Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some Disturbing News

Most of the time, celebrity news is just a fun distraction from real life, but occasionally it becomes so disturbing and relevant that it actually makes sense to mention it here.

Because I believe so strongly in the body-mind-business connection, I can't help but comment on the situation with Rhianna and Chris Brown. Both are famous singers (their business). About two weeks ago he apparently beat her up (her body). His business suffered severely as sponsors and fans pulled back, horrified. Now, the breaking news is that Rhianna and Chris Brown are "working things out" and are back together.

This demonstrates the challenge of the mind. Even when someone abuses our bodies, sometimes we go back for more. This is a function of the mind clinging to the hope that the person can change; that it was a one-time occurrence; that love will conquer all. That is simply not the case in domestic abuse.

Interestingly, while Chris Brown's business will probably recover somewhat based on their reconcilliation, hers will likely be damaged. Sadly, this is usually how domestic abuse ends.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, please take care of your body, mind and business by reaching out for help. The National Abuse Hotline is a great place to start: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meditation Thoughts

Some weeks, meditation is like a beautiful flower. Other weeks, it feels like a burden; a difficult requirement in addition to all of the other tasks on my plate.

This is such a week: I have to push myself out of bed to conduct my daily practice. It's hard!

Hopefully next week will be better ...

I just have to remember that meditation is an important part of my mental health, and hold onto the memories of transformative days when I discover new avenues of my brain that I never knew existed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Target Audience Marketing

If you're freaking out about your business right now, you might be starting to flail around, wondering whether you should drop your prices or add more target audiences.

Avoid this temptation: it will only dilute your energies and discount the time, energy and money that you have already invested. Rather, get even more focused on the customers you serve best, and find new ways to entice them to utilize more of your products and services.

Here are 5 key questions to ask about your target audiences:

1. Which type of person (i.e. target audience) do the majority of my revenues come from?
2. Of that population, how do those people find me?
3. Which aspects of my product/service do they rave about most?
4. How can I reach more of those types of people?
5. How can I bring even more value to the products/services they buy most?

Answering these questions will help you create a strategic marketing approach based on what's happening NOW, not just what you think might happen someday. In this economic climate, such an approach is simply the best course of action.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pay Peanuts; Get Monkeys

My dad grew up in Zimbabwe, and has a great saying: "if you pay peanuts, then you can expect monkeys." Now, don't get me wrong - I love monkeys, and they are incredibly intelligent animals. That said, the saying nicely illustrates the challenge with pricing your service - price too low, and your customers perceive that you are not very good at what you do.

Products are usually a little bit easier: when you're selling a product like a banana, you know that you are going to eat it, and when you eat it, you'll have food in your belly. It's pretty simple, and most bananas are pretty much the same in terms of taste and quality. This means that pricing a banana can be based on simple economic factors like supply and demand.

Services, on the other hand, are much more complicated. Often the customer doesn't know what you are going to get, and it's hard to know whether you're buying "the best" or "the worst" because there are few benchmarks available. That's why pricing is so critical. You don't want to price yourself out of the market, but at the same time, if you price yourself too low, you automatically create an assumption in your customers' mind that you are not as good as higher-priced professionals.

Think back to the concept of supply and demand: the higher the demand, the lower the supply and the higher the price. Thus, someone with higher fees is perceived to be in high demand and, thus, the human brain deducts, must be really good.

I'm not saying that service professionals should over-charge their clients, but it is really important to remember how critical pricing is when positioning yourself.

Let me know if you have any experiences with this, either as a consumer or in business.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Opportunities Abound!

One of my greatest challenges is that I am constantly coming up with new business concepts. It's almost a daily occurrence. In fact, just last night over dinner, my husband and I dreamed up a complete new business that I believed was brilliant! Then, this morning, I thought up a new product to add to one of my existing businesses.

The joy and the thrill I get out of the process of coming up with and thinking through these ideas is difficult to explain fully. It is intensely exciting and fulfilling.

