Turning to Goo: The Alchemy of Change

3f2d78e916d7ed4e38531d8cf6520fc2Caterpillars are adorable, fuzzy little worm-like creatures. They inch along stems and leaves, munching to their hearts content until, one day, they stop munching and start spinning. Twisting and turning, they wrap themselves over and over again into a snuggly of protection, then dangle in a hammock of their own creation. Science tells us that within this cocoon, a miraculous transformation begins, the fuzzy caterpillar literally breaking itself down into an oozy mass of goo to recreate itself into something utterly new. The butterfly.

What a wild ride! I am awestruck by the faith this little bugger demonstrates. I mean, self-melting into goo, letting go of everything you know to be “real,” that takes some guts! And does the caterpillar KNOW that they will transform into something stunningly beautiful? My guess is no, they don’t. All they know is that change is calling to them and change they must.

Well, insert me into the role of our heroic caterpillar. Our friend, Change, has been knocking on my door for a while now and, thus far, I’ve managed to politely dodge his advances. I was either too busy for Change, working hard with clients to transform their marketing, or I wasn’t busy enough for Change, tending and tilling my network to unearth the next project and keep my financial boat alfoat. Such is the feast/famine life of a consultant.    6580c2390d61dbe8926ce35806d7815f

Even while all of this busy-ness or not-so-busy-ness was going on, Change was at my door, knocking. And though I didn’t answer, I knew he was there. Sometimes, I’d peek out the side window just to see and, every time, like a loyal friend, there he was.

But why? I kept asking myself. Why was Change interested in me, in my work? I’m happy, I enjoy my clients and the projects upon which I’ve been fortunate to work. Success has been consistent, if not my income. I’m doing well, sometimes really well. So, why Change?

Recently, I made a cup of tea, took a deep breath and opened the door. I invited Change in to figure out what the knocking was all about.

Much to my surprise (and relief), Change wasn’t about failure or not-enoughness (my deep-down, secret fear). In fact, Change brought new ideas, exciting potentials and thoughts worth hearing. I was smitten.

Well, the first change has taken place – I took down my website. All that remains is this blog, my voice to the world. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be immersed in the change process, a process also known as re-branding, brand refinement or re-invention. Yup, that’s right, the guidance I’ve been sharing with clients these past four years will be focused on me and my business. So, why am I so scared?

66760cfc9df47abba3042170abfc952cIt’s frightening to change. The process is revealing and it makes us feel vulnerable – talking about strengths and opportunities is simple enough, but acknowledging weaknesses and threats isn’t so easy. In fact, my first thought was to go through the process on my own, behind closed doors, then emerging to the world and relaunching my business as the perfected, beautiful butterfly. Nice image, but not real and, more importantly, not what I’m about. I love this process, I’m a guide for others through the process, so it felt more than a bit ingenuous to keep my reinvention under wraps.

So, I’ve decided to open up my re-branding process, to show and tell every step. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and findings and I’d love it if you’d join me! Many of you know that I’m a collaborator at heart and your thoughts, input and encouragement are not only welcome, they’re needed!

On some level, we’re all changing! Change happens every day in our businesses, sometimes in small ways – like adding social media link to your email signature block – and other times in significant ways such as initiating a blog, revamping your website or creating an entirely new program or offer.

Change is here, it is now! Come along with me and I’ll share every step of my change process (along with some free tips and worksheets too!) and what it takes to evolve your brand into something that fits you like a well-tailered suit, not you’re Aunt’s old mu mu. Sign up in the box below to be sure that you receive my Change-elution updates as well as some FREE tips and worksheets I’ll only provide to the Change-Agents who join me!

 

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To Blog…or Facebook…or Instagram…or?

Just this week someone asked me, “I’ve been wondering if I should start a blog or a newsletter or get more active on Facebook. What do you think?”facebook_logo

In a word, I think, “YES!”

Not YES start a blog, send a newsletter and get busy on social media, but YES, you need to communicate with your audience.  Absolutely.

How you reach your audience, which channel or combination of channels you use to communicate with them, is best determined, well, by them. Before you start a blog or a newsletter or any communication strategy, ask yourself one key question – Who is my audience? Once you have a fairly clear picture, then ask where do they get information? How do they like to receive information? The answers to these questions will begin to pave a path toward one channel or another.

If you have a boutique haircutting shop specializing in children, you are looking to reach moms, local moms within a specific geographic area, and your focus is to bring awareness to your services. You can quickly reason that many moms Unknownare active on Facebook and Pinterest and analytics offered by these sites can help you further target post promotions and ads to reach locals.

A regional architecture firm targeting professionals at colleges and universities is looking for more than just awareness. They want to position themselves as experts in the higher education market, to demonstrate their capabilities to work effectively in this specific type of environment. A blog creates the opportunity to highlight specific experiences, detail challenges resolved, discuss trends and characterize differentiators important to this audience.

A note on starting a blog: Blogs can be very effective but understand that they don’t distribute themselves and you can’t count on a client or prospect to regularly visit your website for updates. Blogs, and newsletters for that matter, are much like postcards of the pre-digital days – they need to be sent directly to your audience. A strategy for developing and maintaining an updated mail list is integral to the success of a proactive digital marketing tool like a blog (and that, my friends, is the topic of a future post!).

Finally, once you have identified the best channel to reach your Unknown-1audience, begin there. That’s right, choose only one channel to start. I’ve witnessed many businesses bite off a much bigger piece of the communication pie than they can  stomach and this inevitably becomes a disaster.

