Definitions are always a good place to start. What is awareness?
Awareness- knowledge or perception of a situation or fact (Oxford Dictionary)
People attribute business success to many factors, but I think we might be inclined to think that those with three Cs succeed:
- Charisma- They have the “it” or “woo” factor.
- Capital- They have the money to make their dreams a reality.
- Company- They have the right people around them to promote them.
When businesses fail, we’ve heard that the majority fail in the first five years due to lack of finances. Interestingly, that’s the number two reason, according to Forbes (2017), with the number one reason being that the product or service that the person put on the market did not meet the market’s need. Interesting, huh?
Certainly having charisma, capital, and being in the right company help, but if you have all these advantages yet lack awareness of yourself and your market, you could still end up falling into the large category of businesses that fail because they didn’t meet their market’s needs.
Couldn’t we say that lack of awareness is at the crux of the failure to meet the market’s needs?
Awareness is needed through all seasons of business. Perhaps a person started with lots of awareness of the market and tons of solutions to boot, but times, technology, and needs change. Hence, the way a business runs, the team it acquires, and and the services and products it offers must evolve. Continuous awareness.
The third reason businesses fail is they don’t find the right team (CB Insights, 2019). Awareness of one’s personal strengths and weaknesses, awareness of the skillsets of others, or the awareness to foresee the consequences of keeping the wrong team players onboard all play into why business owners may not have the right team players. Typing that just made me flashback to the first time I had to fire someone. It was horrible. Like I was sick to my stomach. But the thought that made me more sick was what was going to happen in my company if I ignored my own awareness and the lack of awareness this person had about the effects of her actions on the organization.
We see the consequences of the lack of awareness in business on a daily basis: the person who posts WAY too much stuff on their personal or business social pages; the person who you don’t hear from except when they are trying to sell something; the business with zero personality; products that are a dime a dozen and have no stand-out factor in the market yet they are heavily pushed on the market; a company thinking that lowering their prices will move their products, when the real issue is the brand’s messaging hasn’t adequately communicated a value worth the pricetag no matter what it is.
It is certainly easier to look at others’ lack of self-awareness or market awareness, but it is more important to always be examining our own.
What do you plain suck at doing? For me, it’s paper organization. In college, people saw I had systems for everything- studying, test-taking, and putting my research together were areas I shined like a superstar. BUT, for the love of anything you hold dear, I prayed you would not ask me to borrow my awesomely bulleted notes, because the second I tore my notes out of my spiral notebook, they’d be lost forever. You would return them to me, and they would never again make their way back into my notebooks (which is why I kept spirals). I’ve tried every paper system under the sun, and spirals are still what work best for me, because I cannot maintain organization of small items and papers. A harder suck pill to swallow is that I stink at being a boss when the shite hits the fan; however, I excel at being a consultant to organizations (there’s a big difference!).
Over the years as I’ve expanded, rescaled, or morphed my business, I’ve found it so helpful to stay mindful of my awareness. I develop what I can strengthen and don’t beat myself up anymore over what I don’t do well. There are people and technology solutions for those things. The important thing is that we know what we do well. Reading books, taking assessments such as DISC or the Gallup Strengths Finder or the now-popular Enneagram help us take assessment of our strengths, know where we need support, and also recognize how others perceive us.
Be open to feedback. Stubbornness is different from resilience. A resilient business examines itself and its potential market to make ever-shifting decisions to match its offerings with the market’s needs. A stubborn business or business owner does not recognize or ignores the input of others more knowledgeable or errantly wants the market to change their behaviors rather than assume responsibility for the shifts needed to provide to the needs of the market.
It’s a new year, and January is a great time to start writing your business reading lists, find virtual or in-person events, join networking groups and chambers and begin cultivating relationships with people you will actively seek feedback and guidance from. What do you think you can do this year to grow your awareness as a leader and to welcome the feedback of trusted peers and mentors? Where could some simple steps towards increased awareness propel your business. How could these steps shed light on how you need shift your messaging services or product offerings?
It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth the investment of time to think about.
Dream bigger, and your dreams will be more attainable when your awareness is at its highest!
You have a new business idea!
High five! You’re pumped! Fresh ideas are necessary for business growth and development. It may sound nerdy (it is nerdy), but I love nothing than a brainstorming session with myself. I have notebooks and an app filled with ideas. I learned long ago to write the ideas down. I used to think a brain spark I’d have was so good that there was no way I’d forget it, but something else would creep into that brain space and POOF. So, now, all the ideas get recorded.
But how do you get an idea off the ground? Should you let it fly? What do you need to do to give it legs to run? If you have a few minutes, pour your cup of coffee and let’s talk.
