Work+Life Balance and Your Emotional Support System

Hello there, it has been a while since I have blogged – we have been busy.

We have been a terrible kind of overwhelming and crushing busy. Like, how are we going to complete 80 hrs of work, in 2 hrs, kind of busy!

Luckily most of the stress seems to be behind us, and it seemed to be a really good time for me to blog about the things I have learned in this time while we were growing too fast, and making some mistakes, and learning some very valuable lessons.

The main lessons here seem to fall under topics that you may here a lot about – work+life balance and your emotional support system. I’m young, and I’ve been mostly ignoring that advice for the last ten years, because I’m superwoman. I always said that I am self-sufficient. I always said that I will worry about things like that in my 30’s.

Well here I am, very close to burn out. All because some cogs in the machine fell out at the same time, and I decided to step in and fill their place.

Another cliche you may be hearing often, is that you want to be focused on working on your business, not in your business. I get that now. From September 22nd to the 29th, I worked 120 hours, and then last week I worked 82 hours. I felt guilty when I slept and I felt guilty when I showered or did anything other than work. I went out with some friends last Friday night, and worked from my phone the whole time – incredibly rude.

I did not start my own business to become a machine – I was a machine with three jobs and freelance work before I started this company, and I wanted to reduce the work hours that I was putting in. I started this business for freedom, and to actually do marketing that I thought would work, not the out-dated tasks that my employers insisted upon.

So how am I, six years later, nearly burned out and working even harder than when I was employed? First, I fired my partner. He did research, strategy, and data. I had to pay him out equity, so there was no hiring someone to fill his shoes anytime soon. Shortly after, one of our three web developers left toward the end of a very large job. It was so close, I figured I would code the last bit, and get it over with.

The moral is, I should have ate it and hired for both roles. I then should have focused on what I do best -which is sales. Gary Vaynerchuk was just saying that sometimes you don’t make calls in your business that are not obvious. It is obvious to hire out tasks that you are a D or an F at, but maybe it is not as obvious that you should hire out the tasks you are a B at, or an A – that someone else can do faster.

The worst is behind us, and two weeks- which seemed like two long months- is also done. In business, no matter how busy you are, you have to carve out time for yourself. In business, you have to build systems so that you can always afford to hire, or contract out work so that you do not have to do it. You always need to be working on your business – not in your business. Grow your business like a pyramid, with plenty of people on the bottom to hold you up.

Don’t forget to have your emotional support system, so when you feel like giving up, they remind you why you are struggling through it all. Sometimes all you need is someone to come to your house and hand you a margarita. So don’t work so hard that you shut out your friends. Don’t work so hard that you lose the quality time with your family – that is all that really matters.

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What is your most meaningful task?

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Yesterday I was asked a question that kept me awake late into the night, as I mulled it over. A close friend asked me, “What is the most important thing for me to do daily in my business?”

I knew the answer to this could be direct and technical,  but I also wanted to provide her with a business system in order to reassess her most important task on a regular basis.

After many hours of thought, during my most creative time of day, I came to a simple conclusion. The most important task to accomplish is the task that is the most meaningful to your clients and prospects.

For my company, Your Business Allies, my clients and prospects gain the most value from personalized advice.
When I combine clients and prospects, I call this “my audience”.

My audience really feeds when I: send personal feedback via blog comments, reply to tweets, send email with helpful tips or reach out by phone for emotional support.

All of these actions and more are my way of providing meaning and value to my audience. I can go without posting or blogging, but interactions are essential!

That is for my company, though. You need to use the deep knowledge of your  audience and determine what is most meaningful for them.

Make sure you do as much as you can, but on days you run out of time, make sure the most meaningful task is not procrastinated.

So, what is your most meaningful task today? Have you completed it? Let me know in the comments.

Why I am telling all of my customers to think about Christmas RIGHT NOW.

Can you believe it? Time Flies!

Just 20 Fridays!

I don’t want to make you panic, but the holiday season is coming fast. It will sneak up on you, like it does every year, and I don’t want you to be unprepared.

The most important task is to set aside your holiday marketing budget and begin to plan how you will reach your target clients with that amount.

You need to zero in on the shopping behavior of your customers during this time. Really think on their pain points and how you can address these pains, and bring your customers to a better place this holiday season.

So many companies resort to tactics of sales and discounts during this time. You may have heard me say this, my number one marketing rule: Discounting is death.

When you take all sales and discounts off of the table, you can open up room in your mind to focus on value. The story of how it feels for your customer, once they have experienced your products, is the most powerful marketing asset you have.

If you are working with a very small budget, try storytelling with a local photographer, or with spokesperson videos, or with Whiteboard animation. These can be some of the cheapest ways to tell your customer success stories.

