal customer views what you do and in effect render the competition irrelevant, you’ll find that your marketing efforts never seem to build momentum.

You need fewer objectives

A good consultant will help you determine your highest payoff work and your most pressing objectives based on where you want to be in a year, in three years, in five years – not next week. And, a good consultant will make sure that the number of priority objectives at any given time stays very, very small.

You have resource gaps

Sometimes in the “do it all yourself” world of small business it’s difficult to spot the areas that require outside help. You may be able to set up your newsletter, add plugins to WordPress and clumsily create header graphics for your social media profiles but is this work actually robbing you from focus on higher payoff work.

Sure, those things above might need to be attended to, but a good consultant will help you stop doing the things that are better handled by others. In fact, they might just help you become the CEO again!

You need to fix your conversion

This might be my favorite. Too many business owners, and sadly some consultants, focus on traffic and likes when the highest priority should be conversion. When you can figure out how to get visitors to your website and prospects that respond to your sales presentation to buy you can build a significant business.

Once you have conversion trending upwards you can buy traffic confident in the fact that you can bank on conversions.

You can’t stay focused

One of the dirty little secrets of consulting is that a part of you simply needs someone to hold you accountable – someone to help you document your goals and objectives and then whack you with some sort of a stick when you wander off into new ideas and social networks, because staying focused seems way too boring.

A part of this is accomplished through nagging and set appointments, but the greatest gains are achieved when your focus starts to produce results. A good consultant will demand metrics tied to objectives and help you process and understand to overarching value you’ll derive by hitting your goals.

Okay, now you can go and check email and play around on Facebook for a bit, but tomorrow it’s back to rocking your marketing plan.

How to Get Paid for Everything You Do

get paid

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Far too often I see business owners and entrepreneurs just getting started that simply don’t value what they do enough because they don’t have the validation that comes with landing high-paying clients.

In short, in an effort to gain some traction and some exposure, they give everything away freely, or worse, get talked into doing things for people that don’t value what’s being given.

Here’s the deal though – everything you do has some value and you simply must start thinking this way if you even expect to rise above a meager existence. You must start to think about how to exchange value for everything you do.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when you determine to do someone a favor or support a cause or mission with no thought of being paid for your time – that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about that instance when someone – often able to pay – wants you to provide a service for free or for a discount. Or that event that promises to give you great exposure if you come do your workshop without compensation.

The reality is that when someone gets something for free they value it far less than if they pay or exchange something for it. When you establish value – what you do becomes more valuable.

There can indeed be good reasons for waiving and discounting in exchange for things like exposure, but here’s my suggestion.

When someone makes a request like this think about exchanging value in a set way rather than saying yes and hoping something comes of it.

Here are some examples:

Get paid to speak

When someone asks you to speak to their lunch group, agree to do so willingly if you think it’s a fit, but also communicate that your normal speaking fee is $2,500 and in order to waive that fee you would like the ability to very casually educate the audience on your services.

The key here is to establish value and determine how you intend to collect it. It may be in the form of a list of attendees or ability to showcase your products in the back of the room. No matter what you suggest, make sure you communicate the process.

Get paid to provide a service

Let’s say you have a new service offering and you’re trying to drum up some initial clients. Offer a smoking hot deal in exchange for a full blown case study and testimonial video assuming they loved working with you.

These assets have value and it’s a far more appealing proposition than simply cutting your price. Now a customer gets a great deal and knows why.

Get paid for your product

Let’s say you have a new product and you’re trying to seed the market to get some users and customers talking about your product.

Reach out to handful of like-minded businesses and suggest a barter arrangement. That way you receive value for your product and perhaps initiate a few long term strategic marketing partner relationships.

Get paid to develop a product

This last one is one of my favorites. Let’s say you are developing a product or an online course. Reach out to some early prospects and offer to give them access as you are building the course in exchange for their systematic feedback and review of the course. (Good way to get lots of proofreaders too!)

