Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sometimes the best fix to indecision is to make a decision...ANY DECISION

I recently sat contemplating a great job opportunity. It was ideal in many ways and exactly what I was looking for, and impeccably timed. However, with opportunity brings the need to make a decision and sometimes I find myself, like this time, completely frozen à-la-deer-in-headlights when it came to deciding. 

Decision making in life and business
Making ANY decision is better than being idle.


In my mind, like most other people I think, a decision equals consequences. And consequences sound like a scary, irreversible word that means you are locked-in, committed for life. 

Sometimes however, I have a moment of clarity amid the irrational onslaught of  'what ifs' and 'shoulds' that pepper my thoughts and litter my decision-making process. 

I realize...GASP....

It's not the end of the world. I know right? Shocking.

Be it decisions with your personal life, what to wear to work or decisions with your business, there is very little that:

A) will cause the profound rupture in the space-time continuum that you are dreading

or 

B) will cause the existence of all that you know and love to cease. 


Sure, consequences are real. They can be scary. At the time, this job opportunity seemed like THE ONLY job opportunity, but in reality - and just like it has been every other time I've gone down this road before - this is the one now, but not the only one forever after, amen. 

So what did I do to overcome this stalemate of indecisiveness? I made a decision. 

I don't know if I made the best decision. I don't know if I made the one that I'll look back on in a week, or a month or in a year and still be happy with. To know that would mean that I would also have the foresight to avoid some bad purchases that still bear their price tags in my closet. 

The point is that sometimes I get bogged down in the details, examining things too closely and with way more weight than need be placed on the decision because in fact, I'm putting the weight of the consequences for the rest of my life on the decision - seems pretty ridiculous when you put it in those terms, right?

In making a decision, I feel more liberated and at ease, which in turn has helped me move past a sort of lull and roadblock in momentum in other areas of my life. It kind of kickstarted a mini-revolution in me; giving way to refreshed thinking and a renewed perspective. 
new pathway decision making
Decisions lead to new options not dead ends.

On the other side of the coin, if the decision I made hadn't sat well with me, I'd also have an inkling of that too so I would know that a subsequent decision or action should be taken to remedy it, thus blowing to pieces my irrational fear of being eternally tied to the decisions I make. 

Earth-shattering conclusion: Either way, making a decision is the best course of action when you are frozen in inaction. At the very least, you'll feel if it is right or wrong and then you can plan your next move.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From networking to your target market, why the right fit is so important

Here's a silly story to kick start this post {read: self-deprecating}. I attended a very well-regarded networking lunch event in Ottawa last month. Ladies Who Lunch is a regular event bringing together a who's who of female entrepreneurs in Canada's capital area. I didn't know a soul. I decided to go because it was a higher calibre event (3-course seated meal at the NAC) and thought I'd see what a classy networking event was like. I mean, come on - they had swag bags! 


Black sheep anyone?? Yep, that's me!
So I arrive as the lunch portion is starting and everyone is being seated at the tables. I am a bit later than I had hoped; my 'fashionably late' arrival had become just plain late. I confidently walked into the room full of chattering women, some looking like they just came from a photoshoot or professional make up artist, and scanned for a free seat. Strolling through the crowd, smiling my most approachable, winning smile, I asked 'Is this seat taken?' to nearly every person. No go. I keep walking, smiling, searching. I start wondering if they oversold the event...I mean, really...not one seat?? 

