Is it Time to Write Your Book?

When I was in the throes of publishing my book Storytelling for Small Business last year, I was fortunate enough to meet talented author/coach and now friend & colleague Rochelle Melander, the Write Now! Coach. So many of you have told me in the past few months that you’d like to publish a book too, I thought an introduction was in order. So everyone, meet Rochelle. Rochelle, meet everyone. Enjoy.   —M.

 

Some people say that a book is the new business card, but the benefits extend beyond sharing your brand. Once that book is out in the world, it can benefit your business in myriad ways.

No matter what type of a business you own, a book will help you:

  1. Increase your credibility
  2. Teach potential clients about you and your work
  3. Build trust with your audience
  4. Educate and inspire your readers
  5. Attract new clients
  6. Increase brand loyalty
  7. Build buzz for you and your business
  8. Access influential leaders
  9. Capture media attention
  10. Earn more money

Woot! That’s great news for business owners. But before you set aside precious time to write and publish your book, it’s important to consider whether now is the right time to write a book. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few signs that help people recognize when they’re ready to write a book. Here they are:

You have something to say.

You have a unique process or approach to your work—and you are excited to share it with others. Perhaps you write blog posts or articles. But you’d like to explore this idea in more detail—and the blog posts are just not long enough for you to say what you need to say. A book can help you do that. When you write a book, you can shape your ideas, dig into a topic in detail, and share what you know with your readers.

You have an audience eager to read more.

Perhaps you blog, teach classes, or work with clients. Your readers and clients regularly ask you for more information. They’re excited by your ideas and long to hear more. Or they love your process and want to be able to do it at home on their own. If you have people who want to hear more from you, a book offers you the opportunity to share your story or process with them.

You have more clients than you have time.

Perhaps you can no longer help everyone who comes to you. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with offering classes or group coaching, you still have more people who need your support. A book could be the answer to this problem. A book can teach the foundational elements of your work or guide the reader through a basic process that you no longer teach. For example, a career coach who no longer writes resumes might design a book that helps the reader create one.

Your message is timely.

Maybe you have a story or a process that fits well with the struggles that people are facing right now. Or perhaps your book is tied to a current event, like an election or the anniversary of a big historical event (this January we celebrated the 100th anniversary of prohibition). Or maybe you have a conference or retreat coming up, and you’d like to have a way to share your ideas with as many people as possible. All of these are good reasons to take that book off your someday list and start writing.

You feel called to write a book.

This sense of being called to write a book shows up in different ways. Maybe you wake up earlier than usual and know you need to use the time to create something valuable. Or you react strongly to someone else’s success, feeling jealous of them or frustrated with yourself. Or you get teary when you attend a book signing or a play, knowing that you are called to create something, too. However the calling shows up, pay attention: these are signs that the time to work on your book is now.

How to move forward

If you read the reasons above and found yourself shaking your head, “Yes!,” then it might be time to write your book. But how do you move forward? It’s often as simple as setting the intention to write your book by a specific date and then taking time to create it. Of course, there are things figure out along the way: what kind of book do you want to write? How do you get your ideas on paper? And what’s the best way to publish a book?

When it comes to doing something new—like writing a book—many of us experience challenges: we feel afraid, we don’t know how to do the next thing, or we get overwhelmed.

But the antidote to fear is simple: start. Here are three small steps you can take to start writing your book:

Choose your topic. My guess? When you read the reasons above, your ideal topic popped into your head. If not, take a look at your work and choose your topic from one of the following:

+Ideas or content that excites or engages your reader

+Frequently asked questions

+Information about your topic that you wish everyone knew.

Make a list. Once you have a topic, make a list of everything you’d like to cover in the book. If you have an idea about how you want to write about the topic—as essays, questions, or short anecdotes—make a note of that, too.

Write. Set aside time in your schedule to write. I find it’s helpful to tie your writing to something else you do every day, like your morning cup of coffee. Next time you pour that cup, bring your laptop or notebook with you—and write. Even if you write just 100 words a day, those words will add up over time.

