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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Top 5 Words Needed in Online Marketing

If you interview a web designer or social media strategist to help develop your business’s online marketing strategy, ask them about 5 words: enjoy, search, mobilize, share and measure. If they scoff at any of them, run the other direction as quickly as you can.

What are they?

  • Enjoy. Fun content is read, revisited, and shared. That counts for websites, Facebook business pages, Tweets, blogs, videos, and more. If your content creators aren’t having fun on the job, their products will be boring, nonsharable, and the biggest thing they will impact is your budget on what you paid for overpriced and underutilized marketing. Your content should be fun and updated early and often with even more fun stuff. Enjoying of course also includes engaging.
  • Search. It will not matter how great your website or blog looks if no one can find it. The purpose of a business website is to grow visibility to boost sales which means people need to find you. That’s why businesses on major highways get more traffic than those who are on one-way gravel roads by the county dump. Good SEO wins search.
  • Mobilize. Everything you post on the web should be mobile. Apps can be a great back door to reach your customers if you can provide valuable content or promotions.
  • Share. When you post great stuff – on social media, your blog, your website – the hope is your friends and customers will share it. Modern customers prefer referrals from people they trust. Make your information shareable across social media platforms – not just the Facebook like.
  • Measure. Clicks, shares, likes, and more can be measured. Repeat: Social engagement CAN be measured. Evaluate what times and campaigns are most effective. Are your customers telling you which products or services most interest them? Listen to them.

If your online marketing strategists or designers can’t discuss how they implement all of the above, run, don’t walk in the other direction.

Your website or Facebook wall may be the best designed of the year. It could be gorgeous. But if these 5 areas aren’t addressed, your gorgeous website might as well be a pretty post card you send to the customers you don’t have with a single message:

Wish you were here.

 


Beating Depression in an Online Fishbowl

When you’re known as the encourager, the one who empowers others, what do you do when you’re discouraged and need help yourself? If you’re highly visible with a voice upon which others rely, how do you beat depression?

This was hammered home this weekend when a great man, one who often inspired me, lost his battle with depression and shocked many who thought of him as a dear friend.

I don’t know what it’s like to be followed by over 100,000 people on Twitter. But I do know what it’s like to face personal crises while living in a transparent fishbowl. Ten years ago, our home and business burned. The business was only a year old. Most new businesses fold within 5 years. I wager businesses that burn a year after opening have a higher failure rate.

We survived.

At a personal cost. In the months and years it took us to rebuild our home, business, and customer base, the pressure got to me. At the same time, in those dark days of email, I had a nickname – EmailMary. My job was to send informational emails to a homeschool community that grew to cover a Tri-State area, with hundreds of families. I was the lifeline, the encourager.

At the height of that visibility, when I met new homeschoolers, I only told them my first name because if they knew I was “Email Mary,” I would be treated differently. I just wanted to be Mary, the wife and mom of 2 kids I adored.

It grew harder after we rebuilt and recovered, when I sank into depression born of months and years of keeping myself together to take care of everyone else. Highly visible people don’t get time or space to be vulnerable.

Fishbowl visibility made the pressure of depression worse. At my worst moment, I ended up overwhelmed by stress, sobbing in a parking lot. My husband and a few trusted friends found me and got me through those darkest moments.

I didn’t realize I was experiencing early pressure in the Online Fishbowl we now call social media.  If bad things happen and you’re visible, how can you beat depression? These are things that helped me:

