new-years-eve

A New Year…

New Year's CountdownIt is that time of year again where we all stop and look back to reflect on what has happened in the course of our lives. We recount the happy moments and can’t help the painted smile on our face. We remember the hard, challenging and sad moments and we are quiet.

With the final hours of 2013 winding down,  I look back satisfied and look ahead excited. One area that I clearly lacked focus this year was in the area of blogging. Between averaging more than 1.5 flights a week the first 8 months of the year and then involving myself in work the final few months, I guess it can be said I didn’t have much time to write. The good news however is that I am back in the saddle and already have posts scheduled to get us started in 2014.

Many of the posts will deviate from social media and will turn more towards business, corporate culture and leadership.

Looking forward to having you on board in 2014!

making-the-right-choice

When is the Moment Right to Make a Right Decision

The Right Decision“I am just going to wait for the right moment.” Sound familiar? So many of us often have the tendency to wait for the right moment to take certain steps in our lives. Maybe you are waiting for the right moment to tell your friends and family about a huge life choice or maybe you are waiting for the right moment to pull out that expensive bottle of wine. Maybe you are contemplating choosing a school, whether to ask the girl out, when to get married or when to have kids. Whatever it is, we seem to have this mental block preventing us to do something because we are afraid the moment is not right.

In fact, we often say that we are just going to wait for the right moment as an excuse because we are afraid or we are not sure if the decision we are about to make is actually the right decision. So, what the “right” moment boils down to is really a question of, “Am I making the right choice?”

Making The Right Choice

There is rarely a preverbal “right moment,” instead there are right choices. Now don’t get me wrong, some choices and decisions are critical and timing is everything, but when you are making a right decision, your timing will be well thought out and appropriate. Below are some pointers on making the right choice:

  1. Seek Out Advice: The single most important thing you can do when trying to make a wise decision is seek out advice. There is nothing better than asking someone you respect for their opinion. This not only give you a fresh perspective, but it also shows you are teachable and willing to learn.
  2. Weigh out the Implications: Ever decision has side effects, both good and bad. Carefully analyze the pros and cons of your decision. Don’t just make a list and then decide. Make a list and add to it over the course of a week, let it sit for a day or two and then carefully examine your options.
  3. Does Timing Actually Matter: Ask yourself if timing is actually an important factor. If you are waiting to make a decision, try and figure out what elements of that decision are holding you back from making that decision right now. Often times, you will be surprised to find that you don’t really have a legitimate reason for waiting, if you’re being honest with yourself.

Next time you are faced with deciding whether or not the timing is right to make a decision, as yourself if you are making the right decision altogether.

Excited Shopping Woman

Understanding Your Consumer – A Day in the Life

The critical difference that sets an amateur marketer apart from a branding aficionado is their ability to get into the mind of their consumer. Recently, as I have worked on creating a new app, I have discovered that possibly the greatest way to design an extremely effective user experience is to figuratively become the consumer or end user.

After much conversation, whiteboard drawings, sketches, mock-ups and revisions, the uCondition team and I decided we would go back to the drawing board on our damage billing interface. We wanted to reach our consumer by marketing an experience. As a result, our team decided it would be prudent to step into the mind of our target audience by creating short stories called “A Day in the Life.”

We reached out to an individual who fit the profile of the end user and asked them to write journal entries based on their daily interactions prior to using our app. The journal entries showed raw frustration of life without our electronic room condition reporting app. By reading these journal entries, our team was able to pinpoint the greatest needs of our consumers by just stepping into their shoes and seeing through their eyes. It allowed us to analyze our end user’s behavior by hearing their needs first hand.

When we went back to the drawing board, our sales team, design team and development team all had a renewed perspective on our mission and goal. Because we took the time to understand our consumer’s behavior, we were able to develop a user experience that fulfilled the needs of our end user.

