A Routine of Gratitude

A Reflection on Gratitude from a Teenage Mentee

CEO Candi, Gratitude, Thankful, RoutineSince it was a rainy Saturday morning, my will to get out of bed was less than usual. The calming sound of rain kept me in that wonderful in between lull where my brain is the most creative and open. I pondered what we would talk about and if this 14 year old boy would be judgmental of my professional decisions or any advice I would offer. During my sleepy entrancement, I imagined the various conversations we might have.

Once 9:30am rolled around, I was forced to get out of bed and on my way to meet with my new mentee. The drive to our meeting spot – a cute little cupcakery and coffee spot – was quick despite the rain. And as I entered the shop, I could see that he was already there patiently waiting for me (luckily I wasn’t late).

The conversation was supposed to be about his personal and professional goals, but I didn’t know this kid beyond the brief conversation we had over a month ago. We talked about movies, books, society, debate, and psychology. I forgot how awesomely open and curious teenagers are about the world. It was such a refreshing conversation. Most adults I know are terribly boring – they talk only talk about work, love, and money.

At one point in our conversation, we talked about gratitude and the discomforts of one’s teenage years. It may just be due to the upcoming holiday or the many changes happening in my life right now, but I felt required to emphasize the importance of gratitude in our conversation.

As I look back at the meeting, I know that he didn’t need to necessarily hear all about the importance of gratitude. We expect a lot out of teens today – work hard in school, get a job, act like an adult, stay innocent, be polite & grateful, and so on.

This young man is grateful for his friends, his family, and his life.  That’s more than I can say for myself on a regular basis. It takes effort for me sometimes to feel gratitude and recognize it.

Create Routine, Routines, Gratitude, MarketingCreating a Routine

I will always preach to my clients the importance of creating a positive and consistent routine for their marketing. Things like posting a blog the same time and day every week, checking social media regularly, and creating fluidity to the voice of the story across all channels.

Routines work best when they flow from your personal life to your professional life. When my mentee told me that his goal for the next 8 days is so write 10 pages of narrative every day, I realized that I haven’t been doing something so regimented to practice my own skills.

 

My Vision as a Marketer:

To create beautiful expressions that tell the story for each company that I provide services to.

Goals Toward that Vision:

Spend 1 hour each day coming up with a new way to reach people with that story. It will look like mini-marketing campaigns.

What is a positive routine you are keeping to grow or improve yourself?

A Note of Thanks To Supportive Leaders

Thank you for leaving a positive impact on my life

Developing yourself into a professional is a long and sometimes complicated journey. We are never on this journey alone. And in my case, I’ve had several cheerleaders and coaches supporting me with each step. Today I’m taking a moment to thank some of those influential people.

Peggy Devery – English teacher, grammar great, and life instructor.

Not every kid in class appreciated her like I did. She saw a world beyond the halls of that school and the importance of the words we use in that world. Ms Devery showed me how beautiful and comical a single sentence can be – because of the way we arrange it. Powerful Leaders, Thank You, Good Grammar, Marketing

 

Susie Blank – Choral director, cellist, and non-traditional music aficionado.

Every singer is touched by people who help to find her voice. Ms Blank was the first person to push me to work on music the same way one would practice a sport or prepare for a test. She forced me to work on sight reading and trying new things outside of the comfort zone.

Music, Powerful Leaders, Thank you, marketing

Tamara Bering Sunguroff – Vocal teacher, opera singer, and musical coach.

Each week that we met was a new adventure in music and culture. She was more than a voice teacher, she was a musical advisor and coach to me. Tamara was a professional opera singer, so she bestowed many wisdoms on me about music and life.

Roz Dischiavo – Wellness Center director, relationship therapist, and mentor.

Most of us have that one college professor who opens your mind and turns your world upside down – that’s Roz. She was hard on me, supportive and insightful, and that’s what 19 year old me really needed. That magical mixture forced me to look at a world beyond performance and business, and to see the importance of offering a social good to the world.

