Marketing Money: It Isn’t For You

Your business is not your home.

Your home, with all its aesthetics and function, is largely to serve you and those you live with. If you like a piece of art, you buy it and hang it in your house and enjoy it. If you want a newer refrigerator in your kitchen, you buy one to replace your old one.

But your business is not your home. It’s primary purpose is not to serve you. Your business exists to serve others. That’s not to say that you can’t spend money in your business on things you like, you can – but that shouldn’t be your priority. Your priority should be to serve customers and employees with your business spending.

Serving others with your business spending isn’t only the right and most fulfilling thing to do, it’s also the wisest. Spending your business funds only on what you want, and not on what serves others best, is foolish.

Case in point:

Last year, Reader’s Digest published a short article on the National Guard’s sponsorship of Nascar. The article explained how the National Guard spent $136 million over 5 years on the sponsorship, but only yielded 20 potential recruits, with none joining. Missouri senator Claire McCaskill was cited as saying that the issue was due to marketing to the wrong demographic as most race-car fans are from 35 to 54 years old, but the National Guard seeks 18-to-24-year-olds.

It’s hard to understand why the National Guard initially decided to sponsor Nascar, since the demographics were so dissonant. But it’s clear from that case that we can’t make marketing spending decisions based solely on what we want or what we think would be cool.

In order to get the highest ROI for our marketing funds, we need to spend on what best serves our customers. We know this. But we also know how tempting it is to spend on putting our business names on something shiny, even if it doesn’t best serve our customers.

To run great businesses, we must sacrifice our desires to better serve others. We all have limited resources. The businesses that use every last resource to sustainably serve others well will be the businesses that succeed.

So let’s not worry about spending our marketing dollars on what we like. Let’s examine the best ways to reach out to and serve our customers with those funds. After all, we’re not in business to serve ourselves. We can use our homes for that. We’re in business to serve others.

 

Image info: Original, royalty-free photo from Kaboompics.

About the Author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.

On Being Entrepreneurial For Another’s Benefit (And Your Own)

You can be entrepreneurial in many ways and through many venues. However, most of them revolve around seeing a new opportunity, taking it, and seeing it through, even if it’s difficult.

A movie I watched a few weeks ago, McFarland USA, exemplified this. Have you watched it?

In it, Jim White (played by Kevin Costner) loses two football coaching jobs, the most recent at McFarland high school. McFarland is shown as a poor, Mexican-American town. Though he lost his coaching job, Jim stays at McFarland, working as a PE teacher. In PE, he notices how fast some of the students can run. He observes them further and finds that they run to and from school and working in the fields. He even follows one student, without his permission, to clock his speed (which ends up being around a 5 minute mile).Running

Jim then works to create a cross-country team, despite his lack of cross-country coaching experience. He works through various obstacles – principal’s permission, lack of interest and parental permission – to put the team together and see it through.

In the movie, Jim saw an opportunity, a significant strength, in the school and capitalized on it. He embodied entrepreneurship – and not just for his own benefit. His entrepreneurial skills benefited his players as well, with many of his runners receiving scholarships to college, which they may have not received otherwise.

I often think of entrepreneurship as a numbers game. I think of it as comparing the cost of an opportunity with its potential income. I think of it as taking an opportunity so I can make money off of it. Yet I love how McFarland turned that on its head.

Our entrepreneurship doesn’t have to serve us alone. We can be entrepreneurial for those around us. We don’t need to be all about ourselves. We know this, but sometimes we need a reminder.

I know I do. I sometimes get caught up in looking out for me and living much smaller than I should. I miss too many of opportunities to use my observations and skills to benefit others. And here’s the clincher – I’m pretty sure I’d be better off personally if I always used my entrepreneurial skills to serve others rather than to serve myself.

I mean, isn’t customer service a tenet of great business? Plus, I’ve been far more satisfied when I’ve used my skills primarily to serve others rather than to make money.

So, when we notice an opportunity that will serve others, maybe even more than it will serve us – let’s use it, let’s take it, let’s do it.

Because the most beautiful life we can create is one in which we use our skills, including our entrepreneurial ones, to benefit others. It truly is better to give than to receive.

 

Image info: Original image by Stefania Bonacasa.

About the Author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.

Define Your Own Blogging Success

The headlines scream new (and often contradictory) dictates in black and white, every morning.

“Blogging is dead.”

“Content is King.”

“Video is a must-have.”

“Orange is the new black.”

Wait, that last one is just a Netflix show. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

You must define your own version of success for the marketing tools you’re using.

If blogging is your chosen tool, there are many possible versions of success:

  • A creative outlet
  • Leads for your business
  • Search engine rank/traffic
  • A portfolio or resume of published work
  • Thought leadership or credibiilty in a niche
  • Platform for book authorship
  • Information & tips for your customers

The only way you fail is if you end up just going through the motions without a purpose.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Yogi Berra

 

Monetized Blog vs Non-Monetized Blog

The first big dividing line would be, do you want to make money directly from your blog?

