2 big picture tips for staying on track

One way to ensure you stay on track with New Year goals (or set them if you haven’t already) is to keep your eye on bigger intentions. Thinking about the type of life you want to lead can make goal setting and priority making much easier.  Here are a couple of ways to re-connect with what’s most important to you…

1) When Let’sBlogOff presented the challenge, “Write your own obituary,” I wasn’t real excited about the exercise. However, it did  get me thinking about how I’d like to be remembered. The more I keep “the end result desired” in mind, the more the tactical to-do’s and answers to, “what should I do?” are  falling in place.

2) If you’d rather not think about your obituary, try @ChrisGuillebeau ‘s Postcard Project. He asks readers to jot down the answer to what he considers the two most important questions in the world on a postcard and send it to him for posting on his blog.  It’s interesting to read the other responses – plus, it can kick start the habit of writing thank you’s – one of this year’s top marketing trends.

So, write Chris and answer:

What do you really want out of life?  
What can you do that no one else can?

Here’s mine:

Now it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions?

A simple gesture to keep your marketing on track

As a small business marketer or blogger with all kinds of good New Year intentions, Spring is a great time to take a step back, simplify your efforts and make sure you’re on track. Chances are, deepening connections with clients and readers is at the top of your your list.  One simple way to differentiate yourself is to shut the laptop down for a bit and send a personal note to someone who made a difference in your business or life.

According to Amanda Falconer, founder of the Sydney Small Business Centre, thank you notes are one of this year’s top marketing trends.

“We’re craving more human connection than our Facebook status can deliver. And that craving is only going to continue given the amount of time we spend attached to our laptops.” – It looks like they can only deliver so much love.

I know it takes precious time, but think about holiday cards.  Whether you send them or not, don’t you feel great receiving them? Even better when you take the time to send them?

I think someone’s trying to tell me something. I received Butterfly notecards, Lovely postcards and a book, The Art of the Personal Letter for Christmas. So, I started 2011 by sending this butterfly poem in a butterfly note card to friends and family:

And, I’m finding all kinds of reasons to drop one of these postcards in the mail.

Even if they go unacknowledged, I feel great knowing I’ve sent a piece of my heart into the world.

Download Amanda’s Free Report, “The 11 top marketing trends for 2011” and her latest ebook for small businesses, “Marketing Blueprinting Manual.”

What are your thoughts on a more personal touch in business?

How not to tell a great story: from a minister in flip flops.


designing a meaningful story

Photo via: Real Weddings at elizabethannedesigns.com

I overheard a coffee shop conversation between a young couple and the man who might marry them. They were meeting for the first time, the girl much more chatty than the boy. The man who might marry them looked more like a soap star-turned-surfer than a minister of any sort – tan, messy, beachy hair, t-shirt and flip flops.

The “interview” started with him asking how the couple met.  The girl said they lived in the same building in college. Her roommates were friends of his roommates. Their other friends had the same classes. She went on and on about the multiple ways they were connected through friends.  The boy seemed content, maybe dazed…I’m not sure, he just sat there without anything to add.

The minister then asked, “What type of wedding would you like?”  The girl said, “We want it to be fun and Spring-y. We’re having lots of pink flowers and everyone is wearing Converse sneakers. Oh, and we want it to be meaningful.

The soapstar-turned-surfer/minister must have felt he had enough information at that point, because he then proceeded down a checklist, describing the ceremony “process.”

I hope these two live happily ever after. I have no problem with them or surfer/ministers of sort. I’m just disappointed that he jumped so quickly to a generic checklist. I would think that anyone leading the ceremony would want to dig a little deeper, to ask a few more questions, to get to the heart of their story…

What are some of their favorite moments together? What is the nicest thing you’ve ever seen him do for you, for someone else? If you could open any door for him or give dgfev online casino him any experience in the world, what you give him? What is the one thing that bothers her about herself, but you never want her to change?

I’m not a wedding expert. I do know that the most meaningful weddings I have been to have had a theme that ran much deeper than Spring-y, pink flowers and Converse.  I felt the couple’s story, before, during and after the ceremony – because it wasn’t generic. It was true to who they were. The story came from their hearts.