Supportive Leaders, Leadership, Thank you, Marketing

Jennifer Hempel – Marketing director, cultural omnivore, and proud Canadian.

We did not always get along or agree, but when we were in sync the air was supercharged and anything could happen. She had high expectations and sometimes pushed me a little harder than I could take. At the end of the day though, I am stronger and smarter for working with her.

 

Always Seek Knowledge and Development

You may notice that only one of the incredible women I list here has impacted my profession directly (marketing). It is important to be influenced by people with varying backgrounds and experiences. I seek out mentors and mentees because life is an ever evolving series of lessons, and that goes beyond a paycheck.

Why I Love Content Marketing

Content Marketing aka “Corporate Storytelling”

Many people are buzzing about content marketing as if it is a brand new concept. Really, it is just a new title to a long running concept of telling your company or brand story through your marketing campaigns.  Some people have called it Corporate Storytelling or “Old-School Marketing” content. This is the oldest form of marketing after all.

In 1900, Michelin Tires released the first Michelin Guide, which is now the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide. It includes the Michelin stars – the awards given to select establishments for excellence – as well as some car-focused tips and tricks. When they launched the Michelin Guide, it was intended to boost the demand for cars (and thus for car tires). The content they were delivering was for a specific and targeted audience – French Motorists. The company was providing valuable information that is of high caliber and a reflection of the company’s brand value – this is great content marketing.

Why Content Marketing is Great

There are so many ad agencies out there that preach about repetition of the brand message being the key to success, but I genuinely believe that the greatest value a company can get from marketing is when there is strong content for it to sit upon (and repeated in different ways, of course). The information you offer provides value in several ways:

To Customers

Companies that offer useful content such as a restaurant guide (like Michelin), tips, how-to videos, and other information that is related and complementary to what the company does represent a brand that I want to be loyal to. A company that cares enough to know what I want and need is one that I will associate with trust and comfort. Great marketing content can naturally create loyalty and brand trust.

For SEO

When the content of your website is consistent and repeating similar/related concepts through the words you choose in blog posts, news releases, social media, and metadata, then search engines can trust your website is not a spammer. If done right, great content marketing can have a very positive impact on your website’s SEO.

For Social Good

Even those people who have no need for your product are likely to come across your company at some point. If your content is valuable, and perhaps offers ancillary information, then you are providing a sort of social good to the world. As a marketer writing about ways for small businesses to do marketing for themselves, you are offering a free service of sorts.  As a software company, you may provide some how-to videos that help people better understand the technology that you offer and its impact on the world.

I implore you to take the time and really think about your company’s story. Ask yourself about the solutions you offer to customers and how that impacts their lives. Your story lives in there somewhere. Or ask me! I’m always open for a meeting or chat to support businesses in writing their corporate story.

 

Enjoy this cool infographic showing a history of Content Marketing

Content Marketing, Corporate Storytelling, Marketing strategy

From the Content Marketing Institute

Building the Breakdown Muscle for Sales Success

Going from failure to failure will improve your sales and marketing

Why? You need to build the failure muscle in order to close that big sale or reach that target audience. It seems that failure is often looked down upon in our society. The emotions that we associate with failure are shame, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger. That is why I don’t think of it as failure when something I’ve tried doesn’t work out – it’s just a breakdown. Resilience is the most underrated virtue of successful business owners.

Shift your view of breakdowns to being about how you are taking a step toward success. It becomes a learning opportunity and leads you to a much more successful ending.  Sales and marketing require a lot of experimenting before finding what works. So fail often to find success. Beyond work, breakdowns are essential to build a muscle that we all must workout in order to achieve success.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

It’s terrible that some kids grow up thinking that competition with others is the only way to win. Those same kids believe that getting things wrong are failures, rather than simple breakdowns that can lead to a success.

Embrace the Failures

Cast a wide net by practicing your breakdowns, and be ready to walk away from an idea if it doesn’t work. Here are some ways for you to workout that breakdown muscle.

