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Are You Making this Deadly Marketing Mistake?

danger sign

As business owners, we’re faced with some tough decisions. In order to make ends meet we sometimes have to tighten our budget and cut out the non-essentials. What any experienced business owner will tell you is that there are certain areas of a budget that should never make their way to the chopping block – marketing being one of them.

One of the most deadly marketing mistakes you can make is to halt your efforts in an attempt to save money. Scores of great strategies have been pulled before they have begun to payoff. That’s right; you invest all this time and money into creating and implementing a marketing plan, but pull the plug before things really get going. While this may save you a few bucks right now, it will most certainly hurt your bottom line in the long run.

Here are four ways you can avoid making this deadly marketing mistake.

1. When times are tough, don’t cut your marketing.

Every business will experience its ups and downs, its busy seasons and off seasons and its times of feast and famine. One of the worst things you can do when times are tough is to cut out your marketing or public relations efforts. After you’ve spent months engaging your audience, to completely go silent would undo all of your work up until this point. Whether you can see it or not, they are there and they are listening.

Instead, you may need to narrow down your tactics to those with the greatest ROI to adhere to a tighter budget, but you should never hit the big, red stop button. After all, it’s your marketing, public relations and advertising efforts that are going to help pull in more business which is the one thing you desperately need during a dry spell.

2. Set reasonable expectations for results.

Another reason businesses panic and pull the plug on their marketing efforts is because they don’t think they’re getting results. This is a deadly mistake because in reality you likely are achieving results, they just might not be the silver bullet you were expecting.

Set reasonable expectations. Learn to embrace the necessary slow burn of business growth that directly applies to your marketing efforts. You should value the consistency and quality of your results, not the sheer speed and quantity.

3. Measure progress in all forms.

Progress is not always obvious. Be open to looking for it in unexpected places or for it to produce different results than what you might have anticipated.

For example, your Facebook posts may not be getting more then 2-3 likes, but your analytics show that several hundred people have seen the content. You can also see from your blog’s stats that 20+ people a day are being pushed to your blog from Facebook. Those are some valuable results! When you do your research you might find that you’re achieving a whole lot more than what Facebook likes could tell you alone. This is all the more reason to stay consistent with implementing your marketing tactics.

4. Repeat your winners.

Don’t be afraid of repetition. Again, don’t be afraid of repetition. Sure, we always want to be coming up with new ideas and strategies to catch our audience’s attention, but don’t shy away from repeating something you know works for you.

Advertising guru, David Ogilvy believed repetition was an essential part of growing your readership. He felt that you should repeat yourself up to five times to see the full benefits of your messaging. People don’t always catch things on the first pass (Can you name the product the last commercial you saw was trying to sell you?) and repetition is an essential way to ensure consistent and clear messaging.

The importance of repetition is all the more reason to maintain balance with your marketing and public relations tactics. If you started a monthly newsletter or a bi-weekly blog, your audience will come to expect to hear from you at these intervals. When a month or two goes by without you “touching base,” you will quickly fall out of sight and out of mind. Stay top of mind by staying consistent with both your messaging and your strategy – and avoid making this deadly mistake!

Where have you seen this deadly marketing mistake being made? Share your examples by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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The One Question Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Be Able to Answer

top three priorities

One of my favorite shows currently on TV right now is Shark Tank. It feeds my entrepreneurial spirit and ignites a lot of creative (and sometimes cooky) ideas that I could only wish to have the opportunity to present to this impressive audience of venture capitalists.

All that aside, the reason I really love watching this show is because of the pearls of wisdom these experienced entrepreneurs spout off that have inspired quite a few blog posts – this week being no exception. On an episode from a few weeks back, it was Barbara Corcoran who said “Never have I ever met a successful entrepreneur who is unable to answer this one question.”  The question?

“Tomorrow when you wake up and go into the office, what are your top three priorities?”

