Ruth Medlin Consulting

SPEAKER l TRAINER l ENTREPRENEURIAL MENTOR

Celebrate Your Customers!

Celebrate Your Customers!

During this busy holiday season remember to honor and celebrate your customers! Here are 5 great ways to give your customers some extra love during the season.

1. Change your Face Book page, website and any other social media platforms by adding a holiday wreath to your banner.  It takes virtually no time to add a bit of holiday cheer to your posts.  

2. Send out holiday greeting cards (this year, I sent post cards) to your customers and maybe add a coupon for a free gift come the new year.  My housecleaning service sent a coupon in their holiday card for a free refrigerator clean out come the new year!

3. If you’re close enough (within a reasonable driving distance), take your clients a potted poinsettia plant.  They will be surprised to see you in person at their place of business, but they will really appreciate the thought and effort you put into hand delivering the plant.

4. Buy a small gift from a local merchant and give one to each of your customers.  It’s a win-win-win!5. Create a calendar for the new year and have it printed to send to all your customers. Make certain that your name, website and phone number appear on the calendars.  That way, you will be a reminder to your customers each time they look at their calendar!

Remember it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to celebrate your customers.  Sometimes just a plain old phone call to them to say “thank you for your business this year” will make a lasting impression.

Happy Holidays!

Marketing Materials

Making a Marketing Materials Plan for the New Year!

Recently I attended a conference and as usual, I came home with a bag full of marketing materials.  Now if you are like me, you may not look at all the goodies that you got immediately upon arriving back home.  Somehow, it takes me a few weeks to dive into the bag to see what I got!  This time as I was scoping out allmy loot, I suddenly realized that everyone’s marketing materials kind of reminded me of a giant bouquet of flowers.  There were so many different colors, fonts and photos that I was mesmerized by all that I saw!

Fast forward to December as I write this blog, I decided to focus on making a marketing materials plan for the new year! Marketing materials don’t come cheap, so we want to be certain that we spend wisely and make good choices so that our materials are good and viable for the next year.  Here are three tips I came up with to plan for 2020’s marketing materials.

1. Make certain to use current photographs of yourself in your marketing materials. There is nothing more confusing to clients and customers than to see different photographs of you with different hairstyles or glasses and in different poses!  A professional photographer I spoke with recently suggests that entrepreneurs and business owners should get new headshots taken every 2-3 years or when there are changes in hairstyles, particularly for women.  Some companies require new headshots every year. Be your own best critic and take a good look in the mirror to see what changes you see and compare them to your current marketing photos.  If you see a change, then get new photos.

2. Choosing colors for marketing materials can be tricky.  Many of us have a favorite color that we tend to gravitate towards every time we are tasked with choosing colors.  Be aware of how colors effect your marketing materials!  For instance, one of my favorite colors is black.  I wear a lot of black clothes and I think black is a bold and expressive color.  However, if you are choosing black for marketing, be sure it can be seen when printed upon.  I saw some daring marketing materials done in a slick black background, but I could barely read what was written on them! I readily admit that I need help in this area.  That’s why I had a business print consultant to look over my ideas and make suggestions.  She’s got a much keener eye than I do when it comes to color and design.

3. Be sure to write new copy for new marketing materials.  You may be able to get away with some re-occurringthemes, but to just keep printing the same message repeatedly isn’t being innovative and that’s what our customers want to see.  Fresh and innovative you!

Take it from me, change is never easy no matter what kind of changes you are making.  However, in today’s world, you mustkeep things current and interesting to stay in the game!

Work Smart

Creating Passive Income

I bet we’ve all heard the phrase, ‘worker smarter, not harder.’ How about a new phrase that says simply ‘work smart?’ What if we worked smart so that we wouldn’t have to work at all?  What if we created ways to have money coming in without having to do anything? Well, that’s how I see passive income!

What is passive income you ask? Well, here’s one definition that we can expand upon: Passive income is income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain. It is called progressive passive income when the earner expends little effort to grow the income. Examples of passive income include rental income and any business activities in which the earner does not materially participate. 

Today, we can make passive income from a lot more things than rental property.  Think about writing and selling your pieces to magazines, and on-line publications. How about turning one of your bedrooms into an air b and b? Or what about becoming a representative for a multi-level company, building your own team and watching the cash start to flow in! The important thing to remember is that in today’s world, you can create your own vision of what your future holds by watching others and learning from them. Making money has to do with being astute and open to try new things. While not every gig is going to be for you, if you are willing to try, you have conquered half the battle to ‘work smart!’ and creating positive cash flow with which to enjoy life more!

Tie Your Business into the Holidays!

