Reflecting on May and June 2018

Every week I try to find time to pause and reflect on the happenings of the week – asking myself what I learned, where I can grow, and how I can improve. However, I began to notice that just reflecting on things wasn’t enough for me to make change. So this year I began writing about it. Once a month, I look back at my calendar and the events that took place. I take some notes and then share them here. May and June kind of melted into each other, so I’ve put them together.

Business Development Experiences

ZOHO: Some fun new projects arose in May in June, especially in terms of offering challenges to me. If you’ve read previous posts, then you know that I’m using Zoho for my business operations (CRM, Project Management, Lead Generation, etc). I have been using Zoho CRM for about 9 months and the other modules for 5 months. I have tinkered quite a bit, plus I’ve attended seminars and a conference about it. Armed with this growing knowledge, I started helping clients with their Zoho CRM setup and workflows. Not only have we learned together about what works best, but it’s forced me to think about my own business processes and how to improve them. Throughout the past 2 months, I’ve made a ton of updates to my own Zoho setup and workflows – making me a stronger trainer too.

WEBSITE: The other area of my business that is long overdue for some attention is my main website. I spoke with one of the WordPress developers I respect and like working with about making updates. My first piece of homework was to get the content in a place where I’m happy with it, so that he can focus on design and layout. It is still a work in progress, but with some help things are getting updated. The Kajabi site got some needed design updates, thanks to my kick-awesome hubby’s design efforts. I couldn’t have done it without him.

BRANDING: May was the month when the big Branding workshop happened. Along with 2 collaborators, we hosted a 2-hour workshop about brand language, working with a graphic designer, and protecting your brand with IP laws. There were many hard lessons learned, but I have no regrets. This experience forced me to work on my own branding leading up to the workshop, and following it. It feels like my five year old business is finally developing into something more than a freelance hustle.

Photo from the branding workshop

PEOPLE: One of my main service offerings is the creation of an in-depth marketing strategy for small businesses. It is customized to the business, and it includes a detailed implementation plan (step-by-step instructions). The feedback I’ve received in the past is that getting a clear structure really helps the marketing person or assistant to get things done. In May I finished up a strategy for a local business, and the outcome was that he needed additional support with his CRM. We planned on reconnecting after his vacation to hire someone to implement the work and some CRM tasks. I didn’t want to be pushy, so my follow-up was quite relaxed and somewhat delayed. I thought this would give him the space needed to digest the information and decide how best to move forward. Instead, he disappeared on me – didn’t want to talk about next steps or hiring someone. Now I find myself asking what I could have doen differently to better support him, or was this bound to happen?

The other interesting interaction I had was with a prospect. He found me online through mutual connections, filled out my business assessment, and we had a good call where we discussed his business needs. During the call I could tell that he is a very creative person, but he may not have structure in his marketing approach (the thing I love most). When the call ended, I had the understanding that he would reach out to me once he was ready to talk more. It seems this was a miscommunication because he was expecting a proposal right away. It may be me, may be him, or maybe we are totally miscommunicating with each other. More to come on this later in the summer…

I was finally able to connect with a new friend, Mahani. She’s a super cool storyteller, so we totally clicked. And we decided to team up on something fun. In June, we did our first Facebook Live together, talking about storytelling and local businesses. It was clunky, but we got through it and had fun.

MONEY: I’ve taken on a ton of new expenses in 2018. These are all important investments in the business such as Zoho, Kajabi, Calendly, other software, and hardware too. In May I had to closely evaluate my income and expenses and think about how I can be more efficient. This required more than just looking at places to cut back, but the things where I was essentially paying twice. The outcome is that expenses have gone up, so income needs to as well.

Client Consulting and Training Work

The past two months have been jam packed with consulting work, but there is a slow growing need for personalized trainings. Some of the work I did included quarterly strategy sessions, finishing up a couple of marketing strategies, adding new CRM plans to existing clients, customer journey maps, content marketing structure, and marketing operations plans.

While I love all of the strategies and planning, the most interesting work for me is supporting others by sharing knowledge – then seeing them apply it. I began working with one client’s intern and a part-time employee for another client. Working with Abi, the part-time employee, has presented a somewhat new challenge for me. She is an artist and an entrepreneur with experience in accounting, but not very experienced in marketing or being a virtual assistant. Those are the kinds of people I’ve grown to really enjoy supporting. They enter the conversation with more general marketing background knowledge. Both people have tested my processes and way of thinking. It is exactly the challenge I need.

