What’s Your Learning Plan?

Posted by on Dec 30 2016

People always focus on New Year’s resolutions at the end of December, but I have a better way of ringing in the new year.

I love to learn fresh ideas and new skills. The phrase Lifelong Learning truly defines the way I live my life.

So this week, I wrote my “learning plan” for the next 12 months, in terms of business and marketing topics I want to study … I also plan to learn how to cook vegetarian meals!

By asking a series of questions, I came up with a list of what I want to study next year. This helps me to keep focused on specific topics and not run around trying to learn everything at the same time. (I can see you nodding in agreement. We must avoid Shiny Object Syndrome at all costs!)

Here’s how to create a focus for your learning plan:

  1. What are my big goals for the next 12 months for my business?
  2. What topics do I need to study to attain those goals?
  3. Of all the thing I can study, which ONE THING is the most important to start with?
  4. How long do I want to devote to studying that topic?
  5. What resources do I currently have available to study this topic?  (What do you have in your bookshelf or on your own hard drive right now?)
  6. Where can I get further resources for studying this topic? What books are available? What classes can I take? Who do I know who is a whiz-bang at this topic, so I can pick their brains?

My personal learning planning came down to one focus topic for January/February: writing and editing. My goal for this year is to write at least two books (one is already finished). Here are the ways I’ll implement my learning plan:

  • Getting thoughts on paper isn’t the same thing as a well-crafted manuscript, so I hired a mentor to look over my work and show me how to take my writing to a new level.
  • I have some writing books on my shelf, like On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Writing Nonfiction by Dan Poynter.
  • My friend, Pamela Wilson, just published her first book, Master Content Marketing, and I can pick her brains about the writing/publishing journey she went through.
  • Even better, she chronicled her journey in a podcast series for Rainmaker FM/Copyblogger called Zero to Book, so I’ll load that onto my smartphone.

By asking the right question, assets will come to mind which have been neglected. Now I have quite a few assets to explore in January and February.

Then I repeated the process to pick a key topic for all the remaining months for next year. For instance:

  • in March I’ll be studying email marketing campaign funnel design
  • in April I’ll focus on the psychology of marketing and why people buy
  • in May I’ll look at website traffic conversion

Then I’ll collapse in a puddle of happiness, with a full brain and tons of ideas to implement in June through December! 🙂

(There’s no sense in learning a lot if you don’t plan time for implementation. Don’t crowd your calendar with monthly learning; give yourself some assimilation space.)

Special Tip: Having a hard time keeping track of all the notes you take on a certain learning topic? My favorite note-taking tool is Evernote (www.evernote.com), a great web-based, computer-based and mobile app tool to help with keeping notes, including a way to tag each note with keywords for easy look-up. Your notes sync across your devices — a wonderful way to take notes on the go then have them on your work computer when you get back to the office. Neato!

Take a moment right now: What topic do you want to learn more about next year?

Best of luck to you as you design your own Learning Plan for next year! It’s exciting!!

   

5 comments for now

Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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The REAL Reason Santa is so Jolly – He’s Self-Employed!

Posted by on Dec 15 2016

Believers and non-believers alike know that Santa Claus is a happy person. For that matter, so are Mrs. Claus and all the elves (even the ones who want to be dentists). In a world of trouble and strife, why are these folks so jolly?

The simple answer is that Santa is happy because he is self-employed. He’s doing what he loves to do and he has the freedom to create the business and life of his dreams. While running a family business can be complicated, with Mrs. Claus by his side, they deliver a perfect product to a cheering clientele.

Imagine that you owned a business where you had to deliver your product or service only one night a year to an audience eagerly awaiting your arrival. The other 364 days a year are spent in product development and listening to your customers. If that doesn’t make you jolly, what will?

But that’s not all. Each year, Santa’s audience of little children (and some not-so-little ones, like me) write letters to him, telling him exactly what they want. Getting your customers to be that specific — and to get them to put it in writing — certainly reduces the need for market research.

Marketing is easy. Word-of-mouth referrals blossom among the children who love him, and social media and the Internet only makes it easier to spread the word. He doesn’t use Facebook and Twitter to send out endless “buy my products” posts. Instead, he uses them to create relationships and to listen. Santa is GREAT at listening.

And how does Santa get paid? With love, cookies and milk, which are in constant and unending supply. He has no doubts about abundance or whether his clients will pay on time.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Santa has intricate and extensive leadership skills. He doesn’t make toys himself; he gets the elves to do it for him. He instills in them the passion, meaning and purpose of the corporate mission, and they eagerly make toys all year long, happy and singing. There are no recorded instances of elf employment protests. Santa knows how to respect and motivate the craftspeople who work for him. He puts the “elf” in self-employment.

