We need plans. We need written plans in order make things happen. Meaning, they have to be outside of your head. The plan doesn't have to be elaborate. We don't need plans that are pages and pages long if we don't want them. We don't need to follow any templates that restrict our way of thinking about our plans. There, I said it.
You might be thinking..."Rubina, you create plans for people for a living, are you serious?" Yeah, I make plans, but I make plans based on what people want and what they really need. If I think you would do best with a visual plan with some important phrases and keywords on it, then that's what you'll get.
I know, I know. You are already so busy working in your business. You already know you have to work ON your business too. But, time keeps passing you by and you're just not doing all that you'd like to be doing especially when it comes to marketing. Ugh..marketing isn't even your strong point. And, honestly, word of mouth is your main source for leads so why even bother. This kind of thinking may make sense to you now, but in the long run, you will feel the aches and pains of having relied on one very uncontrollable source for your marketing. Businesses and organizations don't thrive and grow with this kind of thinking.
Life is short. Even for those that get to live long ones...it still seems so short. So, when a young soul is taken, I think , how unfair. It's heart wrenching. The news headlines from today on the shootings of elementary school kids in Newton, Conn. have weighed heavy on my heart and I am beyond words. I can't even imagine what the parents of the children are going through. I ask everyone to send prayers, and loving thoughts their way. Light a candle to remember those lost.
When I read this story today, it sent a shock wave through my body...reminding me to be grateful that I still have my life. I feel grateful that today I was able to get up and breathe, that my heart is beating, and i'm safe and warm at home. We take these magical moments and mere instances in our lives for granted. Take the time to tell someone you love them, genuinely today, give your child the biggest hug you've ever given them, tell a friend how much you appreciate them, or congratulate a colleague on a job well done. Life is short. Spending your time acknowledging others and being grateful need to take priority in our days, so make it a priority every day. Leave the small differences behind and open your heart to give and fully appreciate what you have.
Okay, late night blogging sessions have already lost their luster for me. Wait, I never did dig them very much! I'm going to have to make a change. I must say, writing when all other things are off your plate, does feel good. But, not getting enough sleep...this does NOT feel good. So how to address this dilemma? Which one has negative consequences in the short AND long term?
Lack of sleep is detrimental for your body and health. Your body does important rejuvenation work when you are sleeping. When you sleep less, you rejuvenate less. Eventually, this catches up with you. For some the affects can take longer, but for others , they could start suffering immediately.
For me, lack of sleep has become a norm, well with the baby and all. If you are not sleeping enough, whatever your reason, then you have to ask, how do you help your body rejuvenate when you can only get a few hours of rest a night, instead of the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep?
I try to take short breaks throughout the day. I will brew a hot cup of tea and close my eyes for a few seconds. Do a sun salutation as the sun streams through my windows. My daughter enjoys when I am doing this too! When she takes a nap, and if I don't have too many things piled up on my desk, I will take a hot steaming shower, or meditate. I call these my mini-vacations. Before I started taking mini-vacations, I thought I was going to lose my mind. The mini-vacations really do wonders for helping me feel rested and taken care of. As a solopreneur, I am the biggest asset for my company. So staying alert, and aware, as well as participating, and listening all require my best self, a healthy me!
Now it's your turn. Tell me, how do you take the time you need to rejuvenate? And.. what's your favorite act of rejuvenation?
It is later than I wanted it to be for getting my last tip of this series out to you all. Today, I had all sorts of things I needed to get done and of course there just aren't enough hours in the day, right?! Well, in all honesty, I knew that I would be writing this entry later tonight. I had my day pretty planned out. Though the baby put a few hiccups in my schedule, most everything happened when I had planned to have them completed. So why did the blog get left for the last thing of the night? I write more thoughtfully and clearly when I am relaxed. I knew that if I had all the MAJOR things of the day done, I would feel relaxed and then write a worthy entry...one worth posting! I thought I would be writing around 10:00 pm tonight, but it's closer to 11:00 pm now. That's okay. I've learned that when it comes to managing time, there are often days when you have to accept what is dealt to you, or roll with the punches, or just go with the flow.
Really, being an entrepreneur demands flexibility. So, I am. But, being flexible isn't just relegated to entrepreneurs. This mindset and spirit needs to be adopted by everyone trying to make a difference in this world, whether you are a non profit, a small business, or an individual . I like to call this time in our lives the Entrpreneurial Era. We live in a time where we all need to think and act much like entrepreneurs. Consider this an invitation to start taking the entrepreneurial approach in life, business and the pursuit of happiness. So what does that look like exactly?
TIP 7: Learn to navigate through your days with an open-mind, flexibility, and the willingness to embrace change.