If writing a book is something you’d like to do, then go for it. And if you need help, and would like to talk about your project and how I can help, schedule a free consultation.


 

Rochelle Melander, WriteNowCoach.comWrite Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) and the forthcoming book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.

 

Helping declutter your mind in 2019: Nearly-no-brainer ways to keep your website safe

In early 2019 I’m already noticing an uptick in hacking attempts among my clients’ websites. How can I tell? Even though no one has yet been hacked, I monitor their security programs and see the same wave of attempted logins, brute force attacks, etc. It’s a shame; don’t these guys have anything better to do?

These jerks know what I know: There are some changes taking place that are creating opportunities to break into websites and do their dirty work.

I wanted to share with you the top five factors that create fertile ground for exploiting a website. I’ll keep it “geek lite” to avoid giving anyone a tech migraine. Please feel free to be in touch any time if you have questions.

1) Cheap or bad website hosting

There are a lot of good, smart, inexpensive website hosting companies — companies that store and ‘broadcast’ your site on the web. And there are a few that are inexpensive-but-untrustworthy. I write about a couple of them here. Some hosts are cheap but just don’t take good care of their clients’ data, and some don’t properly separate user accounts—which opens up opportunities for hacking. In one case in particular, a client’s site was repeatedly hacked until we moved it to another host. Since then? Nothing.

2) Easy-to-guess website logins (especially if you’re on WordPress, but other sites as well)

This is the most commonly jimmied “door” to your site because many people still use simple, easy-to-remember passwords like “bluepony5” and “mary*jane” and even, yes, “password2019” (#facepalm). It might save you the trouble of remembering a more complicated password, but it may also cost you thousands in getting your web presence back. (not to mention the fact that once hackers guess it once, they’ll try to find other spaces you frequent on the web and use it there too. They know you want to use that easy password all over…  🙂 Keep it complicated, folks. Use uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers, and never—ever—use dictionary words.

3) Outdated software

Many of the websites we are asked to look haven’t been updated in some time. Old or outdated bits and pieces of your site’s machinery are a prime area for jerks to crash your website party. Every piece of your site’s technology—the framework (like WordPress), plugins, themes, programming—should be kept up to date to fix bugs and patch security holes they are constantly finding.

4) Out of date programming

Behind your beautiful website, no matter what kind, is programming (or “scripting”) language spewing out thousands of lines of code that make things go. For WordPress sites, for example, that workhorse is called “PHP.”  That programming needs regular updates as well. In a huge current example, the team behind PHP has just stopped supporting (protecting) the version that runs behind more than 60 percent of websites that use it, and everyone should update it. This is something that can be updated via your website hosting company, but needs to be done carefully to be sure your existing site won’t be broken by the new version…there are even little programs to check whether your website guts are compatible with the new versions. Ask them (or us) about it.

5) Running a site that’s not “https” (and the “s” is for SECURE)

Take a look at your own website, specifically look at the top of the screen where it displays your website’s address: http://(your website address).com

If you do not have the “s” in https, or if you’re seeing a “not secure” message, that’s trouble. That goopy part of your web address means all communications between your website browser software and the website you’re viewing are encrypted/safe from prying eyes. It’s remedied by installing something called a secure certificate on your website hosting account. This is another thing that needs to be wrangled with your website host…but if you have questions, let us know.

If you need help deciphering what any of this means to you, or if you’d like to just have this automated so it’s all just taken care of — leaving you time to create, write, and run your business — we do that for a lot of people, so just get in touch with us. We have subscription plans for as little as $25.00/month to keep an eye on things for you . . .so you can turn your eyes to the work you actually like doing.

Stay safe out there, everybody  🙂

10 reasons to consider writing a blog, even if the thought of it makes you cringe

I was a late-onset blog writer.

