Incorporating Holiday Events into Your Social Media Campaign

Today’s guest post is from Craig Robinson, an online writer for Qwaya, a facebook ad campaign tool. He loves to write different topics about social media tips and strategies. Besides writing, he also enjoys engaging with different communities and social forums. Be sure to follow him on twitter @Craig_Qwaya.

 

Aleweb Social Marketing - Social Media Christmas TreeThe mass expansion of social media has opened a lot of doors to individuals looking to make an impact with their brand through public speaking.

Whether you refer to it as the speaker community, the lecture circuit, or any other name, this is an old-school method of reaching an audience that dates back to Rome, with would-be Senators speaking to crowds in alleys about issues.

Today, of course, public speaking is incredibly modern and interactive.

Even though sites like Facebook and YouTube make it possible for public speakers to reach a much larger audience, it can still be quite difficult to attract a lot of people to an event.

The larger overall audience is a huge plus for any speaker. Though, for many authors and other solo speakers, a large live audience is what ultimately pays the bills. Below, we will look at a few different ways to turn that online following into an increase in live attendance for a holiday event. [Read more…]

Do the Holidays Get You Down?

Two years ago, I was sitting at the Thanksgiving table feeling resentful because no one else seemed to get how much pain I was in. I wasn’t thankful. I didn’t want to celebrate. Less than a month before, I’d found out that my fiancé was dead.

Yet, because I was always the hostess, the expectation was that I would be fine doing with everything this year too. I wasn’t! I was hurting. I’d lost someone I loved less than a month before, and was still waiting to be able to bury him.

But it wasn’t just Frank’s death that overwhelmed me. It was coming this close to my dream of having someone to share my life with after so long spent alone, and having it snatched away. I was dealing with grief, feelings of betrayal, hurt that loved ones just didn’t seem to understand, confusion, and so much more.

Maybe you know someone who is hurting over the loss of a loved one right now, or that is struggling with some other loss. Or perhaps you know someone who needs to escape the trap of shame, low self-esteem, abuse, poor health or other seemingly insurmountable challenges?

[Read more…]

Welcome to 2013!

2013 is an open book filled with magicThe New Year has begun, filled with all sorts of possibility and wonder. For some reason, the changing of the years seems to remind us to look back at what’s behind us, and eagerly anticipate what’s ahead of us.

However, in business (and in life), each new day yields the same opportunity. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Dream big, live fully, love deeply, fail fast, and grow more.

With 365 new beginnings lying before you this year, what dream are you pursuing today? Or are you simply trying to keep up with the demands of Life?

Set aside time each day to step back, think about where you are right now, and where you want to be in the future. Are you positioned to get there? If not, what changes do you need to make to adjust course?

For your business, review your business plan. (This applies, even if you are a personal brand!) If you don’t have one, sit down and write one. Without it, you have no discernible measure of where you are in relation to your goals. If you have one, is it current or does it need updating?

The process of having to document your business, your products and services, your position in relation to competition, etc., helps to clarify and define your business. This makes it easier to make decisions about growth opportunities, future direction, prospective client projects, and much more. Without a business plan, you’re simply reacting to events as they unfold, left to the whim of others.

Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, also recommends having a life plan for your personal affairs as well. Certainly if you want to be in control of your life, instead of reacting to events all the time, knowing what you want out of life is important. Having a plan will help you balance the demands on your time and resources, while also allowing you to create the legacy you want to leave.

How does your business plan align with your life plan? Are there areas of conflict that need resolution? For example, if spending time with family and friends is a huge part of your life plan, does your business plan ensure you have the time and freedom to do that?

By understanding where you are now and where you want to go in the future, you’re well-equipped to figure out the steps required to get from here to there. Check back regularly to ensure you stay on target. Keep both plans updated as things change.

You don’t have to wait for a New Year to create the life you want. You just have to decide here and now, in this moment, that you’re starting. Then, let nothing stand in your way!

As a thank you to my readers, and with permission from its creator, Dave VanHoose of the 7-Figure Speaking Empire, here’s his Success Goal Workshop worksheet to get you started thinking. I’ve already filled mine out and have been re-reading it frequently the past few days.

And if you’re free today at noon ET, join Dave for his Be Legendary BlogTalkRadio show. Today’s topic is on planning your goals for 2013, and you’ll be able to call in to get your questions answered. If you miss the live show, you can always explore the archive!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. We’d love to know what your big goals are!

Getting Swept Away by Holiday Madness?

Rich is not how much you haveI wrote the following note to my best friend recently, but I wanted to share it with you too, especially at this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I’m personally guilty of trying to cram too much into too little time and space. What’s really important to me though, and what I’m trying to convey through this flurry of activity and spending, is my love for the people I hold dearest. So, why do I make it so complicated?

