4 Years Strong and 1 Million Cups Continues to Inspire

In 2012, The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri introduced the first 1 Million Cups program. Their mission was to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs with their community and resources. In 2013, St. Louis added the event to their entrepreneurial activities.

An entrepreneur myself, I first attended the event December 2014 and attended their 2nd anniversary in 2015 (read my experience here). Now, 2 years later, I have returned from their 4th anniversary with equal inspiration, motivation, and insight.

Similar to their 2nd anniversary, the St. Louis 1 Million Cups invited past presenters back for a session on what they learned, highs and lows, and advice.

When asked how their original 1MC presentation made a difference, the common reply was the unexpected reach their video provided them, archived on the 1MC site. Secondly, their presentation validated their credibility and presence in the entrepreneurial environments.

The advice shared remains consistent from 2015 with some extra considerations:

  • Be persistent; stick to your values and your vision
  • Be humble
  • Maintain your focus; life will be easier!
  • Keep getting out there; entrepreneurs spend a lot of time on the phone or their devices. There is great value in meeting others, getting involved, and reaching out.
  • Surround yourself with a dedicated team
  • Be careful who you trust; not everyone will share your values and may sabotage your efforts
  • You know your business best; stick with your vision to avoid straying too far from it.
  • Apply advice with caution; while peers’ advice is well-meaning, it isn’t always the best advice. Remember that you won’t be able to please everyone.
  • If you build it, they will come; while this is the ‘dream’, it isn’t reality. Apply the wisdom above to attract the audience you desire.

When asked what fears they overcame, here are the replies:

Connie Fry of Pony Pizza Company

  • I dealt with a bug infestation in my product. It was devastating but I regrouped and overcame that issue.

Dawn Manske of Made for Freedom

  • I have a fear of failing so it’s the driving force that keeps me moving forward.

Nick Szabo of Get Swizzle

  • Becoming a new parent and startup founder was frightening. I struggled with how to take care of both simultaneously and emerged with extreme time-management skills.

Ali Ahmadi of AirZaar

  • Quitting my corporate job and the financial burden created fear for me. Also a new father, it was my child that got me through the emotional and mental turmoil.

Andrew Glantz of Gift a Meal

  • I feared my youth would be a deterrent; not having enough experience, not being taken seriously, and letting them down troubled me, but instead became the driving force to accomplish my vision.

Rob Rose of SaniTrace

  • I didn’t know anything about the food market or running a business. I taught myself while building and promoting my business.

In the short time since these entrepreneurs presented at 1MC, they have experienced growth personally and professionally. Ari Ahmadi summarized entrepreneurship best:

“Starting a business is miserable. Get up, get out and learn.”

The presenters, the audience, and I agree with his sentiments. We also agree that there is no greater satisfaction than to know we are helping to solve a problem in the world.

What problem will you solve?
Kristen Edens

E-signatures: The Easy, Low-Cost Touch Point to Apply NOW

Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.netLast week I wrote an article exploring the ease and comfort of social media marketing vs. email marketing for our business. With email being the preferred method to reach out to contacts and customers, you can make it doubly effective by including a custom e-signature.

Don’t let the term ‘custom’ intimidate you, though. This just means you can take it from the standard:

Sincerely,
Kristen

to

Peace,
Kristen Reed-Edens
Kris the Scribbler
www.kristhescribbler.com
314-856-5747
Don’t fight it. Let me write it!

or even something snazzier to fit your personality or your message. For instance, if you have a scanner, you can scan your own signature into your e-signature, tinker with some features and make it really fancy. Or, you can use varying fonts, sizes and colors to make it look professional.

The custom e-signature isn’t just about your name, either. Consider these questions when building your e-signature:

  • How would you like to close your email?
  • What would be important to your readers?
  • How would you like to be contacted?
  • What would you like the reader to do next?

Scribble some ideas down and then consider these extras:

  • Your tagline
  • Social media icons
  • An accomplishment: top-selling author, recent award recipient, new title or position
  • Links: website, latest blog post, online news story about your business or an accomplishment, link to an upcoming event
  • Images: your logo, a portrait, presentation image
  • Creativity: add a little humor, inspirational quote
  • Call to action: invite your readers to sign-up for your e-newsletter or to download a white paper, discount or other freebie.

Your answers and extras will help keep you top of mind, plus inspire your readers to take further action.

Still stuck for ideas? Take a look below at a few samples of e-signatures I’ve collected and examine those that come to your inbox.

To create your own, most email tools offer basic e-signature options and with a few clicks of the mouse, will automatically include your e-sig within every email.