Different channels call for different resources, attention and content. While Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are highly visual, blogs, newsletters and Tweets are word-driven (although images are also recommended for these channels).  Similarly, while a blog can be longer form and offered once a week, Tweets are limited to 140 characters and should be generated multiple times per day.

Start with the channel that best suits your targeted audience. Once you’ve established a rhythm with this channel, you can leverage it to break into other channels your audience is likely to use.

Have you started a blog or a Facebook page? What is your top “lesson learned” from the experience?

 

 

 

 

 

Doing as I Say

“It pays to establish objectives for your blog,” I told my client. “Then, outline a structure – three to five broad topic areas that your target audience is interested in. Brainstorm 10 or 15 post ideas for each topic and – BANG! – you have removed much of the anxiety that will keep you from posting consistently and instilled confidence that your posts are ‘on target’ for your audience.”

Smart. Really, sometimes I amaze myself.

The humbling moment came shortly after this client meeting, when I reviewed my own blog (this one!) and realized that 1) it lacked consistency 2) the focus was vague and 3) I had anxiety about what to write that was keeping me from writing at all.

It’s the tale of the tailor with holes in the elbows of his jacket. I am an experienced marketer that isn’t taking my own advice. While I had established objectives for the blog (and told you about them), I had not taken the time to structure topic outlines that would help my creative mind generate post ideas. The outcome? I’m not posting consistently.

This old dog learns a valuable new trick - Listen to Thyself

This week, I’ve reviewed my blog, as well as notes from various client meetings, and outlined four topic areas that respond to questions I’ve encountered from colleagues and clients. These are now the focus of this blog:

Marki-Speak  – As in any profession, there are terms and terminology unique to marketing that many find baffling (even if they sound cool). These terms drive me crazy, mostly because no one seems sure of exactly what they mean. Vital to effective communications is clarity and understanding. Marki-Speak will decode, define, and discuss key marketing phrases using laymen’s terms and solid examples, not more fancy lingo. Here’s a few ideas:

  • SEO/SEM
  • Value Proposition
  • VOC
  • Networking
  • Niche
  • Blog
  • Content vs. Copywriting

True Stories – Ideas are exciting and there is a lot of marketing advice available that is largely theoretical. However, I learn best by example – I want to see how things are actually accomplished, not just how they could be realized. True Stories will feature client case studies, campaign examples, blog and website strategies, and “lessons learned” to help guide and inspire your own marketing efforts.

Going Social – There are a bundle of new communication channels out there and, it seems, more are launched every day. While this is all very exciting, it can be scary too. Going Social will discuss the “what,” “how,” and “why” of various social media channels, including new tools and cross-platform tactics to help you leverage your time efficiently.

M101 – Balancing out the plethora of new communication bells and whistles are the tried and true fundamentals of good strategy and marketing. I am not belittling my profession when I say that sound marketing is not brain surgery or rocket science. The reality is that it doesn’t require an MBA in Marketing to understand your client, develop a focused communication strategy for a target audience, or market yourself consistently and creatively. M101 will focus on strategy and marketing essentials that are at the heart of every successful company.

Finally, I will be posting more consistently and will send an email notice with each new post. I won’t pop into your inbox more than once per week (unless something super exciting comes up!) so, please, stay tuned. I am committed to providing valuable, usable marketing information.

In fact, CHIME IN! Do the topics I’ve outlined interest you? Are there others you would suggest? Please share your marketing questions, thoughts, and curiosities in the comments section below or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear from you.

image: Marcelo Barboza

Four Righteous Blogging Tips

and I didn’t write them!

Last week, I was talking to some marketing colleagues at an A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry event, and how to blog – at the most basic level – was a hot topic, something of real interest to this group.

I came across this post, 4 Ways to Keep Your Lifeless Blog from Boring your Readers to Tears, by Pamela Wilson and thought, “Hey, this provides some great information that my colleagues could use!” The fact that I didn’t write this post is irrelevant.

As you know, one of the main goals of this blog is to share information that my clients and colleagues need and want. Right now. Today. This post accomplishes that, so why not share it? 

When you start blogging, you might feel a lot of pressure to craft every post like it is a white paper or marketing brochure. Well, it’s not!

Blogging is topical, fast and conversational. Originality is important, absolutely, but it’s the subject that needs to catch your client’s interest, not your excellent sentence structure or keen grammar.

Beyond the four great tips offered by Ms. Wilson, know that blogging is about providing solid information to your target audience in an effort to help them achieve their goals. And guess what?  You don’t always have to be the expert.

Blogging isn’t simply about posting press releases and billboard statements about the achievements of your company. It’s about bringing value to your clients, demonstrating to them that you are in touch with their industry, that you understand their needs and are interested in helping them address their challenges.

Just like you may have clipped a salient article from a newspaper or magazine and sent it to a client, don’t be afraid to select a timely post and share it with your clients via your blog. Not blogging yet? Consider adding a “What’s Hot” section to your monthly e-newsletter offering links to five articles you think clients should read, or send a weekly email to key clients with your top three blog picks.

The fact of the matter is that effective client communication isn’t even about blogging – it’s about consistently dialoguing with your clients and looking for fresh ways to provide them value.

Are you blogging? How are you using it to provide value to your clients? Need help answering this question? Contact me.

 

image: stock.xchng