I used to do something else too. I’d try to act on all the ideas. They were so great, I thought, that they all needed to get put forth into the world. Big, big mistake. Enter big-time overwhelm, messed up priorities, lack of follow-through, and in the end, a lack of profitability.
All ideas are good ideas, but all ideas are not good for now. -Geneva Maresma
Here are three ways to handle all the inspirational ideas you have to make sure they serve you instead of slicing into your goals.
- Categorize your ideas- act now, put on the shelf, toss in the fun bin. Does your idea line up with your long or short-term goals? If you can say, “Heck yes!” then act now on developing it. Could it line up with your goals at some time but it needs time to possibly be aligned? Put it on the shelf of ideas to keep revisiting. Is it a fun or exciting idea but would take you a totally different direction than the goals you’ve established? Then, toss it into the fun idea bin.
- Talk to a good business bestie about your idea. So many times I’ve had an idea that lights me all up inside, and when I’ve spent the time explaining it to a trusted business mind, I’ve found one of two things happen. As I’m explaining it, it begins to sound more and more complicated and is harder to articulate than it was to think about OR the other brain with whom I’m sharing “gets it” and jumps on my brainwave giving me affirmation. Ultimately, your business ideas have to excite others, so take your ideas to a trusted person or two, and you’ll get lots of clarity with what to do with it.
- Research. There aren’t too many brand new ways of doing things, but there are many fresh ways to go about old ideas. See what others have done with a similar concept. Google and read the results of others. Not only will you see how similar ideas have served other businesses, but chances are you’ll refine your idea to something even better than the original!
Let your mind move and those ideas flow. Act on those that have gone through these three screening steps with flying colors, and embrace one of the greatest aspects of entrepreneurship- innovation!
Dream big and shine on!
4 Ways to Have a More Productive Start to Your Day
Go From Manic Monday to a Money-Making Feel-Good Morning Routine
That darn alarm. It sounds signaling the start of Monday. The start of the business week. The start of insanity. You roll over and pretend like it’s not happening- the alarm, Monday, none of it.
Or you’re like me. A morning person. Even on vacation I revel in the peace of the early hours and glow of the rising sun.
Just like I think everyone can learn to write for their businesses, I know everyone, whether a self-proclaimed early bird or night owl, can learn to use just one hour of the morning to make a HUGE impact on their businesses’s bottom line and how the whole rest of the day rolls out.
I don’t know who said it first, but there’s a saying that says either you control your time or your time controls you.
When people want to know one of my success secrets or how I have time to run two businesses and a networking group and still have time to do anything else, I point to how my morning routine is critical in my productivity and sanity in trying to do all the things.
Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. -Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week
We put off what should be done today for “someday.” I’ve been guilty too. No sugarcoating here, friends, but if you are going to run a successful business for the long-term, you have to learn to discipline your now- discipline of your time, talents, resources, and to engage self-care. Stewarding your time routines is a disciple that hits all four areas, as you will find your stress level and general mental state in a much better place to start your days to make better decisions for your business.
Let’s get to the good stuff! I’ve read lots of blogs like this about productive morning routines that are anything but simple, so first I’ll make a promise to you. I’m going to keep it simple. No complicated systems. My first directive to you to get your morning together is to get up at whatever time you need to to have an uninterrupted morning. So if your kids are up by 6:45 for school, you need to get up at 5:45. If you normally roll out of bed at 7am, get up at 6. If your mind has already started the, “But, I…,” you’re going to need to talk to your mindset. Find your hour and decide if need be to get into bed an hour earlier the night before. Don’t deplete your sleep. It’s so important to your health, wellness, and wealth!
Now you have your hour designated. I’m going to tell you exactly what I do in the hour I designate, and I think you can totally copy and paste my success routine into your morning.
- First 5 minutes after waking up, do nothing. Yep. That’s easy, right!? I give myself 5 minutes either by hitting the snooze (set for 5 minutes) or giving myself the small bit of time to stretch in bed and open my eyes. I love mornings, but I’m not trying to jump out of bed like a pop-tart!
- The next 25 minutes: I make my cup of coffee, and while it’s brewing, I drink a glass of lemon water and collagen. Cleanse. Strengthen. Caffinate! I grab my paper planner (I keep an agenda planner and a Google calendar). I’m going to suggest even if you keep all your scheduling on your phone to at least have a notebook designated for this part of your morning routine. Next I look over my schedule for the day, digest it, and I list:
- any calls I need to return.
- any follow-up actions I need to do.
- any opportunities I need to create- this could be asking someone for a virtual coffee or lunch date or following up a call or email.