Early on in my small business, my resistance to it was like a force of nature. I saw blogging as a self-indulgent thing reserved for those who:

a) were blindingly brilliant and thus had a lot to say,  (not it)
b) had an awful lot of time on their hands,  (not it)
or
c) loved the sound of their own voices. (not it)

In short, years ago, blogs seemed to fall into a couple of types for me: Long, rambling tomes by scholarly types, or short, newsy updates on “what I ate between dawn and dusk today.” Ick.

Things have changed a lot since then, of course.

I think it was Seth Godin that eventually changed my mind. He’s been blogging for a long time and has a gazillion followers now. It was through him I discovered the concept of the bite-sized blog post that’s still thoughtful and useful. Checking out his blog – even just a topline view of it – will show you the variety of shapes, sizes & textures blogging can take (https://seths.blog/).

I don’t write on my blog anywhere near as often as I’d like (a situation I’m trying to remedy), not here and not on my personal/coaching site https://margaretrode.com/blog. But despite that negligence, I’ve not just become a convert to this kind of sharing, I also highly recommend blogging to anyone who has a business website and wants it to succeed. Below are some reasons to consider.

First: You don’t have to call it a blog. And maybe you shouldn’t.

To many in my tribe, even the word “blog” is uncomfortable and geeky. It’s not even fun to say (it sounds like “blah”). But being able to regularly share a bit of yourself with faraway people and benefit from that connection? Not geeky. For those who just bristle at the word itself, don’t use it. There’s also Articles and Writings and Notebook and tons of other possible names.

For now, I’ll just eliminate the word “blog” from the rest of this article and stay in the mindset of “sharing useful stuff online with people I want to help.” ‘Kay?

2) It’s neither hard nor expensive to set up.

For those of you who use WordPress or many DIY website builders, the capacity to write on your website, in the form of “Posts”, is already built in. You just, er, click “New Post” and start writing. If you want your writings to also be reachable through a click on your site’s menu, adding it there is generally easy-peasy as well.

3) You don’t have to write War and Peace.

Seriously, I think this was the hardest barrier for me to overcome. I had it in my thick skull that every time I sat down to add a post, I had to have a Big Idea. It had to be one that no living human had ever shared before. I had to lay in a thermos of coffee and a stack of Kind® bars because it was going to take hours to get my elaborate point across.

But although some long postings can be great (helpful for search engine rankings for example), a mix of long, kinda long, short, and super-short keeps both you AND your readers interested. I’ve stopped reading the online writings of some folks because I simply didn’t have time to read 5000 words today, thankyouverymuch. Mix it up.

4) It isn’t just you talking about yourself, or creating elaborate research papers, or being a genius all the time.

It can also be any or all of the following, super-short or comfortably long, your choice:—Popping out to share a short piece of news you just found that’s relevant to your unique audience
—A new tool or technique that you just discovered helps your productivity or peace of mind
—Something you just read that angered/inspired you as a businessperson
—A success story from one of your clients or partners
—An event that just happened that changed how you think about something
—A new idea you’ve just started to hatch
—A photo of where you do your work
—A little video or audio or TED talk you found (or made, or were in)
—A piece of poetry or prose that would soothe or inspire your ideal audience member
—An upcoming class, workshop, webinar, book reading, anything experiential and interesting

…and so much more. If you need a stack of ideas, let me know or have a look at this session.

5) You get a chance to show you’re good at what you do, and to help them feel comfortable connecting with you.

Making regular additions to your website by writing and sharing is a way your clients, prospects, customers, and donors can get to know you as a human being. They learn what you know, who you are inside, what’s important to you, what you notice.

This is one way new people can determine that you’re worth the risk of contacting you or giving your product/service/cause a second look.

6) It will make web search engines love you more.

People are looking for you on the web, even if most of your work happens to come via word-of-mouth. Writing something substantial even semi-regularly (once every couple of weeks) can please the Google gods in several ways. There’s a lot of goopy science behind this, but here’s a squooshed view:

Search engines detest abandoned/neglected websites cluttering up the data landscape, and will ding you (meaning: no one will find you) if yours is rarely updated. Publishing something regularly is a relatively painless and free way to keep your website out of that trap.