If you’d like something more detailed, or you don’t want the hassle of creating your own, companies like Wisestamp.com, Docusign.com, Rightsignature.com, or Hellosign.com can help you out. Some of these services offer free signatures (as long as you carry their ad within your signature). Others offer paid services. The beauty of this is there are several options to explore.

Ready to give it a try? Experiment with your e-signature and then send me an email to show and share!

Happy writing,
Kris the Scribbler

(top of page photo credit goes to Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)

A few samples from my inbox:

Victoria's e-sig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

Kathy Bernard
kathy@linkedWISE.com
kathy@getajobtips.com
314-620-1184
LinkedIn profile

*

Flourish and Prosper,
Andy
Andy Magnus
www.MyTaxBuddy.com
(817) 413-0303   FAX (888) 870-7884
Since email can be altered by some magic I do not understand, I am not responsible for anything contained herein.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
No trees were killed in the sending of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

*

Kate Brockmeyer
(Founder)
314-420-7173
Twitter: stlbwc
Website: businesswomenconnecting.com

*

Michele Burghardt, Principal
Mareck Marketing Group LLC
DivorcedMilitary.org
314.566.1418
A referral is the greatest compliment of all; please feel free to pass our name on to a colleague.

*

Carolyn Hall
Here’s to your Blossoming into Progression!
CL3 Agency
203-565-6170
www.cl3agency.com

www.about.me/carolynhall

Please ‘like’ and ‘share’:
www.blogtalkradio.com
www.facebook.com

Please join my networks:
www.linkedin.com/cl3agency
www.twitter.com/cl3agency

*

N. Bauman-e-sig image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy L. Baumann
The Book Professor
(636) 787- 7817
“Changing the World, One Reader at a Time”

*

Laura Wiley
Principal|CMO
Marketing Lift, LLC
314.324.0532 | @LauraMWiley
laurawiley@marketinglift.net
Check out our new site! MarketingLift.net

*

Lone-Orange-email-signature-art2
     314.749.0252 c    |    314.282.7462 o   |   www.LoneOrange.com   |  Tiffany@LoneOrange.com
     Proudly recognized as the SBA Home-Based Business of the Year 2013. Read the Announcement 

 

 

There and Back Again: A LinkedIn Journey to Top Contributor

6290003115_7788c41563_qHave you ever wondered what it took to reach Top Contributor and what you really gain from that status? As a recently certified profile writer, I felt it was important to understand the process, but also because I’ve received several questions about the effectiveness of LinkedIn for business. Therefore, I established an experiment to uncover what was required to become a top contributor and what benefits would result from that status.

Before my experiment began, I belonged to 39 groups. I was involved with 10 of those groups to rank in the ‘finding an audience’ and ‘making an impact’. This came from sporadic engagement of four to five times per week, with a few minutes here and there. From those 10 groups, I chose my five favorites based on topic, business-related information and lead potential.

My process began by commenting on 5 to 10 existing discussions and leaving more than ‘great post’ or ‘thanks for sharing’ comments. I wrote 5 or more sentences to answer questions, offer advice or share an experience. I made Top Contributor (TC) in 2 days with each group. Then I started my own discussions on each group. However, initiating discussions alone does not maintain TC status. Depending on the group, I could forgo interaction 2 days before my superior status slipped. I discovered that I could post one discussion and comment on 5 or more existing topics daily without affecting my status. Anything less dropped me to a lower level.

The results: after 30 days of 2+ hours/day, my profile views increased 400% (from 4 to 20 at my peek). I also gained 11 new connections, 10 of which were outside of the USA.

The benefits: Once I reached top contributor, my picture was posted as one of four top contributors. As long as I maintained TC status, my picture remained visible.

My favorite part of the experiment was when other readers appreciated my advice or wisdom or that they ‘totally agreed’ with me. It kept me going.

I received two service inquiries and one said he’ll, “Keep me in mind.” The other never responded after first contact.

The downside: I was sent 16 pieces of junkmail from group members and gained 2 LinkedIn groupies. Before long, the groupies followed the same groups I did and liked or commented on every discussion or comment I made.

I dropped one group at 22 days, another at 28 days. I was burned out by week 3. By day 30, I dreaded the time drain it took to maintain TC and quit commenting as frequently. I became a weak memory in those groups 2 days later.

