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How to Make a Marketing Plan for the Rest of the Year

Posted by on 11:52 am in Business Management | 0 comments

How to Make a Marketing Plan for the Rest of the Year

Yeah for summer finally being here. Barbecues, beaches, sailing and sun. It’s a great time to relax and recharge, which is vital to your business success. And, it’s a great time to do a mid-year check in on all those fantastic plans you set up in the beginning of the year. As you’re scheduling vacation and Friday afternoons out of the office, schedule some time to work on your business. My colleague Tara Gearheart at TMedia Consulting offers these tips to help with strengthening your marketing efforts for the second half of the year. 1. Analyze the past: The old English Proverb “You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been” reigns true in every stage of life but today we’re talking specifically marketing stages. How has 2017 been so far? Are you hitting your lead and sales goals? 2. Do a content refresh: Update your content inventory with fresh material. Make sure you include timely revisions to previous content. What may have been a great new marketing trend in January might be proven not to work in July. 3. Check your sales and marketing alignment: We talk all the time about the importance of communication between sales and marketing and it’s true. Make sure both teams are aligned for success. 4. Evaluate your progress: If you were graded for your marketing work, what grade would you give yourself at this point in the year? Do the activities you have planned for the second half of the year still make sense? Be honest, then make the changes needed. 5. Make an action plan for the second half of the year: So you’ve analyzed the past, outlined your content refresh, checked in with sales and evaluated your progress over the last 6 months. It’s time to put all of these findings to work and create an action plan for the next 6 months. The first half of the year flew by and before you know it, we’ll be ringing in the new year. This means there’s no time like the present to improve your marketing efforts. Take the stress out of your social media and online marketing planning with Make Your Mark for Online Marketing Success. This online eight-week course that will transform your business and bring you more leads. Enroll Now You will get: -Weekly Guidance Calls with an open Q&A -Assignments to keep you on track -Newsletters loaded with tips and how-tos...

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What is a Pain Point and Why Does it Matter?

Posted by on 12:11 pm in Blog Writing, Communication Strategy, Social Media Writing | 0 comments

What is a Pain Point and Why Does it Matter?

It’s important in business to understand what your customer wants, but it’s even more important to understand why. What are the underlying needs, issues, concerns or problems that are driving people to seek out a particular product or service? Knowing the answers will help you create better content for your blog and social media. In the marketing world, these are often referred to as “pain points.” The idea is that the customer is seeking a product or service to solve some sort of pain that they may or may not be aware of. I don’t like the negative connotation of pain, so I prefer to refer to them as “deepest desires.” Here’s why they matter to you: As a provider, the more you understand why people need or desire what you offer, the better you can tailor your product or service to meet that need or desire. This applies to developing content as well. Knowing what drives people will help you to find the messages and words that will connect with them. Suppose you clean houses. Why do people hire someone to clean their house? The obvious answer is that they don’t want to do it themselves. But why? Is it because they don’t like to clean? Then you want to talk with them about how you can take that job off their hands. Or, is it because they’re so busy? Then talk about how much time you can save them. But there’s more. Why is having a clean house important to them? Do they a greater sense of peace when their home is clean? Or do they want to avoid being harassed by an in-law? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Should you be talking about how you can relieve stress or how you can help your customer impress the visitors? Now, dig deeper. What’s important to them about how the product or service is delivered? Scheduling? Cost? Style? When you know the answer, you can talk in terms of how you will address their issues. They will see how you will solve their problem. How to uncover the deepest desires: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think through the buying process from their perspective. Ask current customers about why they chose you and what your product or service has done for them. Talk to potential customers about what is important to them. Ask why, and then ask why, and then ask why. It’s sort of like being a detective trying to uncover the truth. Converting Deepest Desires into Creative Content Once you’ve identified the deepest desires, it’s time to make it work for you. For starters, the deepest desires can guide you in choosing what to write about. Now that you know more about what your customers really need and want, you can find subjects that will speak directly to them. Keep the deepest desires in mind also as you write content for blogs and social media. It will help you make what you write more personal. Consider how what you offer can fill the deepest desire. You can emphasize those points in your content. It shapes how you talk about what you do. Let’s look at how this could work for a wedding photographer. His customers are couples who want to document the day. Here’s...