But Santa doesn’t sit on his laurels (because, in fact, it hurts to sit on laurel shrubs). Every year his strategic team comes up with new products and services sure to delight his audience. Notice I said, “team.” Santa can’t do it alone and he recognizes the need to surround himself with those who are smarter than he is in their specialty field. I think it was Santa who first said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

To all of you who own your own business, and to those who dream of one day being your own boss, I wish you the brightest of holiday seasons. We can all learn a thing or two from Santa Boss, can’t we?

   

4 comments for now

Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

9 Must-Have Items to Put in Your Welcome Email

Posted by on Nov 30 2016

Think of a new customer or a new person to your email list as a guest in your home. How will you make them feel welcomed and appreciated?

Your first email to them, your “Welcome” email, can begin that relationship, and turn a one-way conversation into a conversation that goes both ways between your business and your customer. Make it count.

Over the past several years, people have become accustomed to building personal relationships with a business via email. They reject companies and service providers where they don’t feel they’re being honored.

Send the first email out automatically, within a few minutes after a person subscribes and opts-in to your email list. It can be one email, or a series of emails, triggered by a person joining your list.

What a Welcome Email will do for you

A well-crafted welcome email – whether it’s confirming a person’s subscription or offering immediate access to your content – can build trust and a rapport with your audience. It sets the tone of future communication, starts a conversation, helps reinforce your brand and message and acknowledges how important they are to you.

Consider it your calling card; it’s your one opportunity to knock their socks off with meaningful content that solves their problems or answers their questions. You want them to open future emails from you.

Be warm, professional, helpful – and human.

Some tips on what you should put in your first email

  • Welcome them to your community. Remind them how they got on your list – did they sign up for a free offer, did they make a purchase from your online store, or did they hear you speak or teach somewhere?
  • Thank them. Acknowledge that you’re grateful they chose your content, or for their purchase.
  • Talk to them about what they’ve signed up for. What kind of content can they expect? If they bought something from you, let them know how to access that item or when they can expect to get it.
  • Give them more than they expected. Offer links to important and helpful content on your website, or links to audio files, documents or webinar and video content.
  • Tell them how often they can expect your emails. You should be sending email newsletters at least once a month, but once a week is better. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  • Provide them with links to your social media accounts as another way to connect.
  • Answer frequently asked questions. Are there questions that pop up all the time which a list of FAQs could answer quickly?
  • Continue the conversation. If you promised something in return for their signing up, make sure they got it. Follow up with a survey asking them wha they think about your product or service. Remember: Even if it’s free, they’re still a customer. They’re consuming your content.
  • Tell them how to unsubscribe. It’s important that you give clear instructions on how to get off your list.

Doubling down with a double opt-in

Sometimes asking people to confirm their email address – known as a “double opt-in” – will be your first electronic correspondence with a customer. By asking people to double opt-in, you’re ensuring a quality list of real email addresses. The double opt-in is meant to get people to click on a link to confirm their email address. Some people don’t do this right away – or they don’t do this at all – so you might have to send a reminder. You can also check the list of people who signed up but didn’t confirm their subscription to check for obvious misspellings in their email addresses.

I’d love to hear from you

Are you sending out Welcome emails? Do you add anything to them aside from the 9 items listed above? Do you send them automatically or manually? Share your story, comments and questions in the Comments area below. 🙂

   

19 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

What Really Happens in a Mastermind Group Meeting? Come, Peek Inside One

Posted by on Nov 10 2016

Are you curious about what happens inside a real mastermind group meeting? It’s not a secret anymore! Come, peek inside one…

Join me for a Taste of a Mastermind Group – Arena Style.

In this one-hour mastermind group session, three people are on the “Hot Seat,” bringing their challenges, questions and idea needs to the group.

And you’ll be able to sit in the arena and watch the mastermind group meeting in action through your web browser. Watch the meeting via video conference on your computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. (If you won’t be near your computer, you can dial-in on your phone to listen.)

This particular mastermind group session is about running and growing a business, so it is extra helpful to those of you who are self-employed small business owners. (Personal and professional development mastermind groups are run the same way, so this is a great chance to peek inside a group meeting and see the inner workings.)

This will be an All-Content-No-Selling video conference.

If you’re sick to death of “free events” which masquerade as a sales pitch, you’ve come to the right place! You can be assured that our focus will be solely on the Hot Seats and watching a mastermind group in action.

Join me on Tuesday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m. eastern/12:00 p.m. pacific

Come and see behind-the-curtain into a real mastermind group meeting! Experience the power of mastermind groups for yourself by attending this free mastermind group session.

Yes, the meeting will be recorded.

If you can’t attend live, register anyway, and I’ll send you a link to the recording of the meeting.

Click here to sign up

You’re going to love it!

   

2 comments for now

Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Passion For Business News, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group

28 Ways to Say No

Posted by on Nov 01 2016

Would you babysit my pet tarantula next week? No.