I become crazy-motivated to do the new idea vs. all of the "brilliant" ideas I had yesterday, last week, last month, last year, etc. Ah, yes. Those "old" ideas quickly lose their luster in the presence of such a bright, shiny new idea.

And there is my challenge: I must allow myself the great pleasure of dreaming up ideas, but at the end of the day, I also must manage these dreams to ensure they don't encroach upon all of those that came before them.

Does this happen to you? Do you struggle to keep your focus on existing plans while being constantly tempted by new ideas? Let me know if you do, and especially if you have any great ways to manage the balance!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Your E-Newsletter

I meet a lot of people who are interested in having an e-mail newsletter, so I thought I would review the benefits and best practices.

Benefits of an e-newsletter
1. Your clients, prospects and partners remember that you exist - this is the single most important aspect of an e-newsletter: it provides critical recognition that you are around and available.

2. You can share information about what you do that others might not be aware of - a lot of times, our contacts stick us in a box based on what they personally experienced when they worked with us. By writing informational articles about the broad services you provide, you are able to make that box bigger.

3. People will like you - when done correctly, an e-newsletter builds trust in your consistency, follow-through and integrity. In other words, it will make people like you, and everyone knows that people buy things from people who they like.

Best practices of an e-zine

  • Building your list - don't randomly add everyone you have ever met to your list. Build it slowly, and make sure that you get permission to send information to someone's inbox. An easy way to do this is to 1) ask people if you may add them to your list, or 2) add a line to your e-mail signature inviting people to sign up. Also make sure that signing up for your e-newsletter is really easy on your website.

  • Sending policies - how often you send an e-newsletter totally depends on the business you are in, but general practices usually suggest a range of once-weekly to once-monthly. Some people are very successful with sending an e-newsletter daily, while others send e-newsletters just once quarterly. How often you communicate depends on your market and what your list members expect from you.

  • Content - the best e-newsletters feature information that matters to their target audience. Although the ultimate goal of an e-newsletter is to convert people to buy from you, you don't want to make your e-newsletter all about buying. Remember, one of the main benefits of an e-newsletter is that you can get people to like and trust you. Don't damage that by being overly promotional.
Good luck! Oh, and if you would like to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter about marketing, please click here :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Best Laid Plans - Part II

Shortly after my last post, which detailed how Monday was derailed by a sick nanny, I fell sick. Ah, the beauty of the body's ability to stop business!

Thus, after 2 days in bed, I am behind on almost everything, but am thankful to be almost completely better. And here is how the power week turns into the power weekend ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Laid Plans

Yesterday was supposed to be a "power" day for me. I had back-to-back meeting scheduled on either side of my hard-core workout at Burn 60. It was pretty much the perfect day from a planning point of view.

Then our nanny called in sick.

Although my husband offered to change his plans so that we could cobble together shared childcare for the day, something made me instead send him to work and cancel my plans for the day in exchange for the opportunity to be a weekday mom.

It was raining, so my little one put on her new rainboots and jacket, and we grabbed our umbrellas and spent most of the day walking around the block jumping in puddles.

The day was exhausting, as it always is with a 3-year-old, but it was also exhilarating to be able to change my plans for the day and, in an instant, spend it instead with my daughter. What is most important to me is remembering that the reason I am self-employed - the reason for all of the work and effort I put into my business - is to maintain the wonderful option of being able to drop (almost) everything for a day when the mood strikes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Best Chocolate Frosting

I got inspired for Valentine's Day and decided we should make chocolate cupcakes. I'm not a crazy baker, but occasionally I will take 10 minutes or so to whip up something yummy from a box.

This time, I picked up three things:

1. a box of Pillsbury Devil's Food chocolate cake mix
2. a can of sweetened condensed milk
3. a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

I mixed half of the chocolate chips in with the cake batter and baked as directed for cupcakes. Over very low heat, I melted the rest of the chocolate chips with the condensed milk. When the cupcakes were still warm out of the oven, I drizzled the warm, thick) sauce on top.

It was absolutely amazing!!!

