February & March 2018 in Review

Coming off of the high in January, February was a much more subdued and, at times, stressful month. Every year I better understand the sentiment of how quickly time flies when we’re busy working, living, and experiencing the world.

The theme for February is best summed up as barriers to success. If an issue could come up, it did. I was put into difficult positions and forced to face some tough things head-on and not let anything prevent me from moving forward. There were three areas of growth and challenges: the continued development of my business, my personal / professional development, and other personal stressors.

Business Development Experiences and Barriers

As mentioned in the January 2018 post, I setup a few interviews with candidates for a new position I’m creating in my business. It was a big challenge to get high-quality candidates. One young woman frustrated me when she blatantly admitted that she had no idea what my business does and that she had not even bothered looking at my website before getting on the call with me. Seriously?! That is one of the “young professionals” out there applying for jobs right now. And they wonder why it’s been such a challenge. Despite the minimal number of qualified and serious candidates, I found 4 who are going to meet with me for a second interview. Hopefully, one of them will be joining the team on April 2nd (fingers crossed).

In preparation for hiring a new person and treating my business as a real and separate entity from myself, my operations needed a review. After looking at how I’ve been managing things, I saw that things were working but disjointed. I made the logical step to upgrade my systems to Zoho One, which gives you access to all of their applications at one price and it’s all integrated into each other. Now I can send out a survey and have the answers be mapped to someone’s profile in my CRM or send out an email and have it attached to their profile. And I can generate leads from social media interactions. There’s plenty more for me to tinker with, but I’ve quickly setup several applications and integrated them with each other. This was a Win. 

Course Creation and Client Challenges

  • I began creating Marketing 101, a new online course, from the vast collection of resources that I’ve accumulated over the past 5 years. It’s a lot to digest and organize into something useful for others.
  • There has been a Customer Research Project for one of my favorite clients. I really wanted it to be easy since I’ve done something very similar before, but boy oh boy… gathering, organizing, and analyzing data is a challenging.
  • As I’ve gone through the process of creating Marketing 101, I realized that there is a shorter term very logical workshop that I could pull together – Branding 101.
  • The toughest part of February was having to fire a faulty VA and take work back for a Client. Ugh.

Personal and Professional Development

So many interesting things happened in my personal life…

The Chorus that I joined back in November hosted their annual retreat where we hardcore practice our music for a full day – with some bonding activities squeezed in there. It was an interesting experience to get to know these women better. And I really missed the kind of musical practice that challenges me. It was a perfect kick in the pants.

Other highlights…

  • Finished a Critical Thinking Course. Mixed feelings about the content, but an overall good experience.
  • Last Mastermind meeting was bittersweet. I love those people, but it’s time for me to move on.
  • First IAW Mastermind meeting was so unique and such a different experience. Looking forward to the next one.
  • Attended a Kundalini Yoga Class. I have so much gratitude for my yoga and meditation practice.
  • Went hiking the Hill of Life with my buddy Steve. Always an adventure in conversation there.
  • Looking at houses (moving in March) was very stressful at times. Plus, we squeezed in a trip to Florida to visit my family, which always comes with drama.

March Highlights

1. We Found a House! After seeing a range of great to awful places, we signed the lease, moved in, and are now unpacked. We bought a bed, which makes sleeping way better.e Plus, we bought a washer and dryer – a bit of an ordeal but we made in through.

2. Practiced, practiced, and practiced more for the big chorus competition in Houston. We did well, but not amazing and that’s okay with me. It was all worth it for the journey.

3. I got 6 work inquiries and sent out 5 project proposals in March. One of them close and began in March, but I’m already regretting in. Two of them are definitely starting work in April and the other two will probably close in April.

4. I finally hired some help! Randi joined me at the end of the month, after several rounds of interviews and some awesome candidates came through (some not so awesome too). We are jumping right in with projects.

5. Feeling so blessed to have built strong relationships over the years. I am confirmed to get support from my strategic partners on rebranding my own business in April. Woohoo! It’s finally my turn. Plus, two partners are jumping in to be speakers on my brand webinar in May.

6. Downer at the dentist was that I had a cavity – first one in a long time and it is damn expensive.

Alright April, I’m ready for you.

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Reflections on the Week

As I begin to transition my business from a consultancy focused on one-to-one delivery of services to a larger more scalable concept so many feelings and thoughts are coming up. These need to be addressed.

  • What if I fail? Naturally, this is the first question and fear that arises. I could put all of this effort into creating this business and then fail. More importantly, I could lose a lot of money and have a difficult time recovering from it. Sustaining my family is a high priority, so I need to feel 100% confident about this idea.

 

  • Excitement! I’ve told 2 of my strategic partners about my plans to shift the business towards training and professional development, and their reactions were so positive. They were both excited for me and ready to support me.

 

  • Distractions are abundant. It has been difficult for me to schedule time for working on the new courses and the overall business idea because I’m still running my consulting business. I have to continue running it because the work I do for my existing clients is what allows me to pay the bills. Every day there is an opportunity for distraction from a client. My organization is good, but it needs to be awesome. How do I get better at this? Make myself more efficient and use my time wisely?

