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Married to an Entrepreneur: 8 Tips to Survive and Thrive

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I’m married to an entrepreneur. For many of you who can relate, you would understand how that alone can add a layer of complexity to balancing work and marriage. However, my husband can also say that he’s married to an entrepreneur. Yes, as fate would have it two entrepreneurial spirits found one another, amidst their own lives’ chaos and fell in love.

In fact, I met Scott just weeks before I took my entrepreneurial leap. He was only 5 years into running his own nonprofit organization, and knowing how risky and challenging this journey can be, still wholeheartedly welcomed me into the tumultuous seas of entrepreneurship. “Jump in! The water’s fine!”

Fortunately, taking that leap remains the most important moment in my career that has led me to now entering my seventh year as owner of Bennis Public Relations. In these seven years, I didn’t just grow my business, we also grew our family by two sweet (and very energetic) boys. Scott also ventured into two more businesses (as entrepreneurs tend to do), both startups requiring what feels like 300% of his time.

If you’re doing the math, between us that’s four businesses, two young children….and a partridge and a pear tree.

But in all seriousness, yes our schedules are sometimes crazy, yes we sometimes have challenging moments and overwhelming workloads, yes we sometimes wear many hats and have many masters to serve. But we’ve also established, and worked hard to achieve a pretty enjoyable life flow. I want to share with you how we (sometimes) do it all: grow businesses, chase after children, find time for date nights and get enough sleep to survive…sometimes.

For anyone else who can say “I’m married to an entrepreneur,” here’s my advice to you:

 1. Determine whose “day” it’s going to be. With two busy schedules, and when children are involved, you have to communicate important obligations (i.e. travel, work meetings, events) early and often. This helps to manage expectations and prevent any “Who’s going to watch the kids?” moments.

2. Never give unsolicited business advice. When I ask Scott about his day, he often shares the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s tempting to weigh in with advice on what he should do or could have done differently. While this can be appreciated at times, sometimes he or I just want to lament and have someone listen – not provide commentary. Our own ground rule is to never give unsolicited business advice. Often we solicit, but when we don’t, we try to respect this boundary.

3. Get on the same page about how you want to use your free time. It may be hard to believe, but we have many evenings or weekends where our schedules are completely open. I’ve found it so important to communicate how we each desire to use this time. Before doing so, I would often have a vastly different game plan for this time. Sometimes Scott would want to take a family day trip while I preferred to catch up on things around the house and relax. Sometimes I’d be ready to hang out while Scott needed to catch up on a quick work project. The result was frustration and disappointment. Usually over breakfast one of us brings up the question, “So what are your plans for tonight?” It’s made all the difference!

4. Don’t use each other as your sole sounding board. Similar to not giving unsolicited business advice, this tip falls more on the spouse who is the one actively seeking consultation. I’ve found that we are both able to get the support and encouragement we need when we don’t look solely to one another to provide this 100% of the time. This means seeking out friends and fellow business owners to also be a sounding board. After all, second (and third) opinions are a good thing.

5. Sacrifice for both your family and business. As a business owner, you have to make many sacrifices for your business – putting in long hours, investing your own funds and picking up the slack to name a few. What I have found to be so important is also sacrificing for your family. This might mean letting some work pile up over the weekend or silencing a phone call over dinner to maintain the peace and necessity of family time. Family (and especially spouses) can feel neglected when they see you sacrifice endlessly for your business, yet see you struggle to do the same for your family.

6. Frequently assess your “life” plan. Everyone has a bad day, stressful week or disappointing month. However, if you see this as a growing trend, it’s time to take action. I firmly believe that you need to assess your “life” plan every so often, just as you would a business plan. This is where you should also involve your spouse to gauge how they have been feeling lately about the balance between family and work.

7. If something’s not working, fix it. Once you’ve assessed your life plan and found major areas that need improvement – do something about it! Adjust schedules, reassign responsibilities, outsource work, ask for help and prioritize family time. I promise you, if you don’t do this, things will only get worse.

8. Make time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Most importantly, learn how to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to earn. Scott and I went far too long without taking a weekend getaway, much less a real vacation together. When we finally did, wow what an experience! For so long we were used to the daily hustle, pinching every penny and using every spare moment to grow our business. If we ever got to do something together, it was often work-related for one of us. A true, work-free vacation, at least annually, is something that has brought us so much closer together and also encourages us to keep up the grind!