This question is deceivingly simple. Try answering it off the top of your head right now. When I tried to do the same, I knew I had the answers, but when put on the spot, I found it hard to quickly put these key priorities into succinct bullet points. This doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail as an entrepreneur, but it did make me want to sit down and put some thought into my top three priorities right now. Should I ever “bump” into Barbara Corcoran, this would be my answer to her question:

1. Continue to build quality relationships with my existing clients

In the pursuit of new clients, I never want to take for granted the awesome ones I currently have. I’ve already put the effort into earning their business, building a relationship with them and becoming efficient at the tasks I do for them month after month. It is a valuable use of my time to keep these existing clients happy and on board because trying to replace them is far more costly.

2. Selectively target new clients

Once I devote the time to keeping my current clients engaged, I need to continually fill my pipeline with ideal prospective clients. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can be selective with the new clients I choose to take on. I know the size, industry and vision of companies I best serve and these are the ones in which I’ll devote my time to pursuing. Smaller clients or ones that don’t quite align with my services may still find me, and I’m happy to see how I can help, but they are not the ones that I will actively put my resources into pursuing.

3. Find ways to automate my tasks and become more efficient with my time

I’m a consultant and sole proprietor by design. This means I must carefully guard my time and find ways to be extremely efficient as I take on additional clients if I want to continue to enjoy the benefits of the 80/20 Principle. It is my goal to find ways to automate my tasks or become more efficient at completing them so that as I take on new clients, I’m not working more, I’m simply filling the bandwidth my efficiency has opened up.

Whatever your top three priorities are right now says a lot of about the current state of your business/career and your entrepreneurial style. Maybe they even point out some areas where you need to refocus. They should address your immediate needs, but also plan for future growth and strategic change. Having your top three priorities locked and loaded serves a purpose far greater than simply impressing someone who asks. They give you that laser focus each and every day that is at the core of every successful entrepreneur.

Are you able to easily answer this question? Share your personal top three priorities by commenting below!

 

 

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Why Your Business Needs a “Human Element”

Make your customer feel like you're talking directly to them.

Make your customer feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Renowned businessman and advertising executive, Fairfax M. Cone once said, “Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions it rarely moves anyone.” I couldn’t agree more. One of the best ways to achieve this intimate level of communication with your audience is by incorporating a “human element” into the way your business interacts with the world.

Before we venture on, I want to briefly address what exactly defines a human element. Businesses are run by people and they serve people, still communication can lose this person-to-person aspect if we don’t actively seek it out. The result is a business that feels sterile and disconnected from its audience. The human element adds a personal touch that makes you feel accessible and relatable. It’s incorporating staff photos on your website, using I/We language on social media, signing newsletters with your name, not just your business’s tagline …and letting people know the story of how and why you started this business to begin with.

There are many ways to create the human element within your business and the “how” greatly depends upon your target audience and industry. This is a whole other blog post altogether (so stay tuned!). As we begin our initial discussion on this topic, I first want to develop the urgency of “why.” Why does your business need a human element? Here are four compelling reasons that aim to satisfy this burning question.

1. To develop a one-on-one relationship with your customers

You should want to incorporate the human element into your business as a means for creating a one-on-one relationship with your customers. Maybe you have hundreds, even thousands of customers; you can still create the feel of a personal relationship with each of them through strategic communications.

When customers feel like they know the owner of the business on a first name basis, even if this is just from your website’s About Page or the auto-signature on each of your monthly newsletters, it makes a difference. Customers will develop a sense of loyalty to your business and feel valued. What this really boils down to is that they’re more likely to continue to do business with you in the long term and recommend their network to do business with you as well.

2. To make yourself relatable

In the eyes of your customers, the human element makes you, well…human. This is a good thing. Being human, even when that comes with flaws or weaknesses, provides common and familiar ground with which your customers can relate.

Take for example, a business owner who shares his personal story about how his company was created. Maybe this was the result of another business failure or maybe he came close to bankruptcy a time or two. Don’t mistake this for weakness; it is actually a powerful way to relate to your customers. It breaks down the misconceptions that the owner is some suit in a window office with his feet propped up on the desk. Instead, your customers will see you as a smart, hardworking businessman who has struggled for success just like everyone else. And most importantly, someone they want to do business with.

3. To make yourself accessible

Making yourself relatable and making yourself accessible are two different things – both can be accomplished by incorporating the human element into your business communication strategy. You want to also be accessible so that your customers feel like they can easily reach out to you with any question or concern and get a quick response from a real person.

