Archives for December 2011

Who Do You Give Back To?

I started following Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) on April 30, 2010. I saw his Twitter ID listed among friends of mine from the Lead Change Group in a #ff tweet. After taking a look at his content, I knew he was someone I wanted to follow and learn from, and that others needed to hear what he had to share as well. So, I tweeted:

Leadershipfreak_tweet

Within the hour, Dan thanked me and let me know he was following me back. And so our conversation began…

That’s one thing that I love about using Twitter. Friendships develop, conversations ensue, and sometimes, just sometimes, our lives are touched.

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I did so on a whim with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. (This was during Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN Breaking News to see who could reach 1 million followers first, back in April 2009.) As a result, after creating my Twitter account, I didn’t do much of anything other than lurk and retweet. Then, as I was traveling to Tanzania as a missionary in June 2009, I thought it would be a great way of sharing my experiences while I was gone. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, that wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t until I returned home, and decided to spend some time figuring out the platform that I began making real connections on Twitter. First, there was Steve Keating (@leadtoday), whom I started following in January 2010. I was impressed with his bio, which said (and still does) that he’s not selling a thing on Twitter, only giving back. Then there were many others who followed. I found myself seeking out people who were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and had an “other” focus. We all need more givers than takers in our lives.

When I came across Dan, I recognized him as one of those people I wanted to surround myself with. But he opened my eyes to other possibilities for Twitter, which has since become my favorite social network, thanks to people like him.

Soon after we started following one another, he DM’d (direct messaged) me to say that he made a point of talking offline with the people he was meeting online, and would I be interested in talking by phone sometime? The online world of social media was still new to me, even though I was an eager student. But this was the first time I’d been part of what seems second nature now; taking an online connection and building an offline relationship.

While I was, at first, a little nervous during our phone call, it quickly became something easy and comfortable. I enjoyed learning about him, and sharing about myself. It was completely non-threatening and engaging, and I became fascinated with the potential of meeting new people who interested me. I live in a rural area of the country. As a single parent, I don’t get out much. So, being able to connect with people who share like beliefs, have similar interests and dreams, and who support and encourage one another is so very compelling to me.

Now, it’s my turn to give back to someone I care about, to support and encourage him where I can. Many of you may know that Dan was in a terrible car accident on November 20th. While it’s incredible that he survived it, what’s even more amazing is the grace, perseverance, gratitude and outward-focus he’s displayed this whole time. How many of us, at a time like this, would be tempted to slip into self-pity? Yet, Dan’s focus isn’t on himself, but on those he loves. He is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me, always.

One of the reasons I’m sharing about Dan today is because a source of anxiety for him is the medical bills that are anticipated to run around $30K in out-of-pocket expenses. This isn’t money he has just lying around. His work in the ministry and raising up leaders has been the treasure he’s stored up. To show our love and support for Dan, the Lead Change Group has been rallying around him to help raise funds to cover his expenses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, even if it’s only a few dollars. In 9 days, we’ve raised over $8,000 towards our goal, but there’s still a long way to go!

Take a minute, just one, and think about someone who inspires and encourages you. What lengths would you go to in order to help them? After you’ve done that, click on the image below, and give as generously as you feel led.

Time to Give Back to Dan


 

Reaching Your Goals for 2012

FocusAs 2011 draws to a close, everyone is busily planning their goals for the year to come, and strategizing how best to reach them. Sounds easy, right?! Well, yes and no…

We all know that goal setting is important, but not all of us know how to reasonably do that. The problem is that our goals are what drive the plans we put in place. So, without clearly defined objectives, how will you know whether you reached your target?

For a solo-preneur, entrepreneur or other small business, goal-setting may be as simple as figuring out how many customers you need to have in order to be successful in 2012.

It’s a fairly simple equation to give you a ballpark estimate, but one we often forget to figure out. So, take a piece of paper or open up Excel, and jot down how much you personally need to earn in a year, plus what your operating expenses are, and divide that by how much your average customer typically spends. Remember, this is only an estimate, but if you don’t know the answer already, it’s a great way to start. So spend some time on this…

Can you decrease your expenses in any way? Is the salary you want really what you need? Is there a simple upsell you can offer to increase your average customer spend?

