By Joan Muschamp | May 15, 2013 at 04:04 PM EDT | No Comments
When you market to someone, whether a consumer or business buyer, in today’s market it comes down to the connection. Somehow you have to connect at a human level and capture not only their attention, but their imagination or emotion.
For a small business, this is critical because your best advantage is often found in your ability to connect directly with your clients. It is much easier for you to have that personal relationship simply because that’s your advantage of size.
Know what your business stands for, and ensure you and your employees live and breath your values.
By Joan Muschamp | May 10, 2013 at 04:54 PM EDT | No Comments
Sending email marketing messages can be effective, but executing them properly can be tricky. Today I received an email soliciation that reminded me that poor use of hyperlinks can be a problem.
Links are good. They provide access to more content without using a lot of real estate. You can also track the types of stories and content that gets clicked, to see what resonates with your audience. And you can also analyze the format and placement of links to see if there is a pattern for success.
I’ve created a list of 8 of my best tips for using links in email marketing that will help you improve results:
Use more than one text embedded link in your body copy, and track your clicks. You are testing calls to action and link position.
The first, last, and most prominent links in the email message body should take the reader to the most important action such as a conversion activity.
Links for things such as “additional information” should be in the middle body copy where they are less obvious.
If you have a conversion link such as ‘Register’ or ‘Buy Now’ use both images that link and embedded text links. Make sure the images have the appropriate Alt Tags.
Don’t overdo link usage. If you have 3 paragraphs, 10 links in the message body is excessive (excluding header and footer links from this count).
Test all your links. Bad or broken links defeat the purpose of the message, and don’t do much for your reputation either
I also recommend you have someone else test your links—it’s also another pair of eyes to proof and edit.
Be careful when you test links. Some web content management technologies recognize administrators automatically. This can take you to an unpublished page. You think a link works, but in reality the page content isn’t published. Outside users will get a ‘page not found’ message. I learned this lesson personally. It's not fun when the CEO finds it.
Track all your links, and analyze the data.
Your header or your logo should link to your website. If both are present, I use only one for the home page, and the other for featured content to inspire action. Don't forget the Alt Tags.
By Joan Muschamp | May 08, 2013 at 05:24 PM EDT | No Comments
If you are a woman business owner, most cities offer services to help you get started, or become more successful. This infographic by Intuit shows which cities appear to offer the best opportunity for women business owners. It also highlights 7 tips that are very important tools for success, which are appropriate for all new business owners.
By Joan Muschamp | May 05, 2013 at 04:12 PM EDT | No Comments
Most businesses don’t deliberately want to make it hard to buy, but often they make a mistake that can be deadly, and drive customers away.
Offering too many choices can be a deadly sin. It can paralyze a buyer with confusion.
For a small company, having too many choices is also difficult to manage internally. Even a B2B services company can create a pricing structure that offers too many variations. This creates problems for the client, who not only has to make a decision based on your qualifications, but then must also choose the best alternative in services packages.
Internally, it makes it hard for salespeople, accounting, customer service, and creates extra work across the board to manage processes.
Small businesses should focus on delivering their goods or services in the best form for their target market. Options should be easy to understand and simple to manage. Ask your customers what they need, and consider new services or product variations based on their feedback and meet the market where it lives.
By Joan Muschamp | April 19, 2013 at 05:30 PM EDT | 3 comments
A bit ago I wrote a post and mentioned being or feeling busy, but not being productive. In that spirit, I just saw this cartoon in the April 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review and thought it was worth sharing.
Be productive, not busy, and expect and encourage the same from your employees. They deserve and appreciate respect. The best ones return it to you by exceeding expectations.
This is worth a chuckle, but make sure it’s not the rule in your office!
By Joan Muschamp | April 08, 2013 at 06:31 PM EDT | 1 comment
I admired Margaret Thatcher because she took on the political British male stronghold and succeeded. It was an inspiration during a time when women were reaching for new heights, and she clearly demonstrated what was possible. Hopefully her legacy lives on despite her passing.
But as I read an article listing some of her notable quotes, it struck me that these quotes, including this one “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done ask a woman.” help perpetuate the attitudes that allow women to limit themselves.
This concept, of course, is swirling around in major debate since the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.
When you look at this quote in view of Sandberg’s assertions, it suddenly has new meaning. It seems to allow women to appear to be declaring superior ability, notably with some arrogance. But it really helps perpetuate the fact that women often get assigned more tasks than male counterparts, for less money. These tasks include many that most men wouldn’t ever dream of doing because they believe them to be (rightly so) beneath their role.
By women’s’ acceptance of this role they speak volumes, because these tasks are often necessary but inglorious—ones no self-respecting man would consider doing. Sadly, too, they also won’t shout their accomplishments from the rooftops, but will generously share credit, even if the heavy lifting was all their own.
To be fair, I must note there are companies and organizations that do try their best to allow and promote equal footing for women. Based on statistics, though, they are few and far between.
Women and men must pay attention to what is said and done in the workplace, as well as at home with both spouses and children, regardless of gender. Men will also benefit from more lifestyle-friendly attitudes if they are not viewed as oddballs if they don't want to be the next executive.
We owe it to ourselves and the next generations. Let's continue the conversation and follow through with the social change.
By Joan Muschamp | April 05, 2013 at 06:55 PM EDT | No Comments
Blogging is now a fundamental part of much Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing. Writing blog posts can be sheer torture for some, and total bliss for others.
Regardless of your feelings about blogging, to get the best results from your blog, there are 3 things you should do for every post:
1. Know the goals of the post
The vast majority of your blog posts should fit in with your overall business strategy. Figure out where this post fits, and if there are any very specific secondary goals such as educating, connecting, promotion, announcements. These factors will help you write your blog posts for best impact.
2. Use keywords
Know the keywords associated with your goals, and use them in proper context. If your readers are searching on those terms, it will help you be found.
