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Business | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother
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Coffeehouse Friends Among Us

Coffee timephoto © 2007 Roger Price | more info (via: Wylio)
My favorite part of business networking is sharing coffee. Earlier this week, I was enjoying a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop with a business coach I had just met. We talked about the importance of talking with people wherever we are.

“I’ve tried many different contact management systems and found the simplest approach is often the best,” he told me. “Your contact management is only as good as the information you put into the system and the effort you put into knowing other people.”

As we talked, the lady who buses tables paused at our table. “I wanted you both to know I’ve liked talking to you and will be leaving soon.” She shared with us that she was moving to another city to be closer to her children and would soon be working her last day.

As I have sipped coffee and discussed business strategies, this lady who buses tables has been extraordinary. When I’ve moved to a table with an electrical outlet, she’s always gone the extra mile to ensure my table is clean. No matter what’s happening in her own life, she’s always been kind and had a smile on her face for customers.

When she chatted with us, I realized my new business acquaintance had let her know she mattered, just as I had. Her character reference of him confirmed my gut instinct that this is someone I wanted to know better and wanted to work with in business.

The person who makes that extra effort to be kind to the bus lady at the coffeeshop just because and not because she’s a potential strategic business ally will most likely go the extra mile in business too.

The best contact management system begins with a dash of human kindness.

Your Profit is My Cheeseball

Cheese Ballsphoto © 2011 Geoff Parsons | more info (via: Wylio)
This week, I gave a presentation about my services to a business networking group.

When a cheeseball company made a presentation at a previous meeting, they brought product samples. The cheeseballs were delicious, and it was easy to imagine serving them at a party. As a computer coach, I don’t have the delicious samples to everyone to taste.

I realized while planning my presentation that I could offer my own version of a cheeseball: a ten minute presentation on how social media can brand you and your business, build your business network to find new business, and broaden your presence. Everyone in a business networking group wants to figure out new ways to make money.

Instead of just listing my products and explaining what services I offered, I folded those products into my presentation and answered a basic need of my audience. They got a taste – a sample – of how I could help their business make money by way of social media.

Good sales presentations are NOT catalogs of who you are or what you offer.

Good sales presentations ARE vehicles by which you inspire the audience to realize how you can meet their business needs.

 As I was told in a management class over 20 years ago, purpose driven beats product driven as a business model every time. If a company that builds refrigerators approaches business from the perspective: we help customers keep their food cold, they will last. If the same company, however, merely thinks: we build refrigerators and sell them, they won’t. Over time, new methods to keep food cold will be developed. The purpose driven company will research better ways to meet customer needs and stay ahead of the pack.

How can you make your business more purpose driven?

Bells & Whistles Change But Conversations Stay the Same

bellphoto © 2010 Sean McMenemy | more info (via: Wylio)
Don’t get so caught up in the bells and whistles of a social media platform that you forget the basics: it’s a conversation. Listen, respond, add value to the conversation, and don’t bore people. A little love goes a long way. and conversations that teach and delight are the most effective ones.

(Pause while I put on my reading glasses and slip on my Old Geezer boots.)

We’ve had early forms of social media for decades. There was the party line telephone and then the CB radio. When the Internet began, we started to use email and then user groups and email lists. Then social media and texting arrived on the scene. Now we think Skype and more.

With each shift in conversation methods, there is a learning curve. If you fail to adapt to the flavor of the year, you run risks as a business person. Five years ago, one of my husband’s clients told him email was for old people and to only message him on MySpace. So we began our own social media adventure. Our concern was that if we didn’t go where our customers were, our competitors would. MySpace may have come and gone, but our business is still here and growing. Effective use of social media has increased our sales and client base.

Smart strategies can help you leverage those bells and whistles to brand yourself, build your business, and broaden your horizons. If you would like to know how you can do more than play Farmville, to leverage the power of social media, give me a shout.

Treasure in Weeds Behind the Barn

“Check the weeds behind the barn,” I was told at Seton Harvest yesterday. Seton is a community supported agriculture initiative sponsored by the Daughters of Charity in Evansville, Indiana.  It’s a 10-acre farm with 2 greenhouses, a barn, and full irrigation system.  They are Certified Naturally Grown, which means they have no chemically treated or genetically modified seeds, practice ecologically sustainable farming practices, and use no synthetic chemical insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or fungicides .