If you’re just starting out and don’t have actual numbers to base this on, estimate what you believe they will be, and come back and recalculate when you have real numbers to work with. Once you’re satisfied with the numbers, make your calculation as to how many customers you need to reach your goals.

(Salary + expenses) / Avg. customer spend = # customers

Throughout the course of the year, you’ll want to periodically re-check this information to make sure all the factors are still accurate, and compare where you’re at with where you want to be.

Some of the things that will help you achieve these goals are frequently ignored. For instance, do you have a marketing plan? Taking the time to create one will help you to focus your message, making it easier to create pre-qualified leads that are interested in hearing from you.

My friend, Kevin W. Grossman, recently wrote on the HRMarketer Blog:

Whether you’re a big company or a small one, you need to develop an integrated and comprehensive strategic marketing plan that includes:

    • Marketplace positioning
    • Primary brand/product/service messaging
    • Target markets
    • Target buyers and influencers
    • Strengths and challenges
    • Marketing and media relations editorial calendar
    • Marketing deliverables and activities
    • Timeline of activities
    • Activities measurement

With your marketing plan firmly in hand, you can begin taking clearly focused steps to reach your goals.

As you develop the materials and resources that convey your message, be thinking of what your customer wants to hear.

If you’re selling a service, don’t focus on how neat your process is. Focus on what results you have gotten. Prospective customers are typically more interested in what you can do for them than in how you’re going to do it.

The same thing goes if you’re selling a product. Let your prospective customer know, in simple language, what’s new and different about your product compared to the other options they have. Will it make their life easier? Shine their shoes brighter? Last longer? Whatever value proposition you offer, make sure you can back it up!

As you focus on knowing your goals, developing and implementing your marketing plan, and staying focused on your message, you’ll be creating an environment of success for yourself and your business! Look out 2012… Here we come!

Book Review: The Micro-Script Rules

The Micro-Script RulesI met author Bill Schley at the eMarketing Association’s Power of eMarketing conference in October this year, where we were both presenting. When he found out that I’m a blogger and sometimes do book reviews on my site, he gladly offered me a copy of his book, The Micro-Script Rules, in exchange for a review. The one catch? Well, he signed my copy with “Remember! You must blog or no Santa!”

I had every intention of reading and reviewing the book in November, as I’d originally told Bill. So I must start my review with an apology to the author… It’s Christmas week, and I’m still hoping that Santa will come! So, please accept this review and my apologies; unexpected life events side-tracked me for a time, which caused a backlog on my writing calendar.

That aside, let me tell you the key point of this book.

 It’s not what people hear.

It’s what they repeat…

Having told you that, you may think that there’s no reason to read the book now. Even the author suggests, after the first page, that all you really need to know is that the right 5 words always beats 5,000. He acknowledges that stories are more important to tell than ever, but that you need to know how to tell them in one line or less. That’s pretty much the central topic of the book.

If you already know that and have mastered the art of storytelling in one line or less, there’s no need for you to read the rest of the book. But for those of us who aren’t master storytellers yet, Bill offers the remaining 150+ pages that serve two great purposes. First, they use descriptive text and examples to identify what a micro-script is, how it’s used, and why it’s important. Then, the book goes on to help you develop the micro-scripts you need for your own purposes.

The clarity of the instruction and easy writing style of the author makes it a simple read, but a valuable addition to anyone’s book shelf whether you’re in business, or wanting to attract attention for other reasons. (I can see this being a great resource for teachers!)

So, if you’re looking to improve your storytelling skills in 2012 or to create great micro-scripts, based on your dominant selling idea, that people will want to share, this is the book that will help you to do just that. It’s one that I am definitely happy to have added to my bookshelf.

Following the author’s guidance enabled me to generate a new title my forth-coming eBook that is highly memorable as well as shareable. So, instead of telling my readers to be on the look-out for “How to Launch Your New Book Online” (boring!), I can tell them that they need to pounce on “The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books” as soon as they see it! Which title would you prefer sharing?

