Beyond The Buzz

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

– Ray Bradbury

Is your newsletter being read?

Published July 18th, 2017 in Our Blog | Comments Off on Is your newsletter being read?

nVgdelUDo you have a newsletter for your organization? Often, when I ask companies (or groups) about this, they don’t have one put together. They feel that it’s an outdated method or with an active social media platform, they don’t feel it’s necessary. However, having a good newsletter database helps your company on several levels. 

It allows you to get a better handle on who your audience is. When you have a newsletter sign up, you get to learn exactly who is interested in your products or your company. Depending on what information you ask for, you can learn a lot about the demographic. Location, age, even education level or social media can all be discovered if you handle it correctly. 

The difference between push/pull marketing. In push marketing, a company, group, or organization tosses their information out to an audience in a wide net (similar to fishing) and hopes they might be able to draw in people who are interested in their products. This can be an effective way to reach new people. However, when you have a newsletter sign up on your website, you don’t have to work so hard for it. These people are ASKING for your information. They want to hear more. They are your ideal audience. So instead of pushing, you’ve PULLED them in. A newsletter sign up is the ultimate in PULL marketing. 

A newsletter is your own platform. Though many people today have come to rely heavily (sometimes completely) on social media as their marketing strategy, they need to remember that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchats are all owned and managed by someone else. That means that if you are solely relying on them to get the word out about your company or product, you have to hope THEY are going to allow you to talk about it. It’s their stage. They can, at any time, get rid of your update, picture or even presence on their site. That means THEY are in control of your message. Not you.  A newsletter allows you to talk about whatever you want to or need to without having to worry about someone else’s rules or even political beliefs. 

If your company has a newsletter but hasn’t sent one out in a while, consider breathing new life into it. You can send coupons, updates and even run contests or promotions through your newsletter.  And if you don’t have one, now is a great time to get one started! 

Contact us today if you have any questions about anything in this article or about your own marketing plan. 

Facebook Isn’t Your Friend

Published June 29th, 2016 in Our Blog, Social Media | Comments Off on Facebook Isn’t Your Friend

BeWarned-254x134Note: This article originally appeared on Beyond the Buzz owner Lori Twichell’s personal site, www.loritwichell.com. We felt it important to share it here since so much of what we do involves social media.

So I’m starting off this article with a bit of a warning.  This is my blog and these are my thoughts. You don’t have to agree and it is not my assumption that if you disagree you hate me or you want me to die. Sounds like a really dire warning doesn’t it? But these days, it is, sadly, far more relevant than outlandish.

A few years ago, I was a writer. Only a writer. Not a social media guru or marketing pro. Just made a living writing stories for the masses. At the time, I was working on a radio drama and some members of the cast (all of whom were teens and young people) were on social media and they encouraged me to join. They assured me it would be easier to get together there and have conversations than it was to follow a mass email chain. So I did it. If I recall correctly, one of the people on the staff of the show set up my account (to  my specifications of course!) and voila! I was introduced to Facebook.

At first it was a weird sort of relationship. I sort of forgot it existed and really, I didn’t have a ton of friends on there yet. So I’d go in and check about once a week. That was the extent of it.

And then a couple of my friends moved away. That’s not unusual for me. My  husband is former military after all. But I realized if my friends were on Facebook, I could keep in touch.  I could see their kids grow up.  I could be a part of their lives. And my relationship with Facebook went to the next level. We’ll say it went from randomly  bumping into each other at a social gathering and waving awkwardly across the room to “Hey, want to have coffee sometime?”

From there, I found friends from high school and college and even some from elementary school. Facebook was suddenly looking not so bad! My church started getting online and that really shifted everything. Birthday parties were being planned on Facebook and Bible studies were set up via events. Suddenly my relationship with Facebook became a “Let’s do movie night together!” sort of thing.

And then I started working on Facebook and that is when things really shifted.  I was (still am!) being paid to be there after all. And my favorite movies and TV shows are there and all of my friends are there too. How cool to be paid to work at a place where ALL your friends hang out and the latest happenings are going on! We were together every day all the time.

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But then things moved another level  in my relationship with Facebook.  I was connected ALL the time. I got a phone and a tablet – both of which allowed me to be connected constantly. In the mornings, in bed at night…Facebook was always there. And I started documenting  my life in order to share it with Facebook. In a huge line at a sneak preview of a movie? Oh, take a picture and show Facebook! Look at this amazing lunch -I must show Facebook!  I wasn’t reaching out to my friends. I was starting to think of Facebook as another entity.  And I was looking for approval. I wanted Facebook to know how cool my life was. How cool I was.

