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Author Archive for Jennifer

Newsletter … Anyone … Anyone?

One of the best ways you can communicate with your customers is with a newsletter, but yet it is one of the most underutilized tools in our marketing plans. A Newsletter gives us a captive audience and it can cut out the noise that a website, Facebook page, or Twitter can sometimes create. There are four steps to creating a powerful email newsletter, building your email address list, creating content, designing an attractive look and feel for all screen sizes, and determining the right frequency.

First up, with today’s technology, it’s easy to build an email list for your newsletter. How, you ask? Look to your website. You should have a sign up form front and center, you can even have it be a landing page that comes up when visitors visit your website. You may even consider offering an incentive for people to sign up. Incentives can be anything from a service, like three months free for a lockbox, to a freebee like a t-shirt. Just make sure you use a double opt-in method to gather these contacts, to ensure you do not damage your relationship with your customers.

So, now that you have your list, what kind of content should your newsletter contain? The obvious answer is your product. And of course, promoting your products is important. But it is also important that you don’t only push your product. Offer helpful tips and advice. Entertain them. We all love to be entertained. You don’t need to be a comedian, but humor can go a long way.

What about design?  Think mobile and tablets. Your newsletter should be mobile friendly. No one in their right mind is going to want to read your full blown newsletter on a tiny three inch screen or smaller. Your design should also have some continuity and should reflect your brand. Invest some time and money in a good template and header. It will be well worth the cost.

Last, but not least, let’s talk about frequency. This is dependent on what you have to say. Don’t feel like you have to send out a monthly newsletter. It can be quarterly. Again, do what works best for your institution. And remember, people don’t like their inbox to be inundated, but don’t go so long in between that they forget about you.

Now go forth and create greatness, or at least a fabulous newsletter. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

Taking Flight

I’m heading into a unique time period in my life–the time where our children are leaving the nest and becoming adults. This is all well and good, and apparently it is the natural order of things. I remember what seemed like a millennia ago, when I did the same thing, but it was a lot more exciting than watching my own children do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for my children. They will do wonderful things in life, of that I have no doubt, but as a mom, it is hard to let go. It is hard to realize that I no longer call the shots (at least most of them).

I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes, or a lot of times, we have to let go. We have to let those around us fly. Yes, there will be crashes and burns, but that’s when we learn and grow and when great things end up happening. We have to remember that though we have great experience and wisdom to pass on, that they have to gain their own. We can still be that safe landing, if needed, but remember that landings don’t get in the way.

Not only does this apply personally, but applies professionally too. I think it’s easy to get caught up in experience. We don’t want to let go of the way things have always been done. Or we don’t want to give up control. There can be good reasons for those decisions, but ask yourself, are there new ideas that could be successful that you’re ignoring? Or are you discounting others’ ideas because of your own experiences, not realizing that others have different experiences or perhaps need to gain experience?

So perhaps for you, like me, it’s time to let go a little. Let others around us take flight. Be the safe landing place when perhaps things don’t go as planned (they often don’t). You never know, you could have the next Steve Jobs on your hands.

Stepping Aside

This past week my kids had spring break. I find the older my kids get, the more I look forward to their school breaks. I enjoy the less structured and casual days. I had to work most of the week, but decided to take Friday off to enjoy with them. And on a whim I decided to take my daughter to Nashville while my husband took our son camping. Nashville isn’t a huge getaway from where we live in Alabama, but it is a place we really enjoy and it was a break from the mundane. It gave me the opportunity to step out of “real” life for just a day and recharge my batteries.

I came home from our short, yet very fun trip and found myself being able to conquer a task that had been looming and I wasn’t sure how to approach it. My creative energy had been restored by just that small step outside of my regular life.

So what does all of this mean to you? Perhaps nothing, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take:

Sometimes instead of just pushing through, we need to take a step back, or maybe just to the side. This allows us to look at problems and situations with new eyes, instead of the tired ones we’ve been using to focus so hard at the task at hand. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we just have to push through to the finish, but we should learn to recognize those times when we need to step aside for just a moment; especially if we are stuck on a problem.

I’m not saying this is a cure-all and it will solve every issue, but I can say I don’t think it would hurt to give it a try. And if anything, those around you may appreciate a happier, recharged you.

What’s your Badger?

Last summer I lost one of the greatest, most influential men in my life, my grandfather. The following quote by James Earl Jones sums him up quite nicely – “More and more, when I single out the person who inspired me the most, I go back to my grandfather.”

