Monday, March 11, 2019

How to Find more Time: Tips & Strategies

With the rapid increase in the amount of information we are expected to process on a daily basis, how are we expected to find time for everything we need or want to do? 

This quote from a TV character emphasizes the purpose of this post…
with strategic planning you can find time for what you want to do.

“Sorry I’m late.  I got here as soon as I wanted to.” -Karen Walker of Will & Grace  

List of top tips & strategies for improving time management. 

TIP 1:  Just say NO!

Don’t add on more responsibilities that you don’t want to do. 

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.” 
― Lao Tzu

Greg McKeown from his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less explains how to focus on what is important… not just today, but with long-term goals in mind.  
We all have tasks we have to complete…pay bills or taxes.  These are actions that will happen no matter and can be outsourced via autopay.  
Get creative on how to make your “must do” list as easy as possible. .
Tip 1 Strategy:  How to say No!
List every major task you can think of that you are responsible for or required to do this week/month/year.  Circle the ones only you can do, delegate the ones someone else can do.  For anything that falls in between ask yourself the following questions. 

Only keep the tasks that you can definitively answer YES to these questions.
Do I love and enjoy doing this?
Does this task or activity directly help me towards one of my top three life goals?
Does this authentically represent my personal brand? See my post on branding for a quick exercise to learn how to discover your authentic personal brand.
Is this a commitment I need to do now, but can work towards removing from my TO DO list in the next 3 months?  Set a date on your calendar for 3 months from now and actively work to offload anything you do not want to do anymore.
“You can have it all. Just not all at once.” -Oprah Winfrey

Strategies for saying “NO” include:
being honest,
being direct,
not hesitating,
practicing saying no, and
not making unnecessary excuses.
It is YOUR time.   Be prepared to have to repeat the “NO” over and over, especially from someone that is used to you saying yes.
My recommendation is to start out extremely polite and kind.  Each time you have to repeat the no make your response shorter and more to the point, until finally they will either get the message or enough time will pass that the request is no longer relevant or important.

Tip 2:  Write it Down

“You may delay, but time will not.” - Benjamin Franklin

Planning your schedule is absolutely necessary if you have any chance of gaining time.  Using the list of task and activities from Tip 1, Fill out your schedule for the next week in a planner. 

A personal planner is only effective if it makes sense to you.  Every person is unique and so should their method of planning.  Find a notebook or planner that inspires you.  Design or find an online or app based planner that fits with your lifestyle, choice of technology or work mode.  Many options are out there.  Finding one you believe in and will stick to will help you succeed. 

Tip 2 Strategy:  How to Write it Down

Everyone has a different way of organizing their life and therefore whatever method you use to write down your schedule should be unique to your needs and goals.  The easiest, low cost, low tech version is to buy a spiral notebook.  The spiral allows you to open it flat and fold back the cover in case you wish to use a book stand to make it easy to read. 

The night before or first thing in the morning, write the date at the top of the page and list out all you would like to accomplish that day.  Include times and locations and who you will be doing the activity with.  Put a huge star or circle the one item that if you accomplish it will let you go to sleep that night satisfied you did enough.  

As you complete each task, cross it out.  At the end of the day, go to the next page write tomorrow’s date at the top and move all incomplete items from the current day’s page over.  Add additional items that need to be completed tomorrow.  Again, star or circle the one task that will let you fall asleep content tomorrow night.

To help you find your own planning technique, I included a few links below.  Work on always improving and revising your method to save you time and keep you organized.  

Helpful Links on Planners from organized experts:

Tip 3: Automate your life

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” - Jean de La Bruy√®re

In his book, The Power ofHabit, Charles Duhigg advocates for simplifying your decision making to gain more time for your brain to work on more complex problems.  By simplifying your decision making you will gain time that would otherwise have been wasted on indecision.    The most important part of automating your life is to do it one small step at a time.  If you try to change too many habits at once you will most likely get frustrated and stop. 

Tip 3 Strategy:  How to Automate your life

Examples of what habits you can simplify include:

Autopay is your friend, so is paperless billing.  Every time you pick up a piece of mail you need to think about shredding, recycling, responding and filing.  Why not just have that paperless and autopay bill get filed in your digital storage for you to regularly look over once a week or once a month?

Do you have set uniforms for all the regular occurring activities on your calendar?  Look at your schedule for the next 2 weeks.  List what you would wear at each one.  Consider organizing your closet and drawers by activity and create your own list of categories.   

