7 questions to help you ruthlessly prioritize

10-14-14 Prioritize (blog)

“Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”

How quaint.

I used to live by this mantra. But in today’s world of 24/7 smart phone access, juggling business/kids/relationship/self-care/community and an avalanche of data coming at us, it’s not really sound advice for staying sane.

As a new mama who owns her own business, I have graduated to a whole new level of “prioritization.” Whereas before I was overwhelmed by choices on when to write, create, strategize, serve clients, invent a new course, conduct a webcast…. limited pockets of time these days force the most basic decisions: Do I wash my hair or feed my son before daycare? Do I do a load of laundry, pay the bills, or finish that blog post? Do I eat or shower?

These days, you’ve gotta practice “ruthless prioritization.” (Tweet this!) Here’s how:

Something that has helped this Type A overachiever has been to ask myself 7 key questions before any task. Depending on the answer, you can decide to:

  • Do it right away
  • Do it by day’s end
  • Schedule it
  • Outsource it
  • Say no
  • Ignore it

When you’re having one of those crazy, busy, fire-drill days where it feels like your to-do list is as daunting as Mt. Everest, ask yourself these questions before doing each task. You may just feel lighter, less stressed and more in control:

  1. Is someone I care about depending on this and by a certain time? The key words here are “someone I care about and “depending.” This could be a client, a vital partner or a family member who truly needs you and needs you now. If you get asked for a favor by someone you barely know that will take time away from more important tasks, it can wait…or be politely turned down. When I choose to skip a shower on a crazy busy morning so I can feed my baby on time –  well, that’s  pretty much a no-brainer. The boy needs food. But please remember: often, someone else’s urgency does not constitute an emergency on your part – unless you choose to let it.
  2. Can I quickly deal with it and get it off my plate? When someone emails me for the name and number of that great designer I know, it takes me 2 seconds to send them the person’s contact card. Simple. Done.  If they want me to send an email introducing the two of them – something I may want to spend some thought on – well, that can wait until tomorrow.
  3. Does it generate revenue? We small business owners tend to waste time and energy on things that are not adding to our bottom line, which is sometimes totally okay. But on busy days, given a choice between updating a website page or conducting a paid client call….well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the money.
  4. Is there a point-of-no-return consequence for not dealing with this today? If a reporter from The Wall Street Journal asks for an interview today, heck yeah, make time for the call. You’re on their deadline and you could miss your shot at national press. If someone from a blog you’ve never heard of before emails you out of the blue and asks you to fill out a 10 question email interview?  You can schedule time to deal with that next week – and if they won’t wait, so be it. Other tasks in this category can include “Gotta pick up my only suit from the dry cleaner by closing time before my big meeting tomorrow” versus  “A colleague wants to brainstorm about a joint event that is not taking place for another 6 months.”
  5. Am I the only one who can personally handle this? Do you really have to be the one doing it? If not, give it to your virtual assistant, refer it to a colleague, or hire someone from TaskRabbit or Fiverr to deal with it.
  6. What happens if I say no?  Sometimes we think we have to do something when really, it’s just our own internal pressure.  I used to freak out if I missed a week of posting to my blog. But, really…is it a case of life or death if I miss a week to deal with something more important? Will my readers riot and take to the streets just because Red Slice did not post something new this week? The realistic answer is no. Everyone’s busy and while consistency is important, the sky won’t fall because my blog is not the most important thing in my readers’ world each week (but if it is, that’s totally cool…)
  7. Will it help me breathe easier? Sometimes, I choose to spend time catching up on email or another solitary project over the weekend simply because it takes a weight off my shoulders and allows me to relax.  So my husband and I sometimes schedule a “work hour” on Sundays and then put our laptops away. The payoff is an easier, breezier return to Monday.

So tell me: How do you manage your endless to-do list? What tips and tricks help you keep your head above water? Please share in the Comments below!

Photo Credited to Antoine Beauvillain via Unsplash.

Bring it on: Why you need to ask for criticism

A guest post today from the lovely Betsy and Warren Talbot, writers, dreamers and global nomads of Married With Luggage (a business I proudly helped name). With the launch of their latest book, they shared some great advice on why and how to ask for constructive criticism and how it makes your business, brand and project shine in the long run. More on them at the end. Enjoy!

My husband Warren and I recently published our fourth book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – as both business and romantic partners. And one thing we know for sure:

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you won’t ever grow to your highest potential. (Tweet this!)

If we don’t pay attention to how our audience wants to receive our story, how to make it compelling and relatable to their own relationships, and using words that matter to them, then all of our experience and wisdom aren’t worth a penny of the $15.99 price tag of the book, because no one will buy it.

We asked trusted advisors, our own audience, and random strangers within our demographic to help us get this one right, and with their constructive feedback, I think we nailed it.