Tie Your Business into the Holidays!

We are beginning the season of the year when our business can take a back seat to the holidays.  We might just get lost in the shuffle of all the festivities and while we like and enjoy the holidays for the most part, we don’t want to let them overshadow our business!  Remember, business momentum is a constant process and we don’t want to lose sight of it because the climb back from a lackluster holiday season can be difficult!

So how do we incorporate our business into the holidays?  Well, with some strategic aforethought we can get ourselves well-positioned to be viable during this lovely, but hectic season.  Here are a few suggestions to consider for you and your business.

What about sponsoring a special holiday sale?  For virtually no added expense, you can have a “turkey trot” sale.  Simply design a flyer with a turkey on it and put several of your best sellers on it.  Maybe do a combo sale, like if you buy 1 widget at full price, you can buy a second for 50% off!  If your town has a Thanksgiving parade, consider entering the parade to advertise your business. You can have banners printed for very little cost through an online printer or a local print shop and have family and friends of your business in the parade with you!  What about a giveaway? Take one of your best-selling items and create a giveaway of it. One lucky customer will win a diamond-studded widget! Everyone can enter (that way you get names and phone numbers of entrants which can lead to future business). Have the drawing just before Christmas and get a photo of the winner with you and their brand-new widget to post on social media.

Get creative and have some fun with all of this! Remember that people want to do business with people who aren’t “bah hummers”!

Happy Holidays!

That’s A Wrap!

That’s A Wrap!

Planning and producing a business conference are awesome and daunting tasks! I am proud to say that the Influencer Community first annual conference is in the books! And I am feeling pretty good about how everything went. 

I thought that this week’s blog post should be about some things I learned from the conference.  First, planning, planning and then more planning is a must!  No detail is too tiny or insignificant to consider.  I had a spiral-bound notebook and I carried it everywhere with me because I never knew when an idea or inspiration would strike, and I wanted to capture it all.

Let’s talk first about selecting a venue for an event.  Believe me when I tell you there are plenty of venues to choose from here in Cincinnati.  Big or small, Cincy has it all! The tricky part is twofold.  First, availability is key.  Many venues are booked for at least one year out, so while finding the right place is important, finding the right place thatis available can get tricky.  Secondly, making sure the venue you choose has easy access, lots of parking and is on Google or Apple Maps! Once you find a venue that is available, be sure to meet the catering manager to be certain that they are a good fit for you to work with.  You will be having lots of conversations with this person, and you will need to be certain that you are comfortable working with them.  Next comes the selection of food for the conference.  What will the snacks and meals be?  What is the cost? Will you have to pay a deposit?  Is that deposit refundable if your plans change? Is there a contract between you and the venue?  I cannot stress how important it is to get details like these answered to your satisfaction.

Another big thing is speakers for your conference!  How many will you have?  Will you have an emcee?  What about a keynote speaker? I discovered that putting out a call for speakers on social media was extremely helpful because it gave me a list of speakers in part, that I didn’t know.  Be sure to vet your speakers.  Ask for a “sizzle reel” of their appearances, check their references, and if you can, go to an event where they are speaking to check them out.

Look for sponsors for parts of your conference.  I asked for table decoration sponsors, swag bag sponsors, note taking tablet sponsors, and program printing sponsors.  While each event is unique, be sure to have a team of sponsors who are willing to do their part to make your conference a success.

Going along with sponsorships, you will want to look for donations for door prizes.  Check with EVERYBODY! Don’t be afraid to ask for a donation.  Most businesses set aside some marketing dollars for just this type of thing.  Remember to mention them in your program to give them some free advertising.

Finally, remain calm and in control the day of the event.  If you are in a dither, your conference participants will sense your concerns.  So put your best foot/feet forward and take charge of the conference!

From They to We to Me

From They To We To Me

Have you ever noticed how sometimes salespeople refer to the company or store where they work as “they” instead of “we”?  For instance, if you are trying to purchase an item from a cashier and you ask for a discount because the item seems to be mismarked or damaged and the cashier says something like, “oh they won’t discount that!”  It’s as if the cashier is Not an affiliate of the store that they are cashiering for!

How do we train our employees and sometimes maybe even ourselves to take ownership of the company we are representing? I think some of it has to do with length of time on the job as well as a level of increased confidence not only in ourselves but in the company, we are representing.  You see if the company has high standards, is intregritious and does the right thing by its customers as well as its employees, then we as employees feel a certain level of pride and comfort in becoming part of their “we”. On the other hand, if the company doesn’t represent and project an upstanding image, employees may tend to psychologically want to distance themselves by using the third person plural word “they”.