To be fair, this shift didn’t happen in  a void. Facebook has also spent the last several years reaching out to me and reminding me how important I am to it. (I know how weird that sounds, but bear with me here.) I’d get emails nudging me toward sharing things. I would get notifications on my phone asking  if I was okay or if I enjoyed lunch. They sound creepy, but haven’t any of you seen the “You haven’t posted in a while – we miss you” sorts of ‘nudges’ that they send? I remember being at a restaurant and getting a pop up from Facebook on my phone asking if I’d enjoyed lunch. If I did,  I should share it with people and review the restaurant! Seriously?? That was when I turned off all notifications on my phone and I turned off location services. That creeped me out. A lot.

Somewhere along the line though, Facebook went from some tool that I could use to keep  in touch with my friends to something that was inextricably linked to my life. I didn’t realize how much until the past few weeks.

Not long ago, a very young friend of ours had some troubles with the law. He made some stupid mistakes and got into trouble. He was a teenager. And the news covered the story. And this young man that I know and my family loves deeply was dragged through the mud by Social Justice Warriors (SJW – I know you’ve seen them). People who had never met him and knew nothing about him outside of social media were openly calling for him to be lynched. Beaten. There were calls for violence against him and horrifying things were said. I was literally sick to my stomach and had to tell his mother to stay offline. He was young, stupid, and  he made a horrible mistake.  But the things people were calling for? Out of hand. And I couldn’t wrap my mind around the vitriol and violence against this young man.

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Since then, that vitriol and violence seems to be spilling  over everywhere in comment sections of news stories. I had to stop reading. I focused only on my friends and what they have going on in their lives.  I didn’t look at the Target bathroom stories or the gorilla mom. I knew what I would find and I didn’t want to wallow in that mud or fight that battle.

But then  shootings in Orlando  happened. I have so many friends there (and several of them gay friends that have been to Pulse) and my heart was just sick. I spent hours on Sunday clicking through every news story I could find until I got messages from all of my friends letting me know that they were okay. Then I breathed easy. Thank God my friends were okay.  I used Facebook to tell them how much I love them and how deeply I care about every part of their lives.

But then the facade I’d built around my ‘friendship’ with Facebook began to chip and break away. It wasn’t just the comments anymore. It was status updates. From MY friends.  People calling for justice. Angry. Screaming (on Facebook) via memes and ALL CAPS about their thoughts. And it became too much.  It wasn’t just the comments. It was my whole news feed. Everyone was divided.  Some friends screaming with Bible verses others screaming their hatred of Christians. It became a brawl and I didn’t want to be in the middle of it.

Oh wait – did I not mention I am a Christian? Oh. I am. I don’t see the need to scream that from the mountaintops and shout it in every update. I don’t, by any stretch hide it. Anyone who knows me understands that it is not some sideline for me. It’s part of my DNA. I do talk about it. I pray on Facebook. I post scriptures. It’s not everything I post but it’s by no means hidden either. With regard to my faith,  it has always been my belief that if I am there, living my life and loving people (even through the sin, folks…seriously that’s part of it) then they will see Christ in me. I’m friends with a lot of prominent leaders in gay politics and organizations. They know I’m a Christian. I know they’re gay. We still love each  other. We agree to disagree.

But this week, I saw a lot of friends talking about their hatred of Christians and how we’re all haters and how WE are the reason there are all of these problems. It wasn’t just one or two. It was a lot. (Ironically, my friends who are leaders in those gay organizations were not on that bandwagon. I did find that interesting.)  I have a lot of questions, thoughts and opinions on that aspect of things. Everyone screaming “stop the hate” and “hate kills” but it’s okay to turn that hatred on me? And many of those friends say “I mean ALL Christians Lori. Not you specifically.”  But I AM a Christian. That IS me. It’s not okay to throw a label on “all gays” or “all races” or all….anything. But it’s okay to say those things about all Christians? I’m a little stunned at that. And it hurts. A lot. These are people I feel I’ve loved deeply and faithfully and well and they are now screaming that Christians need to be dragged through the streets. It hurts me personally. You can message “I didn’t mean you Lori” but….how does that work? Again, I’m working on sorting through my feelings of all of that. It’s a bunny trail. Sorry. Back to the actual topic.