While You Were Reading…

Morning readingIf you’re like me, when you settle in at your computer in the morning, getting ready to start your work, you spend a little time checking out what the hot topics of the day are! I mean, if my newsfeed and inbox are going to be filled with this stuff, I want to know what everyone’s talking about! Is this “me” time? Well, it could be, if I don’t do anything with it. But wouldn’t my own followers and clients be interested in some of what I’m reading too? After all, they’re connected with me because they value what I have to share!

The problem is that I don’t want to bombard my readers with tweeting and posting all that content at once. They’ve got their own busy newsfeeds and inboxes to take care of.

So, here’s what I do…

First, I’m selective about what I share. I don’t simply share everything I read. I share the links that I think my audience will find useful.

Second, I use the BufferApp extension for Google Chrome in order to create a “buffer” of content that the system periodically tweets and posts for me, based on a schedule I predefine. While this currently only works with Facebook (pages as well as profiles) and Twitter, it’s still quick and easy to use. I can even highlight some of the text in the article I’m reading (including my own comments!) and click the Buffer icon in my toolbar in order to add it to the queue.

While I’m a big fan of Hootsuite and have used it almost exclusively up to this point, what I like about the BufferApp is how quick and easy it is to use. Since I define my posting schedule ahead of time, I don’t have to schedule each thing I add to the buffer. I just fill ‘er up and away she goes!

Third, I use the content I’m sharing to generate visibility for me and my business, either by commenting on the existing blog post (if my thoughts are short enough), or writing a responding blog post for my own website.

Therefore, the time I spend during my day keeping up with industry information is maximized time. I’m learning new things, my clients and followers have a great source of curated content, and I’m increasing the visibility for my website while establishing my expertise. Not a bad way to start the day, especially as I’m sipping my coffee with Peppermint Mocha creamer! (I love this time of year!)

Book Review: Cracks in the Sidewalk

While most of my book reviews are relevant to social media, business, job seeking, technology or leadership, I recently was offered the chance to read some lighter fare; a book by Bette L. Crosby called “Cracks in the Sidewalk,” which is an award-winning novel about a grandmother’s 20-year search for her missing grandchildren. Since I knew I needed a break from what I had been reading and the holiday season is upon us, I thought perhaps you might enjoy something different as well.

I first met the author, Bette, on LinkedIn, where we both participate in the Book Reviewers group. She shared an excerpt of “Cracks in the Sidewalk,” and I got hooked on the story right away. Bette creates characters that are believable and who struggle with the events of their lives. Some of the characters accept that life is not always a bed of roses. Others play the Blame Game, and do all they can to avoid responsibility for their own problems. As I read the excerpt online, I found myself wanting to learn more. Read the opening lines yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

“I’m an old woman now. Some might say too old to dream, too old to still believe in miracles. But a dream your heart has held onto for the better part of a lifetime doesn’t disappear easily, it tucks itself behind the everyday worries that pick at you and waits—waits until theday you can again feel your heartbeat and know that hope is stirring insideyour soul.”

With those first few words, I knew I wanted to learn more about what was going on, and the rest of the story didn’t disappoint me. I walked alongside Charlie and Claire as they wrestled with the terminal illness of their daughter, Elizabeth, and the inconceivable response of her husband, Jeffrey. I was there as they made every effort to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives, even while mourning the loss of their daughter and fighting against the manipulative resistance of their son-in-law.

Each chapter is told from a differing viewpoint, so you are granted glimpses into the minds and hearts of the four main characters and those whose lives they affect. Perhaps we aren’t given as much insight as we, the reader, might like, but to do so would have made the book intolerably long. As it was, the story kept a brisk pace with lots to keep my attention.

If there were any significant disappointments at all, it wasn’t in the story or character development, but in the fact that the book could have used a thorough editing. There were many missing quotation marks, and repeated or misspelled words, which I personally find distracting and frustrating. But they did not detract from the quality of the story or the fact that I grew to dislike the antagonist more with every page turned, and that I admired the way the protagonist handled all that she went through.

Oftentimes, we can look at our lives and wonder why things happen the way that they do. We can even be tempted to feel cheated or gypped out of what’s rightfully ours. We can let bitterness rule our hearts, as Jeffrey does, or let acceptance and forgiveness rule, like Elizabeth. In the end, we may even be granted a second-chance we never thought possible, as Claire receives.