3. Learn to write attention-getting headlines
Headlines are your attention grabbers, and are key in determining whether your audience reads your posts. Learn to write more compelling headlines to get clicks, readers, and comments. Read these headline writing tips from Heidi Cohen to help you get started. If you always struggle conceptualizing them, use these tactics to simplify your headline writing.
By Joan Muschamp | April 03, 2013 at 09:57 PM EDT | No Comments
Running a small company isn’t always easy, and when you have a number of employees, it can get downright difficult. But upsetting events may happen in your company; how you react is critical.
I can best describe my point by relating a true story from a former company, with a close-knit group of employees. In a very short time frame, two employees suddenly “left to pursue other opportunities” and another accepted a higher-paying position elsewhere.
One event turned this into a game-changing issue. In front of a company wide audience an executive stood up and blatantly lied “Everyone who left this company in the past month left because they wanted to do so. No one was forced out in any way.” Whoa--who let Pinnochio in here?
No question, an employer needs to be circumspect and protect the privacy of individuals. However, here’s my “wake up and smell the coffee” rant—most of your employees didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. And—news flash—they may actually talk openly with one another.
In this case it would have been acceptable to simply note the existence of open job positions, as a subtle way to allay concerns that these were financially related cutbacks. People respect and understand they might not get all the details, but if the situation cries out to be addressed, maintain your integrity as you do.
By Joan Muschamp | March 22, 2013 at 08:18 PM EDT | No Comments
There are many reasons to look at your business results frequently, but I usually recommend a quarterly review. It’s not necessarily to make changes after only one quarter, but it will help spot trends.
Here are 3 reasons why you should do benchmarking:
1.You can recognize new types of profitable customer revenue
Looking at the characteristics of new and profitable customers you weren’t expecting opens the door for opportunities. It also starts a new conversation with marketing.
2.Spot beginning trends or verify continuing ones in response to promotions
Result trends are important to track over time. Once you realize results, either positive or negative, follow a firm pattern, it’s easy to make better choices for your business, including marketing.
3.Isolate company issues such as customer service, lack of follow up, etc.
When a successful marketing or sales tactic suddenly stops working, don’t immediately think the tactic isn’t working. Take a look at what’s happening on the employee side. Are prospective customers being treated properly? Is product quality as good as before? Have you outgrown an internal system resulting in poor follow up and customer interaction?
Trend-spotting in your business is important, so you and your marketer continually get an update on the overall picture. Learn to seize opportunities, and monitor negative trends so you maximize the former and can act on the latter when you are certain it’s a consistent pattern.
Don’t let your busy-ness force you to lose sight of your business.
By Joan Muschamp | February 28, 2013 at 08:14 PM EST | No Comments
Reframing your mindset is not as simple as many people would like you to believe. It takes a lot more than pasting a pretty picture on a “vision board” to create the change in your mind that is necessary to attain your dream.
Discipline is imperative; you have to learn to listen to yourself, so you can start the change process. It might seem as if you are trying to move a mountain, but if it’s worth it to you, stick with it.
By Joan Muschamp | February 26, 2013 at 02:39 PM EST | No Comments
Teamwork is an important concept across many parts of our lives. In the workplace it is taking on more importance than ever.
How, then, do we promote teamwork in our own companies, regardless of their size?
A business marketing principle known to work well and generate great referrals is the Know-Like-Trust formula. People will gravitate to those they know and like, and eventually develop trust.
This directly relates to your company—your employees will be happier and more productive if they know and like their co-workers. Over time, trust results, as people seek to please those they like with their daily actions, replacing the competitiveness and fear.
Allowing your employees to organically develop the “know and like” is important. All too often little attention is paid to creating opportunities for colleagues to get to know one, yet they are frequently thrown onto teams with major assignments and tight deadlines. A team has a much better chance of success if there are good relationships among members.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on an offsite “experience” to develop these relationships. Small things can go a long way—a pot luck lunch, where your primary employer expense is some extra time away from their desks, offers a simple way to start. Give them the opportunity to be together in a relaxed setting, and they will begin to build their own safety net.
Once you have some foundation, not only will your teams produce better results, you will also be able to spot trouble areas, so you can address those quickly.
Maybe you can’t do the ropes course trust exercise just yet, but don’t disregard small measures of team building as part of your foundation of success.
By Joan Muschamp | February 01, 2013 at 07:12 PM EST | 3 comments
About a month ago, I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions, offering tips to make it easier to be successful. An important part of my strategy is to be sure to revisit them the first of each month for a progress check.
I look at each of my 3 top goals/resolutions and consider each against these 5 questions:
Is it still relevant to my business?
Does it remain in my “top 3” list in importance? If the answer is no, I move on to the remaining, and select one that moved ahead.
What did I do well toward meeting this?
Where did I slip?
What specific actions can I take this month to improve it?
Doing this allows me to adjust my monthly action plan so I can improve where I need to. I create specific action items so I know what I’m measuring against on my next check. This is really helpful, because it catches backsliding, and points out avoidance techniques.
Now, I need to make some tweaks to my action plan, and stick with it! What about you?
By Joan Muschamp | January 31, 2013 at 06:23 PM EST | 1 comment
Today's post is just for fun.
In anticipation of the SuperBowl, we’re getting our game day menu together. It can be a struggle to find foods that evoke festive memories but limit the fat, sodium, and calories.
This recipe for Hot Wings is baked, not fried so it reduces fat. More importantly, it tastes good enough to garner compliments. An adaptation of two recipes, one from Food Network Magazine and the other portion from El Potrero Trading Post in New Mexico, it always results in an empty dish.
Basic Red Chile Sauce
6 Tbsp red chile powder from El Potrero (select heat to taste)
2 Cups Chicken stock (use low sodium, low fat if you buy)
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp flour
1 dash red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp dried oregano, or 2 tbsp fresh
1 potato, peeled, cubed and cooked (optional to use as thickener)
Presoak chile powder in liquid for 20 minutes.
