Listening for Your Customers’ Wish List

Do you like Christmas shopping? I dread doing laps around a store looking for ideas for the hard-to-buy-for people on my list. But several years ago I started doing something ordinary that has completely changed Christmas shopping for me. When I spend time with loved ones, I try to pay attention to their likes, wants or needs and I note them in my phone. Then, come December, I have an idea list so I can get each person a gift that fits them perfectly.

The snag to this plan, of course, is when I’ve been too focused on myself or my agenda to notice what someone might need. When I approach my time with others wanting to be served or as tasks to be completed, I don’t notice their needs and so, come December, I’m at a loss as to what gift would serve them best.

And in the same way, maybe we’re missing out on how to serve our customers best. When we are too busy with our agenda, we miss out on seeing others’ needs. We need three things to solve this problem:

  1. We need to listen actively.
  2. We need to note our customers’ needs.
  3. We need to follow up and work to fulfill the needs.

Odds are that our customers’ needs are obvious, but that we’re not always listening for them. We need to have our focus on serving others in all that we do, even if that means our agendas need to be interrupted for us to do so.

We may notice needs from time to time, but how can we be more intentional and practical with them? The following are some ideas I had. If you have a client-service business, you should be focused on actively listening for your clients’ needs in every conversation. Simply set apart time to note needs after conversations. If you have a retail business, you could set up a note board for sales associates to write down customer needs they’ve discovered. If you have a service-based business, you could have your employees note customer needs after each service provided.

It’s often the simple things that can make a big difference in how we serve customers. If we actively listen for needs and work to meet those needs, we may find our businesses become rare and our customers become loyal.


Original image from Death To The Stock Photo.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .

Is Stereotyping Customers Hurting Your Business?

What do we think about our customers?

My mom was buying some anti-congestion medication this past week. She asked the pharmacy tech for the OTC version (which they keep behind the counter). My mom requested two boxes and the tech said “We’ll see.” The tech continued to make my mom feel like a criminal throughout the rest of the process until the tech finally relinquished the medication.

We know not everyone is trustworthy all the time, including our customers. But what a mistake it is to err on the side of distrusting them. When we assume the worst of our customers, we aren’t as friendly, caring or helpful as we should be. If we count them as tasks we need to complete or obstacles to accomplish sales, we will not be as successful as we could be. And worst of all, if we stereotype them as we see them, we miss out on serving them excellently.

All of this starts in our thoughts. When we see a customer what do we think? Do we think a woman is poor if she has messy hair? She could be a busy mom. Do we think a man is rich if we see him in a suit? It could have been donated to him. We all fall into it. But stereotypes don’t help us serve people best.

When we see a customer what should we think?

We should see them as human, like we are. We should think about the honor it is to serve another person. We should feel thankful to have the skills and ability to serve them. We should feel grateful we are needed to serve them.

And all that should lead us to listen to them, to make their needs the priority and to serve them the best we can.

And let’s not forget about the consequences when we continue to entertain stereotypes about customers. My mom told me about her experience at the pharmacy because of the negative emotional impact it had on her. Negative word-of-mouth is a natural consequence of poor service due to our stereotypes.

The best customer service starts in our thoughts about our customers.

What do you think about your customers?


Image info: Photo by Adam Przewoski, found on Unsplash.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .

Add Value Through Love

Sometimes we get discouraged that we can’t do the grand things we aspire to and in our discouragement, we don’t even attempt the small things. The problem with that is that often it’s the small, non-glamorous acts that can make all the difference in our organizations.

I experienced it several years ago. I had been working for one week cleaning classrooms when my boss decided to join me. I was immediately intimidated as she took up a rag and wiped down tables with me. I was sure she had a bigger agenda – maybe to reprimand me for an earlier performance or maybe to lay down the law of the land. I wasn’t sure, but I was cautious and careful as I continued to clean.

She asked me about myself and it seemed like she actually cared. She cleaned diligently. She spent several hours with me and I found she didn’t have any agenda except to get to know me better and to serve me. I felt incredibly loved.

That one sacrificial act by my boss set the tone. I was inspired to give my absolute best. I felt safe and cared for. I felt served and seen.