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How to Find the Best Day and Time for Blogging

Posted by on 7:00 am in Blog Writing | 1 comment

How to Find the Best Day and Time for Blogging

Most people think successful blogging is about writing, but that’s only part of it. It’s really about decision making. What are you going to write about? How are you going to write it? And finally, when will you post it? Should it go up first thing Monday morning so people can start their week right? Or is Friday afternoon better because they’re winding down? Maybe Wednesday morning as a mid-week boost? Not surprisingly, this issue has been studied a lot. The results offer a good starting point. For instance, the highest percentage of visitors read blogs in the morning, according to Hubspot’s Dan Zarella (@danzarella) and searchengineland.com (@senginland) as detailed in a comprehensive Kissmetrics infographic. Armed with this info, you’re  ready to go? Right? Not exactly. If you post at the high-volume reading times, the stats say you will have access to more readers. But, everyone else reading the numbers will be posting then too so you will have more competition. In fact, you’re more likely to get engagement and shares during the off-peak times, according to a study by TrackMaven. There’s another problem with the stats. They’re based on a wide range of blogs and readers, not yours. They can give you a general picture, but they aren’t telling you what your ideal readers are doing. To get a more specific answer, you’ll need to do some background work. Who is your ideal reader? What are that person’s lifestyles and habits? When does he or she have free time? When is he or she most likely to be at a computer? When is he or she most likely to read your blog? Here are some ways to get better info: Ask Talk to your ideal readers and find out what they want. Put up a survey on your blog or social media. Experiment Once you’ve got a general sense of when might be good, try posting blogs at various times and watch the readership level. Do this a few times to eliminate variable such as one post topic being of particular interest. Promote your blog This is a way to eliminate some of the guess work. You can push out your blog through your newsletter and your social media channels so it doesn’t matter if people see your post right when you put it up. Of course, this brings about another round of questions about the best time to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat. The answer is general the same as for blogs. Start with the studies and then refine based on your goals, audience and experience. Send the blog out as an email It will matter less when you put up a blog post if your readers don’t have to go looking for it. If it comes to their in box, they can look at it whenever they have time. Still, you should pay attention to the timing of the email so it doesn’t get buried. Contact us to find out more about your ideal time to blog or to set up a consultation on improving your online marketing...

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What Will You Do When You Hit Your Heartbreak Hill in Business?

Posted by on 12:42 pm in Business Management | 0 comments

What Will You Do When You Hit Your Heartbreak Hill in Business?

As someone from the other side of the city, I’m not always clear where on the route of the Boston Marathon I am. I drive until I hit the road blocks then I park and walk toward the cheering crowds. But there was no doubt where we were this past Monday. You could see it on the runners’ faces contorted with a mixture of disbelief, dismay and determination. We were on the infamous Heart Break Hill. At this point, the runners had already covered 20 miles, the last few of which had been nothing but up and down. It was hot and many were exhausted digging deep for a final push, in as much as six miles can be considered a mere push. As a runner and a business owner, I know that look. I have no aspirations of running a marathon, but I run short races and I have run a few half marathons. And I’ve seen that look on the faces of my business colleagues. In business, as in the Boston Marathon, hills are inevitable. You must go up to go down. There is a key difference, of course. In business they’re unpredictable. There’s no route to study. You just have to be prepared for what comes. Still, what I’ve learned about running hills applies to business. Get the Right Mindset The hills are hard. You can hate them or love them. Embrace them. Label the challenges that come your way as a good thing. They can make you stronger. They can separate you from the crowd. They can take you places you can’t get any other way. The view from the top is fantastic. Keep this in mind as you are going up. Use Your Vision When I’m running up hills, I envision myself flying or floating. With each step, I’m free from the earth. Yes, it’s a little silly, but it makes me feel lighter and gets my mind off the pain and effort of the climb. In business, picture yourself being on top of whatever needs to get done. You have to develop trust in your own abilities. Remember that the hill won’t last. It may feel like it won’t ever end, and in fact, one uphill may just lead to another for a while. But there is a top. And you will be going down. When you get tired of going up, picture what that will be like to renew your energy. Look ahead, but not too far. Rather than looking at the top of the hill so far away off in the distance look right in front of you. One step at a time. One more step. One more step. With each one, you are making progress.  Just keep taking steps. Develop a Good Strategy Don’t try to maintain an even pace. Ease up as you go up the hill and then attack the course as you go down.  Stay in control and maintain good form, however, because going down uses a different set of muscles and opens you up to other sorts of injuries. When business is going well and life seems easier, you want to ensure that things continue to go well. Get a Cheering Section It seemed that the people standing with me on Heartbreak Hill were yelling as loudly...