Saute garlic in oil, add flour. Brown flour by pressing flour flat in the skillet.
Add liquid, chile and remaining ingredients except potato. Stir and simmer a while.
Add mashed potato to thicken to your taste. I personally do not usually need to add the potato. Sauce freezes well.
Note: El Potrero sells authentic chile powder in several varieties and heat levels. Do not confuse chile powder with the blended commercial chili powder.
3 lbs chicken wing drummies (or split at joint and remove tips)
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds and sliced lengthwise
1-2 carrots, cut into thirds and sliced lengthwise
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 bay leaves
1 c. fat free, low sodium chicken broth (you can use wing tips to make your own)
½ cup Basic Red Chile Sauce
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
Preheat oven to 425º. Generously coat rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Put wings in a deep skillet. Add celery & carrots, bay leaves, broth, hot sauce, paprika, lemon zest, butter, honey, and ½ c. water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Simmer until chicken is almost cooked through, about 18 minutes. Transfer wings to baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Reserve the sauce in the skillet
Bake the wings, turning once, until skin is golden and crisp, about 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, simmer reserved sauce over med-low heat until a bit thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove carrots and celery, bay leaves and discard.
Reserve ¼ of remainng sauce for serving.
Return wings to skillet and toss with remaining sauce.
Serve wings with reserved sauce. Tradition serves blue cheese dip/dressing on the side, but ranch can also be substituted. Include fresh carrots and celery sticks if you wish.
Note: If sodium intake is not an issue for you, you can use 1 cup Hot Wing Sauce (Franks or Texas Pete come to mind) in lieu of the Basic Red Sauce.
By Joan Muschamp | January 29, 2013 at 10:33 PM EST | 4 comments
If you read a lot of marketing books, newsletters, or blogs you have likely seen a lot of attention paid to the crafting of a headline. Crafting good headlines is very important because all your communications are competing for attention in an increasingly ADD world.
But too many bloggers or marketers spend too much time on the headline before they even start the content. To me, this is backward.
If you struggle with headline writing, here’s what I suggest you try:
Write a quick sentence that roughly defines your topic
Create a brief outline of bullet points you want to cover
Start writing using your bullet points as a guide, but let your thoughts flow.
When you think you’ve covered your idea, give it a rest. The editing process is where the magic happens. You need to step away to gain more objectivity
Edit to tighten up the copy and be cohesive; if you can use a professional editor, even better.
As you finalize edits, now read the copy.
Now work on a compelling headline that works with your final output. Follow the tips you know that grab attention—things such as numerical lists, emotional grabbers, etc. and you will have a much stronger headline directly suited to your content.
This is far easier than struggling to make the copy fit the headline. Let the headline fit the copy. As a writer and copywriter, I know all too often I set out writing on one course that quickly morphs into something else, usually much better.
My editorial calendar lets me know where I need to go, so I let the writing take me there.
By Joan Muschamp | January 29, 2013 at 09:37 PM EST | 4 comments
In a recent post, I outlined the 4 things businesses need to avoid as they work with a marketing (or any) consultant.
Well, I need to say that marketing consultants are not completely off the hook. This is a two-way street, and we have a responsibility to help create a great working relationship.
So marketing consultants—be honest with yourself and stop being afraid of not getting the business. Discuss your needs with your client before you sign the agreement. Put your terms and conditions in writing—clearly state your expectations and requirements. It is as much a part of an agreement as defining deliverables, and should be a two-way street.
Here are 4 ways you can help prevent the deadly sins before they happen:
Set a regular and well-defined meeting or call schedule, and outline the participants required. Ensure you supply advance notice for these meetings, so necessary participants can make themselves available.
Define a change/cancellation policy for meeting dates. Your client needs to respect your time and planning, as you do theirs. Changes and delays could seriously affect your ability to meet deliverables. Be reasonable, as emergencies do happen, but having a policy in writing protects you from the consistent changer.
Clearly define what you need from them, and work out a reasonable response time. Let them know that deliverable schedules will change if these are not met for any reason.
Ask to review their written systems for handling inquiries, complaints, sales follow up, lead scoring and delegation, customer testimonials, etc—anything that directly affects customers, prospects, or your ability to meet deliverables. If they don’t have any systems for this, you need to ensure they are implemented, or include an out clause in your agreement.
Even the smallest business should be able to buy in to these points, including written systems. In most cases these mistakes come from lack of knowledge of what the marketing consultant needs to do their job.
Marketing isn’t magic; it is hard work that takes planning and execution. Much of it is in the details. It’s about the summation of the client brand, and your ability to help them relies on these essential components.
Marketers need to be clear about the requirements of an optimal business relationship. If you are the client, look for these things to help avoid problems. You will both benefit and be able to keep the marketing engine running with fewer challenges.
By Joan Muschamp | January 27, 2013 at 06:44 PM EST | 3 comments
Hiring a Marketing Consultant is an extremely effective way for small and mid-size companies to handle their marketing. But simply hiring one doesn’t guarantee success when you make major mistakes. No good business owner consciously plans to make them, yet they occur usually from lack of experience.
There are many things that can limit the success of your marketing consultant. But there are 4 egregious mistakes a business can make that will stop real progress before it gets off the ground.
Here are the top 4 on my hotlist:
Lack of openness and honesty—In my opinion, this is the #1 issue, and I believe it is by far the worst thing you can do. Being unwilling to share information with your marketing consultant not only demonstrates a lack of trust, it also prevents them from being able to properly guide you in your strategy and plan development.
When you deliberately withhold information, it impacts the ability of marketing to do its job, and you have created a recipe for failure.
Unwillingness to define a target market—A typical fear-based response, many business owners don’t want to turn away any business. This ties in closely with ignoring or not knowing what is your most profitable business segment. Having a defined target market does not preclude you from getting business outside that target; it just focuses your marketing efforts where they are most productive.