  1. Get help. Talk to a professional.
  2. Select the right friends to talk to. Confide in trusted friends and develop a short list of people to call if you get overwhelmed. If you can’t reach one person, go to the next on the list.
  3. Seek a higher purpose. It is only by the grace of God I made it to the light at the end of the depression tunnel.
  4. Reduce negative relationships. Limit contact with those who are negative takers. As a highly visible person, I get an annual poison keyboard email hate letter from a woman. Nevertheless, I occasionally need to see what else she needs to tell me. So we made an email rule that when she writes her annual diatribe, it’s automatically forwarded to my husband and deleted from my inbox before I see it. She gets her anger off her chest, my husband tells me what I need to know, and I can smile cheerfully at her when we meet in public because I’ve never read her destructive, venomous words.
  5. Set small, short term goals. Then set bigger ones. When you meet a small goal, it can give you a feeling of control over your situation, or at least your response to it.
  6. Get out of the fishbowl. Spend a little less time in the online fishbowl and a little more time in real life with people who love you and make you laugh. Make time for yourself. You deserve to be a priority.
  7. It’s ok to mention it’s a tough day. It isn’t human to have to pretend all the time that life is wonderful. Doing so on social media will make your heart a pressure cooker that will one day blow. Maybe you don’t need to post everything bad, but it’s ok to sometimes tweet or note that milk got spilled or things weren’t perfect.

And for those of us who engage and converse with people all over the planet on a regular basis, we can all use a reminder that there’s a person behind every keyboard. Tell people every day that they matter and how they matter to you. A little compassion goes a long way when someone is hurting.

Please, please remember that no matter how dark today is, we’re never alone, and we can have hope for a better tomorrow.

 


Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Sometimes when a good friend dies, it feels like someone punched a hole in your gut and left it hollow. That’s how I feel today, with the passing of a wonderful boss, Joe. Joe and I worked together for the past 15 years. He’s known me since my kids were babies, when Richard and I started our own business, when we fought back after our fire, and now as my kids are about to leave for college.

Joe taught me most of what I know about corporate training and classroom communication. He did it a little at a time, asking me questions, challenging me to find more practical applications for business clients, and always making me feel valued. A New York Italian, Joe had a highly tuned crap detector, brooked little nonsense and had high standards. As a pro at lean manufacturing, Joe’s greatest talent was helping cut through clutter to improve workflow and the final product. His standards were high, and he constantly sought ways to improve his work and help his clients.

One of Joe’s clients told me last week that the moment Joe came on site, all employees would start paying closer attention to work flow and want everything more organized. When he sat in on my classes, I knew he expected me to give my very best work, every single time. If he thought I could improve something, he would tell me. Whenever he visited my classes, he chatted with the students he knew, and you could tell that they trusted him.

When we would plan corporate training series, Joe often took me to meet clients during the planning phase so we could provide the classes they needed. Little did I realize that as I went with Joe on those trips, he was training me to meet with clients, ask good questions, and develop better classes.

Some memories are more vivid than others – the time I was teaching a night class during a terrible thunderstorm, and the wind blew the front door off its hinges. Joe caught the door before it blew off the building. Fortunately, the class was for utility workers who came in their work trucks and had tools to fix the door.

What I’ll always treasure most was quiet, hidden kindness. When our home and business burned 10 years ago, Joe called me and told me he would try to get as many classes as he could to teach, and he did. He referred work my way at every opportunity. Two years ago, when I returned to work after a 6 week medical leave after surgery, Joe had reorganized my classroom. 

Typical of his attention to personal detail, he had found a picture of my kids and put it by my table, telling me, “So you would feel at home and know you’re welcome back.”

I don’t know if there is any fluff in heaven, but if there is, Joe just might talk to God about how 5S could streamline heavenly works so things run more efficiently. Then he’ll talk to everyone in the room and see just how they are doing.

There are people in your life who fill a paragraph, who fill a page, or who might make up a chapter. Joe was one of those people who opened new books to me and showed me how to always aim higher, keep customer satisfaction as a top priority, and to never quit looking for ways to improve my work. He taught me how to think like a business owner.

As a tribute to Joe, I reorganized my own desk and applied 5S to it. Just like he said, it helps me focus and be more productive. When I heard of his passing, all I could think was, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

You’ll be missed.


6 Keys To Managing Freebie Requests

“Can you donate your services for free?” is a question with which every business owner wrestles.

Volunteerism is so close to my heart that last year my husband told me to focus my fundraising efforts on the Biever Family College Fund. Even so, my volunteer hours this year will far exceed 100. 

The first promise of a request is always: if you give your services for free, you’ll gain visibility in new markets. That’s great when you begin. It gives experience along with that visibility.  What happens after you have visibility and have a full roster of paying clients?

