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Declare your number. What’s your financial goal?

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

WHAT'SI ask my marketing clients a lot of questions as we work together, because I believe there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all marketing and I need to fully understand your business to make recommendations.

I can all but guarantee that the question that will raise a client’s stress level the most is, “What’s your financial goal?”


There are numerous, complex reasons their posture stiffens and they start to fidget.

First is we’re taught that talking about money is off limits. It’s rude to ask what someone makes and tacky to talk about your own income.

Like your accountant isn’t just being nosy asking for your financials, I need to know what you hope to earn so we can build a plan to get you there. If you aren’t making as much as you’d like, your three basic choices are sell more, charge more or spend less. Your marketing plan needs to reflect whatever you pursue.

Still, even when I reassure people that it’s confidential and that they don’t have to get specific, it can just be a general range, they still hem and haw.

Almost without exception, we ultimately come to confession time, when they sheepishly admit they don’t have a financial goal.

Depending on the size of the business, they might have a budget so they know they can make rent and payroll, but it’s based on what they made last year, not what they want to make. Self employed people are often looser than that, making their spending decisions based on what’s in the checkbook right now.

I get it. If you say out loud that you want to make $100,000 or $1 million or whatever your aspiration is, you risk not reaching it.

Maybe it’s less scary to just work hard and see what happens?

But not declaring it, even if it’s only to yourself, means operating without important information that can help you prioritize your actions. If you want to land three $25,000 sales a month, the way you market yourself might look really different than making three $5,000 sales a month or 3,000 $25 sales.

So let’s do some back of the envelope math for a self-employed person.

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Technology is always changing, so focus on your message more than the tool

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You say you're intimidated keeping up with all the new technology? It can be overwhelming -- but the alternative is sticking with what you already know. Would you prefer to go back to video cameras this big? Creative Commons photo by Andre Chinn.

You say you’re intimidated keeping up with new technology? It can be overwhelming — but the alternative is sticking with what you already know. Would you prefer to go back to video cameras this big? Creative Commons photo by Andre Chinn.

Back in 2005, my aunt and I went to Rome for Easter. I packed what seemed like an impossibly small video camera, its case about the size of a small purse, and I captured beautiful scenes of Pope John Paul’s last Easter.

Then I got home and realized that without specialized editing software, I couldn’t do much besides play it back as is, plugging the camera into my computer.

About a year later, a friend told us about this thing called YouTube. John’s computer wheezed and stuttered as we tried to watch our first video.

As online video became all the rage, I bought a Flip, a high-definition video camera about the size of an old mini cassette recorder. Its simple interface quickly got me recording, editing and uploading video to YouTube. The name referred to its clever design — you push a button on the side of the camera and a USB connection flips up, plugging straight into your computer without a cord.

This was the first video I shot on my Flip cam then uploaded to YouTube. It’s literally almost as interesting as watching paint dry.


I was slow to the iPhone trend, but once I started carrying a high-quality camera as part of my smartphone, I rarely bothered with my Flip any more. The launch of Twitter’s Vine, a tool for sharing six-second video loops, followed by Instagram’s 15-second videos, made it easy to share video without ever touching my computer. Record the video, share it straight from the iPhone via wifi or data plan.

I shot my first Vine at SXSW Interactive … of NOLA band Big Sam’s Funky Nation:https://vine.co/v/bw96T1ihFmD

In just a few years, it’s remarkable how much amateur video has changed — and that’s from a starting point I already thought was pretty advanced.

So many other technologies are moving just as quickly, and it can be tempting to just stick with what you already know. It can be overwhelming to constantly learn new tools.

But imagine saying no, I’d rather keep my fax machine than learn email. No, my film camera is just fine, why would I bother with a digital camera or the phone on my camera? Who needs a photocopier when this ditto machine still works? I prefer this rotary phone to a cordless push button, and I can’t see a use for a cellphone. I like these eight tracks, or albums, or cassettes, or CDs … Read more

Improv performance and marketing both rely on clear communication

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment
Katie Goodman taught a room full of women life lessons disguised as improv acting lessons.