Again, the key here is to think value first and price second. Sure, they’ll be a day when you can charge a premium for what you do, but in the meantime don’t let people take it.

Why I Think Rainmaker Is the Future of Websites

I’ve been helping business owners and marketers build websites and a more complete online presence for years now.

I pushed clients into blogging as far back as 2004. I urged people to get serious about email lead capture – even as others claimed email was dead. I’ve shown clients the power of landing pages for every possible initiative and I’ve practically been a raving zealot for all things WordPress.

Many of the tools and integrations required technical expertise or at least the patience and curiosity to learn, but they were and are that important.

So, that’s why I’m thoroughly behind the launch today of a new tool called Rainmaker.

Rainmaker is the genius and proven test work of one of the most trusted marketers online today – Brian Clark and the Copyblogger team – and it brings together many of the parts and pieces that I’ve held at the center of the Duct Tape Marketing Point of View.

Rainmaker is so powerful we plan to integrate it as the primary website tool we recommend and use with clients. Copyblogger and Duct Tape Marketing are a bit like the Peanut Butter and Jelly of the small business world in my opinion – they just go better together!

Think of Rainmaker as a completely re-engineered WordPress core that also includes the entire Studio Press theme library built on the Genesis framework, SEO tools, landing page creation tools, forum, a podcast module, A/B split testing, and a membership module all locked down with bullet proof WordPress hosting.

With Rainmaker, you can:

  • Create powerful content-driven websites on your own domains.
  • Build membership sites and online training courses.
  • Sell digital products like software, ebooks, and more.
  • Perform sophisticated online lead generation.
  • Optimize your content for search engines and social networks.
  • Absorb cutting-edge tactics and strategy with included training.
  • Avoid a patchwork of plugins, themes, and complicated code.
  • Forget about upgrades, maintenance, security, and hosting headaches.
  • Take your site and content elsewhere at any time if you so choose.

rainmaker

Oh, and did I mention Rainmaker comes with access to the entire totally awesome Copyblogger Authority training that includes ebooks, tutorials, and live webinars and Q and A sessions.

copyblogger

Rainmaker is jumping in and filling the void for businesses that want and need a high-end, full featured marketing site at a fraction of the cost it would take to build on their own.

In addition, Rainmaker removes the need for set-up, updates, plugins and add-ons that constantly require attention.

Duct Tape Marketing and Copyblogger are forging a significant strategic alliance in an effort to take the Rainmaker toolset and marry it to our practical marketing system. This truly is, in my view, a perfect partnership and I can’t wait to start bringing this piece of the puzzle to the world of small and mid-size business.

You can get a small sample of the power of Rainmaker by taking a look at the first site we built on the platform for our own efforts. Ducttapemarketingconsultant.com is the home of the Duct Tape Marketing Network. This site acts as our marketing and recruiting tool, but, thanks to Rainmaker, it also houses all of the tools, training and resources we make available to members of the network.

member

Members of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network are also currently receiving special training, perks and integration tools as it is our intention to act as a major value added reseller of the Rainmaker Platform.

While Rainmaker is, even in it’s early launch stages, a powerful tool, Copyblogger is far from being done. Future, planned iterations include marketing automation tools, email, learning management tools and affiliate tools.

Rainmaker is sold on a monthly fee basis and during the initial launch customers can lock in a promotional price that won’t increase as new feature sets are added.

I believe this is the future of the web for small and mid-sized business and it’s the direction I’m urging my readers and customers to explore and embrace.

Check out the Rainmaker platform and take it for a test drive starting today! – Introducing: The Rainmaker Platform by Copyblogger Media

As a Rainmaker partner we’ll be offering services to help Rainmaker users get the most out of the platform as an integrated marketing system.

Why This SEO Veteran Is Joining the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Phil Singleton – Enjoy!

Certified-ConsultantI recently enrolled in John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultant program.  A couple of my fellow SEO and web design friends asked me why, which almost made my head explode.  The new Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network is not just for traditional marketing consultants anymore.

