Focusing on Most Important Goals, Values for 2014

Setting New Year’s resolutions can either sound efficient or pointless depending on how you look at it. Resolutions can be an exercise in setting aspirations or opportunities for failure. Which is why I prefer using the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to me personally and professionally and set priorities for the year.

start mark at beginning of running trackProfessionally it is important to have in mind the most important goals and priorities so that in the craziness of every day there is something clear to aim for. Otherwise how will we know if we really accomplished anything except the uncomfortable awareness of how easy it is to get distracted by the hundreds of small, urgent pings and tasks surrounding us.

Having those big picture aspirations can make it easier to prioritize the mundane from the future changing opportunities. Check out my previous post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most for tips on creating a stop doing list.

Reflecting on what is really important to your business and personal future can make all the difference. This also includes thinking about how you balance the two so you have quality time for your family, learning new things, taking care of yourself, and some volunteering – the various spheres of your life. What gives you energy and inspires you, what leaves you sapped, who and what you really care about.

And while the instinct to think about the future is great, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s so easy to think about what could have gone better or the negative, but looking for the positive and happy times will leave a much more joyous momentum for the new year.

Wishing everyone a very happy. fulfilling year!

 

What Are You Thankful For This Holiday Season?

Hopefully it’s easy to think of things we are thankful for in our personal lives (which is so important to do!), but this is also the perfect time of year to think about our gratitude in the professional sectors of our lives. The people who make a difference in our daily lives, profession, and network from the baristas who smile patiently when we rush through, people in our network who made an introduction or shared advice when we needed it, the colleagues who rushed to meet a last minute deadline, and the mentors we turn to regularly.

bonsai photoWhen was the last time you reached out to your network, said thank you, shared an article or amusing (appropriate) video or comic that reminds you of someone? What more perfect time of year than now. It can be challenging to squeeze in when the holidays can be packed with personal and professional obligations on top of family travel, but staying in touch enriches our lives. And no one wants to only hear from people when they need something. I talk more about networking in this article on Tips for Building a Strong Network.

Heading toward the end of the year invites reflection on all that you accomplished this year as well as who helped you. I confess to a tendency to gravitate to what else I want to get done (and wish I could have also gotten done) rather than taking a moment to appreciate what I’ve achieved, but that reflection is important. To feel good about the positive and to show appreciation to those I worked with professionally and my family and friends’ support.

For example this year I am so thankful for all the wonderful support for my sister Vicky Keston and I launching our Gooseling startup’s parenting blog and Cavity Dragon PNG_edited-1first ios apps to teach children life and social skills through video games.  We are very grateful to the many people and organizations who helped spread the word about the Cavity Dragons apps designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. And I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with my best friend-sister, fellow Mom, business partner Vicky. My beloved family’s never ending support is the essential ingredient for success as any budding entrepreneur has undoubtedly experienced.

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and the opportunity for reflection and thankfulness that it can bring.

 

Landmark Books to Inspire Your Leadership, Marketing & Planning for the Future

While I am an avid reader of a number of leadership, marketing and social media blogs, many of which are listed in my blog roll on my www.lisadanielpour.com home page, I also squeeze in time to read the latest books that I think will be pivotal to informing my thinking about the future. These are three recent reads that inspired my business planning and marketing strategy that I wanted to share.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer
youtility-bookThis short book is a must read for re-thinking how you market and communicate with your current and potential customers, members, or constituents. The reality is we live in a very crowded marketplace with thousands of brands and organizations swamping our favorite social media sites, email in boxes, and every other route possible to our eyes and ears. Whether you are a company marketing a product or service, a consultant or other professional seeking clients, or a nonprofit trying to engage potential donors and volunteers, how do you stand out from all that noise?

Youtility gives you that path through providing absolutely usefulness and value to whatever kind of consumer you want to attract, reflecting your understanding of their wants and needs and ability to deliver solutions to their problems. As Jay Baer puts it best, “Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

I found Baer’s book invaluable in taking the concept of content marketing to the next level to thinking about how can I best help the audiences I am trying to reach so that the content and information I provide is compelling and really meets their needs. This is what sets you apart from the crowd. What will make the difference for your customers, so that you are truly helping them while reinforcing your brand and messages? Throughout the book, Baer provides creative, pragmatic examples of how different kinds of organizations from small to large are using Youtility to engage and help their audiences and what their process and results have been.