Katie Goodman taught a room full of women life lessons disguised as improv acting lessons.

When my friend, improv actress Katie Goodman, and I decided to co-teach a workshop, it felt like a natural.

She uses improvisation exercises as a life coach. I’m a marketing consultant who mainly helps small businesses and solopreneurs tell their stories.

What? That doesn’t sound like peanut butter and jelly to you?

I spent last weekend in Montana at an improv workshop Katie led that reconfirmed our connection. Many lessons of improv apply to marketing communication.

As you may know, improv is acting without the benefit of a script.

Through the course of the weekend, we partnered up to write poetry, sing songs and act out scenes totally created in the moment, based on suggestions from the audience — give me an object, an emotion, a type of location.

Katie directed us to listen closely to our scene partners, to be open to new ideas, whether they’re your own or other people’s, and of course to follow the best known philosophy of improv, to always build on other people’s ideas, instead of negating them, by using a “yes, and …” approach. All good advice in life, as well as on stage.

She also advised us to say what’s in our heads. You have to decide who you are, where you are and what you want, and communicate all three clearly or your partner doesn’t know how to react.

For example, we begin an improv scene and I just say “Sure is hot.” I might have an idea that we’re in a sauna, at the beach or standing on the surface of the sun, but my partner has to figure out how to react to me with almost no information.

If instead I say, “Wow it’s hot! I’ve been in this desert for a week and I ran out of water three days ago. Do you have any water?” I’ve given my partner enough information to maybe picture she’s got to get off her camel to share her jug of water with me.

When it works, it’s like watching skilled ballroom dancers. Partners appear to move together effortlessly, and though one is following and the other leading, the direction is invisible to the audience and both have equally important roles in their shared success.

How is improv like marketing?

I frequently see businesses creating content that doesn’t tell me who they are, where they are and what they want. As a result, I don’t know how to react. Read more

Reply to online critics in public, discuss in private

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment
Instagram user Luxuryprgal said it best: Everyone with a computer is a damn food critic. Love this restaurant's sense of humor about it...

Instagram user Luxuryprgal said it best: Everyone with a computer is a damn food critic. Love this restaurant’s sense of humor about online criticism…

When I was at a restaurant recently, one of the owners was having a minor freak out because someone criticized them on Facebook.

It was one comment, and from what I could tell, it seemed snarky but fair. Instead of using it as a chance to say yes, you’re right, we could probably do better on that, he perceived it as an attack, got defensive, snarked back then deleted the criticism.

He missed a golden opportunity.

Here’s a terrifying truth for many businesses: people are talking about you, and not all of it is positive.

This has always been the case, but social media makes these amateur critiques much more public. Instead of just complaining about your terrible service to friends over beers, anyone inclined to shout it from the electronic rooftops can take to Yelp or Twitter or any number of other places.

Think about the Fortune 500, the American companies generating the most revenue, and whether it’s Wal-Mart, General Motors or J.P. Morgan Chase, they generate plenty of public criticism. But that doesn’t mean they shy away from being part of the conversation, as shown in this list of Fortune 500 social media stars.

One of the marketing services I offer is conducting customer surveys. Businesses sometimes pay thousands of dollars and take weeks or months to find out what customers are thinking. It’s valuable information. Social media offers you a peek into that feedback for free, if you’re willing to take it. It’s not a representative sample but as one way to take the temperature of your customers, it’s really useful.

Snark can be one of the speed bumps. Copious articles have detailed the rise of snark online, pining the blame on everything from anonymous comments to the sarcasm of the ironic hipster. Maybe you don’t just get someone saying your sandwich was disappointing, but instead “Worst. Sandwich. EVER. #lunchfail.” I get that it’s hard not to get defensive in the face of the melodrama.

So I offer these five tips to put online critics — even the snarky ones — to work for you:

1. Tune in to what’s being said — regularly check your Facebook page and your Yelp profile, for example, and use searches on Twitter and Instagram to look for comments about your business.

