Tag Archives: planning

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?

Maximizing LinkedIn to Reach Your Career Goals

Networked SpheresLinkedIn can be a powerful tool for networking and enriching your professional life. But to really capitalize on its strengths it’s important to reflect on your professional goals and what you want to accomplish by using LinkedIn. You can spend a lot of time exploring the different features of LinkedIn but to be successful, know what you want to achieve:

  • Meet new professional contacts within your field
  • Attract new clients, customers, members, or donors
  • Find a new job
  • Gain visibility for your business or start-up
  • Recruit new employees or partners

The more you can articulate about that big picture purpose and then the specific outcomes you are seeking, the easier it is to finetune which tactics and LinkedIn features are best to use to accomplish them. For example, if you want to use LinkedIn to find new clients or business contacts, think through as many details about who your ideal client is as possible, such as industry sector, organization size/type, geographic area, job type/titles, interests, past experience or education.

Then picture what success will look like. How can you measure that?  An example might be that your active engagement in LinkedIn would result in 6 prospective clients and 3 confirmed new clients of XYZ type in the next six months.

Key Steps to Maximize Your LinkedIn Presence

Explore how you can use the different Linked features and functions to make your goals a reality such as:

Review your profile. Does your profile position you with the right keywords and accomplishments to appeal to people in the way you wish to be viewed? Use your headline as your personal brand and emphasize concise highlights of your results and impact. Complete your profile sections such as education, certifications, honors and awards, volunteer roles, and interests to reinforce your expertise while also showing that you are a well-rounded person. Do the same review of your organization’s LinkedIn page, taking advantage of features like the ability to highlight your products and services.

Regularly share useful information related to the expertise you would like to showcase, such as links to insightful articles, data, or research. Give an update about an important project you completed or that you are giving a presentation at an upcoming conference.

Join the right groups and engage in conversation. Search for groups related to your interests and professional goals, looking to see if they have active discussions happening. Show your expertise by answering questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn.

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7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media Presence With Limited Time and Resources

Which social media sites are best for reaching your customers, members, donors or clients?  With the constantly evolving landscape of social media sites and communities it can be overwhelming to feel you should have a presence
Person facing flight of green steps heading upeverywhere when you already have never ending to do’s and an overflowing email inbox. Yet you don’t want to miss an important opportunity to promote your organization and reach your current and potential customers. How do you choose how to best use your time on social media?

1. Think about your goals and what success will look like.

Even if you don’t have time to think through a full blown social media plan, it is important to at least briefly reflect on your most important goals for why you are using (or want to use) social media and how you can measure it. Is it generating
revenue, building community, providing customer service, getting new World globe map made up of puzzle piecescustomers/members/donors/sales leads? How can you use social media to share stories and content that support your brand, what is unique about your organization and products and services? What would success look like if it works the way you are envisioning? Be realistic as it takes time to build your presence and start to see results. Flexibility is key to try different approaches, testing various ideas and messaging is relatively easily through social media.

2. Where is your audience? Be sure to use “listening” tools.

I am often asked if organizations need to have a presence on “all” of the social media sites (accompanied by an overwhelmed catch of breath). The question I 6 different colored talk bubblesalways raise after asking about their goals and mission is do you know which social media communities your customers and potential customers use? Have you started “listening” on social media, that is, exploring what people are saying about you and discussing with each other regarding your industry or business where? Free tools like google alerts (for the general web) and twilert (for twitter) provide easy ways to monitor your brand name and business sector by signing up with them to email you when keywords you select are mentioned.

3. All or nothing? Refine your presence on one or two social media sites first.

It is hard especially when you are a social media beginner and/or have limited resources to have an effective presence on lots of social media sites. It is better to pick one or two sites that you think will have the best impact for your goals and audience and do them really well, then to spread yourself thin doing a little bit all over the place ineffectively. You can add other sites as you build success where you started.

4. Think about the unique environment of each social media tool you’re exploring and which is best for meeting your goals. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular social  media sites:

Each social media community has its own character, look, and feel, and type of audience or purpose which you want to become familiar with when you start posting there.

Facebook has the biggest audience with one billion members, a casual friends-oriented environment, and loads of tools and functionality you can use to build a vibrant community.

For professionals and business-to-business organizations, LinkedIn offers a powerful way to network with people in your industry, stay up-to-date about news in your profession. It’s truly become a replacement for the resume and crucial for recruiting talent.

Twitter gives you the opportunity to share short, snappy news bytes or updates that can be a very effective way to drive traffic to your web site as well. It’s also a great way to follow the organizations and people you are interested in and find out the latest trends. You can use hashtags (words preceded by the # symbol) to search for information or to join a tweetchat, a twitter discussion held at a set time on a particular topic (for example, most Monday nights at 8pm Eastern there is a marketing #MMchat sponsored by The Social SMO).