Manage Your Freebies – don’t let them manage you.

  1. Target Your Donations: Select one or two organizations you wish to help and funnel your energies to them.
  2. Budget Your Donations: At the beginning of the year, budget how many free hours you can afford to donate, schedule them, and hold to it. If others ask for free services, explain that you’ve already maxed your nonprofit donations for the year.
  3. Evaluate the Request: In the last two years, my volunteering has gained me 3 paying clients.  If the person who is requesting help gives you warm referrals, helps you in other ways, or generates business for you, consider the request carefully.
  4. Make a Strategic Donation: Talk with your accountant; if you donate your fee back to a 501(c)(3), can it be a tax deduction for you? If you’re asked to speak, can you offer back of room sales of a product that can generate income? Can you offer a door prize or giveaway if people sign up for your contact lists so you can contact them later? Can you discount your rate?
  5. Value your work: If you don’t value your work and what you can provide, no one else will. One of my clients told someone who asked her to speak for free, “I don’t work for coffee cups. When you ask me to speak, I plan my talk, pack my supplies, travel, spend my time with you, answer questions afterwards, travel again, and unpack. What I’m charging you is a bargain for the number of hours involved.” 
  6. “Profit” is not a 4-letter word. Neither is “no.” It’s ok to decline a request.

There are other ways to promote worthy causes besides donating your services.  Promote the organization’s events and services to your friends and family. If you believe strongly in their cause, pencil them in for next year’s budgeted donations.

 


When Social Media Safety Gets Personal

My years of training youth and youth leaders on safer approaches to social media got a personal perspective this week.

I started Facebook before my kids turned 13 so I would be ready to guide them on the rules of the social media road. The past 4 years, we’ve learned together how to parent and be parented with a Facebook twist. For years, I thought we did most things right. Not only were Richard and I our kids’ first 2 friends on Facebook, but their 3rd was a prosecutor.

This week, we had our first security incident. Within hours of 1 of my kid’s posting of a new profile photo with a new hairstyle, a private message was received. From an adult friend of a friend commenting on the new look. Sounds innocent enough until you think about it. My teen sent an email of it to me with the subject line: “screenshot stalking.”

The only way a friend of a friend could have noted the new haircut was to be searching a mutual friend’s friend list. The thumbnail shot wasn’t big enough to show the change. So the “friend of a friend” had to be actually going to my teen’s Facebook page to check it out.  Within hours of a change. And then responded to that change by private message, with an under 18 year old.

On Tuesday, September 20, the 4-H Tech Club had set a Social Media Safety workshop at McCullough Library at 6 p.m. A 4-H group from Massachusetts is planning to participate via Skype. It’s free and open to the public.

My perspective changed. As Jack Bauer sometimes said, “This is personal.”

What new safety recommendations can I make now?

  • If you have friends under 18 on Facebook, set your privacy settings so your friends don’t appear on your wall.
  • Youth under age 18, and especially youngest Facebook members should receive messages from friends only.
  • Facebook requires 13 and older to be on Facebook. Many break this rule and shouldn’t. My teens are old enough to handle a nutty stalker. What about an innocent 12 year old? Or 9 year old?

I will demonstrate how to check privacy settings at the September workshop. Hope to see you there.


Don’t Private Message My Friends Unless They Are Also Your Friends

As a youth leader, social media safety for youth is important to me. As a mother of teens, it’s personal. Thanks to my guest blogger today, Daniel R. Miller, who discusses private messaging safety. His guest blog today:

            Social media has become a very useful tool for adults who are involved in youth organizations.  Young people may have email accounts, but they don’t read their emails.  Most of them, however, are on Facebook, and many of them are on there a lot.  If an adult wants to get a message to a young person, quickly and effectively, Facebook is the way to do it.

            This privilege, however, should be subject to some limitations.  I do not solicit friendship on Facebook from youth under 18; that’s creepy.  On the other hand, I accept friendships from young people with whom I already have an association:  my 4-H club and my Sunday school class, for example.  Also, private groups on Facebook do not require that I maintain Facebook friend status with young people.  I can reach the entire membership by posting to the group.