Think of two vastly different customer service experiences you have had with two different businesses, one good and one bad. What made the bad one so terrible? If you’re like me, my bad experience was the result of a not receiving a timely response, or no response at all and being fed a prefabricated answer that didn’t really solve my problem. Even worse are businesses that don’t list an email or telephone number and direct you to a stagnant FAQ page that does even less to make you feel like your issue is being personally addressed. The human element makes you and your business feel accessible to your customers which goes a long way in keeping them happy!

4. To create a consistent voice

Lately, I’ve heard the term “human element” used when referring to a business’s social media. This is a powerful tool that can help you to create a consistent voice when communicating with your fans and followers. Being “human” with your audience also helps to create a distinct voice that further defines your brand.

There are endless examples of businesses that struggle to find their voice on their website, marketing materials and social media. They’re all over the place. One voice will be very formal and professional, while the other voice will be conversational. Customers like consistency because it indicates reliability. Get personal with the way you communicate and interact with your social media contacts. Engage them in discussion as a way to talk with them – not just at them. The human element requires to you get real with your audience which is a refreshing change from the old, stuffy way of communicating and will help give your brand further reach.

Why is the human element so important in your business? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
 

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The Virtual Work Environment: When it simply doesn’t work

virtual work environmentAs a consultant, I strive to run a lean business. I work from home and meet clients on location to eliminate the overhead of an outside office. I delegate work to additional contractors rather than taking on full time employees. And because I require merely an internet connection and laptop, I can and have worked from almost every location I’ve ever been in. The virtual work environment has suited me very well. My clients have also experienced the benefits through my pricing and availability. But as fun and flexible as working from home can be, I acknowledge that it simply doesn’t fit every situation.

Different personality types are better suited for the “home working” experience and depending upon the job description, a business may need an in-office employee to meet various needs. I’m a full subscriber to the virtual work environment, as it lends itself to my particular services very well. But before you start setting up your own home office, take into consideration these following work situations that shouldn’t go virtual.

When you need immediate responses.

I make the commitment to my clients that they will receive a response or acknowledgement of their message within one business day – often much sooner. In comparison to most email communications, this is quite a quick response time; however, it’s still not as quick as if I were sitting at a desk next to you. In-office employees allow for almost instant communication because you have the benefit of popping your head over a cubicle or hunting them down in the break room. If the job description requires immediate responses, a virtual position could substantially decrease efficiency.

When you thrive on social interaction.

This is when working from home may have nothing to do with the job, but everything to do with the person. I thrive on a quiet, uninterrupted work environment. I used to HATE having people drop-in just to chat or getting pulled into an impromptu meeting. I worked much less efficiently because of these distractions. But I’m an introvert. For others, these are not “distractions” but are part of the company culture that makes them feel like a team. They thrive on social interaction and pull their energy and inspiration from those around them. If you took this away, work would suffer.

When you don’t trust your teammates.

Trust influences how well tasks are accomplished when employees aren’t working face-to-face. When working virtually, you don’t have the benefit of building relationships as quickly as you do in a traditional office. It takes a lot longer to build up the feelings of trust and accountability toward someone you don’t see day to day. Distrust can also come from not knowing if someone is doing the work they need to be doing. It’s easy to assume your co-worker is snoozing on the couch at home while you’re slaving away on a project if you don’t trust them or have the ability to check-in on them as you do in a traditional office.

When you’re needed to serve various, undefined roles.

The final work situation that does not lend itself well to a virtual position is one in which you are the Jack of all trades. Think of an office assistant. Their job description might outline the role of answering phones, entering data and scheduling appointments. But in reality, they are likely asked to take on many additional projects to help around the office since they are there and available. In an office where it’s all hands on deck, virtual employees benefit from being “out of sight, out of mind” and are not utilized to their fullest. This leaves the in-office employees to pick up the slack.