“If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.” -Jay Baer

He walks you through a six-step process he recommends for building Youtility into your business after examining three key traditional approaches to building awareness for organizations and how the marketplace is completely changing. I highly recommend this quick read for anyone concerned about marketing or branding your organization or products/services for the future. Jay Baer is a marketing and social media expert and author of the popular Convince & Convert blog which I also recommend reading regularly.

 

Impact EquationThe Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

If you are planning to launch a new business, product, or service, this book is a great guide to help you map out your vision and pragmatic path to success. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, successful entrepreneurs and social business leaders, share their experiences and formula for success based on the acronym IMPACT = C x (R + E+ A + T + E). The CREATE acronym stands for the attributes needed to create your impact that the authors walks you through step by step: Contrast, Reach, Exposure, Articulation, Trust, and Echo.

The Impact Equation provides the wisdom and insights Brogan and Smith have gleaned from their successes and working with their many clients. The attributes are grouped into four sections that give you guiding principles – goals, ideas, platform, and human element. The authors weave in many examples of how different entrepreneurs and organizations use these techniques and aspects to literally “create” their success.

While you’re reading the book it might prove useful to set up a simple chart or spreadsheet listing the attributes and jot notes about how you currently are or might plan to handle each aspect for your business, product or service. I read it right before launching my startup Gooseling’s first children’s app Cavity Dragons and found it very useful for checking whether we’d thought sufficiently through our vision and plan for both our business and the app.

Both Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have blogs and email newsletters (you can sign up for their newsletters on their respective web sites) that are great reads as well.

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter
ThinkLikeZuck-bookThis book justifiably received a great deal of business buzz for delving thoughtfully into what made facebook and in particular Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership style so successful. But this quick read also explores other renowned business success stories in the framework of the five principles author Ekaterina Walter identifies as key to that success – passion, purpose, people, product, and partnerships. I’ve followed and admired Ekaterina Walter for several years, she was a social media leader at Intel until co-founding the branding/marketing firm Branderati.

“Passion + Action = Results” – Ekaterina Walter

Walter offers an intriguing inside look at the launch and evolution of facebook as a business as well as its impact on our lives and how Mark Zuckerberg’s strengths and challenges played a role in each stage of development. While Walter discusses the ingenuity and success stories of a variety of entrepreneurs (e.g. TOMS, CollegeHumor, Threadless, and Dyson), she also explores the vital role intrapreneurs play in organizations and shares examples. David Armano, Executive Vice President of Edelman Digital, defined intrapreneurs as “someone who has an entrepreneurial streak in his or her DNA, but chooses to align his or her talents with a large organization in place of creating his or her own.”

As Walter says, “Organizations small and large need intrapreneurs. In an era of constant change, not one single company can afford complacency. True disruption happens when entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well within an organization. And that spirit is cultivated and spread by intrapreneurs–those on the forefront of change, those passionate enough to activate the principles discussed in this book within their own organization.”

Ekaterina Walter also has a must-read blog and writes regularly for Forbes, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur.

Are You Ready for Launch? A Checklist for Success

I haven’t posted a new article for a while as I’ve been super busy launching my first video game app Cavity Dragons, designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. I co-founded my business Gooseling, Inc. with my sister and fellow Mompreneur Vicky Keston to teach children social and life skills through Gooseling Logovideo games with the on-the-go convenience of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. So I thought what better topic to share here then tips based on my experiences launching new products and services.

When you’re getting ready to launch a major new product or service whether through a start up or established business, making sure you have thought carefully through the various aspects will prepare you for the busy whirlwind to come – and most importantly for success.