How We Solicited Feedback

Before we ever wrote one word, we talked about our idea with mentors and peers we trust. The feedback sent us in a direction we hadn’t considered before (memoir vs. self-help). We also dropped the idea of making this a course first. Smart friends counseled us to use the book’s popularity to create higher-priced courses later. Already, our project was off to a great start and we saved a ton of time.

If you’ve done the work of building a great network, don’t forget to use it. (Tweet this!)

The next component tested was the title. We came up with 20 variations of titles and subtitles, swapping them around until we had 5 good choices. Then we sent it out to three sets of people: casual followers on Facebook, serious followers on our email list, and total strangers in our demographic through a site called Pickfu.

The title we ended up with is not the title we would have chosen ourselves. We also discovered several words we were using that were off-putting to our market. Imagine if we had used those words out of ignorance and then wondered why no one ever bought the book?

For the book cover, we put three very different cover ideas out for a vote via email list, Facebook, and Pickfu. Again, the cover we would have chosen was not the one overwhelmingly picked by others. In fact, our favorite came in dead last.

After writing the first draft, we sent it to a professional editor for restructuring. We were too close to the project to see the gaps and overlaps, so we trusted someone else to show us the way. We then created the second draft based on this feedback.

Then the scariest part: sharing it for review. First I read the book out loud to my husband, awaiting his response to the story we scripted out months ago. Did he like it? Not always, and that was sometimes hard to take as a wife. But his feedback was invaluable in tightening up the storyline and highlighting our message of partnership.

Five people were sent second draft copies to provide detailed feedback. These five people are my trusted sources, the people who will tell me when something is not good. And boy, did they.

Finally, the book went back for professional line editing, a polish that I couldn’t do on my own. Packaging is as important as the message within, because if a reader can’t get past a crappy cover or terrible editing, they’ll never get your message.

How Feedback Helps

When I look at the finished product, I can only marvel. It is so much more than we imagined, a book that shares our experience and wisdom in a way our audience wants to hear it. And we could have never done that without asking for feedback up front and listening to what our audience needed.

We separated our egos from our work product, and the result was was a healthier self-esteem and a better product.

ABOUT BETSY AND WARREN:  Betsy Talbot and her husband Warren are the authors of Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Through their popular books, engaging weekly podcast, and revealing Sunday emails, they share the unconventional wisdom they’ve learned about living, working, and traveling together since 2010. Find out more about modern love and partnership at Married with Luggage. (Photo credit: Married With Luggage)

Are you asking for constructive criticism in your business? How? Where? From whom? When did such feedback save you from a major fail? Please share in the Comments below!

Are you a solopreneur? 3 perks and 3 downsides you can easily combat

Going solo in your business is either a launch strategy or a deliberate business model choice. Sometimes you are just getting off the ground and you’re a party of One, doing everything from accounting to marketing to product development. Other times, though, you are intentionally creating a lifestyle business and don’t want extra complication from staff, tax requirements or overhead.

I’ve deliberately chosen a “solopreneur” model for my business and have no plans to build an agency. I like being in control, not managing people and being able to handle the ebbs and flows that writing and consulting bring. Plus, I find it’s easy to keep overhead low and ramp up or pare down by partnering with others as needed.

Being a solopreneur both rocks and sucks – but you can combat the latter (Tweet this!). Perhaps you can relate?

Three perks to being a solopreneur business:

  • Control: You maintain control over all business and marketing decisions. There are no politics to deal with or egos to soothe. After my long stint in corporate America, this is a godsend for my stress level.
  • Creativity: You can get crazy creative on marketing ideas, promotional pushes and even which projects you take on.
  • Speed: When you make a decision, you’re done and off to the races. No internal selling, pleading or persuasion required. I have decided on marketing efforts in the morning and implemented them by that afternoon, easy peasy. I can take advantage of last-minute opportunities and react fast.

OK, couldn’t resist a 4th bonus perk:

  • Selectivity: You can work with who you like, when you like. And if it doesn’t work out, you never have to sub-contract that person or continue with that client or customer ever again if you don’t want to.

With upside, comes downside, though.

Three challenges of being a solopreneur – and steps you can take to alleviate the pain:

  • Lack of collaboration: If you’re extroverted like me, one of the joys of working on a team is a meeting where you’re all hashing out ideas on a whiteboard. You can get out of your own head and vet ideas with other smart people. Working solo, you miss out on that sanity check from others and potentially limit your thinking, creativity or perspective. Those voices in your head may be leading you astray and you might never know it.