Lessons learned:

  • Work on one group at a time!
  • Dedicate no more than 30 minutes each day.
  • Explore groups—you aren’t locked in for eternity.
  • Learn what you can! There is A LOT of great people out there who are willing to learn, share and help. That was the part I enjoyed the most. Connect with those that you believe will be beneficial to your growth and knowledge.
  • Move on if desired.

What LinkedIn experiments or discoveries have you made?

Happy writing!

Kris the Scribbler

photo courtesy of Sheila Scarborough

 

 

Cherish Your Uniqueness and Celebrate Your Strengths: Discovering and Promoting Your Individuality

Part 1 of 5: Individuality, Innovation, Image, Inspiration, Integrate

The past several weeks has kept me hopping with interviewing business owners, entrepreneurs, and business coaches and gathering opinions about marketing and content trends for small businesses. Though I have interviewed people from several industries, the needs and themes are the same: we all strive for individuality, inspiration, innovative ideas and image. The next series of blogs from Kris the Scribbler will cover these topics and summarize my findings on these areas.

Let’s start with individuality, which was often the first need mentioned by those I interviewed. Individuality, defined (from my trusty Random House Collegiate Dictionary) is:

the particular quality or combination of qualities that distinguishes one person or thing from another.

(For the purpose of this article, we’ll substitute ‘business’ for ‘thing’.)

Just like our fingerprints, there are no two people—or businesses—alike. Even identical twins have distinct personalities that identify one from the other.

But when it comes to business, we take on a different, less optimistic view: no matter what we do, we are one in hundreds or thousands doing the same thing. We’d like to think we are different from everyone else, but we aren’t.

Or are we?

We get caught up with the overwhelming requirements to market, brand, engage, convert, interact, generate leads and make a profit that we quickly forget who we are.

A second agonizing truth is competition is stiff—not because we are competing for the same audience, but for the same thing—profit.

A third frustrating truth is the economy is depressed, annoyed and suffering. The business model has changed as a result of these factors which leave businesses, their owners and employees scrambling and struggling.

So how do we compete?

Let’s say there are 100 landscape designers (or web designers, or tax consultants, or independent health clinics) in your region that provide the same services you do. Do they provide exactly what you do? Do they market the same way you do? Do they attract the same clientele you do? Do they WANT the same clientele as you do? Probably not. Some of these areas may overlap, but overall there are differences that set you apart from one another. BUT they, just like you, need to earn a living. That is the primary similarity you share.

Beyond the need to make a living, one’s interests, needs and goals vary from person to person—and business to business. And what we bring to the world—whether locally or nationally—is different from everyone else. We need to rediscover our identity and repurpose our goals with that focus leading the way.

Ready to make a difference? Step up to the starting block with:

Why You?

This is the basis for all you do. Before you can follow through with the remainder of these exercises, you first must understand why you are the team leader.

  • What is it about you that makes you ideal for this career?
  • What does this profession mean to you?
  • Why do you want to help your world (your audience)?

Team discovery

  • What skills, knowledge and experience does each team member have?
  • What interests, talents or hobbies do they have that could enhance the services you offer?
  • What ideas—old, new, bizarre—do they have that may be worth a try?

*Limit this exercise to only the products and services your business offers and how your team compliments those offerings. Avoid finding out which employee enjoys social media, blogging, website design, or taxes. You’re not looking to saddle them with unwanted running-the-business tasks.

Find service providers that complement your business

  • Do you share the same market?
  • Do your products or services complement theirs?
  • How can you share your knowledge and skills to help each other grow?
  • What events can you share or create that will unite both and bring greater visibility? (Think about strength in numbers; many hands make light work—and reaching a larger audience).

Contact your audience and ask them:

  • What do they like about your business?
  • What do they dislike?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What do they wish you offered?
  • How can your business make a difference?

*Avoid limiting yourself to one or two methods. Combine surveys, questionnaires, interviews and interactions to gain a larger response.

Study your competitors

For example, in the garden & horticulture industry, the Big-Box stores are a formidable competitor. However, we already know what they lack:

  • Professionalism
  • Knowledge
  • Attention to detail & design
  • Specialties—edible landscapes, sustainability, horticultural therapy and many more. Find yours and make it shine.
  • Value—competitor prices are often an issue, but what added value will your customers get from hiring you?

*Find your competitor’s weakness and fill it with your strengths.

Hone your strength

  • From the exercises above, how can you fill these gaps?
  • Focus your attention and build your:
    • experience
    • trust
    • knowledge
    • proof of success; testimonials, pictures, videos, word-of-mouth
    • Resist spreading yourself too thin; you’ll confuse your followers and weaken your team.