Category examples:  Presentations and Corporate Meetings, Work at the Office, Work from home, Networking events, Exercise Clothes, Weekend time with friends, Special Occasion, Attending sporting events or theater, Travel Clothes, Vacation Clothes

Consider what the uniform for each category needs to accomplish.  Do you need to look professional?  Do you need to be comfortable?  Do you need to be active?  Will you have to change quickly due to timing?  Will the outfit travel well?  What shoes and accessories will match each outfit? 

If you start each day already knowing which category you need, you won’t have to worry about what to wear as the options will be simplified.

Consider what you fuel your body with.  Spending a few minutes each week meal planning saves money and time.  If you need inspiration, consult with a registered dietician/nutritionist or a food planning book.  My favorite to recommend is The Total Body Diet by Vicki Shanta Retelny.  The book covers a complete makeover based on science for your diet and eating habits.  Find a food plan that works for your lifestyle and health needs. 

Weekly meal planning strategy
1.   Look at what you currently have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer

2.   Look at your schedule and decide which meals you will cook and eat at home, which you will pack to eat elsewhere and which you will eat out at a restaurant or event. 

3.   For the meals you will prepare, make a shopping list of ingredients based on recipes of what you already have at home.  Use what is in your kitchen to inspire the menu.  Keep a running list of staples you always buy on your Alexa shopping list or notes section of your smartphone.  The ultimate time saver is to use a delivery service or a click and shop. 

4.   Decide what ingredients you can prepare ahead of time (chop vegetables and proteins, make bread, soak legumes or precook rice or pasta, etc.)  Try to do as much of the prep work in a single time period at the beginning of the week so you have more time during the week. 

5.   If you trying to start a business or save for a fabulous vacation, this is a budget area that is easy to cut back on, but only if you plan ahead.  Take coffee with you instead of buying it on the road. 

6.   Have the same thing for breakfast everyday… or most days.  Or limit your breakfast and lunch choices to 2-3.  Less choices means less time deciding and fewer ingredients to purchase. 

Plan and schedule your workouts just as you would a business meeting.  Maintaining a healthy body and brain helps you perform at your highest potential.  Google benefits of exercise and an unending list of sources pop up.  Signing up for a specific class each week or working with a personal trainer to develop a workout routine or 3 will help keep you focused. 

Keeping the exercise type listed in your planner each day helps you look forward to it, pack proper clothing/equipment and maintain an interesting mix without having to think too hard. 

Make sure to include 1 workout that is easy to do on the road or during vacation and requires little to no special equipment.
Reduce excuses on why not to work out and always remember, even a little bit helps.  Start small.  A 10-minute walk around your office parking lot is better than nothing.

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
– Edward Stanley

Sleep is also important.  To continuously perform at a high level at work and in life, getting enough sleep is vital.  If you schedule in a routine for bedtime, you will more likely be able to keep those precious hours of rest safe.

Habit #6 in this extremely useful infographic explains the optimal amount of sleep to improve your productivity.   
Automate as many areas of your regular daily life to reduce decision time and effort on everyday tasks that do not require your high level creative and problem-solving skills.  Save those skills for when you truly need them!

Tip 4: Practice Self Care

Productivity is directly related to how healthy you are physically, but also mentally and emotionally.  Take care of your body, mind and soul, so you can take care of business. 
What is self-care? The definition below from a post explains.

“Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” - Raphailia Michael, MA

Tip 4 Strategy: How to practice Self Care

Remember that the purpose of this blog post is to help you find more time in your day.  Practicing and scheduling self care is one way to make sure when your plans are derailed and emergencies occur, you will have the fortitude to handle the unknown without wasting time. 

Self Care habits includes:
  • Focus on your personal and business mission statement.
  • Plan and take vacations.   
  • Schedule medical checkups.
  • Practice meditation, mindfulness and yoga. 
  • Stretch physically and mentally each day.
  • Do at least one thing a day that makes you laugh and smile.
  • Be grateful.
  • Connect with others. 

Another post offering reasons on why self-care is so important can be found HERE.

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”- Jean Shinoda Bolen

If you need more concrete directions for injecting Self-Care into your schedule, see the highly shared post (over 6.6K shares) below for ideas. 

275 Self-Care Ideas (and Activities) for Coping With Life by  Steve “S.J.: Scott.  

Tip 5: Let it go! 

Change what you can.  Let go of the rest!