            Private messaging my youthful friends is something I do sparingly and always with a legitimate purpose in mind:  a reminder to complete a specific task, or a response to a query about a 4-H project.  Also, I rarely private message a youthful friend – or even send an email – without also sending a copy to his or her parent.  (I’ve learned that the parental influence is an effective motivation for completion of a task.)  A parent needs to know I am talking to his child.

            What concerns me now is the potential of adult friends on my Facebook page private messaging my young friends.  That’s creepy.  Don’t do it.  If a young person’s photo appears on my page, don’t private message her to tell her how good she looks.  As innocent as your intentions might be, she might be creeped out.  Worse yet, she might not, and be further lured into a relationship with someone who does not have her best interests in mind.  And just as bad, you can be accused of trolling my Facebook page to groom young people for exploitation.  Unless you are already friends with my friends, do not private message them.

            I suspect that this has already happened with my page, but I can’t prove it.  If I find out you have done this, I will unfriend you.  I already have my privacy protections set so that the general public cannot see who my friends are.  In the coming days, I will be reviewing and revising my privacy protections to further protect the youthful friends on my page.  If in the future you cannot see all the friends on my page, you now know why.

Daniel R. Miller is a deputy prosecutor in Warrick County, Indiana


6 Keys to Corporate Training Success

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a computer trainer, helping businesses in the Evansville, Indiana and Henderson, Kentucky area make the best use of their software. Sometimes, I’ve been part of a team training thousands of corporate employees on new computer systems. Other times, I’ve worked with solo business owners and others. My job is to best connect with each class, to lower their walls of resistance to training, and to help them succeed.

The following keys help a successful class for clients from the small office to the large corporation.

  • Questions: Class begins the moment I start talking. I always begin with icebreaker questions to get to know my audience better. Each class has its own personality and needs. When I start with questions and give instant, encouraging feedback, I set the tone that we’re working as a team.
  • Learning Styles: People learn visually, by hearing, or hands on. I offer solutions for each learning style. Students who tune me out to work through the book on their own may be visual learners who know what they need to succeed. Some may rarely if ever open the book and listen. Others will mix and need hands-on practice.
  • Learning Motivations: I need to explain why something is important to learn before and after introducing new material. Some students will pay closer attention to a new concept if they know in advance how it will help them.  Others get their “aha” moment after material is covered.
  • Start Small: When children learn to read, we often begin with nursery rhymes or simple books. We don’t pull out a copy of War and Peace and explain to kindergarteners that they must learn to read so the too can savor the joys of Russian literature. We start with basics and build upon them. It’s easy to err on the side of big picture and spend so much time talking big picture that we lose a class before we’ve started teaching them the alphabet.
  • Practical Examples: The more practical examples I can provide, the more a class will pay attention.
  • Repetition: The ancient Romans said “repetition is the mother of learning.” We often need to practice a new skill several times before we can implement it. That’s why sports teams practice regularly before the big game.

These 6 keys can help more than just a corporate trainer. Our family’s business  provides digital graphics for marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies across the United States. I help businesses (small to large) learn how to market themselves in our new economy.

Anyone who works with sales or customer service can benefit from these 6 keys, whether they serve residential customers or large corporate clients.

 


Sloppy Potatoes Recipe

I usually post a photo with a recipe. This time, however, my family ate the potatoes before the photo could be taken. I named them sloppy potatoes because we were eating sloppy joes, and it seemed to fit.

If you like potato skins and are in a hurry, this microwave recipe has the same flavors. It is not expensive and can easily be made at home.

  • 1 lb. potatoes (I used baby, freshly dug ones)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 4 T butter or margarine
  • 4 oz. sour cream or chip dip (I used french onion dip)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Wash and quarter the potatoes. Spray a 9-inch glass casserole and place the potatoes in it. Sprinkle garlic powder and onion powder on potatoes. Add margarine. Cover casserole with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave 5 minutes. Stir potatoes. Microwave 5 more minutes. Add sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon. Stir. Microwave 5 more minutes and serve.