A small act of love can set the tone for those around you. But love always costs us something. It might mean you have to set aside your busy schedule for a morning. It might mean you stay late so your co-worker can leave early. Maybe it means that you humbly do work you feel like is beneath you. Ultimately, it means that you don’t exercise all the rights that come with being a leader, but instead you serve in love.

When we’re focused on adding value to the bottom line, we may miss opportunities to add value to those around us. It’s really hard to rip ourselves from our never-ending work (and there are times when it may be unwise to do so), but if we’re always inescapably swamped, we’ll always miss out on bettering our organizations by serving others.

When you love, you change things. I worked harder and more sacrificially because of my boss’s leadership. I respected and trusted her much more than many other bosses I’ve had. And my boss didn’t just serve me, she poured herself out for many others as well. She has added so much value to the world through her sacrificial love. The world is unmistakably better because she’s in it.

Let’s add value to the world, not take from it. Let’s make sure that those around us are seen, loved and served. Yes, it will cost us. But I bet the benefits of our sacrifices will far outweigh the costs.


Image info: Original image by Ed Gregory.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .

Consistency is King

We moved from Pittsburgh to Raleigh in early Spring 2014. Now we’ve moved back from Raleigh to Pittsburgh this fall. It’s hard to sort through your stuff, pack it up and move it several states over. It’s even harder to leave relationships you’ve started, knowing they won’t be the same when you’re hundreds of miles apart. Moving is hard.

But it’s even harder to stay. It’s hard to maintain relationships come hell or high water (or children or distance). It’s hard to go to the same job year after year and put 100% in each day. It’s easier to quit. It’s easier to walk away. It’s easier to run.

You can do something for a brief moment that is beautiful and valuable. But those who consistently put in the sacrificial work are the ones that make the most sustainable difference.

Consistency is hard. But its rewards are great.

Why consistency is hard:

  1. Rewards aren’t immediate.
  2. New is exciting. Think about a new job, a new house, a new love – they all offer hope of something greater than what we already know. So new is inherently exciting and consistency generally isn’t.
  3. Consistency can mean you’re unseen. When you are consistent, people may take your consistency for granted and you may feel unseen. However, a benefit of your consistency is that random drama likely won’t follow you like a bad penny.

Why consistency is worth it:

  1. Trust is built over time. Healthy relationships are formed through mutual trust. And healthy relationships are rare and valuable. They are mutually life-giving, beneficial and enriching.
  2. We can be improved through consistency. When we deny ourselves and consistently sacrifice for others, we become better people. We find when we give our lives away, we are better for it.
  3. We achieve great feats through consistency. Great achievements are completed by consistent work. A marathon, a skyscraper and a life-well lived are all built through consistent steps. Those who have consistently sacrificed themselves for others are the greats of history.

We might decide to move a mountain in a major life-decision moment. But it’s in our day-to-day consistent work that we actually move the mountain, shovel by shovel. It’s when we are consistent in the seemingly mundane and the boring steps that we actually create major change.

Let’s encourage each other in consistency, in the less-than-glamorous day-to-day. Because we are all changing the landscape, one shovel at a time.



Image info: Original image by Paul E. Harrer.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .

What’s the Best Time of Day to Publish a Blog Post?

Whether you are new to blogging or have been blogging awhile, you might have noticed that your readers comment more frequently on certain days or share more often on others. It is no mystery that there is a science to developing the right time to post to your blog and to social media. There are numerous studies devoted to tracking the frequency of shares, comments, likes and views and they generally don’t have the same answer. In this article, we will go over three different studies from KISSmetrics, Track Maven, and Shareaholic and discuss their findings.

  • Social Shares—Both KISSmetrics and Track Maven suggest posting your blog during non-peak hours between 9pm and midnight or on Saturday or Sunday to get the most social shares. Their reasoning is that there are fewer other posts and, therefore, yours will get more prominence. Shareaholic’s data indicated that posting between 9am and 10am on Thursday is your best bet when it comes to social shares.
  • Website Traffic—KISSmetrics found that the best time to post a blog in order to get the most traffic to your website was Monday at 11am. Shareaholic’s data came to the same conclusion about Monday, but suggested 9am to 10am.
  • Comments—KISSmetrics was the only one to focus on which day showed the most people commenting. Their data suggested Saturday at around 9am. The reason being that people have more time to spend on the website reading the material. KISSmetrics also found that if you are posting more than once per day, you are more likely to get comments and inbound links.