Whether you are married to an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur yourself or both, there are some unique challenges we face when it comes to balancing work and family. What piece of advice did you find most helpful? Do you have different advice to share?

Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

When maintaining a company website, you don’t want to push out content blindly. Your marketing budget is not best spent on maintaining an online presence just for the sake of it. Rather, you want to strategically select your content to drive engagement and ultimately conversion.

Remember, the goal of your website is to generate leads, engage those leads, turn them into customers and further the relationship by nurturing loyalty to your brand. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to achieve all those things if you haphazardly put together a website and fill it with random and inconsistent content.

The Quickest Way to Push Away Customers

If it’s not easy and intuitive to find and navigate your business’s website, you substantially diminish your ability elicit action. If a visitor experiences slow loading time or struggles to make heads or tails of your website’s confusing interface, you can bet that they’ll leave your site within seconds.

According to Forrester Research, a well-designed user interface can boost your site’s conversion rate by up to 200%. Additionally, only 25% of users venture into the 2nd page of search results. Thus, the importance of a smooth user experience and a fully optimized website is impossible to ignore.

When prospects come to your site, you have mere seconds to make a good impression. Those few seconds are integral to capturing your leads’ attention, communicating your story and moving them into your sales pipeline. Simply put, a stellar interface and an optimized website must be paired with an equally stellar content strategy.

First and foremost, be aware that there is a wide array of content, each serving a unique purpose, that should be carefully considered to be part of your content strategy. Aside from highly valuable blog articles, customer stories/testimonials and white papers, visual content, like infographics, is highly effectively at quickly communicating your message and reaching key demographics. Candidly, visual content is something I know I need to work to increase in my own content strategy!

The Power of Visual Content

It’s estimated that 81% of users only skim content, making how you organize and present this content increasingly important. Moreover, studies have found that posts with images increase engagement rates by a whopping 650% compared to text-only posts. It’s also worth noting that video content attracts 3x more engagement than text-only posts.

Whether it be blog articles, images, infographics, videos, tutorials and animations, white papers, or podcasts, every type of content you produce must be optimized for your users as well as search engines. It’s a delicate balance between the two, but the end result is a substantially higher reach for your content that maximizes your marketing/public relations dollars.

Appealing to Customers vs. Search Engines: A Delicate Balance

Admittedly, optimizing your web content can prove challenging and time consuming. It takes technical know-how and a ton of analytics to process and apply into practice. Often, this sort of time and technique is not something many business owners have to spare. For clients whose business requires a highly technical content strategy, I often recommend they enlist the help of a creative agency to tackle this workload with efficiency and expertise, leaving the business owner more time to do what they do best. In this relationship, I serve as the project manager and lead content developer, who focuses on producing relevant, high quality content, while the creative/SEO agency focuses on the optimizing the content for search engines.

As I mentioned above, it’s a delicate balance and I can’t stress that enough. Speaking from the public relations side, you can’t overly conform your content to “play” the SEO game otherwise you risk producing content that is loaded with keywords and awkward sentences to fit these keywords, but loses its “human” element. While this content engages search engines, it will not engage your customers!

I hope this brief intro into developing an effective digital content strategy for your business has sparked some new ideas, and possibly some critical questions for you to consider. If you find yourself hungry for more insight, I recommend taking a look at this infographic by Micro Creatives on the best user experience and SEO practices for your multimedia content. Not only is it filled with valuable, easy-to-consume information, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of incorporating visual content into your overall strategy!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content.

What burning questions have I left unanswered (I anticipate many!)? Start a conversation by asking your top one or two below. If it’s outside my expertise, I’m happy to enlist my network of SEO experts to chime in!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

For many, the hardest decision you will make as an entrepreneur is the first one: the decision to go out on your own. In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the idea of running a business can be intimidating, to say the least. But once you get over this hurdle and realize fear and hesitation are the only things standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals, you’re well on your way to entrepreneurial success.

As you likely already know, though, it’s not that simple. Getting started with your own company is like riding a roller coaster in the dark. Each up and down is intense, and it’s hard to know what’s coming next.

To try and make things a little easier, we’ve come up with a list of five decisions that every entrepreneur needs to make early on in the life of their company. By highlighting these, we hope you’ll be able to focus in a little more on what you need to be doing to make your company work so that you can weather the storm as it comes your way, worry a bit less and take one more step towards success.