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How to Get a Headshot that Says 1,000 Words

Posted by on 3:05 pm in Communication Strategy | 1 comment

It seemed like a simple request from my client. She wanted a serious headshot and one that showed the lighter side for her website. But how often is it simple when it comes to photos? My last headshot was taken more than two years ago when I had shorter hair. In the one before that, I had almost curly hair and fewer worries. Neither fit her goal. Besides, they were no longer quite accurate, which means they aren’t quite authentic. And went it comes to online marketing, authenticity matters. I know that a headshot is a powerful tool. It shows people who you are and helps to convince them that they should do business with you, or at least consider the possibility. It matters as much, and maybe more, as your words. With that in mind, I was feeling a bit stressed out. After all, this would represent me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and my website among other places. And, based on past experiences, it will be there quite a while. What should I wear? How should I pose? Where should I have it taken? I wanted something natural and fun yet somewhat serious. I wanted a photo that says this person will get the work done and make sure everyone has a good time doing it. No pressure, of course. I turned to headshot guru John Munson, owner of Beacon Photography for guidance. He offered some suggestions to keep in mind whether you’re having a friend take the photo or hiring a pro. Here are the Don’ts: Wear narrow stripes and large bright prints. They will be distracting and draw attention from your beautiful face. Don’t wear large pieces of jewelry, unless that’s your typical style. The focus should be on you more than your accessories. Crossing your arms tightly across your chest. This sends a “stay away” signal. Arms down at the sides is generally the most flattering pose. Here are the Dos: Think about the image you want to project and the audience you want to attract. Friendly? Serious? Competent? Wear clothes that represent the image you want to portray. If you run a serious professional business, dress in formal attire. But nix the tie if you run a more casual business. Smile, but not too much. You want to project a welcoming image but smiling too widely can narrow your eyes and make you look goofier than you might like. Wear colors that complement your coloring. That could be black, white, purple, light blue or puce. No strict rules. Look for a simple background with a color that complements your skin tones. If the background is busier, make it blurry. This can be done by putting the subject about 10 feet away from the background and having the camera no more than five feet from the subject. Think about the season of your clothes. Will that winter sweater seem out of place when people are looking at your photo in July? Pay attention to lighting so there aren’t extreme shadows. For outside photo, take them on an overcast day and avoid the midday sun. Be in a good mood following a good night’s sleep when you have your photo taken. If you’re tired or unhappy, it can show in the picture. Look at the...

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How to Build Systems You Will Love

Posted by on 2:57 pm in Communication Strategy, Social Media Writing | 1 comment

How to Build Systems You Will Love

The sun finally came out on Sunday bringing a welcome warm breeze. I know because I glanced at it longingly from my desk in between furtive bursts of working to catch up on a year’s worth of bookkeeping. I would love to have been outside, but instead, I was at my desk going through my calendar and crunching numbers. At some point in the afternoon, a little piece of advice I was once given floated into my brain: Systems will set you free. This great little phrase needs a qualifier, however. It should be: Good systems will set you free. I have a bookkeeping system, it just happens to need improvement. A good system makes things go more smoothly. It reduces your workload and ensures that things happen as they should when they should. Bad systems can not only leave you at your desk on a sunny spring day but also derail you and hold you back. Some might say it’s about discipline and doing what you know you should. But I think that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. I think the better approach is to design systems that make more sense for you and your life. When it comes to online marketing and social media, you can use systems for generating blogs, sending out emails, posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other channels, and more. Yes, it takes some time to set up the systems, but compare that to the time you will save in the long run. As someone who is not a natural system follower, I’ve developed a method to develop systems that I can stick with. I’ve already applied it effectively to several parts of my business, and I’m working on it for others (ie bookkeeping). Here’s my formula: What is it that you want to have a system for? While this seems almost too basic to include, it is an important starting point. It forces you to focus and be clear about what you want to build. Why do you need the system? Perhaps this is obvious, but thinking about it will help you design the system. Keeping this in mind can also help you stick with it. What is your current system? You may feel like you don’t have one, but you do, it’s just not what you want it to be. Ignoring the numbers all year and then doing them all at once is a system, it’s just not efficient. Why isn’t it working? Where do things go wrong? This is crucial to being able to improve the system. Is it a time? Is it too complicated? Is it that you don’t like this activity? What is working? Even small successes can provide hints about what will work. Think through all the steps that need to be taken and figure out if there are programs or apps that can be integrated into the process. Beware, however, that some create more work than they’re worth. What can go wrong? Anticipate as best you can where the pitfalls will be and address them ahead of time. Write it down. Ideally, you would be able to hand off the system to anyone else and they could follow it. It’s a way to measure how good the system is and maybe someday you will...