Families purchase shares in the garden, and members equally divide the harvest.  Each week, members visit the farm to collect their harvest of the week. Last year, they donated over 8,000 pounds of surplus produce to area food pantries. Members can also collect herbs from the herb garden.

So it’s win win for members – promote good land stewardship, obtain fresh produce for their families, and help the poor.

I never realized when I signed up the peace and tranquility I would discover when getting my weekly share of the harvest. There’s a serenity among the fields. After collecting my kale, lettuce, shallots, pak choi, green onions, and tatsoi yesterday, I was able to go pick strawberries.

strawberriesphoto © 2010 James Lee | more info (via: Wylio)
Early spring rains made it a bad year for their strawberry crop. The berries are small and sparse. After I had gleaned tiny berries from the rows in front, I was told to check the weeds behind the barn. First, as I wandered last year’s weedy strawberry patch, I didn’t see many berries. Then I ventured into the tall weeds. As I looked among the 2-foot weeds, I found the best berries of the bunch – large, juicy berries hidden under the weeds. Because they were more difficult to find, they weren’t picked over and were plentiful.

What a lesson in life and business. Jesus encouraged us to search for the one lost coin, and I sometimes felt like I was searching for the one lost berry. Businesses seek their niche. Smart businesses may figure out where the weeds are in their industry where they can find the big berries with less competition. It may take a little extra effort, but the result is worth it.

When you search for berries, how do you check the weeds behind the barn?

Work and Old Geezers

Help Wantedphoto © 2008 Egan Snow | more info (via: Wylio)
Once again, I’ve reached the age of Old Geezers.

Where is it written that every job will be fun and pay double digits by the hour for your personal fulfillment?

Some jobs are dirty. They wear you out.  Not everyone loves every job. We may work for fulfillment and paycheck, understanding that that paycheck pays our bills and gives us choices for every facet of our lives.

I got my first paper route when I was 9. I delivered papers daily during the blizzard of 1978 and bad winters of 1977-1978 because I needed the money. As the oldest of 4 kids in a single parent family, I bought my own clothes and provided my own spending money beginning in the seventh grade – from that paper route, a job stuffing papers, mowing lawns, and babysitting.

After I left home at age 18, I worked any job available – tutoring, market research, cooking, sales, waitressing, typing, desk jobs, and anything that would pay me something so I could eat, have a roof over my head, and pay for classes.

Never in my experiences did I have the luxury of saying a job was boring, or tiring. It was a paycheck, and I resolved to be worthy of it – working my hardest.  A dirty job is a glass half empty/half full proposition. We can choose to look at it as a lousy way to spend a day. Or we can rejoice that we have an opportunity to earn a paycheck and resolve to make the most of and enjoy everything we can about that day on our job. Having fun on the job is often a deliberate decision in attitude.

We live in a tough economy where jobs are hard to find. Sometimes the jobs we do find don’t pay what we would like and aren’t the kind of work we enjoy.

My grandparents lived through the Depression. I survived single parent poverty and cannot understand on any level someone who needs a job who refuses to take that job because it is too boring or beneath them.  That is of course qualified that the person is physically and mentally capable of a legal, moral, and ethical job.

Don’t cry poverty on my shoulder if you decline opportunities. My sympathies are reserved for those who do work hard and who struggle to make ends meet.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

Changing Directions Helps

Wedding Cakephoto © 2007 Liji Jinaraj | more info (via: Wylio)
Before I had children, I enrolled in a series of cake decorating classes. The first two classes were a total disaster as I attempted to make flowers. The rest of the class mastered them, but mine looked like they had been run over by a humvee and left in the street to rot.

“Why don’t you try making them with your other hand? They can’t look any worse,” the teacher suggested.

So I switched hands. I am mixed dominance – I write with my left hand and cut with my right. It never occurred to me that I might also decorate cakes with my right.

When I changed hands, my flowers slowly became recognizable. They were never works of art, but they were passable. I could decorate a cake without embarrassment at the final product.

