Tag Archives: Towanda Long

Your Holiday E-Card is in the Trash

Yesterday my spam filter caught 6 holiday e-cards. This morning it caught 11. I understand companies are looking for ways to cut costs. I get that people don’t necessarily have time to sign a few hundred cards. However, if you think your e-greeting has the same effect as a paper card, I’m sorry but it does not.

The general reason to send holiday greetings is to say hi, I’m thinking of you during this festive season and I wish you and your family the best. Business reasons to send holiday greetings, along with the above,  are to keep you and your company name in front of the customer, to make them feel special and to add a personal touch to a professional relationship. But an e-card doesn’t do this, especially if it comes into an inbox along with a lot of other greetings.

First of all, it being caught in a spam filter makes me treat it as bulk mail. I don’t feel special getting a “Happy Holidays” email blast. It’s not personal. It doesn’t remind me of your service/product. In fact, your e-card does not make me feel like anything other than a name on your email list. At least with a paper card I’m going to open it, read it and probably put it on display in my office. If you personally signed it I’m going to appreciate the extra effort.

I’m not saying you must do paper cards, but I am saying if you are going to acknowledge the holidays, do something that won’t get filed as spam. For instance, start right after Thanksgiving and send a personal email to 10 of your contacts each day welcoming the holiday season. Thank them for their business (make this specific) and mention a way you will follow-up in the new year (lunch maybe, etc.).   And don’t title it Happy Holidays!

Craig’s List Is An Art

Here’s a post from my newest blog, Queenocracy, on the art of shopping on Craig’s List. Enjoy!

http://queenocracy.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/the-art-of-craigs-list/

Why Should They Buy?

It doesn’t matter that you have a great service or product. It doesn’t even matter that your potential customer needs it. When it comes to your marketing campaign, your message must engage the customer so that they understand, in their way, why they need your product/service.

Here are some ways to get your message heard and spark the “need” factor:

  • Tell your story in an engaging way. Make it colorful, different and memorable.
  • Highlight the benefits that are important to your potential customer, not necessarily the things that are important to you. For instance, it’s great that your shoes are scuff-proof, but if I only care that they are comfortable tell me more about comfort. Stop trying to make me care about scuffs.
  • Show the specific need you answer as well as the impact on their general wellness.
  • Acknowledge your competition and highlight the differences. This one is tricky because you don’t want to speak negatively about your competitors, you only want to point out your uniqueness.
  • Use a customer-friendly tone. Avoid big words, jargon and by all means, condescending stereotypical language.
  • Use testimonials of current customers that are similar to your target audience.

Who’s On Your Advisory Panel?

Here are three personalities that should be in your circle:

The Optimist. We all need a cheerleader, the person that will tell us we can do anything and will point out the positive in any situation. The Optimist is perfect when you’re feeling down and need a pep talk. 

The Analyst. This person knows a little about a lot of things and enjoys sharing the knowledge. (S)He has a practical way of reviewing facts and presents a solution based on numbers, not emotions. You may not get an instant response, because this process may take some time.

The Naysayer. You need someone that can see pitfalls and is open enough to tell you. When choosing a naysayer make sure (s)he has your best intentions at heart. If you feel their intentions are not good then by all means find another naysayer.

Vertical Customer Relationships

Vertical customers want an expert. They want to feel like you not only understand your product/service, but that you understand their industry.

Here are a few ways you can highlight your knowledge throughout the relationship, not just during the pitch:

  • Include industry news in your communications (e-newsletters, emails, website, etc.).
  • Offer commentary with solutions regarding current hot topics. For example, a mask manufacturer could discuss swine flu.
  • Host a monthly (or weekly, quarterly, annually) seminar. Don’t exclusively highlight your company; instead mix up the agenda with speakers from other businesses.

BONUS: This is a great way to build relationships with companies that may be able to forward referrals.

  • When discussing your business, use friendly language. Avoid jargon and big words as much as possible; they don’t say knowledgeable. It says you’re overcompensating or hiding something.

Twitter/Facebook Therapy

To all my Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, THANK YOU for being a therapist.

Yes, I usually post article links, professional resources and inspirational quotes. True, I give family updates, try to answer questions and offer my opinion when asked. But you are great because you see that our relationship is more than this.

You understand that I also need an outlet to vent. You get that sometimes my updates are all about me. And not only that, you encourage it by replying and offering me your reassurance, advice or even a simple LOL or :-).

You’ve helped me through a lot – road rage situations, poor customer service, crickets chirping EXTREMELY loud under my window, third trimester pains and so much more.

