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Archive for socializing

Get focused.

I’ve recently been working with several customers who are having some trouble with the idea of the target market. I really, really understand this because it was an issue I struggled with for quite a long time.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Identifying your target market isn’t a limit, it’s a focus.

Suzanne Evans is a coach who really resonates with me. Her approach to helping you find your target market is “who can you help the most”? Who are you driven to serve? Given your knowledge and life experience (not necessarily formal education) who are you best equipped to help succeed in their own journey?

Where can you do the most good?

When I was looking for these answers for my own business, all I could see was that by defining who my target was, I was excluding everyone who didn’t fall under that umbrella. Which causes panic and anxiety in a new business. All those people who can’t be my customers! But that isn’t really how it works.

By clearly defining my target, I know where to look. I have a way to decide which networking events to attend. I know how to phrase my own story about what I do. I know who I want to be reading this blog article. I have some selection criteria on how to choose who to approach at an event. I have a focus.

It does not mean that I have to turn down a client who is outside my target. It doesn’t mean I exclude. My target is generally educated professional women between 40-60. Does that mean if I’m approached by senior gentleman wanting to write a memoir about being enlisted military that I’d say no?

Not a chance. I’d love to work with someone like that. If you know one, please send him a link to my website!

Your target market won’t be written in stone either. You should reevaluate it regularly. Have you had some clients that didn’t work out as well as you’d like? How are they different from the ones who work brilliantly. Are there similarities you can use  to refine your focus? If you started helping older women but you’re finding that your best clients are young mothers, then by all means, adjust things and go after them. Don’t get rid of the great customers you already have, but as you go out to find new clients, use your new understanding of who you love to work with as a guide.

After all, we’d all like to be so busy that we have to pick and choose carefully who we work with. Understanding your target is a way to help you get there.

 

Should you bite your tongue?

I’m constantly amazed at the things people feel it is acceptable to ‘say’ via email and social media that I don’t think they would ever, ever come out and say to your face. Maybe they would and my friends are just unusually polite and restrained…but I don’t think so. Restrained isn’t the first thing I think when I consider the people dear to me. So it is probably something else. Here are a few techniques you can use when conflict and nasty communications are forced upon you.

Don’t take it personally. Often there are multiple ways to interpret something in writing. Reread the offending piece a few times and see if you can find a way to take it that isn’t offensive. Even if you’re pretty sure they meant it the offensive way.

Consider not responding. What will really happen if you just let this go? Will it really hurt your business? Are there real world consequences? If not, let it pass.

Keep it cool and professional. If you do need to respond, make your responses temperate and professional. Try to choose words that don’t provoke. Don’t escalate the situation; respond as neutrally as possible. If you must, you can say you find the situation unprofessional, against current policy, contrary to normal guidelines. Don’t say they are idiots, ill mannered morons, or liars. Even if you are quite certain they are all of the above. Call your friends and be honest some other time. When you reply, be professional.

Be brief. In conflict less is more. Let them bluster if they must. Make your points count and then withdraw. The longer you engage the more hostility that can come up and the more opportunity they have to drag you down to their level. Answer any salient points they offer, and stop. Don’t respond to anything but facts.

Stay off the phone. If you must engage the conflict, do it in writing. That gives you more space to think about what you’re going to say, and possibly to run it by someone you trust before you respond. If you’re on the phone it’s easy to let your mouth run away with you in the heat of an exchange. Email also gives you a record of the conversation, should you need one.

Just one more word to the wise. When writing a cathartic email, write it in word, in note-pad, anywhere but an actual email . Then you, or someone helpful, can’t accidentally send it before editing. Don’t be a cautionary tale.

 

 

Are you using the force?

Getting everything you want in life is simple, but it isn’t easy.

Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins does an excellent presentation about getting up off your…chair and putting yourself outside your comfort zone to make the changes you really want in your life. Well worth your 20 minutes.

Inertia is so easy. So easy to do what you’ve always done.  And if you already have everything you want, then I suppose that works. But if you want something new? That isn’t going to cut it.

I set myself some ambitious goals this month about making some internal changes for my business. Progress is pretty good, as long as I stay off the couch. But if I sit on the couch? Suddenly the inertia is overwhelming and hours can pass without actually accomplishing anything further than bonding with the cat. Which I consider important, but it shouldn’t really be my dominant accomplishment for the day. I’ve been experimenting with ways to get myself back off the couch once I’ve sat down. And experimenting with different ways to structure my day so that I never go over there. Which means not working from my laptop until late in the day no matter how much I tell myself it will be fine and it is perfectly possible to have a great productive day from the laptop.

I’m sure it is, but not for me, not right now. Not until I’ve broken the habits I built during a grieving phase where I used the laptop to escape. Escape was then. Productive is now.

What tricks do you use to keep from getting sucked into a seemingly innocent behavior that is actually a productivity black hole? And what is the ‘force’ that you use to get yourself back up out of it?

I had forgotten…

Do you ever have a really good work day and realize that you’d forgotten some aspect of your work that you really, really enjoy?

I had a day like that today.

I organize things professionally because its who I am. I organize, I sort. Pity my poor husband. Its not something I learned to do as a profession. Like so many other solopreneurs, its something that I do naturally that I turned into a business. Homes, offices, its about the mindset, not the space for me.

Today I remembered what I love to organize more than anything, and that is words.

Words?

I know, its a little odd to think of writing and copy editing as ‘organizing’ words, but to me that’s what it is. Is this word doing the proper job here? Or should it be some other word? Does this paragraph enhance the flow of the idea here? Wouldn’t it work better two pages down? I know this anecdote is lovely and fun but its cluttering up your idea, I’m afraid it will have to go.