This, along with the Superbowl got me thinking about how often we jump so quickly to generic and miss the opportunity to tell a more meaningful story, to create an experience that will be remembered (maybe even cherished) long after the honeymoon’s over.

Whether you’re designing a special day, a home, a room, your life… How do you get to the heart of the story?


What the Superbowl can teach us about story-telling

Today”s #LetsBlogOff challenge asks, “What makes a good story?” My take is below. I have a few more thoughts on this I”ll share in upcoming posts. One was inspired by a coffee shop interview by a young couple looking for a minister to marry them. Another was inspired by an architect”s blog post.


In marketing, there’s a process we go through to get to the heart of a story. It’s called a creative brief – a checklist of questions that force you to look beyond the features and benefits of your product and take some time to get to know the people who will experience it.  It’s a little more involved than this, but it essentially asks questions like:

What’s going on in the lives of the people who will experience it?
What’s going on in the world around them?
How can we possibly enhance it?

The good companies also consider their own heartfelt intentions and ask,

What experience, feeling, insight do we want to evoke?

As I watched the Superbowl half-time show, I wondered who was responsible for the creative process…  If I were planning our country’s most watched television event, I’d dig a little deeper. I”d find a way to use the opportunity to send a more meaningful, inspirational message than this.

Photo: monstersandcritics.com

Given that millions of Americans were gathered in their living rooms, eager for the much anticipated festivities, surrounded by friends, families and fried food – many of them were worried about their future, shaky about their safety and struggling to be hopeful.

I”m wondering if the design team”s dialogue went something like this –

“People need to see glitz. They need to lighten up. Hey, let’s light them up. Literally. Let’s surround the Black Eyed Peas with light bulb dancers. Let’s show them hope. Let’s drop casino Usher from the sky and raise Slash from below.”

I wonder online casino what story would have been told  if the designers worked from the same creative brief that produced Chrysler’s Detroit / Eminem commercial.

Maybe the design team dialogue would have been something like this –

“People need to be reminded that greatness comes from simplicity. It’s within them. In fact, it’s where they came from. They need their world rocked. Hey, let’s rock their world. Literally. Let’s have the make your own way, from Detroit to Hollywood message represented by Kid Rock singing his heart out in a t-shirt and jeans. Let’s place a rock-n-roll legend like Steven Tyler by his side and have an emerging youth, rags to riches story like Crystal Bowersox join them.”

Photos: sexysteventyler.com, Americanidol.com, mtv.com

I”m not sure that”s the best story…  And, I don”t necessarily think the Superbowl has to be a platform for a deep, philosophical message. I just think a little more thought would have evoked a more meaningful, memorable and entertaining experience for its viewers.

What do you think? What story would you have told?

My favorite part of every #LetsBlogOff challenge is reading the posts by other participants. I hope you”ll enjoy them here and join us every other Tuesday as we spread Ideas Worth Blogging About.



7 reasons Marni doesn’t need a PR degree

(For today’s new marketing…)

Over lunch, my friend Marni told me she’d been to a career counselor who had recommended going back to school for a degree in Public Relations.  I put my fork down (from a very yummy salad, I might add) and said. “Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”

Marketing talk with Marni at Arcadia Farms Scottsdalephoto: via the lovely, Arcadia Farms Cafe

Here’s why:

  1. She has a solid year of consistent blogging under her very stylish belt.
  2. She’s had 6,000 unique visitors.
  3. She’s been asked to guest post twice.
  4. She arranged a TV interview for a jewelry designer on a local TV show.
  5. She regularly receives comments on her blog from well-known bloggers.
  6. She already has a Masters Degree.

She naturally understands how to use social media to build relationships. She produces content that’s true to her, but spends a lot more time promoting, connecting others.

Now, if her counselor had honed in on her passion for blogging and suggested studying social media skills and strategy to enhance her natural ability, that would have been one thing. Instead, she dismissed the blog and recommended a more conventional route. Get another degree.