2. Take a deep breath — just as you might prefer your spouse tell you discreetly that your fly is open rather than shouting it across the room, it can sting to hear criticism publicly, even if it’s valid and helpful. Before you respond in anger, cool down. If you really care about your business, it might hurt to hear that you’ve missed the mark. Take time to be hurt before taking your next step.

3. Respond to complaints publicly, discuss privately – show your concern in your community but don’t feel you have to engage in a visible debate. Answer but don’t be defensive. Acknowledging concerns gives you the chance to explain. Maybe you had an off day and you know it. If you show your humanity, reasonable customers will probably understand. Then take the individual complaint off line — address it in email or by phone, for example — to offer a solution like a refund or an invitation to come back.

4. Answer promptly – if one person has a question or concern, answering publicly might save you numerous emails and calls about the same thing.

5. Communicate results — do you get a lot of complaints about specific issues? Fix what’s broken, then tell social media fans how you’ve listened to them and appreciate their help

I have found that simply responding calmly can defuse many hostile situations. The critic realizes it’s a real human being on the other end of the conversation and upon being heard might engage in a rational conversation.

You’re also communicating with more than that individual. You’re showing the rest of your customers that you’re conscientious, you’re listening and you care whether your customers are satisfied. Just as I watch how my favorite businesses handle an angry customer in person, how you reply to online criticism from someone else might give me great confidence that if I ever have a problem, you’ll stand behind your product.

That can take a #socialmediaFAIL and turn it into #winning.

Bonus tip #6 — hopefully not all social media feedback will be negative, so be sure to say thank you. When someone pays you a compliment, let them know you’ve heard it and you appreciate it.

I wouldn't recommend every business respond to a Yelp critic like Charles Hanson did -- but if you're a dive bar with attitude, this might be the right way to go.

I wouldn’t recommend every business respond to a Yelp critic like Charles Hanson did — but if you’re a dive bar with attitude, this might be the right way to go.

Your marketing should appeal to your customer, not you

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

I’ve talked to marketing clients who personally hate social media, because they consider it an invasion of privacy or a waste of time, so they don’t want social media accounts for their businesses.
People have told me that because they personally don’t want any more email, they don’t want to offer a business e-newsletter.
It’s great to have empathy for your customer and it can be helpful if you‘re serving a clientele like yourself, but make no mistake — your marketing is designed to appeal to your current and potential customers, not to you.

Look out the window, not in the mirror

I absolutely get the instinct not to flood your customers with email — we’re all drowning a bit and you don’t want to irritate people who spend money with you.
But data show that e-newsletters are effective in driving sales. Assuming you‘re only emailing people who’ve opted in to your list and they can unsubscribe any time, you are only dropping your love notes into the inboxes of people who want to hear from you.
If email is effective and people have asked to hear from you, why aren’t you sending emails? Because you don’t want to hear from you?
If customers want to learn about you or talk with you on social media, do you really want to hide from them?
Watch what’s effective in boosting your sales. Ask your customers what they want and need. Keep checking your assumptions about your own preferences against what works for your customers. Read more

Drop the poverty mentality. It’s OK to make money.

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Can we accept that it's OK to make money?

Can we get over the poverty mentality and accept that it’s OK to make money?

When I teach a social media strategy workshop, I generally get a laugh when I say most businesses use social media marketing to try to make more money — then stop to ask, “Is there anyone here whose goal is actually to make less money?”

It’s intended to be kind of a ridiculous question. Not many business owners will lead their 2016 goals with “Make 10 percent less revenue.”

As corny as my little joke is, I see a lot of entrepreneurs who have mixed emotions about profitability.

I had an inspiring conversation with my sales coach recently that included an exploration of what holds people back from earning as much as they’d like. Included were fear of hearing no and hesitancy to ask for what you’re worth, as well as a philosophical discomfort with making money.

Let’s drop the image of the noble starving artist

This thinking seems most prevalent with creatives. I’m not sure hedge fund managers lose sleep because of their outsized bonuses. But for people pursuing a passion, the thought process seems to be that if you’re making money, your efforts are no longer pure. They’re tainted by commerce.

