The Power of Knowing Why

The first month of a new year has come and gone already and I’m finding myself reflecting on many of the conversations I’ve had of late.

January has traditionally been the goal-setting month, whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or business goals for the year, many people appreciate the mental “restart” that comes with a new beginning.

From the conversations I’ve been having, though, it seems that many people mistake “goals” with “plans” or “projects.”

If you have ever read about successful people, you may have heard this before.

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The Key to Pursuing a Dream

What’s your dream? Do you even know what it is? One of the things that has always amazed me about my daughter, Eliza, is that she has heldunwaveringlyto one dream since she was four-years-old. She wants to be a performing artist.

She knows that to achieve her dream, it takes hard work and lots of time and effort. She’s never anticipated that anyone would simply “make it happen” for her. She’s studied hard, pushed her body, broadened her horizons, studied with high-caliber teachers who are stars in their own rights, and continually strives to improve her skills.

Her talents are many. However, that wasn’t always the case… I enrolled her in a pre-ballet class at the age of four because she was the biggest klutz I’d ever seen. She’d become enamored of Angelina Ballerina, and I thought perhaps a little ballet would help her overcome thatpredilection. Contrary child! She loved it right away.

Over the years, she added tap, jazz, modern, acrobatics, contemporary, vocal performance, musical theatre and acting to her resume. In addition to attending a performing arts school for these classes, where she frequently studies 20 or more hours per week, she has sought performing opportunities outside of her school.

She became a member of the teen ensemble in Bye, Bye Birdie (her first auditioned role), was the youngest singer to join the Candlewood Children’s Choir, and dreams of being on stage on Broadway someday.

My daughter recognizes that to achieve her dreams, she has to be purposeful in what she does. So, at the age of 12, she mapped out the activities and pursuits that she believed would best position herself to accomplish those dreams. Now, at 14, she continues to follow that plan with the same passion and insight with which she created it in the first place.

Let me be clear here… I’m not one of those stage Moms always seeking the next role for her child. If you asked Eliza, she’d probably tell you I’ve been a ball-and-chain in this process, encouraging her to enjoy the journey along the way instead of dashing headlong so focused on the destination that she misses the scenery along the way.

So, I ask you again… What’s your dream? Have you ever thought about what it would take to accomplish it? Do you have a plan? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as Jiminy Cricket would have us believe. You can’t just wish upon a star and have your dreams come true… It makes no difference who you are. Dreams take work, commitment and perseverance. But when you apply those elements, you too can become a star. As I mentioned a year ago in a post about a lesson my son taught me, when you start with the end in mind, defining your path to get there is so much easier.

On a parting note, just so you don’t think this blog post is the ramblings of a biased mother, enjoy this cover of a John Mayer song, “Daughters,” performed by my daughter, Eliza.

And, while you’re listening, let me know what dream you’re pursuing in the comments below. I’d love to support and encourage you.


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!