Direct monetization routes would include a paywall in order to read the posts, or the selling of sponsorships. In both of these cases, you need to be pretty established up-front in order to succeed. No-one is going to pay to read your posts unless they already know how fantastic you are. Teaser content might be effective in this case.

By the same token, you won’t be able to sell sponsorships until you’ve proven a large readership or a very definable audience. Sponsors will want to know your page views and number of subscribers, something that’s not generally very impressive when you’re first starting out.

If you know that you want to run ads in the future, but don’t have enough traffic to be enticing to advertisers, set reader expectations. Consider reserving a footer banner or sidebar square that you will use for future advertising, and use it to promote something of your own (or for a friend). If you make it look professional, you will be subtly letting readers know that your blog will contain advertising. Much better than launching with no ads, and then stuffing them in all of a sudden, months later.

Indirect Blog Monetization

If you want to derive value from your blog, but not direct monetary value, consider the following:

  • Include a call to action with every post
  • Be minimalist with your sidebar information; don’t distract from the primary CTA
  • Be sure to collect email information, to start building your own marketing asset for the future
  • Make it very clear what the purpose of the blog is…if you’re all about thought leadership, consider a photo image of the primary author (perhaps a photo taken at a speaking engagement). Remember social proof too. A quote from a peer or colleague might be appropriate on the page.
  • If your blog is supporting an SEO strategy, don’t be “that guy” who stuffs keywords without meaning. Google doesn’t like that anyway. Focus more on creating in-depth, valuable articles on a regular basis. If your blogging platform includes SEO tools, use them!

Tracking Success

All of the effort you’re putting into your blogging will be for nothing if you don’t have any way to measure progress.

Once you’ve determined what blogging success looks like, you must come up with a way to track whether it’s fulfilling the purpose.

Here are some examples of things you can track:

  • For a “thought leadership” blog – track social mentions of your name or brand, or links back to your blog from other authority sites
  • For a business blog – track leads or emails captured
  • For SEO – track your rank for specific search terms
  • For a customer-focused blog – track any decrease in support requests, or if you’re using customer satisfaction scoring (like Net Promoter Score), see if that is affected over time

Don’t forget to baseline your metric before you start, so that you can see progress as it happens.

The metrics shouldn’t be set in stone, either. Establish a quarterly routine of looking at the numbers, reviewing your blog, and making tweaks as necessary.

Your blog is only one tool in your marketing arsenal, but it should be part of your marketing metrics in order to be effective.

How have you defined blogging success for yourself?

 

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons: Paxson Woelber

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee


Freelance Writing – Guide to Inspiration

Freelance inspiration

By Jessy Troy

 

I have spent several years in the wonderful, strange world of freelance writing. While it is a blessing in many ways, it can also have a downside. Mainly trying to maintain inspiration and motivation when writing for such a large number of publications. From magazines to newspapers to webmasters, there are so many projects that can sap your time and energy.

Because the topics are always the same, and they are almost always on subjects you have to come up with, it can be difficult to get that spark of artistic genius that leads to a successful, interesting article.

While common sense would dictate that taking a hiatus to clear the mind would be the way to go, such as with novelists, that isn’t an option for the freelance writer. This is the job and if you don’t do it you don’t get paid.

But all is not lost, whatever despair you may feel. Keep this list of ways to keep your creative juices flowing, to look at whenever you find yourself stuck.

Freelance Writing, a Guide to Getting Inspired

  • Get away from your computer and do something relaxing, such as go for a walk, get a cup of coffee or take a long shower or bath.
  • Move on to something else for a while and go back once you feel more clearheaded.
  • Ask someone’s opinion. This can be anonymously on the web, or from someone that you know personally. Just make sure all direct quotes are properly credited.
  • Find sources on a topic. You should obviously never copy these sources, but using them for ideas can be a great way to bump start the brain.
  • Go back to old ideas. Remember that article you were thinking of writing three months ago that ended up as a hastily written sticky note pressed to the side of a filing cabinet? It might be time to get on it.
  • Check out some local places and see if anything strikes you as interesting. Maybe speak to a local business owner about the latest news, or ask around about any interesting developments in your area.
  • Get a community calendar or join a website with a local community focus. This will often show you upcoming benchmarks in time for your city, state or county. Take some time to research an upcoming anniversary such as when your area was founded, and write something interesting and educational to commemorate it.
  • Check out sites that host press releases, especially those about trending topics.
  • Use real time search engines to see what people are speaking about right now, to see if there is anything interesting you could look into.
  • Use your own life. For example, I am a writer and I frequently struggle with trying to come up with ideas for articles when I have been writing all week. I am now writing an article to discuss that, and to give other writers the benefit of my brainstorm on the subject.
  • Write an article based on a numbered list. For example: Five Ways to Get That Summer Look in November.
  • Ask for help: There is a free community for people to brainstorm together!
  • Go out for a night on the town with no set plan of what you are going to do, in an area you don’t know. Ditch the car so you can walk around and learn about new restaurants, movie theaters, galleries, cafes, etc.
  • Find a client or publication that is looking for a specific topic to be researched and written about.
  • Get writing! You will be amazed at what can come from a stream of consciousness.

How do you keep yourself elevated and inspired? Please share your tips!