I’m sure universities are offering outstanding social media classes.  And, I’m sure the professors are great. I just can’t imagine them having more to offer than the ones ALREADY DOING IT.

photo via the quaint, Copper Star Coffee

So, after coffee and a cupcake, I sent her my favorite places to learn about today’s PR.  She promptly replaced her weekly visits to the career counselor with daily visits to Seth Godin’s blog.

Here’s the list I sent Marni. I hope you’ll find it useful and I hope you’ll check out her blog. It’s dreamy.

1. Hubspot. While they sell software that helps measure your site’s effectiveness, they offer incredibly valuable, FREE marketing insight for the small business/marketer/blogger who doesn’t have the luxury of a marketing department or agency to do it for them. Public Relations Marketing Hub is a great start.

2. Social Media Examiner. I’ve attended both Michael Stelzner’s White Paper Boot Camp and Social Media Success Summits and happen to be right in the middle of his Blogging Success Summit (Feb 1st – 22nd).  These are great social media immersions where you’ll meet all the experts and get more tips than you’ll know what to do with. If $300 is a bit pricey, you’ll get equally helpful content from Michael’s blog.

3. ProBlogger. Darren Rowse is a legend. He’s humble, keeps things simple for beginners and wrote 31 Days to a Better Blog. You can download the book for $19.95 and follow it yourself or take an online course.  I’ve taken @MichelleShaeffr and @LisbethTanz’s 31 Days to a Better Blog Challenge and highly recommend the next challenge starting March 1st. The only cost is buying the book.

4. David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of PR ebook. This would be a great intro to new PR for anyone. He has lots more ebooks here.

5. Copyblogger specializes in online writing and developing content that connects. It’s thoughtful marketing at its best.

6.Seth Godin is possibly the best marketing blog out there. It’s more philosophy than how-to, mainly about being remarkable in whatever you do… business and life.

7. 750words. You’re going to hear about the importance of consistency. A daily writing practice, whether you’re posting daily or not, will help. Online journaling 750 words a day helps get all the random thoughts out of my mind so when I do sit down to write something productive, I can start with a bit more clarity.

Where do you learn about today’s marketing, PR, blogging?





7 things I learned from Chris Guillebeau’s book tour

Chris Guillebeau (pronounced Gill-a-boh) was among the first bloggers I started following. It was 2008. I was immersed in learning about social media and found his blog, “The Art of Non- Conformity.” While I was learning a lot from  Copyblogger, Problogger and Seth Godin, Chris spoke to my heart.   He was a writer with an entrepreneurial spirit. He encouraged taking responsibility for your own reality with a practical twist. He was speaking my language.

What I really like about Chris is his sensibility and creativity.  He doesn’t have anything against “the way it’s always been done.” But, if that way doesn’t help his goals or feel right to him personally, he considers all the alternatives and creates one that works.

Which is why he launched his own tour to promote his first book. The publishing company’s marketing plan (or lack thereof) wasn’t going to do. As a veteran traveler who’s in the process of visiting every country within five years (an entirely different subject that has become an entirely different opportunity for Chris), he decided to apply the same logic to his book tour – visiting every state in the U.S.

I remember when the book was just an item on his list of goals. Now the book was in front of me. (Not surprising, he has an entire annual review process for making his goals come true.)

So, when I saw that Stop #49 was in Tempe, Arizona, I wanted to support him, thank him, encourage him. The staff at Changing Hands bookstore had to get more seats…. Apparently lots of others felt the same way.

I brought my Mom and hadn’t really thought about how she would interpret her daughter being a groupie of the author of a book called, “The Art of Non-Conformity.”  Fortunately, Chris handled that right off the bat, then spent the next 20 minutes sharing insight from his own unconventional life. (Along with @pamslim from Escape from Cubicle Nation… total surprise, BONUS, guest host!)

Here’s what resonated with me… what’s helping me shape my own goals:

1) His message is more for the discontented than taking a stand against convention. He’s not here to judge anyone’s path – conventional 9 to 5, or not. He’s more about considering alternatives that could make your life better. This seemed to put Mom at ease.

