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As I sit here on Fathers Day I am about to go enjoy a nice long bike ride with my daughter Jenni – a good way to spend some time and catch up on what is happening for both of us. As your children grow up and move on to their own lives it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day “stuff” and not stay as connected, so days like this make for a great reason to get together.
It is also a good time to reflect back on all that my own Dad has done for me over the years. Perhaps the biggest role that parents play in our development is to help nurture and prepare us for our own independent lives – to provide a value system, make sure that we receive a good education, help us to interact with others and to be responsible. Of course there is no guarantee that even with this guidance and support we will become successful on our own, but more often than not this is a definite precursor.
As for myself, I am quite thankful that my Dad was a strong role model and inspiration to all of us. He was hard-working, successful and encouraged us to take responsibility for our future. His work ethic was pretty strong, which I am sure likewise came from his father as well. As a High School PE teacher, my dad also was a coach for both football and wrestling, taught a continuing education class in the evenings for many years, and either took classes in the summer or worked an additional job – sometimes both. There is no doubt that this commitment to earning a living and advancing his skills were a strong influence on all of us kids, as each of us are probably the quintessential workaholic. At the same time though, each of us are successful in our own careers and lead responsible lives.
I have heard many times that we all become our parents over time – and while we may laugh about this at times, it is true to a great extent. At least for those of us whose parents were a strong influence upon them and took time to be part of their children’s lives. A few years ago my father took the time to write a book about his life. Within this biography he shared many of his experiences from growing up, going to college, serving in the army in Korea, his teaching career and beyond. It really provided great insight as to what his life experience was all about. It shared information and stories that I was not aware of previously and will provide great perspective of who he was for generations to come. I suspect at some point I may also take the time to write about my life as well.
So on this Father’s Day I want to take the time to say thanks Dad, for all you have done for me over the years!
What about you – what have you learned from your Dad?
I am just now getting back from a week off on vacation - a nice trip up to the state of Washington to visit with my brother and his wife and to go fishing. Although we had a couple of days on Lake Sammamish outside of Seattle, the highlight of the trip was up at Horseshoe Lake outside of Chewelah, up in the far northeast corner of the state. This is a small private lake that has some great trout fishing along with plenty of wildlife to view – deer, moose, eagles, etc. I have been up to this area a couple of times now and one of the things that is most appealing is that it is a great way to get away from all of the day-to-day stuff we all have to deal with in a small business.
For most of us the business of being in business is pretty much nonstop. A while back I read that the neat thing about owning your own business is that you get to only work half days – in fact, you even get to pick wich 12 out of the 24 hours you want! Well in reality, even when you are out of the office and “off the clock,” your mind still gets to think about things. And with all of the connectivity we enjoy now, truly getting away is just not that easy. It used to be that I would put a post-it note on my desk with the number “5″ on it – which meant that I did not want any more than 5 messages when I returned! It worked pretty well in fact, up until the onset of e-mails/voice mails and all of the social media options. So while all of the various media are great to help communicate with our clients, prospects and friends, they can also make getting away from it all a little more tough.
I will admit that I did sneak a peek at e-mails throughout the week, but I did make a point of not responding to any and to not even call in once. This is pretty rare for me, but I had decided at the start of my break to really get away – and it worked! I will no doubt have much to get caught up on tomorrow, but taking the week to get relaxed and recharged was a good thing indeed.
When will you be taking some time off? And, will you truly get away?
I have written my blog for over 4 years now – every two weeks like clock work. Before this though I had also written (and still do) a printed newsletter – and this is done every month as an e-mail version and every other month as a printed one. The name of this is Random Thoughts... which is what I will be doing today – randomly sharing ideas that come to mind, as opposed to one specific topic. Why, might you ask? Well only because I cannot think of any one thing that inspires me right now!
First off – is marketing easier now, or more difficult? This was a question brought up by Tony Robbins in a recent webinar, and I thought it was great! In so many ways, the ability to market your business is so much easier today. With all the various forms of media and the low-cost of entry for many, you can genuinely reach a wide audience in a very fast timeframe. The ability to create a unique branding statement and then reinforce it, can truly be accomplished with minimum effort. On the other hand though, the follow through on this can be exhausting! Not to mention the amount of competition we all face now, and the pressure to stay top of mind with our client base. Not sure that the answer to this question is very straight forward.
Second thought for the day – at what point does information overload take over? In a search online I read that as of the year 1900 it took 150 years to double the world’s knowledge – today it takes 1-2 years, and by the year 2020 it will double in just 72 days! I will admit that it is really neat to be able to stay as connected as we are, and to research a given topic via internet searches, discussion groups, social media and so much more, but at what point does it all just get to be too much noise? And can we ever shut off the spigot? This can be a challenge for all of us and one that demands finding the right balance. Of course if you think it can be a little much now, just think of what your kids and then their kids might find themselves dealing with!