To me, that’s organizing. And its almost play.

How lucky, to get to earn a living doing things I’d really do anyway.

Are you networking? Really?

When we go to networking events in person, there are really 2 kinds of attendees. The people often referred to as card ninjas, who are here to pass the maximum number of business cards as though it were a competition, and the people who are there to meet other people with whom they would hopefully like to do business. Certainly its really a continuum, but those are the biggest categories.

People work social media the same way. Some people want to have as many links, fans, or followers as they can possibly manage. My question is, to what purpose? If you aren’t taking a moment to connect with any of these people, to exchange a few words or Tweets about who they are as a person, then it isn’t a connection, its just a crowd. And yelling into a crowded room just isn’t useful. Few people will actually hear you, and only a few of them will actually care. And at least one of them will probably take exception to what you just said!!

So lets back off on the card-ninja approach and take a little time to hear what other people are really saying. If you listen to them, you’ll have a much better chance of them listening to you.

Personalizing your professional voice.

They say “you have to be personal on social media”. So we get people talking about the most narcissistic stuff. There’s personal and then there’s over sharing and many people are definitely over sharing.

The problem is, a lot of the people who use social media are entrepreneurs and business owners. What that really means is, we have no life apart from business. Or does it. Maybe what it really means is that business is an integral part of our real life so personalizing it is really easy, once you realize what ‘personalize’ means in this context.

There are a lot of levels of ‘personal’. Lets go with beach-personal and water cooler-personal.

At the beach, you’re really letting it all hang out. Fish belly white skin. Grey hair. Saddlebags. Beer guzzling, really bad volley ball, whatever it is you as a person are and like to do, its all out there. And the beach is an appropriate place for most of that.

At the water cooler, that’s still in your office, but its become axiomatic for a place for relaxing a little. Talk about what’s new in sports or your favorite TV show. (I’m so ready for Big Bang Theory to start the new season!) We had a great weekend up in Estes Park. Things you could tell your boss (assuming you aren’t embarrassed by your choice of television viewing) or your grandmother with equal confidence. But here there are definite limits. When asked what’s up for your weekend you might say “My mother in law is coming to visit” and roll your eyes, and that’s just the right side of appropriate. You’ll get some commiseratory groans and eye rolls and then the conversation will move to the next person in line. It is definitely NOT the time to explain, in detail, about the time when your mother in law did some horrible thing. That would be crossing over into the wrong side of the line. Definitely.

Personalizing social media is like that. Had a business lunch somewhere? Well, was the service excellent? Or Terrible? Did you learn something new about the restaurant, or owners, or menu? “I had lunch with Pamela today. Did you know Jason’s Deli serves items on gluten free bread?” Its personal, because we have a friendly relationship, and its about sharing with others. “Went to the Women in Business Breakfast today. Did you know (insert interesting fact you learned.)”

Share your perspective, your insight, in short *you*, the inside of your head, what makes you unique or interesting. If it happens in a business environment, that’s ok, that’s part of you too.

Please keep up.

Facebook is for chatting. Facebook is for connecting with friends. Facebook is for passing information and being available to people you know. Facebook is for building social connections to your business and professional friends. Facebook is for messaging people who’s email address you can’t find…

Yes, it has now become common place to use Facebook messaging to communicate with business connections. Don’t shake your head at me. Its hugely convenient. I may not have your email address handy. I may not be sure which of the 5 emails I have for you is the one you actually check. But I’m betting your Facebook notifications go to the useful one. And I was there anyway.

Facebook has become a one stop shop for all things connectivity. I’m sharing my business blog while consulting with my newly married sister and talking a good friend through moving.  I like it that way. All the pieces of my life jumbled together, just like my life.

Passion

Not that kind!

The kind where you’re excited by what you get to do for you business or community and you can’t wait to get started. The kind that makes you babble at length about your business or latest idea so that those you talk to can’t help but get excited with you.

Today I made a brilliant business connection. Our one hour ‘maybe we can work together’ meeting turned into 3 hours of shared excitement, two firm commitments, three new ideas to ponder and build on until they become full plans, and the knowledge that we’ve each met a kindred spirit who will be a great addition to our lives, business and personal.

That kind of passion makes every hardship of owning your own business worth it. I don’t think you ever get that kind of joy and satisfaction out of working for someone else.

Passion, if you don’t have it, maybe you should go look for it.

Leads groups.

Excuse me. Referral groups. One popular group makes a big deal of the difference.

What difference? A ‘lead’ is “I heard that my brother’s hairdresser’s plumber needs your service, I think his name is Bob.” A ‘referral’ is “My plumber, Tri-Lakes Plumbing, needs your service. His name is Howard, here’s his number, he’s expecting your call.” (Yes, that is really my plumber. He’s great!)

So there is a considerable difference technically. But idiomatically, ‘leads group’ is the popular term.

A good group is a huge benefit to your business. They are absolutely worth the time (and money where applicable) in terms of business return on investment. But for the very small business the social aspects can be just as or even more valuable. When we work at home alone its easy to get bogged down in details, discouraged about a bad day, overwhelmed by a tough project or question, there is a whole list of incidents where the opportunity to bounce an idea off another small business professional is invaluable. Your referral or other professional networking connections can give you the social benefits that were one of the positives of more traditional employment.

Visit around and find one where the people and format suit you.

If you’re in Colorado Springs, check out BRAIN (Business Referral and Informational Networking). Its an amazing group of people. And someday we’ll even have a website.