COMBAT THIS! Pull together your own makeshift Board of Directors or accountability group of other solopreneurs. Choose people you respect but who also come at things from a different point of view. I collaborate with a few key partners and often ask to bounce ideas off of them or seek their advice when making a major decision. Another colleague of mine often will email a close group of trusted partners to get a consensus or conversation going when she needs to make a quick decision. Your collaborative team won’t be handed to you when you work alone, spout one together yourself – and offer to play that role for others if they need it.

  • Loneliness: If you’re an extrovert like me, this is kind of related to the one above, but it’s more than that. I miss shared office moments, blowing off steam with others, lunch dates, heck even water cooler gossip. I even go in to my husband’s office or a coffee shop every now and then to work just to be around other people. Talking to the dog only gets me so far, and even gets bored with my running commentary and retreats to the other room every now and then.

COMBAT THIS! Get social on your own. Make time for coffee dates to form relationships with other freelancer colleagues. Join local groups and associations. Participate in online forums. Attend conferences. Force yourself out of your office at least 2-3 times per week just to be social. Or arrange phone  or Skype meetings with other solopreneurs where you can each just unwind for 30 minutes, laugh, share, vent and support each other.

  • Lack of resources: It’s all you, baby! You are chief cook, bottle washer and accountant. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. Your  to-do list is never complete and there are always way more ideas than hours in the day or mental energy that you can expend. It can be hard to unplug when you are all you’ve got. And this can lead to stress, headaches, poor health and damaged relationships.

COMBAT THIS: Ask for help. You are not supposed to be an expert at everything. Why do you think companies and org charts exist? If you are not technical, outsource your website maintenance and design. If you hate writing, hire a part-time writer to put together your materials or blog posts. If you know something will never get done if it stays on your To-Do list, hire someone else to do it for you! The flip side is that this scarcity mentality helps you pare down to the most important tasks in your business right now. Save the stuff you love to do, or the tasks only you can do for your precious time and attention: everything else? Get help. Hire a virtual assistant. Send your receipts to a bookkeeper. One big caveat here: don’t barter for everything. You simply exchange one set of tasks taking up your time for another. If you want to really free up time, make the investment in paying someone else to do it.

Photo credit: 55Laney69 on Flickr

Your turn: Are you a solopreneur? What do you love best? What do you love least and how do you deal with it? Are you temporarily a solopreneur or do you have plans to stay that way? We want to know so please share below in the Comments!


Got goals? 6 resources to get your butt into gear this year

Hello, 2014! How the hell are ya?!

Now that you’re emerged from your eggnog-induced haze and dusted off the last of the New Years Eve glitter (why does that stuff always seem to stick around for weeks? It’s a mystery…) you are ready to tackle the new year. Right? RIGHT?!

But what does that mean, to tackle the new year? Sounds so adversarial, as if the new year is waiting to mug you and steal your wallet.

We’ve all done the rounds of “New Year Planning:” resolutions, goal setting, visioning, action plans. I used to go into each year with a set of goals organized by topic: Fitness, Career, Writing. That worked for a while….until the year I had major health issues. And then New Year Planning became much airier and flexible, which made me happier. I started thinking about only 2-3 big goals. Things I wanted to accomplish rather than do. Last year, I went a step further and simply picked 2 themes to guide my year, and I mapped every activity to them,

As you get this year’s  goals into gear, here are 6 resources that will add some awesome sauce to your big plans. Remember, any dream starts with a single small step. (Tweet this!)

Goal: Get my book written and published, damn it! Got a book inside you yearning to burst forth and illuminate the world? A book is always more than just a book. Much more. Writing a book could direct the course of your career for the rest of your life. It could lead to infinitely important connections, multiple revenue streams, spin off products, international relations. It could start a revolution. You need a plan.  YOUR BIG BEAUTIFUL BOOK PLAN (Click on Shop when you get there) is a digital program to get tyour word into the world — where it belongs.

Goal: Simplify and declutter my physical (and mental) life. Check out The Declutter Clinic from Married With Luggage. Warren and Betsy ditched their urban corporate life, sold everything they owned and now travel the world writing books, blogging and speaking about how to live your dream. The first step? Ditch the clutter. Get practical and fun strategies to organize, store and sell your stuff, breathe easier and make room for growth – whether you want to travel the world or simply create a more open environment.

Goal: Have an awesome website, blog and (sensible) social media plan that attracts mad traffic: Run, don’t walk and hire Sarah Von Bargen for a Clever Session or a souped-up Solution Session. This woman attracts tens of thousands of blog readers each day. She’s fun. She’s practical. And she’ll show you time-saving tips and tricks to make you “awesome on the internet.” Yes, I’m biased: she’s my writing partner in crime, and I also took a session myself.