Search engines also prefer sites that are substantial, with lots of pages bearing the keywords and phrases pertinent to the work you offer. Posts you create are basically more and more pages…and that’s good.

Search engines like to see people come to your website and stay a while, versus quickly ducking in and leaving. Giving them something juicy to read helps keep them interested and staying put.

If you write things that people share with others, and/or link to from their OWN websites, that gives you even more brownie points.

7) It will help bring you new website visitors, clients, fans, and supporters.

When you write and publish something on your website, you can easily share that same material on social media. Often it’s as simple as copying the URL (web address) of your post and pasting it into your social media.

More pages, more exposure on the web, more of your words showing up on social media with links back to you… It all adds up to more people being exposed to you and to your work. And, most important, coming to you to learn more.

8) It will give you a space to have a conversation with your Your People.

When you look at your website, does it have any place where people can have a two-way conversation with you? Posting new writings on your website gives you the ability to accept comments (which you would pre-approve via email). These comments can form a conversation, something that everyone can learn from. Suddenly your website is a gathering place for people you’re hoping to get to know and work with.

9) It creates a place to gather, shape, and store important ideas.

Every day we come across things that, as they pass through our consciousness, make us think “I’d love to share that with my clients—they’d get so much out of it.”

And then…it’s gone. Replaced in your short-term memory by something more pressing. Or stuffed in a computer file and buried. Or torn out and filed in a folder, where it stays for months or years until it’s no longer relevant.

Having a space for writing on your website becomes a repository for all of those helpful, meaningful things, which you can quickly share with the world. (You can even publish them to your website via email.)

10) It helps you continue crafting what you offer the world.

A regular writing/sharing practice helps you write (and share) what matters most to you AND to the people you’re trying to help.

In terms of cultivating good ideas for new ways to help my audience, nothing has helped me more than writing regularly. Nothing.

The great poet Mark Doty, when asked why he writes, responded that “…it is the way I know what I think and feel.” (so true.)  And in his Intro to Authentic Business workshop, coach George Kao has also said, “Every time you write an article, you discover more about yourself, you know something else about your mission, what you’re really about. You discover yourself as you communicate, as you express, as you create.”

I could not express it any better than those two have. Regular writing and sharing has its own peculiar and powerful magic.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

So, there you have it. Writing a blog probably not make or break your small business, but it has so many benefits that it seems a shame not to at least give it a try. You may be very surprised at what you find.

If you need help getting started, or if you have a blog that’s languishing and you’d like to breathe some life into it, contact me for a chat or check out this fun and bite-sized blog-building session I offer.

Go forth and multiply those words!  🙂

 

How to prepare for a Zoom/video meeting so you’re not pulling your hair out

Many of my people either already use Zoom—the groovy online tool that lets you do video conferencing on the web—or a similar service like Skype or GoToMeeting. They give people like us the ability to hold meetings with faraway clients, as well as offer workshops, classes, coaching sessions, group meetings, and any number of other business-building offerings. I previously wrote about business-building ways you can use Zoom, currently my method of choice.

Using any of these services requires “bandwidth” —a good internet signal. They’re sending a lot of bits and bytes over your internet connection, whatever it might be. Just keep that in mind if you are sharing your internet signal with Netflix, mobile phone(s), tablets or Kindles, an online-gaming teenager, a neighbor stealing your signal, and more.

If your computer is using a wireless signal and sharing that with all of those things, your video connection can be very choppy, with lots of freezes and hiccups. Super-frustrating, especially if you’re doing coaching, a workshop, or other services that people expect to be smooth and problem-free.

Also, if you’re a person who habitually has lots of software applications and documents open at all times, this too may work against you as Zoom competes with all of them for memory.

For the record, here are some things I do when I’m about to go on a Zoom call/conference, or hold one:

30 minutes before:  I turn off the power to my wireless router, wait 20 seconds, and power it back up. These devices often have software updates that take place when you “cycle” it like this, and it gives your router’s brain a refresh.