The decision making will never end, and it will soon turn into your most critical task, but here are some key choices you’ll need to make right off the bat to set your company up for a healthy future.

 1. Your ideal customers

You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to clearly define their target audience. Often times, entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea that they don’t stop to think who might want to spend money on it. A good idea is a good idea, and there is likely a business to be built around it, but without clearly defining your target audience, the initial stages of your business will be a real challenge.

The important thing to remember when going through this process is to be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to just say you are hoping to target urban Millennials. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself how your product or service might factor into their life. What need are you fulfilling? Or, how are you making their life better or more comfortable?

By answering these questions, you will have a more specific idea as to who you need to be going after and how you are going to reach them. For example, you may find that your audience is men between the ages of 20-35 who live in cities, earn above-average salaries and have an active lifestyle. This is vital information, as it will help determine your marketing and advertising strategies going forward.

Furthermore, once you make this decision, a lot of other decisions will become easier. All you need to do is ask yourself: Is this going to help me reach my target audience? If the answer is yes, proceed. If no, then keep working. Taking the time to be very clear about this part of the business right from the beginning is an essential step to ensuring the success of the company.

2. Management style and company culture

While you as the entrepreneur may be the brains behind the operation, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can pull this off on your own. You are going to need to bring in a good team to help you get off the ground, and then once you do, you are going to need a growth plan. What types of employees are you looking for? Which ones are you trying to avoid?

A big part of this is also your management style. Are you going to run things more top-down? Or do you plan to be more decentralized, delegating certain decisions to those more qualified to make them?

You’ll also want to take a look at yourself as a leader and manager and figure out how to improve. There are plenty of things we do without realizing that affect how employees view us and act towards us, and you really won’t see this until you are in a position of leadership.

Take some time to figure out what you want your company culture to be. You may think of culture as something that develops organically, and to a certain extent it is, but you can have a significant impact on the direction it goes. A lot of companies are adopting a more laid-back approach, offering their employees more and more benefits, such as unlimited vacation time and free coffee of the month subscriptions, as a way of trying to foster engagement and buy-in. This may or may not be the right approach for you, and this is something you’ll want to figure out as soon as possible.

All of these things should be figured out in the beginning because as you grow it will be harder and harder to make time for this type of planning. Spend some time as you are getting started and you’ll find yourself managing growth much better, setting your company up for success in the future.

 3. Exit strategy

When first starting out with a company, the idea of an exit strategy seems far away. But it’s actually very important to consider. Planning out your exit strategy means thinking long-term. It allows you to align resources so that you can move forward at the right time.

An exit strategy can come in the form of an initial public offering (IPO), a sale or a merger, but the thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to implement the strategy. If things are going well, you have every freedom to stay with the business. But plotting out from the beginning how you might exit gets you thinking big picture and this can only help your business.

Plus, having a clearly defined exit strategy plays very well with investors. They want to know how they are going to get their money, and demonstrating to them how this will happen increases your chances of securing the resources you need to get your company off the ground and heading towards prosperity.

 4. Marketing and branding

It’s never too early to start thinking about branding. In today’s competitive marketplace, having a strong brand is going to be what ultimately sets you apart. Much like the decisions you’ll make about company culture, choosing your branding strategy needs to be one of the first things you do.

Figure out what makes you unique, determine what you want to stand for and do some research to figure out the best way to communicate this to people. Social media is huge for building your brand, and if your target audience uses this medium, you may want to consider hiring an agency or consultant to help you.

In fact, this may be one of the best decisions you make as an entrepreneur. Successful marketing requires a full-time approach, and too many small companies try to do it on their own, only to end up wasting their precious resources without seeing results. It’s your job to do the high-level strategic thinking. Then, bring in some experts to help you execute your plan.

5. Cybersecurity

Here’s one not too many entrepreneurs think about, and it’s a real shame that they don’t. Cybercrime and hacking is the threat of the future, and small businesses are being increasingly targeted. They’re easier to get to, as they don’t always invest in the right protection, but they still possess valuable information. And the damage a hack causes to your reputation is often far too much for any small company to overcome.

Figure out how you’re at risk and what you need to do to protect yourself. Cybersecurity infrastructures can be expensive, and the last thing you want to do is to have to shut down your website or other services so that you can install new security measures. Don’t let cybersecurity become an afterthought. You’ll pay for it down the road.