I'll be running an extra few miles tomorrow, but it was so worth it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Too Many Choices!

One of the mistakes I see many service professionals make when marketing their business is offering too many choices. It turns out that our customers are actually less likely to buy if we don't limit their options. This is partially due to basic psychology. When someone approaches you for your service and expertise, they don't want you to offer them five choices; they want you to tell them exactly what they should do (without being a jerk about it, of course!).

A study recently published in Psychology & Marketing reviews the trouble with choices.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Life Lived Well

Did you know that the word "stoicism," as currently used, bears almost no relation to its original use, which was as a philosophy used in the early third century BCE. With this new information, I wanted to share the following quotes from major Stoic philosophers illustrating some excellent concepts for a life lived well:


  • "Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them." (Ench. 5)
  • "If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone." (iii.24.2)

Marcus Aurelius:

  • "Get rid of the 'I am hurt,' you are rid of the hurt itself." (viii.40)

Seneca the Younger:

  • "The point is, not how long you live, but how nobly you live." (Ep. 101.15)
Thanks to Copyblogger for the inspiration for this entry!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Three Things to Grow Your Business (and Your Life)

In today's climate, it does not pay to be a jerk. In fact, the most successful business owners recognize that people are what runs and sustains a business, and the Golden Rule applies more than ever before. Here are three things you can do to grow your business, and all it takes is a new way of thinking.

1. Connect: Find ways to connect on an emotional level with your customers, suppliers, prospects and employees. It's a fact that people do more business with people who they like, and the best way to be likeable is to find lots of things that you like about others.

2. Think: Consider the multiple options before diving into a business decision. There is always more than one path ... in fact, there are usually hundreds of routes that will take you where you need to go. Some are just faster than others. Avoid people who try to take away your thought process by telling you there is one single thing that you MUST do to grow. Usually they have an agenda and are trying to sell you something that you may not need.

3. Thank: Sales move 90% faster when they come through a referral. There is almost no limit to the number of referrals you can generate for your business long as you are always thankful when they are received. Call anyone who refers business to you immediately, and send an e-mail, card, or even candy if appropriate to follow up. Do whatever it takes to encourage the people who tell others about your business to do it more often.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I did it!

I tried a new form of yoga yesterday called Iyengar yoga and did crazy things that I never thought I could do! I stood on my head and did various other poses that I really did not think were possible with my body. In fact, I nearly walked out of the class when I realized what was going to be expected of me.

Instead, I stuck with it, and, you know, those poses aren't really so crazy after all!

I discovered that, as with most difficult things in life, they only appear difficult to the mind, but once you can overcome your mental hesitations and distractions, they are entirely possible!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I think I have mentioned that my greatest asset/liability is speed. I have noticed that most of us have a greatest strength/greatest weakness that both serves us incredibly well but can also trip us up without mercy.

Such is my speed. Most of the time it is a wonderful attribute; I get things done very quickly, and thus am able to do a lot of different things, including working and being a mom. It's great.

On the flip side, I make mistakes based on my speed. Last week I made a $1,200 mistake based on my speed. Luckily I can fix it for my client, so the only real loss ends up being (my) money, but it is soooooooo frustrating!

I met someone last night at a dinner party, and she was lamenting the fact that she works very slowly, and is working on working faster and not being such a perfectionist. I had to laugh, since I'm working on the exact opposite challenge: I am desperately trying to work a little bit slower at times!

We thoroughly enjoyed talking about the pros and cons of both personality traits, and it was such an important reminder that when you erect a barrier separating two sides, the grass always appears greener on the side you can't access. Amazingly, when you remove the barrier, you realize that there are benefits and drawbacks to both sides, and it's just a matter of balancing them as best you can.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Working Mommy

The other night I was at a professional group with other coaches and noticed an interesting chain of events:

1. I told a man what I do professionally
2. He nodded, understanding
3. I mentioned that I have a 3-year-old
4. He looked confused; asked whether I "work, too"
5. I was taken by surprise and got a little flustered; tried to explain that I am both a "full-time professional" and a "real mom" (whatever that means!)