Last thought of the day – Spring is amazing! Having just cut my grass for the first time this Spring, I was out in the yard looking at many other signs of change. In just one short week the leaves have sprouted on trees, perennials have emerged and literary grown anywhere from an inch or two up to 7,8 inches! Of course the birds love it too, and in fact almost everyone has a big old smile on their face at this time of year. Our enthusiasm and energy is at its peak… so enjoy the season!
Do you have any random thoughts you would like to share?
This is not something new to me, but it was a little different than usual. You see, in our business, we have grown a specific vertical market to nearly 45% of our overall sales – and this market is that of nonprofits. As part of our commitment to working with the many organizations that we do, I very much make it a part of how we interact with them to also help support them. I have found over time that not only is this a good thing to do, but quite frankly, it is also good for business. Over the years I can genuinely say that the number of referrals from clients that recognize how we do business with them is every bit as important as price is, has more than offset what we do to help support them.
In fact, at a recent event that my wife and I attended for one group, one of the most philanthropic individuals that I know of not only did a brief talk to the audience, but also made it a point to give away a book to everyone that attended! The name of the book is “The Go-Giver.” The book is described as a little story about a powerful business idea - and it is only about a 2 hour read that shares the concept of the fact that giving more in value than what is expected, is perhaps one of the best ways to succeed in business. I would encourage you to give it a read!
So you might ask, how was today different for me? Today I had the opportunity to participate in the McHenry County Human Race – a 5K fundraising event that gives participants the opportunity to raise money for a specific charity. All together, over 50 different organizations in McHenry County were represented – some by individual participants and some by a team. For myself, I chose to run and help support an organization that I myself am part of - The McHenry County Community Foundation. This is a local group that was founded 12 years ago to become a resource and a self-sustaining endowment fund that will help us to build a better world here in McHenry County. Already we have provided over $3 million in support of local organizations and programs!
So while today was all about giving back, for me it was also a chance to help support a group that I have a strong personal tie with. And through the support of many friends and family, I was able to help contribute over $1,200 through my own fundraising efforts.
How is it that you give back?
If you have followed my last couple of blog posts you know that I am stuck somewhat on the concept of the who, what, where, why and when, along with how we do it. These are perhaps the biggest questions to answer when putting together a marketing plan, and while it is most common to hear companies begin a sales pitch with the what and how, I had actually begun my posts based on Simon Sinek’s suggestion that it is more important to start with the why.
Well after talking about the why and the who I am, now it is time to move along and key in on the what and how.
What we do is actually different for every one of our clients – or at least the different markets we serve. Different… and yet very similar. You see the what is typically centered around looking to increase or maintain membership, donors or clients. It is looking to share information and knowledge, to communicate value or to share the mission of the organization. It is all about generating more participants and creating interest in what it is you do!
That’s right, the what we do is all keyed into improving the what that you do – or at least it should be.
How we do it is a little more involved. It used to be that mainly we accomplished it by putting ink onto paper – pretty basic! But now? Wow times have changed and if we are looking to be effective at how we communicate your message it will include a variety of media forms. This may include digital media such as e-mail, landing pages and e-publications, to social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos or blogs such as the one you are reading now. To be most effective though, it needs to be a combination of these – an integrated campaign that lets the targeted audience choose how they want to read the message.
Figuring out the best how to do a particular project many times is dependent upon what the objective is and what kind of budget is available. It would be great to be able to throw an unlimited cost campaign together for every initiative, but we all know that is not usually an option. That is again where being a resource for our clients comes in – for you to be able to rely on our past experience and knowledge about what has worked well in the past for other clients. In fact our best client relationships are built on a two-way discussion on potential strategies to engage for a particular project, as opposed to strictly following specifications according to how a job has always been done in the past!
Stay tuned for the last part of this discussion, and let me know what you think about it so far!
So here it is the time to write a new blog post, and my mind starts fumbling around for what to say! Admittedly, there are some times that the words just flow like water and thinking up something to sound intelligent about is no big deal. And then the other times… well it can be a little bit of a struggle!
This morning, when I am on the treadmill doing a workout, I get to thinking of what to write and I keep coming back to some of the recent posts I have written. I try to break away from them, but it is about all I can think of. I suspect if you go back over the last 3+ years I have been writing these, and even over the last 12 years that I have written copy for a printed newsletter we publish, you will find many common themes. And maybe that is not all bad.