Psychologist Dr. Kate Roberts speaks about knowing when enough is enough.  A paraphrase of her guidance can be summarized in the statement: 

My best is good enough. 

Just think about that for a moment.  What if you lived your life trying your best and then realizing at the end of each day that you are enough, your actions are enough and what you give to others is enough?  Consider how empowering that would be towards gaining more time in your life. 

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”- John Steinbeck

Stop getting in the way of your own progress.  We can get in the way of ourselves by striving for perfection without a purpose, only seeing one solution, or preventing the innovation that occurs with random trial-and-error.

Tip 5 Strategy: How to let it go! 

Keep a worry journal.  At night before falling asleep, write down all the things you are concerned about or worried about.  Be mindful of which ones are out of your control or can wait until a later day to focus on.  Let the process of writing remove the worry from your mind, so you can rest. 

Repeat: My best is good enough.
Delegate.  Look back at your list from Tip 1 and try to find tasks that do not need to be done now or ever.  Let the ones that are not essential go! 

Look for inspiration in music, movies and books for characters that exist without time constraints.  The quote below from “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (a movie about a man who ages backwards from old age to infancy) emphasizes how time cannot stop our choice to change ourselves and our lives. 

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.” - Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 Use these tips and strategies help you find more time. 

Heather H. Bennett is the creative brand coach, a marketing consultant passionate about helping businesses & professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market & reach their personal & professional goals.  

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch and

Saturday, November 24, 2018

7 steps to Create a Brand Strategy

What is a Brand Strategy and how do I create one? 

This definition of Brand Strategy by CarlyStec sums it up nicely. 

“Brand strategy is a plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that can be achieved with the evolution of a successful brand -- the combined components of your company's character that make it identifiable.”

In short your Brand Strategy is what you plan to do with your Brand to grow and/or strengthen your business.

How to create a Brand Strategy

Step 1:  What is your Brand? Ask yourself these questions to find your Brand

  • What are your brand's likes and dislikes... clothes, vacations, hobbies, cares, home decor food, music, colors, seasons.  What is authentically always true about your brand
  • What can your followers expect your brand to be, stand or, sound like?  
  • What five words describe your brand?  What 5 words will never describe your brand?
  • What does your Brand do better, more uniquely & different from your competition: other brands in your industry?
  • Does your current business mission statement match the answers above?

Create a Brand Identity Statement:
My Brand _____________ will always be seen as _________, _________ and __________.  Brand X’s followers expect Brand X to do ___________, be ___________ and never _____________.  Brand X promises its loyal followers to provide _____________ in the time frame of ________________with these qualities: ______________, ________________, and ____________.

You may not be able to or need to fill out the entire Brand Identity Statement.  Take time to revisit this every few months to make sure your Brand is communicating consistently and staying true to itself. 

Step 2: Get feedback from followers and rewrite your Brand Identity 

Email, tweet or message to your customers announcing your Brand Identity
  • What do they love about your brand? What do they expect?
  • "Customer service ", retweets and comment sections are especially helpful with this. 

Step 3:  Create A Brand Location Check List 

List everywhere your Brand is present
Social Media, products, other blogs, customer forums, trade shows, books, webinars, guest blogging, Public Relations, press releases, websites, flyers, online community groups etc. etc. 
Ask friends, employees, & trusted colleagues to help you create this list. 

Step 4:  Using your Brand Location List, check how each interaction matches your Brand Identity

Are there areas that your message or image is not consistent, needs update or rewriting?

This is a great opportunity to create a new logo that works everywhere, identify photography, design elements or writing style that is inconsistent and clean up any communications that stray from what you are trying to achieve as a brand. 

Step 5:  Find your Target Market

Now that you know who your brand is, what your brand stands for and where your brand is located... Figure out who your brand should be communicating with. Who is your target market?
  • What is the perfect customer for your brand? 
  • What problem does your product, Brand solve and who needs that solution? 
  • Who is actively seeking your Brand and loves your brand? 
  • Who else could become part of your target market that isn’t already?
Rewrite your Brand Identity Statement with all you learned from determining your target market. 

Step 6:  Create a list of Goals your Brand wants to achieve

Add these to the Brand Plan if it makes sense.

Step 7:  Create your Brand Strategy

Answer the following in a few words to instantly create a Brand Strategy.
  • What is your Brand?
  • Who is your Target Market?
  • What does your Target Market expect from your Brand?  What does your Brand promise?
  • Where will your Brand be found?  
  • How will you communicate with your target market? (social media, voice)
  • What will your Brand’s communications consistently say?
  • How will your Brand uphold the promises it has made to its target market?