Tips for Writing a Successful Email

How to Write Emails Professionally that Sell

Tips for Writing a Successful EmailEmail communication is critical in today’s business environment. Phone calls and hard-copy memos are becoming obsolete and all the focus from these traditional methods has shifted to emails. If you are like me, I am sure you have received some seemingly rude, abrupt, robotic and unthoughtful emails.  Have you ever thought how your emails come across? I decided to look through my sent messages to see just what attitude I was conveying. My findings were surprising.  In this post my aim is to help you learn how to write emails in a professional manner that ultimately sell you as a person.

Professional Emails that Sell

Nearly every email you write is a sales pitch. You are trying to motivate someone with your words to do something, change something or simply respond. Whether you are a manager or an entry-level worker, emailing professionally is crucial. People at all levels expect to be respected. Amazingly, your emails can alter how someone views you as a person. Do they think you are abrupt, long-winded, cold, generous, kind, caring, etc.? It is critical to realize that every time you hit “send” that person is going to read your note and either decide to respond and act on your email or move it to the trash. The way you write needs to sell you as an individual.

Word Choice Sells

Word choice is crucial in writing a professional email. After clicking through countless messages, I discovered several trends in emails that made me feel good. Emails need to be more personal so that your clients and contacts feel like they are truly cared for on an individual basis. The solution–inject more of you.

The whole concept of words that sell your emails revolves around taking the time to incorporate your reader into your emails. Below are some concepts that can serve as a great checklist to writing and excellent, thoughtful email.

  • Use More of You. Instead of saying “How’s it going?” say “How are you doing?” Instead of “Thanks” say “Thank You.”
  • Use Names. Often, we will respond without using anyone’s name, especially in quick emails. If you are  addicted to your mobile phone, you need to make an extra effort to still address the person by name.  Find a way to incorporate the recipient’s name even if you are not saying, “Dear so-and-so.”
  • Say Thank you. Find a way to say thank you (not thanks). You could thank the individual for their time or for their ideas. There is always a reason to say thank you even if it is as simple as “Thank you for all you do!” or “Thank you for taking the time to read my email.” Showing thankfulness raises a person’s self-importance and it also makes you truly value how that person contributes to your team.
  • Compliment. Tell the individual you are writing to that they had a great idea or that they are a valuable asset to your team. If you can’t find a compliment, at least tell them to have an awesome day.
  • Use Details. This is probably the most challenging and might not always be applicable. However, if you are responding to an email, try and comment on a detail in their email that most people would overlook. This shows the original sender that you took the time to read what they had to say and it shows you care. You could write something like, “You mentioned that…” This technique is always a winner because the individuals feels important that you took the time to read their note in detail.

Using these 5 points will help make your email communication more effective in today’s business environment. Always remember to sell yourself when writing an email and be sure to be professional. Using these techniques will help you be a far more effective email communicator and people will appreciate reading your emails more.

Alone with God

Where is God When Everything is Falling…

Where is God When Everything is Falling…

Most people would finish that statement with: “…apart.” We often turn to God and question where He is in the midst of chaos, stress, fear and uncertainty. In fact, so often, one of the only points in an individual’s life where they will actually turn to a god or higher being, regardless of faith tradition, seems to be when the world around them is crumbling.

I’ll admit, even as a Christ-follower I will be very quick to ask God where He is when things don’t seem to be going my way. Recently I have been convicted of the idea that we (Christians) often ask God where he is only when we are failing, flailing and falling.

A New Question

So I want to ask you a new question, a question to challenge you: “Where is God when everything is falling into place?

If you are an individual who says that you have put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I want to challenge you for a minute. This post is different than my typical post, but I think it extremely important. When things are going right in our lives, it would be logical to assume that God has his hands in our successes. It would seem that he is showering his blessings on us. Yet, we rarely take the time to count those blessings when our world is thriving.

Why? Because we are selfish and prideful people. It really is that simple.

If life is going our way, we think we are doing a good job. We pat our own backs and sing our own praises because everything that we are doing amounts to our success. Sound familiar? God seems to disappear when we are doing well because so many Christians today are in the habit of running to God only when we are in crisis-mode. Sadly, we’ve put God into this box. We can call on him when we need him, but forget he is there when we may not be in dyer need His help.