There are so many reasons for professional service providers such as web designers and especially SEO and Internet marketing professionals to join:

1.  Staying Ahead Of The SEO Curve

In terms of search engine optimization, volume-based link building is dead and unnatural link building is dying.  For years, Google preached about content being king, while all the while rewarding volume-based link building.  Thankfully, with advanced web spam fighting algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda, back-room link building is gone and now content really is king.  In order to create and execute an effective content-driven SEO strategy and to succeed in the new age of search engine optimization, we SEOs need a better, more comprehensive understanding of small business marketing.  It’s just that simple.

2. Trust

John Jantsch and Duct Tape Marketing are two of the most trusted names (if not THE most trusted names) in small business marketing.  Yet my niches, specifically search engine optimization and online marketing, suffer from reputational issues.   Years of hard-sell cold-calling and deceptive marketing practices by thousands of domestic and offshore service providers promising SEO gold have tarnished our industry.  So many small businesses have been burned by Internet marketing companies that SEO is perceived as snake-oil.  While I think my own firm’s history, track-record, online visibility and client references help to overcome industry reputation issues, becoming a Duct Tape Marketing Certified SEO and web development professional will inspire confidence and trust.

3. A Killer Sales Pitch

When we walk into a prospective client sales presentation, we are already able to show compelling reasons to choose us through our track record, approach and case studies.  But a Duct Tape Marketing certification will really help elevate our sales pitch.   Would you rather have a hollow design-driven website, or an SEO-driven website developed from the ground up by formally trained and certified Internet marketing professionals?  Yeah, I thought so.

4.  Personal Development

The program isn’t just about leveraging brand power.  There is a formal training program.  John’s Duct Tape Marketing books have already made me better at what I do, but I know the program and network will take my game to another level.  I am also looking forward to learning the system and applying it to my own business.

5. Building Authority & My Own SEO

John has a huge, targeted following in all of the major social media channels.  Additionally, he has several website properties with very strong traffic and search engine authority.  Even without all the other benefits, this is almost enough of a reason by itself to join the network.  I now have access to one of the most powerful content distribution networks in my niche – which gives me the opportunity on occasion to present worthy, high-quality content and get that content posted, promoted and amplified throughout this channel.

6. Differentiation

Check out the Duct Tape Marketing™ badges on my websites: http://kcwebdesigner.com  and http://kcseopro.com.  See what I mean? Our SEO and web design clients immediately see the value of having a web development and SEO services provider that is also certified by the most trusted name in small business marketing.  From a marketing and sales perspective, our Duct Tape Marketing certification will enable us to really ‘stack the deck’ in terms of value-proposition.

7. Network Power

Becoming part of the Duct Tape team not only gets me more personal access to a small business marketing guru, but John is also literally a handshake away from most of the leading influencers in my niche…perhaps giving me the opportunity to see one of these leaders in person at a Duct Tape Marketing event, and dare I say maybe even meet one of them someday.

8. Practical Tools, Online Resources, Events & Discounts

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at some of the new tools and systems available to certified consultants.  I also learned that network members will also get meaningful discounts to business services and subscriptions that are relevant to my business.

9. Duct Tape Referral Network

Yes, this is the gift that keeps on giving.  On top of all the other benefits listed above (and probably more I don’t even know about yet), I get to be a member of an exclusive referral network of trusted Duct Tape Marketing consultants.  I kind of view this as one of the many cherries on top, but this could potentially lead to a lot of new business for my company.

10. Great Investment

I am very happy that there is a financial investment associated with joining the Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network and becoming certified.  Given the massive amount of value, the licensing and certification fees are an absolute no-brainer for serious SEO and web development professionals.  I am very happy that the privilege of joining the network requires you to put a skin in the game and complete a formal training process.  If it were cheap and easy, everybody would do it and it would have a lot less value.

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about joining the Network – Join John Jantsch for a live Discovery Webinar – enroll here

psPhil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications, and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page or LinkedIn page.