Author’s Bio: Jessy Troy is a creative writer and editor at Social Media Sun. She Tweets as @JessyTroy.

What Do You Do When You Feel The Heat?

By Lindsey Tolino

We’re experiencing record-breaking heat in Raleigh this week. I like it warm, but triple digits is just too hot.

I get so irritated in the heat. Do you get like that? I bet many of us do.

Heat stresses my body. When I feel hot, I’m more likely to be short with people, cut them off and be impatient. Sometimes, things other than heat stress me out and I become just as irritated.

When we’re under stress, whether it be from heat or a mountain of bills, it seems that we’re more likely to snap at people and be task-oriented rather than people-oriented. This can be a dangerous place to live.

If we don’t force ourselves to slow down when we’re under stress, we’re more likely to burn bridges with the most important asset in our lives – people.

When we are stressed, we often need to do the opposite of what we want to do. For example, when we’re under financial pressure, we may want to put our heads down, get to work and do as we’ve always done to get our businesses back on their feet. But if we deny the stress and force ourselves to stop, look around and engage with others, we may discover a solution to our financial issues.

It’s essential that we listen to our “guts” in business. But when we’re experiencing stress, we may not be able to hear our guts over the loud hum of stress running in our brains. Furthermore, we know that stress keeps us from being creative. But when things aren’t going well, that’s when it’s most important to be creative.

The most valuable practice that’s helped me handle stress is similar to the CDC’s recommendations for dealing with extreme heat – first, get to a “cooler” spot. Then I can stop and breathe.

Once I relax, I’m able to think through the situation more clearly. I can question how much the heat/stress is affecting my current decisions. Is the stress driving my decisions or is solid reasoning? What could we do differently here?

When we feel the heat, we need to step back and find a cooler spot. Not only for the sake of our businesses, but also for those around us. When we’re stressed, it’s vital that we get to a cooler spot, so we don’t hurt anyone in the heat of the moment.

Though it’s only June, it won’t stay this hot forever. When it gets cooler, I don’t want us to regret any of the decisions we made in the heat.

Author’s Bio: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them craft healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.

Be a Human Super-Collider

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, made news recently when they announced that they expect to offer evidence of the existence (or non-existence) of the Higgs boson (or “God” particle) by the end of the year. Essentially, the “super-collider” smashes together particles at high speeds to see what happens when they collide.
large hadron collider

You can be a human super-collider.

Pay close attention to the people around you, their characteristics, dreams, businesses. Take mental note when someone shares their life experiences with you. Then when you see an opportunity to put two people together for their mutual benefit, do it.

When you proactively connect your connections, magical things will happen. Especially if you do it without any thought in mind of how it will benefit you.

How to Become a Human Super-Collider

Get very good at remembering names. Here’s a great article that will help you build that muscle and start connecting names to faces.

When you meet new people, find out what they’re up to. Don’t just go for the standard “what do you do,” think of interesting ways to draw out their long-term goals and dreams. Next time, try “what made you decide to go into [digital marketing/psychiatry/dog grooming]?”

Listen deeply and actively. Molly Cantrell-Craig wrote an excellent post about how to listen earlier this year.

Create a system for organizing information. You can use the notes section of your Address Book client, use the new LinkedIn Contacts app (they have a special spot for noting where you met someone), or try Evernote. As soon as you can, jot down some details about the person you just met. Bonus points if you remember to go back and read it before the next time you see that person again.

Don’t be afraid to introduce people. They may or may not hit it off, but you’ve just shown them both that you have their best interests in mind. Be sure to include the reason why you feel they should connect (do they have a mutual interest, are they going to the same conference, are their businesses complimentary). Here are some tips on the etiquette of introductions.

When you start consistently doing these things, you’ll start to see the magic of particle collision. Just don’t tell those folks in Switzerland.

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee



Image via Flickr CC: Image Editor

Example Blog Post

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Why Magnetic Headlines Are Crucial for Your Posts

Welcome to Rainmaker. This is a sample post to get you started on your journey. Don’t forget that your headline is the most important aspect of writing a great post, and getting readers to read your opening paragraph. The first four to six sentences of your post are critical, because if you don’t hook your audience, they will get bored and click away. What is the benefit you will provide readers that you promised in the title? Be sure to describe the signs of the problem you will offer a solution to toward the end of your post.

Use subheads to improve readability and gather interest

Here you can begin to describe the underlying causes of the problem you have the solutions to, using persuasive arguments and great storytelling, and readers will have no choice but to read more.

Subheads help readers scan your content quickly

Bullet points are helpful to keep your copy reader-friendly, and a proven standard for making a solid argument:

  • Tell a great story, but don’t over-write it. Be authentic!
  • Use internal cliffhangers to entice readers to read more.
  • Use a great image to make an impression on readers from the start.

Subheads draw readers’ attention to your call to action

When you provide real solutions and insights for your prospects and customers, you build trust and authority that will allow you to deepen the conversation further with an opt-in or call-to-action. Sign up here! This is where a compelling call to action makes it clear to your readers what they need to do next to implement your solution. Good luck!