- The last 5-10 minutes is either journaling, jotting ideas and brainstorms, writing gratitude or most often for reading my latest business read.
What we are doing here is creating intention with our planned actions for the day in 3 simple steps.
What this part of my routine does is to help me prioritize people and opportunities following up while the “iron is still hot.” A long time ago, at a conference, I heard that 80% of a potential customer’s excitement dies off in 48 hours of whatever interaction sparked their interest. Whether that’s a hard fact or not, I must say I think it’s very true. This part of the morning routine ensures I don’t miss out on potential money or connections, because I was too slow on the uptake.
3. 15 minutes- Draft all emails and texts to return communication or make communications from the list above. Note that I said DRAFT. Why? It’s up to you, but as far as my business goes, it doesn’t open to my clients until 8am. I draft all the communications, so at 8 or a little after, I can go and click “send” in just seconds for them all. It’s part of my boundaries system. My early time is for me not for opening the doors to business and their return communications before I am good and ready.
4. 20 minutes- I eat breakfast, plan what I will eat for lunch, and fill up my water bottle. This way, I start my day well-nourished and ensure that I will put into my body later is not junk fueled by being rushed and making an impulsive decision based on my state of hangry. During this 20 minutes, I also give myself permission to putz around on my phone and social media. This part of the morning is the reward for the first 3 steps- getting out of bed, making my lists, and making my communications. I will add this hour I talked about is not the time to plan out social media posts for your business (unless you use the time of your last 20 minutes). Why? Because unless you are hardcore disciplined, you will likely fall down the rabbit hole of posts and web surfing and undermine your productivity. My social media planning is a whole other block I’ll blog about next week! Stay tuned!
That’s it! I promised you it would be super simple! You will be amazed by how staying disciplined with this morning routine will affect your bottom lines. When your communications to clients, contacts, and prospects are timely and your day begins with order and planning, it’s a natural by-product that you’ll make more money.
For another good read on getting your Monday started on the right track, click over to a 3 minute read https://genevamaresma.com/2020/08/03/chin-up-start-your-week-with-actions-that-create-optimism/.
Now you have time plans and some tools in your hand to get disciplined. Make a morning routine. Stick to it 5 days a week. The longer you do it, at some point, it just becomes automatic and you won’t think about it. I promise!
Dream Big and Shine On Sister!
Update your Home Page to Stand Out and Convert
A homepage is THE HARDEST page of a website to write. Let’s just get that out there.
It’s the virtual living room of your business. It must be inviting but not cluttered. It must have visible pathways to other areas of your virtual home (site pages). A well-written page respects you only have time to stop in for a quick visit but ensures you at least sit on the couch and have a cup of coffee before leaving. And if I want you to come back, I’d better make it the best brew you’ve had and serve it just when you need it! I want you to come buy for a visit again and soon!
Do you see the comparison?
Remember, I said it’s the hardest page to write. Perhaps when you wrote yours, you pulled up the webpage you were building and pecked away putting something in the text boxes to fill space. If someone built your site out for you, maybe your web designer was hounding you for your content to complete the homepage. You put the task off as long as possible not knowing what to write, submitted some copy, but still sit wondering if it was the right copy.
Are you ready to give your homepage a little sprucing up? Here are 5 Reways to ensure your copy is serving your business well and doing its main job- conversion.
1. Recognize the goals of your homepage.
- Provide a clear answer to your visitor’s question of, “What is this place?” Think about your own browsing behaviors. You land on a webpage, and if you can’t figure what the page is all about in 2 seconds, off you go! Word clutter, vague messaging, leading with sales, too many visuals or disjointed products and services should do a disappearing act. Let your homepage visitor know quickly where she has landed.
- Give captivating and clear high-level information to lead the visitor to deeper spaces on your website.
- Recognize what the goals are not.
- Your homepage should not lead with salesy language and buy it and try it verbiage. This can be a big turn-off to the potential customer. Think of how you get to know someone in person, and use the page to build a relationship.
- Putting up certain words, phrases, or word counts all in the name of SEO or copy without designated purpose. SEO is important but readability and connection are more important. Word pollution is like a bunch of clutter sitting at the entrance of your home. Don’t make someone shut the door of your website, because it’s not inviting to step inside.
“Let’s clean up our information environment. Are you saying something that benefits your customers, or simply spewing word count? If users don’t need it, don’t write it. Stop polluting now.” Jakob Nielsen
2. Lay out your copy to follow natural reading patterns.
Research shows people skim webpages in an “F” or “Z” tracking pattern, so lay information out in a way that is easy to skim. Keep paragraphs short. Write like you speak. Bullet info to make it skimmable and let it hug your left margin when possible to keep copy where eyes naturally start reading.