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The Road to Good Communication is Paved with Active Listening

Posted by on 12:06 pm in Communication Strategy | 2 comments

The Road to Good Communication is Paved with Active Listening

In my business, we talk a lot about what to say, how to say it and when. The focus is on using words both on screen and in person to communicate a message. But there’s another side to the conversation. While it is important to know how to talk, it is also important to know how to listen. The thing about being a good listener is that you will not only be better informed but also find it easier to get your message across. When people feel they have been heard, they are more open to hearing. It’s about listening actively and taking the time to process what you’re hearing. But, as I’m finding, it takes practice. Think about this: The average person talks at a rate of about 125 to 175 words per minute. I’ve been told I’m at the higher end of that range. Even so, most people can comprehend at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. That means even with my rapid-fire chatter, there are a lot of opportunities for minds to wander. And given how busy we are, my guess is our minds tend to wander off often as what we’re hearing triggers reminders of all that we need to be doing. At least mine does. Calming the Chaos This morning, my normally even-keeled daughter was in hysterics because she couldn’t get her homework to print. She told me last night that she needed it, but it hadn’t really registered. More accurately, I wasn’t really listening. Most likely, I responded with a hollow but reassuring, “Okay, dear.” Instead, I could have asked clarifying questions about when the homework was due and what steps needed to happen. We could have avoided the morning’s disruptive emotional turmoil. It can make a difference in business too. Take for instance a networking meeting when you need to meet new people. Surprising to some who know me, I’m a little shy. What helps is being armed with questions. “I’m Jennifer, and you are?” “What brings you here today?” “What was the highlight of your day?” When I’m working on being an active listener, I listen to their answers without judgement, and I ask questions about what they’ve said. Knowing I’m going to ask another question pushes me to listen carefully rather than formulating my response. I may also reiterate what I think I’ve heard, which gives the person a chance to clarify if I’ve misinterpreted or reassures them that I’ve really heard them. I have found it to be effective in all sorts of meeting including conference calls. It’s also the foundation of doing good interviews, which is important for better writing. Want to improve your listening skills? Here are some things to try: Listen without judging. Personally, I have found this to be more of a challenge than expected. It means slowing down and challenging my own conventional thinking. Ask clarifying questions without judgement. “Could you tell me more?” “What do you mean when you say…” “Why do you want to do that?” “What are your next steps?” Reiterate what the person has said in your own words. “What I hear you saying is….” Look at the speaker and use body language to indicate that you are listening. Your mind will follow your actions. If the...

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Make Time to Update Online Social Media Profiles

Posted by on 12:45 pm in Blog Writing, Communication Strategy, Social Media Writing | 0 comments

Make Time to Update Online Social Media Profiles

Would you call you? One of the best bits of wisdom I picked up in the early stages of my business is that people want to do business with people they know, like and trust. I have found this to be true and a little frustrating. Afterall, you can only meet so many people in a day. If you can’t meet them, how are they ever going to like and trust you? Fortunately, there is the internet, which gives us the capacity to meet people from all over the world with whom we could potentially do business. The challenge, of course, is that you still need a way for these people to get get to know you so they can find out how likable you are and determine that they can, indeed, trust you. This is why your content matters so much. You’ve got just a few lines to hook people and make them want more. What does your content say about you? Have you looked at it lately from the view of someone who hasn’t met you and doesn’t yet know how wonderful you are? Now could be a good time to do some Spring Cleaning on your social media profiles. Here is a quick checklist to make it easier: Are your profiles accurate? Are they up to date? Do they reflect what you are doing now and how you want your business to grow? Do they focus on what you offer to clients? Is there a call to action? Do they include contact information? It’s a good idea to review these profiles every few months to make sure they reflect what you are doing now and where your business is headed. If the thought of it is overwhelming, break it down into smaller chunks. Just do one channel at a time. Or, schedule small blocks of time, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep coming back to it until it’s done. As you review your profiles, think of trying to reach just one reader at a time. You are not talking to a big group. You are talking to one person who is making a decision about whether to follow you, look at your website, or maybe even give you a call. To make your profiles better, pay attention to those you like. What is it about them that attracts you and what could you imitate or adapt? Have a friend or colleague read what you have and ask for an honest opinion. Look for strengths as well as potential improvements. Once you’re done, make a note on your calendar to review everything again in six months....