Final thoughts

From the moment you decided to become an entrepreneur, you essentially converted yourself into a full-time decision maker. As the business grows, you will be faced with increasingly challenging choices, but with experience, you’ll learn what’s best for your business. However, until you reach this point, things can be a bit stressful. Consider these critical decisions every entrepreneur needs to make so that you can start your business heading in the right direction.

Join in the conversation! Among these five decisions an entrepreneur must make, which one do you feel is the most critical?

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

 

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How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews on Social Media

social media reviewWe live in a day and age when most people turn to technology to answer just about any question they have. Siri, Google and Alexa are usually within arm’s or ear’s reach to answer everything from “What’s the weather in Seattle on Wednesday” to “When was George Washington’s birthday?”

Not receiving immediate input on something drives us crazy! Think about the last time you couldn’t recall an artist or song title. You likely went straight to technology to provide an answer, rather than waiting for it to eventually come to you.

Let’s not forget about social media. We spend an increasing amount of time on social platforms where we absorb a wide variety of information from life’s most previous milestones to utterly useless, yet highly entertaining videos and articles. What’s important about social media to ecommerce businesses is its influence over people’s buying habits. And while sponsored posts and advertising campaigns will continue to be highly influential, people will still gravitate toward a business’s customer reviews on social media before they ultimately purchase a product.

According to this infographic created by 16Best.net on “Social Networks and their importance in Ecommerce Gateways,” positive social media reviews increase the conversion rate by 133% for mobile shoppers. Additionally, the more people that positively respond to reviews through comments and likes help to improve the brand perception for 71% of shoppers. Positive product reviews also bump up a product price by 9.5%.

how social reviews increase sales

It’s clear that positive customer reviews on social media pack a powerful punch for increasing brand value. But this begs one very important question…What can I do to get more positive customer reviews on social media?

  1. Foremost, focus on delivering exceptional service. Don’t fall into the trap of misplacing your focus on simply collecting as many customer reviews as possible. Your primary focus should be on delivering quality and satisfaction to your customers. As a result, these happy customers are going to be far more inclined to take the time to leave a review.
  2. Make your product review process easy and immediate for customers. Identify your most influential social media platform and direct your customers to leave reviews there. Customers don’t have the patience to leave reviews on 5 different sites, so be sure your call to action is clear and direct. Next, make sure you spell out the process for them in minimal steps. If you email them asking to leave a review, include links directly to the page to leave a review. Keep it short, make it easy and you will earn more customer reviews on a consistent basis!
  3. Give customers an incentive. We live in a “What’s in it for me?” culture. Applying this to customer reviews means to want to offer an incentive to leave a timely and helpful review of your product. Some business offer a discount or free sample as a thank you. Think about what’s feasible for your business and be sure to promote this incentive.
  4. Don’t expect it to happen organically. Very few customers take it upon themselves to offer a product review without any sort of ask or reminder to do so from the business. Furthermore, these unsolicited reviews tend to be polarizing – either very positive or very negative – because those extreme cases are when most people feel the need to provide a review. Don’t miss out on the “silent majority” by failing to directly solicit customer reviews as part of your marketing strategy.
  5. Monitor and respond to customer reviews. Make sure that someone in your business is assigned to monitoring customer reviews. For the positive ones, respond with a thank you or possibly follow-up with the customer to see if they have the potential to be a brand ambassador. For negative reviews, also be sure to follow-up quickly to address any issues and right the customer’s wrongs. In doing so, the customer may choose to leave a follow-up review that’s positive. If nothing else, other people browsing your reviews will see your commitment to customer service which will counteract the review’s negative impact.
  6. Show gratitude! Thank each and every customer for their review, either by commenting on the review or sending them a follow-up email. If you choose to implement an incentive program, this provides the perfect opportunity to touch base with the customers and offer thanks when you provide them with their discount or sample product.
  7. Integrate customer reviews into your marketing strategy. After investing your time, and possibly some free products to build up your customer reviews on social media, be sure to get the most out of them by integrating your reviews into your ongoing marketing strategy. You may choose to share some of the reviews on your website, in e-newsletters or feature them as part of your paid social media advertising campaigns. Given how influential customer reviews are to ecommerce, you want to put a spotlight on the great ones to increase the impact they have on new customers.