  • Experiment in a Safe Place

The projects and prospect with the lease downsides are a great place to start. Avoid projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive.

  • Try New Things

Take the time to try all kinds of ideas. Try lots of different approaches to your sales and marketing tactics.

  • Know When You Have Failed

I know that it is difficult to walk away from an idea that was great in concept, but being truly self-aware and listening closely will offer an opportunity to try something else that will succeed.

  • Recognize the Impact and Make a Plan

After you have a meltdown (or rightfully choose not to), pause and look at the results of your failure. Really look at the sales reports or feedback analysis. Understanding the impact of your failure is key to finding the new road toward your success.

 

Let’s remove the word failure from our work vocabulary. It doesn’t lead us anywhere useful. Instead, let’s celebrate having breakdowns for success.

Are you ready to celebrate your breakdowns?

Marketing Campaigns

For many small and medium sized companies, the hardest part of marketing is simply managing all of the different pieces of the marketing mix. The first step toward organizing the potential chaos is to plan and schedule specific marketing campaigns.

Definition: A marketing campaign is a sustained effort to promote your product or service through a defined series of activities. 

What Makes a Good Marketing Campaign?

Marketing campaign, Amex, Marketing strategy

American Express – Small Business Saturday

A good marketing campaign follows a theme, and it includes a series of touch points through each channel. I wish that a single email or text marketing campaign was enough for someone to take action, but the average consumer can take anywhere from 3 to 10 touch points (or more) before actually making a purchase. Since there is so much noise in the marketplace, repetition of a message in different channels is important.

The American Express campaign of Small Business Saturday utilized several channels and message styles before it became a huge success. However, they understood some key things about running a successful campaign: Goal (positive branding with small businesses), Personas who support small business, Multiple Channels (digital ads, emails, partner communications, posters, etc) and the Virality of the concept.

What are some things that your company can leverage to make a great campaign?

  • Goal
    What is the goal of your campaign? You may want to increase sales for a specific product, drive traffic to your new website, simply create buzz about what your company is up to, or something else.
  • Persona(s)
    Who are your target customers? Identify the personas who are the most likely to be interested in this product, service, or topic. You may want to create a few demographic profiles to get started.
  • Channels
    How are you getting the message out to your target customers? This is a labor-intensive part of the planning process. If you are going to hit the customer with your message at least 3 times, then which channels will it be pushed through and when? (ie Email, Website, Blog, Social Media, Print, Radio, TV, PPC)
  • Virality of Content
    Understand what causes people to share information. Is the content of your message aimed to pique someone’s curiosity, cause a debate, get people excited?

The Minimalist Marketing Campaign Plan

If all of this sounds like gobbly-gook to you and you just want a fast way to get things going, then make a calendar in a spreadsheet. At minimum, you should have a plan for each month for what communications you are putting out to your customers (and the world).

Here’s a Sample Content Calendar

Marketing Communications, Content Calendar, Communications Calendar

Key Items in your content calendar:

  • Content Type
  • Title or Description of that content (blog post title or a description such as Monthly Newsletter)
  • Key dates (draft due, review by, publish on, etc)
  • Target Audience / Personas
  • Distribution Channels
  • Promotions tied to it
  • The Keywords or Metadata being used
  • Metrics for reporting on the success

Defining User Experience

For Technology. For Marketing. For the Experience of Your Product or Service.

User Experience (UX) and User Experience Design (UXD or UED) are terms used to refer to user-centered design practices.  The aim is to produce something that meets the user’s (the customer) own goals – his measures of success and ease of use – while fulfilling the objectives of the company. The term was coined by Don Norman while he was Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple.

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it’s meaning… user experience, human centered design, usability; all those things, even affordances. They just sort of entered the vocabulary and no longer have any special meaning. People use them often without having any idea why, what the word means, its origin, history, or what it’s about.” (source)

UX Goes Beyond Technology

People often associate User Experience exclusively with web design and related areas of technology. However, we are now applying the concept to several areas of business. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Case Study for User Experience

Many executives view User Experience as a low-priority and an unnecessary way to spend budget. Ironically, it is a key way that many organizations end up saving money and improving their business. Let’s take a look at this somewhat fictional case study.