3. Plan your writing on a google doc, word doc or go old-fashioned paper and pen.
Never write your first draft info directly into your website. I promise you’ll end up frustrated out the gate. Here’s what you can write in your plan and then work your design around your good copy ideas.
- What is your value factor? Why should anyone go to you over your competition? I didn’t say these would be easy things to draft out, but if you can’t communicate this to yourself, how will your customer get it?
- What exactly are your services and products in a nutshell?
- What’s your social proof? What success stories, testimonials, or other evidence can you communicate in your copy to let the reader know you are the real deal?
- Headlines and subheads should be potent and short. Content clarity wins any day over cutesy or clever. If you can be clever and potent, well, cheers to you! Draft your headlines and subheads. Brainstorm many options ahead of actually writing on the website.
- What links do you need to build in? What other rooms of your virtual business home would you like to guide people who land on your homepage. Plan these out!
4. Write copy that evokes feelings.
Emotion always trumps facts, and there are ways to present facts that tug on emotions. A good way to figure out the home emotions of your brand is to think about your customer’s pain points and what salve you hope to provide through your business. Speak to their pain, give them a sense of calm and trust, and they may want your solution!
5, Keep your copy in a consistent brand voice and make it easy to skim by blocking sections and keeping titles short and sweet.
It’s the little things that make a big difference in your copy and messaging! I hope this gives you a start point to refresh your homepage AND feel great about what’s on that page.
Dream Big and Shine On!
Wrapping up 2020: You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not the Only One
If you follow my blog, you’ll probably see I love to weave in my favorite song titles and lines and sprinkle my writing with funny personal tales of my daily work and personal life to guide women through business and messaging strategy.
Can we dig deeper today?
In January of this year, I went against my personal grain and did two things. I made a vision board and picked a word of the year. You might wonder why this was outside my norm. Well, I never liked the concept of vision boards I had heard in the past- basically, put a bunch of visuals on a board you want to come true, and if you visualize it enough, it will come to pass in the year. As a doer, a hard worker, and a visionary at heart, I know it takes more than a wish and visualization. It takes commitment, drive, and personal accountability to see a vision birth. My sister, an amazing creative, gave a workshop to create vision boards, and the way she presented combined the pragmatism I needed with the dream. They can go together!
Now let’s talk about the pick a word thing, well, it seemed trendy and cliche. I am not trendy nor cliche. In fact, I rather fight falling in line with trends- most of the time that’s a good thing but not all of the time. This year, I didn’t go about the task of trying to do this seemingly trendy thing of sitting for some days and thinking hard for a word to pop into my brain and guide my year. The word came to me. I am a person of faith, and I remember the day I was sitting in deep thought over the direction of my business. I have many of these kind of days, but on this particular one, I was dreaming of all the big things I wanted to see happen- launch a course, start a membership group, and other big pursuits, and I heard God say, “Those things are not for this year. This year is about FOUNDATION.”
I’m a mover and shaker, and laying a flipping foundation just sounded boring and worse of all it sounded slow and very unexciting. Trust me, I tried to shove that word out of my mind as quickly as I could. Surely, if I was going to do this word thing and give myself to it, shouldn’t the word make me jump up and down?
As I’ve matured in my personal and business life, one thing I’ve learned to do is listen. When God speaks, I know the sound and the feel, and I know that the more I try to hush Him, the louder He speaks. So, I decided to embrace the word. My word was foundation. I was not to build the course, not to make the membership group, not to do any of the zippy and zingy ideas…not for this year. I was to establish a foundation.
Honestly, I didn’t even know what that was going to mean for me. As someone who is a strategist and who has strategy as her top Gallup strength, I went the way that made sense for me and contemplated what the goals would look like. In true word nerd fashion, I found a book I felt could match my most lack-luster word and started reading The Big Stretch by Teneshia Jackson Warner. It is a great read by the way with step by step guides to make big stretches over time in business.
February, I led a women’s business retreat which had been on my heart to put together since summer of the year prior, and what an amazing time I had with each woman there developing ideas, strategy, and encouraging one another. Two weeks later- COVID-19. The ‘vid showed up and I thought, “How am I supposed to build a foundation during a hurricane?”
Do you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s house suddenly stopped spinning and landed? Whens she opened the door, and the movie continued in vibrant color. March and April, I was in the tornado of COVID and of personal circumstances. I was shifting, pivoting, and dodging all kinds of flying projectiles, but when my metaphorical house landed and I opened the door, the world was full of color, of hope, and of promise.
