My “to read” pile stacks high and usually leans to non-fiction although a good fiction blast lets me escape when life gets too rough. Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff and contributor Carol Cline had been recommended to me sometime last year. After a particularly grueling day I peeked inside and finished it off by the end of the week.
What I liked about this book: little fluff. Marci offers solid research to back her theories and couches everything in an easy, story-like style. Each chapter includes a summary and action steps to help you practice your own happiness set point.
Marci uses the metaphor of a home, the foundation for your happiness, with its four pillars – the mind, heart, body and soul – as well as the roof which covers your purpose and your relationships. The Happy Ever After principle is the seventh piece.
Even if you’ve heard this information before (Marci was involved with The Secret as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul for Women) Happy for No Reason offers a persuasive list of reasons to take charge of your own perspective with chapter titles like:
Focus on the solution
Make peace with yourself
Question your thoughts
Focus on gratitude
Contribute to something greater than yourself
Stories from Happy 100 participants (she interviewed 100 people from all over the world who were happy for no reason) mix with quotes, folklore and best practices. I found the book entertaining, practical and interesting. See for yourself and then let me know what you think.
Tired of checklists, endless streams of email and voice messages never returned?
Frustrated with errors?
Stymied by employees/customers/people who just don’t “get it?”
Pause. Check your communication systems. Sometimes entrepreneurs move so fast they overlook seemingly obvious connections.
Employees have no knowledge of special offers.
A website with no auto-responders began promoting a subscription service; the initial rollout went to more than 1,000.
In order to meet a publication deadline, one author decided to skip the final proof. Now, Amazon reviews point out problems to the public.
Every business markets to five critical audiences:
- Stakeholders – those with a vested interest in the company: vendors, bankers, family, investors
- Employees – those who work for the company
- Customers – those who buy from the company
- Media- those who publicize the company, the industry or its stories
- General Public – those who may not yet know about the company
The average entrepreneur thinks in big pictures, not details. If that describes you, find someone to follow the checklist. Until you put that person in place, pause and check your communication systems.
Doubt immediately washed over me. I gasped for breath, aware that I was physically reacting to the unknown. Awareness didn’t stop the experience.
“What if I can’t do it? How will I make time for this? Why would I do this? What if something happens?”
A hundred scenarios rushed through my mind. I saw myself lying by the side of the road, injured. I imagined flat tires, broken wheel spokes and other disasters I’d never encountered. Backing out of my agreement suddenly became an option.
I signed the check, completed the application and sealed it. For no apparent reason I felt better. Taking action made all the difference.
I’d come up against an unknown situation: could I actually complete a 75-mile bike ride? Did I want to try? A thousand excuses offered me opt outs. Moving forward meant getting out of my head and choosing an action.
When you’re in the throes of uncertainty, fear paralyzes.
You face decisions daily. Questions threaten overwhelm: How will customers react? What’s the best thing to do? Should I introduce new products? What if the price is wrong? If I invest now will I get a return?
In many situations, over-thinking becomes a culprit, creating analysis paralysis that situation where nothing happens. When every decision is fraught with “if’s, a constant exploration of the possibilities yields only more “if’s.”
For me, facing the fear means acting through doubt. Once I sealed the envelope, I sent a signal to my mind. The debate began to fade.
Do you have a challenge to act through?
Signing up for the race was no big deal. I gave my verbal commitment to two friends and thought little of it. We lined up a training schedule and agreed to submit the registration form.
A week went by, maybe two. After a 35-mile solitary ride, I completed the official entry form.
Stories connect us to customers, friends, the world. What stories do you tell? In a B2B world, do your actions create stories that scare rather than stories to share?
- One client required precise design work for a project. A known vendor completed the job, producing a file with no style consistency. Some paragraphs justified right, others left; some were spaced evenly, others randomly; various fonts and sizes of headlines appeared throughout the text. In spite of a number of revisions, the final product did not work. What story did the client tell about the experience?
- Another vendor sold a web product. At each meeting, the vendor asked for client input. He listened carefully and communicated an understanding of the changes that needed to be made. Many meetings later, nothing had happened. In spite of a pleasing one-on-one relationship, no results told a different tale. What story did the client tell about the experience?
- A third vendor listened to a project request. The organization needed help. Like many non-profits, there was no money and little recognition. The question from the organization: “Would you help us put together and execute a marketing plan?” With no hesitation, the vendor said, “I’d love to.” What story did the client tell about the experience?
If you guessed story #3 as the story to share, you’re correct.
I’ve told dozens of people about that call. The positive attitude, the immediate follow through and the consistent repetition of the two make it a pleasure to do business and tell the story. What stories do clients share about you?
“Spend or Die.” So headlined an opinion piece in AdweekMedia Magazine, February 23, 2009. This is a refreshing turn of commentary.
The Editors urged the marketing and media industries to initiate economic stimulus effects of their own. In their words,
This will take more than a little backbone and a ton of vision, but we feel that those firms that shore up their market positions will survive now and thrive later.
We’re not talking about throwing money down the rat hole of convention. This spending will have to be focused on insulating brands from the economic chaos that swirls around them. The padding will come in three forms: supporting smart brand extensions, embracing new technology platforms and retaining talented employees to make the first two work.
The article quoted from Editor & Publisher, reporting “unique traffic for the websites of the Top 30 newspapers has skyrocketed even as their traditional print platforms continue to spiral into deeper gloom.”
Moving out of fear may be the single biggest challenge any of us face. Without question, opportunities exist. Until and unless perception shifts, those opportunities may not be apparent. One of the fun pieces of marketing is identifying shifts, experimenting with them and telling others.
