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5 posts from July 2009

July 29, 2009

Leverage to "Uplevel Your Business"

ChristineKane-promo4 SInger and songwriter Christine Kane has carved out a niche as a coach for creatives. Her Wednesday teleclass, "Uplevel Your Business: The In's and Out's of Clients, Creativity and Cash," previewed the four-month program she's kicking off to bring clarity, action and a blueprint for living an empowered 2010 to business owners. Wednesday she shared five power sources for entrepreneurs and her stories of growth in each. 

One story surrounds the word "leverage." Kane told of arriving to do a show to find only 150 people, a half sold-out venue. A professional who would still give her best to her audience, she asked herself how to take where she was right then and lengthen out the end point. Call it leveraging, making lemonade out of lemons, maximizing an opportunity or indefatigable marketing. She thought about the women's seminars she was doing that she hadn't "put out there in a big way" and some other seminars she'd "done quietly." Kane decided to start connecting all the parts of her brand, her package and her creativity with those before her. These were people in the audience by choice; they had already "opted in" to a relationship with her.

So between numbers she told a couple of funny stories from a women's retreat and from creativity training she'd done for the CIA. "I just talked about that work with enthusiasm," said Kane, who gave energetic insights into her other talents as well as her soulful music. After the show, five women came forward and wanted to get information on her next retreat. Two people wanted to hire her to speak at their companies. The additional income: $18,000. The lesson in leveraging: priceless.

After listening to her free telesession, I'd say that lesson in leveraging was no one hit wonder. She gave a 75-minute sample of the savvy and business brain behind the songwriter to 1,000 people from her social network. By sharing insights and telling her stories as a creative and coach, she further built her brand and gave her audience something of value, as well as a choice in how to grow as creative entrepreneurs. The goal: entice up to 50 people to sign up. Yes, the word is "leverage." 

July 23, 2009

Who'll stop the rain

We had a rain delay at the state softball  tournament in Fort Dodge the other night  but didn't have to postpone any games. Nothing newsworthy in that until you add a little perspective.


Rain has bedeviled the state tournament in recent years. Last year, for instance, heavy downpours washed out 12 games and delayed seven others. I help the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union at this tournament and we had to return to the field on Sunday to finish the Class 4A championship game.


There have been numerous other interruptions, delays and washouts in the last 10 to 15 years -- in stark contrast to the good fortune that blessed the tournament in its early years. The IGHSAU moved it to Fort Dodge in 1970. It's played at Rogers Park, a sparkling complex with several diamonds north of the city.


For those first years in Fort Dodge, I think something like 400-and-some straight games were played without a rainout. It was amazing. Rain could be pummeling Badger, a few miles to the north. It could be raining in Fort Dodge proper. But not a drop fell on Rogers Park. We used to joke that E. Wayne Cooley, then the executive secretary of the IGHSAU, would stand out by the road and, like Moses parting the Red Sea, send half the rain clouds scudding off to the south and the other half to the north.


That kind of luck eventually ran out, of course, and when we did get rain, it sent us into a scramble mode. Writers, broadcasters and IGHSAU staff work at long tables behind the backstops. There’s a nice roof over those areas now, but they were uncovered for years, exposing us to sun, rain and whatever else Mother Nature pulled out of her bag. When the rains came, we’d rush to cover our equipment with towels or gather it all up and head for shelter at the concession stand or in our cars.


We used to write our stories on Tandy TRS-80 laptops -- Trash-80s we called them. These were among the very first notebook computers. They were light, compact and ran forever on batteries. But the screen was tiny and you could read only five or six lines of copy at a time. Still, they were the latest thing. One time I hustled to the car to escape the rain, rested the TRS-80 on the steering wheel and resumed writing. I looked over and Randy Peterson from the Des Moines Register was doing the same in his car.  Sometimes you just have to make do.


When the rain approached this week, all we had to do was call up a weather site on our laptops and check the storm's progress on radar. Not so back in the day. Girls Union officials had to go across the road to the airport to check the radar, return to report their findings and them go back later for an update. Ah, the marvels of technology.


There's a chance of rain on Friday, the last day of the tournament. If it comes, there's not much we can do other than wait it out. We might have to put our equipment away, but chances are we won't have to dash to our cars.


Which is good, because this old horse doesn't dash anymore.


July 20, 2009

"Do the next right thing"

I got a healthy does of optimism Monday night when I Ieft the computer for a while to watch the Michael J. Fox special, Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, on TLC. (I guess it aired in May on ABC.) The documentary featured snippets of interviews from Fox's worldwide search for insights on hope, happiness and optimism. "Ah, what a great day!" are the first words heard from Fox, the author of a new book, "Always Looking Up." Fox got his Parkinson's diagnosis 20 years ago and has spent the last decade building a new life, even though he "was happy with the old one." He says that the only thing he couldn't choose was whether or not to have Parkinson's; the rest was up to him. Ditto for Lance Armstrong regarding cancer's incredible impact on his biking success; he was a better athlete afterwards. Armstrong also credits his mother, who found herself pregnant with Lance at 17, for showing him how to never look at anything in a negative way. 

