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.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m an over-the-top John Mayer fan, so he gets a blog title in honor of one of his great songs.
I have seen him three times in concert. He inspired the name of my cat, Olivia (check out his song “Something Like Olivia”). Seeing him sing and strum his guitar motivated me to buy my own electric guitar. It’s a thing of beauty from a small guitar company in Miami. It’s made of wood and is the most gorgeous teal. Back to Mayer, I own a couple concert T-shirts, and I’m quite convinced if I could find John Mayer underwear and pajamas, I’d add them to my collection. If you ever need to send me a gift, now you know.
This is a way different love affair than the one I had with Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block, although I was crushing really hard a few years ago when I saw them in concert for the second time. I’ll tell you why I choose John all day over Jordan.
Words. Lyrics. Poetry. And oh, how that guitar sings those words.
So now I have to share something with you I’m a little embarrassed of. Normally, by brain is brimming with ideas for content. I am a writer after all, so I generally have 25 ideas that didn’t make it to paper for the one that did.
Last week. Fumes. Nada. Can I tell you how frustrating that was for me? I posted 3 days instead of my usual 4-5. I had gotten behind the couple weeks before on writing jobs and got out of my normal weekly planning routine. Sure I could have posted something, but no idea was hopping, so three posts it was.
I know you feel my pain, because some of you have told me how you are trying to post to your social every day (like “they” say we should do), or show up twice a day, but you’re struggling to find ideas, so you post something funny or share an idea your friend posted on her business page.
You made it a point to show up to the content party, but did your content enter dressed to the hilt?
Like your content would make other’s people’s content hang onto their men just a little tighter, as you enter the room.
You don’t write because you want to say something. you write because you have something to say.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hold your cosmo and lean in. Listen to Mr. Mayer and Mr. Fitzgerald. Say what you NEED to say. Write when you have something to say. The point is not to just show up the party. You have to deliver at the content party. Consistency with content that takes their breath away is key. If you skip a couple days until you find inspiration, your true following will not vanish. Believe me.
If you can only come up with filler and fluff, like a little black dress, it’s standby party wear. It’ll do, but it won’t get you seen like the royal blue off the shoulder number. In fact, it could just get you overlooked. If you’re going to go to the content party, and you are going to put in the effort to show up, you may as well get some attention for your efforts.
Grab your mimosa and let me give you three ways to give your content ideas a nice spark.
Remember that some of the best content comes from stories. A story doesn’t have to be loooong or have to do with your childhood. You are creating story every, single, day. Look at the last 100 photos in your phone’s gallery. Find 5 of them you can tie to your business happenings, values, mission, or vision.
Grab a book but not just any book. I’m giving away a big secret here. Go to Target. Enter the calendar, planner, and journals aisle. Buy a journal that has daily prompts. There you will find 365 days of engagement content questions you can tweak for your audiences. My favorite one right now is A 5 Year Question A Day Memory Journal. I also love quotes for inspiration, and people love to like and share a good quote. Quotes are usually the framework of my weekly content, whether they are my own or something amazing that speaks to me to share. Another great book for content inspiration is Beautifully Said- Quotes by Remarkable Women and Girls Designed to Make You Think.
Use the heck out of Pinterest. I look up terms related to my business such as “writing tips for businesses” or “small business strategy” to find inspiration. You could query the same terms in Google, but with Pinterest you will get the added bonus of visual inspiration too. Think about your field and look up tips or questions people have related to your industry.
Ok, I know I said three, but you are going to get a bonus. Write down the top 10 questions your clients ask you, and each of those are super to show up to your content party, because they are exactly what your clients have invited!
Up until mid-March, like me, you probably had a couple weekly networking groups on your calendar each week. Chamber groups. Local business owner groups. Women’s groups. You were dedicated to the communities you linked arms with to further the impact of overall business community.
Or perhaps, networking has felt daunting. Maybe you’re a newer business owner who has been watching the business community from the sidelines. You were about to dip your toes in the networking water when “the ‘rona” threw its hat in the game or wrench in the plans.
Good news. Whether you were well drenched or a toe dipper in networking, the playing field has been leveled for all of us, as we’re all adapting to the new virtual ways of doing networking. There’s no better time than now to dive in, because it’s kind of weird for us all!
I run a women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area called Hearts and Heels. Prior to COVID-19, we had one big meeting each month to connect on a workshop topic and socialize over dinner. We maintain a very active online group. I love the face to face time we schedule each month and the side meetings that happen between the members. When I realized meeting in person was going to be a no-go for a while, I admit…I freaked out.