Delivering these stories can be most cost-effective using social media-such as Facebook dark posts, or with email-but you must start building your list and relationships now.

Do not procrastinate this HUGE opportunity to grow your business during the holiday season. The time to plan and prepare is NOW.

The Three Types of Incentives

How Leaders Manage

Incentive

When you think of how people internally operate, you might think that it’s a vast and complex system of variables and obscure inherited traits that each person has genetically encoded. You might be inclined to think that each person is motivated by something different. You may even think that YOU are motivated by something different.

Well believe it or not; all incentives can be grouped into only three categories:

Economic Incentives – Sales are down. So a money reward is put in place. Anyone who increases their sales gets and extra $500 added to their paycheck.

Social Incentives – This is a simple caparison of one person to everyone else. It can compare activity and accomplishments. The best social incentives offer recognition for great work. The second best is to recognize the lowest performer. Although very painful, it is a rather effective form of negative reinforcement.

Moral Incentives- A moral…

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7 Common Twitter Marketing Mistakes

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I want you to get the most out of your Twitter marketing. So to start off, let’s point out some basics that SO many people are doing that is VERY ineffective to growing a following and influence on Twitter.

  1. Following Everyone.
    This frustrates me because I see following as an endorsement. Some of the most powerful accounts on Twitter do not follow anyone, or follow very few – yet they have a huge base of followers.
    If you are following to gain more followers, only follow people in your target demographic. The way to gain more followers is to reply to several posts and show your support for people. They will follow you as you show that they are important to you.
    If you are following people that you idolize or want to quote, use lists instead. This way there is no limit to how many people that you place in lists, and you can sort and categorize. When you are ready to find people to quote, or want to catch up on your favorite celebrities, read the list like a newspaper, and cultivate content from there. Don’t waste your precious first 2,000 follows on accounts that are outside of your target demographic.
  2. Using Twitter for Constant Distribution.
    Do us all a favor, and unlink Twitter from every social network – you are likely using these tools wrong. It is time for a crash course. The principle is that you need to remember why people use Twitter in the first place – They want to consume small amounts of content very, very rapidly. So why are you constantly expecting your followers to go off of the site to read the rest of your sentence on Facebook, or view your image on Instagram? The Instagram shares make me the most frustrated. I could easily view your image in the stream that I have chosen to view your content. I have no desire to go to your instagram account when I chose to go to Twitter. If you want your picture engagements to go up – Load images into Twitter directly!
    You can share content from other social networks with HUGE results. Do it sparingly. Post a very short description of the content before the link – 2-5 words can be HUGE. When you link, be sure there is an image or a preview.
  3. Talking Like You’re Using a Megaphone.
    If all of your Twitter posts are sales pitches… You’re doing it wrong! {Click to Tweet!}
    Twitter is this HUGE source of reputation management. Do you want the reputation of just another spammer, or do you want to become a power player? It is time to chop out most of your sales posts. There is a better way – storytelling. We humans are addicted to stories; stories have been the way we have learned far longer than our current model of lecture. Stories breed an emotional connection with your audience. A very well executed story will make you unforgettable.
    So you are not a huge ad agency, and you don’t have the budget to make cinema-quality video. That is ok! Look at the tools in your budget. I love to recommend that you hire local photographers to shoot images with an editorial feel to tell your story. You could then potentially have dozens of high-quality images to share for weeks to come. Other options are presentations instead cinema video. Presentations can be made by a spokesperson, a slideshow or a whiteboard video. These can all be very low-cost options to tell your story.
  4. Ignoring Advanced Search.
    We are still learning advanced tactics for Twitter search. It is mind-blowing, as graph search is to Facebook. Yet so many businesses do not understand why it would ever be helpful, except to find one user that you are looking to interact with.
    Most business people join Twitter to just use it a platform to talk, but Search makes it a tool to listen. {Click to Tweet!}
    Just think of any data that you could ever want from people. Here are some examples: “Which accounts fall into my target demographic?” … “Who is talking about key words in my industry?”… “What events are people attending and talking about?”
    I hope these questions have started the wheel spinning! This is some of the things that you can easily find on Twitter. Facebook Graph Search does a great job of this as well, but it is not socially acceptable, or easy to find a person’s status that you are not friends with, and respond to that status. On Twitter, you can talk with anyone that you can find! This is incredible. People post statuses and they want them to be responded to.
    Tweeting is happening in real-time, so you can find out industry trends and events right as they are happening and gaining momentum. This means you are mostly getting the most recent AND relevant information from Twitter Search. 
    One Last Thing – you can make your searches even more specific and relevant by using the Advanced search feature. I use this most to limit the geographic area of my searches. If your terms can be confused with alternate meanings, than you can plug in terms to exclude to limit what comes up in your search.
  5. Not Searching Yourself.
    As a business person, your lifeblood is your reputation. {Click to Tweet!}
    So why are you not monitoring your reputation? Start making a habit of searching your name, your business name, events you attended/hosted, and any words that are heavily associated with your brand – such as your names for your products/services.
    When you are small, searching monthly or weekly should be plenty. But as you grow your reputation, you should invest in tools to monitor these words constantly, and set goals on how much the public is talking about you and your brand.
    Unfortunately, some people start searching and find a whole lot of angry customers all at once. It can be a shocking and uncomfortable situation. But in this social world, it is doing more damage by ignoring these dissatisfied claims. Reach out to all of these people and start the damage control. Tweets can be archived, so maybe when you have fixed some issues, some of the negative talk will go away. If you are seeing it on Twitter, search other business review sites, too. Most of those listings are permanent, and those customers are harder to reach, but you need to know.
  6. Ignoring Competition.
    Earlier we talked about building lists of people that you idolize or want to quote to your audience. I also suggest building private lists of your competition. This can help keep you in the know of real-time threats to your growth. You will probably find that your competition is making all the mistakes that we are talking about in this blog. So right away, when you start making changes to your execution, you will be doing better at Twitter marketing than they are!
    Some things to notice has to do with their audience. Notice how many followers/following, and browse who those people consist of. If your tactic is to follow people in order to gain followers, you may find that your competitors have already made huge lists of potential customers for you! You can browse their lists, and follow potential customers, and start interacting with them the right way. Look to see how much your competition is interacting one-on-one with customers and leads. Work on out-doing your competition on one-to-one interaction, but make the replies to people: powerful, helpful and meaningful. People flock to people who speak often AND always have meaningful things to say.
  7. Ignoring Trends.
    Your small business is not likely to make your own hashtag trend on Twitter. It is a waste of energy. If you are using your own hashtag, use it as a way to categorize tweets about your brand, so others can find you. It is much more powerful for you to hijack the hashtags that are already trending, and spin them to your story. This can drive awareness to what you are doing to people that may have never heard of you before, and can spin into a viral affect.
    You can also add value to the Twitter community by adding to the discussion of a current event from your unique perspective. Be sure to stay true to your brand.

