Finding Courage to Live a Life of Joy

Say What!?! (or how to hit your marketing sweet spot)

Posted by on Aug 2, 2011 | 5 comments

What Is the Story You Are Telling?

This step in the business-building process seems basic, and it is, but that is most often the reason we ignore identifying our core message–because it seems so basic.

Don’t ignore clarifying your message.

There are some more important questions to consider when it comes to your business message, however.

What Do You Have to Say?

What is the message that is struggling to break free and burst from you? What is the wild dream of a message that huddles within the cage of your heart, yet silently yearns to soar?

What Does Your Community Need to Hear?

What message are your followers–is your community–longing to hear? What message does your community need from you? What is the message that only you can deliver?

The Sweetspot

The intersection between the message you have to deliver and the message that your community needs to hear is your sweet spot.

Have you found the sweet spot?  Have you even considered it? Are you broadcasting from your sweet spot?

Questions for Conversation:

If you have found your sweet spot, what process or practice was most effective in helping you to uncover it?

If you have not found your sweet spot, what techniques do you intend to implement to help you in discovering it?

Please share your insight in the comments. I would appreciate it if you would +1 this article and share on Twitter, FB, StumbleUpon, etc.  Thanks.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Don’t Let Assumption Make an Ass of You (Like I Did)

Posted by on Jul 28, 2011 | 9 comments

Don’t Let Assumption Make an Ass of You (Like I Did)

You Are the Best Thing About This Blog!

You…that’s right, you.

When I sit at my desk or on my patio (as I am right now) and write, I imagine that you are sitting across from me in the other chair sipping a lemonade (cuz it’s warm out today. Shhh…I won’t tell anyone it’s spiked if you don’t!).

We’re chatting.  We joke, we laugh and we dream together. Two vagabonds on this road called “life”.  Like the best of friends.

 

Your Amazing Wisdom

The insight you provided on the recent post about my experience at the farmer’s market last weekend was fantastic and it got me thinking.

As you know…(See how I am pretending that you have nothing else to do with your day except read my blog; and so of course, you already read and commented <hint, hint> on that post? Right?)…the lesson I culled from that experience was to never assume your readers know what you want them to do or where you want them to go when they arrive at your website.  You have to show them!

Then I realized (thanks to Roy at Celebrations) that I had made a bad assumption when writing that post. And we all know what assuming does!

Assume=Ass+U+Me

That’s right. Assuming makes an ass of you and me! (but in this case, just me, I hope.)

I had assumed that your product or service had been perfectly researched and positioned with your audience.  Silly me!

Have You Made This Dangerous Assumption?

Have you assumed that your latest and greatest widget is exactly what the doctor ordered…for your customers?

The way in which we make an ass of ourselves (and we all do it…just check out my book) is that we assume that our readers or potential customers want our latest, greatest “whatever-it-is”.

With my book, I assumed that (unnamed, un-identified) people would be interested in my spiritual journey.

assumed that people would want to read about and learn from the insight I had gained on my journey.

I assumed that writing a book was the best way to share that journey.

I assumed people would flock to buy said book for it’s riveting prose and life-changing insights.

</sarcasm>

Now all of these things might be true.  Except #4…I’m pretty sure of that one since I’m not writing this post and sipping spiked lemonade with you from a private island!

The sad truth is that each of these assumptions have caused me not to be as successful in communicating my message (which I’m passionate about) as I could have been.

I don’t want that for you, so here is a useful lesson you can apply to your business immediately. I learned it recently from Ash Ambirge at the Middle Finger Project.

People don’t buy what they need, but they nearly always find a way to buy what they want.

This should be common sense, but it is not for a lot of “assumptive marketers” out there.  But you are not an assuming marketer anymore, you are an enlightened (now that you’ve read this post) marketer!

Find Their PITA, and You Won’t Be Their PITA!

Marketing to your community is easy and ethical when you know what your community wants. So ask them. Often.