That's basically the entrepreneurial approach. Let's examine these characteristics a bit further, shall we?
First, keeping an open mind. This is a huge part of being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs usually learn as they go and so, keeping an open mind allows you to receive. You WANT to receive, advice, criticism, help, and support. The only way you will see these sorts of opportunity is to let go of the idea that you already know everything. So when you hear criticism you can see the point. When someone offers you help, you accept with open arms. When someone offers you advice you really listen t o what they are saying.
Second is flexibility. Being okay with things not going exactly the way you planned, can also open doors for an entrepreneur. It's in the failures and the set backs that we experience growth. That is true for our business as well. However, you have to be flexible enough to see these things and "bend" and go along with what's happening. You will either grow as a business, or grow as a person, knowing it's time to move on to a new business idea. Here's a tip inside of a tip...entrepreneurs don't give up when they fail. They try and try again. So closing one business does not mean they are done. They look for the next big idea. I would adopt this characteristic as well!
Finally, embrace change. This may seem a bit redundant with being flexible, but here is the difference. Being flexible requires you to bend and go along with what's happening. Change requires you step out of the way completely for a new way and then you fully embrace the new way of being. These changes can be transformational and provide an exponential benefit to you and your business or organization. It can also be very painful to have to move away from an original concept or idea. But, with due time, you emerge as a beautiful butterfly able to cover much larger spans of space because now you can fly, rather than crawling your way through life as a caterpillar.
When running your own business, obtaining the skill of time management is essential. Over the years I've read pretty much every book written on time management. I guess you could say I'm sort of obsessed with the topic. I do actually enjoy reading about the various ways you can carve out time to do the things you need to do. Almost every book I read had some important point in it.
In January of this year, I became a mom. Boy! Did that time management knowledge come in handy! I will confess though, there were days where nothing I learned or knew helped. I just had to give in to my day and let it take me where it needed to go. But, overall, the biggest thing I've learned is to make use of every minute of my day. As many moms out there can relate...I'm not JUST running a business. I am first a mom. Then, I have a house I need to keep clean and orderly as best as I can. Finally, there are other responsibilities like taking the baby in for her shots, getting the groceries, etc. Completing ALL of my tasks for the day requires lots of pre-planning. So, here are the top 4 time management tips from the tip jar. But the BIG tip from the jar today is...
TIP 6: Learn how to manage your time and you'll do a lot of what you need to do for your business.
Okay, now that we've established the importance and the benefits of time management, let's jump into the rest of the tips.
1. Spend 10-15 minutes every night planning out what needs to get done the next day. Make a quick list and get it out of your head. You'll sleep better too if you do this. Next to each task, right down any phone numbers for phone calls you need to make. Make note of the files on your computer or hard files you'll need in order to get the task completed. Basically, give a little more info about each task so that when you wake up the next day you can get right into it.
2. Organize your work space. Whether you work at a coffee house, on your couch, your dining room table or from an actual desk in an actual office...organizing your work makes a huge difference on your work flow. Make sure the files on your computer are organized and things are filed in folders that make sense. Make hard copy files to keep on your desk. Keep all items you need to get your work done accessible and within reach. You shouldn't have to get up too often or waste time searching for things you need.
3. Every minute counts. When you make a list and know what you have to do, you can utilize every minute, every chance you get to tackle a task. Just start doing something. Even if you think it'll take longer than the time you have. Just start it. Then, when you get another few minutes, continue with that task.
4. Figure out your larger goals, and the feelings and desires you want to manifest in your life. When you work towards something bigger, it makes the smaller tasks, that can seem minuscule, significant. Once a year, I go through my journals, my to do lists, and mind maps and I sit down to plan out what I want for the New Year. More money, more love, more happiness, I want to feel passion, full of life...I write all these things down and then I try to figure out just how I am going to make these things happen. This becomes the basis of my weekly and daily task list.
As the New Year approaches resolve to become a better time manager, because there's always room for growth!
Engagement can seem hard, especially when it comes to social media. How do you engage and build relationships with large numbers of people you will never REALLY know? Well, let me say that the hard part is not the engagement. A few tips from me and you can become really good at engaging your fans and followers. The hard part is finding time and motivation.
My goal, with this tip from the tip jar, is to help you dwindle down your social media marketing tasks to a few minutes a day. You may save up some of the days of work and do it all over a few days. Whatever you choose to do, I intend on making it a little easier. You do, however have to do some work upfront that may require an hour to and hour and half.
TIP 5: Start you Social Media Marketing Efforts. Remember it's all about building relationships and offering value.
I would suggest focusing on just a couple of sites and getting really good. The top 4 sites I recommend are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. Of these, I want you to choose 2. Let me talk a little about each to help you choose.