Overall, the data from each different source showed that people are the most active during the work week. KISSmetrics also studied whether men or women were more likely to read blogs during the day or evening. They found that men were more likely to read blogs in the early evening or at night, while women tended to be more daytime readers.

The truth is, you know your audience best of all and are the best judge of when to post and share. You can import Google Analytics for your website to study your page visits and views. Review the data as you post to the blog at different times and days. This will give you a sense of the best day and time for your company. Also see which topics received the most comments, likes, and shares. When you are putting together your writing calendar, keep this data in mind. If you review it frequently and correctly, it can guide your entire marketing strategy.

Remember also that you can schedule your blog posts to self-publish. Let’s say you review your data and see that you get the most traffic on Monday for your blog posts. Problem is, that is the same time as the weekly staff meeting and your day just gets crazier from there. Write that post when you have some down time during the week or even on the weekend and schedule it. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

Do you have any other surefire ways to get the most views for a blog? Let us know in the comments.




mickie 2Mickie Kennedy is founder of eReleases and offers free ebooks and whitepapers on how to grow your business’s traffic.

“Gotta Get Mine” Is Unsustainable

I fall under this lie a lot – that I have to live like I gotta get mine.  If I’m not out for me, who else will be, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

Think about your closest relationship – maybe with a spouse, a friend or a family member. Think about a time when you approached that relationship solely with a “gotta get mine” mentality. How did that go? How would it go if you did that all the time with them?

Ok, but that’s personal relationships. It’s different in business, isn’t it?

I sat down with a few businessmen a month or so ago. I asked them what is the greatest lesson they’ve learned in business. The eldest two affirmed that they’ve learned the value of giving something away and not strapping people for money for everything they do. They’ve experienced growth in their business when they haven’t nickel-and-dimed people, but instead have been generous with their skills and connections.

We know this intuitively, don’t we? We dislike paying people who feel like they’re only out for themselves. Trust is an essential component of business.  And we don’t usually feel like we can trust people who seek their own interests over ours.

And we also know the opposite is true – we more easily trust individuals who sacrifice for us.  I trust my mom with my life because of how much she’s sacrificed for me. And there are a few select others I trust because of how they have served me so thoroughly. You’ve got people like this too. 

“Gotta get mine” isn’t really accurate either. It’s backwards. If we truly were out for our own interests, we would seek to serve others. We would probably be happier and run more sustainable businesses if our primary focus was on serving others. In fact, the people I know that constantly focus on themselves are the most miserable people I know.

“Gotta get mine” is unsustainable in business and in life because we live and do business with people. We need to be able to trust each other if we want to do well. We’re all better if we’re out for each other’s best, rather than our own. Let’s bury “gotta get mine.”


Image info: Original image by Death To The Stock Photo.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.

How to Minimize Blog Load Time and Increase Subscribers [WordPress]

By Jessy Troy


Your blog load speed is both a ranking and usability factor. The faster your readers can access your site, the more they will actually stay and become your subscribers.

While it’s possible for more advanced webmasters to go in and alter a number of areas for their WordPress blog, those who are less code savvy or who have more time restrictions may prefer to use a simple plugin instead.

There are three major WordPress plugins to increase site load-time: W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and Minify.

How Caching Speeds Up Your Site

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache center around the “caching” concept. The standard way that WordPress pulls up your entry is by sending a mysql query to the database. While this won’t normally take long, large numbers of visitors can overwhelm your database server. By eliminating this unnecessary step, cache plugins will speed up the load-time on any site and make a truly dramatic impact on popular blogs.

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache

Both of these WordPress plugins, which are designed to increase site load-time, have a long history and are used by a number of major sites. One of the big differences between the two is that, unlike many other caching plugins, the W3 Total Cache makes a cached copy of every detail of your site.

This includes your theme, images from your entries, widgets, and anything else that you may add to your site. The company behind W3 Total Cache has research showing that site performance improves 10 fold or more when compared with an unmodified WordPress blog that lacks any form of caching plugin. While not quite as thorough, the WP Super Cache has similar positive effects.