Are you struggling to engage your customers to consistently leave reviews on your social media pages? Share your hurdles or ask a question so we can help lend some advice!

 
 

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How to Win Back a Client

how to win back a client

Clients will come and go. If you are a contractor or consultant, you know that it’s a way of life. Often this will be an obvious and amicable parting once a client no longer needs your services. However there will also be times when a client leaves you, possibly for another consultant or because they believe they can handle the services in house. This kind of parting can leave you a little sad and sore, as it feels unexpected or unnecessary.

But I want to share some good news.

Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, I’ve had many clients, who once paused services or parted ways, return for a variety of reasons. These returns are a wonderful surprise and for a long time I chalked it up to luck. However, it’s much more than luck. It’s the way you run your business that keeps a former client’s coals burning, awaiting to reignite the fire upon their return.

Today I share with you some steps you can take to win back a former client. The most important idea to keep in mind is that winning back a client isn’t merely what you say when you re-pitch them your services, it’s everything you do in the interim of your relationship leading up to this reengagement. Take a look!

Part on Good Terms

This first step is critical. To the extent it is realistically possible, you should try to part with each client on good terms. Be understanding, offer them access to any materials or information that is rightfully theirs and help with the transition process to a new employee or consultant who will be taking over your work, if asked to do so. If this isn’t feasible or they choose to completely shut you out, it’s a good indication this isn’t a client you’ll want to work with again in the future anyways.

Leave the Door Open

Once you part on good terms, you should also make sure they know your door is always open to them. Weeks, months or years later they may have a question for you. Remain accessible and attentive to their needs (so long as it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of your time). This demonstrates, professionalism and class. Knowing your door is open makes it easier to return without feeling like you will shame them for it.

Touch Base in a Non-Salesy Way

There may come a time when an article or piece of information emerges that reminds you of that client. Use this as an opportunity to touch base with them by offering something other than a sales pitch. Believe me, this is exceptionally refreshing! For example, maybe you find an article that offers helpful advice to a problem they frequently encountered or maybe it’s a piece of news announcing a new trend in their industry. Share this with a thoughtful note. Wish them well and leave it at that. This is a seed that I have seen blossom into a new working relationship time and time again.

Check in On Their Progress

If you find yourself thinking about that client, check in on them to see if they are maintaining the progress you used to help with. Have they kept a consistent presence on social media? When is the last time they published a blog? If you’re still on their email list, what’s the last communication you received? If all of these efforts have gone radio silent, you have a solid reason to move onto what about I’m about to suggest next.

Remind Them How You Can Help

Call or email that client with a direct offer. This time it is essentially a sales pitch. Be sure to complement any efforts they are maintaining or improving. Then call attention to the items you noticed were lacking. Remind them that you used to help them maintain these critical efforts and that you’d welcome the opportunity to talk with them about assisting them in a similar way again. You just might hit them at a time where they feel like they can’t get their head above water and you will be a welcome source of help. What’s the worst they can say? No?

Offer Advice, No Strings Attached

If a past client should ever reach out to you asking for a simple piece of advice (i.e. it should only take a few minutes of your time to answer), be open to sharing your expertise a time or two. For the couple of minutes it takes you to answer their questions, you could open up the door to a renewed client in the future. It’s extremely smart from a business development standpoint! If you find they have A LOT of questions for you, offer a meeting. In person you can make a case for the benefit of your expertise and how an ongoing relationship would again benefit you both.

Be Responsive

Finally and most importantly, be respectful and responsive, even if this person is no longer an active client. Demonstrating these qualities, regardless of whether you are receiving a paycheck, speaks highly to your reputation. It will also remind the client of how nice it is to work with someone who is competent and responsive. Many times I have clients return because they realize that responsiveness is not a quality every consultant possesses. Many skills can be trained, responsiveness/reliability really isn’t one of them.

Have you ever won back a client? What steps did you take? Share your experience by leaving a comment below!

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

Would you consider yourself to be a positive or negative person? Most of us would like to identify with being a friend or co-worker who brings positive energy to the world around us. The struggle is that so often we allow negativity to creep into our thoughts and actions and before we know it, we are spreading these thoughts without realizing we are doing so!

What are the common ways we spread negativity and what can we do to consciously stop this bad behavior? Here are five examples that should ring true to all of us in some capacity.