 

5 Simple Acts to Take Right Now

Summer

photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

The months of July and August can be slower ones for many small businesses in the U.S. While we’ve got a thing or two to learn from some other cultures about taking a “real” holiday, many business owners and their clients take vacations and spend less time thinking about business during the summer months.

You may still feel just as busy doing busy kind of things, but the key to making this mini breather pay is to look at the summer months as a launching pad for growth and improvement into next year. Many times we keep our head down doing the work and can’t seem to find the right amount of time to dedicate to the needs of the business.

Below are five things that I try to do each summer as a way to make the rest of the year more fruitful.

1) Find some new inspiration It’s pretty easy to get in the habit of reading the same blogs, following the same people, and picking up the same magazines. You may have developed your go to list and that’s great, but in doing so, it’s easy to miss fresh new voices with lots to say unless you get outside of your bubble.

Take one hour and reshuffle your RSS Reader. Think about some new categories of information you should be consuming and search around and find some lists of “who to read” in that category or industry. Clean out those newsletter subscriptions you never seem to read and make room for some new inspiration.

2) Start planning 2015 now Sometimes it feels like it’s hard to plan the week ahead much less dream about the vision for the future. The problem with this trap, however, is that where you want to go in 2015 and beyond should inform how you plan next week and maybe even tomorrow.

Take a day, or half of a day, and think about the big picture for 2015. Don’t wait until December to do it or you’ll find that it’s March before you actually start to think it’s 2015. (And then March Madness starts and you’re really in trouble.) Break the rest of this year into 90-day blocks and map the big projects you need to accomplish to make the big vision for next year happen right now!

3) Deepen a relationship When’s the last time your reached out to someone you hadn’t spoken with for a while just to say “hey let’s get coffee this week.” It’s probably been a while, right? We’re all so darn busy “building relationships” we don’t have the time to do what it actually takes to build relationships.

Whether you’ve slowed down a bit or not during this time of year, it’s a perfect time to identify a handful of relationships you’ve neglected and put some very mindful energy into renewing them. You pick – a couple of key customers, a strategic partner, a college friend, your brother, or maybe, even your spouse!

4) Learn a new skill I like to use the summer months each year to tackle something hard and confusing and valuable as a way to remain relevant and useful to my clients and my business. This year I’m diving deeper into analytics. It’s a bit like math to me, but may be the single most important gap I have in my ability to apply both experience and process to help make sense of marketing for my clients and readers.

I’ve subscribed to relevant blogs, picked up some books and tracked down an online course or two to create my curriculum. Of course, then I’ll immediately apply what I can in the real world.

5) Create a new habit Good habits are awesome because they do two things. If chosen wisely they can bring the benefit of doing something good for you on a consistent basis and they can help push another, not so good, habit out of the way. In fact, it’s been proven that the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.

This summer I’m getting back into yoga. I’ve been a long time practicer but somewhere in the stress and chaos created from my last book I lost it. My knees and my blood pressure tell me it’s time to get back to it.

There you have it – an entire plan for how to wisely use your August this year. Of course taking a little time off wouldn’t kill you either!

And finally – this sounds so ridiculous to say, but I’m just going to say it anyway – I’ve started turning my phone off for extended periods and I can’t believe how much less stress I feel. Give it a try!

The Secret to Getting Much More Done

Manage EnergyMostly I write about marketing and running a business, but I’ve sometimes strayed into writing about the fact that running a business takes figuring out how to get lots done every single day. Time seems to be the most precious resource of all when it comes to get things done, but I contend it’s managing energy is more important that trying to manage time.

See, the thing about time is that you can’t control it any way really – you can’t make stop it and you can’t make more. Energy, on the other hand, is something much more dynamic and much more in your control. Manage your physical and mental energy each day and you can get a lot more done.

Realizing this fact has led me to invest a great deal of “time” and “energy” in finding ways to develop more physical and mental stamina in an effort to get more done.

I’ve written about many of these ideas over the years, but decided to compile them in a handy eBook I’ve called Manage Energy Not Time: The Secret to Getting Much More Done.

