Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

I was blown away; this is my aspiration

by Kate W. Hall

I recently attended the VA State Fair with my youngest child, my only daughter, a three-year-old. My timing was not great as we got there a bit late in the morning, she was getting tired already and it was hot as blazes out even in September.

As luck would have it, I took the stroller out of the back of my wagon, and promptly locked the keys in my purse, phone, and money in the car.

We hauled it to the fair gate where a state trooper called the parking lot attendants for us to see if they could help. I assumed we’d call a locksmith but followed their lead and went back to the car as I was instructed. Meanwhile, my daughter had fallen apart, was hungry and tired and apparently dying of thirst.

I snagged a young man on a golf cart when I spied the cooler in the back and asked if we could please have some water. What unfolded after that point was nothing short of a customer service miracle:

-He asked me what was wrong, and after sharing the situation with him was on his radio in 5.2 seconds making sure they were coming quickly to unlock my car.

-He stayed with us until others came with the proper tools to unlock the car, telling me that this happens all the time (not sure if it does, but it made me feel better).

-Not only did he give my daughter a cold bottle of water, he pulled one of his own Hawaiian punch packets out of his pocket and gave it to me with another water to mix-up for her; he talked to her and helped lighten her mood.

-His crew was there and we were back in the car with keys in hand in under forty-five minutes, would not accept any payment, and RMC Events had a new admirer in me. This photo is of my daughter, leaving the fair after a great afternoon with a new little friend.

I aspire to give this type of customer service to my clients; I’m sure I fall short of this on most days. But I’m going to try, because I’ll never forget how good they made me feel.

September 29, 2010

Unplugging is the hardest part

by Kate W. Hall

Since I’ve become a business owner (officially January 2009, when I started living from what I made advertising at Richmondmom.com) the number one challenge I’ve had is: not working.

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to spend most of their waking hours cranking out ideas and projects and dreaming of how to expand their business, nudge the existing to go one more wrung up the excellence ladder, help one more client. I’d be up until 3 am doing site updates then networking meetings at 7:30 am then straight through all day with no breaks until I couldn’t go on.

But it’s not healthy.

My husband was constantly asking me to slow down last year, but having been used to the corporate world (and a corporate paycheck for that matter) it was difficult for me to slow the pace when I wasn’t making any money. And, by the way, I didn’t really make any money the first year I was in business.

It wasn’t just a paycheck I was seeking, but some reward for the hours and hours of work I was putting into building relationships, making clients happy, building my site readership, giving my audience what they want to see.

What I found is, that for many of us small business owners it’s tough to stop and relish in the big wins because there’s always one. . .up. . .ahead. . .yes I’m sure there is. . .if I just keep pushing.  . . you get the picture. And social media, Twitter, Facebook and other tools are always right within my reach, so it’s even more difficult to put them away.

So after 18 months of SOLID (and I mean solid) back-breaking hours, I do allow myself some breaks from the smart phone, laptop, iPad, rat race. I’ve started to read books again, for pleasure. I take more time playing with my kids. Sometimes I have to literally put my phone out of sight to do so, but I do it.

And I think I’m a better business owner, and person, because of it. At least I hope so.

September 27, 2010

Twitter & Facebook, like takin’ candy from a baby

by Kate W. Hall

So simple it’s unreal:

1. Be real, spammers and robots don’t make for great conversations. Social networking is for social interactions, and personally I’ve never had a meaningful relationship with a robot. At least not yet.

2. Sure, share yourvsales, links, merchandise everybso often, but kill usvwith it and we don’t even see it anymore.

3. Have fun! Lifebis too short to be so serious so unless you’re the Surgeon General or an Army general you can joke around once in a while.

4. Shout-out clients when it makes sense! Everyone likes to have good company, why not let your followers know about the clients that work with you?

5. Mama always said “if you cannot say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” Listen to mama. No one wants to read cranky, mean tweets.

September 23, 2010

What will we do with our 86,000 seconds today?

by Kate W. Hall

This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Heidi Androl speak at the Greater Richmond Chamber’s Extraordinary Women’s Exchange. I didn’t know much about Heidi but had read her profile, and just the fact that her soon-to-be-released book is called “In the Men’s Room” was cause to raise my eyebrow.

