The Importance of Attending Events

Working for myself, by myself most days, it is often a welcome change to visit clients, meet with colleagues, and attend industry events.

Whether I am attending an event as a speaker or an attendee, I appreciate the change in venue and routine. Events can be a great way to broaden my knowledge of some aspect of the direct marketing/database management industry, expose me to a new subject or technology, introduce me to vendors and industry leaders, and keep in touch with contacts.

I consider a meeting worthwhile if I end up with 3 takeaways. These can be innovative ideas, learning something new, or starting a business relationship with one new person.

Networking is a needed but sometimes dreaded part of these meetings. It is not easy for me to introduce myself to others, but I think other people have similar feelings.  However, events are an excellent time to meet potential clients or have open dialogue with colleagues.  I have made some lasting acquaintances over a glass of wine, who I can now bounce ideas off of.

So step out from behind your desk, swallow those nerves, and go learn and interact a little. It can truly help your career.  And hopefully you might have a bit of fun.

The journey continues.

C

Going Old-School

On our recent flight to FL, I watched the film All the President’s Men. Released in 1976, it’s a fascinating look at Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigative research while uncovering the Watergate break-ins.

ATPM

Their work included no Google, no cell phones, no Internet.  Their tools were personal connections, rotary phones, typewriters, phone booths, hard-copy library check out cards, stacks of paper in offices, suits and ties for 2 am meetings, lunchtime Thermos drinks, Rolodex, smoking in offices-elevators-apartments- everywhere, searching through phone books of many cities to find a single phone number.

I thought of the contrast of the long-winded, connect-the-dots research and subterfuge with today’s always online, tuned-in access that we have available.  I truly believe that while all my screen time helps me in so many ways from research to work to finding a recipe, I think it also results in a loss of collaboration and personal connections.

While on our spring break cruise with five high school girl and moms, the cell phones and iPads were locked in the safe.IMGP0014 After our initial electronic withdrawal phase, the girls said they didn’t miss them. Going “old school”, they were able to spend time turning other teens into friends, make advance plans where to meet them after meals, have focused time with each other and us without scrolling through social site pictures of their classmates’ scattered vacations.

The majority of our group consciously stayed off-the-grid while on our trip. The time was spent connecting those around us, not watching on social media what others were doing, comparing experiences, or working.

That focused offline time is something I shall try to incorporate into my life going forward. I will try to turn off the online access for periods of the workday to remove distractions. Go old-school to forge ahead.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Photo credits.  From movie, my.xfinifty.com.  Safe, from my photo archives, 2012.

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

The journey continues.

C

Heath Ceramics Factory to My Table

My sister and I spent a recent Saturday morning visiting Heath Ceramics in Sausalito,CA. Made in the US since Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948, I was fascinated to learn the history of the lovely, timeless ceramics created here.

Heath Ceramics

During a factory tour, I was impressed with the obvious passion our tour guide had for the products. She carefully handled cups and vases mid-production as she explained the next manufacturing step. Some of the builders, creators,and glazers have worked there since the 1970’s, a sure sign of loyalty for Heath Ceramics.

IMGP0464IMGP0465

As a business owner, I appreciate how the vision of the founder Edith Heath lives on in the current business. Even with an ownership change in 2003, Heath Ceramics has products at the Smithsonian and other museums, classic styles. They recently took control of their product distribution, after being sold at a high- end retailers like Gump’s.

What lessons for success can a small consulting firm learn from factory tour of a ceramics firm? Many, it turns out–

  • Enduring aesthetics/ design while remaining contemporary
  • Product line transformation and expansion
  • Attention to detail
  • Loyal client base
  • Listening to the customer
  • Willingness to change
  • Staying true to your products/services
  • Changing distribution methods as needed
  • Ongoing quest for improve knowledge and practices

IMG_0424

I purchased a simple white serving bowl for myself (and a couple gifts for friends).  Timeless, useful, and a reminder to always strive for more in my business.

The journey continues.