Be visible: in public and online

  • Where can you be that your competition can’t?
  • Consider the usual and the unusual
    • Schools
    • Community events
    • Churches
    • Senior Centers
    • Rallies
    • Parades
    • Roadsides
    • Weddings

*each business is distinctive—what exclusive locations can you visit to increase your visibility?

Be available: in public and online

Much of the same applies here as it does above. The challenge is making it fit your schedule. If your business is seasonal, it is just as important to be online during the busy season as it is off season. Seek out resources to accomplish these tasks.

  • Find industry experts that provide assistance.
  • Consult organizations and associations to get resources and recommendations.
  • Outsource certain tasks to allow your team to focus on their strengths.

How and where can you market your individuality?

Most small businesses aren’t going after a national market so don’t let national advertising get you down. They have the big bucks to attract a national audience but it’s cloned material—you’ll hear the same ads in Maine as you will in Missouri. You have the advantage of knowing your community, the culture, and the local economic climate.

  • What marketing techniques are common for your business? For your industry?
  • What do your customers want? Expect?
  • How can you best reach your customers?
  • Where are they?
  • What can you do that’s different, unexpected?

We know the basics include a website, a blog, and a newsletter in addition to facebook, pinterest, and twitter. How about stirring things up with something not so basic? Press releases, trade articles, company bios, brochures, and white papers are other ways to get the word out. Don’t have any news to share? Then make it! It’s all about visibility. Shake things up a bit!

How does this information help me (or your in-house writer)?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Write what you know”, but what if you don’t know how to express yourself or how to explain what you do in a way that entices your readers to contact you? Providing detailed answers to the questions above helps me to write the best content to reach and attract your audience. Together, we’ll discover your individuality and how to apply that to the needs of your world.

Remember: you are an individual business. Find what makes you different and shout it out. What can you do to promote your individuality?

Be looking for part 2 of this series in the next few weeks. Coming up: Innovation.

What ideas or comments do you have? Have you got a story to share? Let’s talk!

Know-Like-Trust is Important for Interviews too!

When you hear the word ‘interview’, what comes to mind?

  • Sitting in front of a panel of strangers hoping to impress them enough to hire you
  • Being swarmed by a horde of reporters shoving oversized microphones into your face while bombarding you with nagging, invasive questions

Either scenario conjures up sweaty palms and elevated blood pressure.

There are, however, opportunities when interviewing can be fun, effective and beneficial: for an upcoming blog article, ask-an-expert for a newsletter, or to get feedback about your latest product or service. To make these interviewing experiences stress-free, applying a few lessons from the ‘know-like-trust’ approach makes the process easier for the interviewer (ER) and the interviewee (EE).

In general,

  • people like to talk about themselves
  • everyone has a story to tell
  • everyone has an experience they want to share
  • everyone has an opinion
  • they are eager to share, but protective of their knowledge

Sharing with friends and family is easy, but outside that circle, it takes a little nudging and a lot of trust and confidence to get people talking.

Let’s say you want to interview an expert on interviewing techniques for small businesses for the company newsletter coming out in 5 weeks. Now is the perfect time to begin and that starting block activity is:

  • Call the interviewee (EE)

While it’s tempting to communicate solely through email, the strongest action is to call. Why? This is your chance for a personal introduction. This gives the EE a chance to hear your voice. You instantly become a real person, and your voice is that first recognition point.

  • Introduce yourself

Along with voice recognition, knowing who he will be interviewed by makes the process less of a mystery. Tell the EE your name, your business name and your title, if applicable. The more he knows about you professionally, the more at ease he will feel.

  • State the purpose for your call

Let the EE know that you will be interviewing him for the upcoming newsletter. Keep it simple and brief. Remember: This is ONLY an introduction, NOT the interview. It’s tempting to initiate the interview now to spare time and hassle later, but take a deep breath and save all the critical questions for the main event.

  • Set up the interview time.

Here’s the tricky part: make it work around his schedule not yours! If your EE says Thursday evening at 10pm is the best time because that’s when the family is in bed and he’ll have some quiet time, then agree to it.

Arrange an interview at least three days in advance, if possible. This gives everyone time to think about the interview, review questions, research, and think about replies.

  • Ask their preferred date, time, phone number and contact method.

Some will prefer cell phone, others their home phone. Some prefer speaker phone and others still through skype. Whenever possible, perform the interview in person or over the phone. A person’s voice and body language is more expressive and informative than Q&As through the email or surveys.

