Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to Handle Rejection

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article comparing marketing to dating. As I sit her on Valentines Day, I think about relationships and rejection. In November, both my best friend and I went on journeys both evolving around one main purpose: building a relationship. While hers was joining to find a boyfriend, mine was joining Boston Startup School to find a startup I'd like to work with. Whenever you put yourself in these situations, there's a lot of "It just wasn't a good fit", "It's not you, it's me." and the always awesome "I'll call you sometime." which really translates into "I'm never going to call you." If you find yourself in the rejection/relationship dilemma here are some tips to keeping sane.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. When you're searching to build a relationship, something that seems good in writing doesn't always work out once face to face. If you have more things going on at once, the rejection of one won't sting as bad.

Ask why. If you don't ask why, it's hard to learn from the experience. It's not an easy thing to do, but it will help you grow. Recently, I went on an interview where I didn't get the job. I replied to the email asking for some feedback, which turned into grabbing some coffee.  He told me what I could do to improve and he gave me great advice and encouragement. Had I not asked for feedback, I would of never known what I needed to improve upon.

Lies will haunt you. My friend put on her profile "No Way" where it asks if you smoke. This made me laugh. Why? Because I never see her without a cigarette in hand! Lies like this may get you initially where you want to be, but they will catch up with you down the road and it did for her. She was actually very stealth about not smoking before her dates, but made the mistake of keeping a pack of cigarettes in her purse. On a second date with a guy, she went to pull out her wallet and her pack of cigarettes came out of the purse. It was no shocker there was no third date!

Get by with a little help from your friends. If you have good friends, they will be there to encourage and see what they can do to help. Thanks to Boston Startup School, I've come to know the greatest support system. They don't just listen, they offer advice and help however they can. When dealing with some form of rejection, find a positive group of friends who will be there to share a beer with you, listen and help elevate you.

Dust yourself off and try again. Learn from the above and keep moving. Unless you're a complete wrong fit for what you're trying to achieve, take the lessons you learned and apply them to being a better you. My friend is now on her fourth date with a guy she likes and I'm in talks with 3 different companies. What does the future hold for us? I don't know, but if it's rejection I know I'll be just fine!

What are some positive ways you deal with rejection? Please feel free to share!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

5 Networking Lessons I Learned from Bartending

‪If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, networking is a must. To be honest, networking is something I found a bit uncomfortable but necessary. How I got over it was drawing upon the lessons I learned as a bartender.‬

‪1.) Figure out who’s paying the bill. While I treated everyone well, (that’s just how the hospitality industry rolls!) figuring out who’s paying the bill pays off. When you go to an industry event, try to find that “bill payer” or shall we say host, and be on their radar. This can open you up to vast opportunities. For example, Fresh Tilled Soil hosts many events; seeking out their team can lead to more opportunities than just sitting in the audience.‬

‪2.) Talk to everyone... In bar tending, I tended to talk to everyone. First, to figure out who the bill payer was, second I am not a fan of uncomfortable or awkward silence and lastly because I know a simple conversation can lead to opportunity. In fact, I landed my first “professional” job at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island by serving the HR recruiter lunch. Through conversations, he found out I’m not a hospitality major (as many tend to think about JWU alumni) and I ended up landing a marketing internship!‬

‪3.) ...and be a good listener. It’s been said that your bartender is cheaper than therapy. That’s because good bartenders know listening is more important than talking. Listening is also good strategy when you don’t have much to say. If you’re shy, start off by introducing yourself and asking am open question such as “What brings you here tonight?” or “What do you do for work?” Hopefully, you can sit back and coast!‬

4.) A good deed goes along way. The best experiences in the hospitality industry are the unexpected surprises. Helping a fellow employee or giving a customer something extra with no agenda builds trust and credibility. In Boston, “Pay it forward” has become a sign of the times. When networking, pay it forward and help when you can. Some my greatest connections are thanks to people who had no self serving interest and believe me, I have not forgotten any of those people and if they need anything I am there to help.‬

‪4.) Never discuss sports, politics or religion. I know it’s a hard thing to do when one of those topics is in the news, but just don’t do it. When you are meeting someone for the first time, you don’t know anything beside what you can see. Just remember, you are there to network and make connections so unless your business involves one of the three, just stay away from those conversations. Sometimes these conversations will come up, just be neutral and find a way to change the conversation. Once you’re in like flynn and you transfer from network to friend, then feel free!‬

‪Like bartending, it’s the little details that will help you succeed at networking. Do your research, listen, be appropriate, pay it forward and you’ll be just fine!‬

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Start a Successful Blog

There are many benefits to blogging: being a thought leader, increasing website traffic, engage your audience and more. Recently, one of my clients decided it was time to start benefitting from a blog and needed advice on how to get started on creating a successful blog. I set up some foundations with him and thought it might be beneficial to anyone freshly starting out in the blogosphere:

1. Know your audience. If you’re writing for your company’s blog, write for who you are trying to target. If you are trying reach a certain buyer persona, write to them. If you are looking to ramp up on hiring this year, create posts about company culture. Your blog should compliment your company's strategic goals. For example, if you have a product that you are looking to market towards Enterprise size companies, it would not be advantageous to create posts targeting a B2C audience.

