Thoughts for the End of 2011

If you can't quite recall everything that happened in this action-packed year, here's the condensed version, courtesy of JibJab.

Goal.From Flickr user Opopodopo.
Now's a good time to reflect on your own goals for 2011 - how did you do?

I set a number of goals for 2011 - maybe too many...

There were a couple of big ones for me - starting this blog, and also finding a new gig for my main source of income, both of which I did. This enabled me to meet some other financial goals I'd set for this year.

There were others (for health and wellness), where I made strides but didn't get where I wanted to be, and still others (for continuing education) that I just couldn't get to.

So, what's the lesson here? 

First, it's important to congratulate yourself on what you did get done. I'm really proud of my new client relationships and I feel like getting my own blog and Twitter feed this year were key in supporting those.

Second, it's healthy to acknowledge where I made progress - I am exercising more and eating more healthfully, but there are continued improvements I need to make.

Third, examine what you couldn't get done this year and why - I didn't make time to take any classes, but I did get a lot of other things done. I had to deprioritize this goal because finding new sources of income and working on my health and wellness were more important.

So what about the coming year? What are your goals for 2012, for yourself and for your business? Here are some of mine...

For 2012, I'd like to work on growing my online audience and doing some more in-person idea sharing and networking. I want to continue the strides I've made in the health and wellness department, and also make a more conscious effort to pursue educational activities in whatever form I can find. If I can't take a semester-long class, webinars and one-off lectures can also work. I got a theramin for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to learning to play it as well.  

If you're a bit stuck on setting workable goals, here's a very useful article from Washingtonian about setting resolutions you can keep. Try not to set too many goals at once, and make sure they specific and measurable.

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading! Wishing you all a successful 2012!

How Do Your Customers Use the Internet to Find You?

If you haven't seen it yet (and even if you have, it's worth another look), check out this great infographic from Business Insider - Incredible Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Internet

Infographic by Shanghai Web Designers.
Among other things, there are 98,000 tweets, 695,000 Facebook status updates, and more than 1500 new blog posts.

How much of this action are you getting? If you're like most smaller businesses, probably not much.

And that's OK - you don't need to own Twitter, you just need enough people tweeting about you to dive traffic to your site.

The best way to get people tweeting about you? Tweet about them. If you don't do much on Twitter, think about setting a new year's resolution to spend 10 minutes on Twitter each day. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can help you to schedule your tweets and better understand your traffic.
In the mean time, there's a new version of Twitter out there that's generating some positive buzz - here are the highlights from Social Media Examiner.

If you feel like kind of a Luddite these days, don't despair, among other things, people send 168 million emails every minute. If you don't have a robust email program, you probably need one, unless you're letting coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial do your email marketing for you.

Even if you are, do you really want to pay for your email by discounting your product by 50 percent? It's time to price out this tradeoff - there are a number of email services geared towards list building for smaller businesses, including Constant Contact, but there are others.

Do the math - how many customers have you gotten through these coupon sites and what did it cost you in discounting? What would happen if you invested this amount of money on an email program?

Need an experienced eye on your email, Facebook, and Twitter strategies? Wondering what the heck Pinterest is? I can help. Drop me a line.

News this Week: Dilbert, Congress, and K-Mart Angels

What should you be paying attention to this week? 

Angel. Flickr user Ewan Traveler.
From blogger Sarah Gallagher at Gears and Shifts, some words on employee morale and office culture based on the wisdom of Dilbert.

Your takeaway: It's time to look in the mirror. Are you allowing, fostering, or participating in anything that contributes to poor treatment or poor morale for employees? Are you using resources to benefit the company, or your own convenience? Are you rewarding identical behavior in some people, but not others? Make 2012 the year you treat your employees better and provide opportunities for them to grow. If you've got a bad boss, make 2012 the year you stop responding to bullying and other poor treatment and/or embrace a new opportunity.

As I'm writing this, Congress has finally approved a two-month extension on the payroll tax cut.

Your takeaway: I wrote about this possibility back in August -  and how it might make 2012 a more difficult year for pretty much everybody. The Obama administration helped things along with a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #40Dollars - asking Americans to tell Republicans what it would mean to us to lose $40 out of each two-week paycheck. You can find out more about the campaign and what $40 means to some people from this infographic, released by The White House. Let's hope Congress does the right thing and extends the payroll tax cut all the way through 2012.

Finally, in even better news, Secret Santas all over the country are paying off layaway accounts for strapped K-Mart shoppers, and a new study finds that Americans are, on average, more generous that people from any other country, with three out of five giving to charity and two out of five doing volunteer work this year, despite the poor economy. ( and ABC News)

Your takeaway? Who can you help between now and the end of the year? Take some cookies to a friend (or make a new one), walk the dog for an elderly neighbor, or make an extra gift to charity. The world will only get better if we make it that way.

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

Some Holiday Thoughts for 2011

From Flickr User ThisParticularGreg.
The week before Christmas is always so hectic, whether you celebrate the holiday or not.

People running around, getting ready to be away from work and school next week, and getting all that last minute baking and shopping done.

I'm not going to give you any new marketing advice this week - though if you have any super last-minute promotions, now's the time - but encourage you to take a minute to remember why you're in business in the first place.

What's the most important thing about your business?

The people.

Your employees, partners, vendors, clients and customers. 

You might have an A-1 business plan, the latest technology, and a super-cool product, but it won't make a difference if you don't honor, respect, and connect with the people in your working life.

Take some time today to say thanks - to your customers for buying, to your vendors and clients for doing business, and to your employees and partners for their support. Without recognition and positive energy, your best customers and employees will be seeking greener pastures. Your vendors perform better when they know you appreciate what they do.