  • Give hints of the questions to come

Each interview will have different questions, but the basic format is to ask a few questions about the EE’s experience and training, how it relates to the specific topic and how his answers will help the readers of the upcoming newsletter. As an extra bonus, tell the EE you’ll follow-up with an email that outlines some of the questions you’ll be asking. Why some of the questions? Because if you conduct the interview well, some comments the EE makes will inspire other questions from you. Ask for the preferred email address in order to send the interview details and questions for the interview.

  • Give an estimate of the interview length.

Thirty minutes is an acceptable timeframe that most people can fit into their busy schedule. Also add that the session may go longer based on response and additional questions. Your EE will appreciate this tidbit.

  • Ask him if he has questions or concerns.

By this time, you will have addressed the major issues that come with being interviewed. If there are additional questions, answer them briefly and honestly.

Here’s a sample script for the introductory call:

“Hello Steve,

This is Kristen of Kris the Scribbler and I’ll be interviewing you for the upcoming article on Interviewing Techniques for Small Businesses. Is there a time and day in the next week that will be convenient to conduct the interview?…

That’s perfect. I’ll give you a call on Thursday, 6:30 Eastern time. Do you have a preferred phone number you’d like me to use?..

I’ve got it. I’ll also use this number to call on Wednesday for a reminder…

I’ll send detailed questions in an email, but the basics will deal with your expertise on the subject and how it applies to small business. Do you have a preferred email address you would like me to use?..

Thank you. The interview will last about 30 minutes but may vary depending on your replies and additional questions or comments that may come up for either of us. Do you have any other questions?..

Thank you for your time. I’ll follow-up with that email shortly.”

  • Follow-up with an email summary

Once the introductory call has ended, send out that email within an hour. Be sure to summarize everything you discussed, the details of the interview, and include all your contact information—invite the EE to research you, too! Copy and paste your basic questions (about 10) into the body of the email. This saves the EE a step, building that trust and comfort further.

If the interview is scheduled through a third party, repeat the process with this person as well and send everything off to anyone involved in the process.

As the day of the interview approaches, rehearse your questions. Research your EE. As you learn more, scribble down additional questions that come to mind. If there is time, ask a few of these.

One day before the interview, call to remind your EE. If you reach voice mail, leave a message.

Example: “Hello Steve. This is Kristen from Kris the Scribbler and I’m calling to remind you of our interview scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday at 6:30pm. If you have questions or concerns, call me at… Thank you for your time.”

The day of the interview: call a few minutes early. Avoid giving your EE any reason to become angry. Even one minute late could lead to resentment when his day is already busy. All that comfort and trust you built up could fizzle in less than 60 seconds.

During the interview:

  • Avoid all that cheesy, “Hi, how are you?” stuff. That’s just filler that signifies nervousness or unpreparedness. Take charge, but be friendly.

“Hi Steve, this is Kristen. Are you ready to begin your interview?”

  • Ask if he has water or something nearby, explaining that the process can create a dry mouth and having something to sip makes the process easier.

Start with simple questions such as something you discovered while researching your client. I once discovered an EE had a hobby of skydiving. I opened with that—something she loved—even though it wasn’t related to the interview’s purpose. It immediately eases the EE and gets you right in the mode for the main questions.

  • During the interview, let your EE talk!

Avoid interrupting unless he gets way off target. If he does, ask a question about something earlier in the particular answer that gets you both back on track.

  • Write or record the answers.

Recording is best, but if that option isn’t available, write—fast! If you can’t keep up, let your EE know that you’re taking notes and will be ready in a moment.

Most often, interviews go longer than the estimated time. If this happens to you, provide a reminder at 35 minutes. If the EE is sounding stressed, rushed or tired, offer to call back at another preferred time. If the session is going well, then continue, saying that you’ll provide another reminder at 20 minutes. Make sure you do all the work, keeping the EE’s schedule and comfort the top priority.

When you have exhausted your questions, ask if there are any last minute comments he’d like to add—either about the interview or anything else that interests him.

Thank him for his time and offer to send a copy of your notes to him—you’ll be creating an outline of the session anyway. Your EE will appreciate this unexpected bonus.

  • End the session.

Make sure the phone, recorder, skype or chat screen is closed before breathing a sigh of relief! Grab your soda, chocolate, beer or take a walk and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

  • Give all that information time to simmer.

An hour or so later (not too long), review your notes, pencil in forgotten or overlooked thoughts, make comments in the margins. Then rewrite the whole thing to make it legible—with the speed the answers were fired back at you, your notes will look a little jumbled. Neaten them up before you forget their meaning.