Is it okay if I bring my twelve cousins to your birthday party? No.

Can we extend our contract for six months but not increase the price? No.

Sometimes saying No is easy!

Finding the right words to say No can trip us up. And without the right words, we sometimes say Yes when we don’t mean it, causing stress, frustration and bad feelings.

In one of my mastermind groups, we brainstormed a lot of ways to say No, depending on the given circumstances and what type of No we wanted to give.

Here are 28 ways to say No. While these are business-related, you can modify them for personal use as well:

When No means: No

  1. I can’t take on your project at this time
  2. I’m not accepting any new clients
  3. I’m not comfortable doing what you’re asking
  4. I’m not willing to do what you’re asking
  5. I’m not the right person for the job
  6. I have other commitments that prevent me from doing this
  7. We have a policy in our business that we don’t do that
  8. My schedule is so busy and I’m committed to work/life balance
  9. Right now my priority is X and everything else I’m declining
  10. I’m not able to take on that type of responsibility
  11. Our original agreement was for X; I’m not willing to change that agreement mid-stream
  12. I have an appointment that I can’t reschedule
  13. I want to spend more time doing (fill in the blank)
  14. I don’t enjoy that work
  15. My decision is final
  16. I won’t go

When No means: I can’t do X, but I can offer Y instead

  1. I’m not comfortable doing X, but I’m available to do Y within certain parameters
  2. I’m not really qualified to do this work, but I can recommend an excellent person who might be able to help you
  3. I’d rather work on Y
  4. I’d rather do it this way than the way you are suggesting
  5. I can’t do this myself, but I can ask my assistant to do it for you as long as it only takes 30 minutes like you promised
  6. That’s too little money for this type of work, how about Y?

When No means: I can’t do it now, but I can do it later

  1. I’m not accepting any new clients until September
  2. Can we schedule this for next week instead?
  3. I’m booked solid for August
  4. This Wednesday is really bad for me
  5. I don’t work on Fridays
  6. I need to leave work by 5:00

And, of course, there’s the always-useful, plain old fashioned No. As in, Just Say No. Without preamble, without excuses, without guilt.

   

7 comments for now

Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Is Election Stress Affecting Your Business?

Posted by on Oct 24 2016

Whether it’s the USA election or Brexit, September 11 or Hurricane Katrina, the uncertainty that surrounds world events brings up anxiety in people and changes their behavior, which in turn affects your marketing and sales.

I’ve spoken with several colleagues who are having a difficult time filling autumn classes or getting clients to commit to a contract, where they never had a problem before. These are high-skilled people with long-term reputations for excellent sales and marketing skills.

So I started asking around to see how widespread it is: Are you seeing anything different in your business these past few months?

I’m hearing a chilling response from my colleagues, clients and members: Yes, things appear different over the past few months, with their own businesses and in discussions they’re having with their own colleagues.

One possible explanation is that Americans are feeling extremely anxious about the elections and people in Europe are feeling anxious about Brexit.

Anxiety makes people hesitate before making a big commitment. They second-guess themselves. Many people take a wait-and-see approach when anxiety is high.

What You Can Do

Talk with your customers. While the political events may be important, and so is the rest of their personal and professional life. Reach out to customers and remind them that their dreams and goals will not go away, and instead of freezing in place, they should consider where they can empower themselves to take action. What is one next step they can take that will propel them forward?

For your own business situation, know that these anxieties come and go, and you don’t always have control over them. You can plan for these swings by keeping your finger on the pulse of how your customers are feeling, whether you sell to the general public, or to other businesses. Pay attention to these trends so that you can get ahead of the curve with strategic planning and nimble marketing. (And pay attention to your own reaction to world events – are you freezing in place, too?)

Pay attention to world events through the lens of “How will this make my customers feel and react, and how long will this event affect them?” You don’t want to make pivotal and long-lasting changes in your business and marketing model if your customers will only be affected by an event for a short time.

Where to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

There are several places you can pay attention to what’s happening with your customers’ feelings and actions.

  • You can find a monthly consumer confidence index here. Simply scroll down to the Countries menu and select one or more countries to compare their confidence numbers.
  • Here’s a list of business confidence for many different nations as well.
  • Here’s the most recent Stress in America results from the professional association for psychologists, the American Psychological Association. It talks about how adults are feeling about the stress related to the election (in a non-partisan way):
  • The Marketplace and Edison Research Economic Anxiety Index is here.
  • Several major publications regularly interview business leaders about their outlook for their business/industry, and your local Chamber of Commerce may do so as well. Just Google “business leader outlook” to find relevant survey results. (Note: because Google will show you a series of results, even historic ones, you might want to put the current year in your search terms so that you get current results.)

What Do You Think?

What’s happening in your business? Is it steady or have you seen changes? Share your thoughts on my blog.

   

2 comments for now

Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

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