Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

CFC Recap

July 5th, 2011

I recently spoke at the Creative Freelancers Conference put on by HOW and Marketing Mentor. I spent a week in Chicago and had some amazing things happen. It was truly one of the best trips I’ve been on and the best conference I’ve spoke at.

My talk was titled “To Plan or Not to Plan?” and my goal was to inspire the group in the room to dream big and think beyond themselves, to think beyond the fact that they are flying solo. I also challenged them to create a plan that included money basics, marketing needs versus wants and goals that were juicy in every detail. I double dog dared the audience to do something big this year; something so big that people would laugh at them when the announced this plan. Stay tuned for some stories about people taking the #CFCDare seriously.

My personal dare that I repeated multiple times on stage was “I’m gonna change the world.” I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I can tell you that I’m making progress and I truly believe I will change the world. I mentioned that “success is a direction, not a destination.” My direction from here forward will be towards things that change the world. How’s that for a #CFCdare?

Beyond the thrill of the #CFCdare, here are some highlights from my Chicago experience:

You Never Know Who is in the Room.
After my presentation, I walked off stage and handed the mic over to a tall, slender gentleman named Doug. He put his arm on my shoulder and showed me a picture on his iPhone of how overweight he used to be. During my talk, I used my own weight loss as an illustration of juicy versus bland goals. That interaction with Doug really rocked me; the fact that he was inspired by my talk even though I was there to talk with everyone else. It just goes to show that you never know who is in the room.

Get Out of Town.
Sometimes you just have to get out of town to be inspired. I love Chicago. Granted, I’ve only been there in the summer when it’s nice outside, but what an amazing city. The architecture, walking along the river … I would say other than O’Hare Airport, I love all of it. One evening, some conference buddies and I took a cab outside of town a bit to the Green Mill Jazz Club. Chicago is known for it’s jazz culture, so I always try to take some in when I’m in town. That night at the Green Mill, I witnessed Latin jazz executed at such a level that I felt like a hack at my own job. I give my job everything I have, but nothing like that. Wow. Chuchito Valdes was his name. He is a Grammy-winning artist and, despite being in a room with only about 100 people, he lit it up. This is one thing I love about jazz; it’s completely different live than listening to it on an iPod. That was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. And it made me realize that even if you think no one is watching, you should always give it your all.

The In-between Time.
I’m not the best conference person. I tend to overdo it and try to take in too many sessions, so I leave sort of overwhelmed with information overload. The thing I do love is the in-between time, the random conversations in the hall, the after-hours drinks and dinners. That’s really the stuff I love. This trip was no exception. I spent lots of time with these people, and they really made the trip special for me. @Jovenville @rdqlus_creative @schutzsmith @DyanaValentine @clearwriter @imaccami @JamieSaunders @LaurenHybinette (And many many more)

People Are So Gracious.
It’s amazing how nice people are when you show up and share your life with them. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with some amazing people since my talk and have seen some very kind posts about things that were said. You can read some of those awesome recaps here, here and here (and please send me a link if you wrote a recap so I can post it).

One of the most touching things that happened was someone bringing me homemade snickerdoodle cookies. She stood up during the Q&A portion and introduced herself: “Hello my name is Marilee and I’m really good at making snickerdoodle cookies.” I spent some time during the conference talking to Marilee about her business and how she could mix things up. I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday morning by a text that she was looking for me so she could hand off a bag of baked goods … and let me tell you, they were delicious.

So, not only does saying you’re going to change the world get people around you excited, it also has perks, like snickerdoodles.

Did you attend CFC? What were the highlights for you? Post your comments or if you wrote a recap, send it to me so I can post it.

Small Company Syndrome

June 14th, 2011

One of the questions that came up after my Kaseya Connect talk was what to do about branding and marketing if you’re a small company. If you’re only a couple of people, what should you invest in and why? Some observations:

1. Don’t spend just because others are
It’s temping to try and mimic larger companies and spend money on things that you may not need right now. Yes, a killer website will help you sell, but it might not be what you need right now. If, for example, you’ve seen success in a certain vertical or have a great success story with a certain type of business, I would spend money on having someone help you tell that story (case study) before I would spend a bunch of money on a website. Focus your money on what will get you in front of the right people. You can always build the killer site later.