Goal: Write better emails. Articulate everything better: Alexandra Franzen, self-expression guru extraordinaire, has got you covered. Sign up for her I Heart Email course starting Jan 10. Or if you want to just generally articulate your life/business/mission/manifesto in a clearer, juicier way, take one of her Write Yourself into Motion workshops (tour schedule coming soon, but get on her email list to find out first!)

Goal: Create an irresistible brand and marketing strategy for myself, my business or my cause: Put that donut down and get your business and brand booty in shape this year with my digital self-study MOMENTUM Pro. Through fun playbooks you can do at your own pace, I’ll walk you step by step through defining your mission, your target market, your messaging and your value.  All so your marketing efforts work. 

Goal: Create goals with soul and get more of what I desire: Turn goal-setting on its ear with Danielle LaPorte’s fabulous resources for living the life you want to live. The Desire Map (Click on Shop when you get there) is an interactive experience that maps your core desired feelings first and then informs how you plan your day, year, career, holidays and life.

Photo credit:  Es.mond on Flickr

Your turn: What are you “tackling” this year? Goals, visions, themes, desires? Please share in the Comments and I’ll share any resources to help you. Hopefully, others can chime in, too!


The Good “If” and the Bad “If”

“If” can be a powerful word.

I recently watched a documentary about a football coach who lost his parents and sister in a car crash. Years later, he was still blaming himself. “If I wasn’t playing in that game, they wouldn’t have been in the car to come see me and maybe they’d still be here.”

This comment made me so sad for him.

The bad “If” is when you use the word to lament the past. When used to berate yourself over things you can’t control or change, “If” can lead to damage and torture.

“If I had taken that other job, I would have been happier.”

“If I had not spent all that money on that trip, I’d have the money to buy a new computer.”

“If only I’d been home, he would have survived the stroke.”

This is neither helpful nor productive. True, we need to learn from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them, but 9 times out of 10, this type of “If-ing” is just ridiculous. How can you predict the future? How can you think you can stop a speeding train or the death of a loved one or an unexpected layoff? You can’t.

I think we do this to fool ourselves into thinking we have control over certain events. But the truth is we don’t. All we can do is prepare for the future as best we can with the information we have at hand. That’s where the Good “If” comes in.

Good “If’s” are those that help you plan for future opportunity:

“If I buy emergency supplies, we’ll be safe during the power outage.”

“If I plan all my errands, I can make the most efficient use of my time today.”

“If I create a strong brand and marketing plan now, I can reach my business goals this year.”

See? Much more productive, proactive and useful.

“If” looks much better in front of you rather than behind you (Tweet this!)

Be mindful of how you use the word “If.” Those two little letters can cause a whole hot mess of despair– or they can open up infinite possibilities.

Photo credit: TheNext28Days on Flickr

Your Big “If”

If you create a strong brand and marketing plan now, you can reach your business goals and create a loyal following. Let me help! Please sign up now for Brand Bootcamp, a self-paced and stress-free way to build a strong brand strategy and bring it to life, with more ease, confidence and clarity. 7 videos, a fun Playbook and tons of advice from yours truly. Hurrah!


How to finish: 5 tips for making wild dreams come true

It’s February, which means about 80% of your New Year’s goals are already shot, right? Why is dreaming up our big ideas so much easier than making them happen? Today’s insightful guest post from entrepreneur and content marketing expert Betsy Talbot will change all that.

When you embark on a big project for your business, even one as essential (and fun!) as branding, it’s easy to get lost in the details and spin out of control. Either your list of actions or decisions grows so big you can’t possibly finish it (so you don’t even start), or you make a serious dent in the list but run out of steam before you finish.

It is frustrating to be gung-ho about something important and watch it wither away to apathy or outright frustration before it is finished.

My husband Warren and I are pros at getting things done. It has always been true, but it is even more so since we first had the idea to travel the world in 2008. We eventually made our journey into a lifestyle media business called Married with Luggage that we kept for many years (we retired it to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures), and we created books and videos to show other people how to create the life they really want from the life they already have. We challenged ourselves personally and creatively to do new things, publicly and privately, and we mostly succeed.

I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing because people notice these things, and we get this question a lot via email and in person:

Why do we accomplish so many of our personal and business goals while other people struggle to even get started on theirs?

While we’d like to think it is because we are superhuman (only because we could then justify wearing shiny costumes and capes), the answer is much more practical.

In fact, it consists of just 5 basic steps which I’m going to share with you today. Tip #1 is…

1. Goals have deadlines

In our book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, my husband Warren and I wrote that a dream without a deadline is already dead. This is true if your goal is as big as a trip around the world or as small as making one sales call per day.

After you’ve determined a goal, whether it is to move, start a side business, paint your house, save money, get a new job, or lose weight, the first step is giving yourself a finish date. Without it, you won’t push yourself to get it done, no matter how much you want it. The status quo and routine of life is too comforting, too hard to break out of, without a specific reason to do so.