Here is a checklist of the key issues to make sure you have covered before you officially launch:

Your unique message and brand.  How will you differentiate your product from the competition? What is the branding and feeling you want to paint paletteevoke? What need does it fill? How does this messaging fit with your organization’s overall brand and messaging? Plan and articulate the messaging and make sure everyone has it to ensure cohesive, strong communications.

Your potential customer’s needs and wants. How you will reach them and why should they buy/use your product?

Review the resources, people, and skills needed to ensure a smooth launch.

Your publicity, marketing, and social media tactics which flow from your overall business and marketing strategy. What are the communication outlets (including the social media sites/communities) and tactics you have decided will have the best impact to meet your goals? How will you use content marketing – providing truly useful information – to help solve your customers’ problems and answer their potential questions that will help build your brand and business? For example, my sister and I started a parenting blog at gooseling.com/blog to provide useful information and advice on a wide variety of parenting issues in an effort to help parents, teachers, and practitioners while also building trust and our community.

Predict potential problems or issues that might arise and how you will handle them. We want to think everything will run smoothly, but in our question markimperfect world it is most likely that you’ll encounter some glitches. Watching for possible pain points and thinking about how and who might handle them will help you respond quickly if something does go wrong in the busy midst of launch. What are likely questions or issues might customers might have? Envision each step of the process from attracting their interest through serving their needs throughout the sales and service process.

Customer service, fulfillment and operations processes. Make sure all processes of who will do what are clearly articulated. You might think it should be obvious but in my experience surprises can arise when we assume everyone knows what their role is and it hasn’t been talked through. Visually mapping out the processes from when a customer inquires through completion of an order or delivery of a service labeled with the names of individuals or teams who will handle each step can help avoid last minute glitches.

How will you measure success? Sales and revenue are obvious , but are there other measures that will be important to show whether you are reaching your goals? For example, if you are a small start up with no name recognition building that reputation can take some time, so having some measures around chart baraudience engagement could be pivotal. If you are a larger, well established company you might have other related goals for your product launch such as how it helps sales in an ancillary product line or in addressing a concern customers have expressed in the past that you will want to measure response to.

Be flexible and prepared to change your marketing plan or other key strategies based on market response and the results you see.

Keep some work balance among key players to avoid burnout during the busy long days of launch. It’s an exciting but stressful time that usually involves crazy long hours, some time for rest and staying healthy is important.

Make sure you have a solid business plan, marketing plan, contracts, legal (including copyright/trademark issues), and other business aspects nailed down.

Plan how you’ll share the key documents like the marketing plan and task list and keep each other posted on progress and the sales and audience response.

What have you found most important in launching your new products or services?

Are You Working Toward Your Most Important Goals and Dreams?

Are you making the impact you want? Are you doing what is most important  to you?

When was the last time you stepped back and reflected on what your most important personal and professional goals and aspirations are?

chair_on_the_beachBeing more than midway through the year, take a few minutes to think about what inspires you, what you care about. What do you love doing, and wish you could stop doing? What gives you joy versus heartburn?

When you pause between the overflowing virtual inbox, emails and daily crises, are you making progress in making your dreams come true?

Think about it – three years from now where do you want to be? What are the big things you’ll need to do for that to happen? What will matter most that you are doing now? What are the stepping stones that will get you there?

Whether you take a long reflective walk or think about your inspiration in the back of your mind while enjoying a wonderful summer vacation, regularly reflecting on the big picture will help you from getting too mired down in the every day to build the future you are dreaming of.

What do you do to keep an eye on what you want to accomplish amid the every day rush of things?

Integrating Social Media into Your Overall Marketing and Organizational Goals

People often ask me questions about how to “do” social media right as if it is an amorphous separate new task we need to do well to succeed, disconnected from the other things an organization does.

network combs ball imageSocial media is a powerful platform and tool to build community, interactively communicate, and share useful content that supports what we do. However, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To be most effective, it is critical to use social media strategically to meet the goals and mission of the whole organization.

