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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.

4 Questions to Keep You Focused

Looking for a fun way to waste some time (how’s that for a start to a post about focusing?)  Then check out www.nationaldaycalendar.com where you can see official and not-so-official holidays for every day and month of the year.  March is diverse being both National Peanut Month and National Umbrella Month and includes Dr. Suess Day (March 2nd), Pi Day (March 14), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and World Backup Day (March 31), just to name a few.  Some people love Dr. Suess, some love pi(e), some love both.  Some people like walking in the rain, some cannot be in the same room as a peanut, some couldn’t care less about St. Patrick.

Your customer base is the same, and even more diverse than the ever-growing list of national days.  If your marketing efforts are always trying to connect with everybody  at once you are almost certainly bound to connect with nobody.  Campaigns should be focused and targeted to the appropriate audience with an offer that will benefit them in a way they want to benefit.  On March 2nd, my campaign will be tailored to Dr. Suess fans, but on March 25, it will be targeted to Tolkien fans.

So as you run through the spring cleaning of your current and upcoming campaigns, ask the following 4 questions to be sure they are as focused and targeted as they can be:

1. Who? 

  • Who are you trying to reach?  Who would benefit from this product/service?  Who is qualified?  Who is not?

2. Why?

  • Why do you want to target this group/individual?  Why would they care?  Why do you?

3. What?

  • What do you want them to do?  What steps should they take?  Is it simple?  Is it clear?  What incentive do they have to respond?  What’s in it for them?  What’s in it for you?

4. How? 

  • How do they accomplish what you are asking them?  Is it simple?  Is it clear?  How will you follow up?  How will you measure the success of the campaign?

Focus on your customers as individuals, target your campaigns to them based on their needs, and you will earn their respect, their trust, and very likely their business.  And that is something worth celebrating.

A Little Song and Dance

What if every time a problem came your way you sang a little song and did a little dance?  What if you smiled your biggest and thanked the universe?  What if you ran instead of walked, skipped instead of slouched, laughed instead of cried?  The snow is going to fall anyway, the temperature will drop regardless, some customers will complain no matter what, so come what may and love it.

There is a whole lot outside of your control, and more than enough reasons to feel like shouting, or fighting, or throwing a fit and throwing in the towel.  But a little song and a little dance could make all the difference.

(H/T Seth Godin)

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.”

What Will You Choose?

Happy New Year!  I love the start of a new year and the idea that anything and everything is possible.  It’s a great time to let go, to recommit, and to choose what I want to accomplish.

Speaking of choices, when it comes to marketing technology, there are a plethora of tools out there.  Last year, Scott Brinker put together a visual image of all the marketing technology solutions and providers he could find.  It included 947 different companies!  Well he’s done it again, and this year has nearly doubled!  Check out the graphic above which includes 1,876 companies in 43 categories, and read more about it on his website.

With so many choices out there the possibilities for your business really are endless. So where will you go this year?  What will you do?  Who will you become?  What will you choose?

 

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!

Why I am Thankful for Apples

1. Pie – I love all kinds of pie (a lot), but there is nothing like a warm slice of sweet apple crumb pie made with tart Granny Smith apples and a scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream for dessert.

2. Sauce, butter, bread, juice, cider – you name it, you can make it with an apple.

3. Pie – did I already mention this?

4. An apple a day…

5. Variety – big, little, sweet, tart, crisp, soft, red, yellow or green. Did you know there are over 7,000 types of apples?

Ideas are like apples. There are a million varieties, and you can make anything you can imagine with them. But just like apples, if you sit them on a shelf for too long, they will rot, and some ideas will grow old and die. Fortunately, unlike apples, most ideas can be brought back to life if given the opportunity.

Apples are meant to be eaten. Ideas are meant to be shared. What will you share with the world this coming year?

How Do You Handle Adversity?

I love BYU.  I had an incredible experience there, got an excellent education, and am a fan for life.  I also love college athletics, so my Cougars were giving me all I could wish for when the football team started the season 4-0 with a serious Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback in Taysom Hill.

Then game 5 came along.  We were getting beat decisively at home early in the game, but with our quarterback a comeback was not only a hope but real possibility.  After all, it was only the 2nd quarter.  That’s when the unthinkable happened.  Hill was tackled at an awkward angle, and just like that, a season-ending injury knocked him out of the game.  Four games later, the Cougars are 4-4, all Playoff, New Years Day Bowl Game, and Heisman Trophy hopes dashed.  Perhaps the saddest part is the fact that the offense has continued to produce (if not as prolifically), averaging almost 30 points per game since Hill’s injury.  There are problems, but the way the defense has fallen apart has been the most glaring weakness of the past 4 games.

The last few weeks have given me plenty of reasons to give up on the Cougars, to call it a season and move on, but I haven’t and I won’t.  I am a fan!  Sure I wish they were winning, I wish our starting quarterback was playing, and I wish there was more to cheer about, but I’m in for the long haul.  The team hasn’t given up, so neither will I.  BYU as an institution took care of me and earned my loyalty, and they are still giving me reasons to be loyal.

Do your customers feel the same way about you and your institution?  Have you put the time and effort into building loyalty so that when adversity comes they will stick around?

Perhaps the single best way to handle adversity is to take care of your customers before it comes.  Seamless customer experience is all the rage now, and with social media and the interconnected nature of just about everything and everyone, a single problem can become a mountain of issues if the customer isn’t getting the experience he or she expects, both off- and online.

A recent blog post by eMarketer referenced a study by the CMO Council noting “a lack of alignment within [...] organizations derails projects to enhance the customer experience—an objective that requires finance, marketing, sales and customer service teams to be on the same page.”

BYU’s season got derailed by injuries, but their alignment within organizations ensured that even though I’m disappointed at the moment I’ll stick around.  Do the same for your customers and whether or not you “make the playoffs”, you’ll have fans for life.

Go Cougars!

 

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