 Serves 4. Could easily be modified to be baked in the oven for a larger crowd.


What My Darn Cat Teaches Me About God

 

Bandit asks for attention like a dog.

Our cat thinks he’s a dog. He guards the house, sniffs out strangers, fights with my son, and hates to use a litter box. When he wants to go outside, he cries at the door. Sometimes, his adventures get him into bad spots.

In the middle of the night, when he wants to go, he comes to me, howls to wake me up, and I stagger to let him out. A couple of nights ago, when I stumbled groggily to the kitchen door, he hesitated at the door and didn’t want to go out. “Don’t get me up again then,” I grumbled at him. So I closed the door and returned to bed.

The next morning, he wasn’t around to be let out. Then I heard a scratching at the door. He had zoomed through the door as I closed it and gotten trapped between the kitchen door and the storm door. So he spent the rest of the night stuck between the doors, during a rainstorm.

It’s not his first misadventure. Our first clue he was an explorer was when he was a kitten, climbed up shelves, and dove into a tub with my daughter’s china toy dishes. We see his stalking squirrels on roofs and playing peeping Tom by jumping on neighbor’s windowsills to peer into their homes. He’s been locked over night in our garage on accident. Once, he got locked in our neighbor’s garage for an entire day.

Our cat’s a perfect fit for our family because he’s a mess. I don’t live in a perfect Sim City World where our home is always orderly, the parents never quarrel, the kids obey perfectly, and we sit holding hands every night singing Kum Ba Yah together praising God for giving us a perfect world and family.

Give me my imperfect world. I rejoice in our flaws because that’s when we see how wonderful God is; He puts the rainbow in the sky after the storm.

St. Patrick’s breastplate is often edited to be more politically correct. I like the original version:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort, [our homes]
Christ in the chariot seat, [our travels]
Christ in the poop, [across the water to other lands]

Christ is in our homes, when we travel, and when we’re on water. He’s with us everywhere – not just the clean perfect places but in the poop.

I see Christ in our cat, who immediately forgets I locked him by accident between two doors overnight, who cried at the door this summer on days my son left for work, and who’s been known to take a bite out of crime when a stranger knocks at our door and he decides the stranger is a potential threat.

I see Christ working through our cat who thinks he’s a dog.


Ten Years Post Fire & Why I Love Evansville, Indiana

'House Fire' photo (c) 2009, Doug Shick - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/On the night of August 11, 2001, our home burned, along with our 1-year-old mom and pop shop business. We rebuilt, and our business survived, by the grace of God and with the help of good friends.

Neither Richard nor I grew up in Evansville. We’re both transplants. That night, and the months that followed, changed our lives forever. I can never thank enough those who helped us survive. Some heroic memories last forever:

  • Bob and Steve working with Richard, pushing and dragging our office equipment over wet, debris covered stairs.
  • Jean, Kathy, Lori, and Andrea helping me salvage some pictures and family items – and then finding clothes to lend our family.
  • Friends who hosted a rebuilding party so we could set up a temporary home in an apartment.
  • Friends who helped us find temporary office space and equipment.
  • Local contractors who helped us pack out, demolish, and rebuild in 3 months.

In my soon to be released book, He Uses It For Good, I describe how so many friends did what they could to help us. God used them all to carry us during a terrible time.

The morning after our fire, we went to Church, albeit in borrowed clothes, with no home, no idea how to save our business, and no clue how we would survive. I think it was more humbling to see my children in borrowed clothes than my own wearing them. How would we provide for our children?

By the grace of God, and the heart and grit of Evansville friends, we survived. We may have been transplants, but our Evansville friends made us feel as welcome as family.

That Sunday morning, on my knees, I begged God to carry us. Other than a Sunday after a broken arm and one after surgery, I’ve been in Church every Sunday since. The first thing I do is thank God that He blessed us another week.

Then, I thank God for bringing me to Evansville, Indiana, the land – and the city – I love.


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