Expect the consultant to work in a vacuum—Marketing cannot be done in a silo. Everyone in the company has a role in marketing. Shutting off access to information, participation, or access to employees and management makes certain parts of the marketing function impossible to execute. Your marketing strategy should be a participatory project with executive/owner and key management.
Lack of internal company systems—Good systems are very important, yet are rarely addressed properly, particularly in small companies. Lack of process causes problems.
One important system that is usually missing or unenforced is the handing of leads, inquiries, complaints, and referrals, especially in B2B. Without a system, inquiries—even great ones—fall through the cracks. If there is no system to outline what happens with each inquiry, including accountability for the action desired, leads might as well be put in the trashcan.
Many other systems also need to be in place depending on the type of business you are trying to grow. Often these systems revolve around communication and information flow to and from marketing.
Evaluate Your Operating Style
You’ve heard my most hated 4. These are not the only mistakes that can be made, but when these four conditions are active in any business environment, marketing is hamstrung from the start.
Take time to do a good evaluation of your expectations and working habits before you start with your marketing consultant. It will save you time and money, and have you poised for results.
By Joan Muschamp | January 25, 2013 at 09:50 PM EST | 4 comments
Many small and mid-size companies enjoy the benefits of hiring a Marketing Consultant. While many business owners or managers might blanch at the thought of paying the hourly rate, a good marketing consultant is generally a cost effective, low-risk, and efficient way of creating a great marketing program.
Here's my list of reasons you should hire one:
You get access to knowledge, expertise, and experience that you couldn’t afford full-time
Simply put, you will have significantly lower overhead costs
The right person does the work—a good marketing consultant usually has a go-to team of partners who can handle marketing projects. You gain access to a team of people who can do things one person alone does not have the skills to complete. And the team includes people paid at the proper levels of function, so costs are better managed.
The have objectivity and will tell you things your employees won’t say.
You are more likely to give them the time and information they need, or ensure they get it in a timely fashion, so little time is wasted on their clock.
A good marketing consultant wants to deliver the best services to you and maintain a great working relationship. They understand that often success will mean you need a marketing department on staff will be necessary. That goes with the turf; when you have been successful so have they.
If your company outgrows your marketing firm, or they don’t want to expand capacity to meet your needs, having you as a referral source and reference client is priceless.
Take advantage of the benefits today, and stop trying to do all your marketing yourself. Direct hiring is not always the best solution.
By Joan Muschamp | January 24, 2013 at 10:15 PM EST | 5 comments
Word choice is so important in copywriting. We all want to be relevant and contemporary, to appeal to our target market, but often it’s a fine line between choosing the right word or using a buzzword.
This point was brought home to me again as I scanned my Twitter feed and read one that made me cringe. The word is “cooptition”, an obvious mashup of cooperation and competition. It is used to describe a partnership, joint venture, or industry initiative that requires competitors to work together. Seeing it again definitely did the squeaky chalk on the blackboard thing for me.
Here are some words on my list of words to avoid when you write marketing copy. Of course, the words do shift over time as new terms become overused and replace those that thankfully take hiatus. See if any of these words or phrases are on your list of the overused:
At the end of the day
Thinking outside the box
Take it offline
Get on the same page
Most marketers are guilty of using buzzwords and phrases in their website or other copywriting. It is up to us to try and limit their use. So let’s help one another right now.
Share your most hated marketing buzzwords and phrases with me in the comments below. I’ll compile them and publish a new list so we can know words to avoid in our marketing writing--at least for now.
By Joan Muschamp | January 23, 2013 at 08:37 PM EST | 2 comments
The most successful presenters and speakers use stories and anecdotes as an integral part of the way they share information. Whether you are marketing, motivating, or selling a product, storytelling should be part of your speaking repertoire.
Why? Here are some key reasons:
Storytelling invites closer listening—the audience attention is on you, not a slide
It creates a connection with the audience
Stories and the facts demonstrated within have better retention than facts alone
You become more relatable to the audience
They generate emotion, which drives far more action than facts
A good story invites the audience to be part of your life, as if they are sharing a campfire with you
It paints a visual in their mind that drives home facts far better than a bullet point on a slide
Your information has a far better chance of being shared with others when told as a story
Stories are more credible, because they demonstrate rather than preach
If you aren’t using stories and anecdotes when you speak, you need to begin to use them. The better you resonate with your audience, the more you will achieve desired results. Good copywriting weaves the story in credibly and actively demonstrates what you are trying to convey.
By Joan Muschamp | January 22, 2013 at 09:03 PM EST | 4 comments
Sometimes the smallest thing triggers a happy memory. I am writing this post to share a good one of mine with you.
The other day I glanced at the calendar. When I got over the shock of noticing January was almost over, I remembered something else.
The approaching end of the month triggered a fond memory of our church back in the small Virginia community where we raised our family, and its biggest youth group fundraiser of the year—the Annual Dessert Auction.
The event is a fundraiser to assist youth programming, and has grown over the years. If it weren’t at a church, I’d label it almost cult-like—bakers and bidders are there to compete for the prize cakes and pies. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun, and lightened a lot of checkbooks along the way.
In honor of the upcoming event, I’ve decided to share a recipe I used a number of times to bake a cheesecake that did pretty well in the bidding.
So here you have the recipe I used before we moved away. Fair warning, it’s not low-calorie or low fat, so you’d best plan some exercise after eating!
Preheat oven to 350º
1 ½ cups Oreo cookie crumbs
5 tbsp melted butter
3 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 ½ tsp real vanilla extract
½ c. sour cream
1/3 c. whipping (heavy) cream
15-20 Oreos with filling removed
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1½ Tbsp. orange zest
1 c. whipping cream
6 Oreos, halved
In medium bowl, combine butter and cookie crumbs. Press onto bottom of 9” springform pan. Bake 10 minutes and let cool. Refrigerate until needed.
Beat cream cheese in a large bowl, 1 – 2 minutes or until softened and smooth. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating ingredients on medium speed 2-3 minutes or until smooth.