Heidi Androl spoke about being a woman in what is a traditionally a man’s working world–first in aeronautic sales, then to her transition as a sportscaster on Fox. This woman is a sportscaster for the Los Angeles Kings Hockey team, for goodness’ sake! She is no wallflower.

This confident, absolutely gorgeous woman gave us several take-aways that I’ll use, but here are the meatiest that will stick with me:

-Don’t think you can’t do something because you don’t have skills. She had never imagined herself, or been trained in–the fields she’s worked in. She just had desire and willingness to learn.

-Don’t say that you know things when you don’t. It’s ok to ask for help. Trying to act confident all the time will only hurt/embarrass us in the long-run.

-Don’t use the “woman card” and act like you can’t do things, either. You are smart, confident, and you can set your mind to do whatever you want. She admitted that she doesn’t have an MBA and competed on The Apprentice with folks that did and beat them out many times, on pure desire, focus, and determination.

-Don’t give Too Much Information (TMI). I thought this was quirky and fun and TRUE and so few people will tell you this. Say what you need to say, then hush up.

-DO use the assets you’ve got–whether it’s an MBA, a fun personality or quick wit, sports knowledge, you name it–you’ve got what you’ve got, you can acquire more, but use all that you have to maximize your potential.

-DO use your 86,000 seconds today doing exactly what you set out to do. Once the day is gone, those seconds are gone, and you’ll never get them back again.

Heidi encouraged us to use the “72 Hour Challenge”–a time you set to accomplish a BIG goal you’ve been wanting to, and focusing that time on the goal. She has done it several times and says the focus is incredible–remove excuses, dedicate, just do it. I’ll be chewing on what this small-town gal, who was raised by a single mom in a modest household shared with us. She’s quickly crossing off items on her Bucket List big and small and making things happen (one was owning a lemon tree on her balcony, one was taking her mom on a trip out of the country).

I’m going to use my 86,000 seconds wisely, and hope that you will, too.

September 21, 2010

Engagement in Social Media is the Key

by Kate W. Hall

Meeting with some of my clients today our goal was to 1) educate them on social media and how it will help their business and 2) to help them to become engaged.

What’s that really mean?

It means reading/understand others on Twitter, “conversing” with others on Twitter, and developing meaningful relationships.

Some questions we covered:

1) What in the world are we going to talk about? Anything. And Everything. When you have time. This means that squeezing in 30 minutes per day for Twitter can be a great way to engage with others; this doesn’t mean dropping everything to tweet. There are exceptions to this, as warns Seth Godin: Doing any of these things halfway is worse than not at all. “People don’t want a mediocre interaction.” But with a team approach to social media, the interaction need not be mediocre, but robust and as a tool to build a team.

Example: A customer tweets to say they had a frustrating shipment experience. One person in the office tweets back an apology, then sends a DM/Personal email to investigate. That person shares this experience with the office to work on prevention in the future. The entire team is prepared to answer similar tweets, and preferably minimize complaint tweets. This is not only a communication tool, but one that can improve the business process.

2) How much do we talk about business? It depends on the business, but I prefer to use the 80/20 or 70/30 rule, meaning the majority of time I don’t tweet for business.

Advertising, referral programs and in-person networking should be the focus of developing new business, while social media is a means to keep branding front-of-mind and round-out the culture and personality of the organization. Those who continually tweet discounts, sales, and similar pitches, unless super-sexy, won’t fare well.

3) What’s the next step once we develop these relationships? Glad you asked. Start networking in person, and you’ll find that when the topic of social media comes up, you’ve already conversed with some of the folks you meet (if local, of course!) There’s no substitute for shaking an actual hand, but the medium of social media allows us to begin relationships before we have the opportunity, or good fortune, to meet in person.

September 20, 2010

Helping a client, even if not selling your services, is building your business

by Kate W. Hall

I spent this afternoon with one of my favorite clients introducing their team to Twitter and discussing social media, and how they would use both Twitter and Facebook. While this is not something I expected to be doing in my “job description” (does an entrepreneur have such a thing?!) it’s something requested of me often that I thoroughly enjoy.

While I’m not social media expert the use of social media has surely helped develop my brand, and I’m happy to share that knowledge.

