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!
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!
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.
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.
When you started your business, I’m sure you couldn’t wait to share what you sell and could only think of trading what you do or sell for some profit. You love what you do, and you were sure others would too.
Open a cute shop and they will come. Make something pretty and it will sell. Have an amazing service and people will see how much their lives have been lacking without it.
Then it got a little complicated.
You like hats as a fashion accessory, but probably never realized you’d be wearing so many simultaneously. Then there were all the decisions, and they all involved money which as a start-up or scaling business is something you don’t want to waste, so you keep putting on more hats. The problem is before you know it, you’re doing more of what you never intended to do and less of what makes you set out to do to make mulah.
Here is a good question to ask yourself.What are you willing to invest time and money in to learn to do AND feel you could learn with good proficiency, or what will cost you more in time to learn and maybe every just do mediocre or consume tons of time and should be outsourced?
In the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I was certain that I could figure it all out. I could be all the things I needed to be or learn all the roles to play the parts of web designer, bookkeeper, public relations specialist, and office manager among other things. In 2006, social media for business was not even a thing, and I was still overwhelmed.
Part of what I was hanging onto was control. I had birthed this business baby, and no one could take care of it like mama could. Butttt….
Time is money. You pay for what you get.
If I had the money back that I lost in the time and mistakes I made in trying to do everything myself or in outsourcing cheaply, well, let’s just say, I’d have more money in the bank and might have saved myself a few pounds caused by stress eating.
Friend, make a latte and a list.
This week, settle onto your comfiest chair with your laptop or paper and pen. I want to challenge you to think about all the hats you are wearing and list them. Then I want you do decide if you wear that hat well at all or could learn to wear that hat well and are willing to invest into growing in that area. Here are some areas to assess:
Photography– In a media-heavy business world, having good quality pictures of you, your products, and services will help you shine over your competition in visual appeal. There are great stock photos on apps like Canva (I recommend paying the monthly subscription for the pro edition to unlock thousands of great pictures), but having even a small catalog of quality, branded photos can make people stop scrolling or really polish up your website. Consider investing in a branding photography session with a photographer who specializes in brand photography and who can capture the essence of your brand’s heart and story. A couple headshots (because I love you, pretty please take down the selfie profile headshot) and 10 styled shots can make a huge difference in how your business presents. Some photographers will also coach you in how to take better pictures with your phone for ongoing filler pictures.
Copy and Messaging– Did you ever date a guy with a gorgeous face you could stare at all day, but then find you couldn’t connect deeper and so his pretty face had to go? Hang with my analogy sister 🙂 Your visuals (pictures, website design, and logo) may attract a potential customer, but if she can’t get deeper by developing quick and strong chemistry with your brand by understanding your messaging and wanting to be part of your brand story, she’s going to move onto a deeper connection. A great looking website and beautiful social media feed comes to life through the words that breathe life into the pages and posts. A copywriter (like yours truly) can offer a variety of services from done with you consult on your brand story, general messaging, blogging strategies, social content ideas or done for you services. Invest in getting really clear about how you show up and what you say to people. A clear mind will say yes to what you can offer them 🙂
Bookkeeping/Accounting– I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Your money. Maximize it and allow a pro to guide you. There are many options here from monthly to quarterly to annual services to help you know exactly where your money is going and what is coming in and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations. Not to mention, depending on the type of business, accounting can take a lot of time.
Website and logo design– It’s tempting to go with cheap on a website and logo, but you will probably end up unhappy and spending the money again to redesign and pull these vital brand components together. I promise you you can find affordable quality, but you should have a realistic expectation of associated costs and put those into your start-up plan. For a website, you can buy some beautiful and easy to build out templates or hire a web designer to get your site built out on a platform you can easily tweak and build out new pages by copying already designed pages. My site is on wordpress. I started my own build on WordPress with a Divi overlay while taking a web design class at a local community college (I quickly learned I was not built for the patience I needed for WordPress), got through as much as I could and then handed my page over to a local web designer for cleanup, formatting, and organization. After she did the first 4 pages or so, I could duplicate pages and found it fairly simple to tackle. With regard to logos, if all you need is something simple, there are templates you can purchase or you may have some luck on a site like fiverr.com. Just be sure to make sure if you go a route like a template or fiverr design, that you get a vector file, so you may change the size of your file without sacrificing quality.
Any other time suckers– It depends on your business, but you may wish to outsource/hire out scheduling, email, social media (get your messaging together first to convey to the person doing your social media and email marketing), payroll, and housekeeping (for office or home). If you can be making more money per hour doing what you do than any of these tasks, take the hat off and give it away!
So there you go! I’m a huge believer in start-slim businesses and minimizing risk. Start-slim means you spend where you must and wait to reap profit before investing in other areas. Figure out what you are willing to invest this year for quality and efficiency, and I hope my picks of where to put your money brings some happy thoughts and lightness to your next steps by pulling off some of the hats 🙂