Facbeook is a multi-faceted social networking site that is heavily based on content. Writing status updates, making comments on other people's posts and sharing photos are the most popular activities on Facebook. You can also, create fan pages, start groups, and post videos as well.
LinkedIn is for professional networking. It is ideal for consultants and is heavily referral based. It is also a great site if you are looking for a job. People can make recommendations of your work and you can post all about your past work experience here. You can also create groups to showcase your expertise in a field.
Instagram is solely a photo based social networking site. Visual social networking is the key here. You take photos, upload them, create a clever caption and share. Others do the same, and you comment and leave hearts for people telling them you "love" their photos.
Finally, Pinterest is also visually based. You pin different images from the web to virtual pinboards that you create. The pinboards can be of various categories and the images then get pinned to the appropriate board. You share these boards with others and others share their boards as well. You follow their boards and others can follow your boards.
Now in terms of content. Because we are building relationships and offering value, we have to go back to the basics of building relationships. When we are with our friends and when we are with some of our closer colleagues, we share information. We share information about ourselves with our friends, and we share information about things we learn that may be pertinent to our colleagues. With friends we might share something like "Reading a great book that is helping me set intentions and get ready for 2013" and then we might share the link on how they can get the book for themselves. For our colleagues we might share something like "I just read an article about goal setting and career growth and here is a summary." Then go on to summarize.
These are exactly the kinds of things you would do on social media. Your content is revealing of you. Reveal as much of you as you are comfortable revealing. Of course, you reveal only that which is appropriate. Also, the content is valuable to the people receiving it.
Now, here is where the work starts. These are your tasks.
1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or pull a blank document up on your computer and make a list of all the categories of areas that interest you in your life both personally and professionally. Also, add to this list all the things you are working on both personally and professionally.
2. Decide what part of the day you will spend time doing your social media marketing work and commit to doing it at the same time every day.
3. Create a a file folder on your computer or a physical folder and put in it two things. A copy of the lists you just made and a print out of this article.
Ready, set, go.
Whether you are updating your status on facebook or thinking about which boards to create on Pinterest, it works the same. Okay, you're ready, you don't have to think about it any longer. Just get going. Make it happen.
I often get asked, "Rubina, what is the one thing I can do to get clients." Or "What is the one thing I can do to get people to donate to our organization." My answer is always, There's not. There is no ONE thing you can do to get people to buy from you or give to you. Many don't want to hear this, but it's true.
Regularly, we are all consuming massive amounts of information from a variety of sources. Rarely do we run out and buy something or get compelled to give right when we consume that information. It's when we are ready to buy something or ready to give to a cause or organization, when one or two brands, or messages will stick out for us in our brains. We can recall these specific brands or images more easily. Why? Because we saw the brand and/or message enough times through various channels and they stuck with us. This is called accomplishing top of mind status. If you did just one thing, it would be very hard to achieve this status. Therefore, a variety of methods are recommended even if you are a small business or small organization.
TIP 4 : Get the word out by using a variety of marketing channels.
Here is my list of what I like to recommend to folks to do if they want to get the word out about their business or organization. You start here and you build. You build by either adding more channels, or turning up the frequency of delivery on an existing channel, like first you start off by sending one press release every quarter, but then you up the frequency of delivery by sending out one press release every month.
1. Network. There are many networking opportunities out there. The problem is trying to choose which ones to go to! Chose the ones where the people who are most suited to buy your product or give to your organization. Also, go to those events that accommodate your schedule so that you are at your best at these networking events. Also, you don't always have to go the same networking evens in town. Create your own. Get some groups of people together that share the same interests, start a book club. Get creative with this and get the word out.
2. Ask for referrals. Don't assume that because you did a great job for your client, that your client is not automatically going to tell people. You have to ask them to give you referrals. You also have to follow up with them and give them the things they need to make referring you easy.
3. Utilize social media. The people who have friended (this is now a word at least in my book thanks to Facebook!) you are your biggest fans. They've come to you with permission. Give them information about what you are doing. Don't make it a sales pitch. Genuinely share what is happening with you and with your business or organization. Engage others by commenting on their posts , etc.
4. Have business cards you are proud of. You need something to handout to people when you meet them. Every time you meet someone, they should get their business card. Your business card does not have to a standard business card. It can be the size of a postcard, or stitched onto cloth. But, always have something you leave people with. On the flip side, always leave with their information too. This way, you are not leaving it up to them to get in touch with you. You then have the ability to be proactive and reach out to them first.
5. Send press releases. Let the media know you are an expert. Send them press releases bi-weekly or even weekly of information that is pertinent to them and the section they usually write in. Start building a relationship with the right media contacts. Press releases don't have to be exactly about your business or be very sales pitchy. They can be about a great new book you read related to your field of expertise and you are offering a quick synopsis. You could write about a topic related to your field and share information. There are many ways to go with a press release that doesn't have to directly sell to people. The knowledge you are sharing is doing the selling.