In a nutshell, here’s what we discussed:

-You’ve got to start somewhere; don’t fret about followers, just watch and learn what others are doing, and listen to potential clients and partners
-Discussing as a team what the overall culture of your brand is, knowing that culture, and communicating that culture in your social media plan is critical. This may sound deep, but it really means: if your team is laid-back and loves to have fun and smiles a lot, try not to be so serious with your tweets. Voila!
-Integrate social media into your daily habits–like exercising or anything else that must be (ugh) done, a little bit at a time is all it takes to build momentum and start showing results.

I did no selling; there’s no need, we have a strong relationship. Learning their business needs and growth plans was a great discussion, and I’ll be able to promote them more professionally because of it.

A great day.

September 20, 2010

Tweeting is not scary. It’s fun.

by Kate W. Hall

I recently met with a new client, a bright, energetic and seemingly technology-savvy woman, and upon learning more about her marketing strategy, was surprised that she didn’t have a Twitter account. “Why should I add that on when we already have a Facebook page?” she asked me; a very good question. I have had numerous Richmond businesses ask me this very same thing.

My answer went something like this:

  • Twitter is a free-flowing online conversation, a way to meet/network/learn/stay front-of-mind with clients and customers.
  • Twitter is free, fun, and can be downloaded as an application on your phone.
  • Twitter is not something  you have to read or do all day. Twitter is an addition to your day that should, if well-managed, result in greater visibility and ultimately, sales.
  • Twitter is not a forum for spewing out discounts, ads, and talking about yourself. Twitter is for learning, helping others in the community market themselves, and finding resources.
  • Follow me @richmondmom and see how I interact; I’ve built almost 3,000 followers in 18 months.

Note: Twitter does not send me checks for promoting their service; this is truly a tool that I urge my clients to use because I’ve witnessed the results first-hand. This is another way to help my clients build their brands online, and I’m more than happy to spend the time helping them do so.

Next post: Getting into the meat of tweets.

September 19, 2010

If you don’t have an advertising budget, you shouldn’t be in business

by Kate W. Hall

I know, I know you’re thinking “Of course she’d say that, she’s in advertising.” While it’s true advertising is what I do, I’m a niche business so I continually urge my clients to cast the net wide beyond the scope of Richmondmom.com.

What is casting the net? It’s simple. If you want to catch one fish, you throw in a line. If you’d rather reel in a big ol’ net full of fish, you’ll carefully craft a space where your net will be housed, ready to snatch a gigantic, fresh load of fish.

Casting the net refers to using tools like social media, traditional print advertising, television and radio advertising (if it makes sense) and of course online ads. It’s referral programs, rewarding your customers to build long-term loyalty, and going the extra mile to set yourself apart from competitors.

So no, launching a website and starting a Twitter and Facebook account do not a business make. A few people I know have managed to do this, but not as well as they’d like to, including my mom (of all people!) who hates marketing and would prefer to sit by the phone and wait for it to ring. She sews. Few people are in her competitive space. So her phone does ring. She is the exception to the rule. (I do promote her on my site, but that’s pretty much it.)

If you have a business, you should have an advertising budget. Period.

September 19, 2010

So this is my blog for fellow entrepreneurs

by Kate W. Hall

Since beginning Richmondmom.com at my kitchen table in October 2007 (it never launched until January ’08) I had a dream of becoming an entrepreneur, writing to share and help others, and becoming a leader in the business community.

I’ve been lucky. My dream has come true. And I have a ton of work to do that I’m over-the-top excited about.

When I began working on the site I had about 12 visitors including my mom and sisters (and I’m not sure how much they actually READ the site, sorry guys–I understand). The site now has over 10,000 unique visitors monthly with a high of 17,000 hits and climbing.

And I’m not nearly done yet. There is so much room for expansion, helping my clients, and learning new marketing tools that it’s hard for me to tear myself away from the business.

How did I do it? I am consistently asked this question, and flattered that others are interested. Pieces of my recipe are scattered throughout this blog, and I’ll work hard to organize them into bite-sized pieces to help others build their dreams, too.

A few essential ingredients that have prevailed throughout are incredible determination, strength and support of other entrepreneurs and experts on whom I rely, and incredible tools like social media. Oh, and relationships. That is the veritable whipped cream on top of the sundae; no business would savor sweet rewards without the strength of others, direct and caring communications, and in-person and online networking.

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