 

  • Balancing is difficult. While I’m trying to balance my current business with developing this new business, I’m also trying to become more deeply rooted in myself. It seems that I’ve been disconnected from my true self and almost putting on a show to cover up for my lack of self knowledge. And I don’t want to be that way anymore. My husband is supportive, but his approach can sometimes read as condescending. I know that he means well and is genuinely trying to contribute to me. Finding the balance between deep self reflection and thinking into the future about my business is tough.

 

  • Having fun learning. In the pockets of time that I have created for myself, I’ve looked at what other similar businesses are doing in corporate training. There are some interesting things going on in this world, and there is so much room for improvement. It’s fun to absorb all of this information because it feeds my ideation around what I can deliver and build for others.

 

  • Learning about myself. As I go through the process of reflection each day, I’m recognizing and admitting some of my patterns that are not serving me. These are negative habits that I was trained in from childhood and up. There are stories I’ve made up that are total BS. When I really look at them I can see there is no truth, only emotions and lies. Breaking these patterns / habits is a challenge, but recognizing them has been big for me.

Are You Chasing a Dream or Building a Career?

What’s the Best Career for You?

Isn’t this the age old question that we all face at some point – or in my case, multiple points? It’s definitely fun to waste some time on the goofy online quizzes like those on Buzzfeed. It forces you into a conversation about what makes you happy. I like this one: What Career Should You Have? My result was Astronaut. While I do very much love adventure and science, I don’t think I could pass that gravity test.

What is a Career Really?

I’m not sure if the concept of a career still exists in today’s society. What is a Career. Dying at DeskGrowing up, it was enforced that we would go to college, figure out a career, find a job, and stay at said job until we retire or die (whichever happens first). By the time I was in college, the world was rapidly changing – technology, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, and of course the birth of social networking. Every year it seemed that the definition of a career was changing. By 2009, there was no such thing as a career – just luck that you had a job at all.

Work or Die

Even though it has been several years since the economic meltdown (lovingly nicknamed the “great recession” of 2008), the same secure job is what so many people stick to. Every day we exchange our time and talents for money, to buy things from other people who are making the exact same exchange. This is one of the most cyclical things going on our lives – like running in the hamster wheel – yet, so many of us refuse to recognize this fact, so we keep running and hoping for something to change. Isn’t that the definition of crazy?

Happy vs Wealthy

Why can’t we have both? I wish I could tell you that we can all have both; but that would be an outright lie, and it’s just not my style to play that game with people. Some people can definitely have both happiness and wealth, and we should all strive to achieve both. I love music and singing, but at the end of the day I need to be realistic. Singing does not pay the bills, and I’m not nearly talented enough to pursue it further than an activity of enjoyment. BUT THAT IS OKAY BY ME. Not everything you love can be your income generator. I also love to create ideas, communicate and connect with people. Doing that pays my bills, and still makes me happy.

There’s a reason that the phrase “Achieving a Goal” insinuates success and “Chasing a Dream” insinuates wasting time. I used to dream about being an actress on Broadway (age 14) or a powerful band manager (age 16); but I also imagined myself as an entrepreneur who was going to make a change in my community (age 13).

Once you take the time to filter through your many dreams and realize that one of your dreams is actually a goal, then you can stop running and go achieve it. When it is just a dream it remains as nothing more than part of your sleep cycle. Are you done dreaming yet?

Run, Achieve goals, set goals, CEO Candi

Set Your Goals and Run Toward Them

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 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.

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

Telling Your Own Story

It’s easy to be swept up in a client’s brand story and forget about telling your own story. When you are a consultant (or freelancer or contractor), it’s so important to pause and think about the content you are putting out to the world, the story you tell people, and how you are sharing it. I am a victim of getting lost in the chaos of work and forgetting to think about my story, at least for a little while.

Identify Your Specialty

 

What is your field of expertise

Start by writing an email or pitch to yourself. Try to sum up what you know best in the simplest possible terms. Are you an incredible graphic designer for tech companies? Maybe you are a highly organized hospitality manager, a technical writer for procedures and guides, or a project manager for non-technology jobs. The clearer you can be about your field, the better.

What do you feel the most comfortable offering to clients

This is where you get into the nitty gritty. I scribbled down things as they happened during work – the specific kinds of tasks that I am best at and feel I can confidently offer. While I’m not a technical writer, I feel comfortable talking about technology and the kinds of materials that are required. On the other hand, I’m very comfortable working with clients to do the market research and create a true demographic profile of their customers.

Consultant, Identify Your Specialty

Consultants Need a Specialty

You can tip toe into the water, or run with open arms. Either way, take a look into your self to figure out your specialty. These are just two of the key questions to keep yourself in check. Since I’m still relatively new to being a consultant, it is only in the past few weeks that I have been able to clearly identify the answers to these questions. It took me about a year of trying things out, testing my limits and asking a lot of questions to find my own answers.