Getting us to Look: Trials and Blessings

This summer, I led a study in the book of James. We talked about trials and tribulations and how God uses those to grow us in and catch our attention. The question I have been plagued with recently is this: Why do we have to hit rock bottom to realize that we are incapable of controlling our own lives?

God uses trials to grow us, not to punish or hurt us (James 1:3). Sometimes he is just jealous for our attention and the only way he can get us to stop focussing on ourselves is to throw a monkey-wrench into our life plan.

I’ll confess, this post is more for more than for anyone else. What I have come to realize is that God is much more in the business of getting our attention by showering us with blessings (James 1:17) than by putting us through tough circumstances that force us to turn our heads towards him.

When Everything is Going Right…

When things are going right in your life, stop praising yourself. Stop patting your own back. Stop bragging about your accomplishments and exalting your own achievements. Instead we need to boast in the Lord our God and the great things he has done and the countless ways he has blessed us (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

God is at the center of everything. He is there when we are are at our highest points and in our lowest valleys. Instead of waiting to beg God for mercy when things seem to be difficult, I challenge you to praise God every time things are going right and you find yourself showered with successes. It is in those moments God is calling out to us saying, “Hey friend, I love you more than you know and I am willing to do anything for you! After all, I gave my one and only Son for you so we could spend the rest of eternity together. But until that day comes when we meet face-to-face, I want to shower you with blessing because you are my child and I love you so much.”

So, let’s start changing where we look for God and ask this new question: Where is God when everything is falling into place?

Choosing Features for App Development

Steps to Creating an App

In the past weeks and months, I have been working tirelessly on developing some brand new web and mobile applications. Throughout the process, I have gained some great insight into the process behind making a great app. By no means is application development rocket science or an impossible feat, however there are definitely many pitfalls you need to be aware of that I encountered in the creation of my electronic room condition report application called uCondition.

5 Steps to Designing an App

  • Strategize: The most successful apps are developed by careful and methodical planning. When casting your vision for your new mobile application, you need to understand the exact functionality and features your tool will need to be successful. It is so easy to continually add features because it might enhance the app. However, the more you add, the clunkier the app can get.
  • Design: What separates an average app from a great app is its design. Take time to study similar apps and see what they’ve done right and see how they could improve and then take your research and apply it to your app. Go to iOSpirationt.com to get inspired.
  • Break: Testing your app is crucial. Intentionally go through the app and find bugs. Try different combinations that you think may not work and see just how good your app is.  Give your app to a few other people and see what they can do. Make sure that every corner of your application is tested thoroughly so that it will never fail.
  • Slim: Your app needs to go on a diet. I think Apple does the best job of slimming down products to make them extraordinary. After reading the biography of Steve Jobs, my eyes were opened to the power of slimming down your product to make it ultimately beef up your wallet. Jobs constantly revised his products taking a minimalist approach so that anyone could use Apple’s products and applications because they were simplistic and straightforward. Slimming down your app and removing clunky or unnecessary features is crucial in successful app creation.
  • Polish: Once you have come up with a great design that implements all the features you strategized and planned for while still being slim, it’s time to put on the finishing touches. Go through and double and triple check to make sure everything looks amazing and everything runs smoothly. Don’t let your app be released until your app is virtually perfect. Once you have followed the steps, it is time to put your newly created app out there on the market for all to use.

Satisfaction of Having an App

Publishing an app could very well be one of the most satisfying rewarding feats. When you search your product’s name in the App Store, you see it appear and you can count the downloads. Or when you tweet about it, you can see your app icon appear with a download link.

Good luck as you and your team venture out to create an app! Hopefully these steps will help you be successful in producing a revolutionary application!

Marketing by Experience

What is Experiential Marketing

At some point in your professional career at a networking event or tradeshow, I am sure you have asked someone what they did and they responded with “marketing.” That is just about as generals as a college degree in business. My recent goal in my career is to transform the way I do marketing for my clients. In the past, I titled my unique approach “progressive marketing.” However, I feel that the most appropriate title is experiential marketing. This new wave of marketing is taking a holistic approach to marketing, yet being very specific in its goals. In this post I hope to clarify and define experiential marketing and what it means for your business.