Having a strong Brand Strategy and clear Brand Plan will help you consistently surprise & delight your customers, making them not only loyal users, but also advocates and promoters of your Brand. 

In case you missed it:  Why you need a Brand Plan

Heather is the creative brand coach, a marketing consultant helping businesses & professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market. Her prior experience includes Research & Development and Brand Management Marketing for global consumer products goods companies.  For over a decade, she has helped small business owners focus on their passion and their products, while creating strong brands and solid business plans.

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch or the blog SmallBusiness, Big Brand.

The mission of Small Business, Big Brand is to give small business owners easy to use brand & marketing techniques to strengthen & grow their business. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Calls to Action: A pocket guide to getting your customer to click

What is a call to action? 

A marketing device designed to get your target market to: buy, click or share information immediately.

In social media, a call to action normally refers to
  1. a button that sends them to a page for you to gather information from them and in exchange give them some information or a free product OR
  1. a request for them to retweet, share or like something you posted. 

Why create a call to action? 

To get to know your target market better...
So you can give them the product or service they really want and need.  

All to increase your ROI. 

Create click through by being more relevant, more authentic, more interesting.

The more you interact with your target market in a community setting the better you can anticipate their needs - surprise & delight them with a product they can’t wait to buy & will hopefully recommend to others.  

How to create calls to action that stand out

Use Smart CTAs 

Creates a unique button that is matched to different viewer groups, so they see something they are more motivated to click and fill out.  Smart CTAs can be sorted by lifecycle stage, trigger event, device type, language or other description. 

In the end, by sorting your potential customers ahead of their interaction with your brand you can reduce the number of clicks to a sale. 

Fewer clicks means
  1. less chance they will buy elsewhere
  2. less effort for your customer to get what they want 
  3. much happier customers
Example:  Think of the difference between driving to the store to buy your favorite toothpaste versus knowing a new tube at a great price will automatically be delivered to your front door every 3 months without having to do anything or go anywhere. 

Tell them what they get by clicking

Be completely open and obvious about exactly what they will get if they click through and share their email with you. 

No games, no trickery.  Just the truth.

Otherwise they will not come back and not recommend or give a high review of your product.  

Tell them exactly what to do

Again be completely clear, concise and obvious.  Simple directions lead to desired actions.

Examples:  Click here for a Free eBook, Like, Retweet, Share, comment, reply, type in your email address, click here to buy this product

Talk to them in their own language and follow their rules

If they are on twitter, use a twitter friendly call to action. 
If they are using Instagram.  Use an Instagram friendly call to action.

See the links below in my resource section from Tim Brown on how to do each social media platform right.  Thank you, Tim!

Create a time limit

Give them an incentive to click through now...Don’t let them stray away and forget why they were intrigued. 

Give-a-ways or contests are fine, but use a timed or limited quantity incentive for a long-term strategy.  

Example:  First 15 to send in their email address get access to a free webinar on cutting edge social media marketing tools. 

Go create amazing CTAs:  make your customers happy, make your sales team happy & increase your social media marketing ROI. 

Resources for more information from Experts

7 Tips for Creating a Call to Action on Social Media  by Sam Hurley
Summary: Comparing a game & momentum altering basketball maneuver to a call to action… why yes, I do want to read the whole article.  Sam Hurley is a master at making social media marketing more fun.  Another great check list while creating your call to action. 

How to use CTA’S on Social Media by Tim Brown

Summary:  a basic guide for everyone on what calls to action are, how to do them the right way and what they can do for your brand, company, product
5 Tips to Create an Irresistible Call to Action by Vaibhav Kakkar
Summary:  As always, the team from Jeff Bullas is committed to giving great, consistent advice.  My recommendation for a blueprint to create your call to action. 

Summary:  a few simple tricks to make your CTA more effective.

HubSpot Competitors: 8 Alternatives to the PopularMarketing Automation System  by 
Summary: A terrific comparison of 8 marketing software options

Thank you to Tim Brown for this useful list!

Heather is the creative brand coach, a marketing consultant helping businesses & professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market. Her prior experience includes Research & Development and Brand Management Marketing for global consumer products goods companies.  For over a decade, she has helped small business owners focus on their passion and their products, while creating strong brands and solid business plans.

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch or the blog SmallBusiness, Big Brand.