Hmm… I’m sitting on the plane, trying to work on my intro presentation for Thursday. I’m pulling together some material that I think is pretty good. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining while giving them a sense of who I am and what I do…

When I got to the airport and checked in, my ticket said “seat requested.” I later learned that meant that I didn’t actually have a seat on the plane, although I was confirmed to be on it. I reminded the nice lady at the gate of my request for an aisle seat, and she said she’d see what she could do. Then she cheerily handed me my new boarding pass and sent me on my way. When I saw seat 21A, I thought to myself, “that’s not an aisle seat!” But, since she hadn’t said anything, I thought maybe, somehow, it possibly could be?

As I boarded the plane, it became quickly apparent that I had a window seat. (Ugh!) The two seats next to me stayed empty for quite awhile, even as the flight crew did their best to herd everyone on the plane like cattle and get them situated as quickly as possible. I began to hope that maybe the seats were free, or at the very least that when the people did come, perhaps one of them preferred the window.

When they did finally arrive, I said absolutely nothing, grateful that I had a seat and could move freely about as I chose. The wife in the couple is ill. I don’t know if it’s MS or ALS or what, but she’s having a tough time of things, and she needs the ability to get to the lavatory as quickly as she’s able when needed. Her meds are rough on her, but her husband takes very good care of her.

Then, he decided to do the same for me, saying it makes him feel useful. 🙂 When I opened the tray to put my computer on it, it had the remnants of someone else’s meal on it. So, he cleaned it for me while I held the laptop, which I’d already gotten out and had nowhere to go with. He was also watching over my shoulder as I worked on my presentation, commenting on what he likes. When drinks were served, he situated mine on his tray since mine was occupied with the laptop.

They both settled in for a nap about 45 minutes ago. Hands tightly clasped together, arms looped. Her head on his shoulder. She periodically wakes up and runs her hand over his, feeling his chest, his heart beat, his cheek, his forearm and back to reach for his hand. Such tenderness and love. I’m ashamed of having pitied her. She is richly blessed…

As much as I’m crammed in between the window and his elbow with no room to move (and pitying sardines), I’m touched by the scene unfolding next to me and, admittedly, envious. I’m reminded of a sign I have in my office at home. It says “Rich isn’t how much you have, or where you are going, or even what you are. Rich is who you have beside you.” 

Thanks for being in my life. It certainly feels much richer because of you… Your friendship enlivens my world. Thanks for stimulating conversations, a listening ear, the freedom to be silly and all of your support. It’s special to me.

Don’t let the busyness of the season sweep you away, when what’s really important is those who stand beside you.

How are you taking time to slow down?

What Are You Thankful For?

Happy Thanksgiving from Aleweb Social MarketingIt’s Thanksgiving Eve, and my social newsfeeds are filled with people sharing what they are most thankful for. As I look back at where I was a year ago and contemplate all that has happened since, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

This time last year, I was functioning under the crushing weight of grief that comes from losing a loved one. My fiance, Frank, had died just a few weeks earlier, and I was still trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning and having to remind myself to breathe whenever fresh waves of grief came crashing in.

They say that, in order to appreciate light, there must be dark; and to know good, evil must exist. I’ve learned that the same is true for joy. To know true happiness, not just contentment, but unmitigated joy, one must also be familiar with sorrow and grief.

Last year at this time, my life had shut down. I went through the motions, making Thanksgiving dinner, but soundlessly crying throughout the meal as I sat with my family; feeling fake as I tried to live a life I had no interest in participating in.

Reflecting on where I was then to where I am now is like seeing the difference between night and day. There are no similarities.

Toward the end of December, I realized that I couldn’t keep going on that way. I’d gotten through Thanksgiving, Frank’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday and Christmas, but just barely. I knew something needed to shift, and that the way I was living my life was not the way he would want me to be.

I gave myself until the end of the year, deciding that on January 1st, I would pick myself back up and begin again. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It was simply a new start.

I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew it was essential. Frank had died. I had not. The one thing I would not do was waste my life. I would make however many days I had left count for something. I had no idea what that might be, but I knew it was within me. With Jeremiah 29:11 ringing in my ears, I began looking for God’s plan and purpose for me, asking Him to reveal it to me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

One thing was clear to me going into my relationship with Frank. If I wanted a healthy and genuine relationship, I would have to keep the walls down. I’d spent most of my life erecting walls to keep the hurt, pain, disappointment and anger out. But those same walls blocked joy, peace, excitement and connection from coming in.

When Frank died, I didn’t have the strength to erect walls again. While their lack made me vulnerable to the grief I felt, it also presented me with the experiences I wanted most in life.

As I ventured into 2012 without him, I had no idea that this would be my Year Without Walls. But allowing those walls to remain down has allowed me to tap into genuine authenticity, not just in myself, but in allowing myself to remain open to others.