Though the interviewing process can be intimidating for both parties, the method above makes the event easier for all. Give yourself plenty of time to apply these steps and your interviewee time to prepare. When it comes to your business and theirs, we all want the connections to go well!

To your interview success!

Kristen

 

Stepping Out: Breaking the Boundaries of Shyness

I just finished reading the book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

In her book, she states that “one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts”. Do those numbers seem low to you? How do we know if someone tends to be introverted if that person practices daily to hide that trait? It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but when it comes to the business world, one must step out every so often to let others know about their business.

As the author goes on to explain, we all exhibit tendencies toward both introversion and extroversion, but some of us display these traits (visibly or not) more often than others. What this means is that there will be times even the most outgoing person will have difficulties presenting himself at one point or another.

When I was 8 or so, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my shyness: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach. And I often finished 2nd. Looking back, that’s probably why I was always second: Number One got all the attention and the spotlight; Number Two was soon forgotten.

Sometimes I look at my past and my tendencies toward shyness and wonder why I would pursue my own business when that meant REALLY standing out! Was I crazy? I knew what was required to own and run a business, yet I still pursued it. As Susan Cain mentions in her book, several introverted people pursued their desires despite their shyness and gave us great inventions, works of art or literature. Where would we be without Dr. Suess, Chopin, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, and several others?

In the business world, whether introverted or extroverted, we must stand out, be remembered, be likeable and stick our neck out higher than anyone else. Networking meetings, presentations, and conferences are just a few ways to be visible. Other methods include marketing, communication through online and offline methods, chat groups, webinars, and much more. Just think how terrifying cold calling is for many of us!

If one method is more troublesome for you than others, then turn your attention to another technique for now. For instance, if making a 1-minute presentation at a networking meeting is worse than a root canal for you, then find a local networking group on Linked In and become involved that way. Get known, be visible—online—and once you get to know several local business owners, find a networking group many will be attending and meet them there. It will be like a reunion, still a little awkward, but you’ll already know several attendees and they will know you.

Another technique to try is through your marketing and communications. If getting out and meeting people is a nail-biting experience for you, then give a little extra time to writing content that tells a story that you aren’t quite ready to do on your own. Then post it here, there and everywhere: social media, website, blogs and guest-blogging, newsletters, invoices, and more. As with the Linked in groups, you’ll develop a group of readers and then when you do meet up with your clients, you have something in common to discuss. You’re likely to have ideas for your next blog, newsletter or press release to hint at and develop anticipation for your listener.

Once you finish a meeting and you’ve successfully said hello, listened and chatted with one or two other business owners or clients, head back to your office or home and reward yourself! Chocolate. Beer. A bubble bath. A favorite movie. Blaring your favorite song. Whatever it is—do it! Enjoy and celebrate your success.

After 40-some years battling the shyness bug, you’d think I’d have conquered my fears. I still have my ‘moments’ but I always have chocolate handy! Then I remind myself that I’ve never been attacked or maimed or shunned through all those shy episodes. It took me awhile to realize this and someday I’ll tell the turning-point story. But here is another secret I’ll share: no matter how nervous you are, no one else needs to know. Write it on a piece of paper and hold it in your hand or place it in a pocket. There is no need to fight it but also no need to let it take over. There are many people who need your specialties. Go get them!

What about you? Do you fear cold calling, public speaking, the 1-minute elevator speech? How do you face it? If you’d like to learn some more of my techniques for reaching out or how to write content that speaks louder than you can, send me a note. I’d love to share more ideas.

Peace and plentiful writing!

Kristen McLain

When to LOL; When to Call

Social Media, content marketing, communication…these are popular topics that are on everyone’s mind and repeatedly covered in trade journals, business meetings, networking groups, conventions and trade shows. We’re in a critical growth period with these methods and just as we learn one way to communicate with our audience, another option is added to the mix. It’s enough to drive us crazy—not only to learn, but to keep up with!

I recently attended an industry trade show where Branding & Social Media was one of the topics offered. At the end of the session, one of the questions was, “When should I text my customers?” She went on to explain she gets a lot of text messages from her clients but wanted to know if it was wise to reply in text.

The speaker advised it was better to call the client since it was obvious both had their phone handy. While I agree with his answer, there was no time left to explain why. From a business point-of-view, I’d like to share the reasons why I agree with this. Perhaps you have other reasons to add or even an alternative opinion. Let’s hear them!

There are so many forms of communication available for us today: cell phone, skype, email chat, facebook chat, text messaging, email, business phone, and in person. Nowadays, texting is the quickest and easiest way to reach someone. While that may be true, is it always the best?