2) He bases his actions on answers to two questions. He considers the two most important questions in the universe: 1) What do you want to get out of life? 2) What can you offer the world that no one else can? He plans the route, using the answers as his logic check along the way.

3) He works with the end in mind, considering what his legacy will be. For him, it’s not about money or career. It’s about influence and relationships. He even has a Legacy Project on his list of goals.

4) Sometimes he places adventure over efficiency. It recognizes that it isn’t efficient to go to all 50 states on a book tour or to travel to every country. He makes decisions based on what’s meaningful to him.

5) He let his writing create the niche. When Chris started his blog, he wanted to establish convergence between life, work and travel. Speaking from his experience was more important to him than finding a niche for each interest.  While this does not follow traditional marketing logic, I like the way he started… saw what connected… then created products and valuable content for each of the niches that evolved. It just shows there could possibly be a different way, especially within social media.

6) He pays attention to opportunity. He says he gets paid in nice emails and blog comments. However, from these… opportunities have risen. He’s turned common questions and topics into lucrative income streams by creating products that answer their questions and solve their problems.

7) He knows everyone has something they want to do. And, everyone worries they’re too late.  One of the most common comments he receives is people worrying they’re too late or not ready. He offers consolation with a cherished quote, “The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”

Chris just finished his book tour… has launched a new “travel hacking” site … and is planning to launch his next book in 2012.  He’s a true example of doing what you love and money, success (whatever that looks like for you) following. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer (or harder-working) guy.

Have you taken an unconventional path? Is there something you’d like to start that you haven’t yet?

Best kept social media secret – Part 2

Keith Sauro of Design Sherpa, aka Digital Sherpa

Here”s more from Keith Sauro on how Design Sherpa”s turnkey social media solutions can ease the entry into blogging, Facebook and Twitter for newbies or give the savvy business blogger a breather. As he said in Part 1,

“It doesn’t matter if you sell shoes or build homes, whether you do it yourself or outsource it – you need to understand content marketing and social media to be found online today. Its role in driving search engine ranking has made it a necessity in 21st century marketing.”

TC: How does Design Sherpa help?

We take the heavy lifting away. Where else can you get a social media consultant, a writer, a custom blog, Facebook, Twitter pages and live monitoring of your blog for around $395/month? We can do this because we’re set up and structured to deliver.

Our writers know how to write things Google likes. They understand tagging and labeling photos. They write what’s good for the reader and good for optimization – not everyone can do that.

We’re your safety net.

You really can’t do too much with social media – the problem is not doing enough.  So, we encourage you to post in addition to what we do for you.

With our involvement, you’re at least casino ensured consistent participation. This is important, because if you stop, you’ll lose your Google juice as quickly as it was got it.

You know your business best.  We typically have a 20-30 minute weekly “brain dump” where you tell us what might be of interest to your readers – a special project, picture, issue, challenge.  Then, we organize your thoughts, write it and post it for you.

To do this in-house, you have to ask yourself what you’re losing in terms of billable hours or productivity by having someone you hired for a different job devote 10-15 hrs a month to this.

TC: What differentiates you from similar services?

Most are regurgitating content for multiple blogs. We could have five remodelers in the same market and no content would be the same. You just can’t do that because Google will chastise you for it.

We learn by practicing what we preach.

After launching a social media program for apartmentfinder.com, our web traffic went from 1.3 million visitors/month to 2 million, a 54% increase.  The people who used Google to get to us entered 285,000 different keyword phrases.

If we had been hung up on 10-15 words and not written a variety of unique content, people would not have found us.

Someone looking for a remodeler in Kansas City may enter, “looking for a remodeler in Kansas City specializing in lakefront property.”  There’s no way marketers can predict all of those scenarios.

TC: How long does it take to see results?

It takes awhile for Google to start ranking you.

It’s like your first credit card – it takes time to build your credit rating.

But, with the right social media program, you’ll see the number of unique visitors to your web site increase after 2-3 months.