2. Be Helpful. Why do most people read blogs? Some people read blogs for entertainment, but most are looking for an answer that solves their problems. When thinking of topics, think in the form of questions: How to, Why you Should, Top Tips. If you have pain points within your own company via customers inquiries; view this as an opportunity to address via a blog post.

3. Writers block? Find inspiration all around you! If you’re at a loss of what to write try to find inspiration via trending industry topics, news and seasonal events. Last May, I wrote a blog about Vidal Sassoon who had passed away that week. Am I in the salon industry? No, but I always thought Sassoon was as talented with branding and marketing as he was with hair. A good example of utilizing the season to create a blog post is MyEnergy’s post on energy conservation during the holidays.

4. Make a schedule. The one thing my client asked me, is how often, how will I remember to blog and what will I blog about? My advice to him was to make a schedule. I suggested this as a way to stay consistent as he is very busy and always on the go. We ended up setting up a spreadsheet via google drive and planning a month in advance.

5. Readability is key. As well as being relevant to your audience, your blog should be easy on the eyes. Long enough to be engaging and yet not too long that it takes too much of your readers time. I try to keep my blog within 350 to 500 words and break up the paragraphs enough that my posts are easy on the eyes.

If you can keep yourself organized and create engaging content that resonates to your buyer personas than you’re on the road to success!

Do you have any further tips on how to create an accomplished blog? Leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Vidal Sassoon turned his name into an International Brand

On May 9th, hair legend Vidal Sassoon lost his battle against leukemia at age 84. Sassoon’s cutting techniques made him an industry leader, but his sharp business understanding took him from owning one salon in London to becoming an international brand. Like most industry giants, Sassoon knew the marketing formulas to create an empire. 

Innovation. Innovation can be in many forms and is the key to a successful business. Sassoon’s take on innovation, “If I haven’t changed things in five years, I’ll quit.”  He didn’t just “change” the industry, he revolutionized the way women styled their hair. His “wash and wear cuts” - most notably his five-point haircut, freed women from being a slave to the salon ritual. As Sassoon model Grace Coddington says it best, "The cut gave you a certain freedom. You weren’t chained to the salon and you certainly didn’t have to go and have it set with big rollers under a hair dryer for a couple of hours. He did it with a hand-held hair dryer so it wasn’t quite drip-dry, but it was remarkable."

Branding. When you hear the name Vidal Sassoon the first thing that comes to mind is hair products. Sassoon mastered creating his name into an international brand. He was able to use his name on products, beauty salons and hair academies. Having his name as his business, Sassoon took his branding seriously. In 2003, Vidal sued Proctor & Gamble for not promoting his products to his standards.

Diversifying. Sassoon started out as a hair stylist and turned into a ingenious businessman. Being an innovative stylist made him famous - famous enough that he could branch out and start building a portfolio of hair products and services. Sassoon also wrote a number of books including: Sorry I Kept You Waiting, Madam, A Year of Beauty and Health and Cutting Hair the Vidal Sassoon Way.

Iconic Slogan. Who doesn’t remember, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” The slogan was catchy and brilliant; Sassoon was telling you that how you looked mattered to him and his brand image. His slogan was his bond and promise to his customers. Image mattered to Vidal and he wanted the world to know.

Philanthropy. Sassoon was no stranger to giving back, before he was a stylist he served in the Arab-Israeli War and later in his life founded The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the Vidal Sassoon Foundation.

In Sassoon’s world image was everything, and it was Sassoon’s image and insight that built one of the most iconic brands in the hair industry. Thank you for Vidal, rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to create conversations with your customers.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is having a conversation at you and not with you? You know, the conversation were all you hear is about their job, their family, their pets, them, them, them, them, them. Here you are sitting there looking attentive while wondering ‘when they will shut the hell up?’  Well consider your advertising, are you only talking about you, you, you? If so, please realize that your customers and leads can and will tune this out. Here are some pointers on breaking out of the monologue and developing a dialogue with your audience.

Realize it’s all about them not about you. You’ve got to face it – no one cares about your products or services. Sounds odd I know, but what I’m saying is people will care about what your product or service is going to do for them. With that being said, try to make sure your all copy has the word “you” more than it has the words “I” or “we”.

Refrain from spamming other people’s social media. This goes along with tip #1 but needs to be pointed out separately. Once in a while, when you have a great achievement sure it’s fine to point it out. Placing your business all over your friends and your business pages you follow however is just plain tacky and annoying. Taking a picture
of your product and then tagging everyone you can think of will easily get you defriended!

Use your social media to ask questions. Questions are great conversation starters. Boston television show Phantom Gourmet does an excellent job using their Facebook page to ask their ‘Phans’ fun, yet relevant questions to create conversation. Bonus: When you ask relevant questions to your fans you get valuable marketing information.

Use your Internet marketing to show your customers love. If you’re a B2B company, using your customers as case studies is a great way to showcase how your product/service made their company more efficient and also it allows you to cross promote your customer and who doesn’t love a little free promotion! If you’re a B2C company, social media is a great place to run contests and thank your loyal customers.