Find out their greatest PITA (pain in the ass…just don’t be one), find a solution and offer it to them. Easy as that.

Now, more than ever we have the tools to connect with our community and get their feedback. Most of the time we are just too afraid of criticism, or worse, we are too self-involved to realize that we have become self-indulgent.

Constantly put into practice the polling of your community regarding their PITA, and you’ll never make an ass of yourself like I did by assuming that you know better than they do what they want.

As a step in practicing what I preach, I want to ask you to let me know what your biggest PITA’s right now are.

What are the biggest obstacles you face (in business or life)?

What would you like me to write a post about?

Use the contact form of this site to send me a message or post it up in the comments and I’ll do my best to add it to my list of blog post ideas.  Perhaps we can make suggested posts a regular feature.

Questions For Conversation:

Have you asked your community what their greatest PITA is?

Have you asked them recently? (It changes, just like yours does)

Have you brainstormed ways in which you can alleviate their PITA?

Have you created a product or service tailored to their needs which will alleviate or eliminate their PITA?

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“Tell Me What to Do” – Building Power-Packed Landing Pages

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 | 11 comments

“Tell Me What to Do” – Building Power-Packed Landing Pages

Looking for Pies…

I live in a relatively small city in Wisconsin. On the highway outside of town, there are lots of farms.  Many of the farmers set up businesses on their property along the highway and sell fresh produce, baked goods, and of course, cheese!

This weekend, I was heading to a friend’s house for dinner and he asked me to bring dessert, so I decided to stop on the highway and get a fresh-baked pie.

A few miles out of town, I saw a family farm, so I swung off the road and pulled up outside their shop.  I ran inside, and there were about five or six people chatting around the counter. No one acknowledged me as I entered.

There was a man sitting behind the register chatting with what appeared to be his neighbors, so I quickly browsed his shop, looking for baked goods. I couldn’t find anything. Because he was so engrossed in his conversation, I did a second scan to make sure I hadn’t missed the pies.

I still couldn’t find them, so I stood to the side for a few minutes, feeling awkward and not wanting to interrupt his conversation.

Still, I was ignored. After about 2-3 minutes, I jumped back in my car and went down the road about 2 more miles and stopped at another farm.

Show Me Your Pies

Is your business website like the first farmer’s shop?  Is there a lot of activity, but the customer is ignored and feels awkward to interrupt you for your services?

Worse yet, is the customer unable to find your “pies”?

In a business with an online presence, powerful landing pages are vital!

Keys for Building Power-Packed Landing Pages

1. Be Clear!

Don’t make your customer guess what you want them to do.

I visited a site recently that was so confusing in its layout and design that I got frustrated and left. Make your user experience fool-proof.

Remember that everyone visiting your site is not as technologically versatile as you may be. They haven’t visited 100s of blog sites like you have. Put your CTA (call to action) in plain sight.

2. Create Intersections, Not Roundabouts!

You want to lead your readers down one road to an intersection and give them two calls to action: one for those ready to purchase and one for those who need more information.  (Tip: people are doing 2 things online: buying and browsing…that’s it.)

The marketing “genius” is the person who can engage his audience and convert them into a community, and then engage his community and convert them into customers.

Lead your readers clearly where you want them to go. Do not lead them into a roundabout that will give them 4-5 “exit ramps” from your website.  It is sometimes hard to do this step, because we see so many bad websites out there.(Honestly, I’m still tweaking mine to make it more clear).

I see a lot of sites that have free gifts (a whole bunch: videos, e-books, webinars, podcasts). It’s like the cyber version of “What’s behind door number one!?!”  They have a newsletter opt-in. They have blog post update opt-in. They have testimonial pages. They have “about” pages. They have “contact” pages. They have product pages.

Believe me, you need this information available on your site (for the browsers), but always remember the primary rule of online business is engagement.

