Tag Archives: management

Reflecting on Your Professional and Personal Goals Amidst the Daily Rush Critical to Success

photo of colored pencils and crayon boxes on top of lined paperWhether you have children or teens starting school or the Labor Day weekend brings back memories of shopping for school supplies and the transition from fun summer pastimes, this is a great time of year to reflect on your personal and professional goals.

Just like the start of the school year was a great opportunity for a fresh start and renewed focus on favorite courses and extracurricular activities when we were in school, adults can jump on the bandwagon by thinking through what you want to accomplish for your organization, your career, and your personal life.

In the day-to-day rush of urgent, frequent tasks, projects, emails, meetings, and more, it’s hard to take the time to contemplate what is most important to you and whether the to do’s you take care of each day are leading to accomplishing your goals. Making sure you have articulated your most important personal and professional goals is the first step. If you have already done this, be sure to regularly reflect on whether your goals have changed.

When you think one or five years into the future, what will you want to have accomplished? What do you most value spending your time doing personally and professionally?

Five years from now, what will make you feel wonderful looking back on this time? What would you regret if you didn’t do?

Then as I discussed in my New Year’s post, visualize the steps that will get you there and if you know people who are role models who could inspire you. This includes following thought leaders in your professional field, industry, and related to your personal aspirations (e.g. if you have fitness or parenting goals) who you could follow on twitter, facebook, google plus, or other online forums. Who could you learn from?

Here’s to a successful, fulfilling (school) year ahead doing whatever is most meaningful to you!

 

Six Keys to Content Marketing Success

Sharing compelling content whether information, news, videos, or podcasts related to your mission and goals is a winning strategy for attracting and engaging current and potential customers, members, or donors. With a crowded marketplace and communication stream filled with organizations pitching and selling, positioning yourself as the place to find timely, concise, engaging stories and news on your niche helps you cut through the clutter.

a photo of fireworksA carefully thought out content strategy and plan is key to success including:

What are your ultimate goals and desired outcomes  (leads, sales, fundraising, building community, recruiting/retaining members, etc.)?

What kinds of content do you think which of your target audiences would find most interesting and useful? What are problems your customers or members have that your content can help them solve?

To Create or Curate? How will you combine creating vs. curating content to become the source people turn to for information? Most organizations will find a combination of culling useful news and information from external trusted sources with creating your own content a happy medium. A fruitful approach is focusing on developing content that isn’t easily found elsewhere and fits your niche and goals, while sharing other kinds of content you know other outside organizations are already doing a great job providing (rather than wasting resources creating information someone else does).

What content should be free and open to the public vs. members-only or fee-based? Associations and publishers have been wrestling with this question for some time. While the traditional approach was to lock most content behind the membership gate, today associations are taking a fresh look at what will be perceived as the highest member value and how to use what kind of public content to build a community and enhance their reputation as an authoritative information source. Each organization has to look carefully at these issues based on their industry, competitors, and specific situation.

How will you promote your free content to increase and engage your desired audiences? Developing and curating insightful content is a waste if people aren’t aware of it. Plan how you will promote your content through every vehicle possible and encourage your constituents to share it with their friends and colleagues to maximize your audience and build your reputation as the source for information in your niche.

Keep up with content marketing strategies and trends by following the experts. Some of my favorite content marketing experts are:

A superb example of a web site loaded with engaging, insightful, free content is Social Media Examiner, founded by Michael Stelzner, the ultimate content marketer and author of the book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition. Stelzner has used this approach to build an audience of more than 600,000 readers to draw on for his events and courses.
What do you think is most critical to having a successful content marketing strategy? Which experts do you turn to for content marketing ideas and information?

Does What You Say Match What You Deliver?

cup with array of colored pencilsDo your messaging, mission, stories, and actual customer/member/donor experience align? It takes enormous effort, creativity, and time to deliver your mission, use effective messaging, and make it come alive through compelling stories. But it means nothing if the actual experience your customers, members, or donors have does not match the expectations your story creates.

Listening to your constituents through as many channels as possible including social media and market research offers a critical window to how your organization is really doing.

Get insights and feedback from front line staff who communicate with your customers, members, or donors on a daily basis through phone, email and your social media outlets to make sure you understand people’s perceptions, impressions, feelings, and experiences.

Does the reality people are experiencing match what your marketing is promising? If not, what do you need to do to change that?

Articulate Your Unique Competitive Advantage to Stand Out from the Crowd

award medalHave you articulated the most compelling benefits your organization and products offer that differentiate you from your competitors? Clearly communicating your unique competitive advantage and using it consistently is key to gaining the attention of potential customers, members, and donors.

People are busier than ever and have short attention spans to decide if your message, product, or organization is worth their time. There are so many organizations and messages to sift through, it is critical to make yours stand out from the crowd. Know the competition and how your products and services can truly stand out and be different – what is your niche?

Look carefully at what the competitors your customers are likely to consider are offering and how they position themselves. Think about how your products and services compare and what your unique positioning is. Be sure to focus on benefits to your customers or members – not features. It doesn’t matter what you think is great about your product or service if it’s not important to your customers.