I say no—especially in the business world. Why? Because critical facets of communication are missing:

  • Body language: With body language, you’re missing out on your customer’s posture and stance. Are their arms crossed? Is there a glow or a glare in their eye? Are their lips pursed or smiling? Each of these makes the message more powerful and clear and believable.
  • Intonation: Your customer’s tone of voice will tell you a lot too. Someone who is satisfied will be more upbeat and perhaps extra talkative about your great service. If they’re not pleased, they’ll sound flat, slow, and may be attempting to end the encounter. Text messaging doesn’t pick up on any of these clues, and if you miss them, you could lose your client.

Both are necessary for proper interpretation of an encounter. How will you know if your customer is truly happy with the service you provided if he replies with a texted ‘yes’? Sure, capitalization and exclamation points intensify the message, but that action tends to be spared for the really angry replies. Hearing their voice over the phone or seeing their face light up with relief or joy (especially if you solved a particular pain for them) is worth taking the time for a phone call or visit. Plus, these opportunities enhance their professional relationship with you and is likely to result in referrals, testimonials or repeat business.

Secondly, problems can occur with text talk:

  • Misinterpretation: My daughter (and most teens and 20-somethings) communicate mostly by text message. I have no idea what percentage occurs through this method, but I’m guessing the number would be high. A few times each month, my daughter will call me (I am grateful she calls!) to complain about a misunderstanding through a message she sent or received. She’ll call and ask me what I think or what should she do next. My advice to her is most often the same: call! Sadly, most of the time she ignores me, “It’s too much fuss,” she’ll whine. The result is often the same for her; anger or sadness. In fact, because of misunderstandings through text talk, she has broken up with two boyfriends in eight months (I don’t mind too much because I don’t like her choice of boyfriends!)

When it comes to our business, we never want a misunderstanding to occur. That’s a sure way to lose a client and possibly create a bad reputation.

  • Autocorrect: As for autocorrect, we’ve all heard about—and laughed at—some of the bizarre words or phrases that occur with this feature. Last summer, I had a client text me about the ‘womax’ at my recent presentation. I had no idea what she meant! I even searched the word on google, Wikipedia, and the Urban Dictionary. Because I didn’t want to leave this client waiting, I called her and asked what womax meant. She apologized, saying, “That was my stupid autocorrect. It was supposed to be ‘woman’.”

When it comes to your business, it’s best to communicate as directly as possible with clients, peers, prospects, leads, referral partners—everyone! If your contact wishes to communicate with you in that manner, then let them, but you remain professional. Use text messaging for confirming a meeting time, asking if an important document was received, a request to call when available, and similar questions. Save the critical communication for phone or in-person talks.

To get this started on the right track, try this: for each new person or client, ask which for their preferred method of contact. Most often, they’ll appreciate your question and tell you right away. Make note of it so you don’t forget. Then be sure to tell them yours. It’s better than get started on the right foot than putting your foot in your mouth!

What are your ideas? Have you had text talk tragedies?

Peace and plentiful writing!

Kristen

Conquering a Bad Day

Each day brings a chance for change and a step toward success…or failure. We all have goals or desires and we live each day in a way to best get us closer to our goal. It’s often difficult to know which action gets us closer to our goals or which topples us back a step or two. We’ve all had our highs and lows, whether they be financial, personal or professional. We’re also affected by internal and external influences. While it’s difficult to control these factors, how we deal with them is within our control.

I’m facing some external influence that are affecting my personal (and a little of my professional) life. Recently, my father fell down the stairs, leaving him permanently and severely brain-damaged. My mother is struggling with the changes and sorrows of dealing with dad while also struggling with her own health issues and limitations. As a result, I visit (in Ohio) monthly to help with the changes and transitions. It takes a lot of time, which must come from somewhere—either personally or professionally.

My story is not unique, but we all struggle with something. We all have those high days and low days. I’d like to share my methods for dealing with the lows that I’ve learned from others. Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration below:

Create a good news file: Anytime you receive a compliment, write it down, save it, store it! Linked in recommendations, business testimonials, positive feedback and thank-you notes or emails are perfect additions to your file. Then, when you’ve taken a dip read through your file. It will give you a boost when you need it, plus it’s a reminder of the good you have done and the good person you are.