When we start a writing project, the first step is to give ourselves a publish date. From the very first word of the project, we know when it is due and how many words have to be written each day to make it happen. When we decide to travel to a new destination, we pick a date to go/arrive. We may leave a lot of details open after we decide to do something, but we never shrink back from a deadline.

The action of setting a date propels you to begin the work to make your goal a reality. (Tweet this!)

2. Take action on dreams every single day

You can’t really be part-time about your goals and dreams or you’ll never reach them. Many people think life is changed by big steps, huge events, and giant milestones, but the truth is that big, lasting change happens in the tiny steps and choices you make every single day. The cumulative effect of those small steps is what brings about the milestones and big leaps everyone around you thinks happened overnight.

Before we left on this journey in 2010, we sold a few possessions every single week for 2 years. Creating Craigslist ads isn’t glamorous, but it took this daily attention to decluttering to free us up to leave (and pad our bank account at the same time).

Now we use the same strategy to carve out time to write books, set up an editorial calendar, manage our websites, edit photographs, practice languages, exercise, market our books, and contribute to other websites. We also make time to connect with our friends and family around the world every week. Most people think we’re on permanent vacation, but it is because we do these essential things that we continue to live a life of travel and experience.

You don’t get something for nothing.

The small actions you take on your goals every single day are a better predictor of overall success than your perfectly drafted plans or good intentions. (Tweet this!)

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new or make a mistake

When you want to accomplish more things, it means you’ll be doing more. It may sound simple to spell it out like that, but people forget. And when the things you want to get done are new to you, you are bound to make mistakes.

Warren and I screw up regularly, but we typically don’t screw up twice on the same thing. The key in all this new activity is to learn from what works as well as what doesn’t so you continually improve as you go. When you eventually become good at one thing, it opens up space in your life to become a beginner at something else.

When we were in Peru we signed up for our first multi-day trek. We had zero experience other than walking, and we came very ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the journey. We were wet and tired every single day – we didn’t even bring rain gear during the rainy season! – but we learned a lot. Since then, we’ve become pros at trekking and do it all over the world.

The key is to never stop making mistakes because it means you’ve stopped trying new things. (Tweet this!)

4. Know how to take negative feedback

Opinions are like asses: everyone’s got one. And sometimes the person giving you his opinion is an asshole. But getting things done requires a certain amount of rubber to your skin. You will always have critics, even when you do amazing things (Campbell’s Soup says thousands will lose jobs after Betsy Talbot selfishly cures common cold! Details at 11.). Sometimes the feedback is justified and you can learn from it, making you or your project better, and other times you’re going to just have to let it bounce off.

The key is divorcing your personal feelings of worth from feedback on your endeavors, both good and bad. Failure or mistakes on a project do not equate to failures or mistakes as a human being. This is also when you discover that some people will love what you are doing for the exact same reasons others hate it. You will never please everyone, and knowing this from the start will help you keep moving – and learning – when negative feedback starts.

When you can step to the side and view feedback in a more objective way, it allows you to glean the lessons and discard the trash quickly and productively. (Tweet this!)

5. Track actions and results

Whether you geek out like we do with a spreadsheet or you journal your progress creatively with video or art, staying on track with a goal requires tracking. If your project is longer than a day, you will forget what you’ve done, the brainstorms you had for what to do next, or the ideas others contribute along the way. Tracking also keeps you from veering off into unnecessary tasks as your attention wanders.

Weight Watchers has built their entire business around tracking food and calorie intake daily and weighing weekly. Athletes keep track of their personal best performance times so they can improve. Project managers track everything from software development to building houses.

We keep track of the metrics on our website, Facebook page, and book sales, learning what works and what doesn’t. We track our pitches to other websites, radio, and magazines. We monitor our daily writing counts when working on a book. We make a list of all the things we want to see/eat/do when we arrive in a new location so we won’t forget.

It can be as simple as a small notebook or as elaborate as a software program.

You’ll reach your goals faster if you know what to do, when to do it, and what happens as a result of doing it. (Tweet this!)

How you can get more things done

Whether you have one big dream in mind or just want to accomplish more of the small stuff on a regular basis, these 5 habits will create the perfect environment to make it happen. We work these habits every day, and they have given us a life we once only dreamed of. (In fact, that’s why we never had it before: we were only dreaming!)

  • Set a firm deadline
  • Take daily action on your goals
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes and trying new things
  • Learn from negative feedback (and ignore it when there is nothing to learn)
  • Track your actions and results

Betsy and Warren Talbot show people every day how to make their biggest dreams a reality with practical, step-by-step advice that works. Check out their book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, to find out how you can make your wildest dreams a reality. (EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s fantastic!) 

