For anyone that was genuinely interested in learning more about their chosen field of interest – whether it was business related or about how to succeed in life in general, ...
One of the neat things about writing your own blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want – you don’t really answer to anyone! And while the majority of my posts are business related, every once and a while I will put in an ad hoc one, such as this! Today is Easter, and it was a great holiday – went to church this morning, got a little computer work done, went out for a run and enjoyed a nice dinner. Then I worked in the yard and got my streambed going again for the first time this year!
Actually a lot of work all in all, and I don’t mind saying I am pretty beat tired – but… I am going to enjoy the first evening of the springtime out on my deck listening to the falling water – smoking a cigar, having an adult beverage and spending time with Julie. Life is good!
(okay, admittedly this picture is from last summer, the flowers are not quite this good yet!)
You often hear that one of the true benefits of being in business for yourself is that you get to be “your own boss.”Well those of us that actually do own a business – at least a small business, know all too well, that the truth of this is that it is in fact the client that is your boss – and rightfully so! They are the ones that pay your bills – the rent, the payroll for your employees, yourself and all the other expenses that it takes to run a business!
So indeed it is our job as the “employee” of our clients to find what is of benefit for them. What is that will help them grow their business or increase their sales? How is it that we can grow their donor base or attract new donors? Sure we can say that the reason we got into business is that we had this terrific idea of a new product, but if in fact this new product is of no valueto a potential client, then it is nothing more than a neat idea! Or, we might be the best designer this side of the Mississippi, however if we cannot apply the concepts to an audience in a manner they can understandthrough years of experience, then hanging a business shingle out front might not be enough to make a living.
Another more relevant saying for independent business owners goes like this… “not only do you get to work half days, but you even get to pick which 12 of the 24 hours you work!” And how true is this! Of course there are some who genuinely have a dedicated staff and ability to delegate that work less than this, but I suspect the vast majority of small business owners do in fact put in their share of time. Just this last week alone, I found myself at the office 3 nights out of 5 preparing a proposal for a potential new client – if in fact we get this business it could be significant! Well worth the 12 to 15 hours I have put into it – then again, there are no guarantees.This is not much different from the time that both Ginny and I had put into a recent seminar presentation for our nonprofit clients. This was on a survey that we do each year, and if I were to total up all the time I put into preparing the survey alone, some might question if it is it all worth it?
Well I would maintain that yes it is. It is the effort such as this that helps establish us as a resource for our clients, and hopefully as someone who does more than the competition, and earns the respect of our “boss.”
Are you up for the effort it takes to be your own boss?
For almost all of us around the country, this has been a most difficult winter season! Not only has it been extremely cold for an extended amount of time, but we have also been pummeled with a variety of winter storms – ice, snow, and wind. To be sure, the impact of this not only affected us physically, but also in many cases our mental state as well.
Even in a typical winter season, almost all of us will feel some element of being “trapped.” The cold and gray skies become an overpowering part of our psyche, and the darkness that seemingly comes so early every evening just makes for an even longer work day. Although I am not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV, I do suspect that depression is more dominant in the winter season.
But alas… every year about this time, Spring blooms! We shift into Daylight Savings time, the temperatures gradually increase, and even the snow begins to disappear. Now mind you we are still due to see a dusting tomorrow in what will be the 4th week of March, but none the less, time is on our side. And with this change in the season, also comes a definite shift in our mindset – our outlook becomes more positive, we tend to become a little more optimistic when making projections. Now that the first couple of months are finished, we can actually start spending the money that we had budgeted as well – the final debates are over, no more “wait and see,” now it is “okay it is 2nd Quarter - let’s go!”
As people are able to get outside and get to walking around the neighborhood, they meet up with friends and neighbors they have not seen in a while. You start digging in the dirt and feeling good about it as the first bulbs start to break through and bloom. Exercise is not just that thing you do at the local fitness club, but it is an outdoor run or 5K Walk – a bike ride even. And yes, all of these make you feel a lot better about yourself – which in turn makes for a more positive mindset. This shift affects us all, and it is contagious! The company morale is better, we become more efficient and even putting in the extra work around the house to get the yard fixed up is not a big deal (that comes later in the fall).
Spring truly is a wonderful season, and for much more reason that just the warmer weather and green grass. It is a time when all of us shift out of feeling down and out, and into the “top of our game” spirit. Here is to Spring… it could not have come soon enough!
There is a tremendous amount of buzz in the world of marketing now centered on the concept of “content. “Ultimately the idea is to share your knowledge on a given topic in a way that others can perceive you as being a resource, or an authority - someone who can be trusted in a way that they can rely on for answers and even do business with. When you think of this, it really is a very powerful concept and one that make a great deal of sense. You are not trying to just “sell” yourself on someone, rather you are building trust.
This also builds on the concept of “pull” marketing, as opposed to “push.” No longer do you look to push your message out to the masses and tell them all about the best things that a product or service can do for them, rather you look to educate and share knowledge, and draw interested, targeted individuals in to find out more information. So much of this is done today through special reports or “white papers” – free downloads oftentimes. In addition to these though, content marketing can be achieved in many other ways as well – some of it might even seem “old school.”
What I mean by this, is that just recently we held a seminar at our office. It was attended by seven individuals and it lasted for about 90 minutes. During this time we presented information about a survey we had undertaken relative to Nonprofit Appeal results. This survey is something we have done now for the past 5 years, although the seminars themselves we have done for well over 10 years – long before the concept of “content marketing” was even mainstream. In addition to the survey results, we also talked more about what trends the survey told us about and what we saw as opportunities for the nonprofit sector to work on in the future. Now that the seminar is complete, not only do we post the presentation on our website for others to have access to, but Ginny Boss and I will be distributing it to many other clients and prospects over the next several weeks.