This caching functionality includes a setup that allows for full browser caching from your visitors. In layman’s terms, your visitors will only have to load the page once, since their browser will effectively be able to capture a cached version of the site for future visits.

Cutting down on all the queries to the WordPress database can also save on bandwidth. Bandwidth has been reduced by up to 80 percent for users of these plugins. If you’re using WordPress hosting, that can mean avoiding a slow down due to traffic spikes. If you are using your own hosting, this can mean saving bank.

Better WordPress Minify

Better WordPress Minify

Better WordPress Minify takes a very different approach to speeding up your site. Rather than caching the information that you already have, Minifty compresses all your Javascript and CSS files, getting rid of unnecessary code. Depending on how many CSS and Javascript elements you have, this may make either a minor or truly substantial difference.

Even if you choose to go the extra mile by doing everything else possible to speed up your site, having plugins like these is important for minimizing your load times. As the start to or final touch on your load-time optimization, using one of these WordPress plugins to increase site load-time is vital.

Never Forget the Basics

No matter which plugins you use, nothing will help if your hosting provider is awful in terms of delivering your content to the web user.

I don’t have too much experience with WordPress-friendly hosting solutions (I am definitely not a techie) but I know this one is pretty good and reliable too.

If you are not sure what slows your pages down, do use this tool: You can compare any page of your blog with another one that seems a bit faster!

Page speed

Is your WordPress blog fast enough? Please share your thoughts and tips!


Featured image via Flickr CC: William Warby

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

Keeping Your Core – How To Still Be You and Grow

Any type of growth is hard. It’s hard to grow and not lose who you are – physically, personally and in your business. No matter what, there’s always going to be something you leave behind.

When you were a child, you left behind your short stature and your nose-picking (did you leave that behind?) to grow taller and become an adult. But when you grew up, you kept part of you – maybe it was your mom’s nose or your humorous personality. Sure, you changed, but you were still you.

In your business, things are more fluid, you don’t have permanent fixtures that remain by default, like your mom’s nose does. It can be a much harder process to grow your business, leave the baby stuff behind, but keep your core intact.

So that’s what we’re diving into – how to grow and keep your core intact. It’s actually a simple process, but we tend to ignore it when we’re growing our businesses. It’s essential, though, if we want to keep our core intact.

How to still be you and grow:

  • Assess your core:
    • What are your businesses core strengths? Why do your customers keep coming back? What makes your business unique? What brings in the most revenue?
  • Find the superfluous and bottlenecks:
    • What could you leave behind and few would notice (i.e. processes, products, etc.)? What feels like it’s holding you back?
  • After you’ve done steps 1 & 2, make a plan to intentionally protect and pour into the core while you cut/fix the superfluous and bottlenecks. Then follow your plan and adjust as needed.

But what does this look like practically?

Say you run a bakery and your sales are growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up. The bakery’s tagline is “Fresh. Local. Handmade.” You bake everyday, multiple times a day so everything is fresh. You use only local ingredients and you deliver locally. You make every item by hand. Your best seller is your blueberry oatmeal bars. Customers are happy with the quality, which you attribute to the items being fresh. Your customers love that you use only local ingredients and that you have local delivery. You’ve gotten good WOM advertising because of your local delivery. This is your core. Some things haven’t been working great – a gluten free line hasn’t been selling, expanding delivery to further counties hasn’t been promising and your inventory system can’t keep up. You’ve also spent money on advertising space in a local publication that hasn’t yielded a solid return. These are your superfluous and bottleneck items and.

From this assessment, you should be able to create a logical plan that helps you keep your core intact as you grow. This means you should continue to focus on fresh and local and protect and grow those strengths. However, no one seems to notice or care that items are handmade. You’ve been looking into a machine that can make your oatmeal bars in less time, for less labor, which would help you meet market needs. Since you’ve assessed your core and know what you need to protect, you can more clearly make that decisions.

When businesses grow, they move toward chaos. It takes intentional persistence to ensure your business’s core stays intact while it grows. If you commit to protect your business’s core as it grows, you’ll likely find that you still have the essential parts intact, just like you still had your mom’s nose after you went through puberty.


Image info: Original image by John French.

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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.

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 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 Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.