It’s natural for the ones writing the marketing checks to want to know how much business is attached to that increase in web traffic and how much of the web traffic is attached to the social media program.

Unfortunately, consumers aren’t as interested in telling us what made them buy as we’d like. They have short memories and often attribute the connection to a variety of things – “I saw your sign, heard your ad, a friend mentioned it…”

Social media can’t prevent that, but it does offer more insight than traditional marketing.

What’s driving them to your site? Where are they linking from? Who is writing about you? How much time are they spending there? Are they reading your stuff? If they are, you have to assume something is happening.

I hope this insight opens your mind to exploring social media marketing for your business. Here”s more on the Design Sherpa process and  their Design Bloggers conference , Feb 28-Mar 1, 2011 at the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles. (Registration is $395; $495 after January 16.)


Best kept social media secret – Part 1

I write a newsletter for remodeling contractors for James Hardie. These are business owners with small (if any) marketing departments. They may recognize possibility with social media, but when jobs start rolling in, best intentions are put aside.

I don’t want them (or anyone wanting to be found online) to miss out on the power of social media. So, when I was introduced to Design Sherpa’s turnkey social media solutions for home designers, I thought it might be a great solution for remodeling contractors – but I was afraid it would be pretty costly.

I called Keith Sauro, national sales director of Design Sherpa to ask a few questions, including how much it cost… I’m telling you, it is the best kept social media secret out there. With their system and specially trained staff there is no reason you can’t jump in and start improving your search engine rankings immediately, as hundreds of other companies did in 2010.

The reason it’s successful is because it simplifies getting started. The Design Sherpa team will design a blog for you, attach it to your web site, write the articles, post them to your blog, Facebook and Twitter page and track results – all for around $395 per month.  If you’ve ever tried to write one article, you know how time consuming it can be and realize what a bargain this truly is!

Enough from me…  Here’s more from Keith.  (We were pretty chatty, so I’m breaking up the interview into two parts. Part 1 addresses, “Why social media?” Part 2 is “How Design Sherpa can help.”

TC: Why has blogging and social media become such a necessity?

The real ROI of this technology is how it can help people who don’t already know you, find you. It doesn’t matter if you sell shoes or build homes, whether you do it yourself or outsource it – you need to understand content marketing and social media to be found online today. Its role in driving search engine ranking has made it a necessity in 21st century marketing.

People will spend thousands of dollars to produce their web site and not do anything to drive traffic to it. It’s like opening a showroom without putting up a sign.

The pre-conceived ideas that people have had about social media are completely wrong.

Open your mind to social media.  The average Facebook user is 44 years old – it’s not a bunch of kids. The fastest growing segment of Facebook is between 35 and 64, the ones with disposable income, the most desirable for home design professionals.  If you’re trying to reach them, why would you not invest the time?

TC: How does social media and blogs drive search engine ranking?

Search engines have always tried to reward a site’s relevancy to whatever we’re Googling.  Before blogs, we used to try to own 10-15 keywords then strategically place them within our web copy. Blogs enable search engines to monitor who is truly paying attention, staying engaged and providing content others deem worthy enough to recommend with links, Tweets and comments.

The best tactic…

People are searching to research, shop and discover.  If they enter “how to build a green remodel” and an article you wrote pops up, you look like an expert.

Write a variety of articles – some will connect, some won’t. But when you do, you’ll improve organic search.

TC: Can you just go with Facebook or Twitter and skip the blog?

A blog is different than a static web site. It enables you to put information out there, so it’s more like the engine driving the train.  If you only do Facebook or Twitter, you’re missing out. If you only do a blog you’re missing out. When you shoot information to your blog, Google notices. When Facebook fans notice your blog post, Google notices. When Twitter notices it, Google notices.

It’s this involvement that helps Google feel you’re more relevant. They all work cohesively together.

Read Part 2 for more from Keith on how Design Sherpa can help you… And leave me one of your best kept social media secrets!

P.S. Ceck out their Design Bloggers conference, Feb 28-Mar 1, 2011 at the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles. (Registration is $395; $495 after January 16.)