Even though we just covered four situations that are not best suited for the virtual work environment, don’t get me wrong. There are still many, well-documented benefits. Studies show that home workers are more productive, happier in their jobs and less likely to leave than their office-bound peers.  Virtual working also saves money, is better for the environment and gives staff the flexibility that many people crave. But it’s equally important to note that “home working” simply doesn’t fit every situation. Technology can connect us from sea to sea, but it can’t completely replace the need for in-office employees.

 

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Appearance vs Experience: How social media has changed what we value

taking a photoHow often would you say you check your social media news feeds and see a picture of a friend on vacation, enjoying a fancy dinner, attending an expensive sporting event, meeting a celebrity or buying something big like a car or a house? I would venture to say this is likely an everyday occurrence. It’s common for social media to attract information such as big announcements or fun experiences, but what’s concerning is the trend of sacrificing the full enjoyment of these experiences in order to amplify their appearance.

We are becoming a society that is more focused on the appearance of our life experiences than we are with the actual enjoyment our life experiences. We can no longer appreciate a Valentine’s Day dinner unless we first check-in to the restaurant on social media, share a picture of our pricy entree and finish with an overly mushy (and overly personal) post about our significant other. Why do we need the validation of our social networks to confirm that life is good? Your vacation still occurred whether it’s on your Facebook newsfeed or not and your new car still exists even if your Twitter followers haven’t seen a photo. But maybe the reality of our lives is no longer enough. Maybe now we feel we need a broader audience to really enjoy life’s pleasures. This thought begs the following question…

Do we value the appearance more than the experience?

If you have ever paused, recreated or staged a moment so you could take a photo for Facebook, then the answer is yes. If you have ever updated your status in the middle of a romantic dinner, on vacation or during a massage, the answer is yes. I know I’m just as guilty of this crime as many of you may be and worse yet, it’s a hard habit to break! Next time you’re experiencing something really fun or unique, resist the temptation to update your social media. It seems downright unnatural. In particular, Facebook is becoming a “brag book” where we seek approval and validation for almost everything we do in life. It’s simply not accurate, and a little absurd, to measure the importance of such special moments by the number of “likes” a photo receives. We need to reverse this trend by refocusing on the experience over the appearance. We need to disconnect, even briefly, to allow ourselves a chance to take in the memory of a moment.

While social media has become the catalyst for this problem, it is a platform for sharing. There’s no reason not to update your networks with good news or a photo of something you enjoy. This is only cause for concern if in doing so you diminish the real-life experience for yourself. If you’re too busy trying to capture everything on your iPhone, the world is going to pass you by. Sure you’ll have photos to remind you of these great memories, but wouldn’t you rather simply live them first hand?

Have you seen examples of this emerging trend? Maybe you’re even a contributor. Where do you find your enjoyment – in the appearance or the experience?

 

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Our Trip Around the Sun: A recap of top posts from 2013

earth and sunWith only 2 days left in 2013, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this crazy busy but very memorable year. Who knew we could pack so much into just one trip around the sun? It’s a journey we’ve taken together  – with all of its ups and downs, twists and turns. I know that I have personally grown more this year than I have ever before. I had many significant life changes, career growth and have continued to work to find contentment in every moment – even the ones that challenge me to new limits.

To honor the progress of this year, I began by sifting through the Bennis Inc Blog archives and found that I fell in love all over again with some of the thoughts I shared. So in celebration of all great things to come in 2014, here is a highlight of the most popular posts from the Bennis Inc Blog in 2013!

1. Never Lose Sight of Your Childhood Dream

In this post, I reflect on my childhood dream to become an architect and interior designer. Clearly this dream never became a reality; still I managed to incorporate the core aspects that I loved about these careers into what I’m doing now. If you take a closer look, you too may see that you never gave up on your childhood dream – you’ve just repurposed it.

2. The 80/20 Principle: How to identify the clutter in your life and business

After reading “The 4 Hour Workweek,” I was inspired to write about my own take on the 80/20 Principle. Essentially it states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort and time. I still swear by it and every so often have to refocus myself on whether or not I’m applying it to all aspects of my life.

3. A Penny Saved Is More Than A Penny Earned

This was a really fun post! I give a couple (creative) reasons as to why a penny saved is actually more than a penny earned. Instead of trying to earn more money to do more things, we should actually be focusing on living more conservatively and enjoying the free time it provides.