Lesson: if something isn’t working, you need to experiment with solutions. Listen to others’ feedback and try something new, on a small scale. Don’t accept mediocre results as good enough. Look for ways to improve them.

Today’s experiment can sometimes become tomorrow’s breakthrough.

Branding Yourself

“Why are my sales lagging? Why can’t I find clients the way I used to?” some in business wonder. Maybe it’s easier to blame a tough economy than to determine how technology has changed marketing and lead generation. Last year’s tools may not work. The last century’s tools are probably a total waste of money.

For 11 years, my husband and I have helped ad agencies with successful Fortune 500 campaigns through our digital graphics company, the Copper Lion. Marketing and advertising are changing, and we see many struggling to find their niche in the new normal. We also see many who use the new tools well to grow business.

For those who struggle, social media seems like waste of time without an immediate return on their investment.

The problem is the longer they avoid social media, the further removed they become from the new world. Maybe they are so busy writing white papers they don’t bother learning to tweet.

Those who do tweet and use social media can smell a non-user as readily as a pack of wild wolves can smell fear in prey. But this has the opposite effect; social media users categorize the non-user as out of touch and spend their money elsewhere. How does a non-user become current quickly?

Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy have written a book for this audience, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. They take 4 case studies and give practical examples of how these individuals grow their sales, garner promotions, find new jobs, and change careers. With a step-by-step approach, they show readers how to define and brand themselves. Finally, their case studies create new opportunities through smart networking, public speaking, writing, and job searches.

Bookshelves are lined with how to books that show how to build business and make money. What makes Branding Yourself different is that Erik and Kyle show their humor through Twitter dialogues throughout the book. As their personalities shine through the lines of written text, they lead by example – showing readers how to be who they are, brand themselves well, and find new opportunities – exactly what successful social media branding should be.

Through social media, if we be who we are, we can set the world on fire and build worlds full of new opportunities.

Breadmaking and Social Marketing

Breadmaking can teach us a lot about social media and marketing.

I bake bread, and I’m a wheat snob. We have a tabletop wheat grinder, and I buy my wheat in bulk, from Montana, in 50 pound buckets. Wheat isn’t ground until just before I make bread, to ensure the highest nutrition content and best flavor.

My personal favorite bread is a mix of freshly ground Prairie Gold and Bronze Chief wheats, with olive oil and local honey.  Sometimes, my recipe varies. Occasionally, I mix the good wheat with processed white flour, vegetable oil, and white sugar. When I have plenty of time, I’ll add in sourdough for an extra zing.

When I make my bread, I use my Kitchenaid to mix it, making enough for 3 loaves at a time. (Teen-aged sons have huge appetites.) I don’t follow an exact recipe. Humidity impacts whether I use more or less flour, and I pour it in by the 1/3 cup and finally tablespoon at the end until it looks right. Pizza dough and dinner rolls have their own variations as well. When the dough “looks right” and bounces back, I often dust it with flour for a final knead by hand.

Lots of lessons apply to social media and marketing:

  • Know your audience. Choose the ingredient mix your audience likes best.
  • Select your end product before you begin. My dinner rolls use milk and butter. My bread uses water. My pizza dough has a mix of bread, all-purpose, and fresh wheat flours. Knowing what you want to make helps you efficiently gather your materials with the least waste.
  • Technology helps. I used to knead all bread by hand. My Kitchenaid helps me multitask and uniformly blends the yeast into the dough. High-tech tools can save you time with social media for a better end product.
  • The personal touch still matters. I tweak each batch’s ingredients according to climate, and I always knead by hand at the end. Social media still requires a human personal touch. Your gut instinct on what feels right and works well improves with time and experience.
  • Blend old school and new school according to needs. If it were up to me, I would be a purist with fresh, local ingredients. There is still a place for the white flour and white sugar, used in the right amounts at the right times in the right products. With social media, don’t throw out all old school marketing tools and techniques; they can still fill a role when used well.
  • Rising takes time. Don’t rush your bread. My dough rises once on its own and a second time once I put it into pans. The sourdough that can take twice as long to rise will give a zing that can’t be matched. The same holds true of some marketing campaigns.
  • Keep watch and baby it while it bakes. If you want an extra shine, brush an egg, milk, or butter wash on your bread just before baking or brush a butter wash on it just after baking. That sourdough crust might have a better texture if you put a pan of water in the oven while it bakes. All marketing requires that same watchful eye for adjustments and tweaking.
  • Timing while baking matters. Don’t bake it enough, and it’s gooey in the middle. Bake it too long, and it’s burned. Remove it from the pan after it’s done to cool, or the sides get too soft.  Make sure you end your marketing campaign at the right time.
  • Leave them wanting more. Don’t oversaturate your market but always give them just enough to fill the appetite but want more next time.