CELEBRATE: Last year I met the owner of the South Austin Barber Shop. At the time, he was struggling most with keeping the high quality barbers that he had worked so hard to recruit. He filled out my business assessment and we met to discuss what was happening in the business. We decided that he did not need to hire me at the time, but I shared as many useful insights as I could to help him. Well, he has been working hard over the past 8 months. He got most of his barbers back and is doing so well that he is opening a new location, and I get to help him prepare for the grand opening. It’s really exciting!

MISTAKE: There is a double-edged sword to having faith in people. I want to believe everyone is good at the core of their being, but the reality is that some people are just toxic, self-serving, and manipulative. Last month I made the mistake of accepting a meeting with a former client who I know is toxic. Now I need to turn her down or redirect her, because I can’t allow that in my life. It’s hard because she is a nice woman, socially.

Professional Development

Some of the highlights of my professional development experiences from the past couple of months include:

  • Participated in a Mastermind group with the other board members of IAW
  • Connected with an old contact, Myrna, who I haven’t spoken to in about 6 or 7 years. She made an introduction to an interesting video production company that I may get to collaborate with.
  • Hosted a happy hour with one of my strategic partners, Trusty Oak.
  • Attended an Infusionsoft Event where I met a fellow marketer, Christina. I’m excited to have a colleague who could also become a friend and reference.
  • Met up with a technology trainer, John, who I originally met in a meetup group. We planned on talking for 45 minutes that turned into more than an hour. He has so much to share and is totally passionate about training and passing information on to others.
  • Introduced me to a super young entrepreneur who is really talented and living his life to the fullest.
  • Connected with a prospect who I quickly realized is a better fit as a partner than a client. Good timing since I’m working with Randi on refining the partner program.

Personal Care and Development

There were a few interesting personal experiences over the past two months including an accident on highway 183 where another car drove over a piece of plywood that flew across the lane and hit my car. This experience led to me needing to buy new tires – an expensive problem, but important for my safety.

In the past 2 months, I have been learning and practicing a LOT of music for chorus. I finished reading Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. That book got me thinking about my definiteness of purpose and my connections with others who align with that way of thinking. It always seems that my best relationships start from a place of business and develop into personal connections. Why is that? Perhaps I’m more confident in my business-self than my personal-self. I’m also thinking about how I use my time – every day, not just on weekdays, weekends and holidays. How is my time being spent and does it all support a higher purpose?

 

 

 

Looking Ahead at July

I’ll be reconnecting with the folks at Smart Marketer to take notes for their conference in August, which is always an interesting experience. My goal is to generate lots of small customized trainings this month. I also need to work on my online course about market research in preparation for speaking at Freelance Conference in September. The other big focus I have this month is on growing my official partners and the partner program.

 

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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

What’s a Demographic Profile?

Customer Intelligence, Demographic Profile

Customer Intelligence. Demographic Profiles. Market Research.

To the non-data friendly marketers, these are scary terms. However, they are also important pieces of your marketing plan, so be sure to include this information.

What is a demographic profile? Why do I need it?

First, let’s take a step back and ask the bigger question – who is your customer? Can you answer that question? Whether you are a B2B or B2C business, you should be able to clearly identify your customer or end user. And this needs to be much more specific than “moms who like ice cream” or “teens who are interested in business”.

The dictionary tells us that a demographic profile is “a description of a particular type of customer, including their sex, age, income, etc. By developing a demographic profile of your best customers, you can target your marketing efforts more successfully.”  Expanding on the “etc” of that statement, I would say it also includes geographic information, social class, marital/family status, ethnicity, education level, career, and social/religious affiliations. The more you can learn about your customers, the better you can communicate with them.

Gaining some insights into who your tribe is will help you in several ways:

  • Improve communication with customers
  • Refine your product / service
  • Discover underutilized channels for communications and marketing
  • Help you to create internal marketing goals

 Starting with Market Research

It takes time and effort to conduct market research. Before you dive into research, gather the information you do already know about your customers. This will help you to understand the kinds of questions you need answered to create a clearer picture of your customer segments.