That isn’t Facebook’s fault, really. I know that.  But being so connected on every level to every story EVERYWHERE and being able to get involved in ALL of it – I think that’s becoming a dangerous place for society. Years ago, we only had news on at 6:00 and 11:00. Breaking news came into the day and it was only the major headlines so we all knew what’s happening in the world. There wasn’t a 24 hour a day 7 day a week void that needs to be filled constantly so that the smallest thing happening in another state or another city became breaking news. “Woman yelled at for breastfeeding.”  “Man charged for taking water from hot springs in Yellowstone.” “Pet left in car in heat.”  Those didn’t used to be things that would illicit death threats. And yet now they are. Every day. The smallest thing trends on Facebook and EVERYONE has a right to comment. This can be a great and powerful thing. Some things can’t be hidden now.  What if the Nazi regime had happened during the time of social media and the internet? Would it have gone on so long? I’d like to say no. But I have a friend fighting sex trafficking and rescuing girls and boys EVERY DAY and she’s constantly trying to get the message over the ‘noise’ of what so and so wore out on a date the other night or who tweeted something stupid. So maybe it still would have. It’s hard to say.

Beyond all of that, I realized how much I had invited Facebook into my life. How much time I spent there. How much I shared there. And I’m uncomfortable with it at this point.  I gave Facebook a full and free pass to me, my kids, my schooling, my meals, our vacations…  Facebook isn’t someone in my life. It’s a TOOL to keep in touch with the someones in my life. And I want that. But I really need to step back and see how much access I want Facebook to have to my world. Every update I give, they have on record and keep it. Every picture. Every quote. Every meme. Facebook has my life in their servers. And I think I forgot that for a while. I began to really see Facebook as someone I needed to keep updated about every little thing. But when I stop to think that some random stranger at FB HQ could pull up everything I have ever said and paint their own picture about me, it scared me a bit.

More than that, what am I teaching my kids about what’s okay to share and what isn’t? In working on the film Caged No More, I talked daily  with parents who had no idea what their kids were sharing on Facebook. Class schedules, addresses, meet ups at locations….when it’s on Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram) I don’t care how locked down you are, it’s NATIONAL. INTERNATIONAL. Hackers from anywhere can get that. And you might think that’s over-blowing things. Look at it this way,  if my daughter posts something, she can have it totally  locked down but  her friends can lift it. Oh what? She has it privacy locked? Only her friends can see it? But if a friend really wants to, they can copy/paste it. Put her name on it. And then she is out there whether she wants to be or not.  That’s happened to both her and I.  I don’t know if people stop and think about that part of things enough.
1369379977_94626I’m not leaving Facebook. We aren’t completely breaking up. I still work there.  Whether I like it or not, I own several businesses and have a public persona to maintain on the site in order to keep working in my industry.  I still visit there regularly to see what my friends and loved ones are up to. And I’ll update it with the things that I feel like my friends need to know. Facebook is not going be another person in my house and I’m hopefully going to keep it where it belongs. As a tool.  I just don’t want to live there anymore.

Lori Twichell is the owner of Beyond the Buzz Marketing, Radiant Lit, and Fiction Addict.  She is a screenwriter, speaker, and business consultant. 

Facebook Official Page…Instead of a Website?

Published July 23rd, 2013 in Marketing, Our Blog, Strategies | Comments Off on Facebook Official Page…Instead of a Website?

Recently I had a client mention to me that they had no interest in developing their own website for their company. The reasoning behind this was that they have a Facebook Official Page and that, in their mind, served their purpose. After all, it’s got their logo/branding on it, they interact daily with their customers, and the biggest reason; it’s cheap.

Though I understand all of those points (and trust me, they are valid), when you weigh out the pros and cons, it just doesn’t add up.

Here are a few things to consider.

On Facebook, you’re playing in someone else’s playground with someone else’s rules. In the past year or two, we’ve seen a serious crackdown at Facebook with regard to business pages. Your cover photo can’t reference your website address or give any contact information, it must include minimal (20% of the space) content or copy and contests or promotions are harshly regulated.

Kirk-Cameron-Unstoppable__130721153716Though you have the ability to interact on a personal level with your customer base, Facebook can, at any time, decide not to play nicely with you. Recently Kirk Cameron discovered this when his new film was banned by the social media mogul. For hours on end people were unable to post anything in their status updates about the film, the website or even just the name! Facebook put a serious halt to those marketing efforts. (It’s my suspicion that someone  – or perhaps a group of people “ turned in Cameron’s film for being spam. An automatic system will shut down whatever is being linked to or talked about until Facebook has the chance to go through their records and do their own research.) Now to be honest, it ended up working to the film’s favor. Cameron put his own post out on his own page about it and thanks to the power of grass roots marketing, his fanbase reacted. Not only that, they reacted strongly. Facebook was not only inundated with complaints and concerns about it (and subsequently put the film back into circulation on its pages) but the news media took OFF with the information! Outlets went crazy at the idea that a social media company as huge as Facebook would take action against a film in this manner.