C

Business Resolutions

Do you make annual business resolutions? Or an annual business plan that includes non-financial goals you want to achieve each year? This is a fantastic way for small business owners to look up from details, to envision changes they want to see within their businesses or themselves in the next year. For those who work for an organization, this will help you think about where YOU want to be in another year. Are there new skills you can learn this year to propel or change your career? People you can network with? Local organizations you can get involved with?

I have been a consultant for 15+ years. I was so focused on “getting the work done” that until 2013 I didn’t actually write down any business goals. Physically writing them down and then sharing them with others helped me to actually accomplish my 2014 goals.   I spaced them out throughout the year, so I would have time to achieve them.

The goals followed in a logical progression:

  1. Design a new logo to better reflect where I want to go, which you can see on this website. I worked with an independent designer, after laying out new business goals.  She then designed letterhead and new business cards, already in circulation.
  2. Create this company website and blog. Done.
  3. Increase social media presence.  While I have accomplished this here and on Twitter, I hope to do more to see a jump in followers in 2015.
  4. Do more outside speaking and training. I spoke at industry events, including the AAMP and MCA this fall. I was also hired to layout and present a 2-day training session for a vendor, which I did last spring.
  5. The most challenging: changing my business focus, from doing mainly hands on direct marketing work to helping with business strategies, improving clients customer relations and marketing results, building marketing databases (with outside fulfillment/IT management), and training.

The final bullet point above is still a work-in-progress. I underestimated the time it would take to change small business direction, since I feel like I am explaining to prospects WHY they need to look at their marketing in a new way. But, all my speaking and training was focused on this, and I passionately believe that we need to market smarter to improve the bottom line. I sometimes literally envision my business changing like a large ocean liner trying to change directions.  It takes time to do it without tipping.

I am now noodling around several goals for 2015, which I hope to share in the next couple weeks. Again, writing them will keep me focused and honest about them.

Have you already laid out business goals for 2015, or accomplished any in 2014 that you want to brag about ? Don’t be shy, feel free to list them below! It’s okay to be proud of the work we do, when we work hard!

The journey continues.

C

Thanksgiving: Success is in the Preparation

This month I have been inundated with ads, recipes, and media advice about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving meal. This past weekend I was busy myself shopping, cooking, and freezing food for our road tip to see family later this week.

It’s the preparation that makes a feast  like on Thanksgiving successful and satisfying. You can slap together other meals, but for a special meal like Thanksgiving much of the travel-shopping-decorating-cooking is done before Thursday. There will still be cooking to do, but it is virtually impossible to do everything on one day. Unless you have grown 6 arms. Even if you are eating out, be sure to make your reservations early.  Otherwise, you may find your restaurant full.

Running a multi-faceted marketing campaign also requires planning, for outstanding results. Follow this sure-fire “recipe” for planning your next marketing efforts.

First, meet with the stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign to discuss the final goals and budget.

Second, create a marketing plan to reach the goals. This plan should include timing of all efforts, what you plan to test, the list to use, estimated responses and budget.

Third, as you execute the various components of the campaign, record the results of your efforts. That allows you to adjust upcoming efforts and estimated responses as needed.

Fourth, if needed, create a contingency if customers are not responding as well as expected. Can you add an additional email effort? Test a new list segment? Is the tone of message correct? Do your links work properly, on an email effort?

Fifth, Deadline! Hopefully you have reached your established goals by today. If you are still a little short, can you send out a final effort?

Sixth, re-cap your efforts at the conclusion of your campaign. Maybe you came up with ideas to test next cycle, had a standout effort you want to keep for future campaigns, found a way to trim the budget.  Make note of them now, as you will probably not remember them all next time. Or tomorrow.

While the results of the planning will probably not turn out exactly as planned, there should be better results, fewer surprises, less stress throughout, and we can learn from our efforts.

Sit back and enjoy that anticipated meal. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The journey continues.

C

Audience Development Roles in Media Companies Today

Having worked in audience development in the publishing/media/information services world for most of my career, people still don’t know what I do every day. Frankly, it’s hard to me to categorize what I do it changes so often! Rotating projects, technology, and departments that I interact with keep this job challenging and interesting.