I knew I could go to an online model, but I myself did not particularly like the few online meetings I had done to that point. Between March to now, however, I’ve (and maybe you’ve) done probably hundreds of online meetings. Practice makes perfect, right?
I am convinced there are some ways we can all make the experience of online networking more comfortable. Here’s some tips to help you not feel like a fish out of water but like your online networking time is valuable to your business AND that you are contributing to the meetings. Let’s face it. Online networking isn’t going anywhere, even if the current world health situation was to disappear tomorrow.
Get a 60 second commercial together. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be your turn to introduce yourself and give your 60 second elevator pitch. Write it down. There is no shame in reading off a cue card to make sure you use this 60 seconds as effectively as possible. BTW, I’ll go live this week on my FB page http://www.facebook.com/genevamaresma to talk about exactly how to do this!
Before the meeting, create some personal goals. Perhaps you’d like to identify one or two people with whom to have a virtual coffee. Maybe you’d like to learn something specific from a workshop being given. Your goal, if you’re new to networking, may be to simply attend a group and get more comfortable with networking in general.
Recognize that the true reward to you is in the follow-up and post-meeting connections. If you attend one or 100 networking meetings and never extend your efforts beyond the meeting itself, you’ll probably be in the camp that says, “Networking meetings didn’t work for me.” Networking is THE single most powerful form of marketing you can do for your business. Hands down. My entire first business was successfully built on word of mouth.
Remember, networking is not a one and done, and many people unfortunately look at it this way. They will state, I didn’t make a sale. No one was interested in buying my products or services. That’s the wrong perspective. Networking groups are to create referral connections. Connections take time to build. No one will refer you until they know, like, and trust you. If you join a group, commit to it for a time and shift your focus to how you can pour into it and how you can give to the community over take from it. You will gain from it eventually, but you are going to have to authentically give to get.
So set a networking goal this week. Embrace virtual networking, because it’s here to stay! Be brave and try a group if you haven’t. If you’d like to join my group (for women in business), let me know, and I’d be happy to introduce you into it and I promise it’s fun and friendly!
Let’s cut to the chase. If you want a long and healthy relationship with your business, you’ll have to establish boundaries around it.
Think of your business as a person. Do you want it calling you and texting you at 10pm? Do you want it to coerce you into work you’re not excited about? Would you want it to feel like it monopolizes all your time? I’m sure you’re saying, “Of course not,” but the truth is that without clear boundaries around how you conduct business and allocate your time resources to your business, you run the high probability of becoming resentful of your business. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a friend or partner in which you feel resentment, it’s really not fun. It makes you less than the best version of yourself, and that is no way to have long-lasting relationship with your business.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business 5 days or 5 years, you can begin to groom habits that help you stay in harmony with the dream you have for your business. Here are 3 areas to examine and develop plans for to help you maintain balance through boundaries:
Task Boundaries- Make a list of all the day to day tasks you need to manage like social media, returning emails, writing reports, packaging items…ALL the stuff. Set designated times of the day to tackle each in order to prevent flitting from task to task and checking in on social accounts are emails which will wrangle you in for more than work (Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of social media? We’ve all done it and regretted how much time got sucked into nothing productive). Stick to your deal with yourself of when you will do these tasks.
Customer and Client Boundaries- Before we talk about what boundaries to set up here, let’s talk about why we struggle with customer boundaries. One word. Fear. Scarcity mindset feeds the fear that if we are not all things to all people when they “need” us, they will land with our competition. However you respond to people will set the tone for what people expect of you. If you do not want to be answering emails at 8pm on a Monday, when you’d rather watch The Bachelor, then determine you won’t. Set an autoreply email for after the end of your business day, if you’d like, or be really good at disciplining yourself to respond to after-hours emails as one of your first tasks the next business day. When I first started in business, I struggled with client boundaries for a few years. I was over-delivering thinking I was giving exceptional customer service. I was providing great service, but it was through unsustainable behaviors at the cost of fights with my husband and lack of “me” time. I came to realize I could still provide outstanding care to my clients but had to prioritize my priorities first, otherwise, I was training my clients to act like young children who were constantly in need of me. I’m a stickler now for boundaries around texts and emails to my clients. A little secret… I often draft back text or email responses on Sunday mornings, but I don’t hit send until 8am Monday morning. Why? While I worked the weekend for a couple hours perhaps to alleviate my Monday morning time, I do not want my customers perceiving I work weekends. Texts and emails received after 6pm relative to work go on the next day’s task list. Lean in and listen closely friend. You have to know something. You’re amazing at what you do, and you are a wonderful person to do business with. That is your sell. Your people will not leave you if you are responsive when you tell them you will be. They do not do business with you, because you reply to all their FB comments immediately. They do business with you, because you are reliable and they have the confidence you will follow through on communication according to when you say you will. Build your business on the value of you and your integrity.