How you use social media should be integrated into your organization’s marketing and PR plan, along with your other communication vehicles, which all serve your strategic goals. Social media and more traditional marketing efforts can reinforce and support each other, for example in spreading your key messages and promoting products and services. Your emails can share content from your web site/blog and encourage people to “like” your facebook page or highlight specials only available on facebook or twitter. Your posts on facebook and tweets should drive traffic to your web site and share content related to your goals.

gauge_markingMeasuring and regularly reviewing how the different approaches and tactics are doing allow you to make changes on the fly to get the best results. My related article featuring tips for getting the most out of social media with limited time and resources offers highlights on using the most common social media sites for which purposes.

Social media especially lends itself to marketing and public relations but there is more and more emphasis today of the value of becoming a social business from leaders such as Brian Solis. They discuss the  impact of social media and this new age of transparency and easy interactive customer/constituent communication on the organization as a whole. In this previous post I shared ideas about how social media can be used for various sectors of an organization such as HR, customer service, crisis planning, product development, and knowledge sharing.

How do you use social media to meet your organization’s goals and mission? 

 

Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have enough to do in any given day. Since most of us are instead trying to figure out how the days fly by so quickly, regularly assessing what we can stop doing is vital to make more time for what matters most.

Clock showing time flyingA stop doing list is crucial to free up time for all the exciting new things we could be doing instead. But that can be easier said than done in the nitty gritty of the endless daily to do’s and urgent last minute small and big crises that come up.

Take a step back and think honestly – if your mentor or best friend was looking at what you do in a given day, what advice might they give? Are all your meetings, processes, and day-to-day tasks truly necessary? What role do they really play? How do they help you accomplish your most important personal and professional goals?

checkbox ticked offSo many organizations get enmeshed in processes, forms, and a meeting culture that can sap too much energy and time that could be used for getting the actual work done. It can be very easy to feel tied to these daily and weekly procedures and hard to see the forest for the trees. But reflecting on what purpose they serve and discussing them with colleagues can open up new possibilities. Just try to resist the temptation to substitute one process or procedure for another one if it doesn’t serve an important purpose.

Seek out efficiencies at work and in your personal life whether reserving certain times of the day for email and social media or grouping errands. Think about what times of the day you are at your best for creative activities like writing or strategic work like imagining what the best future for your organization would look like and developing new products or services. I try to reserve those times for that higher brain creative work and do more rote work at other times. It’s hard to feel productive if I do the rote things when I would have been at my most creative, and then try to be creative when I am tired.

In my previous post I discussed the process for regularly assessing your products and services to decide when it is time to stop providing something that is no longer profitable or meeting the goals you had for it. But  seeking out the opportunities to cut out some of those hundreds of little and big tasks and routines we all do can be equally fruitful.

What strategies do you use to make the best use of your time?

 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of a Product or Service?

As challenging is it can be to develop great new ideas, it seems even harder to discontinue a product, service, or event. Reflecting on what is really working and not working is crucial to the future of any organization. Nonprofits and associations also need to keep an eye on whether each membership benefit and program is still serving its purpose.

Whether your products, services, and events are profitable is the obvious, critical measure but other factors include:

  • stop red_buttonWhat do your most important audiences want and need? What problems do your key customers or members need help solving? Do all your current products and services still meet these needs?
  • Given changes in technology and how people live and work, are you delivering the right products and services in the right way?
  • Do they fit with your organization’s mission and priorities?

Products developed a long time ago may no longer fit those parameters but it can be very difficult for staff to step back and have an objective perspective, especially those who are closest to developing and maintaining them. It is natural for people to be emotionally invested and to fear change and how it might affect their jobs.

Graph ImagesUsing data that clearly illustrate the trends over time for sales, usage, expenses, and net revenue can help keep the conversation on the facts. Look at the role the product was designed to serve versus what is currently happening, and how the marketplace has evolved and is likely to change in the next year or two.

Honestly assessing what is working vs. what might be best to transition to a different iteration or to discontinue is critical to the future of the organization. It can affect people’s perception of your brand if they think you are stuck in the past with outdated products. Consider how discontinuing or revamping a product that is no longer fruitful can free up time and resources for exciting new ventures.