Negative feedback is a great way to show your customer service skills. As hard as it is to see a bad review, view it as an opportunity. In fact, use it to your advantage! How you respond to a bad review can really speak volumes about your company. For example, if you’re a restaurant that received a bad review on Yelp or Google, post a reply apologizing for the reason behind a bad review and offer a solution. First off your acknowledging and taking responsibility for what happened publicly and secondly you didn’t just say “So sorry, too bad.” - you offered a solution. It shows you care about your customers and your public image. Yelp’s Support Center offers further reading.

When it comes to lead nurturing, building relationships with your customers will be the key to a successful long lasting relationship is to show you care by creating an open dialogue. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Elements of a Professional Website

As a business professional, you are always trying to put your best foot forward. Nice business cards, smart phone to keep you organized, polished appearance – but what about your website? Your website is your first impression to your new visitors and potential leads. Here are some elements of successful websites:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, functionality is in the hand of the user. While a great looking design will attract your visitors, it’s the user experience that will keep your bounce rate down. Make sure your navigation is easy to read, your site has cross browser functionality, and your overall design is clean. Always run quality checks in order to ensure all your links and forms work.

Design does count for something though! Try to stay away from dark backgrounds as they are hard on the eye. A light simple background with an attention grabbing call-to-action will be your best bet in encouraging your visitors down the sales funnel. Use fonts that make sense with your industry and company image. Would you call a lawyer who uses Comic Sans Font on their website?

Loading, Loading. If a site takes to long to load, you are going to cause your customers to hit the back button and go to the next item in their search query. Using a free service such as Web Page Analyzer or W3C Markup Validator will clue you in on how your website is performing.

Consistency is the key to your branding. Keeping your website, blogs, online accounts and print material aligned will help create brand recognition. Try to use the same logo, color schemes and design elements as much as possible. If you view my blog, compared to my website, twitter and LinkedIn accounts there is consistency. I use the same image, color scheme, fonts and design elements.

Keep it fresh. An outdated website speaks volumes about how your customers perceive the way you run your business. Just think, if you have a website that was created or last updated in 2007 claiming you’ve been in business for 5 years – well you’re shortchanging yourself since now you’ve been in business for 10 years. I would suggest a redesign on anything from before 2010 and if your serious about your online presence use a CMS system such as Drupal or WordPress to keep your site current.

Blog. Blogging is a an excellent way to keep your website fresh and adding new content is always good for search engine results. Another bonus about blogging is that it opens up an avenue for your customers to get to know your brand and build trust. According to HubSpot, 57% of businesses acquire a new customer through their blog. I believe this, this is after all how I originally heard of HubSpot.

Hire a professional. Never cheap out on your website. Your high school cousin might know how HTML, but he or she probably doesn’t know marketing essentials needed to create traffic. Hire a professional or agency that know Web Design and SEO. You wouldn’t rely on WebMD to accurately diagnose that pain in your chest would you?

A well-rounded marketing plan means keeping your print and web promotions current. Since print material doesn’t need to be updated, it is the easier medium to keep up with. With 93% of online experiences beginning with a search, it’s important that your website is optimized, engaging and is easy on the eyes. If you need help with your online presence, contact me today for a free marketing consultation.

I certainly didn't cover every element - feel free to comment any tips and ideas not covered!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Resolutions to maximize your personal brand

2012 is already looking good! Time to start new, new goals for your business and old habits to break.  Here are some resolutions to keep you on track for an awesome 2012.

1.) Network more. Get yourself offline and out there! Attend industry events as well as general events – you never know just who you will meet and how you can benefit. A good place to check out events in your area is on eventbrite.

2.) Learn a new skill. I really hate that statement Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I agree with making sure to master something in your industry really well. I also think knowing and learning as much as you can in all aspects makes you an asset. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling the burn of a stagnant career.

3.) Stop wasting time on social media. Notice that I didn’t say stop using just stop wasting time. Don’t get bogged down looking at crazy status updates or dramatic tweets of your friends, instead try to spend more time on your business page than your personal page.  Keep your focus on being positive and leveraging social media to maximize your return on investment.

4.) Get rid of dead weight.  This sounds a bit harsh but it can work wonders for your business and for your own health. I call dead weight “psychic vampires”.  They drain your time, your energy and your funds.  They can be in the form of that customer you bend over backwards for but can never please or that employee who feels like you are always out to get them and drags your team down. I say fire that customer and that employee – it’s a bold move but it will pay off in the end.

5.) Find or be a mentor. Mentors and mentoring are one the most valuable business relationships your brand can have. If you’re an industry leader, try mentoring and spreading your knowledge to help future founders succeed and grow.  If you’re just starting out, find that industry leader and connect with him or her. A good place to find out more about finding or becoming a mentor is SCORE.

6.) Stay positive. Seems so obvious, right!? However it is hard to remain positive in a tight situation. Rely on your networks, family, and your mentor(s) to help get you through tough situations. Think about what is so great about you and your brand instead of thinking about how bad things are going.  

Following the above, I see nothing but good things for 20102.  I wish everyone the best of luck this year!