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.

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!

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!