30 minutes before: I restart my computer or laptop completely. This can clear out memory caches, stuck software, and other stored stuff that might interfere with my computer’s memory or signal.

15 minutes before:
I walk around and do the following:
Turn off my wireless printer.
Turn off my iPad, Kindle, and my husband’s laptop  🙂
Turn off the TV and leave it off.
Put my mobile phone on airplane mode. If I need to make a call (say, if my meeting attendee doesn’t show up) I can.
Make sure I know where my wired headset is. (I have a noisy Mac, so a headset is essential…and a wired headset doesn’t need any signals)
Test my video and audio on my computer by going to Zoom and trying them both out
Turn off ALL OTHER APPLICATIONS that I’m not using.
Pause things that might decide to auto-update while I’m talking, such as Dropbox synching, system backups, and virus protection updates

5 minutes before: (these are the non-tech things that are just nice)
Pour a glass of water
Hang a “do not disturb” sign on my doorbell, front door, office door, and have a chat with my dog, Gordon, about barking 🙂
Review my notes and make sure I have something to write with, and on.

1 minute before:
Breathe deeply, and remember how lucky we are to work for ourselves, bringing our best energies and talents into the world to do something great.

Enjoy your trouble-free Zoom session!

Panic is purely elective: Bringing your site back from a WordPress 5 update

If your WordPress-based website auto-updated to the new version of WordPress before you were ready, give this simple trick a try before you panic. I’m referring to WordPress 5, which I talk about a bit in this post.

In many cases, there’s nothing at all wrong. It’s just that you’re viewing the site through the “block editor” in the new software, and some WordPress sites and themes just still spit up hairballs.

If your website person is asking for hundreds or thousands to put it right, consider doing this little trick first to see if you can return things to normal. (It may still be that things have gone wrong, but at least you can try a two-minute trick before going down that road.)

And of course, you can always contact me for a non-geeky, plain English, calming & comfortable conversation about it any time.

WordPress 5.0: The pain, the gain, and why you shouldn’t update yet

This post is especially for my beloved folks out there whose professional websites are built in WordPress – about a third of the world’s websites by some estimates.

Today is the day the benevolent geeks in charge at WordPress released their spiffy new version, WordPress 5.0. You’ll start seeing the graphic above (absent my embellishment…) when you log into your site.

I see you yawning out there. Software update? Dull!  But bear with me for just a second.

It’s not like most web software updates, which just replace the old with the new, in a calm and orderly fashion, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This one has the potential for causing some mischief that could be, shall we say, “stressful.”

It’s all about “Gutenberg,” the editor. That screen you’re on when you’re creating or editing website posts and pages? That. I wrote about it this past Fall and posted a little introduction to it here in my post, “Guten-who?

The good part:

It’s pretty neat. The new one uses a system of blocks to let you arrange things on the page in ways you sometimes couldn’t before, embedding different kinds of content (pictures! text! columns! yay!). For non-technical folks who would love to be able to easily create and edit their own pages, and do more than just the one-long-column-of-text thing, it’s going to be awesome.

The bad part:

Many website designs, frameworks, plugins, add-ons are not compatible with it and thus your site might spit up hairballs when it’s installed. That could mean anything from “no effect whatsoever” to the white screen of death, with no way into your site. Especially if your site is more than a couple of years old and hasn’t had any sort of updating of its “guts,” it could be messy.

It is already causing a bit of mayhem, the same sort of mayhem you might expect if you decided, for example, that you wanted your own personal pet rhino. It’s very possible upgrading to 5.0 right now will break your existing website into smithereens unless you follow some special procedures – and who has time for that right now right before the holidays, seriously?

For the do-it-yourselfers:

But okay, to stay solution-oriented: I’m going to list these procedures below for those who care for their own sites. Before updating, you’ll want to do things like:

  • Take a complete backup of your site and download it to your own computer. NOT just your files and database. The whole directory. Your website host can point you in the right direction there.
  • Update your website’s “theme” – the design framework that it’s running (in your Dashboard, go under Appearance>>Themes to see what I mean) – to the newest version available.
  • Also update your site’s “plugins” (Dashboard >> Plugins) which are the little programs that enable your site to do things like cool contact forms, shopping cart, security, automatic backups, etc.
  • Install a little plugin called “Classic Editor” to switch your editor back to the way it was.