Making my way now around the back of the room, I can feel my smile tightening, along with my stomach. "Wow, the room is getting hot!", I think, trying to block out my rising panic that I will be without a seat. My scanning becomes searching, and I finally spy a table with empty seats - hallelujah! I walk over, focused, determined, and - sweet jeezus - relieved that this awkward part of the event is seemingly almost over. Again I ask, as sweetly as I can muster at this point, trying to hide the desperation that I am feeling, "Are these seats taken?" The lovely lady with flowing blonde hair is striking - put together like someone on TV. I might have been more arrested by her aura had I not been so desperate to find a spot. They kind of stumble in response to me...I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what they are trying to tell me. I'm focussed on hearing either yes or no but they are explaining something...something about making sure there is room for Carol Anne (Meehan as it turns out - a local TV personality) and they point me in the general direction of another lady, who seems to be running the show. As I stand there, still without a definitive yes or no, I begin to follow the busy lady as she buzzes from table to table to...podium right behind me. As I become oriented with my current location in the room, I realize I'm front and centre, unknowingly trying to edge my way to a seat at the head table where the guest speakers and leading ladies of this society are seated.

Realizing my amateur and flustered mistake, I quickly retreat, grateful that they were gracious enough to pretend to entertain my request to crash their party. Oh well. Lesson learned. Networking events of this calibre are apparently not to be attended solo. 

Quasi deflated, I finally did find the absolute last vacant spot in the room. With face and ears burning, and a sweat glistening on my skin I get the answer I was doubtful I would hear: This seat is not taken.

"YESSSSSSS!!!!" I think...I'm sure my face was awash in relief. These were very nice ladies for sure, and I happily sank into their conversation, drowning out the embarrassment and stress of the preceding 5 agonizing minutes. Gaaaagh. What a shitty start to this supposedly-stellar event but what a great story to tell, right?!

All that to say, it pays to be choosy with the events you attend. Not all networking events are created equal and just because they are pricey and highly-touted (the PM's wife was there for goddsake) doesn't mean a darn thing.

My inaugural experience did taint my outlook on the rest of the event: I felt like an outsider among these accomplished, networked women. This was clearly not my crowd. I felt a bit of resentment and bitterness towards the organizers who spoke of the warm and fuzzy kinship of female business owners, and how important it is to lead but also to pull other up along with you. So far, my own experience didn't really speak to that. "Yeah, right" I thought, "...as long as you have an 'in' and are all part of your clique" I thought should be the addendum to that sentiment. It was a nice thought. Whatever.

As I learned, unless you have a contact who can make the introductions for you, it is INSANELY hard to make any significant progress at an event where you don't know a soul, unless everyone else is in the same boat - which is unlikely.

Then you have events at the other end of the spectrum: meetup lunches or brunches with a small group of ladies, some are owners of their own business, most are direct sales consultants. These groups are a dime a dozen. The idea sounds great on paper but again, it's good to consider who will be in attendance and if they are really the people who you want to connect with. That might sound snobby but it isn't. Time is money. When you are building a business you have to look at it in those terms. Sure it is nice to go out an meet people, and most in attendance at those smaller meetup events are very nice people but they might not be the RIGHT people. 

By right people I mean to you and you alone. For example, what do they offer to you? Who do they know? Are they well-connected and therefore can help you meet valuable other people relevant to your business? Are they potential clients? Do they represent a viable target market opportunity? All of those questions are valid and warrant consideration. 


Stop networking with the wrong people; people who would never buy your product or who wouldn't respond to your business model. It's not mean; it's strategic.

This leads to my second point: being choosy about your target market. I could go off on this topic for a good, long while. In fact, I plan to. I will be creating a program as part of my 20-Minute Marketer series about target market profiling but I digress...

Just because people are nice, or have a business or are living and breathing and have money to buy things doesn't mean they are right for YOUR business. 

It might seem contrary to limit who you are targeting because it means your are targeting fewer people, but in reality it means that you are actually not wasting time or resources targeting the WRONG people. Unless your product has very wide, generic appeal like shampoo or hand soap (and even then, you can be selective!), a broader target market doesn't necessarily equate to more sales.

What does make a difference is making sure you know who your business or product resonates with the most. Tapping into that will pay off.

Likewise with networking, identifying the best opportunities for YOU is what is most important. Think about what you want to accomplish and the type of people you would benefit most from meeting and let that be your guide.