Which one tip will you put into practice today to make your dreams a reality? Tweet me @redslice and let me know!

Why hibernate?

A friend of mine recently commented that your life cycles around metaphorical seasons of growth and change. Sometimes you are in the Spring, where ideas are blossoming, seeds are being planted and animals are poking up their heads as they venture from their winter lairs. For your business, this may mean new product ideas, connecting with potential partners, planning a brand facelift.

Summer is when you’re white hot and sizzling. Everything is firing on all cylinders, you’re in the Zone, things are happening, moving, shaking. Often this means you’re in a bit of a crazy busy flurry of activity as well.

I imagine Fall to be the hravest. Maybe those connections you made at those networking events are finally bearing fruit. Maybe prospects on your email list slowly turn to buyers or clients. Maybe that press pitching you’ve been doing yields to a prime bit of ink.

And then there’s Winter. Things go underground, dormant. Shutters close and we turn inward. We slow down. We unwind. While the snow falls, the tiny perennial seeds buried in the ground take a snooze to gear up for another glorious Spring.

The cycle continues.

I’m going to be taking a few weeks this December myself to reflect on 2012, plan for 2013 and refine my goals and activity. I recommend you do this as well. I’ve blocked out planning days on my calendar for both business planning and content planning. This year has been amazing: new book, new digital course for entrepreneurs, new clients. Now, I need to breathe and take some time to plot the course for 2013.

Without giving yourself the time and space for creative thinking, innovation is just a buzzword and not a part of your brand.

Photo credit: StudioMacbeth.com

How will you recharge and plan for 2013? Please Share in the Comments! One great way would be to check out my new Indie Brand Bootcamp to gain the focus, clarity and confidence you need to make all the right marketing moves this year. Use code LAUNCHSPECIAL for $50 savings. Hurrah!

How to build an effective website and look like a million bucks: A chat with Nancy Owyang

How can small business owners with shoestring budgets and even less time create a powerful and professional looking visual web presence for their brand? While your website is only one brand facet, it’s an important one. I work with clients on their brand story and messaging but how can they communicate that brand online? Nancy Owyang, Creative Director and Owner of Eye 2 Eye Graphics, is a cherished partner of mine and produces amazing, simple and elegant work. She works with small business owners to make their business memorable through meaningful, strategic, and professional graphic design.

Her mission? To provide small business owners high quality, professional brand identity design that will make them stand out in a crowd and allow them play with the big kids… all at a price they can work into their budget.

I sat down to talk to her about what people are doing wrong with their websites and how small businesses can create big brands.

RS: Nancy, what are three helpful hints you have for folks building a business website from scratch? Or put another way, what are some of the biggest mistakes that make you cringe?

NO: Hmmmm… good question, so besides my obvious 3 hints of:

  • Don’t do it yourself
  • Don’t have your neighbor’s 16 year old nephew do it, and
  • Do find a designer and programmer who work and collaborate together—it’s rare that both a programmer’s mind and a designer’s mind can live in the same body

I’ll dig a little deeper and give you maybe some less obvious hints.

Have a plan. This can be something that a client brings to the project, or we can create it together, but having a plan is important for any project, especially a web site. Web sites have a tendency to grow and evolve, which is one of the beautiful things about them, but this makes having a plan even more important. This is the foundation that will guide us to make decisions about the site to make sure we stay on track and true to the business goals—in essence just because you can do it on the web doesn’t mean you should. A few things to think about for the plan:

  • How the site will be used by current clients and potential clients?
  • Is it a place that users come back to over and over? Or is it mostly just visited when they are considering hiring you?
  • What is the experience that you want to create?
  • Does the client need to be able to easily make updates to the site?

Think ahead. You’d think that this might fall into the obvious hint category, but it’s a
good one to point out. Things to think ahead about include:

  • Timeline. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your web site. Good site design  and development takes time. For a smaller site, expect and plan for at
    least 3 months from idea to launch.
  • How do you plan to edit the site in the future? Many small business owners want to be able to edit their site themselves: this will require the back-end of the site to be built in such a way that you can do this without learning to be a programmer in your spare time. If you’re a larger business, this may be a piece that you hire out, so the site could be built using a different back-end framework.
  • As your business grows, how will your web site change? Will you need a shopping cart? Do you want a built-in blog? Will you want to add a calendar of events? These things and more are things to think about when setting up the site initially.

Work with professionals for all parts of the site. An effective web site is an investment in your business and if planned appropriately will last you for several years with just minor updates to keep it fresh. So with that in mind, not only do you need a great designer and programmer pair, but you will also need a great copywriter to execute the voice of the site. This is important not only because this is your chance to communicate with your clients, and introduce yourself to potential clients, but this is what the search engines see too! Working in your search engine optimized keywords into the copy of the site so it doesn’t seem awkward and contrived can take some finesse. If you want to write the copy yourself, at the very least I recommend having it reviewed and edited by a professional copywriter who has experience writing for the web.