Clear messaging can persuade your prospects that your offerings will meet their needs if you have carefully crafted your wording and taken the time to really understand their motivations and challenges. Show them how what you have to offer is the solution to  their problems. This is the core of branding that can deliver the call to action you need – whether it is a lead, a sale, a new member, or a new donor.

Small businesses and associations can use this strategy to effectively compete with large companies or associations which by definition tend to have broad offerings and appeal to wider rather than targeted audiences.

What is  your competitive advantage?

Engaging the Next Generation while Remaining Relevant to Your Other Constituents

Are you making attracting and retaining the next generation a priority to sustain your organization and benefit from their fresh insights and ideas? Quite simply, they are the future. Which is why empowering and cultivating the next generation of leaders in your organization, association, industry is so vital.

Balance bar with steel ball on either side of itWhile appealing to and engaging younger people is the lifeblood of the future of the organization, balancing that with staying relevant and nurturing the rest of your customer/member base is also critical.  It is a delicate dance in a time of limited resources.

For example, many membership associations and nonprofits face the dilemma that the average age of their members and donors are now over 50 years old, making involving younger people more critical than ever. Yet budgets and staff time are also at their tightest and they worry that focusing on engaging young people will mean not paying sufficient attention to their core membership and donors.

Here are some quick tips and ideas that are working for a number of organizations:

Avoid making generalizations about the “next generation.” Take the time to find out the priorities, motivations, interests, and habits of the younger customers, members, or donors  in your audience. Which social media sites and online communities do they use for what purposes?

Conduct market research and have anecdotal conversations with younger and older people in the segments you want to reach. You may find they have common core needs and interests that will help define your messaging and services you might want to develop for them despite being in different ages ranges.

Look at your marketing materials and online presence – do the photos and graphics represent diversity including in range of ages? Are your main messages consistent with the needs and values of your most important younger and older customers/members?

Consider creating a mentoring program and/or online discussion group that give seasoned customers and members the opportunity to share their expertise and life experience with younger people. This can provide a meaningful experience and resource to both parties while involving them in your organization. Invite some key older and younger people to moderate the discussion group on your web site or a social media site like LinkedIn.

Seek other meaningful ways that customers, members, or donors in different age ranges and with different needs and interests can engage with your organization. Invite some articulate, insightful  young people to serve on your Board and key committees to ensure you get their input while making them feel valued.

Younger people expect respect and a seat at the table. They are not going to tolerate waiting 20 years to “earn” their place. Encourage their ideas, give them the opportunity to create a new program or service, or to host an in-person or online discussion panel. Ask them to serve on a task force to take a fresh look at a business line or program area.

Share success stories about accomplished young professionals or customers and how your organization or products/services helped them achieve their goals. Ask a few articulate, successful members or customers to serve as ambassadors for your organization, featuring them in articles, print and online ads, your web site, blog, and social media vehicles. Encourage them to share their stories as well and to ask their friends or colleagues to participate in your organization.

What have you found effective to engage the next generation while nurturing and sustaining your other key members, donors, or customers? What impact have you seen?

What Will Success Look Like in 2012?

When you think about what would ideally fulfill  you personally and professionally, what does it look like? Can you visualize what success would feel like, what you would experience?

What are the key steps it would take to get you there? What things are holding you back? New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and think about what is most important to you, what would give you the most satisfaction, and what the road map would be to get there.

red carpet award runway up steps to trophy prizeVisualizing can be a powerful tool to thoughtfully reflect on what would bring us joy and fulfillment – whether it is personal wealth, starting a new business or changing careers, meeting an organizational vision or target (e.g. increasing revenues or specific segments of donors, members, clients, customers), balancing spending truly quality time with your family, and/or meeting personal fitness goals. Brainstorming and creativity techniques like mind mapping can be useful to articulate your ideas and vision.

Can you think of people who have achieved similar goals or who you admire that you can turn to for advice and encouragement? This can include people you personally know and people you would like to get to know – including thought leaders in your field you can follow on twitter, google plus, facebook, et al to soak up their philosophy and thought processes.

Are there things you are doing now that just use time that you could use to fulfill your dreams and vision? Whether endless meetings that don’t bring you closer to your dreams or enhance your team’s collaborations, or the allure of mindless email or other time wasters, curtailing them can help buy us the time we need to meet our personal and professional goals.

Here is to a very successful – and most importantly – fulfilling and joyful 2012 spent pursuing our dreams and what is truly most important to us. What are you envisioning for 2012?