Most of all, BE AUTHENTIC. Don't approach your target market or next networking event like a vulture circling it's next meal. It's give and and take. Give advice, listen, be courteous. What grows out of highly targeted events and markets is a natural fit that will bloom without being forced.

The TAKEAWAY: Businesses, people, ideas, products - they all thrive when built upon natural connections and complementary relationships. Finding that "fit" is the key to success whether we are talking about mentors, networking or defining your target market.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The next BIG thing in marketing: authenticity & responsiveness

Want to know how to really make an impression with your clients? Want to learn the trick to the next big viral campaign before it even happens? How about the best way to grow your business? 

Are you ready? Ok....here goes. I hope you are sitting down.


Be authentic. Be genuine. Know you customers like they are your friends. Actually care.



Yes, it IS that simple.

If you don't believe it, I can guarantee that if you take a look at any successful business, 95% of them will agree that paying attention to what their best customers want, and then - here's the key - RESPONDING - is what makes all the difference.

Here's why: 
Customers are your biggest assets. Treat them right and reap the rewards. 

I have said this many times, but it's worth saying again. In fact, you can read more about just how important customers are from sales to innovating your next product here.

The Age of the Customer
"The age of the customer" is but one of the phrases I've heard lately to describe the shift in power from marketers to consumers. Call it what you want, but people are savvier now than ever before, and they can smell a lie, a ruse, a contrived message a mile away. The key to survival (and in turn, success) is cutting the crap, removing the fluff, and speaking with authenticity to your audience. That is where the next wave of marketing is heading. 

Advertisers and marketers, mom and pop shops and CEOs everywhere need to listen up if they want to keep on keeping on. The era of push strategies at any point of the marketing cycle is over.

The take away: take the time to listen, get feedback, RESPOND!








Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 ways you can learn more about your customers NOW!

We are all connected with chain link graphic below the text.
The customer is king. We have entered an era of marketing where businesses are finally realizing the value of genuinely connecting with their customers. Customers are, afterall, a business's most valuable asset. Loyalty breeds good news like a drop of water on a still pond. Treat your customers right, and the rewards will come. But often overlooked are the simple ways you likely already have in place that can help you connect with your customers on a regular basis. 

Here is a list of common touch points - points of interaction that your business has with customers - that can take your insight - and service - to the next level. 


1. Sales receipts
Yes, believe it or not, this is a way to interact with your customers. I mean, what else are they guaranteed to have in their hand at one point or another? Write a more personal, customized note on sales receipts as opposed to simply slapping your logo onto generic forms. If you can't do that, create stickers or custom post-it notes to add to the receipt by hand (if the sale is in-store). Ask questions, encourage customers to contact you via email or the web; if you collect email addresses (why aren't you collecting email addresses??) encourage them to sign up with a call-to-action on the receipt. And of course, be genuine and thank them for their business.

2. Surveys
Put a survey up on a free service like Survey Monkey and encourage feedback with a prize for completing the survey. Ask questions about your products, the variety, the price points, service, delivery time - these tools are available: USE THEM!!


3. Email
Use any piece of material that gets into your customers hands to drive them to your website or sign up with their email (see sales receipts, for example). You don't need to send them a weekly 10-page newsletter. Quite the opposite. Make it occasional but GOOD! Make the content count. Create interest. Ask questions. Encourage interaction via social media. CROSS PROMOTION of all your touch points is key.


4. Social media
If you are using social media as just another platform to blast information AT your customer and target audience, you need to stop NOW! Balancing information with your sales pitch is essential to have any traction in social media. Think of this platform as a way to share with friends. Encourage conversations, ask questions, comment on things of interest to your area of business. Don't be afraid to contact people directly through replies or shares or comments - that is why those features were created! 

Just because you are a business and represent your brand, doesn't mean you can't interact like a human. In fact - that is highly recommended. Once the dialogue starts flowing, you can use social platforms for feedback as well. Show new stock, preview products coming in, create excitement. 