Using the phrase “no problem”

Think about how we answer a request, whether it be for work or when talking to a friend or family member. A common response we use is “no problem.” This is often meant in a pleasant and helpful way, so then why are we framing it in the negative? Saying “no problem” implies that whatever you did for that person could have been a problem, but that you were willing to sacrifice or overlook that.

This phrase has become so much a part of our culture that we don’t often realize when we’re saying it or how often. Yet, as soon as you start to look for it, it crops up everywhere! It spreads negativity discretely and indirectly by making someone feel like you’ve done them a favor or that they might owe you in the future. Rather, we need to shift to responding with positive phrases like “my pleasure” or “I’d be happy to.” This small change can have a profound impact on the way you communicate with others and how they perceive your motives to help.

Focusing on the negative percent

Another sneaky way we let negativity creep into our daily lives is how we interpret percentages. Even though a 20% chance of rain also means an 80% change of sun, the weatherperson is more likely to lead with the dismal statistic even though it’s the smaller one. In this scenario, we might be able to give them a pass for wanting to boost their ratings with interesting news, but it’s a common practice that is carried over into many other areas of life.

When we look at health statistics, we often focus on how many people are diagnosed, die or suffer as opposed to the positive percentage of how many people are healthy, alive and well. There’s a time and place for taking negative statistics into account, but so often we allow our focus on the negative to cause anxiety about something that is pretty unlikely to occur. The lesson here is to always consider both parts of a statistic. If there’s a 15% change your worst fear will come true, remember that this is also telling you there is an 85% chance you will be just fine.

Saying something is “not bad”

Has someone ever suggested something to you and you responded with “That’s not a bad idea!”? It’s pretty likely you’ve used this phrase at least once in the past month. If you really think about what you’re saying to the person, it’s quite a negative way to respond to their effort to be helpful. Saying “not bad” implies that you might have been expecting them to come up with a bad or disappointing idea, and are actually surprised they didn’t. Moreover, this phrase doesn’t give any credit to the idea being good.

Culturally, the phrase “not bad” is often used with some sarcasm. It’s pulling that person’s leg that you would have actually expected their idea, their cooking, their creative skills, etc. to be bad when in reality you had full faith in them. I’m all for sarcasm at the right place and the right time, but we have to be mindful about also spreading positive encouragement when it’s needed. In a work environment, it’s far better to respond with a more direct statement like “That’s a great idea!” or “Good thinking!” Don’t make people guess as to whether you’re being negative or just sarcastic. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Using canned responses when someone asks how you are doing

Here’s another way you may be spreading negativity without knowing it. Think about how you respond when someone asks how you are doing. If it’s Monday, we’re likely to make a joke about getting back to the grind or feeling tired from the weekend. If it’s Friday we might say something along the lines of just getting through today and then maybe we’ll get a break on Saturday. We can find a reason to feel tired or overwhelmed any day of the week!

When someone asks how you are doing, it’s often a conversation starter. They don’t really want to hear about the moans and groans of your work week. Instead of spewing out negativity with your response (sarcastic or not), try and find just one positive thing to focus on and spread this positivity with the person who is asking. Keep it simple with something like “I’m having a really great day. How are you?” Or be specific while still keeping it short with “I enjoyed spending time with my family this weekend. Did you enjoy yours?” If you’re happy, share it! And if you’re having a bad day, sharing just one positive thing can actually help turn your day around.

Letting an issue leak into another part of your life

This final point can be the most toxic when it comes to spreading negativity. If you have an issue that you fail to compartmentalize, it’s going to leak into other areas of your life and it’s going to get messy! For example, if you got into an argument with a coworker right before heading home for the day, it’s easy to carry this burden with you throughout the evening and into the next day until it’s resolved. But in doing so, you’re bringing this stress and anxiety into your home and it will prevent you from fully engaging with your family during your off hours.

If you feel a weight on your shoulders, stop and address it. If it can’t be addressed right now (because you have to talk to someone at work or because it’s regarding an upcoming event) then you need to push it out of your mind, even temporarily, to continue living in the moment and enjoying the positivity that is around you right now. Don’t fall victim to spreading your own negativity to other parts of your life. Work on compartmentalizing these emotions and addressing them at the right moment.

Are you guilty of spreading negativity in any of these sneaky and unassuming ways? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Happiness, Life

 

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7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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