RS: What key factors do you consider when you design and develop a client website?

NO: The main thing that comes to mind is how important it is to put yourself in the seat of your website user. Who are they? Are they potential clients checking you out? Are they current clients? Are they just passing through doing research or gathering ideas? Do they come back over and over again? How do they interact with the site?

Once you know this information it will help you decide what needs to be included in the site, this will also determine how the site is updated, and how often. A site that serves more as a “brochure” site where potential clients come to check you out doesn’t need to be updated as often as a site that has an ongoing interactive relationship with the users. So it’s good to know upfront what site experience you want to build.

RS: In what ways do you see web presence as “the great equalizer” in helping small companies to compete with big brands?

NO: The amazing thing about the web is that every business no matter the size or location is available to people around the globe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your site is set up properly with professional design, well-written content, and search optimized
programming, your site can pop right up at the top of the search with the “big
kids on the block”.
The potential client never has to know that you are a solo-entrepreneur working in your PJs out of a home office, while you have 2 kids under the age of 5 running around. You decide how big you want to be on the web and make it happen.

This comes with a warning… since the options are potentially never ending it is important to have a plan and a target, and stick to it. Think of it this way—aim for the bull’s eye, but if you get hits on the other part of the board you still get the points!

Just because the web gives us the platform to compete with the big brands, you need to be honest and ask yourself, is that what you want? Once you have your answer, position your site accordingly using the visuals, the voice, and all the search engine optimization goodies. Your website is your virtual brick and mortar. How big do you want it to appear to the site visitors?

About Nancy:

As the owner of Eye 2 Eye Graphics, LLC, Nancy Owyang is an award-winning designer with strong branding experience. She has aided a variety of clients in rebranding their businesses, including Women Business Owners, SLN Stage + Design, Delane Engineering and many more. Clients praise Nancy’s design sensibilities and her ability to first understand an owner’s mission, and then to translate that complex identity into a graphic representation. Her branding and design solutions are practical and unique, detail-oriented, on time, and on budget. To view a sampling of Nancy’s work please visit her online portfolio.

Don’t let your social media campaign just die on the vine

Guest post by Red Slice intern Suzi An

Californication is one of my favorite television shows. Naturally, I am going to ‘Like’ the show’s page on Facebook. But ever since the season ended, there has been no interaction from the page’s administrators. It’s a complete dead zone. I then began thinking about all the other brands or products that are on Facebook and Twitter that abandoned their audience. For instance, I follow Citizen on Twitter. Citizen is a small chic restaurant that I absolutely love going to and it’s right down the street from where I live. The reason I follow them on Twitter is to hear about their specials and new items on the menu. But their last post was in March. It’s almost September and I know that they had many changes to their restaurant, like building a new patio area to fit more people. This is absolutely Twitter worthy, yet they have failed to mention it to those who follow them. The point of my story is, if you are going to make your presence known in the social media world, you must plan for whatever happens, whether it is your campaign coming to an end or if it naturally closes. A few thoughts:

  1. Plan ahead of time your exit out of the social media world: Once you have entered the cyber world, it’s almost impossible to completely get rid of any trace of your campaign, brand, product, etc. Think of it as verbal communication. You cannot take back what you have already said. It’s important when planning your debut in the social media world to also plan what will happen at the end of your campaign. Will you keep your account and look after it for other long term uses or will you simply delete the account?
  2. Manage the transition: If you do decide to keep your page, even if you are on a brief hiatus, it’s extremely important to communicate with your audience. I understand that Califorication is on summer break until the next season, but I would like to be up to date on what is going on, such as knowing when the start of the next season is or what to expect in the new season.
  3. Thank those who made it possible: Investing time into creating a community surrounding your product takes much time and effort. If you decide to delete your page, you may want to direct people where you want them to go next, like a cliffhanger. Never leave without thanking those you supported you because they will feel abandoned.

Although I would hate to see any brand disappear from the social media world, I understand that sometimes it wasn’t meant to be. But there are several brands and products on Facebook that do a fantastic job of keeping their audience updated. Silk is a product and brand that I ‘Like’ on Facebook and I always see updates on new recipes or the audiences’ opinion on certain things. Do some light research and see how these brands and products are keeping their audience hooked. You could use what you fin to help you in your own social media campaign. After all, the last thing you want is to break up with your audience by just abandoning them without an explanation.