How Santa can help you plan for 2011

There’s a scene in the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Show, where two little boys are looking for a Christmas gift for their sister. (This was particularly special to me because this “sister” happened to be played by my 13-year old niece… a proud moment.)

Anyway, they don’t have much money so when the little brother sees Santa Claus on the street he wants to ask him for help. The skeptical big brother says, “That’s not Santa… look at all the Santas we’ve just walked by.  Besides, what’s he going to do…give us money?”

Santa overhears their conversation and, in true Rockettes fashion, starts dancing his way into their hearts, revealing a bit of his magic:

1. The reason you see so many Santas is because he developed a super power years ago – the ability to be in several places at once.

2. Santa never worries about finding the right gift. Instead, he tells the boys to relax… and, “let the gift find you.”

Leave it to Santa to put things in perspective.



Santa showing his magic in the Radio City's Rockettes Christmas Spectacular


Before I start worrying about the list of everything I want to accomplish in 2011, I’m taking some time to relax… or, reflect is more like it. I started a lot of new things in 2010 –  a blog, a business, moving to a new city, basically a whole new way of life – I was completely open to possibility and a lot of great things happened.

Because I believe you create your own happiness, I  take this planning & preparing for what’s next business seriously.  But, I can get overwhelmed and a little confused.

Should I “let it happen” or should I “make it happen?”

I think Santa sent a couple of elves (via Twitter) to remind me not to force it… to  start by reflecting and let the gifts of 2011 find me.

1. @GwennBell’s Reverb 10

Gwenn, and 30 authors, bloggers and thought leaders, presents daily prompts to ponder, encouraging us to, reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.


2. @Chris Guillebeau’s annual review process

Chris takes a week off of everything to reflect on the past and prepare for what’s next. If that’s not possible, try pondering the two questions at the heart of his quest to help the “discontented” lead more fulfilling lives:

What do you want out of life?
What can you offer the world no one else can?

One thing I know will be at the top of my list for 2011 – encouraging others to express themselves creatively, to find their voice and take responsibility for creating their own happiness.  I’m not sure what that looks like quite yet.   I guess I’ll take Santa’s advice and let the “way” find me.

I’m looking forward to hearing your intentions for the New Year. I’m hoping we’ll create some magic together.









Some good news for the home design community


yoga in el salvador

photo via Las Flores Resort, El Salvador


I’ve always been intrigued by the role design plays in creating better places to live.  Developing Streetscapes and The Value of Design for James Hardie was an enlightening experience.  While those books told the story of the design process, I really wanted to tell the stories of the designers behind the process. I admired their philosophy and courage to fight convention to design better homes and communities.

After a year of blogging and connecting with home designers through social media – I’m even more impressed with their problem-solving perspective.  In the midst of housing market doom and gloom, many have embraced current state, opened their minds and created new opportunities for their businesses and their lives.

I want to share this good news going on within the home design community.

I’m turning ThoughtfulContent into an online magazine that will tell the stories of  architects, interior designers, remodeling contractors and product designers – the ones re-creating their businesses through social media marketing and optimistic mindset.  I’m collecting interviews, marketing resources and tips for a healthy mindset to help designers embrace change so they continue creating better places to live.

But first, I’m going to El Salvador.

A friend emailed a few days ago, asking if I could possibly join her in El Salvador for a yoga retreat.  Her husband had to cancel last minute, so she had an open (free) spot … would I like to go? Of course, I’m dropping everything and jumping at this incredibly generous opportunity.

I can’t think of a better way to contemplate possibility for the coming year – a week of yoga, meditation, healthy food, wine – all at the same resort that hosts Billabong’s surf schools. I am a very lucky girl.

While I may not be blogging much next week, I’ll be collecting lots of insightful content for creating better lives.  We’ll also be studying The Alchemist while we’re there – my favorite book of all time. What a great resource to help us have faith in ourselves, in life and navigate the uncertainties we’ll always face.

I can’t wait to come back and start sharing this incredibly good news.

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