If you’ve ever heard a successful band called a sell out, you know what I’m talking about. Yes, some people abandon their values and creative vision to chase dollars, but even when an artist or author or musician hits doing their own thing, there can be a sense they no longer have real cred. You need to suffer for your art.

If someone’s doing something well, why would it be a bad thing for money to follow? We live in a country where CEOs, athletes and movie stars make ridiculous sums of money. Why shouldn’t people on different paths make a living?

I love hearing stories of talented, hard working people reaping rewards from their efforts. There’s a huge difference between being greedy and money motivated and simply thriving at your passion.

We all have to pay the rent

Unless you’re living off a trust fund or as a monk, chances are you need to do something to support yourself.

I feel strongly we’re all better served if you’re doing something you’re good at and something you enjoy than if you’re forced to take a subsistence job just to pay the bills.

With no disrespect intended for people who make sacrifices to survive, I think it’s a shame if the people you could have served with the thing you do best don’t get that opportunity, and I don’t think any it’s in any employer’s best interest to have you around if your heart isn’t in it.

The choice is yours: Earn money doing something you like or earn money doing something else.

And risking being labeled a sell out is the bad thing here? Read more

Self promotion doesn’t have to be shameless

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Self promotion doesn't have to remind you of a smarmy used car salesman.

Self promotion doesn’t have to remind you of a smarmy used car salesman.

When you say the phrase “self promotion,” do you almost feel obliged to add “shameless” in front of it?

I recently had a consulting session with an entrepreneur who candidly admitted, “Self promotion in general makes me uncomfortable.”

One of the endorsements from my marketing class this spring said of my co-presenter and me, “They are not only experts with beautifully complimentary teaching styles, they’re also genuine, friendly, and totally get that many of us who run our own businesses kind of hate promoting ourselves.”

I do totally get it. And I also totally believe that doesn’t have to be the case.

When you picture “salesman,” what comes to mind?

Is it a smarmy guy in an ugly sportcoat trying to con you into driving a lemon off a used car lot? Is it foul mouthed, abrasive Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross?

I would love to begin changing our cultural stereotype of sales.

I’m grateful when I walk into my local wine shop and get knowledgeable help finding a delicious bottle in my price range that suits the occasion.

I loved when I was looking for a digital video camera and the salesman talked me out of the more expensive model I was considering because the features of the simpler version would serve my amateur needs.

If I have a want or need and you help me, you are doing me a service. Yes, my wallet will likely be lighter, but I assume going in you aren’t doing this for free.

This spring, I took my bike to the shop. A different bike shop had told me the frame was bent beyond repair but before shopping for a replacement, I wanted a second opinion. The new mechanic apologized that he’d have to charge me $20, but for that fee, he could true up the frame to close to straight. Do you think I resented paying him 20 bucks when I thought I was going to be spending a lot more on a new bike?

All of these were sales experiences. Someone took my money in exchange for goods or services. I didn’t feel tricked or manipulated, instead I felt I got real value for the money I spent. Read more

5 tips for marketing when you don’t have time

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Whether it’s back to school, harvest time or retail holiday season, plenty of businesspeople hit a point when there’s not enough time to sleep, much less market yourself.

Do you not have enough hours in the day for marketing? Five tips to help you stay in touch with your customers. Photo by JD Baskin used under Creative Commons license.

Do you not have enough hours in the day for marketing? Five tips to help you stay in touch with your customers.
Photo by JD Baskin used under Creative Commons license.

If that sounds like you, let’s dive right into five pointers to stay on your customers’ radar during your busy time:

  1. Think small — Your customers are probably busy, too, so don’t be afraid to do an email newsletter or blog post that’s just one photo and a couple sentences. A sale, a new product, the return of a favorite product, special hours, all you need is one idea your customers will find useful.
  2. Think efficient — If you have little chunks of time, like a few minutes between when you’re done setting up and when you actually open, grab your phone and write one quick post you push across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Conversely, block off 15 minutes to schedule daily social media posts for the whole week using a tool like HootSuite. Let technology make it easier to use whatever limited time you have.
  3. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — If part of the reason you’re so busy is that you are answering endless calls and emails with the same questions over and over, use your marketing to intercept those frequently asked questions. Be sure your hours and directions are on your website and that you share them frequently in your e-newsletter and on social media, for example. If people are always asking if you have X in stock, post a picture of it when you do.
  4. Delegate — If you usually update your website yourself because you want to make sure it gets done to your exacting standards, it might be better to let someone else do it for now than to not have it happen at all. Give a clear assignment like “put our back-to-school sale on the front of the website with a big, bold headline and a picture” and accept that done is better than perfect. If you don’t have anyone on staff who can help, maybe you should hire a consultant or temp for short-term help or perhaps a favorite customer would pitch in for a trade.
  5. Be human — If you’re up at 4 a.m. (either already or still), snap a selfie and share it on your social media. Showing people what your frantic time is like might help them understand why your email response time is a little longer than usual.

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10 ways to improve your marketing during your slow season

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If your business slows down in the summer, now is the perfect time to tune up your marketing so you’re ready for your busy season.

When your calendar loosens up, you might:

review your website

    1. Review your website — replace any out-of-date information and add some new photos to freshen the look. Look at your design compared to others in your industry and if it feels dated or if it doesn’t work well on your phone, consider a redesign. That can be relatively simple if you use a template for WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.
    2. Write e-newsletters and blog posts for the future — get your content ready now so you can just hit “send” when you’re swamped later.
    3. Check out your competitors — what information can you find on their websites, e-newsletters and social media that might help you tell your customers how you’re different?
    4. Craft a 30-second description of what you do — practice a clear, compelling answer to the question “What do you do?” so you communicate the most important ideas about what makes your business special.
    5. Update your social media profiles — If you haven’t looked at your “about” section on your Facebook business page in a while or you don’t remember what your Twitter profile says, make sure all your accounts describe you and your business accurately.
    6. Review your analytics — look at your website data to see what search terms bring people to your site and how long they spend once they’re there, review the open rates for your marketing emails to see which subject lines, days and times get the most people looking, check out your social media metrics to see what kinds of posts get the most comments and shares. Your goals are to better understand what your customers want from you and to find out what’s working so you can repeat.
    7. Plan a snail mail campaign — now that we get so much email, a thoughtful printed piece might stand out in your customer’s mailbox. One client of mine gets cards custom designed by an artist and she hand writes messages to all her customers. I’ve gotten postcards designed and printed to write to prospects. Think about who you want to reach — current or potential customers — and what you could mail that would feel valuable instead of like junk mail.
    8. Research important conferences — are there events where you’ll meet new customers or connect with existing clients? Get those dates on your calendar and start budgeting for registration, travel, lodging and meals.
    9. Learn a new social media platform — choose a network where you think you might find your ideal customers, create an account and start watching how people interact.
    10. Schedule an appointment for marketing — get out your calendar, whether it’s hard copy or electronic, and block out time to work on your marketing for the rest of the year, such as 30 minutes every Friday, so you keep on top of creating fresh content and responding to customers as you get busier.
Do you have other ways you like to use your slow times to work on your marketing?

5 tips for better out-of-office messages to help your customers

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine 1 Comment

Why WHY do you bother with an autoresponder email that says something like, “I will be away July 12-19.” ?

OK. That’s good to know. But what do I do now? Especially if I have an issue that can’t wait?

Here are my thoughts on a good out-of-office message that communicates to your customers that you care about them even when you’re away:

1. Tell me how long you will be away.

Sometimes you might not know. Maybe it’s a family emergency and it’s unclear how long it’ll take to resolve.

Instead of just saying, “I am away from the office,” either give dates or say something like “I am away from the office indefinitely” or “I am away from the office; my return date is not firmed up yet.”

Otherwise, start and end dates help me figure out if I want to wait or find a plan B.

2. Tell me if you’re checking messages and if so, how often.

If you’re traveling for work and doing your best to handle business matters remotely, that’s different from hiking Kilimanjaro.

Maybe you could say, “I am traveling for work and checking email intermittently. My responses might take longer than normal. ” or “I will check messages each evening.”

That is, unless you are off completely, in which case it might be “I will not have access to email while I am away.”

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