Back to that vision board, the word, and the goals I wrote in that book to strategically support the two, I changed something I originally wrote while I was still wrestling with “foundation.” I had written “launch a digital course.” After making peace with my word, I wrote, “create 20 new strong relationships.” Always being relational, at first this seemed dumb to quantify, but it was the most brilliant strategy shift I made for myself.
I began writing daily, blogging weekly, reaching out and virtual meeting other minds who resonated with mine in passion and in drive, and building my foundation. I stopped obsessing over the course and the course I was going to invest in to do the course creation correctly. I shifted from a focus on product to strengthening my process. I started taking a mad number of online courses and workshops to further my mastery of copywriting and brand messaging. Sitting at the beginning of Q4, not only do I feel more knowledgeable to serve the business community with my copywriting and messaging services, but I stand with more than 20 new strong relationships and have seen referral grow as a natural byproduct of laying a firm ground floor, and I have seen more business grow over this hairy year than I could have ever dreamed.
Where do you need to reinforce your processes, so when you do pursue the product, you are unstoppably equipped?
Making stuff happen is exciting. Watching a flower grow is not, but when the flower blooms something beautiful and fragrant, you are thankful you watered the soil and fertilized it, and did all the other unexciting tasks to cultivate a thing of beauty.
Hold onto your dream in this season, but more than that, dress it by engaging the processes, habits, and skills you need to ensure it blooms in its due season. I don’t know what next year’s word will be, but I do know building a foundation was so worth the work and worth the wait. Don’t give up because the dream takes time. Let your dream and the One who made the dream take your hand down an unforgettable journey.
Remember, circumstance does not determine outcomes. 2020 doesn’t have that much power girlfriend.
I’m rooting for you!
Dream Big and Shine On!
If you identified the title of this blog as a Smiths’ song, I’m impressed. Hang out a bit and learn how to generate blog ideas for days!
You sit down to write a blog, and you get stuck. The end.
Does that sound familiar? Maybe you don’t even get to the sit down part, because while you know a blog will help your SEO, connect to your clients, offer value, give you great content pillars for social media, blah, blah, blah, you’re gripped with anxiety over how to even get started.
I want you to tell yourself this (make sure you say it out loud!), “I have years of writing within me on at least a thousand topics, simply because I’ve lived life.” If you woke up yesterday and walked through your day working and living, you have a story to tell today.
Release your imagination. Everything you write on your business site blog doesn’t have to directly relate to what you do or sell. You can connect humor, relatability, and shared brand values through your blog. Every life experience you’ve had has created what you are what you do today. Your business has directly birthed from everything you are not just what you sell.
Here are 7 easy ways to get your blog writing juices flowing that will work for anyone across any industry. Grab your prettiest notebook and favorite pen (that’s step one to creative brainstorming) and let’s walk through how to use your story to light a lamp in your mind that doesn’t have a chance to burn out, because every new experience will give you more ideas to blog.
- Go back through your business page’s social media posts. Which ones were popular? Build longer form content around the topics of those posts.
- Think about your clients’ pain points and list them. Each is at least one blog idea!
- Get with another friend in business and brainstorm for one another a list of topics or questions you each of you are interested to know for the other. Sometimes, we are too close to our own businesses that we fail to understand what others don’t inherently “get” about what we do. Remember, you’re the expert!
- Think of all the “how tos” in your field. Readers love bulleted lists and step by steps!
- Talk about an opinion related to your industry. I really want to know what YOU think about your field! If you are a designer, talk about color trends that you think are fading and not worth following. If you are a hair stylist, tell me what people are doing in the name of hair fashion that you feel is harming their locks. Are you in finance? Tell me some opinions on apps, software, or money topics. Opinions make you memorable and make for great blog topics.
- Look at your competition’s website and blog (if they have one). After reviewing their content, what are they not talking about? Therein lies an edge for you to inform your audience what no one else is!
- I was going to end at 6, but I like 7s better…You probably follow other big names in your industry through social media or email. If you are not following people who are living the dream in the field you’re in, well you should for many reasons! By studying businesses who do what you do with excellence and success AND who have larger audiences, you can get a pulse on what people want to know more about. Listen to industry trendsetters, as what they are saying is being consumed by many. After consuming their info, their followers are going to search online for more info on those topics. Keep lists of ideas you think about from observing leaders in your field and put some feet to those ideas in your own blog post.
Every time you post something online, you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds happiness to the world or you can make it something that takes away. -Zoe Sugg, Vlogger
Go make sunshine. Don’t be afraid to take a stab at writing. Let your mind go, let go of perfection, and allow the pen to do its thing. Remember, you are interesting and people want to have their lives enriched by you.
If you write a blog inspired by this blog, let me know! Happy blogging!
Dream big and shine on!