This isn't the first time I have noticed myself struggling to describe the balance of my professional status and motherhood. I know that full-time moms struggle with the reverse of this situation. I am still working on the best way to present my work/life situation - a way to accurately describe that I am both a professional and a mom.

Any ideas that you have would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Create Your Supporting Messages

The best possible response from someone who has just heard your key marketing message is another question. This is because it means that your message gave them just enough to engage them in the idea but still left enough room for conversation and interest. To prepare for this wonderful event, you should have supporting messages ready to answer the most common questions ... known in journalism as the W's: who, what, when, where, why and how.

Who: Think about who you like to work with; who likes to work with you; and who you are actually working with (and getting paid by) right now. Use all of this information to make the critical decision of describing who you work with. There is a fine line that you need to walk between setting your intention of who you want to work with and who wants to work with you (and can actually pay for your services).

What: What products and services do you provide? List them simply and succinctly and describe the benefits of each. For example, if you are a plumber, you don't just fix leaks (the feature), you prevent expensive water damage and bring peace of mind to homeowners (the benefits).

Why: Consider exactly why you do the work you do. Perhaps it is as simple as you like helping people and thus became a chiropractor. What is important here is that you mention both your natural inclination or interest in your field and also some kind of credential or supporting evidence that explains not just why you do it, but why you are qualified to do it. Combine both of these into a simple statement, and you will be well on your way to success.

When: Think about when your customers want or need you most. This relates to their "pain." For example, a vet is needed in both emergencies and for annual check-ups. By having a message to support when your customers need you, they get a clearer idea of how you can help them.

Where: This should be your simplest answer - it could be "in my office," "at your home," or "on the phone." There are lots of options, but the main point here is to tell people where you work.

How: Specifically how do you work with customers? Do you sell them a product that will solve the problem? Do you provide them with DIY information so that they can solve it themselves? Do you ask the right questions so that they find the answer themselves? Some combination of the above applies to most businesses.

You probably already have answers to these questions, but I encourage you to write them down so that you can see in black and white exactly what you are selling. Remember to focus on benefits and pain rather than features.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Slow Down to Speed Up

When I want to move quickly (which is almost always), my natural tendency is to form a logical argument peppered with facts, figures and knowledge. This tendency is based on the flawed expectation that by educating someone I can help her achieve resolution (and success) faster.

Of course, this approach completely backfires for one simple reason: education is not how we change minds. It doesn't matter how many facts and figures we have at our fingertips - people will ignore them (and even resist them) unless we 1) make sure that we understand what they want; and 2) allow them to arrive at the resolution by themselves, without being too invested in a single route for getting there.

Thus, it is my goal to slow down to speed up. To ask more questions and give fewer answers. When I do this, the result is invariably a shorter time to resolution without arguments, disagreements or disappointments.

It's amazing! Please let me know if you have observed this principle in action!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How to Create Your Key Message

Your marketing messages are anchored by a single "key message," which is a sentence or two that answers the question: "What is this?" or "What do you do?"

To get started, first answer these four questions:

(1) What is the name of your product?

(2) What is your product? (e.g. a soda, a bike, etc.)

(3) What does your product do?

(4) What are the major benefits of your product?

Next, fill in this sentence with the answers above: (1) is a (2) that (3), which (4).

This will probably form a pretty klunky sentence, but at least you have the basics down. Now smooth out your klunker to craft a meaningful sentence or two to communicate your key message.

Examples: Key Messages

The PowerMop features 10 individual battery-powered scrubbing brushes that can be used on all types of floors. This powerful, easy-to-use tool gets your floor up to 10 times cleaner than a regular mop.

Jenkins & Perkins is a law firm that specializes in mediation services for the construction industry. It helps its clients avoid costly, drawn-out trials, allowing them to get back to work more quickly.

Tri-Star Fitness is a group of personal trainers who work with developmentally-challenged teenagers to help them find empowerment through movement.

Next Time: Your Supporting Messages