See what I mean? Who has time? Even after all of that, it may still alter your finally-beautiful website, so have your web person’s email handy and consider letting them know before you plan to do that (or have them do it for you, and save a few brain cells).

BUT once the WordPress gods get the kinks worked out, it’ll be a pretty nifty little update to WordPress that’ll help zillions of people work with it more easily and create more beautiful things with it. Totally worth it. No, I mean it, it’ll be good for a lot of people.

They are already apparently working on a revision to fix some of the bugs, and should be publishing a cleaner version (or two, or three) of it in January 2019.

SO, TO RECAP:

  • Don’t push that blue “update to 5.0” button. Just don’t do it. At least not for a month or more.
  • If you can’t resist, take all of the steps above FIRST and light a green candle, burn some incense, recite some incantations from the Necronomicon, etc. If you’re not a WordPress geek, coordinate with your web person before you do.
  • Wait until late January at the very earliest. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade right now. None. So let the dust settle, let the geeks pick it apart and let WordPress fix all the bugs.

If you are hosted by Hostgator, and here are all the reasons I still advise against that, you may want to check with them to make sure it’s not going to automatically update itself.

I’ll update this post as things get sane again.

Peace, all.

P.S. If you’re interested in having us do regular updates to your website so you don’t have to worry about this (including security, backups, updates, and all those geeky things), please reach out.  Learn more about how to buy an hour, or five, or ten, to make sure you can focus on doing the work you love rather than trying to be a website expert too.

Why even the smallest of businesses need Zoom: 50 ways to connect, serve, and earn income

Many of my small businessfolk friends either already use Zoom—the groovy online tool that lets you hold inexpensive video conference gatherings on the web—or are “Zoomcurious,” wondering how they could use it to benefit their work. Even I was intrigued . . . and I’m known as being terribly camera-shy.

small business online meetingsThings like Zoom weren’t always something solo entrepreneurs or small businesses had to think about. Not too long ago, video conferencing was for corporate types, with 20 people sitting around a polished boardroom table looking up the table to a screen where a ghostly head from Corporate was droning on and on.

Nowadays, services like Zoom, Skype, and Go To Meeting give service providers like us the ability to have meetings with faraway clients, prospective clients, audience members, potential partners, buyers, donors, virtual assistants . . . anyone. This gives us a much greater reach, widening the circle for the work we do.

Overview of its top benefits

small businesses can earn income and grow with videoconferencingIt has benefits for many types of businesses, even though it might not be obvious. For me, they are coaching sessions with people anywhere in the world, website co-creation and repair, private training, weekly virtual “office hours” for client questions, and a lot more. I can share my screen, share the viewers’ screen, take control of their screen to show them how to do something, play a video or audio, text chat publically or privately, write on a collaborative whiteboard together, create breakout rooms for individual groupings…and much more.

Best of all, I can save the video recording, audio recording, and a chat transcript, and offer those whenever it’s helpful. The free version allows you to have meetings of up to 40 minutes each. I use the service level that costs $14.99/month, which allows you to do a lot more. It pays for itself a hundred times over every month, probably more than any other tool I use.

So how might this help YOU and to YOUR work?

Below are some common and a few uncommon possibilities to ponder. See if anything here, or anything else comes up for you.  And if you have your own creative use to share, please do share it in the comments!

