small business

To Hash… Or Not To Hash… THAT Is The Question.

I recently saw a question posed about whether or not an established business should be using hash tags as part of their social media marketing strategy.  Great question!  I’ll give my opinion in two parts.  Before I begin though, you may be unaware of this hashtag phenomena.  Click [here] to get a better understanding.

First, not everyone is an established business.  Regardless of whether your business is established or not, it’s important that you look professional.  You’re not a teenager, so hash-tagging every trending tag is not so much going to earn you business.  It might earn you a spot on [Top 10 Worst Marketing Gaffes, Flops, and Disasters] though.  Just kidding.  Just be thoughtful when using hashtags.  Don’t overdo it or you might get a response something like this:  “#HolyHashTag – I’ve seen it.  Multiple times.  Everything in moderation – hashtags included.

Hashtags USUALLY won’t make or break your business, but can be an integral part of keeping your marketing momentum.  If you’re a large established company, you want to maintain that image.  Hashtags certainly have their place, but they should be used minimally.  One way that corporations use them – and use them well – is for campaigns.  Beware:  Please think campaigns through or you might end up with something like [THIS.]

A little brain power  when it comes to campaigns… and always seek advice.  Two minds are better than one and three certainly couldn’t hurt.

Chaos – Where The Living Gets Good!

I’ve just come back from an event with [Pattern].  As always, networking with people has provided me with a reminder of why I do what I do.

I met so many people tonight.  Some of those were established business owners.  Some of them new businesses.  Others – up and comers.  This blog is for you.  The up and comers.  While I hope I provided some sort of encouragement to you – I know that there’s strength in numbers.  I also want you to know you’re not alone.   One of my friends, Scott, has agreed to let me share his most recent blog post with you.

My hope is that you not stay in the place that you are now – but let this be a little push or a huge shove forward into the place you should be.  The place where YOU become the encourager for another up and comer.  Live.  YOU!  LIVE!  No longer is it OK to exist and hope that you make it.  Take steps.  Get out of your head.  Step outside of logic.  Chaos is where the living gets good.

I hope you enjoy his blog – but more than that, I hope you do something with it.

Last night consisted of a myriad of vivid dreams. One, in particular, woke me up with tears dripping down my cheeks.

Growing up, my Mom always hung enormous photos of my brother and I on the hallway walls most near our bedrooms. One particular wall seemed like a prison lineup of school photos of the both of us, sequenced chronologically over the previous 8 years. They nearly were. It was a wall of nerdy, quirky, humorous, and embarrassing mug shots.

As we grew older, we started acquiring hobbies, and identities. So, as you would imagine, our photos began to parallel those changes. My brother had photos of him doing his hobbies. I had photos of me doing mine. Intermixed were photos of our whole family, Mom and Dad included.

All of these, of course, are photographs. They are accurate and definitive glimpses of a moment in time. Frozen memories behind a pane of glass.

My dream last night, as you may imagine, was a bit more.

Picture your family, let’s say five years ago, meeting together at the house you will always consider your one true home. And picture a painting on a specific wall of that house, which you will always remember. This isn’t a photo, this is a painting. This is a painting that changes with time.

This was my dream. Bear with me.

The first time I notice the painting, it is of my Grandpa and Grandma. They were beautiful people. As I look at the painting, Grandpa begins to fade away, until he is gone. As there were lineups of photos on the walls of my houses growing up, consider a wall of paintings on this wall. To the right was a painting of my Grandfather and Grandmother. They, too, were beautiful individuals. Grandfather fades away, until he is gone. Looking back to the left, Grandma is alone in her painting. Looking right, Grandmother has faded, and is gone. Their painting is now a sheet of black.

I don’t dare look back at Grandma’s painting, because I know the inevitable outcome. I knew this would become a painting that I would never want to buy. Empty. Lonely. Black.

Their painting is now a sheet of black.

In my dream, I receive a letter from Grandma. She had long passed. In her letter, she tells of a painting that has been in our family throughout the generations. This painting is a painting in motion. It changes as our family does. It is a timeline only seen by who is looking at it.

Looking at it, I see our immediate family. Mom, Dad, brother, and me. This particular painting is a rendering of a photo that a park ranger took of our family in the Smokies a few years ago. The four of us were there. Then, one wasn’t.

I wasn’t.

When I woke up at 4:00, I started sobbing. Not because I saw myself dying, but because I didn’t see myself living.

I don’t know when I am going to die. Truth be told, I hope I outlive all of you. But, if in the enormous possibility that I don’t, I hope I live my life alive.

I’ve lived most of my life in the fear of being beaten, in perhaps every sense of the word. But, I haven’t. Not nearly in any sense of the word. I’m learning to live my life in a way that motivates me, that pushes me, and makes me happy. And in that sense, I won’t be beaten. And in that sense, hopefully, I won’t fade to black.

So what’s keeping you from living?  Don’t just say you want it.  Seek it. Find it. Do it.

Ready, Set, Network!

You’ve decided you’re ready.  No time like the present.  It’s time to put yourself out there and start rubbing elbows with all the other movers and shakers.  But wait.  What do I do when I get there?!

Ok, before anything else – sign up.  Absolutely don’t let anything keep you from this networking event.  Your signing up will likely keep you accountable to making sure you do everything else you need to do.  No excuses.  None.