He was the kind of man that never met a stranger and he would give you the shirt off his back and his last coin if you needed it. Not only was he kind, but he was funny. He also had his trademarks. For years and years he was known as the candy man. He never left the house without pockets full of candy. Every kid and even adult knew this. His candy of choice was Tootsie Rolls. All you had to do to get a piece was say the magic word, “Badger.” It sounds strange I know, but you wouldn’t believe how many people in Denver, Colorado that knew the magic word. Again, he never met a stranger.

One particular memory I will never forget was a couple of summers of ago when we were visiting, he was so sick from the cancer that was ravaging his body and he could barely eat. I asked him what I could get for him. He requested a chocolate milk shake from Jim’s Burger Haven (they make the best by the way). I hurried on my way to get him one, but before I could leave, he handed me a handful of Tootsie Rolls and told me to pass them out to those that would serve me there. I felt I little strange doing it, but I couldn’t deny him his request. Once my order was taken, I held out my hand with the candy and immediately the server knew who they were from and she asked how he was. She also said, “Badger.“

Those small pieces of candy and his kindness were his trademarks. He wasn’t a man of fortune or fame, but he left his mark. And believe me, he is sorely missed.

So my question to you is, what is your trademark? Do you have one personally or professionally? How do you make your customers feel? If you no longer provided your services, would they be missed? When they interact with you, do they leave feeling better for it?

Just some things to think about. Now go find your “Badger.”

You Get What You Give

Social Media is everywhere. It’s not just a buzzword anymore. It’s more like a way of life, or at least how we seem to communicate in life. Heck, even my eighty-one year old grandma is on Facebook, and that’s how she keeps us all updated on her life. Don’t get me wrong, I still call dear grandma, but for every day communication, Facebook is it.

Of course social media is not just for personal communication, it’s also a great way for businesses to connect to their customers and or other businesses. You can create a great symbiotic relationship if you are willing to put in the effort. What I mean by that is, you get what you give in the social media arena.

First of all, you will need to do your research. Follow those that closely align to your goals and purposes on hand. Not only follow them, but reach out personally to them through direct or private messaging. Once you have established a relationship, you will need to take the time to see what posts or advertising they are sharing. Be a good friend and follower, by commenting, sharing, or retweeting. Believe me, most will be willing to do the same for you in return. Again, you get what you give.

Believe me I know this sounds easier said than done. It will take effort and constant attention, but the fruits of your labors will be sweet. So go out there and get social!

 

Black Friday

Black Friday seems to be a term that both delights and incites people. It has been true even before the term was associated with the shopping craze we all think of now. The term was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department in the 1960’s. They used it to describe the chaos that ensued the day after Thanksgiving due to shoppers taking advantage of the first holiday sales. That weekend all officers were to be on duty and they hoped the term would deter shoppers. The term has also been associated with the fact that so many workers used to call in sick the day after Thanksgiving, prompting many businesses to make it a company holiday. By the 1980’s it was used to describe the start of when retailers go from being in the red to into the black.

Still today it has both positive and negative connotations, especially in recent years when retailers are choosing to open on Thanksgiving to get a jump on those sales. Social media is jammed with petitions and posts pleading with shoppers to boycott such activities. Despite the cry about the social injustice of it all, the trend continues. Retailers have been successful in overcoming the backlash that has been ever present across every form of media. Shoppers are still flocking to the stores earlier and earlier in search of promised deals.

Whether you agree or not with the tactics or trends, Black Friday or now Thursday isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Not with so much at stake for retailers. Some retailers can make twenty percent of their profits for the year during Black Friday.

So the question is even with so much negativity how are retailers still thriving in this environment. It’s simple … they’re giving the consumer what they want. And in the end, for any business, that’s the key. Give your customers what they want. Of course that’s easier said than done, but if you want to be successful, that’s the price that must be paid. It’s the only thing that will ensure your bottom line is always black instead of red.

And just so you know, on Black Friday, you will find me at home slumbering peacefully with perhaps visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

An Artist Cannot Fail

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” ―Albert Einstein

This is my new favorite quote. And it must be true if Einstein said it. As I recall, he was a pretty smart guy. But more importantly, I know from personal experience that it’s true. I also believe we are all artists, but the key is finding what type of artist you are. How does your art take form? Once you figure that out, you’ve unlocked the key to success.

When my husband and I were first married, and just starting out in the world, my uncle told us to find careers where we loved what we were doing. He said if we did that, we would be successful. And you know what? He was right.

Sometimes, it can take a long time to figure out what our art is. For some of us, it doesn’t come naturally, per se. For some of us our art isn’t obvious like singing, or dancing or even designing software. It may take years to discover our hidden talent or art, but it is worth the wait. Just make sure to make the most of it once it emerges.