Attracting New Clients:

Free exploratory consultation or conversation
Free group workshops and classes
Summits and discussion groups
Group meditations or healing sessions
Demonstration of a product
Demonstration of something physical, such as

A yoga pose, meditation posture, proper exercise form
Using a tool properly
Teaching a dog a trick
How/where to apply essential oils
Doing a website/social media task online
Finding images collaboratively
Finding answers on Google
Creating a helpful document for productivity…

Serving Existing Clients Better

Meetings/conversations with or without video – you can use it even if you’re camera-shy!
Client pre-evaluation for acupuncturists, naturopaths, and healers of all kinds (to determine the right appointment type for a client)
Regular/recurring coaching, consulting, or guidance sessions
Working consultations with screen sharing
Private/secure meetings for money management or confidential activities
Group, team or mastermind sessions
Customer tech support
Video demonstrations of the products/services you offer
“Office hours” — times when you’re available online to answer questions and offer help and support
Co-working sessions: Scheduled sessions to do focused work together, avoiding procrastination and powering through a project or challenge
Larger online meetings and corporate presentations (advanced Zoom packages)

Income-Producing Activities

Sell live group workshops, classes, webinars
Sell recorded (evergreen) workshops, classes, webinars  for passive income
Introduce your service business locally
Have a video or live component to an online course you’ve created
Create an entire online course
Offer 1-to-1 coaching or guidance
Offer group coaching programs
Book/manuscript/content review and feedback
Tutoring services
Music lessons
Online instruction
Certification programs – use as a meeting component
Regular meetings as a value-added service for paid groups
Optional follow-up support packages for your product or service
Consumer survey interviews

Help, Community, Business Growth

Recording a video/screenshare to share to YouTube/Vimeo or other social media
Interviews with potential employees or freelancers
Video meeting with an employee
Video meeting with a faraway virtual assistant
Group meetings for collaborative projects
Event planning team meetings
Virtual lunch meetings
Private virtual meetings with students
Listening in on a workshop or class while driving (with the mobile app)
Nonprofit board meetings
Writing group meetings
Informal “tours” of an office space, building, shop, community garden…
Interview speakers for an upcoming event
Mediation

Certainly, there are a zillion more uses, but these were the first to come to mind. Zoom.us has really terrific support, ongoing regular webinars to introduce you to the platform, and great documentation for learning how to make it work for you. There are books and videos online too, of course. And if you’re the kind of person who best learns things like this in a hands-on, one-to-one way, I also offer a bite-sized private training session for it here, where you’ll walk away with everything you need to know, without digging for it.

But no matter how you learn, I’d encourage you to give this tool a test drive if you haven’t already. It has really opened up the world to me, and to many of my clients. It might be just the tool you need to be joyfully productive, pleased and profitable in 2019.

You are not a conversion: Small business and the (nearly) lost art of being genuine

This is the part of writing that’s the hardest: Although I’ve had a small business for 20 years, I still get to show the world just what a slow learner I am sometimes.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from an amazing old friend with whom I’d lost contact years ago. By ‘amazing’ I mean someone I love and who randomly pops into my head all the time. She always seemed too busy to get together, calls and emails went unanswered, and I chalked it up to how some friendships fade over time. Although it made me sad, I just shelved it in my mind and moved on.

All this to say that getting an email was a big deal. It literally made my eyebrows shoot up and a big smile crease my face when I saw her name in my inbox. The note started out very friendly and chatty. She asked how I was doing, how my work was going, she’d love to find a way to get together and catch up, etc.

Then she casually dropped in a description of the political candidate that she’s been volunteering for this fall. So-and-so’s hopes and dreams about a change for the better, and so forth. And by the way, how I was going to vote in this election? Which seemed a bit weird. But hey. I was so happy to hear from her that I punched the “Reply” button right away. I answered her questions about how I was doing and what I was up to. I asked about her family, her travels, her life. I praised her candidate. And I suggested we have coffee.

I never heard back from her. I tried one more time, in case email had been having a bad day. Nothing.

The penny drops at last

When I received three more of these emails from other friends, with similar radio silence, I realized what was up. This is (I learned, slowly) a tactic from the playbook of political candidates. All their phone/email volunteers use it. There’s no warmth toward me whatsoever. It’s just a suggested script, and she had no actual desire to be in contact on a human level.