So, what else did Fox find in his journey? That hope doesn't live in a vacuum. Optimists connect in positive ways with others to spread their outlook and enjoyment of everything they do. Bad day? They say there's always tomorrow. They think creatively, live outside the box, take risks, and reject the bonds of fear. They thrive on connections to family, friends and community. Their joy instills hope in others.

Fox visited Bhuton in the Himalayas, where government includes a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission because joy is a part of their citizenship and constitution. Leaders value GNH, believing that their nation can consciously promote and sustain happiness. If people enjoy good, strong relationships with family and friends, they will build—and enjoy—a strong and optimistic nation. Incredibly, Fox found his Parkinson's symptoms diminishing while there, and that was very evident in the footage shown. 

At Wrigley Field, Fox met with die-hard Chicago Cubs fans about their 100-year World Series victory drought. Even that "community's" shared experience—an endless cycle of disappointment—has prepared them for life and the ability to accept failure. Plus, each season they share the energy of renewed hope. Like them, Fox doesn't get hung up on disappointments or missing the mark. He says, "Every moment short of a goal isn't a bad moment" when you're still striving. "Just do the next right thing." I loved that thought. Optimism is about hope, coming back, trying again, remaining grateful for the past, and knowing that tomorrow is yet another opportunity to do the next right thing.

July 10, 2009

What can sharing on social media cost you?

Have you tried to attract business by using social media to tell about a successful project you completed for a noteworthy client? A LinkedIn user reported that doing so actually armed a competitor with a source of leads. And the competitor began targeting his clients. He asked if others found social media marketing to be a double-edged sword? My thought: Time to refine that social media strategy!

Lee Witcher of Database Marketing Solutions in Oklahoma City, reminded LinkedIn Answers readers that "social media marketing is about building trust with your target market and positioning yourself as an authority. Direct selling in the social space tends to be ineffective. People are looking for information and/or connection there...Companies are increasingly using social media to build communities of devoted followers...Once they have been sold on you, people will seek out your products, services, and recommendations. In this sense, social media marketing is a longer term lead generation process."

Mike Volpe, vp of inbound marketing at HubSpot, said social media is one of this company's top five sources of leads and sales. He answered: "I don't think what your competitors are doing will be effective. The last person they should want to call is one of your super happy case studies! Also, while they are cold calling your happiest customers, other people (like me maybe) see your case studies and then want to call you! The right way to do lead generation in social media is by answering questions and posting useful information. This builds authority and makes people curious about what you do, and makes it more likely they will read some of your resources (blog, videos, etc).

Volpe gave four basic steps for implementing this form of inbound marketing:
1) Produce useful content (blog articles, videos, webinars)
2) Optimize that content for search engines
3) Promote that content by using social media (Volpe gave links to his company's Web
resources and a free July 9 Webinar, as well as his Twitter moniker)

4) Convert using offers, calls to action and landing pages 

Volpe: "The key step for lead generation is to use the links you leave within social media to start your prospects down a path to get to know you better. You should have some great content, but also calls to action next to that content for them to fill out a form or subscribe to your list. Over time as the relationship progresses you can call them and ask them how you can help, or send them some product info."

And like any business relationship, the real sharing begins in "private" when you feel there's a connection and all parties involved want to move forward to develop something of value together. 

Your social media strategy is fluid, something to be revisited and continually refined to avoid getting stabbed by a misstep of sharing too much. The good news: course corrections can be made quickly. Social media opens doors, but you can't win the "sell" without proving your worth.

July 01, 2009

Five Strategies in a Challenging Market

Work life would be good if it took only five actions to get a business-building reaction in today's economy.

But I applaud Principal Financial Group for its latest teleclass for business owners, "Marketing Your Business: Five Strategies to Position Your Company in a Challenging Market." The transcript should be available online in a week (visit "For Business" and "Teleclasses for Business Owners" under the Education Tab).

Carolyn Sawyer, Tom Sawyer Company, shared the following: 1. Stay Connected (use high tech tools, join groups, attend conferences to connect and stay top of mind with people); 2. Create an Online Presence (your Website is your storefront, keep it fresh, blog to communicate and share company news); 3. Maintain Flexibility and Creativity (get in front of people wth e-newsletters and awards—whatever has value—and do it simultaneously to maximize at all levels, be fluid and alert and adjust); 4.Develop Partnerships (with large companies or bring small companies together to increase one's capacity to serve); and 5. Leverage Internal Investments (to keep your talented folks, reorganize teams and retrain them for a more active area of business).

Carolyn give me some good reminders:

  • Do the right thing for your business, not just the hot thing.
  • Ask yourself, What is it my customers ARE willing to buy?
  • Marketing is critical for visibility, but balance it with being healthy and happy. Get your sleep. The strong survive.
  • Find the right fit. An opportunity that is really FOR YOU is for YOU. It's not a bad thing to say NO.

When asked what was her favorite marketing tool, Carolyn replied: "A good reception. It's what I do well. I make connections and build relationships." She told of attending a reception at the White House, visiting with someone she'd known through a volunteer opportunity, and learning about a contract (the gentleman called it just a small government contract) that became the largest contract her company had to date.

One just never knows what action will get the reaction that brings in the next energizing piece of business. Keep working all those marketing strategies.