If you decide to discontinue or change the product, a careful transition plan that involves all affected staff is critical to success. Think through potential pitfalls and reactions and be prepared to be responsive, caring, and follow through effectively so that your provide as smooth a transition as possible. Testing the transition plan either casually or more formally with a small group of customers can help you anticipate issues and questions that might arise and how to best communicate the changes.

How do you periodically review your products, programs, and events to ensure they are still compelling and worthy of continuing?

Treat Your Customers How You Want to Be Treated

What does excellent customer service feel like? Think about your recent experiences as a customer or member and what was most important to you.

Thank you signatureWhich moments made you feel valued and happy? Smiling to yourself did you think I need to do more business with that organization?! Which experiences made you wonder to yourself why is nothing simple anymore?

What Kind of Experience Do You Offer Customers?

When was the last time you thought about what your customer, member, or donor’s experience with your organization is like through each potential step of the process? Whether it’s to make an inquiry or a purchase, check out what it is really like anonymously. What are all the points of potential interaction someone can have with your organization and where are the potential annoyances?

Two people with talking thought bubblesCall your reception desk or call center, email from an anonymous personal email address, place an order, test your e-commerce or online donation system. What impression did you get? Where are things going smooth as clockwork? How were you treated? Were there some surprises, bumps or bruises?

Watch for potential points of frustration and think about what you need to do to ensure your customers feel appreciated.  You know what superlative customer service feels like, envisioning how to offer that same level of service is a matter of commitment  to anticipate and avoid those aggravations you wouldn’t want to experience if it were you.

Another strategy I always suggest is to ask staff to share comments and feedback they hear from customers. What are the most important trends that members, customers, or donors praise or complain about? What the pressing issues customers talk about? In so many organizations this feedback is never shared so decisions are made that ignore the reality that customers feel and express to first line staff they talk to. Social media listening, that is monitoring customers’ conversations online, is another important way to hear feedback in addition to whatever regular market research you conduct.

Not every organization has the budget to offer superlative Nordstrom level customer care but it doesn’t cost a lot to make people feel special – starting with just how they are treated. For example, the tone everyone in your organization uses with customers is free — and imperative.

What are the strategies you use to make sure your customer service builds strong relationships and leaves your customers and members smiling?

8 Tips to Build a Large Facebook Following

With 1.06 billion active monthly users as of December 2012, facebook is an important marketing outpost for most organizations to build community and engage people in your mission, services, and activities. However, you want to have  a sufficient sized audience who “like” your facebook page to make your time spent using facebook worthwhile.

It is also critical to clearly articulate your goals for being on facebook so you and your team know what you are trying to achieve. Plan how you will provide compelling, fun content that will engage your customers, prospects, members, or clients which I discussed in this previous blog post.

Here are eight tips to attract people to “like” your facebook page so you build a good sized community:

  • Make sure your web site features a facebook social sharing icon link and that all your printed materials promote liking you on facebook.
  • Include a teaser promoting your facebook page in all staff members’ email signature blocks.
  • Share excerpts from your most recent facebook postings anywhere possible such as your email newsletter, with a teaser to like your facebook page so they can get more news like this.
  • Encourage people to share your postings with their facebook friends, periodically explicitly asking people to “pass the word on to your friends about the great news/photos we have so they can see it as soon as it’s posted, too!” (Or whatever other content you want to mention that you think is high value.) 
  • Mention liking your facebook page at meetings and events whenever appropriate. Consider having a laptop available for people to log onto facebook on the spot and “like” your page.
  • If you have a physical location put posters up at each door and by cash registers or other prominent areas promoting liking your facebook page. Hand out a postcard to each person along with their purchase that promotes your facebook presence, upcoming events, and other important things you want to highlight. 
  • For online purchases show a teaser at the last page of the checkout process thanking them for their purchase and encouraging them to stay in touch by liking your facebook page.
  • Seek out opportunities to share highlights of the kinds of content they’ll get if they like your page to make it seem enticing, for example videos, special offers, case studies, how to’s and tips, solutions to problems your customers have, etc.
What strategies have worked for you to increase your facebook following?