The point I was thinking of this morning was similar to my last post about the why it is we do what we do at C L Graphics. The concept of being a resource for our clients – that is the why. This time though I try to think of something different to expand on and yet I still keep coming back to this – then it occurs to me… it’s because that’s who I am, and what I talk about. Most all of what I post in my blogs is centered around the concepts of marketing, strategy, communication, cross-media, branding, planning, etc. When I finish writing and add the “tags” to the post, these are what come up the most! I don’t really think it is by design – in other words that is not what I set out to do when initiating my blog. Rather that is what it has evolved into – one person’s take on the world of small business marketing, and what is important to doing a good job of it.
The fact that I seem to keep repeating some of these concepts helps reinforce the importance of them. Each of us that are involved in the management of a small business, nonprofit organization, or even a much larger one, need to stay focused on what is important.
When you get right down to it, some of the very basics in marketing strategies come down to the who, what, where, why and when, along with the how. Now that I have touched on the why and the who, I suspect you might read more on the others soon!
The presentation was by Simon Sinek, and was actually from a video recorded back in 2009. Simon is the author of a book entitled “Start With Why,” and the presentation centered around how most businesses talk about themselves beginning with what they do, then how they do it, and if they even get to it, the why comes last. Sinek suggests a main difference between the really unique companies such as Apple, and other very passionate organizations or individuals, is that they instead begin to explain their work with the why they do what they do – then follow-up with how and finally the what. He maintains that sharing your purpose and beliefs - the “why“ first, does a much better job of engaging your audience. It center on an inside out discussion, rather than outside in.
So this got me to thinking – what is the why behind what we do at C L Graphics? Why have I been in business now for over 30 years? Why do I continue to work long hours everyday and then also take the time to write a blog like this every other week – continuously for over 3 years? Why is it that I take the time to update our website with new content or write white papers on marketing strategies for our clients? Why is it that I take the time to do a survey of how our nonprofit clients do within their annual appeals every year, or why I take the time to go to industry conferences to learn about new media or processes? Why do I share links to articles or reports within our social media sites that could be worthwhile to clients? Or why is it that we always save interesting print samples to share as examples of what clients could do or suggest alternate formats to help save money?
For CL Graphics and myself, the why is to be a real resource for our clients and prospects. To be able to provide knowledge and experience in the area of marketing and cross-media communication. Since each of us in business have so many things on our plate every day, to be able to keep track of everything is almost impossible. To be able to rely on an outside resource for assistance is a real benefit, and that is why we go beyond just the ink on paper that other printers offer.
The how we do it is through the various media formats – print of course, but also social media, video, e-mail, pURL’s, landing pages, etc. And the what we do – well that is the final product, such as a printed newsletter, a personalized postcard, a YouTube video, an integrated direct mail campaign, or even a simple business card.
So what is your why?
Back in the day… about 32 years ago, I had the pleasure of being a High School teacher. One of the things that I miss about this and that makes me jealous of my wife Julie (who is a college teacher), is the end of a semester. What makes this special is that you have closure… the end of one session before you start another. Actually, this is what I think makes New Year’s Day and the concept of a New Year’s Resolution so appealing.
It is tradition at this time for most everyone to commit to at least one or two sincere goals for themselves. It could be to exercise more, lose weight, stop smoking, take more time off, spend time with family or friends, or any number of other worthwhile ambitions. And while these resolutions are mostly genuine, more often than not we find ourselves falling short!Not from a lack of trying or a valiant effort, but many times from circumstances beyond our control – we get pulled away or bombarded with “stuff” that just gets in the way.
When we do succeed though, it is typically due to a real planalong with some external assistance and support. In fact, this support is often because of real teamwork – a spouse that is there to help push us out the door to the gym, a friend that holds us to the monthly social gatherings, or in business, the team members who embrace a common business goal and push to make sure it happens. Along the way you might each have additional personal goals as well, and you find this teamwork can help you attain these as well. Without this support we can find that it is easier to get distracted or sidetracked and then before you know it your resolution evaporates!
At the end of a school semester you actually complete a class before you start a new one. There is a fresh start – new objectives, subjects, possibly even new teachers or students that will be involved. While maybe not as complete, I do believe that the end of the year helps bring some closure for each of us – even if it is only a mental break from the ongoing challenges. We get to slow down just a little – visit with family and friends, take a few days off from work and then start to think of what we would like to changein our lives.
Of course the real challenge then is to be willing to sharethese resolutions with those around us – and to ask their support in helping us to achievethese goals. Likewise each of us need to be there for our friends, family and business partners to also support them as well!When we do this, I think we will all find ourselves being more successful in the New Year.
So what are your resolutions? And don’t be afraid to share!