Blend in sour cream and whipping cream. Add eggs one at a time and beat until mixed and smooth. Add citrus zests and mix.
Break Oreos and fold into mixture until cookies are just mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan on top of the crust.
Place springform pan in larger baking pan with sides. Fill the larger pan with hot water until water reaches at least 1” up the sides of the springform baking pan.
Bake 70 minutes at 350º or cake is turning lightly tan. Remove the springform pan from the water and let cool. When cake reaches room temperature, refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight to be thoroughly chilled.
After chilling, use spatula to loosen crust from side of the pan. Remove springform pan.
Beat 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form.Top cheesecake with freshly whipped cream.Garnish with Oreo cookie halves around outer top edge, with filling showing both toward the center and outer edges of the cake.Dust lightly with some Oreo cookie crumbs.
Note: The photo in this post is the last cake I “won” at the auction. To date, it is the most expensive non-wedding cake I ever purchased. I actually transported it from Virginia to Connecticut for my daughter’s wedding shower.
Special thanks—I found this recipe in a small employee cookbook that I received several years ago as a customer holiday gift from RegOnline. The recipe credit belongs to a young man, Rich McGuire, who was a training specialist at the time.
By Joan Muschamp | January 22, 2013 at 06:17 PM EST | 2 comments
The Sundance Film Festival opened this past weekend, amidst its usual fanfare, star-spotting (yes, I saw several) and cold weather here in Utah. We managed to view 5 films in the 3 days, which is actually lightweight compared to veteran passholders who easily see that many a day.
A key difference in our film-going this year over last was the selection of the films we saw, which included 3 foreign films. Looking back, I realize that language and cultural differences can often make it harder to follow. For example, the Egyptian documentary about the revolution was not too difficult to understand, as the principals spoke English and the event was recent enough to provide context.
The two foreign dramas, however, were a different story. As we watched them unfold, we tried to get the character development via subtitles, acting, and cinematography, but at times it was challenging to follow.
Ultimately one film did far better than the other at conveying its message and building and delivering a compelling story. That film, Circles, became our second most favorite so far in this Festival. The other left us confused, disappointed and not really understanding the story because something was missing. A beautifully photographed film missed its mark because the message was not clear.
Sometimes we tend to use our own insider lingo, and don’t realize our audience may not understand. Confusion, mixed messages, and simply not grabbing and holding attention are the result. I am pretty certain I’m guilty of that at times.
We must try to remember to step back and view our content and messaging from the point of view of our audience and not from that of an insider. Speak so they will understand.
By Joan Muschamp | January 21, 2013 at 09:58 PM EST | 5 comments
A frequent complaint from clients and prospects is “I hate Facebook.” The polar opposite of those that feel they need to be on every social media channel known to man, these folks don’t want to use it for business. They don’t use it personally, so they don’t believe it has value.
Viewing marketing from only your perspective is a very big danger, because it skews all your efforts and results. What matters is what your target market likes, what they do, and where you can find them. Don’t eliminate a channel or a tactic simply because you don’t like it or personally don’t use it.
I have to remind myself of this frequently, as I cringe about some popular TV shows. Some of them I cannot imagine people watching regularly, let alone their being top-ranked. The same concept applies to social media and social networking sites.
When you feel yourself blocking out an idea because it does not suit your taste or habits, keep an open mind. Let the results be your guide, not your emotions.
By Joan Muschamp | January 21, 2013 at 07:16 PM EST | 2 comments
Much has been written and speculated about the value of email marketing, with detractors declaring it DOA. Certainly you can point to social media proponents as many of the key doomsday voices. They want to be sure their chosen medium is front and center in the minds of the audience, and marketers.
But amazingly, email marketing hasn’t died, nor does it seem to be particularly ill for many businesses.
Marketing today is more complex than ever, and email is still a linchpin in the arsenal.
Many people like getting email messages, because they can read them when they have time, or when the all-important subject line grabs their attention. On social media, it’s far more challenging to scan hundreds or even thousands of posts and find that perfect needle in a haystack, let alone get their attention.
An integrated marketing strategy calls for marketing via multiple channels, to reach people where they want to be found. Email marketing adds extra depth and dimension to your efforts. Before you eliminate it from your marketing, be sure to do a thorough review. Lack of response could be from many factors.
So as far as email marketing, I wouldn’t put the arrow back in the quiver just yet. It’s still can be a great way to market.
By Joan Muschamp | January 21, 2013 at 06:22 PM EST | No Comments
The Internet is sometimes referred to as a Great Equalizer, especially as it relates to small and mid-size business marketing. And, it truly can be, if you take the steps to use it to your best benefit.
Writing a blog is one way to leverage this power. With a blog, you can build a reputation as a leader regardless of your company size. What you know, counts. Consistent posting, good writing, and promoting your blog can begin to help you build a following and be recognized for your expertise.
If you are undecided about starting a blog, or how to maintain listen to my teleseminar recording, To Blog or Not to Blog? to learn strategies that will help you leverage its power and minimize headaches.
By Joan Muschamp | January 21, 2013 at 05:37 PM EST | 4 comments
We humans are interesting. Our nature seems to make us seek out newness. Think about it—the New Year comes, and we make sweeping resolutions. Today is Inauguration Day here in the U.S., and the beginning of a second term for President Obama. This is a classic new beginning, filled with excitement or apprehension, depending on your point of view.
Why is it, though, that we look at the calendar or the clock to start something, or make changes to what we’re doing now? Think about it—how many times have you said “I’ll fix that next month or quarter” while in reality you are avoiding the issue?
The end of January is rapidly approaching. By now many people have forgotten what they resolved to change, and are plodding ahead, business as usual.
New beginnings and the anticipation and hope they bring are important. You don't need an artificial or arbitrary time to start the one you need to make. Be decisive and put a plan into action to change what you need to do.
Each day has its own new beginning, so stop waiting for the music and the parade.Energize yourself by doing, not waiting. Make every day your personal inauguration.