It has also enabled me to listen for other people’s stories more. My life became so much more real to me as I experienced such extremes of emotion that it reminded me of a passion I’ve always had. I love other people’s stories. Whether they are presented in a movie, a book, at a networking meeting, or over coffee, I love to learn what others are passionate about, what makes them unique, and to watch as their story continues to unfold.

So, what am I thankful for this year? I’m thankful for loving deeply, for my friends, family, and friends who are like family, for all the new people I met this year, and for the accomplishments of this past year as well as the new opportunities that lie ahead. And I’m thankful for having someone to share it all with.

The connections, relationships and even partnerships that I have been blessed with this year have been a direct result of living with myself authentically, accepting and acknowledging my grief, but granting myself permission to live again. The result has been a more beautiful, rich and connected life than I ever had before, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear your story.

What’s the Big Deal about Valentine’s Day?

Here we are, and another February 14th has rolled around the calendar. This time last year, I’d been contentedly single for 12 years, raising my two kids, and growing my business.

A few short months later, my world turned upside down when “I met someone.” Ah, the drama of those words… I can still recall how sweet it was the first time I called Frank “my boyfriend,” and how giddy and silly I felt using that phrase again at my age. It was so totally unexpected, yet something I yearned for deeply, to have that connection with someone that was more than just a superficial sharing of lives.

While I’d been alone for 12 years, he’d been on his own for 10. Both of us spent that time reflecting on what was important to us in relationships, what we needed out of them, what had gone wrong in past relationships, and the priorities future relationships had to have in order to succeed.

Each, on our own, had come to the conclusion that our faith needed to be the primary focal point of a solid relationship. As I’d put it, as two people draw nearer to Christ, they’re automatically drawn closer to each other as well. This concept had been shared with me years earlier as “the triangle theory,” where Christ and two people represent the three points of the triangle. It sounded good in theory, at least.

When I met Frank, I had the chance to test that theory, and found that it was 100% accurate. The first time we prayed together, and I heard his voice thanking God for bringing me into his life, is something that I will never forget. Talk about the power of a praying partner! There is no greater sense of being loved when your loved one tells God what a blessing you are to them, and how deeply and truly thankful they are for you.

Due to our habit of prayer and the openness of our conversation with each other, I never doubted Frank’s love for me. I read a tweet this morning that said “If we truly love someone, every day should be Valentine’s Day.” That’s the way it was with us; not with the candy, cards and flowers, but with the openness of our feelings for one another.

When Frank died unexpectedly in October, the one solace I had was that I had always told him how I felt about him. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t know he was loved. And I still have the poems and e-mails he wrote to me, as well as many of the voicemail messages he left that reflect his heart and his humor.

So, what’s the big deal about Valentine’s Day? For those of you who have forgotten, it’s a day that reminds us to tell those we love how we feel. But if you want to live a life with no regrets for the past, don’t let Valentine’s Day end at midnight tonight. We never know how long we’ll have on this Earth.

Be sure to tell those you love most how you feel every day, and find new and different ways to communicate those feelings each time you share them. That’s better than any box of candy you can buy!

Little things count, like a special e-mail message, a single flower, a note in a lunchbox or briefcase, or a phone call to see if there’s anything you can pick up on the way home; anything that says “I’m thinking of you.”

So don’t fear that you have to come up with a big, grand gesture every time, or that it has to be costly to do. The best ways to show you love someone aren’t paid for with cash. They’re paid for with time, thought and energy.

Who do you love, and how are you going to show them you care? Share your ideas and inspire each other in the comments below.

Forging Into the Future — 2012

2012

When I outlined at the beginning of last year how I was going to meet my goals for the year, this is what I wrote:

…accomplished by focusing for the next few months on the specific areas of sales (pricing, fulfillment, etc.), product development (for residuals), and website upgrades (for greater visibility, lead capture and establishment of my expertise). These will then serve as part of the launch of my (paid) speaking career.

To put it a bit more concisely, my aim was to shift my focus to speaking more. The necessary ingredients I saw for this were a product to sell, a platform for visibility (namely, my website), and a mailing list to work with.

This required migrating my website from one platform to another in order to make the changes I felt were necessary. Check! That’s done.

It also required creating a product that could be sold. Although a bit late, since it was finished January 5th this year, check! That’s done too. The first of many to come…

I felt (and still feel) that “selling” is a skill that I just don’t have. But I did engage with some great sales mentors to learn what I could, and I’m happy to report that you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s just going to take some time and patience.

So far as building a mailing list goes? Well, I’m working on that right now, participating in the Self Improvement Gift Giveaway! But I don’t want just any old mailing list. After some introspection, I realized that I am, and always have been, a wordsmith. I love writing and speaking, working with writers and speakers, and many of my clients are one or the other, even though I wasn’t targeting that specific demographic. So, moving forward, the list I am building is for writers and speakers, and the solutions I am offering are intentionally meant for them.