4. A Low-Information Diet – The Solution for Overwhelm and Overload?

After a very overwhelming start to my career on a political campaign, I’ve since prescribed my life the low-information diet. Essentially, it’s eliminating all of the noise and clutter that we needlessly bring into our lives and as a result, has helped to boost my productivity and reduce my stress.

5. D’oh! The 5 Most Common Public Relations Mistakes

I’m still surprised to see how many hits this blog gets a day! I outlined some of the most common PR mistakes that we all make from time to time. This guide is a great help especially for small businesses out there who may be looking to implement their own PR tactics, but are too scared of making a mistake.

6. A Price for Passion: Being smart and fair when pricing your services

This is an essential post for every entrepreneur or business owner as it covers one of the most critical question for making money – how do you price yourself? For those who offer services, this is even more complicated because the resource you’re ultimately selling is your time. Here are the tips I’ve learned through my own trial and error with pricing my services.

7. The Necessary Slow Burn of Business Growth

The idea for this post came from a creative analogy that I saw as being applicable to business growth. Though we all wish success could take off like wildfire, there is necessity to the process of slow and steady growth.

8.  The Life Lessons of Parenthood

On May 11, 2013, my life forever changed. I became a mother. This post examines the life lessons of parenthood I learned in just two short months with my son, Holden. Now nearing the end of 2013, Holden is growing into a little man and the life lessons keep on coming!

9. A No Is As Good As a Yes

Un-productivity is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when projects get held up because of someone’s lack of responsiveness. This blog post is a plea to those regular “offenders” that a no is sometimes as good as a yes because it helps us move forward with work – and life.

10. The Working Mom/Stay At Home Mom Hybrid

This was the most read and shared post of 2013 – and one in which I opened myself up to discussing a pretty personal and controversial topic. The decision of whether to be a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom is one of the most difficult choices for any mother. This post takes a look at how I’m adjusting to life as a “hybrid mom.”

Tell me about your year! What was one of your most memorable moments from 2013?

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life

 

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How Blogging Has Built My Business

building blocksWhen I first began blogging in June of 2011, it was an experiment. Publishing my first post didn’t feel much different than writing in a Word doc. I had zero subscribers and only a measly three or four people randomly stumbled on my blog each day. I wanted to learn how to be an effective blogger for my clients. To do so, I first had to become an effective blogger for myself. The blogging experiment far exceeded my expectations and I’m officially hooked. I write passionately for my readership of more than 700 subscribers every Monday morning.

The Bennis Inc blog began as nothing but a blank page, just as most things in life do. But it grew – and so did my business. Sure, time alone can cause growth, but I venture to say that it took more than just time. It took regular upkeep, vision and a willingness to put my thoughts out there for all the world to see. As awkward as that felt in the beginning, almost 150 blog posts later and it couldn’t feel more natural.

The best side effect of this blogging experiment was how it built my business and defined my personal brand. I’m still amazed to talk to a new acquaintance who mentions a recent post they read or to look at the stats and see the various search terms that led people to my blog. Whether you’re a fellow blogger (novice or expert) or an intrigued reader, here are the key ways in which blogging has built my business – and has the power to build yours as well.

It’s an icebreaker

My blog provides a great reason to start a conversation. Whether it’s in a business meeting or a quick run-in at the coffee shop, telling me, “Oh by the way, I read your blog,” has replaced the obligatory conversation about the weather. It has also given people a reason to reach out to me with a professional question or to explore the services I offer. If I was just a name on a web site, people may not feel this same connection or be motivated to start a conversation. This is a pleasant reminder that the time I spend putting my thoughts into words is worth something.  It’s cultivating an audience, opening doors and inspiring people enough to want to tell me about it.

It reaches further than you might imagine

My blog has opened up an avenue for communication with people from all across the world. When looking at the stats, it’s exciting to see how many different countries are lit up on the map. Even more fulfilling than just numbers and statistics is the meaningful interactions with people via comments and emails. The reach of my blog has helped to grow my business on a more local level as well. Within my local network, I’m impressed by how many people I know (and look up to) read it on the regular. I would never have imagined they had the interest or free time, but they do. This has helped to build my credibility as a writer and entrepreneur.