After you sign up, take some time to develop your [Elevator Pitch.]  People need to know what you do and you need to have enough practice with your pitch to deliver it with confidence and subtle enthusiasm.  Keep in mind, everyone goes to a networking event to network.  As much as we would all love for it to be all about us… it’s not.  Be genuine when asking about the business of others.  A good majority of us really do enjoy lending a helping hand when we can.  This networking event could be your opportunity to do just that.  Of course, keep plenty of business cards within reach and hand them out!

My mother always used to ride my case when I was younger telling me to quit being such a wallflower.  As is normally the case, mom was right.  As I’ve aged, I’ve certainly come into my voice – and thank goodness!  You have a voice too, so find it and use it.  Don’t stand back and wait for others to come to you.  One thing we love as humans are other humans that exude confidence.  We’re drawn to it like a gnat to wine.

Of course that couldn’t hurt now that I mention it.  But keep it to one glass ;-)

Happy Networking!

Stepping Stones

When you went to sleep last night, what did you wake up intending to do?  64% of us wake up 5 days a week and get ready to head in to work.

Since my divorce in 2005, I had been one of the 64%.  Prior to that, I’d run a successful Agency for public speakers.  As going through divorce often does, it tore my WHOLE life apart.  Not just the emotional side.  I lost the business.

Man I felt like a failure.  I was embarrassed.  I felt nothing short of defeated. Over the last 8+ years, I’ve allowed that failure to decide my (lack of) happiness.  I allowed that failure to keep me from following my dream.  Why?  I was afraid I’d fail.  Again.

So instead, I job hopped.  A telephone sales job here, a serving job there.  I was even a technology teacher at a charter school at one point.  About 80% of the time I was doing those other jobs, though, I was also doing marketing on the side or marketing was part of my job description.  I’d developed a few clients (and held them), but I was afraid to make this leap of faith.

There’s a certain sense of security knowing your employment is held by an employer.  They take care of payroll.  They take care of making sure clients show up.  They take care of hiring and firing.  All you have to do is show up and collect your paycheck every 2nd Friday.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  As a society, we need people to do this.  Without them, we’d have no medical workers, no legal workers, no public servants.  But there are those of us who feel like we’re merely stumbling through life, keeping our head down all the way.  We are the people who need to snap out of it.  Why aren’t you following your dream(s)?  What fears do you need to face to take your leap of faith?

Again, friends who love me gave me a nice little wake up call.  A gentle smack upside the head to first, wake me up… and then – we began planning.  In one single night, we planned what it would take for me to leave my “normal” job to begin this journey.  The difference is that this time, I began with a bag full of lessons learned.

This journey is mine and now I know one thing.  My past was not a failure.  It was just a stepping stone to my success.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Content Marketing Isn’t Part of your Marketing Strategy??

What’s this “content marketing” catch phrase you keep hearing about?  It’s one of your most powerful marketing tools.  That’s what it is.  If it’s not part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to reevaluate!

Content marketing is essentially selling your brand without (directly) selling your product.  How in the world could that possibly prove to be useful?  Theory is – make your customers smarter and they reward you with their business.  When you take a minute to think it through, it makes all the sense in the world.

Example:  Let’s say you’re a single parent with two young children.  As a single parent, chances are – pizza is one of your go-to dinners. Pizza Joint knows this.  They also know you’re likely looking for things to keep the kiddos occupied over the weekend, but you don’t want to fill their mind with drivel on the television.  Once a day or once every other day, Pizza Joint lets you know about events that are happening in your community that also benefit your family.  Their name is far more likely to be at the top of your list next time it’s pizza time.  Make sense?

A direct sell every so often isn’t a punishable offense, but it’s also not usually the best way to promote via digital media.  Make sure your content is relevant as well as current.

You have an audience to reach.  What’s keeping you?

How Do I Find The Time to Blog?

If you aren’t blogging, would you please tell me why?  Probably the #1 issue is time if you’re like most small business owners.  I usually find myself rush, rush, rushing through my day, doing all the “must dos” and then right before bed (no matter how late) – I find my inspiration… and I write.

You have an audience whether you can see them or not.  That audience has a need for information that YOU canprovide.  There are creative ways to work around the time issue.
Posting on Facebook and Twitter is good.  No mistake about it.  But blogging is less about you and more about your end users.  It’s about taking care of them.  Find things that interest them or relate to them.  If you own a club, you have an all adult audience.  Post events that are coming up in the community that relate to them.  Run a family eatery?  Blog about anything family related.  It doesn’t have to be about food.

Now comes the time issue.  We’re all well aware of the time crunch.  Do you have employees?  Do you value them and what they have to say?  Some of them will likely have creative writing talents, maybe some paint, some may be in bands.  Have them volunteer to do more for the business.  Maybe some have music they would be willing to have you share in the restaurant.  Perhaps the artist would like his or her work displayed on your walls.  And that writer – maybe they would like to be scheduled an extra hour a week to come in and do your weekly or bi-weekly blog.  Let them know that you’re particularly looking to start paying your blog more attention and are looking to hand that responsibility over.  Do a writing audition.  Maybe more than one employee gets the part.

Give your blogger an assignment once a week or once a month.  Give them specific parameters that you’d like them to blog about and let them work their magic.  Make sure you give them the credit!  Involving employees in different parts of your business not only builds strong morale among your employees, but it also lets your customers know each one of your staff members a little bit better.

What are you waiting for?  Don’t you have some writing to do?? Go, write.  But have fun with it!