There was a happy ending for Cameron’s story including a mountain of publicity, but unless your fans or clients are as rabidly passionate as his are, yours will likely not have a similar ending. Without a mass outcry like what he was able to get, Facebook could take weeks, months, or years to sort through your page and decide whether your company is worthy or not. It would be easy to see this happening to a business and have them waiting weeks or even months for investigations to be completed.

Facebook is a highly effective and valuable resource when included as a part of a larger marketing plan. So many companies are now using it that without a Facebook page or presence, your business isn’t looked upon as legitimate or real. It’s important to keep all of this in mind when figuring out where and how Facebook fits into your plan.

It’s definitely important to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites as part of your plan, but don’t rely on any of them as your sole or whole presence online. If so, you’re handing over branding and marketing of your company to a corporation that doesn’t know or care who you are or what you do.

Facebook Newsflash: You’re Not the Customer

Published May 8th, 2013 in Marketing, Our Blog, Social Media | Comments Off on Facebook Newsflash: You’re Not the Customer

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that you’re often in a race with the site to make sure your privacy settings remain private. It seems like a constant battle to update, make sure you’ve got all the settings the way they  need to be… It can sort of feel like that moment when you’re checking to make sure your skirt isn’t accidentally tucked in  your waistband? C’mon ladies – we’ve all had that moment right? Just me? Okay – let’s move on then.

There’s a good reason for that. When it comes to Facebook, you aren’t the customer. You’re not the client. Or the consumer. In this instance, you’re the product. Think about that for a minute. YOU are what Facebook is trying to sell to make money. That’s why we can sign all the petitions we want and make the protests we want, but in the long run, we’re still gonna end up stuck with Timeline and unchecking those ‘personalize’ boxes in all of our profiles.

You see, Facebook makes money with advertisements and going to the big companies to sell…you. How many people are on Facebook? How often do they click on an ad? How much do they tell everyone what they are doing? How about checking in at a store or a restaurant? That’s what they take to these companies and the companies, in turn, buy advertising that appeals to you.

Last Christmas one of my friends posted a screen cap of the images on his computer. It had my name, my picture, and the message “Lori Twichell likes Starbucks. Why don’t you give her a gift?” Another of my friends posted a link to a funny item she found on Amazon.com. That post stayed at the top of my news feed for weeks. Why did it stay there? Cause Facebook has a deal with Amazon and when my friend posted that link, it alerted something somewhere and Amazon paid for it to stay on my news feed.

It’s frustrating when you consider it that way right? But keeping that in mind can also help you remember what you’re comfortable putting on the site. And it might alleviate some of the stress over “Why aren’t they listening to me?? I don’t WANT timeline!”

Keeping that perspective in mind might also help you be more vigilant about your security settings and what the updates to apps and Facebook mean for your privacy.  It’s also important to remember this on your business pages. Make sure you are aware of what you’re putting out there and that if it’s on Facebook, it belongs to them – not you.

 

 

 

The Difference Between a Home and a Home Office

Published June 8th, 2010 in Archive, Our Blog | Comments Off on The Difference Between a Home and a Home Office

(This post by Lori Twichell originally featured at www.cwahm.com)

Many times when people think about someone who works from home, they don’t picture a professional working environment. Instead, they see us working from our bed or our living room in our jammies and having a much more relaxed schedule than what would happen in a regular office environment. (You can insert your laughter here.) This can give a perception that those of us who work from home are just doing this as a hobby or that we can’t be as professional as someone in a big power office somewhere. It can also serve to undermine their opinion of your ability to do the job. It’s up to us to change that perspective in their minds. Summer’s here. If your house is anything like mine, it’s much harder to do that, but it’s not impossible.

Have you ever had a house eruption? You know, when everything’s quiet and peaceful while you’re working (usually on the phone) and then chaos explodes in the background? Mine usually involve some sort of children screaming and dogs barking all at once. With summer here and all the kids home from school, this is an inevitability in my house. It happened one time when I was on the phone doing business with Dondi Scumaci. If you don’t know who Dondi is, she’s an international speaker and author specializing mentoring women in business. I began profusely and profoundly apologizing for the chaos, certain that I was offending my client. That was my mistake. Not the apology. You see, in that moment, I had shifted from professional Marketing Director to Mom. My client had become a guest in my home (even though she was on the phone) and I was treating her as such.

