Friday, May 25, 2012

40 Years...40 Life Lessons - Part Two

Today is the big day - my 40th birthday. It seems surreal that 40 years ago I was born in Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Calif. in the midst of the peace and love generation. As promised, here are the remaining 20 life lessons I have learned in the past 40 years. I shared the first 20 life lessons on Monday's blog post.

#21 Enjoy the finer things in life because life is too short.
#22 Don't look down on other people -- you never know when you might be in the same exact position!
#23 Duct tape is the miracle "MacGyver" fix-it for almost anything (learned that in my event planning days).
#24 Even if you disagree, listen with an open mind and be respectful of other people's thoughts and beliefs.
#25 Stress and worry negatively affect health and well-being -- find a healthy outlet to release your stress.
#26 Don't be afraid to say no. You don't have to be everything to everyone.
#27 Believe in miracles - they really do happen.
#28 Coloring with kids is fun, free therapy.
#29 Attend a live theatre performance, music concert, or visit an art museum - art is food for the soul.
#30 It's perfectly fine to eat brie and crackers for dinner.
#31 You are never too old to believe in Santa Claus.
#32 When you make a promise to someone (especially a child), keep it.
#33 Take mental health days and be kind to yourself.
#34 It's okay to accept help from others - you don't have to do everything yourself.
#35 Honesty is always the best policy.
#36 Don't ever change or give up your dreams for someone else.
#37 Eating Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (in NYC) is truly a life-changing experience.
#38 It's okay to challenge other people if you think there is a valid reason - don't take everything at face value.
#39 Don't put conditions on your love - love unconditionally.
#40 Always listen to your gut instinct -- your intuition won't steer you wrong.

Cheers! I look forward to my new 40something adventures! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

40 Years...40 Life Lessons - Part I

I turn the big 40 on Friday, and I dedicate my blog posts this week to this huge milestone in my life. I've had an interesting career journey and have experienced twists and turns in my life. When I was a young girl, I thought 30 sounded really OLD and 40 sounded ancient.

I spent the majority of my career working as a non-profit fundraiser and events planner. While the job was stressful and chaotic, I wouldn't change my experiences or the life lessons I learned for anything in the world. I met some of the most amazing people throughout my journey. And each step I've taken in my life led me to building my own business and working with the most talented, creative, and supportive people.

As I reflect upon my life for the past 40 years, I want to share my first 20 life lessons that I learned. Sending big thanks to all the people - family, friends and colleagues - who have supported me and continue to support me on this journey called LIFE! I'll share the last 20 in my birthday post on Friday.

Thank YOU for being a part of my life! Sending love and hugs. :) 

#1 "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself." No matter what, treat people with kindness and respect.
#2 Set your boundaries and stick with those boundaries.
#3 Playing the victim and whining and complaining won't get you far. You are the only one who can make positive changes in your life.
#4 Don't rely on other people for your happiness. It's not about pleasing other people. Do what's right for YOU!
#5 Laughter and fun are truly the best medicine.
#6 Play in the ocean, hike beautiful trails and inhale nature!
#7 Be adventurous and travel to exotic locales (like Maui!!)
#8 Don't take life too seriously - to quote Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 
#9 Be courageous and take risks.
#10 Don't be scared to follow your dreams and passions - ignore the negative naysayers!
#11 Yoga is a natural healer and has definitely kept me youthful! :)
#12 Don't take loved ones and friends for granted.
#13 Holding a grudge will only hurt you, not the other person. Learn to forgive.
#14 Stay present - don't worry about the past. There is a reason it's called the "past" - let it go and move forward.
#15 You're never too old to learn!
#16 "Be the change you wish you to see in the world" - take action and make a difference in your world.
#17 Teachers are truly inspirational people.
#18 Mind your own business - let people live their life (we're all on different journeys!)
#19 Music soothes the soul.
#20 Don't ever stop dancing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Simplify Your Opt-In & Sign-Up Forms

When did opt-in forms become so complicated? I don't consider myself a lazy person, but I'm noticing a trend in lengthy opt-in forms (especially when it comes to free content downloads such as white papers, ebooks, etc.) I understand that marketers want to capture people's demographic information, but why is it necessary to ask for the name of your first born child? I'm being facetious, but that's what it feels like lately.

As a copywriter, this is a big pet peeve and companies are missing the boat by creating complicated sign-up forms. I don't have the time to fill out a lengthy survey disguised as an opt-in form, and neither do busy professionals.

As a content marketer, make it easy for people to opt-in with your forms...and don't forget your call to action. Don't just slap up a "hey cool kids, check out my new white paper" message on your website. Give your target audience an authentic reason to opt-in to your emails, website, blog, social media channels, etc.

Your call to action should portray a sense of urgency. If you have a strong call to action coupled with a lengthy email form, you will end up with no action...and zero subscribers!

Here are a few easy tips to remember when creating opt-in forms:

  • Keep your opt-in forms simple -- at the very minimum, request a first name and email.
  • Always remember to include a disclaimer that the information people disclose to you will not be shared or sold to third parties. This gives people peace of mind that their information remains private and secure.
  • Save the lengthy surveys for your sales funnel. People may disagree with me, but I don't want to disclose random information about myself until the company/person gains my trust. 