And remember that success and monetary rewards don’t always go hand in hand. You can find success in your art without ever making a dime. And who can really put a price on happiness?

And remember…”An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” – Charles Horton Cooley

The Time Will Pass Anyway

How many of us have a five year plan? How many of us even think it’s necessary? How many of us have strayed off our five year plan or even revisited the five year plan since we wrote it ten years ago? So maybe it’s time to dust it off and take another serious look at it. It may be a fruitless exercise, but did you know that you’re 33% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down. And honestly, when you think about it, five years isn’t really that long. At least it isn’t the older you get.

                One of my new favorite quotes is by Earl Nightingale – “Don’t give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” It is simple, but profound. Easier said than done. But look back at your last five years. Did you accomplish what you set out to? If you didn’t, what held you back? Is your dream worth it? Do you even have a dream? If the answer is no, I challenge you to get one, and quick. The great things about dreams are they are yours whether they are outlandish or realistic, but they make life worth living.

                To begin (after you figure out what your dream is), take a look at your life as a whole. Is it leading you toward that dream or is it propelling you in another direction? What changes can you make to shift your life toward your dream or goal?

Or maybe ask yourself if it is still a worthy dream or goal, maybe there’s a reason you’re being propelled in another direction. I’m not saying to give up on dreams, but sometimes I think it’s good, healthy even, to change dreams or adjust them based on what we’ve learned since setting them.

                I know in my personal and professional life, I’ve been surprised by the twists and turns and what dreams were turned into. Many of the times it has been completely different than I imagined, but nonetheless satisfying. But in the end, if you know it’s a worthy dream or goal, keep going for it. Remember, “The time will pass anyway. “

Go Big or Go Home

If you look back through history, there are plenty of momentous occasions of greatness that were achieved in the month of August.  Just to name a few: in 1908 the first massed produced car (the Ford Model T) went on sale, in 1919 daily flights between London and Paris began commencing the first international air service, and in 1960 the first communications satellite (Echo 1) was launched from Cape Canaveral.  Of course there have been greater achievements than these throughout history and even recently, but nevertheless these are pretty big deals. And I’m sure there were many at the times these achievements occurred that never believed such things were possible.  I mean, humans had gone thousands of years of just using the ground and water as their means of transportation and without any hint of motors or the complex machinery that now gets us from point A to point B. And what about communication? In 1960 could people even imagine the means and ease of communication we have just in the palm of our hands?

My point to all of this is, it’s ok to dream big and, even more importantly, to act on those dreams.

Go big or go home, right?

Sure, there may be, and there probably will be, naysayers along the way, but don’t let that stop you, even if, so far, you’ve been the naysayer.

Thomas A Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Could you imagine how different our lives would be if people like Edison and Ford or the Wright brothers would have given up? We all know their inventions failed more times than they succeeded, but unlike so many of us, they didn’t give up.

Sure, not many of us will ever achieve the kind of publicly lauded greatness of those mentioned above, but we can all achieve greatness. We can all try one more time and when that doesn’t work, we can try again and again.

So what are some of your dreams that you are willing to try one more time to accomplish?

Let’s Talk About Baseball

With baseball season in full swing, I thought it would be fitting to reiterate some advice from one of the legends of the sport; and there was no one better, in my opinion, for the task than the “Great Bambino” or maybe you like the “Sultan of Swat”. Either way, Babe Ruth was a pretty smart guy or, at the very least, inspirational.

Let’s start with, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Hopefully the person you are competing with most frequently, or always, is yourself. And hopefully you aren’t beating yourself up, but just trying to be a little better every day. But not giving up is the first step. One of the greatest attributes of the most successful was not the lack of obstacles, but their tenacity to overcome them.

Next in the lineup is, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” This, of course, just goes right along with the first quote. If you want to hit a home run, you’ve got to keep on showing up to the plate. It’s important to realize that even the greatest players strike out and maybe they even strike out more because they listened to the first quote of never giving up or maybe the third one.

Which brings us to my favorite, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Fear is a vital response. It can keep us safe from real threats, but most of the time it keeps us from what we perceive to be threats or possible unpleasant situations. But let’s be honest with ourselves, fear can also keep us from a lot of terrific things. Sure, we may have to strike out a few, or several, times before we even make it on base or cross home plate, but it’s better than just sitting in the dugout and watching everyone else play the game. Again, it’s not that successful people aren’t afraid. They, like everyone else, shake in their boots once in a while, but they know the best way to get past fear is to confront it.

So step up to the plate.

And, by the way, go Rockies!