Dondi advised me to picture myself in a huge office with a big shiny marble desk and a wall of glass windows overlooking a city. This shifted my entire perspective. If my children were to burst into that shiny office with the marble desk, how would I explain it to a client on the phone? I would apologize, sure, but not from the perspective of a mom having a guest in her home. I’d apologize for the chaos in the background in the same way that I would if it were construction or some other noise in an office building that’s beyond my control. Instead of saying “I’m so sorry my kids are home from school and (insert excuses here)…” try “I’m sorry for the noise. My kids are in the office with me today.” You may be surprised at the reception you get.

This also works when you need to share your schedule or pull together a conference call or meeting. You may be carpooling from 2-3 pm every day or fixing lunch for your kids, but clients don’t need to know that. During those times, you have meetings. Or you’ll be out of the office. Don’t worry about sharing the details of why you’re out or you’re unavailable.

So next time you have a house eruption, picture that big shiny office with a view. Who knows? It might even help your stress level!

Lori Twichell is the owner of Beyond the Buzz Marketing . She is also the Marketing Director for Christian Work at Home Moms and JV Media Design. In her spare time, Lori is a managing partner with Radiant Lit and a professional book reviewer for Fiction Addict. Lori and her husband live in San Antonio, Texas with their three kids and two dogs.

Twitter – “I just don’t get the point…”

Published May 20th, 2010 in Marketing, Our Blog, Strategies | Comments Off on Twitter – “I just don’t get the point…”

“I just don’t get the point.”

That’s the biggest comment that I hear when I discuss Twitter with people. I’ve gotten into the whole microblogging definition and then the necessary explanation about social media and the benefits, but usually, none of these argument sway people in the least. They still don’t understand the point of Twitter or why it’s become so popular. This surprises me since Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media trends ever seen. According to Twitter’s own numbers, some 50 million tweets are sent every day. FIFTY. MILLION. In 2009, ‘tweeting’ grew 1400%. According to Alexa statistics, Twitter.com is the number twelve site in the world. Obviously someone out there understands it. So why this amazingly fast growing trend?

It’s very simple.Twitter provided the arena for instant connections and conversations with people you don’t know. Now wait. So do a plethora of other social media websites right? What’s so different about Twitter?

Safer Connections: Twitter created an online venue that allows for nearly instant conversations and connections with people who are interested in the same things. Twitter allows you to make connections with anyone about anything. And it does so more safely than Facebook or Myspace. Both Myspace and Facebook require you to be ‘friends’ with someone before you can make a connection with them. If you aren’t already friends, these sites require you to make that connection and call them ‘friends’. Giving someone the title of friend implies a much more intimate connection than what is comfortable for most people. It also gives them access to all of the details of your life that you put into the site. Twitter doesn’t require that. The only ‘bio’ on Twitter is a 140 character ‘micro’ sentence. You choose what you share. In fact, it’s more like real life conversations. Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t pull out all of your family photos, your job pictures, your hometown, your spouse’s name and birthday, the names of all your relatives…the list goes on and on. With Twitter, you share only what you want, when you want.

Ice Breaker: At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced the discomfort of being in a room full of people that we don’t know but with whom we’re expected to make some connection. Then the person in charge of that room pulls out the dreaded ‘ice-breaker’ game, designed to help you make that connection. Twitter is the ultimate ice-breaker. Instead of being forced into uncomfortable conversations, you can choose what you talk about and with whom you connect.

Conversations: Finally, the best part of Twitter is that it feels more like a real conversation. When you’re sitting at lunch with a group of people, think about how the conversation sounds. Everyone interjects their comments, opinions or ideas on the topic being discussed. Sometimes you have a longer ‘rant’ or diatribe, but the meaningful connections happen when there’s a back and forth to the conversation. These virtual connections allow people to easily inject their opinions into a relevant conversation and then create an ongoing dialogue.

Push/Pull Marketing with Twitter: Marketing can always be defined in two ways. Either it’s ‘push’ or ‘pull’. Push marketing entails ‘shoving’ a message to the audience, whether they want it or not. Some examples of this are television advertising (you don’t get to choose which commercials air) or spam email. You are pushing your message to the consumer. Pull marketing involves bringing the audience to you. Whenever someone visits a website or signs up for a mailing list, they are expressing their interest in hearing your message and finding out more. A good push/pull campaign could be a television commercial (push) that intrigues someone enough for them to visit a website (pull).