Contests, coupons, quizzes are also easy to create and post on social media sites.

5. In person
First and foremost, make sure you are 100% focused on the customer you are serving. Secondly, when they are paying for their purchase, why not have a quick question prepared to ask during the process? Might as well put that chit chat to good use! Ask them if there is anything other product they would like to see stocked. Ask them how often they come into the store. Ask them what they purchase most often. One question asked to each customer can yield some great insight and it isn't much of an intrusion since they are already engaged and in a conversation. Just don't bombard them with an impromptu game of 20 questions; save that for the survey I mentioned above. 


The takeaway: These are some simple yet effective ways to take your engagement with your customers to the next level. It really comes down to listening...really listening, and not being afraid of what you might hear. But that's a topic for another post. :-)


Best of luck! 

~Nancy

PS - How about signing up with your email on my site? You'll receive notification first about these awesome little posts to help your business grow by connecting better with your customers. :-)



Monday, February 10, 2014

Why you should teach your kids that grades don't matter...much

My daughter came home from school this past week disappointed with her term report card. She is in the 6th grade, has always been a very conscientious and dedicated student. Her marks reflect that and as a parent, I was very happy with her grades because I know how much effort she puts into her work. Her disappointment however, is what struck me. 

I found myself consoling her and explaining that I would take her creative and open mind, her endless questions and eagerness to learn over straight A's any day. I told her that her charisma and enthusiasm strikes a chord with people and she is genuinely a great person that people love being around. I reminded her of the volume of glowing comments from her teachers over the years. I also told her what I now know firsthand to be true: grades don't matter...much. Well, not nearly as much as we were raised to think they do. In real life, no one cares that you were a straight A-student in high school or graduated with honours. It only matters to archaic institutions that unfortunately have the power to act as gatekeepers of our livelihoods, and that really pissed me off. 

Increasingly kids graduate with more debt than a sense of self-discipline or life skills and to me, that is the biggest flaw of our education system. Life skills allow one to bounce back from failure, work with difficult people and not take criticism too personally. Life skills encourage exploration, collaboration and nurture creative thinking. Life skills build one's motivation to push themselves further than they ever thought possible. I would take a kid learning that over getting an A in algebra any day. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying ditch education. But what I am saying is that the means of benchmarking a child's success is fundamentally flawed. 

An example of this is my youngest daughter. She is much more of a free spirit, not as dedicated to receiving the affirmation of her teachers on her academic performance as my eldest. She knows she knows what she knows. End of story. She doesn't need someone to tell her how good she is, however, we are struggling with a balance between that self-assurance and conforming with the status quo. We are teaching her to 'play the game' at an early age: to do what is being asked even if she doesn't like it in exchange for the freedom and leeway it will give her. I cringe a little at telling her she has to be obedient because that is the expectation in the social confines of elementary school, but then again, I know it's essential that she learns what she likes or wants sometimes has to take a back seat to group conformation. Coping in those situations falls into the tickle trunk of essential life skills that many kids lack. 

The difference is she knows she is playing a game. I would never tell my kids to blindly listen and obey for fear of getting into trouble. The lesson we teach has always been that there is a time and a place, and to ask questions if they don't understand something. If their questioning gets them into trouble, so be it. I will always back them up on that, even if it is questioning the status quo. 

I find it so ironic and ridiculous that as a society, we revere those who have strayed from the beaten path, those who have gone on their own to explore new ideas, those innovators that inspire the regular-folk to dream, but we applaud them in only in retrospect once things have paid off and we are assured that they did indeed make the "right choice". We are such a fickle society that way: we focus on the end result (and only if it's a positive one). We idolize those who have made their mark, revolutionized society but yet, given how education is structured, we don't encourage it very much in real life especially in our formative years. It's a pretty pathetic state of affairs. What kind of lesson are we teaching were we applaud those leaders of thought and innovation only once they are rich billionaires but are too tentative to encourage it in our own schools?