Take a look at your “about” page. What about your contact page, etc? Do you re-direct the reader after they have encountered these pages or are your content pages ramps inviting them to exit (bounce) onto another road?  Make each page of your site a “landing page” with clear calls to action which will lead the reader back into engagement with your brand (you).

Keep them engaged by leading them from intersection to intersection until you have made them customers.

3. Remember Your Goal

Your goal (conversions…at least I hope that is your goal if you’re in business) is not necessarily your reader’s goal. The biggest key to building a power-packed landing page is fulfilling their goal while leading them to engagement (which will ultimately lead them to your goal).

Someone may visit your site 100 times before they purchase your product or service. I read The Middle Finger Project for a couple of months before I purchased Ash’s book, You Don’t Need a Job, You Need GUTS!

Ash kept me engaged with her brand through her killer content. She’s sarcastic, irreverent, but deeply thoughtful. I read a LOT of online content and most of it is mildly interesting, inspirational and entertaining.  There are a few authors, though, who I read religiously because their content is transformative.

You need all the cards stacked in your favor. You have to have killer content that transforms and power-packed landing pages making up an impenetrable engagement process.

The TMF Project was able to keep me engaged with the brand until I got so much value from the site that I had to have more (and I was willing to happily pay the price to get it)!

Final Key:

Lead your prospects exactly where you want them to go.  Make it clear what you want from them.  People are sheeple. Lead them where you want them and they will follow (but you gotta know where you are going and what you are doing first).

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Kittikun Atsawintarangkul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The Business Owner’s “Root of Evil”

Posted by on Jul 21, 2011 | 13 comments

The Business Owner’s “Root of Evil”

It’s Not Money!

A few months ago, a fellow-blogger friend and I were talking about blogging and business.  I was talking about launching my book and she said, “I don’t know how to ask people to buy from me. I feel bad advertising my book.”

It was then, that I clearly saw the Business Owner’s “root of evil”.

Fear of the “Ask”

When I was in sales, we were taught to ask “yes” questions to lead the prospect to the “ask.” Have you ever struggled with asking for the sale?  Do you feel awkward or out of place asking?

We all struggle with insecurity and uncertainty at some point or another. Even type-A, “natural” salespeople struggle with this. They just learn how to barrel through the fear because the thrill of “winning” the sale outweighs the fear or insecurity they may experience.

But what about the rest of us?

What if you’re not naturally a “type-A” personality?

What if you’re not a “natural” salesperson?

You love your craft.  You love the business, but you’re terrified of asking for the sale?

How do you overcome the fear?

Overcoming the Fear

In her amazing book, The Art of Earning–Because Making Money Should Be Beautiful, (affiliate link) business consultant, Tara Gentile addresses this very topic. (Read a full review at my inspirational blog, Karmic Kappuccino)

As business owners, we are insecure about our product or service and so we fear the ‘ask’.

At first this may seem misleading. You may be very confident in your ability or craft. You may have a great product that you know has the potential to transform lives. Yet you still fear the ask.

I was in the same boat until I read Tara’s book. I knew I had a great product–my first book–and I knew that it had the potential to help a lot of people. But I was afraid of asking them to purchase it.

The Real Fear is Not the “Ask”

Our real fear is not of the ask it is a fear of insignificance.

Most of us, in some way, associate the amount of money we make with our value to the world. – Tara Gentile

Somewhere along the way  you have accepted the belief that your money = your worth. If you challenge no other belief in your entire life, challenge this one!  You must!

Your value is not measured by your money.

We all know this, but we still truly believe it.

Positioning Yourself to Profit

Once your alignment with money is corrected, all that is left is profitability because the  more you create, the more you will give; and the more you give, the more you will be compensated for your gifts.

If you can position yourself as a marketer of meaning & depth, you will be a big player in the emerging New Economy.Tara Gentile

You are the one who creates meaning. Those who can authentically dig deep into their spirits and souls and create (and teach others to do the same) will prosper.