Twitter is the first fully effective instant use of push/pull marketing. Prior to Twitter, most social media involved push marketing. Blogging revolves around the assumption that an audience wants to read or see what you have to say. Messageboards or bulletin boards are conversations, but they are definitely not instant. Sometimes it can take weeks or months to have a complete conversation.

In short, Twitter changed the face of social media and gave us a new platform for marketing. Last year Twitter had over seventy-five million visitors and statistics show it’s still growing. Maybe now’s the time for you to give it a chance.

Lori Twichell is the owner of Beyond the Buzz Marketing and the Marketing Director for both JV Media Design and Christian Work at Home Moms. She is also a creative managing partner at Radiant Lit and a reviewer at Fiction Addict.

So you want to be a work at home mom???

Published September 2nd, 2009 in Marketing, Our Blog, Strategies | Comments Off on So you want to be a work at home mom???

Home-based businesses are estimated to be a $427 billion-a-year industry. In recent studies it was found that as many as 105 million people in North America alone were working at home. Considering this information, it is obvious that home-based businesses can be successful and authors Jill Hart and Diana Ennen will help you succeed with your own.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom details all the basics of starting a business in a spiritual, motivational, and comprehensive manner. From deciding what type of business to start to keeping your family and faith first, this helpful tool details every aspect of establishing a business. With proven success tips utilized by the authors and others who own work-at-home businesses, this inspiration approach will provide you with the resources you need to start your own home-based business.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom includes:
* Detailed information on types of businesses to start
* Ideas and assistance for setting up, operating, and marketing your business
* Definitions and descriptions of work-at-home terminology and processes
* Help for developing your Website
* Explanations of the business nuts and bolts, including bookkeeping, taxes, and more

About the Authors
JILL HART is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom. Jill has published many articles and is a contributing author in Laundry Tales, The Business Mom Guide Book, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Faith Deployed. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. Learn more about working from home at http://www.cwahm.com/work-at-home/ .

DIANA ENNEN has been a leader and mentor in the work-at-home industry since starting her business, Virtual Word Publishing, in 1985. She is the author of many books, including Virtual Assistant the Series; Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA and Words from Home: Start, Run, and Profit from a Home-Based Word Processing Business. She resides in Margate, Florida, with her husband and their three children.

 

Below is an interview with the authors of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom – Jill & Diana.

If have questions they are happy to answer your questions anytime. Leave a comment below or email Jill@cwahm.com or Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

How long have you been working at home?

Jill Hart – I’ve been working at home since 2000. I had to go back to work full-time for a brief period in 2003 when my husband got out of the Air Force. At that point I got even more serious about making my business work and I’ve been home full-time since then.

Diana Ennen – I’ve been working at home since 1985, when my son was born. He’s now graduated college and already working towards his own career. I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

What types of businesses do you operate?

Jill Hart – I run Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com, a website full of free resources, job listings and information about home businesses. I also write articles and books (yes, more books to come!) and am a blogger for sites like Time/Warner’s Christian Momlogic.com and a member of the Guideposts blogger team

Diana Ennen– I’m the President of Virtual Word Publishing. I’m a virtual assistant and specialize in marketing & publicity. I’ve also written numerous books on how to start a VA business and offer PR and VA Coaching.

 

Tell us about your book? How do you think it can benefit those who want to start a business?

Jill Hart – The book has been such a "God thing." He orchestrated the entire sequence of events – from putting Diana and I together as co-authors to bringing us to the right publisher. The book is a hands-on practical guide for anyone who wants to build a business from home. We cover topics ranging from how to select the right type of business for you, to how to get started, to how to market and grow your business.

Diana Ennen – I think one of the best features of our book is that it’s not only informative, but motivational as well. You’ll feel like friends are helping you on your journey to success. Also, we discuss numerous types of businesses to start and provide proven methods to achieve success. We also often hear how starting a business can be so overwhelming. That’s why we pay special attention to all the how tos. We feel very confident our book will help, not only those starting a business, but those already in business wanting to expand it.

 

What types of businesses are featured in your book?

Jill Hart – We have such a great range of contributors – everything from direct sales companies like Southern Living at Home and Avon to unique product-driven businesses like BSM Media and GrillCharms. These woman are amazing and give readers a great insight into how they’ve grown their businesses in very different ways.