In this compilation I talk about:

  • How thoughts influence your actions
  • The importance of intentional breathing
  • The role of exercise and nutrition
  • The myth of goal setting
  • How to unplug to gain energy
  • And my personal favorite – naps

You can grab your free copy here

This is a fun project and hope you gain some valuable new ideas from reading it.

Please share some of your personal favorite tips for getting more out of each day.

 

How to Systematically Build Personal Brand Authority

Today, authority is it. If you’re an entrepreneur, coach, consultant, professional service provider or salesperson, your perceived authority is what allows you to up your game significantly.

personal brand authorityNow, don’t take the word authority to mean fame or notoriety – it’s really more about possessing personal power – the kind that can attract new business, create more opportunities and drastically shorten sales cycles.

But here’s the thing you must understand – everyone wants it and few really know how to earn it.

Authority isn’t something you assign to yourself, it’s something that comes about through hard work and the recognition by some subset of a group you hope to influence that you have something important to give, do or say. It doesn’t matter how big or little an audience you might command, it’s all about the right people believing in your point of view or way of doing business.

Building personal brand authority is perhaps the most important element of marketing today for a brand, business, or individual trying to gain an edge.

Below are the elements required to systematically take you from where you are today to a place of elevated authority in your industry.

Develop Your Point of View and Methodology

A great deal of the success of any authority building practice resides in your ability to lead. . One of best ways to demonstrate leadership is to craft and hold a specific point of view – one that you can build a simple, yet highly useful methodology around. You don’t need or even want everyone to agree with your point of view, but you must build it around some key point of differentiation if it is to have the power to serve your brand.

You must be willing to turn your way into THE way!

Build Your Authority Journey

Building the kind of trust necessary to help people connect with your point of view and command authority pricing is a process. You must think in terms of building a journey involving set stages, questions and touchpoints that you plan to use in guiding prospects and customers from awareness to loyalty.

I’ve been using a framework I call The Marketing Hourglass for years now as it perfectly orchestrates the stages of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer as way to view brand building and marketing campaign development. A great deal of the success of your personal brand authority building approach relies on building campaigns, touchpoints, processes and content aimed at moving prospects and customers through The Marketing Hourglass.

Create Your Content Platform

Of course everyone knows you need content in order to survive today, but the right content, delivered at the right time, is the true secret to online brand authority. 

People don’t need more content, they need content that helps them understand that you are the only choice for solving their challenge. You must think about content in a very intentional way rather than simply writing yet another blog post.

You need content that is specifically designed to create awareness, to educate, to engage, to convert, to serve and finally to generate referrals. Each of these forms of content must be mapped into an editorial calendar that allows you to build a theme based body of content that will serve as an authority building asset for years to come.

Perfect Your Connection Strategy

If content is the motor that powers the authority journey, connection is certainly the fuel. You must up the value of your content by finding ways to amplify its distribution, motivate others to share it and use it as a tool to create opportunities and connection.

Just as the need for content has created a great deal of angst among marketers, social media and networks have created a great deal of confusion. In order to build authority online you must have a plan to integrate your online presence with your overall brand building objectives.

To wade into various social networks without intention is to almost guarantee wasted time and effort.

To build authority through connection you must determine how you are going listen for opportunities before you ever start engaging. You must get very good at currating your content, your customer’s content and other people’s content. You must learn how to extend, reuse and reimagine your content in visual and digital forms. You must get very, very good at sharing, networking and aggregating content.

And finally, you must have a plan for using all of the rich information you are able to collect to help other people connect. One of the most potent ways to build personal brand authority in any business is to become known as a connector. Using your ability to see deeply into networks is how you begin to develop this very powerful authority building habit.

If anything about this post strikes a chord then perhaps you should have a look at a new workshop I’m conducting where I will teach coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs and professional service providers how to build their own personal brand authority over the course of five jammed packed online sessions. Check out Building Personal Brand Authority here. (Don’t wait too long though, the workshop is limited to 20 participants.)