Ask the Expert: Content that makes sales, not just wastes time

Red Slice recently chatted with Beth Buelow of the Introvert Entrepreneur where she coaches our less extroverted brethren on how to build a successful business. She helps them understand, own and leverage their strengths for personal and professional success. In today’s Ask the Expert, she shares with all of us – introverted or not – how to get off the treadmill of useless networking, blogging or “stuff creation” and build a powerful content strategy that turns lookers into buyers.

A certified professional coach, Beth works primarily with introverts and offers one-on-one and group coaching, teleclasses, webinars and workshops. Prior to becoming a coach, she enjoyed a successful nonprofit career, with responsibilities as diverse as fundraising, marketing, website management, grantmaking and public relations. Her obsessions include developing her advanced coaching skills, as well as deepening her knowledge of Jungian psychology, Voice Dialogue, and the Myers-Briggs assessment tool.


RS; Hi Beth! Welcome. How do we move someone from “kudos to client?” when warm fuzzies and cool newsletters aren’t paying the bills.
BB: When you’re first starting out, there’s a certain amount of spaghetti strategy happening: you’re throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’re probably churning out a lot of content. Much – if not all – is probably free. And you get good feedback and encouragement… just not the sales.

This stage is the thrashing stage, where you’re getting just enough positive feedback that you think if you just do more, faster, better, bigger, people will convert to clients. What’s missing is strategy and intention behind your content. People are most likely confused about what you have to offer, what your strength is, and how you are the solution to their problem. A confused mind always says no. It might say, “Great work, loved the newsletter!” but it doesn’t take the time to connect the dots that you have scattered all over the page.

RS: I love that: “A confused mind always says no.” Same holds true if your brand is schizophrenic! So what do I need to do to create a strategy for my content?

BB: My favorite approach is to look at it through the framework of Moves Management. Moves Management is a term used in the world of nonprofit fund development. Here’s one definition: “a system, a process and a plan for building a relationship that moves individual prospects to engaged, passionate donors.” (Alexander Haas Martin & Partners)

I use this expression because I have found that attracting clients is very similar to raising money for an organization. Donors – and in our case, clients – move through a process that is established by the organization. If the strategy is clear and intentional, and the organization knows exactly who it wants to attract, each touch point is designed to shift the relationship to a deeper level of connection. For nonprofits, the lowest level of engagement is awareness of the organization’s existence and being on the mailing list. The highest is a donor who makes a planned gift (allotting part of the donor’s estate to the organization upon the donor’s death).

The donor is not necessarily aware of the moves the organization is putting on them. If it’s all done smoothly, the donor moves from level to level rather seamlessly, and of their own volition.

The same is true for your prospective clients. A well-designed Moves Management process outlines clear steps for you to take (and clear content for you to create) that transitions a client from Casual to Convinced. Just like you don’t meet someone at a party then ask him to marry you, you don’t hand someone your business card then ask her to purchase your Platinum Package.

RS: This sounds just like the sales process or buying process that marketers live and die by. I talk about this in workshops as “Awareness, Education, Consideration and Purchase.” But Casual to Convinced sounds much cooler. What does that mean?

BB: I break the Moves Management funnel into four sections: Casual, Connected, Committed and Convinced. Each section represents a deepening of the client’s relationship and investment.


Offerings (blog, podcasts, Facebook fan page) at this stage determine a prospect’s first impression of you; they begin the journey of someone knowing, liking and trusting you. In general, unless the prospective client makes a comment or is required to provide an e-mail to access information, he can remain an anonymous lurker. People are standing on the edge of your business, with one foot in, one foot out.


Information products/services in this category require more direct communication and connection. The client declares herself and decides to share her information in return for a higher level of interaction from you. There is usually an exchange of value, typically of money or an e-mail address/contact info.

The content you deliver (workshops, newsletters, speaking, etc) is one-to-many. Your offerings reflect your expertise in a deeper way than at Casual, and they can be used in one of two ways: 1) give the client enough “DIY” information that she can take it from there, or 2) give the client enough information that he is inspired, curious and made aware of the benefits of moving to the Committed level.


At this level, the interaction and content shifts from one-to-many to one-to-one. The relationship is deeper and more personal. You’re working together through coaching, consulting, advising, mentoring or providing direct, custom services/products.


Working with a client at this level is the end result of her knowing, liking and trusting you. She is convinced that you and your business are the right fit for her needs long-term (which is relative to your business – could be months or years). She becomes an advocate and a source of quality referrals. She’s in love! You are delivering your highest level of services and products, in terms of quality, customization and financial investment.

As you create content, consider where it fits into your Moves Management funnel. Communicate clear benefits to your prospects, and have a compelling call to action appropriate to where they are in the funnel. Having a clear strategy puts you well on your way to getting warm fuzzies in the form of appreciation and compensation!