Diana Ennen – We cover everything from direct sales companies to specialized areas such as medical transcription and virtual assisting. Also, Jill shares detailed information on starting a community based membership site. We think you’ll get a lot of helpful tips too from such work-at-home powerhouses as Maria Bailey and Lesley Spencer Pyle.

 

Do you have any tips for success for Christian entrepreneurs that you’d like to share?

Jill Hart – I think my favorite tip – shared with me by one of our contributors, Tammy Degenhart, almost ten years ago is that working together benefits everyone. She told me, "Jill, what you give to others God brings back tenfold" and I’ve seen that hold true time and time again. It may not be in financial gains and it may not look like what we expected but God is so faithful in that when we work together there is no competition – it’s a win-win situation.

Diana Ennen – Do what you believe in and use your own skills and prior experience to find the business that’s just right for you. Research/Research/Research. The more you research, the better your business. Continue to market and be out there. So many once they find a few clients stop marketing. You need to get out there continually. You then become the go to person when someone needs services or products that you offer.

 

What are some of the challenges that you see with those starting or operating a business?

Jill Hart – In my experience, I’ve talked with many women who get frustrated because success doesn’t come easily or quickly. Working from home may sound easy, but in reality it can actually be just as hard as working outside the home. There are many unique challenges, especially when working at home while raising children. If women don’t prepare themselves, they can become discouraged and disheartened.

Diana Ennen– One of the major challenges I see is losing belief in yourself that you can do it. That’s why I think a faith-based book will be so beneficial. Even when times get tough, you can rely on your faith to forge ahead.

 

With the economy, do you believe it’s still a good time to start a business? Why?

Jill Hart – I think it’s a better time than ever. The internet is so much more widely used than it was even nine years ago when I began my website. If people do their research and find a company that fits them as well as their budget this can be a great time to break into the work-at-home field.

Diana Ennen – Absolutely. In fact, I think there’s never been a better time. You might have to work a little harder, but it absolutely can be done. Plus, there are so many businesses who need us more than ever because of the economy. For example, with virtual assistants because businesses are downsizing they are seeking the help of a VA to help on an as needed basis.

 

Your book is written from a Christian perspective? Tell us a little about that and how you feel that makes it so unique?

Jill Hart – My faith is central to who I am and therefore central to my business. I began Christian Work at Home Moms because I wanted women to have a safe place where they could discuss not only business things, but also talk about an area that doesn’t get talked about a lot in business circles – how our faith affects our businesses. The book is written in a way that doesn’t hit anyone over the head with our faith, but it’s true to who we are and talks about things from the vantage point that we see life – through the lens of our faith.

Diana Ennen – There are so many books out there today on starting a business. However, few have the Christian mom in mind. We provide a lot of scriptures and examples of how you can use your faith to help you. Our hope is that not only will your business thrive, but it might just give a little boost to your faith as well.


Learn more about the book at Beacon Hill Press or SoYouWantToBeAWAHM.com.

 

E-newsletters – still relevant?

Published July 8th, 2009 in Marketing, Our Blog, Strategies | Comments Off on E-newsletters – still relevant?

I have consistently encouraged all of my clients to have a newsletter sign up, but recently, with the advent of social media/marketing, I have had a lot of people ask me about whether a newsletter or ‘e-blasts’ are still necessary.

YES!

A newsletter sign up, even if you don’t use it, gives you a solid database of people who are interested enough in your projects and what you’re doing to ASK for information. It’s classic push/pull marketing at it’s best. If you randomly send emails or information to people who haven’t requested it, you’re pushing your information to people who don’t care. On the other hand, if you’ve had people reach out to you, you’re pulling them in and sending them information that THEY have requested. Don’t undervalue that!

Here are a few tips for keeping your newsletters relevant:

Don’t become spam! People have a tendency to abuse these lists and send out far too many email blasts. They fill their readers’ inboxes way too often and begin to be tuned out as spam. This is a sure way to lose readers. Make sure that as you send out your newsletters or email blasts that your information is important to their day. Don’t fatigue your readers by sending out emails just to do so. You’ll lose them!

Conversely, a well thought out relevant email blast can build your readership quickly. If you include valuable resources and information that can better their day or their current situation, they will pass the newsletters along and your database will grow. Keep this in mind as you’re pulling together what to include!