The Transition

You have to make the transition. You have to move from a mindset of earning that is linked to a measure of your worth (or lack of it) to a mindset of earning that is linked to the value of the art you create. Earning should be beautiful!

If you want more information or want to purchase Tara’s book, click the link below. I highly recommend her guide as one of my “life-changers” (and I didn’t name them that for nothin’!).  The information she shares will challenge all of your fundamental beliefs about money and earning.

The Art of Earning: Because Making Money Should Be Beautiful
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Living Well–One Day at a Time

Posted by on Jul 19, 2011 | 17 comments

Living Well–One Day at a Time

This morning, blogger Chris Brogan wrote post called “Day in the Life” in which he chronicled a “typical” day.  He encouraged his readers to do the same and so this is my response to that challenge.

Why?

First, though, I want to answer the question ‘why?’.  This blog is about business, personal development and communication. Why share what’s going on in my day?  Why care what’s going on in anyone else’s?

Two very important reasons.

1. I blog for connection.

2. I blog to spark a dialogue.

Human beings are curious creatures.  We like to find out about what others are doing, why and how they are doing it.  I guess it’s our way of feeling like we fit in (or don’t).

So…here goes.

Morning

I get up around 6:30 a.m. and spend the first 1/2 hour or so getting going. I force myself to avoid the computer, phone, etc., first thing, much like Chris does.

My mission is to live well and teach others to do the same. In that respect, I want to practice what I preach each moment of each day (as much as possible).

So, I am learning to be as “present” as possible as I’m transitioning from a mindset of employee to one of business owner. That said, I admit that this is often a messy process.  Each person has to learn how to live in their own way.

I spend a half hour to an hour reading something that will help me focus in the right direction. Right now, that is [easyazon-link asin=”0307335844″]The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life[/easyazon-link] by Mark Nepo. (affiliate link)

I also spend some time in meditation/prayer.

I am not as efficient as I would like to be.  I’m not as effective as I wish I were. But I am creating and I am shipping and I’m having an impact, and that, right now, is my singular goal.

I write for about 3-4 hours.  I’m working on a new e-book on learning to heed to call of intuition.  I also post 5 times a week on one blog and 2 times a week on another.

Brunch/Lunch – I generally eat the same thing each day. Since I work from home, I have fresh fruit over granola.

Afternoon

I check my e-mail and interact on social media.

I am by no means a social media pro. I just recently started on Twitter, for goodness’ sake! I usually read and comment on other blogs and support friends and colleagues.  I wish this were more organized and “task-like” but it’s not.  And I guess that’s how we generally interact with each other anyway…We don’t generally structure: 1-1:30 catch up with family, etc.

The major lesson I have learned (or am learning) is that social media is nearly omnipotent, but I have to tell it when it can intrude on my life or it will take over all of my productive time and energy.

After I catch up on what’s going on, I delve back into writing the book.

I’m also organizing a small “Master Class” right now focused around the principles laid out in my book, An Imperceptible Spark: Finding the Courage to Live a Life of Joy.

Evening

I generally prepare dinner and spend time with the better half in the evenings. I try to steer clear of TV but sometimes end up in front of it.  When I do, my guilty pleasures are Tosh.O and Chelsea Lately.  Mindless entertainment, but always useful for a good laugh, which is beneficial.

I end the night by making sure my posts are scheduled to publish appropriately the next day.  I may read a little more before bed, tweet a bit and then hit the hay about 11 or 11:30.

Caveat:

Like Chris said, there are always distractions. I welcome these, but try to direct them (instead of controlling them). I’ll take a stroll down to the local farmer’s market on Thursday morning. I may swing into the library for a few minutes to pick up a new book I want to read.

The reason I work so hard to create the life I want is for the flexibility to be able to live it. So, I never want to find myself living so busily that I can’t enjoy the journey.