It’s okay—lesson learned, and I’ve always got my big girl pants on. But it tripped a larger conversation in my head. (Come on, you know me; even a bad hair day can trip a larger conversation in my head 🙂

This happens online a lot, doesn’t it? We get missives from various kinds of service providers that are full of warmth and support and friendliness, designed to make us feel seen, feel heard. That button pushed, they progress into a pitch for whatever it is the person’s promoting that they know will make our quality of life even better.

When we reach the scarcity part of the email or sales page—only three spots left! I won’t offer this again this year! the price will go up next year! And there it is. That pit-of-the-stomach moment when we realize what we’d hoped was some sort of genuine human connection was actually just a textbook strategy. When we see we’re really just part of someone’s spreadsheet under the column “conversions.”

The emails from friends? Well-meaning, yes. Serving a purpose, yes. But do I matter? All I am to a political candidate is a conversion—am I, or am not, going to vote to give them the job they want?

When did we stop seeing each other as individuals?

When did we lose the awareness of individual needs, pains, and desires? At what point did we convince ourselves that we’re doing people such a favor with whatever we’re “selling” that we needn’t bother paying attention to how impersonal and mechanistic we’re being? When I’m having a (now rare) glass of wine while working in the evening, I’ve been known to talk back to websites like that: “Do you know how obvious you’re being? Do you think I believe you actually care?” (for an amusing visual, imagine Gordon the Dog growling at the screen, which often happens)

Don’t even get me started on the name “ConvertKit.” If you use it, and of course it does have its uses, PLEASE make sure it doesn’t say “ConvertKit” anywhere near your forms (like right below them, in tiny letters). Let’s not be part of the depersonalization problem.

Since we are all both creators/sellers AND consumers, you’re going to see a lot of the word “We” in the following sentences. Sorry.

We are not just conversions. We are people, with a pulse, a sick dog, a cough that won’t go away, a nagging sense of not-being-enough, too little time to cook a healthy dinner tonight, insomnia, a job we detest but can’t seem to escape.

We are not conversions. We’re people who have a glimmer of hope when they find something—your coaching program, your book, your workshop—that might ease our stress. Maybe we’ll even get some sleep tonight if we believe hard enough.

We are not conversions. We’re people willing to pay for the privilege of being treated like people instead of another cha-ching in someone’s PayPal account.

There has to be a better way

It’s time to stop converting and remember what it’s all about: Being of service, making someone else’s day/night/dinner/life/work better in some way, and being a person of integrity as you do it.

If you agree with this, and want your promotional materials to be genuine and compassionate, here are some things you might pay attention to:

  • Think about the person you’re speaking to with your promotion. Visualize them as a person; give them a face. Consider going to https://images.google.com and finding a face for your ideal client (hint: start with the word “face” and then the adjective that describes how they might currently be feeling: frustrated, stressed, underpaid, scared)
  • With that face in your mind (or even better, on your bulletin board) read your sales page out loud to them. Pay attention to how your voice sounds. Where do you shift into sales-pitch language? Where do you stop talking to them as though they’re standing right in front of you, and instead move into convincing an anonymous “them” to buy your stuff?
  • Find your most intuitive friend who might be interested in what you’re offering, or able to look at it objectively. Have her read your sales page and track how she feels with each paragraph. Have her use words like curious, interested, hopeful, surprised, disappointed at price, delighted with price, doubtful, confused. Ask her to call out any places where it ceased to feel as though a conversation were taking place, and instead she was being “funneled” into buying.
  • If you’re part of a mastermind group, local business group, women’s group, or Facebook interest group, see if you can find some folks who would be willing to examine your sales page and give you honest feedback—anonymous if need be, via SurveyMonkey.com or similar—about how the page feels, where they shift away from being seen/heard and start to feel “sold”, what they might change that would make less formulaic and more human and kind.

We are not conversions. We are people, with our own unique needs, pains, and desires. And in a world where it seems like it’s all about “the art of the deal,” if we’re treated with kindness and respect all the way to the “Buy Now” button, we will choose your offerings over all others.

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