So again, thanks! I truly appreciate it.

Small is Not a Bad Word

Here are a few reasons why small businesses should embrace their size and not feel pressure to stretch the truth or their size:

You have an expertise. Instead of building a long list of product/service offerings, focus on your strongest capabilities. Build your business on these, and you limit the risk of mistakes, which can damage your brand image.

This will also help you focus your brand and corner your niche.

Red tape is non-existent. A great asset is there is little room for bureaucracy. Instead of dealing with an automated service, boilerplate answers and inflexible rules, your customers get to deal with a person. Trust me, that’s invaluable.

There is no “bait and switch”. How many times have you been pitched by the VP or another high-level executive at a company, only to find out you will never work with that person? Instead, you will be working with a junior team that is nowhere near the initial meeting.

Yes, this junior team may be capable, but it doesn’t matter because you’ve built a report with the initial pitch team. Eliminating the bait and switch puts you at an advantage and sets the tone for an honest work relationship.

Your business is flexible. Most small businesses are nimble by design. Can you meet or complete projects at unconventional times? Do you have a unique way to work (special worksheets, work plans, etc.)? Make sure your clients know about it.

My Working Mother Must-Haves List

Awesome Daycare. There is no way I could be productive at work if I didn’t love my girls’ daycare. It’s a very cozy setting, they love their teacher, learn a lot and most of all they are safe and very well taken care of there.

A couple of other good signs – they have no problem saying bye to me in the morning and it usually takes at least 15 minutes to get them to leave in the afternoon.

 Supportive/flexible environment. This goes for my work and home environments. I have been blessed with employers and clients that understand I am a mother. And part of this is that I may not be in the office from 8-5 every day, but I will also work at midnight if I have to in order to finish a project.  

 At home I don’t keep things rigid. I try to enforce a bedtime, but otherwise our evenings are unpredictable. We may go to the park or mall after the girls leave daycare, or we may play at home until dinner is ready. We may have a spa night, do a project or have dance-offs (mostly the girls and daddy… my two-step doesn’t make the cut…).

 Smartphone. Through email, social media (mostly Facebook and Twitter) and actual phone calls, I am available to both colleagues and family easily. I am able to organize my life, keep to-do lists, write articles, work on projects, research ideas and the list goes on.

 Low-maintenance style. I wear my hair natural because it’s versatile yet extremely easy to maintain. I wear very little make-up (lipstick and a little eye shadow with mascara is the norm) and I have my jewelry separated into weekday and weekend looks.

For clothes I gravitate towards materials that are easy to maintain and I try to choose pieces that will go well with many looks. I will admit that shoes are my weakness, so I sometimes get a little crazy here, but I keep a pair of black heels in my trunk in case of emergency.

Debunking Twitter Rules

Myth #1: Don’t tell us what you’re doing. Some people enjoy knowing what you are doing, and if those are your followers then there is nothing wrong with your tweets.

I enjoy getting personal tweets mixed in with professional tweets. It makes my Twitter friends feel real, not so much virtual. I’ve also found great restaurants from these tweets.

Myth #2: It’s about two-way conversations. This is not always the case. There are some people and companies that I follow because of the information they provide. It doesn’t matter to me if they respond to a DM or @ reply. What’s important is that the information they give me is accurate and useful.

Myth #3: Don’t tweet more than 5 times a day. True, some people go overboard with spam, but that’s another issue. I don’t care how many times you tweet; as long as I can use some of the information I’m fine.

Myth #4: Only follow people with similar interests, that you can learn from, etc. One of the great things about Twitter is it’s a community of people with different interests, expertise and information.

Do not feel like you must limit who you follow because of any absolute; you set the rules for who you follow. I follow people with similar interests and opinions along with those that are the complete opposite. I follow marketers as well as jewelry designers. I don’t follow spammers.

Here’s the thing, I use Twitter as a news feed. It’s a place where I can find out about current events, career news as well as my friends and family. And from each of these Tweeps I am interested in different information.

So, if you must have a Twitter rule this is it. Tweet what’s important to your current and potential followers.

Fighting Creativity Block

“Your best ideas are hidden behind logical thinking.” This is what I tell myself when I’m having mental block on a creative project. And here’s how I fight it.

I brainstorm for five minutes. Then I choose the most outlandish, unrealistic idea. Instead of focusing on why it can’t work, I think of the success I’ll have if it DOES work. Then I make a plan.

This encourages me to think differently, creatively, not so much logically. And when I’m finished I usually have a few nuggets that I can actually use. After all, it’s easier to reel in an idea if needed.