Experiential Marketing Definition

There are three steps to the experiential marketing process as I will explain below. The big idea and underlying goal of this method is to create an experience for the customer that is worth Tweeting about, or at least worth sharing with their friends.

  • Phase 1: Entice your target audience.
    All marketers want consumers to love a brand. This is the essence of traditional marketing. From developing a logo to core competencies to product design and campaign strategy, marketers have always tried to lure in their target market. However, unlike traditional marketing, this is simply the first step of the experiential marketing process.
  • Phase 2: Create a remarkable sales experience.
    This area is the most crucial area in experiential marketing. Getting a customer into your store or to your website is the easy part. Creating a sales environment online or in person that is “worth Tweeting about” as Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A says, is the hard part–but it is pivotal. Fostering a memorable experience is what will get customers to return and bring their friends or even better still, brag about their experience on the spot to their friends via social media channels and as a result their friends will come on their own. If you go to a restaurant and love a dish, you are going to return to that restaurant and get that same dish. It is simple classical conditioning. It is the same way with experiential marketing. You need to design an atmosphere that the customer can interact with, an environment that is fun and geared towards your target market to lay the foundation for a successful customer experience. Phase two of the experiential marketing approach focuses a lot on what has traditionally been labeled as customer service.
  • Phase 3: Strengthen and maintain customer relationships.
    Of course, any form of progressive marketing you will need to include some social media marketing techniques. While creating an experience worth remembering is important, continually feeding and strengthening that customer relationship is also key for the ongoing success of your brand. This is the idea of running ongoing promotions, creating new products and launching new campaigns and strategies to get customers to constantly interact with your brand.

The three phases above are the general categories that define experiential marketing. There is far more depth and detail to the concept, but in a nutshell hopefully this post clarifies the idea of what experiential marketing is. I will be writing some more posts in the near future of experiential marketing examples and companies that are doing it well whether or not they know they are even following the approach.

Free Chick-fil-A Dress Like a Cow

Free Chick-fil-A and Free Starbucks on Friday the 13th

If you are at all superstitious, you probably have your woes about Friday the 13th. Well tomorrow may change your perspective because there are three great companies offering free or significantly discounted products including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme without any strings attached.

Dress Like a Cow and Get Free Chick-fil-A

For several years, Chick-fil-A has run a promotion where you can dress up like a cow and receive a free meal. This year, it happens to fall on Friday the 13th. If you are totally decked out in cow gear, you will receive a free meal (entree, fries and drink). If you are slack only put on a spot or two, you can still get a free Chick-fil-A sandwich. In case you don’t have the right gear for Cow Appreciation Day, you can go to the CFA website and download the the cow starter kit here. Starting this year, you can upload your cow costume pictures to the CFA site and be entered to win the “Best Cow Costume” competition. You can get free Chick-fil-A for dressing like a cow all day long on Friday the 13th, 2012.

Get New Starbucks Refreshers Free

In case you need your caffeine fix before putting up with the herds at Chick-fil-A, head on over to Starbucks and try their brand new Refreshers. These naturally fruit energy drinks are quite tasty and are caffeinated with natural green tea extract. I have had the privilege of sampling the beverage and though I don’t have an official review, I would have to say that they are definitely worth trying, especially since you can get free Starbucks Refreshers from noon-3pm on Friday the 13th, 2012!

75 cent Dozen at Krispy Kreme

There’s no better way to bring some cheer to your office by brining in donuts. The best part is that you can bring in hot Krispy Kreme donuts for a fraction of the price. Tomorrow, Krispy Kreme is celebrating their 75th anniversary and offering a dozen of original glazed donuts for only 75 cents with the purchase of a regular dozen. You can view their flyer here. The Krispy Kreme discounted dozen promotion will last all day on Friday the 13th, 2012.

 

Happy savings and shopping tomorrow on Friday 13th! Have fun dressing like a cow to get free Chick-fil-A! I dare you to walk over in your cow costume to Starbucks and Krispy Kreme to get free Starbucks Refreshers and a discount on Krispy Kreme donuts! Good luck!

