Creating Accountability and a Routine

Now that January has come and gone, many friends have commented on the falling away of their loosely planned New Years Resolutions. To avoid this failure in myself, I made a point of attending every meetup event I could about making and keeping resolutions during January. The logic behind it was that if I could learn the 20 different ways other people are making and keeping up with their goals, then maybe I could find the ways that work best to implement them into my own life.

Part 1: What the Heck Are Your Goals?

Believe it or not, this was the hardest part for me. As everyone buzzed about losing weight, achieving a dollar goal for their business or creating a routine, I sat their blank faced. Finally, people asked me some questions that helped to guide me there. Where do you see yourself 6 months from now? What would make you happy that isn’t in your life? Why are you unhappy?  

Out of these questions, I started with 4 weekly goals and 2 long-term goals. The weekly goals include exercise, getting outdoors, being social, and creating a positive sleep routine. My long-term goals include a solo-trip to Norway and building my company to include partners.

 

Part 2: Creating Accountability

Once you have said your goals out loud to another human being (or in my case, announcing them on social media to the world), you are 80% more likely to achieve them. To push myself further, I discovered 2 methods to keep me accountable for the weekly goals – a calendar and a buddy.

Accountability, Routine, Being Accountable for goals, New Years Resolutions

My Accountability Calendar for January

Accountability Calendar (not my idea, but wish it was). Pin a plain old calendar on your wall and choose a few different colored markers – each one represents a goal. When you complete a goal, mark it on your calendar for that day. The visualization of your accomplishments is pretty powerful.

An Accountability Buddy. This is a person you check-in with about your goals. Think of it as a report you must send to the boss each week, though in this case it’s really a tool for you and your own good. My buddy and I actually have a friendly competition going. We track our goals with points each week (1 point per goal achieved). At the end of the month, the person with the most points is treated by the other to dinner, coffee, drinks, or whatever else suits.

Part 3: Set Benchmarks and Get Excited for Long-Term Goals

I actually set calendar appointments with myself for all of my goals, but it’s especially important for the long-term ones. In order for me to go to Norway for a few weeks at the end of August into September, there are a few preparations I need to make – research, set a budget, purchase plan tickets, book hotels, plan activities, and coordinate with client work. For each item, I’ve created a due date – it is on my Google Calendar with all of my meetings and tasks, as well as living in my Asana task manager under it’s  own project.

Knowing my ability to put off personal endeavors to make way for clients and work-related things, I had to set aside time to schedule myself into meetings with myself.  Otherwise, nothing would get done in time and my trip may not come to fruition. I want it to happen. I’m excited to go. And every week I remind myself about the excitement somehow – Instagram photos, Reddit threads, casual conversations with friends, etc.

Solo Trip, Norway, Accountability, Goal Setting

My Instagram Vision of Norway

 

Just Do What You Need To Do

If making a big change in your life requires some effort and creating a routine, then start somewhere… whatever place you need to. For me, I need calendars and buddies and happy reminders.

 

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Your History Does Not Decide Your Future

You do.

Life pitches curve balls and we cannot always predict it. But you can be flexible and open to what the next step is for you and your business.

My Curve Ball

Walking the streets of midtown Manhattan and Astoria, Queens brings back memories – both good and bad. If you know the real New York, it’s hard not to love this city.

Because I am from New York, it’s easy to assume that my destiny was to live here, have a family here, and die here. Nope, not me. I woke up day after day feeling mundane. The city started to look dirty and uninspiring. The shouting homeless guy and constant sirens began to bother me. Opportunities to take big risks and gain life experience didn’t appear to be tangible in New York.

There was a pit in my stomach, and I was feeling completely split in half. One part of me knew the importance of having family and friends close by – my support system. But my future was filled with innovation and making a positive impact. Soon I realized that the entrepreneurs in New York face bigger challenges than those in smaller cities like Austin or Denver. After months of consideration and research, I decided that my history could not hold me back any longer. It was time to take that leap of faith that so many talk about.

history, business, future, evolution

History Does Not Need to Define Your Business

We are the innovators of tomorrow – we create the game changing ideas that will make our world different (and hopefully better). Just as you must be open and recognize your failures and growth opportunities in business, the same applies to the way you communicate with your end customer.  The ideas we share, as well as the processes, must reflect exactly the openness to change.

IDEAS

The old idea was to send all direct marketing communications through the mail. Then email showed up. And then social media and targeted digital ads. Now SMS and mobile apps are leveraged for direct marketing. Direct marketing has evolved from a “I hope they don’t throw this piece in the garbage” experience to a “we can see that the customer viewed this message and replied” engagement.  Print mailers may still be effective for your business, but SMS may also work. It’s easy to fall back on the things you know, but don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something new – it might even take a bit of a fight to make it happen.

PROCESS

Just because it worked last year, doesn’t mean it’s working this year. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. You may have always included news announcements and product updates in your blog, and that’s worked really well for the past 2 years. Now you have planned content each week that is around a specific marketing campaign. Your blog is going to start looking cluttered and become overwhelming if you’re still including all of that other stuff. It might not happen right away, but readers will be deterred by the experience. It may be time to re-evaluate the way you get different kinds of messages out to different audiences.

In business, as in life, it is important to recognize history, but one should never let it determine what the future holds. So what is holding you back?

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