No Dreaded Mondays

Yesterday, one of my friends on Facebook posted a “Ugh…another Monday” status update.

I was pleasantly surprised when it took me off-guard. I realized that I haven’t dreaded Monday in almost a year. My weeks flow into my weekends and they are filled with different activities, but I am living the life I set out to live.

I am living well! I guess, in my opinion, that’s reward in itself.

What about you? How do you spend your time/day? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are the ways you work to live life well? How do you control the Social Media pull and distractions of your day?

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Focus on the Sweet Spot

Posted by on Jul 14, 2011 | 2 comments

Focus on the Sweet Spot

The Stupidest Interview Question

Do you remember a time when you sat in an interview and they ask you that dreaded question: “What is  your biggest ‘challenge’ (read weakness)?”  And they’d always try to couch it as the flip side of the “what is your greatest asset/strength?” question.

Or maybe you were in the inquisitor’s chair and were responsible for asking these questions. What were you hoping as an interviewer? That the job seeker would say, “Well, you know, I’m just really lazy and don’t work well with others!”?

When I Actually Cared…

When I was being interviewed, I thought for a long time about this.  I crafted carefully-worded, witty responses that would hopefully distract my interviewer and show that I was “cool” under fire.

The biggest personal “challenge” that I identified was lack of focus and follow through.

I love to do everything (or almost everything).  I love learning new things.  I have a million interests.  I don’t want to get too mired in one project, because maybe another more exciting one will come along.

And so I read books on [easyazon-link asin=”1558747524″]The Power of Focus[/easyazon-link] (Amazon affiliate link, but a great book, nonetheless) and tried to find ways to develop better focus.

But I found that it was really difficult to go against my natural proclivities. I was constantly fighting myself to stay “on task” and to “focus.”  It was draining.

Magic of the Sweet Spot

Then I found the secret…the sweet spot.  This expression usually refers to activities that come with ease and seem to flow almost magically through us. When you are in your sweet spot, you know it.

You have this almost tingling energy, even if you are dead-tired. You can’t wait to go to the next thing because you are a part of something bigger than yourself.  It is exciting and exhausting at the same time.  But it is always energizing.

Isn’t this how life should always be lived?  I think so.

And you know what I have found?  When I recognize my sweet spot and focus on living from that place and letting all the other tasks and duties go (or delegating and outsourcing them), I end up “on task” automatically.  I’m following an internal guide that is much more accurate than any external game plan or goal list.

So as you pursue your dreams, release the things you are fighting for (or against) and focus on your sweet spot. Do your work–the work that only you can do. Delegate or release the rest and enjoy the ride.  It just gets better and better!

If this post resonated with you, please pass on via twitter and Facebook.  Thank you.

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The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 | 6 comments

The Entrepreneur’s Leap of Faith

You have decided. Your heart beats fast; your palms are sweaty. You’re about to leap into the relative unknown. Exhilaration. Excitement. And a bit of terror.  You feel it all!

You are alive–maybe for the first time! You control your fate, for better or worse. You have taken the leap of an entrepreneur. You are now driving your life instead of your life driving you.

But then it hits you and you think, What the hell am I doing?!? 

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

“Ideas That Matter Spread”

Recently, I came across an amazing marketing blogger named Bernadette Jiwa at The Story of Telling.

She wrote a phenomenal post entitled “The iPhone Doesn’t Matter to Everyone” (Isn’t that a great title?).

In this post she discusses Seth Godin’s  quote “Ideas that Spread Win.”

Bernadette goes further by asserting that “Ideas that matter spread,” and she goes encourages the reader to engage and expand ideas that matter.

I can’t tell you how eye-opening this simple maxim was for me!  As entrepreneurs, we spend SO much time building brands and platforms and engaging social contacts through a plethora of social media, and we sometimes lose track of the primary thing.