It’s a living portfolio

I’ve often referred to a blog as a living portfolio of your work. When a client asks to see examples of my writing, I can simply send them to my blog where they can choose from a variety of topics to really get a feel for my style. This is much easier and more genuine than putting together a dull document of writing samples. They can also see the interactions with my readers which demonstrates my ability to grow an audience. My blog has become a valuable asset to my proposal process and I believe has helped to win me some work as well.

It strengthens your SEO and your personal brand

The final and most powerful way I feel my blog has helped to build my business is by strengthening my SEO and personal brand. Adding fresh and high quality content to your blog and appropriately tagging each post is one the best ways to increase your search engine optimization. I choose to host my blog on WordPress (as oppose to my web site) because of its added SEO power. Many readers have found my blog by browsing WordPress’s categories.

My blog has also strengthened my personal brand by showcasing the “human element” of Bennis Inc – me! While my business is all about Public Relations, I choose to make my blog much more personal with many articles on the struggle of entrepreneurship, life balance and unconventional wisdom. My blog shines a spotlight on the “Twenty-Something Entrepreneur” that I’ve become.

There you have it – all the compelling reasons you could need to be inspired to create or grow your own blog! The most important thing to remember is that once you start, don’t stop. Keep writing and posting regular content. Think of your blog as a hungry little monster. It needs food to keep it growing and that’s what your posts will be, food for your blog and fuel for search engines to pull new readers to your site.

Finally, here are some tips for successful blogging to get you start. Go forth and blog!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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When In Doubt, Take the Next Small Step

small stepIn business and in life, being faced with different choices can be an overwhelming and paralyzing situation. We always want to make the “right” choice, the one that we can look back on years later and know we wouldn’t change a thing. But rarely are we afforded the benefit of hindsight. In a recent conversation with a client, I was discussing how difficult it can be to make decisions as a business owner. With the weight of the world on our shoulders, we worry that one poor choice can bring it all tumbling down. We are often forced to make decisions on limited time and limited information because if we took the time to fully outline every option, we would never move forward with anything. Therefore, one of the greatest accomplishments of any business owner is to empower yourself with the confidence to make decisions and stand behind whatever the outcome. When in doubt, take the next small step. You don’t have to act radically or nonsensically, but you must still move forward. Especially when you’re not sure of your footing, the best option is to simply take a single step in one definite direction. This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It’s obviously applicable to an entrepreneur, but I believe we can also apply it to all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.  

In Business

I have written passionately about my experience as an entrepreneur and I advocate for other entrepreneurial hopefuls to “take the leap.” But with this major life decision, I must caution that you should still do it with some rationale. When I was confronted with the ultimate decision to either stay in my current job or turn my part time passion into my full time career, it was done as an initial small step that has since turned into a major life change. I began by first incorporating my business. Not only did this make my side work feel more legitimate, it was also a sound investment that has since saved me a lot of money (and headaches) on taxes. This started things rolling in the right direction. My next step was securing enough clients that I knew I could cover my bills. And the next step was the big one – resigning from my 9-5 for a life as an entrepreneur. When broken down, these were all single steps that turned into quite an amazing journey. Even now when I’m faced with wanting to make a change in my business, I pause, breath and identify the next small step. If I only looked at the big picture, I would easily overwhelm myself with how I get from point A to point B – especially when they appear oceans apart. Instead, move just one step in the direction you know you want to travel and do so with confidence!

In Life

For those of us who aren’t business owners or entrepreneurs, life is stilled filled with countless decisions we must make on a daily basis. Small choices like what to have for dinner or how to spend a free weekend are relatively easy to decide. But bigger decisions like buying a new car, building a house or going on vacation can add unwanted anxiety and unnecessary stress to our lives.  When in doubt, take the next small step. Begin by looking at your finances or researching the top options, but take one step forward! Big decisions shouldn’t be made overnight, but progress can still be made slowly and consistently to help you make a smart choice in the end. By taking small steps, you’re less likely to make a decision due to pressure, frustration or confusion and you’re more likely to enjoy the process and feel confident with the end result. Take a moment to think of a big decision you’ve been avoiding and identify one small step you can take today. It doesn’t need to be the end result, but it should at least put you one step closer!