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Taking on Controversial Topics in Social Media

Posted by on 5:59 pm in Blog Writing, Social Media Writing | 1 comment

Taking on Controversial Topics in Social Media

My 14-year-old daughter came home appalled the other day because a friend had declared she was not a feminist and not interested in the concept of fighting for women’s rights. My daughter couldn’t understand her friend’s indifference. Her ire wasn’t surprising – like her mother, this one is inclined toward strong opinions and voicing them. This is a teenager who looks forward to voting in the next presidential election, expects to drive in two years, can sign up for any number of sports and is applauded for her accomplishments in math and science. Though these are opportunities she might take for granted, she understands that they were fought for and won by previous generations of women and men who demanded equality. And, she has a sense that there are still inequalities and biases. So, when the world celebrates and calls for attention to women’s rights through International Women’s Day, it seems an obvious opportunity to spread a good message. And yet, I, like many business owners, found myself hesitating. It’s an important topic, but it’s more politically charged this year and came with a call for women to strike, which raised another set of issues. As bloggers and social media community builders, we’re always in need of material, and holidays along with national events can provide that. Some of them are easier like Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day. Others, like Christmas and International Women’s Day, raise questions such as, “Will you offend clients and customers who don’t celebrate or support the day or cause?” Should that stop you from advancing something you support or believe in? Though I am opinionated and willing to make it known in tight circles, I tend to be more neutral to the broader public. This is due in part to my roots as a journalist charged with presenting the news without bias and in part out of respect for those who hold different views. Therefore, when a business owner hesitates to jump onto to a popular bandwagon, I understand. But there is another side to be considered. Not everyone is your ideal customer. As much as you may turn away some, you may attract others. There will be those who support you because of what you support and stand up for.  Also as a business owner and professional leader, you have a special opportunity to be an influence in your community. How do you decide when to speak up? Here are some questions to consider: How strongly do you feel about the topic? If this is something that defines you or is of high value, it may be worth putting out there because this will attract the people with whom you want to do business. Who are your customers? It’s always good to be clear about who your target audience is, and in this situation, you can use that information to help make a determination about what to do. What are your goals? Hot button issues get attention. Reporters now routinely do roundups of Tweets about certain subjects. You could reach a much wider audience. You could also get people talking, although you won’t have any control over what they say. Who do you want to take into consideration? It may not be your customers that you’re worried about but your relationship with partners, vendors or associates....

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How Not to Go Visit the Grand Canyon And Lessons for Social Media

Posted by on 10:16 am in Communication Strategy, Social Media Writing | 1 comment

How Not to Go Visit the Grand Canyon And Lessons for Social Media

I was under the impression that the drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was just about 2.5 hours. There were plenty of tour buses that would pick you up early in the morning from your hotel, bring you there and return you just in time for dinner, so a day trip seemed feasible. I was in Vegas to organize a conference. It was three days of intensive activities following several weeks of intensive planning and preparation. Consequently, I had been too busy to adequately plan this feasible day trip, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I rented a car and picked up a friend who had also been too busy to plan. We lingered over coffee and then left with a notion of the right direction and a sense of what we were doing. Once on the road, we Googled the day and made plans for a hike on the South Rim. We followed Google Maps and diligently turned off at the big sign that said “Grand Canyon This Way.” So far so good. But somewhere in the midst of the Joshua Trees, we started to realize we weren’t heading where we thought we wanted to go. We were on track to go to an outlook where there was no hiking. At this point, we’d lost access to Google Maps and had to rely on old-fashioned paper maps. None of this would have been a major problem except that I had a plane to catch later that day. As best we could without GPS to give us an exact time, we estimated how long it would take to get to where we wanted to go and then how long to get to the airport. It would be undoubtedly close. We knew it was unlikely that we would get time to hike even if we made it to the South Rim. But what is life if not a daring adventure? Besides, the speed limit out that way happens to be 75 miles per hour. (It’s just 65 around where I live.) And so, off we went in the new right direction. The thing about traveling out west is that you don’t always feel like you are getting anywhere. Everything looks the same so you can travel for hours and feel like you’re driving on a treadmill. But then, several dozen longhorn steer sitings later, you’re there.  Maybe a little frustrated that the car in front of you is going so slowly when you are finally just minutes from your destination and from setting yourself up to miss a plane, but there none the less. And it is every bit as spectacular as everyone says. You go along a rather ordinary path through rather ordinary looking trees and then there is an opening and you come to the edge of the ground on which you are standing and you see these magnificent, textured, richly colored walls of the canyon off in the distance. And you say what just about everyone must say when they see it – deep breath and “wow.” We had just enough time to snap a few pictures, sit precariously on a ledge and take more pictures, and then grab one more last look as the setting sun lit up the far edge while taking a...

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