To be able to complete this transition into a niche market, my focus is necessarily becoming more myopic. My goals for 2012 take me deeper into this niche of dealing with authors and speakers, with a micro-niche of working in the Christian community. Product development and building my mailing list are both huge components of that. But I’m also spending time on developing a coaching program, as well as expanding my speaking platform.

So, here are my priorities for 2012:

  • Increase my client base, moving more and more into the niche I want to establish myself in. Speaking engagements and product development will shift more and more into this market to establish my expertise. Increasing my client base in those areas will also require me to increase my connections with others serving that same market. So, I anticipate expanding my network by 5 new contacts a week to increase my client base by 2-3 new clients a month.
  • Work smarter, not harder! I’m still living in a world where I’m the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at the same time as being the CEO and Janitor. It’s hard to flourish in any of those roles when I’m trying to do them all at once. So, the plan here is to recognize the responsibilities of each role, and set aside a minimum or 2 hours dedicated time every week to function in each of the necessary capacities, while getting rid of those things that I, specifically, do not need to do through elimination or outsourcing. It also means offering more group services (coaching, masterminds, speeches, etc.) and on-demand products.
  • Develop more products! Ensure that I have a residual income that supplements what I receive from speaking and client work. This means developing a library of recorded webinars, eBooks, books, recorded teleseminars, etc. that clients can browse and order from. Ideally, I want to offer at least one new product every other month this year. It may also entail doing more affiliate marketing than I have done in the past, and it certainly means more actively promoting the materials I already have.
  • Speak more and get paid for it! This is the ultimate goal. While I use the other steps above to create a wider platform that establishes my expertise, this is that I ultimately love doing the most. Through speaking, webinars and teleseminars, I plan to reach an audience of at least 1,500 new people this year.

As you’ve been planning the year ahead, what are your priorities for 2012? What do you need to do to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but make sure they’re measurable and in line with your goals!

Learning From the Past — 2011

2011A recent blog post by David Risley caught my attention. He shared “5 Failures and Take-Aways From 2011 [A Retrospective].” It got me thinking about what lessons I had learned from 2011.

It’s always nice to think “Oh, there were no failures. Everything went perfectly according to plan!” But that’s only for some dream world, not the everyday, real world of business.

Thankfully, at this time last year, I was part of a mastermind group, so had the accountability of stating my goals for the year in clear, concise and measurable terms. After all, isn’t that what goal-setting is all about? If we don’t know whether we met them or not, what’s the point of setting them in the first place?

My main “radical goal” — that goal that was a stretch, but not impossible — was a monetary goal that I fell short of by 32%. Ouch!

But that monetary goal was to be the direct result of “doing the things I am passionate about; teaching, strategizing, training, speaking and connecting.”

So, how did I do with those things? Well, I participated in two failed collaborations, each of which would have created a broader teaching platform; but one collaboration lacked vision, and the other didn’t receive enough time and attention. At the same time, a third collaboration among 21 writers resulted in a book that’s being published in March 2012. So, that was a huge success in my mind.

I spent much more time this year watching trends, and being at the forefront of bloggers writing about them, which was great for building my readership. So, I count that as a success. However, when I analyze what content my readers consumed most, it was my book reviews and not trending topics that interested them the most. So, that’s something I’ll need to take into account in setting my editorial calendar for 2012.

I did take on more clients, which created a broader training platform. But I didn’t leverage my time well, since it was primarily one-on-one training classes that I ended up doing. The lesson there? I’ll always be limited in how many people I can help until I offer group-training opportunities. So, to take Aleweb to the next level, I’ll be offering group coaching starting in 2012!

While I spoke fewer times in 2011 than I had in 2010, the size of my audience was the same since I spoke at larger conferences than I had the year before; more people, less work, greater exposure. Seems like a step in the right direction!

One significant lack that I noted early in 2011 though was that I was missing out on a huge opportunity by not having a product for sale at the conferences. That’s an issue I have already addressed in the first week of 2012, so that I won’t repeat that same mistake this year.

The connections I made in the course of 2011 were deeper and more significant than the year before. The unanticipated side effect of that was that when I experienced a personal tragedy in the latter half of the year, my online community provided support and assistance that I had no right to expect or even anticipate! That was a huge blessing to me personally.

While my main “radical goal” for 2011 wasn’t met at all, the foundation needed to accomplish it has been well-laid. So, the successes desired for last year may have fallen short, but I’m well on my way to meeting them this year! And I still have some neat feathers for my cap from 2011 too, despite the failures, which I choose to view as “learning experiences…”

As you look back on 2011 yourself, did you reach your business goals? If not, do you know what’s yet needed to make them reality? Share your thoughts below, but be sure to note your successes as well as your failures!

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!