6. Collaboration. Find other businesses, organizations and individuals you might be able to collaborate with in order to stretch those marketing dollars. They don't have to be businesses and organizations that do similar work as you. Pick those entities that complement you and your business. For instance I was at a used book store today and next to them is a herbs store. When I was checking out the store manager said that if I supported the herbs store then they would give me 20% off my purchase. The true was also the same at the herbs store. This is just one example of collaboration.
Focus on these few things and start documenting what works and what doesn't. Change accordingly again if necessary.
Today's tip from the tip jar might not seem like much to some, but it is needed. I run into people all the time as I'm teaching workshops and meeting people while networking that do not have websites! Yes...it's true. Now, in their defense, many of them have either held successful careers and never needed one because they relied so heavily on word of mouth, or there were those that just couldn't even fathom working on developing a website because it seemed too cumbersome for them.
There are several reasons why having a website is a good idea.
1. As we've stepped into, what I like to call, the Entrepreneurial age, competition has grown. There are new faces entering the market with beautiful, bold, and informative websites that sell what they do.
2. Almost everyone is searching for products and services on the web now. 3. Finally, having a website validates you, your business and organization.
TIP 3: You MUST develop a website. Create a free one to begin with and remember, just keep it simple and clean.
All your other marketing efforts lead to the website. This is where people ultimately get to before they take that action to call you, to work with you, or to give to your organization. There may be instances where a couple other steps come up along the way, but the website is a key decision making factor for most customers.
Now, you don't have to know HTML to get a website created. There are plenty of awesome tools out there for you to use to get you started. I have two favorites. Fist, I love Weebly.com! I used weebly to create my site and the pro version is cheap and so worth it. Weebly has a ton of templates you can choose from that are fairly customizable. Their drag and drop editor makes it super simple to create a site in a flash. Also, you can use one of their domains for instance, yourname.weebly.com, or they give you an option of registering your own domain with them. So check weebly.com out.
Another free website creator is Wordpress.com. I am going to switch to a wordpress.com site at some point because they are becoming the most popular platform for building a website. Also, Google loves wordpress sites. They give you a leg up in the organic search engine optimization game. Sorry for all the lingo here, but I'll go into search engine optimization in another blog article.
So, weebly.com and wordpress.com, are my recommendations to help you get started right away. And, as I mentioned earlier. Keep it clean and simple so that you don't get yourself stressed out. It doesn't have to be perfect...just make sure you don't have too many mistakes and typos. A few nice pictures and concise messaging for your copy is all you really need to get started.
Just a quick note for those of you who are like "duh." I already have a website. Well, I would suggest carefully assessing your current site. I'm sure there are things you can update, upgrade and change. Comb through every page, or at least those pages with actual in depth information about your programs and services and see what you can do to improve the copy, the images, and the general usability of the site. Make those updates. Also, as a general rule, you should update the content regularly.
Here's to you birthing a new site...or re-birthing an existing one!
Today's tip from the tip jar is about messaging. If you've done any reading or learning about marketing and communications work, you'll hear over and over again, "You must have messaging that speaks to your target market." That is very true and important.
I'm going to add another element to this. There is somebody very integral and extremely important that plays into this equation and that person cannot be put aside when your messaging is created. That somebody is you!
Your message is your story. You gotta tell it if you want people to connect with you and your product or service. More and more, people are making decisions based on how much they like, connect and trust that person. Whether they are buying a pair of earrings or buying a house, customers make their purchasing decisions based on how much they like, connect and trust the individual they are purchasing from.
SO,that brings me to...
TIP 2: Create clear and concise messaging that speaks OF YOU and TO your target market.
You see now that there are two elements to this tip, the part about you that is so important when it comes to messaging, and the part where you need to speak to your target market.
In determining your target market, sit down and brainstorm all the different types of people you think would buy your product or service. Write down their age, their values, their income range, their interests and anything else you can think of that identifies them clearly. Yesterday's tip asked to consider for whom does your product or service solve a problem? Try to narrow this as much as possible.
Now, craft the message based on what you've brainstormed about your target market. You words and phrases that will resonate with your market. Write it several ways. Create various lengths and cut back, edit, revise. Share your new messaging with a few folks and ask them for their honest advice. Implement the feedback as necessary and then don't wait to get it perfect. Just put it out there and wait for the response. If products are flying off the shelf and your services are booked solid, you know you've hit the mark! If you can hear crickets chirping while you wait for the phone to ring...then it's time to tweak your messaging.
Now go write something and get it out there. It'll feel good!