Part of the problem with school and our society in general: it is too focussed on the end result, be it a letter grade or a career or to get rich. What we need is to foster in kids a sense of self worth, a work ethic and desire to be better everyday in whatever it is that they are doing. Living a life that is rich because you are doing something you love is what makes life worth living. It's not about the retirement at the end of the road anymore. It's about the days in between.

I think that entrepreneurship is one of the best things kids can be exposed to at a young age. That's one of the reasons I started my own company. I felt compelled to do it because I knew there was more to life than working for someone else. I wanted to make a difference myself and show my daughters that it is possible to define and build your own success. Entrepreneurship is an amazing way to do that. It's about being self-reliant, collaborating with others, building a better society by solving problems. Entrepreneurship is about taking action, being creative and following through. to me, those are the best life lessons of all that everyone would be better off learning (and it's never too late). 

In the coming years, kids are going to come out of educational institutions increasingly miffed at how misled they were to believe that a diploma would secure some kind of future for them. As a result, we {parents, business owners, role models} will have to pick up the slack and show kids what IS possible. We are going to see a new insurgence of entrepreneurs...I can feel it...and I find that so exciting. Innovation and evolution don't come from standing still. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Polar vortex of consumer unhappiness

Turn misfortune into an opportunity to rise above...by making your customers happy even in less-than perfect situations. 

During the recent cold snap courtesy of the Polar Vortex, businesses were inundated with delays, airlines were the source of much malcontent, and generally speaking, if you dealt with any human being in northern North America in early 2014, you were bound to hear complaints about customer service.

What I want to put out there is this: Why not turn that misfortune into an opportunity to wow and amaze your customers with outstanding customer service?

I can see the scoffers now... Am I right to assume that the following excuses are being bounced around?:

"That takes too much planning" 

and 

"That's unrealistic! How can we know what to expect and then plan for it?" 


Those are valid questions but I'll ask this one in response:

Can you afford NOT to be prepared?

Most businesses can and should (read this post about why customers are so important) excel at keeping customers happy when things are running at status quo. But where businesses have the chance to shine (and rise above the competition) is when things are less than perfect. The time is ripe then to stand out, and it might take less effort than you thought. The pay off: a lasting impression.

Small actions, big results
It's not easy AND it takes planning (it's not a quick fix - sorry), but if you can provide customer service excellence in the worst of times, the carry over impact can lead to enjoying more of the best of times.

What I'm proposing doesn't have to involve a top-down makeover of every person's role in a company. What it does involve is having a few things in place and taking a good hard look in the mirror. 

Here is my three-step plan for how to prepare for the worst, and make your company looks its best in the process:

1. Role play: At your next staff meeting, take a few minutes to go around the table and have everyone imagine they are an angry customer. The absolute worst incarnation of an upset customer. What is the worst, most horrible feedback you could ever receive? Make a list. Don't censor, don't bury your head in the sand.

2. Face it, own it: Now that you have this list of worst case scenarios staring you in the face, take a step back and a deep breath. You are likely surprise to find that having them in front you probably feels pretty good, a relief that they are no longer bouncing around in your mind, haunting and waiting to lash out. Acknowledge them, but also acknowledge that they are probably not as scary as you thought, and the best part is: there are solutions to be had!

3. Get creative: The goal is to reasonably solve these problems to save your reputation, but most importantly, save your relationship with your customers. Again, stepping out of the 'business' mentality and into how you yourself feel as a consumer and human being is absolutely key. Make sure your solutions are genuine, driven by the desire to make things right for your consumers, and in turn, they will remain your biggest fans.

THE TAKEAWAY: Customers are so important - I cannot stress that enough. They are your lifeline and your future. Nurture them in good times and in bad, and you will be rewarded tenfold with loyalty, word of mouth promotion and great insight to make your business even better.