By Joan Muschamp | January 16, 2013 at 11:26 PM EST | 1 comment
We’ve all likely been raised on the mantra “The Customer is Always Right.” While that can work wonders at the return desk, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way.
Part of your strategic marketing plan should include identifying not only target customers, but those that won't be a fit. Often warning signs are there early in the process, but in our haste to generate dollars, we ignore them.
Some customers simply cost you more than they are worth—even in gross revenue. Others create havoc among your employees, destroying morale, and at times causing them to leave your company.
It’s not easy to walk away from a customer, but the only reality isn’t in the revenue, it’s in the state of mind of you and your company. Just as employees have to be a good fit for an organization, so do customers and clients. Sometimes you just have to say no.
The tough part might be knowing when to say when.
In a recent blog post, 5 Customers You Should Fire, Steve Cody describes their characteristics and gives examples of the problems that come from difficult customers. This might help you make some decisions now or in the future, to keep your business’ overall well-being in mind.
By Joan Muschamp | January 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM EST | 2 comments
The Internet is sometimes referred to as a great equalizer for small and mid-size business marketing. It provides an opportunity for small companies to connect with the many that was not affordable before its growth.
Blogging is a social media component that demonstrates this, having revolutionized sharing both information and opinion. When done well blogging can be good for your business, regardless of its size.
To help those on the fence, here’s my list of 11 key benefits from a business blog:
You demonstrate your knowledge and establish leadership in your field or market
You can educate your market audience and also can provide help
Gives you a consistent channel of communication with your market, which can be two way (comments)
Generates good search engine ju-ju
As part of a content marketing strategy, you can repurpose into other content types
Supports your fundamental mission by giving you a platform to state your ideals, vision, & demonstrate ethics
Allows you to solidify or develop relationships with clients, partners, and prospective clients
Using the right strategy and tools, you can generate quality back-links to improve search engine ranking
It reaches types of people who might not play on other social media channels
Appeals to information gatherers & seekers who avoid sales messages
Delivers easily sharable content via other social media channels, email newsletters, and sales email correspondence
To be fair, blogs also present some challenges. In some upcoming posts, we’ll talk about these and I’ll share some strategies to overcome them.
By Joan Muschamp | January 15, 2013 at 05:56 PM EST | 3 comments
Businesses are bombarded with people telling them they “must” have a social media presence. Unfortunately, many times that leads them to jump in without understanding the channels and how to leverage it well. They expect immediate leads and don’t understand when the web inquiries and sales don’t magically happen.
Successful marketing with social media isn’t as simple as setting up a free account. To help you get off to a better start, or to adjust your current programs, here are 4 Things You Need to Know:
Social Media requires a strategy—you need to understand which channels will serve your target customer best, and how you plan to engage them
You must make decisions based on your strategy, objectives, and resources you are willing to expend.
It requires commitment—in time, energy, planning, and execution.
Social Media not free (refer to #2 above)
Before you jump in and start, assess the impact of these factors. That will help you make better choices if you choose to build a program.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more posts on social media designed to give you ideas on using it more successfully.
You can also visit our Products page to learn about currently available training programs.
By Joan Muschamp | January 14, 2013 at 06:43 PM EST | 3 comments
3 Reasons to Change a Decision
People make bad decisions, whether in business or personal life. Suffice it to say I’ve made my fair share in both arenas.
It doesn’t matter how or why you come to realize your decision was a mistake. What does matter is your ability to acknowledge the misstep, and make a change. The old saying “hindsight is 20-20” is true, but don’t let it defeat you. It’s time to “man up” and go forward.
Did I mention this can be very scary? Don’t let that fear make you indecisive though, and afraid to change. Here are 3 reasons you should change your decision when you know it’s not a good one:
You have better information now than you likely did at the outset and you can leverage it.
Others around you will respect you more for your ability to acknowledge the mea culpa—in fact it might inspire better teamwork.
Personal growth comes from self-awareness, and being able to admit a wrong gives you the tools toward further understanding.
Make the most of the experience, and don’t get stuck worrying that others will think you foolish. It’s far more foolish to stay the wrong course than to change direction.
By Joan Muschamp | January 14, 2013 at 04:19 PM EST | 2 comments
Get some sand in your eye, especially if you wear contacts, and it will be very uncomfortable. Most likely you’ll immediately try to wash it out.
Why, then, do we so often settle and let things that are our personal or business irritants remain in place? At a minimum they distract or slow us down. In many cases it may cause a more open conflict that gets repeated if not resolved. Yet all too often we choose to go on bearing the discomfort.
Tackle the irritant when it comes up—sometimes it means simply letting it go and moving on. Other irritants might require a compromise with a spouse, subordinate, or peer. It’s worth the effort because you save your energy for more important things.
By Joan Muschamp | January 09, 2013 at 09:01 PM EST | 2 comments
Don’t underestimate the value of confidence and trust that your customers have in you. These two attributes are building blocks that keep them coming back, and recommending you unreservedly. Built on both big and small actions, they accumulate value over time. Sometimes it acts like a bank—if you make a mistake, or aren’t as attentive as usual, it’s a minor withdrawal at most. They are confident in you.
Some people by nature build them intuitively. It starts with attention to the smallest details—returning the phone calls or emails quickly, answering questions, authentic interactions. Think about the customer experience—when they visit your location, is it clean and inviting? Whatever makes them know that they can count on you is part of the building blocks to your continued success.
Are these two attributes part of your customer foundation?
By Joan Muschamp | January 09, 2013 at 06:01 PM EST | 5 comments
Self-improvement tips abound, particularly at the beginning of a new year. Not to be outdone, I’m going to weigh in with 5 I think are truly valuable. And yes, a couple of these are on my list to work on as well.
I think I’m motivated to write this post so I pay more attention to the ones that trip me up. It’s the "say it in public" part that makes it more compelling.