Personal Time- I should have listed this one first in order. When you go to schedule your week (I do mine on Sundays), you must put your needs on the calendar first, and then the other time is work time. I have a need for 30 minutes in the morning to drink my coffee and eat my breakfast. I might write or watch the news or read during this time, too. It’s non-negotiable. I know when my day does not start this way, I will struggle the whole day feeling aligned. Whatever is important for your personal inner balance, schedule first. A workout. A half hour lunch. A dinner date with a friend. Time to curl your hair or put on makeup and your best face forward. It may sound silly, but a swipe of mascara, a pop of lip color, an outfit I like, and good hair make me feel put together which boosts my confidence that no matter who I run into during the day or what Zoom meeting I end up on, I represent myself for my business in the best way. I put on perfume, even when I have a day of video calls. Why? It simply makes me feel good. Set yourself as a priority, and whatever you do, do not compromise your boundaries during YOU time for one more email or one more phone call. They can wait, but your mental health is always immediate.
If you want to shine and truly see your dreams reveal themselves, getting harmony and balance with your work and within yourself is one of the keys that opens the doors to fruitfulness and success.
This is as important a business strategy as any others I teach. It’s foundational and life-changing. I’m here to support your boundary plan and cheer you on, sister!
Children love to listen to a story. Adults get hooked on Netflix shows for the storylines or devour books with good plots, relatable heroes, and villains who represent common evils.
Think of the best Superbowl ads. Whether they are funny or moving, they tell mini-stories, and you’ll wade through a football game even if it’s not your cup of tea to see the ads.
So why do we love a good story (Better question…Why should we use stories to connect to our audiences?)? I’ll give you three reasons that’ll hopefully tip you towards incorporating story in your sales strategy.
First, from a neurological standpoint, stories ignite visual centers of the brain that bring words to life. Think about a time you read an amazingly authored book. As you read, weren’t you able to vividly imagine the story as if there was a movie reel in our mind? In fact, not wanting to turn the stimulating mental movie off, might be what kept you sitting on your couch or at the beach reading cover to cover. Stories stimulate the senses, and the more senses involved with exploring information, the more likely we are to retain and act upon information.
Second, when people engage stories through your business content (lives, stories, posts, videos, blogs-stories can be told through many mediums), they don’t feel you’re fishing for a sale. They feel your business cares to bring relatable content to the relationship with them. This friendly and non-pushy feel pushes your know, like, and trust factor higher.
Last, a good story makes you human. Being human in today’s content cluttered world will help you stand out from all the other “noise” calling people to buy, click, download, sign up. A story will make your ideal client stop scrolling and still their minds long enough to take in the high quality content you’re delivering. They will feel served not sold or told.
You might be saying, “Yes, Geneva! I want to build more storytelling into my content, but I don’t know what to talk about.”
Let me give you 7 ideas that any business can use to develop this powerful type of content. I want you to be able to take the content in this blog, MOVE, and see how your audience responds. I promise you’ll be amazed at how people will latch on.
Tell the story of how you came into your passion/niche. What prompted you to start your business journey?
Tell about how you uncovered one of your brand’s core values. Why are you committed to accuracy, the creative process, your customer service? What happened to you that made this value so important for your work?
Let your customer be the hero. After all, we have no businesses if not for our customers. Tell a story of a customer/client and how you worked together towards a solution. Look at your testimonials and recall the stories behind them.
Tell about why you’ve connected your business to a certain organization or cause. Talk about what/how you were moved towards this cause.
Talk about your “behind the scenes.” You’ll allow them to know the care and time you put into each piece of your work. Tell about how you came up with a design, system, office decor.
Talk about a conversation you had with someone this week that really impressed upon you.
Describe a personal obstacle you had recently. Depending on the situation, use humor or deep emotion to tell your audience how you overcame and ask for them engagement.
These are just a few ideas. Stories can be long form content or very short. Use lots of “I” and “you,” so your listener. Remember, stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They bring your customer through a thought process that makes them reflect and connect. Your call to action and messaging does not have to directly link to your product or service. It may, but the beauty of storytelling is that you become memorable. The more memorable you are, the more business will come to you!
I hope you’ll give it a shot! Don’t say I didn’t tell you so, when you get tons of comments and dialogue back!