For a media-related brand, here are a few of the major responsibilities that audience development professionals have today:

  • Achieve BPA/AAM goals for audited brands.
  • Maintain USPS goals for any magazines that mail at periodicals rates.
  • Ferret out and consolidate customer data into a central location, where possible.
  • Help other departments with marketing efforts to achieve attendance or participation goals. Can include helping to make list selects, research outside lists, marketing vendors, or execute marketing efforts.
  • Assist the publishers in flushing out a comprehensive sales strategy.
  • Identify “hot” areas on database that can help identify new products.
  • Keep database current and with demos where possible. Helps to market smarter and for lead gen.
  • Review customer touch points to 1—make sure our online web page flow is logical and correct. 2-ensure we have consistent, current brand messages.
  • Manage the issue close process, including getting files to the printer and/or digital file sender.

Knowing the audience development responsibilities vary at different organizations, feel free to add other roles you handle in the comment section. All the items listed above are topics I will continue to explore on this blog, as well as the critical importance of the audience development specialist on your team.

The journey continues.

C

How I am Running my Business more Effectively in 2014

It’s hard to run a successful business. Whether you have 1-5-50-700-25,000 employees, there is always something to be done including the work itself, the innovation, the marketing, the social media, the accounting, the legal work, the networking, the social media.

My friend Naomi, who runs a thriving corporate premium business, and I recently discussed how difficult it is to run a business while trying to get all the actual work done. We work nights, we work weekends, we work vacations trying to stay on top of things.

I told her that I made a decision this year that running my business was actually PART of my business. I would do some of the operational work during the typical 9-5 hours, not always in the evenings. Surprisingly,I have found that I more focused and there are fewer distractions, as long as I turn off email and the phone.

“Don’t you feel guilty?” she asked.

Yes, I did at first, but I find I am using my time wiser. I have accomplished several work goals I established this year, including developing a new logo, this website and blog, and seeking out more speaking engagements, while keeping my clients happy. I still work at least 1-2 evening a week, but it isn’t overwhelming. And I can plan on less-brain-taxing work to do during the nights.

It seems like an oxymoron, but focusing on the business and not just the daily work has improved my work quality and efficiency. Writing this blog has definitely helped me to look at direct marketing, audience development, and business from an outside-in perspective.  And I have had more free evening/weekend time with my family and friends.

The journey continues.

C

Improving Use of Customer Touch Points: AAMP synopsis

Last week I was privileged to speak at the AAMP (Association for Audience Marketing Professionals) annual conference in LA.  I had not attended one of their events before; I met, listened to, and networked with many new-for-me industry colleagues. It was enlightening and inspiring.

My presentation had the complicated but very real title of “How to Better Utilize your Brand’s Customer Touch Points to Build Audience Relationships.” As marketers today, I think this truly what we need to do every day as information becomes even more fragmented, email boxes full, our customers’ attention spread across many projects.

We need to build engagement with our current customers, so we become their go-to brand, their go-to website, their go-to media.  We need to continue to show relevance, that we can solve their problem, satisfy a need.  To do this, we need to review and make sure that we are using each touch-point, especially on the web, is enticing.

Our customers want TARGETED offers that show we know where the industry is going, bring knowledge they need.  People are opting out of unfocused messages at an alarmingly high rate.

Internally, departments need to work together to share data, create a common branding message, and stagger sending messages. My presentation gave specific ways to examine your current touch points, improve your  branding and messaging, and why all marketers should be doing this right now.

It’s that simple. And that complicated.

C

P.S. Please comment, email or call if you want a copy of my Power Point presentation.

P.P.S.  Next blog post will include some valuable things I learned from other AAMP presentations.

Welcome!

Welcome to the CC Communications Inc. website and blog! This is my first foray into the business blogging.

With this website, I hope to introduce you to my business, my talents, my experience, and my background. I want to open a dialogue with other industry experts with a Collaberation Corner, where others can post articles. If you are interested in sharing, feel free to contact me.

With this blog I will articulate my point of view on marketing, emedia, database management, publishing, speaking, running a business, consulting, and other un-identified topics. I am hoping to share my knowledge and experiences, learn from colleagues, and think about marketing from different view points.

Post your comments and opinions here. You can subscribe to my blog, share it, or just visit occasionally.

The journey begins.

C