Take care of your body—you only have one. When you feel better, you perform better and increase well-being.
Take care of your heart—cherish those you love and who love you. Do little things amidst the bigger occasions to demonstrate your love. Read the 5 Love Languages to get a deeper understanding of your significant other’s responses andLove Yourself Successful to learn how to prepare your life and surroundings to welcome love and success.
Take care of your soul—take time for yourself, so you recharge, rest, or heal if necessary. Learn your style—not everyone meditates with chanting, so figure out what recharges you.
Take time to learn what brings you joy—instead of deciding you don’t have a passion, look at it differently. What would you do each day if you had the financial resources to pull it off? Delve into that and figure out why. Maybe you can’t make a living doing it, but it might be motivation enough to earn enough so you can spend more time doing something you prefer.
Take time to say these things daily—and mean it. This post by Jeff Haden reminds us that much of what makes us better people is in little things. How often do we vent on others around us without thinking, yet never give praise? Incorporating these words/actions into our lives will make us happier, and those around us too.
By Joan Muschamp | January 07, 2013 at 04:26 PM EST | 4 comments
While I believe networking is a critical component of a marketing strategy, I also know you must frequently re-evaluate what you are doing and the result you're getting.
Take these 6 simple steps when you review your plan, and the adjustments you make will improve results:
Consider where you can meet people you can help, and who might help you? Look at both online and offline sources.
Evaluate the networking opportunities you’ve frequented. Eliminate or minimize those that have no return on relationships. Focus on those opportunities that give you relationships you can ultimately leverage.
Review your relationship building techniques—are you a Giver?
Be creative as you develop relationships—how can you help others, and perhaps gain as well?
Create a high-touch follow-up system and implement it.
Segment and understand what categories of people you need to meet and cultivate.
Quality Reigns Supreme
Unless you are new to an area, or breaking into a new geographic territory, quantity does not trump quality. Being omnipresent is tiring and costly, both with time and frequently direct costs for meetings or events. This is not a contest to see who collects the most business cards. It’s about segmenting and prioritizing so you spend your time most effectively.
By Joan Muschamp | January 06, 2013 at 07:43 PM EST | 4 comments
This is a good winter sports-junkie dip.
I got the basic recipe from a friend years ago, and tinkered with it until I felt it was not as fat-heavy and used fresher ingredients. It's not low calorie, but if you use a good chili recipe, the citrus hint freshens the taste.
1 package lower fat cream cheese
2 cups chili (I use meat & beans)
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup chorizo, crumbled and cooked
1 tbsp. lime juice
½ cup pitted black olives, sliced
1 scallion, sliced, green parts included (optional)
1 tbsp. sliced or chopped roasted red pepper(optional) or ½ tsp. medium heat chile powder
Cilantro for garnish
Melt cream cheese in microwaveable small dish, about 8” round, about 1 minute. Spread evenly across the bottom.
Mix chili, chorizo and lime juice. Spread chili mixture over cream cheese layer. Cover with the shredded cheese (use more or less to taste). Place olives on top and sprinkle with scallions. Add roasted red pepper or dust with chile powder if desired.
Microwave about 4-6 minutes on medium-high power, until dip is bubbling and cheese is melted. Add cilantro leaves for garnish.
Serve warm with tortilla chips.
NOTE: I’ve used canned chili in a pinch, but usually add a bit more heat with some good New Mexico chile powders. Personally I prefer the dusting of chile powder on top.
By Joan Muschamp | January 05, 2013 at 09:04 PM EST | 3 comments
Is it heresy for me to say that someone shouldn’t network? I don’t believe so, if you think or act in the following 6 ways:
• You (or your boss) expect you to sell something at every event. • You are only going for the free meal or drinks your company covers. • You really could care less what anyone else there needs—it’s all about you. • You have no real idea what a makes a good partnership or referral for you. • You don’t understand your company’s value proposition. • You don’t have a strategy or follow up system in place.
If these 6 reasons fit you, it’s apparent you have never learned how to network. Attending any networking event with these tactics sets you up to fail. Worse, it’s simply not enjoyable, and you will likely have better results at a slot machine.
Networking is a skill that can be taught, and even the shy and introverted can get comfortable doing it.
It's not rocket science, but it takes a strategy and a system. When you learn the ins and outs of effective networking, the results will follow.
By Joan Muschamp | January 04, 2013 at 07:32 PM EST | 4 comments
I did something different this New Year holiday: I ignored all my old traditions. That’s right, me—the mom, keeper of all traditions handed down for many years—eschewed my usual New Year traditions.
Why? 2012 was an amazing year—leaving a comfortable job and moving 2000 miles presented plenty of challenges and plenty of opportunity. Drastic changes also gave rise to heightened self-awareness. Something about having to meet everyone new and explain who you are exposed more of me than I had been previously willing to see. Still, I needed to let go of some things.
Christmas was the icing on the cake, so to speak. I cooked and planned and essentially did everything as if I had a huge extended family visiting. This was 3 days of full-contact grocery shopping, prep, and cooking for just 3 people. It was exhausting and overwhelming, and we were eating leftovers for days.
As the New Year approached, I decided to take another look at my adherence to tradition. Could I celebrate differently? The answer was a clear “yes”. Looking at my traditions, I realized the ones I kept were mostly guilt driven and not based in joy.
Instead, this New Year holiday, I focused on lovingly remembering the past and celebrating the future. I gave myself permission to let go of things I didn’t need, and follow a new path. I should have remembered we finally taught our late dog, Zeke, to fetch after 12+ years!
I think my family best hang on—2013 might be a wild ride!
By Joan Muschamp | January 03, 2013 at 11:15 AM EST | 3 comments
Whatever you want to call your objectives—resolutions, goals, dreams, targets, etc., writing them down is only the first step. Reaching your objectives takes action.