    Let’s recap by outlining the steps to Successful Twitter Marketing:

1. Create your profile with powerful images that fit well, add a great description, and be sure to include your city and state if you want the locals to find you.

2. Only follow users you endorse, or that are in your target market. Try to follow less then those that are following you. Use tools to prune followers that are inactive, spam or not following back – such as Tweepi or Manage Flitter.

3. Sort users that you want to quote or that you idolize into lists. Sort your competition into private lists. Check often.

4. Post directly to Twitter as much as possible, instead of sharing content from other sites. Unlink your other social networks. They should not post to your Twitter feed automatically.

5. Storytell before you sell. Use images, video, GIF’s and slideshows to share your emotionally-compelling story.

6. Search for users that are talking topics related to your business, and join the conversation with meaningful things to say.

7. Also use Search to monitor your reputation, and relevant topics in your industry.

8. Follow trending topics, and add your perspective to the conversation. Hijack trending hashtags to tell your story.

I hope this helps you on your way to becoming a Twitter star! Don’t be silent, leave me questions in the comments and tweet to me at @Yourbizallies and @SauraJohnston Thank you for reading!

What’s your (social media) problem?

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Lately we have been hearing a lot of criticism of the effectiveness of social media to get customers. The key here, in order to be successful, is to have a plan that you can constantly test and be sure that it is most effective for your line of work.

Problem 1: The company is not even trying social media. It’s shocking how many companies are not using social media at all, still. Here we have a tool that connects everyone and allows us to zero in on our target market and communicate with our best customers. For reasons of fear, time overwhelm and sheer stubbornness, many companies are not even using social media. If you are not using social media,  you are not doing all that you can to gain customers and grow your reputation.
Problem #2: Companies only going half in. Many companies are wondering why they are not seeing large results but yet they’re not putting in larger effort.
I’m working with a company with a two million dollar marketing budget, that only allots two thousand to social media! They then wonder why they don’t have the results of other vehicles that they are funding four hundred percent more.
Don’t dabble in social media, go all in. Play to crush your competition, and move with expertise – or hire someone who can.
Problem #3: Repeating actions thst aren’t working. I often reccomend patience, but the other side of the coin is accountability. You need to set realistic deadlines to stop and measure the effectiveness of the campaign. If after six months you only see 1% increase in sales,  and you were working towards 15%+ then your current methods aren’t working and its time to revise your plan. That makes sense, right? Then why are we still seeing marketing like it’s 2008? Why are companies still spending thousands on banner ads with .1% click-through rates!?
I beg you to use the tools of social media, go all in, and market with measures to be sure you are doing what’s effective.
So what’s your (social media) problem? Share with us in the comments and we will be there to help you. Thank you for reading.