No matter the scope or size of the decision, we have all encountered obstacles in our effort to move forward. Have you ever had difficulty making decisions? What’s the best advice you can give to become a more decisive person? Share your insight by commenting below!

 
 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Sending Holiday Messages to Clients

writing holiday cardsHoliday messages are a seasonal staple and an effective way to share your gratitude with those who have been a special part of your business and your life. You’ve likely been receiving these greetings in many forms over the past several weeks. They come to us by mail, e-mail, social media messages and more. Being bombarded with “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” and “Warm Wishes” can cause even the best crafted messages to blend into the background. How do you make your business stand out? This is no easy task and one that should be carefully addressed. Too much or too little communication during this time of year can negatively impact your brand and ultimately your bottom line. Here is a short and simple list of do’s and don’ts for sending holiday greetings to your clients this season.

DON’T add to the holiday clutter

Holiday e-blasts have become about as obligatory and useless as the dreaded fruitcake. Around this time of year we seem to get a message from every business we have ever come in contact with. If positioned correctly, these messages can be well received and even spark additional business. But for many that just say some variation of “Happy Holidays” and throw together a mixture of cheesy clipart, they aren’t doing much more than cluttering up our inbox (which we’d prefer to keep as empty as possible this time of year). Don’t let your holiday messages add to this clutter! First, think if sending an e-blast is the best way to communicate your well wishes. Would a hand signed card to your closest contacts be more effective? If an e-blast is justified, work to make it something more than an overused holiday phrase. Share information that is both sincere and valuable to your audience. Which brings me to my next point…

DO share sincere and valuable information

Craft a holiday message that says more than just “Happy Holidays!” You’re reaching out to your audience at a special time of year where moods are light and hopes are high. Complement these sentiments in your message to them. Write a personal note and insert your real signature. In many cases, it’s impossible to hand-write a note to each of your contacts individually; this is every more reason to make your e-blast feel personalized. Recount a special story from the past year or share exciting news of what the next year will bring. Additionally, offer your readers something of value such as a coupon or free giveaway. Make it worth their time to read your message during a time of year when time is stretched in so many different directions. This special offer can also be positioned as your holiday present to your valued customers. Make it about them, not about promoting your business.

DON’T stray from your brand

The theme and message of your holiday e-blast should always, always reflect your brand. We talked about avoiding generic and overused phrases. This is a great opportunity to insert some personality and make your audience remember you. Most importantly, it makes your holiday message relevant. For example, a political candidate should include a thank you to their supporters, a recap of what was achieved over the past year and a push to continue the hard work throughout the New Year. It should sound like a personal letter written in your unique voice – not like a political ad. Alternatively, a business that’s known for its humor and lightheartedness should carry this theme into their holiday messaging. This could include a joke, a play on words or a funny infographic. Whatever you choose to say, ask yourself, “Does this reflect my brand?”

DO carefully choose your words

Whether you choose to say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas is a critical decision. I won’t get into the argument over whether this should be an issue at all, but we know that in the political correctness of our society, we must watch our words. What you choose to say should directly reflect your audience. What would they most appreciate hearing? If you’re a faith-based organization, let that lead the way. If you have constituents with a variety of beliefs who would prefer a more generic message, be sensitive to this as well.  If you’re still torn, think for yourself! It’s your greeting coming from your business (and you, personally). What do you want to say? Whatever route you choose, be ready to defend it to those who may choose to question your decision. Sorry, that’s life – and a part of business!

DON’T overlook timing

Some holiday messages begin arriving as early as the day after Thanksgiving (if we’re lucky, not any sooner) and continue right up until the holiday. Is your business going to be an early bird or a wait until the very end? There are pros and cons for both and this will ultimately depend upon the message you’re sending. If you’re offering a holiday coupon or giveaway, give your audience more time to respond. In contrast, if you’re sending a personal or emotional message, you may choose to wait until a day or two before the holiday to achieve the biggest impact. Many businesses smartly choose to send somewhere in between these extremes. Don’t overlook the power of timing and remember to give yourself enough time to craft a quality message!