And don't forget a simple opt-in form is only one piece of the puzzle. Review your content. What kind of content do you offer your subscribers? Are you up to speed on the latest industry trends? Are your target markets genuinely interested in your topics? Is your content educational and informative? If prospects aren't impressed with your content, they will look elsewhere and probably won't sign up for your lists.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Choose Your Words Carefully

As a copywriter and content developer, there is one piece of advice I like to pass along to my clients. It's one very simple rule, but it's one that could save them a lot of heartache (and bad publicity) down the road. If you wouldn't say that to your mother, then don't post those words on your social media or blog. 

I just read an excellent article The Power of Our Tongues by author and writer, Randy Mitchell. As a copywriter, I am consciously aware of the energy I create with my words. Since copywriting is marketing focused, the words I create go beyond just a snappy tagline. I develop a cohesive synergy with my words - it goes back to weaving a real and authentic story. 

Remember that words have energy behind them, so it's important to choose your words carefully. Words can take us on a wild emotional roller coaster or words can soothe us, leaving us with a sense of calm and peace.

As an entrepreneur/business owner, you don't have a lot of time to make a good first impression -- and you want your target audiences to remember you for all the RIGHT (and not wrong) reasons.

For content creators, bloggers, and writers, Randy passes along excellent advice: 
"We all strive to give our readers words they’ll enjoy, creating ones they’ll see as positive, educative, informative, and sometimes inspirational. Oftentimes we succeed, other times we fail. Mainly because all words are interpreted differently by everyone, it all depends on their tone, arrangement on the page, and topic being covered."
Before you sit down and write your next blog or blast out a social media update, carefully think about  your words and how consciously-chosen words will positively impact your target audiences. 

The Bard sums it up nicely: 

"Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart."William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Your Content Needs Hard Facts

There is a reason why journalism students are taught the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. These five Ws glean “facts” associated with the story -- who was involved in the story/situation, what happened, where it took place, when did it happen, and why did it happen. It’s acceptable to add your personal angle or slant to your content, but remember that hard facts lend more credibility (especially if you are new to publishing content online). 

Hard facts can be gathered from white papers, reports, market and scientific research, and educational research, theses, dissertations, etc. If you interview and quote industry experts, make sure they have the credibility and expertise to back up their claims and research. The last thing you want to do is quote John Smith who has a class action lawsuit against him…which you find out AFTER you have quoted him in your article. Quotes should come from reliable, trustworthy sources. Do your homework; dig deeper into your sources' background and credentials. It is your reputation on the line so make sure you protect it accordingly.

If you interview an expert, ask them to look over your Q&A or verify their answers before you publish their content. If you misquote or include wrong information, it’s easy to edit your blog post and/or write a simple retraction apologizing for the misquote.

As a copywriter, research is a huge part of my job – writing copy is actually the easy part. I try to include reliable stats and data throughout my content. Your audience wants to see content backed up with actual proof and facts. You don’t need to bombard your audience with data and research every time. But a well-researched factoid thrown into the mix every now and then won’t hurt your content either.

Helpful research tip: if you are pressed for time, use Google Alerts to set up keywords and news feeds - Google does the research for you. Google Alerts allow you to pick and choose the information that catches your eye...AND saves you a lot of time and energy since the information is delivered straight to your in-box. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Simplicity Works - The Less is More Approach

As we move into May, spring cleaning is on the brain. It's time to get rid of the clutter we accumulated during the winter months (literally and figuratively). I am taking the time to evaluate and review my business plan and goals - what's working and what's not working? 

I stumbled upon an excellent blog post by Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box. Levie touches upon how companies are moving away from complexity. How can you simplify your business and how does complexity affect your company's overall success? 
"The only companies or products that will succeed now are the ones offering the lowest possible level of complexity for the maximum amount of value."
This point in particular caught my attention - so true!
"If you're making the customer do any extra amount of work, no matter what industry you call home, you're now a target for disruption." 
I like his idea of "reducing the clutter". Get rid of unnecessary steps in your business and keep it simple. It's all about getting back to basics. Levie lists tips to minimize complexity, especially when it comes to technology (See #6 in his post). #2 is my favorite -- don't overwhelm your customers and clients by offering too much. Fewer choices can be far more effective. 

Have you simplified your business lately? What steps have you taken or plan to take? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are You Mindfully Present in Your Business?

This week on Organic & Authentic we discuss business and mindfulness. Great discussion and feedback by our group. It made me realize that in order to be an effective business owner, I really need to be mindful and present in my business. Mindfulness relates to being aware of the words I create in emails and what I communicate to my colleagues, clients, and social media followers. I'm also very aware of how yoga and meditation has helped me stay centered and focused throughout my business, and sometimes I need to just step away and take a few deep breaths to clear my head (especially after a long day of sitting at the computer and writing). For example, I'm taking time out of my busy Thursday to take a noon lunch yoga class, which really calms and centers me. It's all about taking the time for ourselves, which only makes us more aware and mindfully-present in our businesses.

“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” 
― Louis L'Amour

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

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