Schedule wisely. Make sure that you send out your emails at targeted times. If you have a program set up that will send out emails ‘anytime’ and you let it send them out in the wee hours of the morning, then they’ll be waiting in someone’s inbox buried in mounds of spam! Even if people are interested in what you have to say, they’re more likely to hit that ‘delete’ button when they’re clearing their inbox than they would be if the mail arrived during their day. This works for Friday (clearing the inbox before leaving for the day – or sometimes taking the day off for a long weekend) and Monday morning clear outs from several days out of the office. The best times to send out email newsletters and blasts are Tuesday – Thursday.

Content is vital! When you put together your newsletter, make sure it’s not too copy heavy. People see lots of lines of text and tend to skim quickly and sometimes, skip completely! Don’t overwhelm them with columns and columns of text. Break up the copy with tastefully chosen graphics or pictures.

Your newsletter IS you. Every time you send out a newsletter, it’s a new chance for people to get to know you and your business better. Share current events or information that they may not find on your company’s website. Give people a reason to sign up for your newsletter. Send out tips, hints, or strategies that your readers can use. They’ll begin to rely on you more and more as a resource and that will create a solid following for all of your future projects.

If your business IS you (such as an actor or author) share more about yourself than they would learn from another venue (such as a magazine or amazon.com) and open yourself up so that people can invest more in following you. (Aka, I really like this person!) As you do this, it’s a razor’s edge. Be cautious with your security and how much you share. Keep the information ‘out there’ to your professional appearances and don’t ever share more than what makes you feel comfortable. It’s a razor’s edge to keep your personal life personal while putting yourself out there publicly.

Successful newsletters and email blasts are invaluable additions to your overall marketing plan. Use them wisely.

How to Create a Successful Newsletter

Published March 25th, 2009 in Marketing, Our Blog | Comments Off on How to Create a Successful Newsletter

Recently I was approached by CWAHM (www.cwham.com) to put together an article on effective newsletters. Newsletters are a key component of many marketing campaigns and though in recent years they’ve evolved from paper format to electronic, the basic tenets remain the same. With an effective newsletter you can increase your client list and establish yourself as a ‘go-to’ expert that people can trust.


Your Mailing List:

If you don’t yet have a database or mailing list or you’re just trying to grow the one you have, here are a few ideas to consider.

Always have a link on your website. When people come to your website they are seeking information. A newsletter sign up is a perfect way for them to continue to receive information. Have a clear visible sign up and make sure people know that a newsletter is available.

Also, don’t be afraid to use social media to increase your database. Places like Facebook, Twitter and yes, Myspace, are viable means of reaching out to potential clients.

Is your newsletter visually balanced?
Once you’ve increased your mailing list and are ready to put together your newsletter, check your layout. On first glance is your layout evenly balanced with text and graphics? This is a fine line to walk these days. People are busy and they don’t want to get bogged down in too much text and information but at the same time, they’ll quickly toss ‘fluff’. Make sure that the graphics highlight your content and don’t pull attention away from your message but also that you don’t overburden your reader with too much text. Make sure you have solid content balanced with eye pleasing graphics.

Share your expertise!
When you write your articles, think of ways that you can make yourself and your newsletter a more valuable resource to your readers. Include content that they can apply to their business, workday or home life immediately. The more you’re able to accomplish this, the more you’ll be able to position yourself in their lives as their ‘go-to’ expert. Your readers will come to rely on you and trust your advice and opinions. This is invaluable when it comes to marketing your products or services!

Timing is key!
Once you’ve built that database and have a solid actionable newsletter, timing is critical to ensuring that your newsletter doesn’t get tossed in the virtual trash can! Have you ever heard the joke that you should never buy a car that was built on a Monday or a Friday? This is true of newsletters as well. Timing is critical when sending out your newsletter. On Monday mornings, what is the first thing that most people do when arriving at the office? Most likely, they’ll turn on their computer and begin to sort through their email. Those of us who do this also know that on Monday mornings, you have an entire weekend’s spam emails to delete. In an effort to ‘clean out’ their inboxes, most people will hit delete much more quickly while filtering through their spam emails than if they were to receive your email during the day. Friday, there’s a whole different aspect to consider. More often than not on Fridays people are more likely to take the afternoon off or be rushing through their projects so they can clear their desks for the weekend.

The easiest way to be sure that you’re hitting at an appropriate time is to make sure you’re sending on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and time it to arrive during business hours in all the time zones that are relevant to your database. In the same way that people are more likely to hit delete on Mondays, they’ll also be more likely to delete first thing in the morning if it’s arrived during the overnight hours.

Happy Newslettering!