As you craft your holiday wishes to clients, customers and business contacts, keep this list of do’s and don’ts in the forefront of your strategy. You don’t want to blend in to the white noise of every other holiday greeting out there nor do you want to try too hard for attention and risk offending a valuable relationship. Stay true to your brand and speak from your heart – your customers will recognize the difference!

Are you planning to send a holiday message this year? Share your strategy! 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Growing Gap Between Technology and Wisdom

dunce cap

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. It allows us to access people and information all across the globe and has facilitated countless opportunities that would never exist without its advancements. But this doesn’t come without setbacks. Technology is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, a pace that society is struggling to match. A quote from Isaac Asimov sums this thought up quite well, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” This truth is only made more evident every time we see the misuse of social media or turn to a search engine to do the thinking for us. There’s a growing gap between technology and wisdom. Instead of embracing our ability to do more, we’re using it as a crutch to do less. Let’s take a look at a few trends that illustrate how technological advancements have come at the price of conventional wisdom.

Social Media Faux Pas

Spelling errors, outlandish or offensive statements and superficial thoughts are accepted without a bat of an eye on social media. Even if you keep your friend list to just close contacts, you’re still bound to see examples of these faux pas in your newsfeed on a daily basis. Social media has given each of us a soapbox and a megaphone, but not the common sense for how we should use it. The wisdom and better judgment we need to develop our “social media manners” is being outpaced by technology. As a result, we see daily examples of social media faux pas, some of which can be dangerous or hurtful. For the most part, social media is like the Wild West with no rules and infinite freedom. This is both a benefit and a pitfall. It will take time to develop the wisdom to utilize this technology with decorum, and it will also take our personal desire for higher standards. What can we do right now? Take careful consideration to what we share and how we share it. Use the same manners we would use when communicating through any other medium. It may be simple advice, but it’s not common sense – yet.

Lack of Common Knowledge

“I don’t know…Google it!” This is a phrase that’s echoed all across the globe. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s being said right now in multiple different languages. This is the easiest response to any question someone might ask of you. I don’t know if the bigger issue is that we don’t know the answers to so many simple questions or if we do but are just too lazy to retrieve them from memory. We can now type faster than we can think, and this is the ultimate problem. Search engines are right at our fingertips every hour of the day. Thanks to smart phones, they’re only ever as far as our pockets or purses.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else – if I want to know the capital of a state, convert feet to meters or check my spelling, I turn to Google. What did we ever do before? We committed information to memory. Search engines are fast, reliable and easy, but they’re not a replacement for actually learning the information they provide.

Communication Erosion

I’ve discussed before how technology can both bridge a gap and build a wall. It allows us more ways than ever to communicate and gives us instant access to people across the globe. But it also provides a shield that we can hide behind and has contributed to erosion in formal, face-to-face communication. When presented with all of our options, we usually choose email over phone calls and phone calls over in-person meetings. Throw social media into the mix, and Facebook messages and Tweets have become an even less formal way to get a hold of someone. This is a fine option for a quick message to a friend, but social media is not a replacement for sharing a project proposal or soliciting someone for their business. When it comes to sharing hard news or negative feedback, it’s even more tempting to hide behind technology.  Sending a generic Linkedin message to make an introduction or breaking up with someone over text may get the message across, but it won’t earn you any respect and won’t make you any (real) friends.

With all of the information we have at our fingertips, we are the “smartest” society yet. But in exchange, we have seemed to sacrifice our wisdom and ability to think critically for ourselves. Social media doesn’t spell check our egregious grammatical errors or review our half-baked thoughts, search engines have made us lazy and smart phones have made us dumb. These are the rock bottom standards that technology accepts from us, but we can demand better. Let’s aim a little higher. With awareness and commitment, we can maintain our wisdom even with rapid technological advancements. Let’s take an active role in growing our wisdom every day with the help of technology, not despite it.

In what ways have you seen the decline of conventional wisdom because of technology? Do you rely on search engines or smart phones to complete everyday tasks? Share your thoughts and add to the discussion by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Social Media, Technology

 

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