Software UX

The Special Software Company offers a SaaS solution directly to small businesses and re-sellers. Their software is a CRM tool with email built in. For the past 2 quarters, the company has been slowing down and profits are lower than expected. They have tried lowering the cost, up-selling account services, and even expanding their technology to make it work better with an email service provider. Nothing is working.

Finally, the CTO of the company suggests bringing in a User Experience Specialist to help the company identify the problem and address it. She creates organizes some focus groups of current customers and anther focus group of potential customers (based on the company’s profile of an ideal customer). During these focus groups, she discovers that the UI of the software is functional, but not logical to everyone. Even current customers explain that they had to learn how to change their own logic to use it. She also discovers that potential customers feel uneducated about the application of using this software – how will it really work for their business to save time and money?

Everything is complied into documents that show the user experience flow, touching upon the psychology around the interactions, and identifying the pain points for current and potential customers. The entire process took a couple of weeks, and now the company has clear actionable tasks toward improving the business.

Marketing to Your Users

Looking more closely at this software company, we discovered that one of the pain points for potential customers was the marketing message. It was unclear and was not answering the most important questions for the end user (the customer).

Marketing Personas, UX, User Experience

 

 

 

As marketers, we all too often are holding the megaphone up and shouting out the message rather than listening. The best marketing strategies, however, address user experience. It can be difficult, because unlike a product or service we need to keep testing the marketing messages and delivery until we know what is working.  Take these steps to create the most effective marketing message:

  • Listen, Watch and Analyze. If your company has online reviews, read them and make detailed notes about what people are saying. Check your website’s analytics to learn about how people are using your website. If you have a physical location, watch how they interact in the store and interview store staff about the experiences. Really pay attention to body language, because it tells a whole other story than the words people share.
  • Identify Personas. I prefer calling these people your tribes, but in the industry they are called personas. Each unique group shares common goals, background and experiences. This can also help you identify the triggers that lead your customers to purchase your product or service – the steps they took before getting into the store or onto your website.
  • Customer Flow. Follow the steps of the entire process it takes for a customer to be first introduced to your company all the way through the purchasing path and on-going customer service. Based on this flow, you can properly structure your customer communications (both marketing and otherwise) and it should be shaped around his/her persona.

The Adventure Generation

Before you start writing your marketing message, think about the people you are trying to connect with. 

Understand This Generation 

Adventure. That’s what it’s all about.

Remember the days of living in a neighborhood? I’m talking about the real kind of neighborhood where kids could run around free because they were always within sight or ear shot of someone’s mom. I am among the lucky ones who got to be part of that generation of freedom and adventure. We were our own tribe of Goonies. Everyday in the yard or down the street we had an adventure – looking for treasures or just playing games. Still, we were rightfully afraid of cops, robbers and drug dealers…but not enough to be kept gated in.

The Goonies generation, as I call it, were born between 1973-1983. It’s a subset of Gen Y / Millennial (according to me). This group is one of the first generations to be introduced to technology at a young age, but not born with a computer in hand. We still remember brick phones and the “revolution” of graphical calculators. We were old enough to experience the world during the OJ Simpson trial, Columbine shootings, Bill Clinton scandals, and the first World Trade Center bomb. We voted for the first non-white president and gay marriage rights.

Adventure, Generations, demographic, marketing

Goof Balls. The Goonies Generation

Talking to This Demographic

Trying to connect with this subset of a generation is not easy. We are split into the tech-savvy and the anti-tech people.  Most of us are liberal, but many still have conservative family values. So what can we all agree on? Adventure

No matter what sub-subset we are part of, the Goonies generation craves adventure. We were raised on it and it lies in the core of our being. So when you want to connect with someone in their thirties (currently), ask yourself what adventure you can offer.  Keep this in mind in terms of your marketing and promotional messages.