Best of luck,
~Nancy

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

One day to marketing bliss: intensive virtual marketing makeover session

Would you like to improve marketing and promoting your business?

How about having access to support and guidance along the way?

Do you find marketing your business an endless chore that you’d rather ignore than tackle alone?

Does this situation sound familiar? You are not alone.

Marketing your business doesn’t have to be an uphill battle!


Are you ready to finally tame the Marketing Beast?

Then working with The Rogue Pea Marketing Inc. for just one day will do just that!


My approach: You stay in control; I provide expertise, guidance support


You have invested a lot into your business and aren’t prepared to let someone else make key decisions. This is why my approach is different: with The Rogue Pea Marketing, you will never have to hand over the reins to a stranger. Strategies are implemented either together or on your own BUT with my support.

Most importantly, I teach you essentials that you will carry forward in your future marketing decisions.


One day to marketing bliss: Intensive fast-track marketing makeover

This session is tailored every step of the way to your business. Learn through applying what I teach as we go and come away with marketing know-how and be ready to implement in just hours!

What you get:
-ONE-on-ONE dedicated, personal, uninterrupted customized training for a full day to address the most trying, overwhelming and challenging aspects of marketing your business. 

-Business diagnostic session (via phone or Skype) prior to VIP session. This allows the session to be customized for your business.

-Learn essential marketing concepts and knowledge to carry forward and apply in the future. This is not a band-aid solution; I teach business owners solid concepts that they can use to their advantage, independently in the future, to apply again and again.

-Your custom strategy map for your specific objectives = road to success.*

-A personal 30 min. follow-up session to evaluate progress. I want to check in and ensure our work together is delivering the results you need.

-Direct access to me for ongoing support via email during the implementation of your strategy map.

-access to CLIENT ONLY Facebook workgroup.

-CLIENT ONLY resources and material such as workbooks, exercises, free templates for better productivity and organization.

Business investment: $1500.00 (LIMITED TIME) Reg. $1800

Don't wait: Book before JANUARY 31 and save $300!

Start off the New Year with a new approach to your marketing efforts. Reserve your session BEFORE midnight, January 31 and receive instant savings. That's a discount of $300!

Most courses are just scraping the surface at the end of Day 1, but you will be ready to GO! 

Most marketing training courses are lengthy, requiring a long-term commitment and fixed schedule to complete. They are not customized to meet the needs of your specific business by answering your most pressing marketing questions and they certainly don't provide ongoing support or most importantly, a TANGIBLE, ACTIONABLE plan. 

I don't just provide solutions; I teach so you understand and can carry that knowledge forward so you can create and evaluate your own solutions independently & confidently.

This custom session will not only help small business owners deal with immediate marketing challenges, it will transform their understanding of marketing by providing a foundation of knowledge and skills to apply to future decisions.


In one 6-hour session, you will have:
·        a clearer vision of your marketing goals
·        confidence to move forward using the custom strategy map
·        knowledge you can carry forward in your business
·        independence from relying on external resources for marketing know-how
·        ongoing-support when you need it


Still unsure? Check out this 60-second video about my approach: 



Don't wait for change: get your biz marketing makeover booked today and get 2014 off to a roaring start!


YES, I am ready to reserve my session now:

Step 1: Complete the sign up form below. 

Step 2: I will be in touch via email to confirm the session date and send you a questionnaire. We will also set up the pre-session 

Step 3: Payment submitted via EMT (email money transfer). Receipts provided immediately.

Step 4: 30-min pre-session business diagnostic meeting. I gather key information to build your custom marketing makeover session.

Step 5: Custom session day! In-person (Ottawa area) or via Skype/video link.



* Satisfaction guarantee: The success of this program requires that we work together. If you have followed all recommendations and instructions as directed, and you are still unhappy with the results,  I am happy to provide you with a full refund upon presentation of proof that the strategy map did not deliver the results.