Likewise, don’t spend money on a bunch of blanket mailings that go out to anyone and everyone, or on a yellow pages ad that won’t reach anyone. You would be better off putting together a list of 50 potential clients that fit your company, and then spend your money and efforts marketing to that group. Not only do your marketing dollars become more potent, but you find the clients that fit what you do. It’s one of the hardest things to do as a business, but in order to get into the mind of the prospect, you have to sacrifice.

For example, if you had a couple of auto dealerships as clients, and they love what you do, write up that story in a compelling case study. Then start to market to a short list of auto dealerships that could benefit in the same way. Even if you’re not completely selling only to that niche, you can pursue a niche or channel for a season.

2. You must track
If a marketing tactic is not somehow measurable, I don’t think it should be done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with companies that are spending money on some sort of tactic and have no way of measuring results. They get sold on doing a blanket mailing or a yellow pages ad, but they don’t really know if it’s working or not.

With any tactic, you should be able to measure. Know if it’s working, know how to adjust it if it’s not and, most of all, make sure you at least learn something. It’s okay to try things and maybe have some of them not work, but at some point, if it’s not working, you need to learn and move on. I’ve done this successfully with Google AdWords. Put a small amount of money in the hopper and run a campaign for a short season. At the end of that season, decide if it’s worth investing more, worth investing the same or that it doesn’t work and move on to something else. Try, track, learn and improve. If you’re not tracking and learning, you’re wasting money.

3. Laser sharp focus
I mentioned above the idea of picking a place to focus. This is so essential for a small company. You simply don’t have the resources to play with the big boys yet. You need to find a couple of niches, or just one where you can be that big fish in a small pond. This will allow the marketing dollars that you do have to be more potent. It’s also easier to talk to one industry than it is to try and create a blanket message for all. If you show up to auto dealerships with a story of success with another dealership, you will get further than just putting an ad in the yellow pages.

Some final thoughts …

Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t market and brand yourself well. In fact, you might be at an advantage if you’re forced to focus on a niche. Being small and agile could allow you to find a niche and sell, sell, sell.

Death by Cash Flow

December 3rd, 2010

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the feeling of a cash crunch. You’re busy working but, for whatever reason, the math just doesn’t add up this month. And you find yourself thinking about the mailbox a lot, hoping that it’s good to you today.

We’ve all been there and will likely be there again at some point in our freelance careers, but there are some things that we can do to make that dreaded cash crunch more bearable.

Read more at The Creative Freelancer Blog

The email peek-a-boo

May 17th, 2010

I was away camping in Joshua Tree recently and it took everything I had not to check email while I was away. We’ve all done it; we set the vacation message saying that we’ll be back Tuesday and then we get into our trip. But not too long after, we start looking at email on our phones just to see what’s transpiring while we are away. The unspoken truth: It’s not like we are going to be able to do anything about those emails anyway. SHUT OFF THE PHONE.

What I realized on my recent trip is that I probably check email for my own benefit as much as for the sender’s. Sure, we want to respond and help those that have sent over requests while we’re away, but I also think we get some sort of hit off it all. Some sort of sick endorphin rush from the fact that someone actually needs something from us – a response, an idea – and they need it right now on the day we told everyone we would be away. The truth that I learned on this trip: “IT CAN WAIT!” The world does not come to an end while you’re away for a couple days; people figure things out or they just wait.

On the road back to OC, I told myself that I’m not going to check email on my phone; I’m not going to check it when I get home. Instead, I’m going to unplug, play with my kids, go for a bike ride with the family and check it tomorrow morning when I’m back in the office and can actually do something about it. The result? Absolute clarity and I’m recharged from a couple days away.

So, quit playing peek-a-boo with your email. Don’t read the first few lines on vacation only to then wait until you get back and draft a response. Take a couple days without looking at it. Trust me; the world won’t end.