Try these to help you get started:
1. Prioritize your top 3 2. Define what success looks like, in specific time blocks 3. List 5 -10 actions needed to move toward success 4. Block time on your calendar—daily, weekly, or monthly as needed—to work toward the goal 5. Implement action steps
By Joan Muschamp | January 02, 2013 at 05:47 PM EST | No Comments
Lately I’ve been posting a lot about planning and strategy and taking steps to make sure you can meet your goals.
Don’t forget, though, the human spirit needs some of what I call “soul juice” to refresh and revitalize. Taking time out for fun, and not just the fun of your work, gives you a much needed boost to keep going.
On New Year’s Day, my fun time was to try my hand (or feet, to be literal) at snowshoeing for the first time. It was a cold but simply stunning day, and we went up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Doughnut Falls trail. It was a lot of fun, and a bit more of a workout than simply hiking. More importantly for a newbie, the deeper powder was the most fun part. That’s when it really felt like snowshoeing.
Take some time each week to have fun—apart from your meditation or spiritual exercises. It doesn’t have to be exercise or outdoors; just do something out of your normal routine that fills your soul. What's your juice?
By Joan Muschamp | January 02, 2013 at 11:27 AM EST | 3 comments
The New Year brings resolutions and goals. Entrepreneurs need to have the tools in place to get strategic objectives accomplished. A great start to the year energizes and gives confidence to push ahead.
Merely saying “I’m going to launch 8 new products in the first two quarters” isn’t enough. It needs to be a top strategic objective and be part of a written plan. And, while those two steps are critical, so is having a system in place with resources available to make it achievable.
Keep your strategic objectives in mind and write the plan that will help you meet those (and accompanying revenue goals). Then compare your plan against your current systems and resources. Absence of necessary resources and systems can derail the best strategy.
By Joan Muschamp | December 27, 2012 at 09:33 PM EST | 2 comments
Most of us make some New Year’s Resolutions; most of us fail at keeping them. So I offer 5 simple tips that can help you have success:
1. Be realistic about the time you need to devote to any you set.
2. Don’t make too many resolutions—limit yourself to 2 or 3 important ones.
3. Set daily or weekly time on your calendar for each one.
4. Don’t create unreasonable expectations for results.
5. Focus on improving the behaviors behind the resolutions, not just a temporary result.
Name the 1st of the month your “Resolution Day” and on that day review your resolutions, and analyze your progress. Habits are formed by repetition, so not taking on too many at one time allows you to stay focused on the goal, and learn what is happening with each.
By Joan Muschamp | December 21, 2012 at 03:16 PM EST | No Comments
Today marks the winter solstice, and the “shortest” day of the year. Of course, there were also many dire predictions that the world would end today as well.
Whether it’s the lack of daylight, or dire predictions, do you let them interfere with your planning or doing?
If you do, beware that you are letting circumstances run you instead of taking charge of yourself. Even if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as many do, you must develop strategies that work and not create excuses.
Stop worrying and start doing the essentials. Time will pass, more daylight will happen, and other worldy traumas will take center stage. Making excuses doesn't get us where we want to be.
By Joan Muschamp | December 12, 2012 at 01:54 PM EST | No Comments
Most of us spend too much time looking for the next big thing. We overlook what makes us exceptional, and the daily gifts. Don't let setbacks stop you--pick yourself up, examine what needs to change, and be grateful for the gift of understanding.
Don't wallow in self-pity. You have been given much. Enjoy!
By Joan Muschamp | December 06, 2012 at 04:57 PM EST | No Comments
The temptation to latch onto a marketing idea and run with it can be overwhelming—after all, chasing that bright, shiny object sometimes is fun and sexy.
Before you go off to the races with a new idea, or take on the one you’ve been talking about, consider the following:
• Does it fit within your marketing strategy? • What are the goals of the project? • Is there budget to execute it properly? • Who will do the work to get this done right? • Do you have the systems, processes, and staff in place to handle the results? • What are your employees, contractors, or consultants not doing when they switch gears to fit this in? • Does this activity mesh well with everything else on your marketing calendar, or does it seem random and ill-fitted? • Will inserting this into your current plan/calendar create a result akin to a line of dominoes?
These are just a few factors that might be a reason to defer “immediately” to “later”. Consider them carefully.
By Joan Muschamp | November 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM EST | No Comments
When you are an entrepreneur and prone to “winging it” some things are easier to pull off than others. You do not want to be like Icarus, so take care when you jump into something suddenly.
One facet of success with marketing campaigns or projects is to understand from the outset what your goals and required outcomes are before you begin. If, for example, you want to host an event that will be costly, and you need to not only recoup your out of pocket costs, but actually create revenue, you must know this early in the planning process.
A good rule of thumb is the more revenue/money you need/want/expect to bring in, the longer the lead time that will be required for the planning, setup, promotion, and execution of the event. That includes if it’s an event requiring sponsorship dollars—the more you want per sponsor, the longer the advance cycle required.
A free event you are holding may have very “soft” goals, such as giving you something to talk about in social media, and creating content you can repurpose. If generating large numbers of registrants from your current list isn’t your primary goal, this can be done with far less lead time.
The message here is if you plan to “wing it” with a marketing campaign, including events, know your goals and requirements so you don’t jump off the bridge without a safety net. A major public fail can damage far more than your wallet.
By Joan Muschamp | November 05, 2012 at 11:27 AM EST | No Comments
I don’t mean that literally, but figuratively. Your head and heart know what issues and which candidates are the best for you to support. Political ads and polls are for the candidates and create hype and try to tell you how to vote. In his blog post, the remarkable Seth Godin discusses this and the potential for change when we vote our own way.
If you run your business by listening to everyone but yourself and some trusted advisors, it would not be yours anymore. Chances are you started your business or work to keep it going despite the economy, political agendas and legislative actions.
So goes it with the government. Even if “your” candidate does not win, your vote is a statement. You accept defeat by not voting; you give up. If that is what you do about a major election, how easy will it be to give up on your business?
Think and act for yourself, but most of all vote—even if you disagree with my choices.