Why use social media?

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Are you struggling to see the point in using social media sites for your business? Are you deciding to expand onto other social media sites, but just unsure if it will be worth all the effort?

I am writing this post for you.

I am even writing this post for business that are not using social media at all.

The main reason that businesses are not getting a return from social media is they are not doing it right. The majority of businesses are advertising on social media like it is a billboard, or a magazine ad or a radio slot this is NOT how you win on social media.

But this post is not about HOW to win, it is about WHY you should keep trying to win on Social Media.

Social Media is more measurable than traditional advertising

The three main tactics for sales on social media are: organic posts, paid advertising, and hard selling. When a customer comments on an organic post, you know if that same customer came to the store as a result. When you run a paid ad campaign, you can measure how many people exactly visited and bought from your website as a result. And when you go for a hard sell, you know if they set up a sales meeting. Social media provides you this incredible tool called DATA, and most of it is free! Social media sites let you track how much your audience is growing, how many people are seeing your posts, and most website services also give you free data on where your website traffic is coming from. On top of that, there are SO MANY free analytics tools! The bottom line is that you can measure every step of the process, unlike a flyer or a billboard.

Everyone is using Social Media

When I am driving, I am terrified. Just look around you the next time you are driving, and you will see that 9 out of 10 people are using their phones – they are not even looking at the road! I enjoy some of the nicest restaurants in town. I am always shocked to see so many couples spending their romantic date out, on their phones. It used to be five years ago that you would get the one reminder before the movie to turn off your phone. Just this week, I counted five full ads enticing me to stop texting and calling for the movie full ads, with stories, and effects and graphics like a trailer! This is our current reality. Everyone is using social media all the time, and everyone is using it on their phones. You can ignore this truth, or you can adapt to this new normal.

Social Media is a source of instant feedback

Going back to data, you can use these analytics tools to find out what your customers think about you. It is all right there, public and instantaneous. You can discover what the experience is like dealing with you, what you do well, and fail at, what more you could do for your customers, what your competition is doing… it is all there! If you find out that you really stink, you can find out and fix every specific problem. Then, you can do something really powerful! You can go and talk back. It is an open forum for conversation, apologies and reputation management. Get on these social media sites and search your: company name, your products and services, events you’ve hosted, your competition, and anything related to what you do, and you can learn instantaneously from the people who matter most the buyers.

On Social Media, you can run longer campaigns for less money

Holding a billboard for six months costs nearly a fortune, and we already talked about how people are internet-surfing and driving all the time. Who is even seeing those billboards, anyway? But displaying an ad on your cover photo is free for six months, and all you have to do is the work to move the traffic onto your social media sites. It is incredible what we have been able to accomplish with very little money on social media. Much of it is instant, but we have learned that many of the instant tactics should be used sparingly. You win when you build up momentum to that instant moment. Paid ads are so incredibly targeted now, it is hard to waste. You just test several things, and then you fully fund the best thing for as long as you it is working. That is the difference between $500 into a magazine ad, and $500 in a Facebook ad you control who sees it, and you know who did see it. The better you get at showing the ads to your best customer types, then the better returns you will get for your advertising money. You just cant tweak your strategy in a printed magazine like this.

*****5. Build Lasting Relationships with Your Customers

This is it the golden goose! This is the main reason, the top reason, to be using social media for your business. People are using social media more intimately than their diaries. You know where they go, who they hang with, what their problems are and what they are celebrating. You can learn so much! It is from this understanding of people that you can really win. Then you can be there when you are really needed. You can be the shoulder to cry on, the much-needed distraction from stress, and the solution to everything. You can give, give and give and the customer will feel so much incredible value from you. This is how you go from customers for a day, to customers for life. You make the leap from using data to land one sale, to becoming a best friend. Building these relationships are the future, and this is how the best businesses win.

We can’t miss this. Social media is a main medium of communication, and we have to use it if we want to stay in business. This stuff is not easy, but it is measurable and it can be incredibly powerful when used correctly.

 

The single greatest thing that motivates me is…

The single greatest thing that motivates me is a vision that I cannot shake. It is a progression of my life that is not ordinary. It is a path littered with pittfalls that lead to profound accomplishments. This guiding vision makes it impossible to work a steady job, to hold a steady relationship, and even to think normal, steady thoughts. My mind is always consumed by the thought of this future. It is not just my life that I see making this progression, but I see a momentum continuing throughout the city of Jacksonville that will build it up into the greatest city on Earth. I say these words, and I believe them with the strongest conviction. This is what brings me so much joy – that not only am I building a lasting legacy with my life, but that there is this an entire populous around me doing the same. #ILoveJax