Google Plus while a smaller community than facebook has developed a passionate following among those who enjoy its design and environment. Your Google+ presence enhances how easily people can find your key web pages when doing google searches because for obvious reasons google gives preference to results from Google+. Google+ Hangouts have intriguing potential for a wide variety of uses, giving you the option of having free online video discussions with up to 10 people or hosting virtual meetings to an unlimited number of people by broadcasting a Hangout to them.

Pinterest is the hugely popular visual pinboard site in which community members “pin” photos that they like in different interest areas and categories. Closely intertwined with facebook, people are using Pinterest creatively to share everything from recipes to home design tips to business and technology advice.

Instagram is another widely used social media tool to create smartly designed graphic representations that express information and data in an easy-to-understand visual way, or to add special effects to your photos. People share instagrams through the instagram app itself, facebook, pinterest, their blog, or anywhere else they want to online.

5. Plan your staffing, who will listen, engage, and make decisions on the fly for your organization?

The main “cost” of engaging in social media is time and effort rather than “hard costs.” Social media gives the power to any size organization to make an impact but it takes time…and it is very public so you want to make sure that whoever posts on behalf of your organization understands your goals and what is appropriate in tone and substance.

6. Plan your customer service approach and proactively anticipate issues that might arise. 

Be sure to plan how you will respond to any customer issues that arise as people expect if you are online at a site that you will answer questions or concerns they post – and if your social media “listening” uncovers problems then address them as quickly as possible. Proactively prepare for what you think could arise, based on your audience and what you observe people “talking about” online. People can get nervous about the risk of social media uncovering issues but whether your organization has an official presence on a social media site or not doesn’t change that customers are online and they like to discuss whatever issues are on their minds on any particular day.

7. Gauge your progress and continuously test and update it as you go along.

Seek ways to monitor your progress, such as how you are engaging with current and potential customers in whichever social media communities you are using. Engaging people in an interactive, social way is a key benefit of social media that can help strengthen your brand, building loyalty and community.

How has your social media presence helped your organization spread the word about your services and products, or retain and strengthen customer relationships?

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!

 

Is Solving Your Customers’ Problems the Focus of Your Products & Services?

Are you solving problems for your customers, clients, and members or focusing on your organization’s needs instead?

While it can be tempting to wax poetically about how wonderful our products, services, and organizations are, our customers, clients, and members care about what they need, not what we have to offer. What are they worrying about? What aggravates them? How can we make their lives easier? Save them time and money?

Genie's magic lampKeeping up with what your customers want and need and how your organization can solve their problems is pivotal to success. What that answer is inevitably changes over time. That’s why evolving offerings and services continuously to meet changing needs that you regularly gauge is so critical. And letting go of what isn’t resonating anymore.

Once you have found great solutions to your customers’ needs then it becomes much easier to use clear consistent messaging and engaging story telling to spread the word about the benefits of your products and services.  Which kinds of customer problems you are going to solve flows from your mission and what you hopefully have already identified as your organization’s unique competitive advantage.

No matter how zippy or eye catching our slogan or graphics, if we are not taking care of what our customers need, someone else will inevitably step in who will.  What steps are you taking to solve your customer’s problems and communicate what you are doing to help them?

 

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?

Embracing and Anticipating Change Critical to Ongoing Success

Today change is the only constant. The world is in perpetual motion just as most of us are. If we are too distracted by the endless day-to-day tasks to keep an eye on the whole picture we can lose sight of critical trends, technologies, and changes that will affect our future.

changing colors of leaves in a group of autumn treesWhat are the trends and issues that most impact your profession, industry, organization, and customers? What are the best sources for not only tracking but anticipating the changes that will affect your organization and ultimately your career? Are you reserving some time for reflection about these issues?

Continuously seek opportunities to learn, read, and talk to customers and key influencers in your field. Watch what both thought leaders and up and coming dynamic newcomers in your profession and industry are saying and doing.

Embrace with enthusiasm that change is an ongoing part of the fabric of our lives. Change is constantly unfolding around us whether we like it or not. So finding excitement and natural optimism in the opportunities that change can bring to our careers and businesses will surely be more satisfying than worrying about negative aspects of having to learn new things or resisting letting go of aspects of your business or products that are no longer successful. None of us want to be a case example of the alternative (aka Borders and Blockbusters).

Over the generations, it is the people who have embraced the new technologies of the Thomas Edisons and Alexander Graham Bells who have truly impacted their worlds. It is the unique thinkers like Warren Buffet who recognize the paradigm breaking technologies to invest in or capitalize on for their world. We like to say that things are changing more than ever today. While the speed of change has increased, dramatic change has affected most every generation. Think how the world felt before and after electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing.

What new ideas and strategies can you find in the demographic, technology, and social changes you see happening in your slice of the world that can drive new business? How can you use what you are learning to anticipate your customers, members, or clients’ needs and problems and solve them? What will solve their problems and wow them will undoubtedly be different next year than what it was last year.  Are you staying on top of the curve to anticipate those needs?