I also want to thank you for reading this blog and for doing business with me. Without your support, feedback, and wonderful projects, I wouldn't be here. I hope that you and yours enjoy a warm, wonderful holiday season this year as a wonderful prelude to a successful 2012.

News this Week: Kindle Fire, Holiday Sales, Online Tracking

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Three new tools to help you track everything you do online - if you're terrible at keeping track of all that great content you see in your daily journeys through Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, EgoArchive, Memolane, and Greplin can help.

Your takeaway: I don't know about you, but I'm a little squeamish about archiving my entire online life online. At the same time, I am always losing cool links. These might be worth considering if you're starting a blog or wanting to raise your social media presence, but can't keep your content organized. 
Holiday retail sales continue to be a bright spot, says the National Retail Federation, which just raised this year's sales forecast to $469.1 billion. (New York Times)

Your takeaway:
Here are four ways to stay relevant after Cyber Monday, including Free Shipping Day, which is December 16th. On the other side of the coin, if sales are doing so well, what's with so many empty shopping malls? This economy isn't all better yet.

The new Kindle Fire already has software update on the way, due to several major complaints, including an unresponsive touch screen, slow browsing, and lack of privacy. (Washington Post)

Your takeaway: You can never do too much product testing. Make sure you're including people who are familiar and totally new to the product. Sometimes it's a good thing to slow your roll and get it right, rather than invite poor product reviews and disgruntled customers.
What's up with you this week? Drop me a line and let me know.
Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading.

Time to Set Your Business Goals for 2012

So your holiday season is cooking along - you got through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, and hopefully you're all signed up for Free Shipping Friday, which is coming right up on December 16th.
Martini. Flickr user Adrian Hoffmann.

Take a little time out of the hustle and bustle to think about some key priorities for 2012. These may include:
Maximizing. Make a new years resolution to explore the potential on top of a new channel, like mobile or social. If you're already there, then maybe it's time to look at your PR or advertising in a new way.
Organizing. How do you organize your web content, photos, videos, enewsletters, and other assets? Are they managed in a way that makes them easy to find and allows for easy re-use? If not, it may be time to revisit your content management systems.
Motivating. Your salespeople (whether you have one or one thousand) need inspiration to keep on moving. Take another look at your incentive program. Are the incentives attainable? Are rewards frequent enough (monthly or quarterly) to keep people motivated? Is everyone participating? If the answer to these questions is "no" then revamp your program and see your sales rise as a result. People are not robots - they need to be incentivized, recognized, and rewarded to perform.
Networking. It's hard to get out there when we're so busy. If you're not a regular networker, challenge yourself to meet some new people this year. If you're not active on LinkedIn, set a goal of joining a group and participating regularly this year. If you're already there, challenge yourself to get to at least one live event in the first three months of 2012. If you're actively networked but your employees aren't, help them get started - new contacts benefit everyone in your organization.

What do you want to accomplish in 2012 and how will you get there? Please share.
Need help putting together your plan for success? Let me know.

Four Ways to Stay Relevant for the Holidays

You've had a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, and now you're cruising towards home - just another couple of weeks and then it's visions of sugarplums while you get a little rest.

But your numbers haven't stayed up, and you're finding that now your numbers are actually LOWER than last year. Your Thanksgiving sales strategy brought in plenty of customers in November, but now they've moved on to other deals.

Holiday cheer. Photo: Flickr user Glennharper.
How do you light a fire under your customers? Here are four ways to keep the traffic coming.

1) Give a special offer to people who bought right after Thanksgiving. They should have their orders by now and if they like what they bought, they may want to purchase again.

2) Do a winback campaign for past buyers who didn't buy this year. Give them a reason to buy from you again.

3) Keep your customers in the loop - about new specials, deadlines (like for free shipping or Christmas delivery).

4) Don't forget other holidays - depending on who is in your customer base, your buyers may be honoring the Winter Solstice, celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Boxing Day. Don't forget Saturnalia or Gluten Free Baking Week. Did you know that December is also National Tie Month? Most importantly, December 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. OK, so I'm getting carried away, but the bottom line is that Christmas is only one holiday - bring in more customers by including people celebrating all kinds of things this month.

Need help planning your observance of National Whiner's Day? Let me know - I can help. First step - no whining.

News this Week: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Niche Social Networks

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Don't forget about some of those smaller, niche social networks, like Instagram, Pinterest, Foodspotting, and one of my favorites, Ravelry, which is for knitters. (Mashable)

Holiday cheer from Flickr user John-Morgan.
Your takeaway: Think about applications for these carefully. It can be time and energy-consuming to put yourself on yet another social network, but if you can make one of these work for you, you'll have far less competition on something like Pinterest than, say, Facebook.

Black Friday 2011 has been judged a success, with the National Retail Federation estimating sales up $11.5 billion over 2008 sales and up $7.5 billion over last year. Retailers really pulled out all the stops this year - some even opening on Thanksgiving itself to boost sales. Many (though unfortunately not all) consumers had a better year in 2011 than 2010 - paying off debt and saving more, leading to more spending this year.

Cyber Monday 2011 was also bigger than ever, a 33% jump over last year, with social media and mobile (especially tablet) use contributing to the numbers in more significant ways. Customers looked for recommendations, shared deals, and did their comparison shopping, and ended up spending more than expected.

Your takeaway: I hope your Thanksgiving strategies boosted your business this year too, but there are still plenty of people who aren't going to be able to give their families the holiday they wish they could without a little help. Enough people had a better year this year to boost holiday retail sales, but there are still millions of people out of work who could use a boost. If you have means, consider giving a little more to your favorite charity this year.