David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, podcasting, viral marketing and online media to reach buyers directly defied convention this week as he announced Kindle2 owners could download his new best seller “World Wide Rave: Creating triggers that get millions of people to spread your ideas and share your stories” at no charge from Amazon Kindle. The publisher, John Wiley & Sons is supportive of the idea; Scott maintains that free content sells content.
If you have a kindle, download World Wide Rave now and tell your friends. (This offer good through Sunday, March 15.) I encouraged one client to do this; she because so excited about possibilities for her business that she’s gone into an e-book writing retreat. Meanwhile, as proof positive that the viral idea works in many ways, I was motivated to buy a kindle and download the book myself.
Loyalty begins with removing obstacles, the small things standing in the way of your success. We frequently and unintentionally erect barrier to business. Consider:
Obstacle: Errors on your website. You know the drill. You click on a link and get a 404 error. Or, you see someone touting their checklist for perfection and you spot a spelling error.
Solution: Go through your website and check every link, call every phone number, click through every option. Have an outsider proof your work.
Obstacle: Your newsletter deadline arrives, it’s time for the special of the week, etc, and you have no materials or no product. Every entrepreneur faces the time famine. Life gets in the way.
Solution: Develop a plan and stick with it. Treat promises to your customers as true deadlines.
Obstacle: Satisfaction guaranteed, but no contact options offered. Research shows voicemail loops only serve to escalate customer frustration.
Solution: give potential customers several options including a phone number, mailing address and email information.
Obstacle: You send mixed messages because of a ‘disconnect’ between what you say and what you do. You talk professionalism and project casual; for example, you show up for a new business presentation in jeans and sandals. Some would label this the Birkenstock syndrome.
Solution: Dress for the occasion.
Obstacle: Special offers that have expired.
Solution: Update collateral on a regular basis.
Obstacle: Saying one thing and meaning another.
Solution: Think it through. If you have a tendency to transpose names, re-read emails before finalizing.
The bar is high. In tough times, standards become more important because consumers are looking more carefully at their money. Loyalty can increase your customer retention. Build it at every opportunity.
Dozens of obstacles exist. You’ve probably noticed a few this week. Go ahead. List them here.
If you’ve questioned the difference you make, pushed through negativity, or simply tried to re-energize your commitment, you know the value of review. Review your successes or victories and watch your enthusiasm resurge. Outline for someone else the difference they made and see what happens to you. Let me explain.
A busy schedule led me to question choices. I seemed to have switched the amount of “pro bono” time versus billable hours. Overwhelm threatened and for a time I wallowed in the self-pity of “poor me.” Then, as I avoided work by addressing email, I discovered a note that made all the difference:
Mary Ellen: I noticed that you will be a speaker at that conference this Saturday at UNM Cont. Ed.
Just a brief note to tell you that a lot of things are finally coming together for me. I put a lot of your great ideas from your class on my New Years’ Resolution list. The title of your class was prophetic. Every week I try to do a little something to push my work by updating my site, getting on Facebook, printing and framing my art. Etc, etc. and sure enough, I am hearing more of a “buzz” about my work. I have a couple of jobs lined up and one project (cross your fingers) that I hope will turn out to be a great opportunity. I’ll tell you later, don’t want to jinx it.
Anyway, doing well, thanks Debbie
Debbie made an impact by telling me about her progress. What a great note to receive at a time when I experienced some doubt. The simple act of caring, of reaching out to connect with people makes a huge difference to you and to them. Because I’d recently heard from Debbie, I re-thought my commitments for the preceding week.
Wednesday: A budget planning session for a non-profit involved three hours and four dedicated women. It feels good to be a part of an organization that inspires such commitment.
Friday: The evaluation of a friend’s query for a book publisher suddenly seemed more of a privilege than a chore. After all, he’d fought brain cancer and survived. I just had overwhelm.
Creating excitement is the key to re-energizing. Review the things that work. Take the time to send an email or follow-up note to someone who made a difference for you. Then, get back on those tasks.
I spoke with small business owners at EXHIB-IT! Trade Show Marketing yesterday about the value of leveraging your exposure. Liken the concept to the follow through in your golf swing. Let me explain: if you received press coverage in traditional media, you can take full advantage of it by linking to the coverage from your own website and showcasing it in other ways. A couple of examples:
- EXHIB-IT! sent out a traditional news release early in February. The story about a USDA federal contract made daily headlines in the New Mexico Business Weekly and was also picked up by the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook. To maximize this exposure, I suggested EXHIB-IT! link to the coverage from its online media room. This easy-to-execute-idea offers visitors “insider information” which may sway them to make a purchase. Positive press carries additional weight in the minds of many prospects.
- Sunset Magazine showcased wine recommendations from Slate Street Café owner Myra Ghattas in January. Now, Myra can feature this article in her wine lofe. In addition, table tents might announce a wine special “as featured in Sunset Magazine.” Of course, Myra could also link to the article from her website. In addition she might promote the recommendations in her e-newsletter, send the link to customers as a point of interest, and mention the recommendations with further commentary during her wine class. Because Slate Street Café has a fan page on Facebook, they could mention the article or its specific recommendations there as well.
Cross-promotion makes for good business. It exposes your business to other audiences, lets you brag without appearing to do so. (When you say it, it’s a claim…when others say it, it’s fact.)
When you leverage your publicity, you gain additional weight, more influence and perhaps greater credibility. At the very least, you maximize your exposure in one medium across other channels. So, the question is: Have you taken full advantage of your visibility?