Cheaper College Textbooks

How to Get College Textbooks Cheaper – Reasons for eTextBooks

The question that seems to plague so many students is how to get cheap college textbooks. Renting textbooks and reselling textbooks can be a pain, plus textbooks are heavy to carry around. As a student, I have discovered what I think is the alternative to textbooks–etextbooks. Okay, okay, I know, it’s really not that big of a revelation. However, I want to make a case of why you should buy etextbooks and prove to you that you can get college textbooks cheaper.

5 Reasons for Electronic Textbooks

  1. eTextBooks are environmentally friendly
  2. eTextBooks are light to carry because you always have them with you on a phone, tablet or computer. Yes, that means you can have a textbook on your iPad or iPhone.
  3. eTextBooks are easier to search through using the “Search” feature
  4. eTextBooks can be easily bookmarked, printed, shared, and used just like any other college textbook
  5. eTextBooks are cheaper than college textbooks

Best Place to Buy Digital Textbooks Online

The place I have fallen in love with online is CourseSmart. There are truly MORE SAVINGS with CourseSmart. Save up to 60%! I have downloaded countless textbooks on my iPhone and iPad–from psychology to marketing to literature to finance, CourseSmart has the answer for getting college textbooks cheaper.

The Math: Cheaper College Textbooks

The average textbook costs about $150. On CourseSmart the average is about $70. That is major savings. I can be on the beach and have 6 textbooks with me and I am only using my iPad to read textbooks. Let’s say the average student buys 5 textbooks a semester. Well that’s about $750 if you are buying normal textbooks. If you are buying etextbooks you would only spend about $350. That’s a $400 difference. That’s the price of many tablets. So, now let’s say you invest in an iPad at about $600. If you were to do only etextbooks for one whole year of college (2 semesters), you could buy a total of 10 textbooks and the mid-range iPad and spend the same exact amount as one year of heavy, tedious, paper textbooks. After 4 years of college, that is almost a $2,500 dollar savings if you were to purchase an iPad going into your first semester of your freshman year of college and only buying electronic textbooks all four years.

So, the answer to how to get college textbooks cheaper is to switch to electronic textbooks. The reasons for etextbooks speak for themselves!

 

 

*please note the links used in this post are affiliate links.

iStock_000019040480XSmall

Make Money Doing Graphic Design Online

More and more often, I am seeing individuals taking up “graphic design” as a hobby. They love tinkering around with Photoshop and trying to create graphical magic. The question I get so often is this: how do you make money doing graphic design online? That’s a great question and there are few ways to get some freelance graphic design jobs online.

What most people don’t realize is that nowadays, you’ve got to be excellent to land a job with an Ad Agency or Creative Firm as a graphic designer. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some jobs still out there for everyone else trying to make an extra buck. Finding freelance graphic design jobs can be difficult, but there are a easy ways out there that make it simple for you to make money doing graphic design online.

Make Money as a Freelance Graphic Designer Online


Visit 99designs.com

www.99designs.com is a great website to make an extra cash as a graphic designer. Brands post their graphic design needs on this website and designers can go and enter the contest for the design. If they are the winner of the design contest, they can make money doing what they love.

Plug Into the Power of Elance

Elance is another great way to make money online doing what you love. There are many different opportunities from Sales to Marketing to Business Consulting and of course, you can make money doing graphic design on Elance.  Companies post their jobs and you create your expert profile and Elance will help you find great clients for your freelance gigs.


Need a logo? Try crowdSPRING!

crowdSPRING (www.crowdSPRING.com) is another great site for all sorts of creatives. If you are a writer or a graphic designer or web programmer, you can use crowdSPRING as another crowd-sourced site to put your work online. These projects are often very high-paying and have many entries to each contest.

 

Good Luck Making Money Online

Between these two sites, if you are a freelancer looking to work from home wondering how to make money doing graphic design online, I think 99designs.com and Elance will be great places for you to get some side projects!

 

 

*please note the links used in this post are affiliate links.

Experiential Marketing, Leadership, Entreprenuership