Businesses that master the perfect mix of old school, new technology, a personal touch, and timing by way of social media will enjoy the same sweet success I savor when a great loaf of bread comes out of my oven.

Speak With Confidence…to Build Your Network

Problem:

Where do I begin to organize a presentation?

A friend asks me that at least once a month. Maybe it’s an elevator speech for a new business. It could be an invitation to speak to a room full of prospective clients. Or a business owner needs to demonstrate a new product for current clients.

Speaking in public scares me…

Some will mention pre-speaking nerves. I still have them.  There are ways to overcome that fear and use it to give your presentation more punch.

Our Solution:

Speak With Confidence…To Build Your Network program by Kimberly Delcoco and me.

DATES:  Wednesday – April 20, April 27, May 4 & May 11

TIME:  2:00PM – 5:00PM

LOCATION:  Hulman Building in Downtown Evansvile, 20 NW 4th Street, Third Floor Conference Room

LIMITED TO 13 PARTICIPANTS TO ALLOW PROPER TIME TO WORK TOGETHER 

Gain confidence and learn in a safe environment at only $197 total per participant for all four sessions.

Click here to enroll now. 

Why I’m Excited About This Program:

  • Last fall, I attended Kim’s Living Hell to Living Well program which helped me refocus my life and balance my priorities. During the weekend retreat, Kim encouraged and guided us to search our hearts, dig deeper, and develop plans to improve our lives. Kim empowers and respects everyone she works with, inspiring them to reach their goals.
  • Speaking in public and helping others do the same has always been a passion for me. For five years, I taught public speaking classes to teen, and I’ve coached adults with their presentations for a lifetime.
  • My students have placed in national speech contests, won state demonstration contests, and one uses her speaking skills as Miss Vanderburgh County. Now, I get to use my experiences to help friends working in business
  • I love to help people not only conquer their fears but build their strengths to develop their unique voice to become better speakers.

I hope you will join Kim and me on our public speaking adventure!

Great Pictures Matter More Than Ever

Graphic example by Mystfren Designs

Add an image to your social media event or product, and you’ll double your clicks. Remember that double number is an average.

How do we calculate an average for double clicks? Not all pictures are created equally.

  • Some are downright awful.
  • Most are boring.
  • few are extraordinary. 

So the extraordinary pictures will generate the most additional clicks. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a little investment in a great picture could be worth several thousand more clicks. That translates into dollars which become profits.

What makes an image great on social media?

  • Remarkability. Does the image grab attention such that people look at it twice and click on the content to see a larger version of it? The more time they spend with the picture, the more likely they are to read about your event or special offer.
  • Scalability. Does the image look as good small as it does large?
  • Visibility. Less is more, and a simple design with bright colors will stand out better. A true artist can take a simple palette of primary colors and create a striking image.
  • Memorability. Your image brands you. Make sure that image reflects the essence of who and what you are.
  • Technique. Resolution, file size, and image size make a difference in your web graphic too.

My opinion on web graphics is biased; my husband owns the Copper Lion, a digital illustration and retouching business (one of his pieces is in the most recent edition of Communication Arts), and my daughter is making her own mark in a smaller scale digital graphics business, Mystfren Designs. I see on a daily basis what a difference a great graphic makes in a promotion.

There is a demand and a need for “good enough” graphics just to attach a picture with a product.

Some companies produce extraordinary products and use graphic images to distinguish themselves from the “good enough” pack of their competitors.

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