Focus on the Fundamentals

In high school, I had a basketball coach who constantly harped on us to do layups and free throws.  He would quote the percentage of free throws the average player misses.  “That’s the difference between a win and a loss!” He would yell across the gym as we ran layup after layup.

“You gotta focus on the fundamentals,” he repeated often.

The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake

What is the fundamental mistake most of us as small business owners make? We do too much to reach too many.

Don’t do too much to try to reach too many

You do not have to reach everyone! Your product isn’t for everyone. The entrepreneur who asserts that his or her market is “everyone in the world” is being lazy and unfocused (or both!).

This is the entrepreneur’s worst mistake because it dilutes her message and obscures her purpose. Therefore, the people who really do need and want her product or service miss it because they do not even realize it is for them.

I made this mistake in my own business. I was trying to create and maintain (multiple) websites while building a FB fanpage following, a Twitter platform, a LinkedIn presence, a YouTube channel. I am blogging for two blogs, I am launching a brand new book and trying to simultaneously launch a professional speaking career.

I was having fun, but I was also doing too much activity for the mediocre results I was getting. It was madness.

The Business Owner’s Chief Responsibility

What is your responsibility, then? The primary purpose is to clarify your purpose and connect to those who share it. Period.

You must spend your time and energy only on efforts that will create a clearer picture of the purpose of your business and that will connect more quickly and effectively to those who share the values and mission of your business.

You are the guardian of your business. You are the gatekeeper. This is the job only you can do.  Your accountant cannot safeguard the values of your business.  Your assistant is not responsible for the direction of your business. You are.

A Fundamental Adjustment

As a small business owners, we have to be able to keep one eye on our objective, and at the same time be evaluating our efforts and making adjustments.  We have to be able to see the inefficiencies and correct them as we go.

If we can’t, we must surround ourselves with people we trust who can see these things and point them out to us.

So, when we find ourselves making the mistake of trying to be “everything to every person,” it is time to adjust.

As Bernadette pointed out, decide what matters and why, and focus your energies in that direction. Everything else needs to be delegated or released.

The Entrepreneur’s Primary Fears

1. A Wide Net

We mistakenly think that we must cast as wide a net as possible to be successful in our marketing endeavors. I think–at least in my experience–this comes from a feeling of insecurity.

When I am insecure about my person, product or plan (did you like that on-the-spot alliteration?), I tend to fear that I won’t “get” the right people.

The remedy? Clarify. Focus. Strengthen yourself, first. Then focus on your product and your plan. This will give you clarity and confidence that will be effervescent in your dealings in the market.

You won’t have to “get” people to pay attention, they’ll be attracted to the power of your idea (if it matters to you–and to them–for a powerful reason).

2. I Won’t Be Seen/Heard…

This, too, comes from insecurity or could also spring from distraction by all the activity around us.  When I’m focusing on what everyone else is doing (or not doing) in their business, I become a clone of mediocrity.

It’s impossible to be excellent without being focused.

The remedy? You will be heard. Your responsibility is to do the work. Your faith, then, must trust that the rest will fall into place as you put yourself in the path of serendipity. Plan your luck!

Those who are meant to hear your message will do so, the rest will pass by. That’s okay.

The most successful businesses in our society (Apple, Disney, Amazon, Facebook, Oprah) thrive because their message reaches a relatively small fragment of the world’s population.

Fundamental Success

If you want the success of the big businesses, do not try to reach the world. Instead, find a message that matters to you at the soul level and find out why.  Then, simply find the other people to whom this message matters as well.

Seth Godin says, in his book [easyazon-link asin=”1591842336″]Tribes[/easyazon-link] (Amazon affiliate link), that a[easyazon-image-link asin=”1591842336″ alt=”Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wz2Ep8BkL._SL160_.jpg” align=”right” width=”108″ height=”160″] “tribe” of 1,000 will give you more business than you can ever handle. Set your mind to find and service your thousand with excellence and others will beat down your door to be allowed into the tribe.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  Thank you.

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