Another example of this same type of old school content marketing would be the Conference presentations that many of us remember, but might not have attended as of recently. Trade associations have found their membership ranks to be declining, and part of this is due to the younger generations not being as committed to joining an organization. And yet, the information available through the various breakout sessions and keynote presentations can be truly informative. Take these a step further, and you will now find that often times the associations will then post the presentations online as recorded videos for future viewing. As another great example of this, take a look at the tremendous amount of content made available through the TED presentations.
All of these are examples of how to share our knowledge with others in an informative, non-selling atmosphere. And they are also an example of cross-media ways of achieving the same result. You might also consider developing a presentation that could be done either through video or live through a seminar or webinar type event. I think you would be surprised at the potential you would find!
If you are responsible for the marketing of your organization, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a statement you will find yourself thinking somewhere along the line… “It seems like we just did this!” And if you are doing things according to plan, you would be right.
For instance, we are in the process now of updating our website, not a major overhaul – that was done a year ago at this time, but none the less enough of a change that someone will notice a new look. Likewise we will be adding updated videos (Google likes this you know) and content as well over the next couple of weeks. We are also in the process of planning a new seminar for clients, which we do several times a year, as well as other marketing strategies such as newsletters, a blog compilation, an exhibit booth at a conference and several others. All of these we do on a regular basis, several times per year.
The point in this discussion is that in order to succeed in marketing your business there are many things that can have a major impact – three of which I will outline here, but none more important than the last one.
- Important to do things right - in other words make sure that the message you are sharing is crafted correctly, your methods of distribution are well-coordinated, the follow-up is routine, and that you are following “best practices.”
- Good to be Lucky - or maybe this should be better stated as being in the right place at the right time. This is obviously not any “textbook” strategy that you will read about or learn in a marketing class, but I would maintain is very much part of many success stories!
- Consistency makes a difference - without a consistent follow-through of your plan, none of the first two even have a chance of working! Think in terms of Nike’s classic slogan – Just Do It! This is where the idea that you will get tired of what your messaging is well before most of your client’s and prospects even recognize it.
So while it is always important to look for new ways to communicate and share your message, it is even more important to continue to follow a plan and do the things that you said you were going to do, even when they become repetitive. It is in fact the redundancy factor that helps brand your product or service, to be in the right place at the right time.
What is it that you are repeating right now?
Self motivation is not an easy thing! At times we can get inspired and move ahead without much effort at all… and then you seemingly hit a brick wall and slug along without much momentum. Of course at the start of a New Year we all get motivated to make changes in our lives, but then in a couple of months this seems to be a great example of what happens – the best laid plans evaporate!
There has been a great deal of research done on self motivation, and a number of excellent books by authors such as Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and many others – all of them can tell you much better than I how to really push yourself to achieve more. I also know, that no matter what you do today or what book’s advice you follow tomorrow, there will come a time again that you find the need to jump-start your efforts. It is just who we are, and a natural part of life that our energies need to be re-focused periodically to keep moving forward. And maybe it is that realization that makes the need to find a reason to continually push yourself a worthy cause.
For each of us the reason is different. And it will be year to year or even within a given year. Our priorities change as we grow – from getting through school to getting that first job. From being able to save a little money to actually being able to have money to buy a car or a house. From having kids to saving money to put those kids into college! To shift from just working a job, to actually considering yourself in a career. From just achieving personal success to the concept of giving back to a greater cause. All of these are significant shifts in our mindset and are great examples of a reason to push yourself to do more, to set higher goals or be more involved with others.
Whatever the reason though, it takes the realization and acceptance of the challenge to then move yourself to do what it takes. For many of us it is important to put all of this down on paper (or computer/tablet) to make it real and to force ourselves into the daily routines that it will take to make it happen. I would suggest that in many cases it also needs to be shared with others to help hold us even more accountable. Over time these daily routines become habit, and then if we are truly serious about taking ownership, the goals become reality!
Of course then it is time to start all over again :). What is the reason that is pushing you right now?
So here we are on the eve of a yet another New Year! The older I get (not that I am really getting old, mind you), it sure seems like the time goes by that much faster. I am pretty sure my parents used to tell me this, but at the time I never really paid too much attention. Anyways, a tradition at this time for me and many others I am sure, is to use the beginning of the year as a reason to evaluate our progress towards goals of the previous year, and to plan ahead for next year’s goals and strategies.
Back in the day – about 32 plus years for me now, I had made the decision to leave my initial career of teaching, and enter into business. Not long after this I realized that perhaps the one thing that I missed most about education was the concept of “closure.” What I mean by this is that at the end of every semester – and especially at the end of a school year, the class you taught came to an end. Test scores totaled, projects turned in and final grades were figured. No matter how well a given class went – how many students achieved an A, B, C or less, the course content was completed and it was time to move on with a “fresh start.”
In business however, I learned fairly early on that just because a quarter came to an end or even a year finished up, there was no real “closure.” Sure you started the next month out with sales of “zero,” but month to month or year to year just morphed into the next. In order to make a noticeable difference, one needs to make a point of creating “targets” or goals to achieve, and then evaluate your successes and build on them as you go. Perhaps you create incentives for employees to meet, or standards to reach by the end of a given period – the idea is to create the periods of closure so that you can measure your success (or not).
And of course the end of a year is a natural time to measure the results and plan ahead. It is a time that most of us are in a mindset of wanting to make change and improvements within our lives – from losing some of the extra weight we might have gained to making a point of staying in better touch with friends and family. So, as we all look to commit to improving ourselves in the New Year, be sure to take the time to write out what your goals are, and then I wish you the best in actually achieving success and closure by this time next year!
What are your goals?