Market Research Tactics

If you have an established customer base, then delivering a survey or hosting a focus group is an easy place to start. Decide on a minimum number of people that you want to collect responses from (sample size) – you can base this on the population of your sales area, current customer base, or a demographic group (such as married women between 25 and 35).

After gathering all of the information, spend some time doing research. If you discover that one of your customer segments is men, age 40-42, unmarried, with a bachelor’s degree, living in lower Manhattan, high income earners, and are interested in European sports of all kinds; then you should dig deeper into each of these sub-categories to better understand the customer. Is this a group that commonly loves all sports or just soccer and rugby? Perhaps there is a subculture that you never knew about.

Client Intelligence is the End Result

Your aim with the research is to gain a fundamental understanding of your audience, so take the time to really understand who your tribe is and why they love your company. Do not neglect those who dislike your company completely either. You may be able to gain some insights from them as well.

Well collected an analyzed market research will provide you with the insights you need to improve your marketing plan, and hopefully you’ll also be able to reallocate budget dollars to better channels.

Be Brave and Make a Plan

Planning for the future can be both exciting and frightening. Maybe I am biased,  but I think it is slightly harder for women than it is for men. This, of course, is a broad blanket statement, but hear me out first.

I grew up in a family where my father brought home the paychecks and my mother planned how it was spent – mortgage, school, groceries, etc. This was a typical family setup among many people that I knew for a long time. Part of my parents’ partnership with each other was this balance. My mom had to be the one really thinking about the future and making recommendations to dad about different things, like family trips and medical expenses. She had to really believe in the things that she could foresee being important.

My parents worked hard in this team dynamic to give us kids a good life. Now that I am the adult making my own plans and thinking about my future it’s a new challenge, and I want to be happy. I can budget for groceries or trips to visit my sisters in New York. But when it comes to the bigger life planning, I hesitate and question my ideas. Will this concept be successful? Will I wake up a total failure with no money left for me to plan with?

Rather than constantly question myself, I have decided to take a leap of faith and move forward. I will Be Brave and Plan. I admit that I want.more than the 9-5 job. I moved to Austin in pursuit of a dream, and I must take action now.

The first step for me is the executive summary. I will be finishing that over the weekend, so you can read a sneak peak of it this coming week. To achieve great success in your passion it’s vital to take your steps carefully, rather than running forward full force. I will make at least one goal towards completing this refined business plan each week.

Any tips on writing a strong executive summary are welcome.

Keeping a List, Checking it Twice

We should all be keeping a “To-Do List” everyday, right? This is one of those concepts we are  taught at a young age. When you feel overwhelmed, forgetful or disorganized making a list helps you to put things in perspective. Many business coaches recommend making a list at the beginning of each day with your short term and long term goals in mind. According to MindTools, “By keeping a To-Do List, you make sure that your tasks are written down all in one place so you don’t forget anything important. And by prioritizing tasks, you plan the order in which you’ll do them, so that you can tell what needs your immediate attention, and what you can leave until later.” Much like this blog, to-do lists keep you accountable for completing tasks throughout your day. I have tried to wake up early and make one of these lists, but have not been the most successful so far.

Today I tried to connect my planner and my to-do list and it helped me. Now I have two calendars – a traditional notebook style weekly planner from an office store and my digital calendar on my phone with reminder alarms. I use the notebook calendar to look at my week/month overall and think about what I want to achieve. Will this week be about my volunteering or possibly about building new connections? Once I have the overall plan for the week, I enter any of the small goals with a specific date & time into my Google calendar and add a reminder time. My phone collects all of my events – Facebook, Work email, Personal email, Google Calendar, Meetup, LinkedIn etc – and puts it into one place for me. This has been KEY for me. I need those reminders ringing on my phone. Why? Frankly, I am 29 years old and my phone is rarely far away.

Mobile, Calendar, Sync Calendars

*Here is a funny blog about living without your mobile phone: My Year Without a Mobile Phone

Accountability – it is such a simple concept and we find it so easy to follow while at work, but when it comes to our own personal goals the tasks seem enormous.

What does it take to keep you accountable?