Using Social Media for Customer Service, HR, Operations and the Rest of Your Organization

Social media has grown way beyond being a marketing, public relations, and communications tool. At its heart the core of social media is connecting people, an ever evolving opportunity for people to engage, discuss, and share  perspectives, opinions, and information. So by definition social media impacts most aspects of an organization including product development, customer service, HR, and crisis management.

image of the world globe against digital backgroundAre you thinking through the best ways to use social media effectively throughout your organization to meet your goals and build community? Here are just a few examples of the many applications social media has across the organization:

Customer Service. Customers and potential customers are most likely discussing your products and services online, providing a constant virtual focus group. If customers do not get the service they want or something goes wrong with a product, they will be quick to share it online. Be sure to respond quickly and helpfully, remembering your response and the customer’s are in a very public forum.The positive is when you shine, you also may get complimented in that same public space. Obviously you want the positives to go viral, not to be a negative example used by social media experts for years to come (as happened with “United Breaks Guitars“).

This is all one more reason why most organizations want to have a strong presence on primary sites like facebook and twitter to provide outstanding customer service while also supporting their branding and messaging goals. Many organizations also encourage customer reviews on their own web sites getting the opportunity to address issues as they arise and get honest feedback about their products.

New Product Development. Listening to customers’ conversations on social media can provide invaluable input and pinpoint trends to help hone current products and services and get ideas for new ones. Innovative organizations have set up special web sites to invite customers to share new product ideas and vote on favorite ideas others have submitted, for example “My Starbucks Idea.” The sites often offer incentives such as potential prizes for winning ideas.

Crisis Planning and Management. The power of social media to build community and communicate makes it a critical interactive tool in a crisis. Messages can be communicated on the fly to the public and the media. Conversation on sites like facebook and google plus about ongoing issues can keep people up-to-date and get their questions answered.

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7 Ways to Avoid Procrastinating and to Achieve Your Most Important Goals

Overcoming the temptation to procrastinate can be challenging with the constant inflow of email, calls, seemingly pressing but not critical tasks, and 24/7 social networking. But you don’t want what you aren’t doing to stand in the way of your own success.

With two businesses and family priorities on my mind, here are seven tips I use to balance the goals in the different quadrants of my life and get the most important things done:

1) Pinpoint your most important goals and what you need to accomplish each week to achieve them

2) Each morning take a few minutes to visualize what you’ll focus on and do a gut check as to whether you have covered your priorities. Is what you’re devoting  your time to helping you meet your most critical goals?

3) Set a schedule and stick to it – carve out the time you need for each of the most critical things on your list. If you need to write or do other creative, thought intensive work, block out interruptions and pledge to spend the next hour or however long it takes to get that stage of your project done.

4) Post reminders everywhere within reason that you can – for example, I use my online tasks list and notes on my online calendar but also have white boards posted in a couple of strategic locations to keep my goals front and center.

5) Don’t always say yes. Be politely assertive about saying you can’t do things that you know will derail your goals by taking time away from your priorities. If you are torn because you really want to do something that you know you don’t have time for now, you can always say you would love to do it but in a few months or next year.

6) If you’re stuck, sometimes the best approach is to take a walk and take along a notepad, smart phone, or iPad so you can think through the issues while you stroll and stop and jot down notes as they come to you.

7) Refuel your energy by exercising, getting quality sleep, and eating healthfully most days of the week. I became enthusiastic about exercising when I realized I could recharge and refresh while doing my metabolism and health such a great favor.

I think most people have days when you knock it out of the ballpark and other lower energy days, it’s about plugging away at what’s most important but taking time for fun, relaxation, and family that balances everything.

What are your tips for meeting your goals and making the most of your time?

What Would Make Membership in Your Organization Recession-Proof?

Membership organizations have faced unprecedented challenges  in the last few years between the impact of the economy, massive changes to so many industry sectors and professions, and constantly evolving technology and ways of doing business. New  entrepreneurial membership web sites may enter your niche that offer online services that meet many of your members’ needs at a lower cost.

There is a sea change in people’s attitudes toward associations and other membership organizations. It is no longer a given for people to belong to a professional or trade association.

The bottom line – it is not about your organization, it is about your member or customer. What is in it for them?

What are the compelling reasons that people should belong – not because they are in this profession or business but because your organization gives them benefits that they cannot live without. Do you know what is important to your members and prospective members? What they need and want? What problems keep them up at night? How can you help solve them?

If your answers to these questions are based on historical answers, it is important to revisit them  through market research, listening to your constituents through social media and what they say when they contact your organization, and having regular conversations with members and prospective members in key segments. Take every opportunity you can to chat with people and listen carefully to what they care about. Ask questions about  how can we help you, how can we make a difference in your life and to your business?

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What Will Success Look Like?

In the midst of never ending projects, emails, calls, colleagues stopping by to chat, and social media updates, do you have a clear perspective of which are the most important goals you want to achieve in your professional and personal life?

It is so easy to be pulled into the maelstrom of seemingly urgent tasks and lose sight of what will really take your career to the next level, or more importantly, feel most satisfying to you personally.

Seagull flyingWhat are the top three professional goals that will take your organization and career to the next level? What about in your personal life? What is truly most important to achieve and how will you know you have succeeded?

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional serving a large or small private sector company or a nonprofit, keeping your eye on three overarching goals and the milestones and measures to get you there is critical for success. The same is true for your personal life — for example, striving to keep work/life balance through getting regular exercise and/or spending quality time with your family.

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