Write it down: Yes, it helps to scream, cry, cuss and yell, however, this can sometimes create extra problems or bring others down (unintentionally). Grab paper and pen and vent on paper. Release all the emotions that need an escape. Let it go. It’s therapeutic and thought-inducing. Once the anger and sorrow are released, turn it around. Look for solutions. Ask yourself what went wrong? How did it happen? How could it be prevented in the future? What have you learned? How can this lesson advance you toward your goal? Write these down and adjust your success sails. Then act!

In the case with my father, I still must travel to help mom, but I can sometimes stretch my visits to 5 or 6 weeks. I still must work & write, so have arranged consistent work hours while visiting. The toughest thing my family had to adjust to was that I was not on vacation every time I visited—I still had a lot of work to do! I’m still struggling with this, but improvements are being made.

Free space & time: Everyone needs ‘me’ time once in a while. When we’re having a bad day, it’s even more important to take some time off. A walk. A book. A bath. A drive. A hunk of chocolate. A big cup of coffee. A beer. Take yourself somewhere or do something to relax, reflect and regroup. Do this for 30 minutes. An hour or two may even be better, but the purpose is to give yourself time to breathe and clear the mind.

A different look: When we’re in the midst of the rough day or bad news, it’s easy for it to cloud or vision and our judgment. Ask yourself if the situation troubling you is going to matter in a month. Or a year. Can you recall your bad days from last year? This point of view usually helps to clear my thoughts.

It’s easy to punish ourselves or wallow in pity or worry, but that only prolongs the agony. It prolongs our lack of productivity, which then makes us feel worse. If you find yourself slipping into an emotional pit, try some of the methods above. Distract yourself. Call someone within your support group.

I’m not a counselor or life coach, but the ideas above come from people and professionals I have met over the years. I’ve learned relaxation lessons from children, animals, friends and family. I’ve read facebook posts, blogs, books websites and articles. I’ve learned from them all and have been motivated or inspired by them. Perhaps you’ll find a new idea or two to help you!

This blog was inspired following some news about dad. I was unable to help and sad that I was absent. So I applied a few of the ideas above. A few hours after my draft, I received an email from someone who had read a blog comment I wrote before my sad news arrived. My message had inspired her enough to write me and tell me how I “cheered her up”. This was an unexpected, wonderful way to end a low day. Her email went into my Good News file!

What do you do to boost your spirit?

Peace and plentiful writing,

Kristen

In Search of THE ONE

Anyone who has entered a new relationship knows it can be full of emotional highs and lows, and plenty of doubt.

  •  Am I doing this right?
  • Is the other person pleased?
  • Is my timing off?
  • Am I ready?
  • Am I going too fast?
  • Am I going too slow?
  • Is he/she interested?
  • How do I know if he/she is interested?

My brother, Steve, recently requested my advice on a current relationship with a woman he met through an online dating service: Yana, from Russia. Through a series of emails that began less than a month ago, he declares he ‘may be falling in love with her’ and asks me if this is possible.

Though divorced after a 20 year marriage, I’m hesitant to offer too much advice, but have noticed many parallels between personal relationships and building relationships with our clients. Wishing to be helpful for my brother, I took a business-relationship approach to my answer.

In the business world, networking groups are a close equivalent to dating services. I’ve attended many over the years and have sometimes met the ideal person—based upon first impressions—that appeared to be THE ONE that would make my entrepreneurial dreams come true. Just as with dating, it’s never that easy, is it?

When that feeling strikes, we get a surge of enthusiasm that makes our days brighter and our steps lighter. We feel like we can conquer the world, thanks to THE ONE. We follow up with emails, phone calls, one-to-one meetings, all with the intent to charm THE ONE toward the ultimate I DO to our product and services.

However, the I DOs are slow in arriving. Clients are people and people need consistent and almost constant interaction and attention. People need body language. People need voice—vocal and written. People need contact. If one area of attention is absent, then the other areas must be supplemented so the client doesn’t feel forgotten. All of it takes time, persistence and patience. No matter the type of relationship you seek—professional or personal—the needs are similar.

Many of us have heard that long-distance relationships are doomed to fail. While this is sometimes true, the more someone is willing to work on it, the more likely it is to succeed. For both personal and business relationships, the depth of that involvement becomes deeper—and more challenging—the further away from home base THE ONE is. Local clients have differing demands than national and international clients. If you want relationship success, get out there, get involved, and cover as many facets as possible. And don’t forget to smile!

Well, that’s the advice I’m offering my brother. I don’t know how well he’s listening since he’s checking flights to Yana’s hometown of Sosnogorsk while I’m sharing my sisterly wisdom.

For all of the business owners out there, what are your thoughts on building business relationships?

Peace and plentiful writing!

Kristen