How do this affect us? Consumers may not frequent that store because they have a feeling or sense of distrust about the culture within the store. And employees may sense a feeling of uneasiness about how the company runs its business and if employees sense dishonesty or lack of integrity, they may continue to distance themselves and may even look for other job opportunities because they do not feel like they want to be a part of the store.

But what about the final shift from “we” to “me”? Employees who feel comfortable and proud of their employer may shift from we to me because they have accepted the’ know like and trust’ factor of their employer/company and they become vested as “me’s”.  That can only spell great things for the company because employees become its ambassadors. Going from they to we to me should be the ultimate compliment to any company who holds that high line of integrity within its ranks.

Writing and Maintaining a Blog

Blogging is another way to get your business and brand out into the world.  If you have been thinking about writing a blog, or if you are a “sometimes” blogger, this message is for you!

Here are some tips to get started.  First, decide what your blog is going to do for or give to your readers.  If your blog is about your business, then be certain to include your business contact information somewhere in the blog.  If you can incorporate it into the body of your blog, all the better!  

Next, think about the tone and message you want your blog to convey. Are you going for facts, charm, information or what?  Will you write in first person singular or third person singular? Will you include photos? How will you get your personality to shine through the blog?  As you can see, there needs to be some aforethought and decision making before you write your first blog.

Now we come to the hard part, how frequently will you write and post your blogs?  And where will you come up with topics for your blogs.  According to my friend Monica Miller who writes and teaches about writing blogs, you should create a content calendar for an entire year!  I know this sounds daunting (at least it did to me when I first heard Monica talking about it), but let me tell you that it will make your writing life so much easier because when it comes time to write a blog, most of us stop and fumble around for a topic.  This can be a non-starter for most of us if we must constantly look around for a topic.  It can stop the blogging process before it even gets started! But with your content calendar in place, all you have to do is look at it and see the topic and start writing!  Genius!  Thank you, Monica Miller!  Check her out on Face Book “Monica Writes”.  The other thing Monica suggests is to decide on frequency of writing and posting blogs.  Some may start out with great ambition and want to write/post weekly or even several times a week.  I will say the ‘burnout’ factor for blogging may hit you hard with that kind of a schedule!  Perhaps start out with quarterly blogs or monthly blogs to make certain that you like doing them and that you can maintain the pace you’ve set up.  Remember, your readers are expecting you to produce and if you become sporadic or haphazard, some readers may drift away, disappointed that they don’t see enough of your writings.

Finally, I will say this.  Blogging can be a great way to get your name and business brand out there. And if you’re wondering where to start, I’d say get that content calendar written to be sure you have topics/themes for the year and then write your first blog!

Happy blogging to you!  

Shifting Networking Gears

Entrepreneurial networking has become an art form if you ask me.  There seems to be no shortage in ways to network these days which is the good news.  Maybe the not so good news is that our choices of networking may be a bit overwhelming and confusing too.  I mean, how does one decide on these key factors: first, how many networking groups should one belong to?  Is five too many?  Is two too few?  What is the “just right” factor?  A second question may be who do you want to network with?  Should you network with other people in your industry?  For instance, if you sell cosmetics, should you only hang out with others who sell cosmetics?  Still another factor at least for some of us is cost to network and benefit from the network experience.  I belong to several networking groups, some which are costly to join and to attend and others that are inexpensive but may not give me the benefit of networking with people who are likely to do business with me.

If this all sounds like a giant conundrum to you, then it’s time to do some soul searching as to what you are looking for in the networking game.  If your primary focus is to get known for selling a product or service, it may behoove you join several networking groups on a trial basis to see who’s in the group, and to find out what others are selling and if members find the group beneficial to their business.  A lot of networking groups will let you attend one or two of their meetings for the individual cost of the meeting (i.e. lunch) so that you can find out if this will be a good fit for you and your business.  Sometimes, networking groups look more like the “ladies who lunch” than an actual networking organization.  Find out if the people in the group are actually “selling” their products.  Are they making new contacts within the group and converting those contacts into sales? These are some tough questions and we may not like to appear pushy or indelicate when asking, however if we are going to invest money in a networking group, we want to be sure that it is a good fit for us.

I’ve also noticed that “birds of a feather” tend to flock together meaning that the same networking crowd belongs to several networking groups which is all well good and fine, but if our goal is to meet as many new people as possible to connect with, seeing the same familiar faces at each networking event may be comfortable, it is not helping us increase our numbers of new folks to meet.

Something that I am hyper-aware of is the time of day to network.  I am at my best from early morning to mid-afternoon, so going to an evening networking event is just about the worst thing I can think of.  I have little or no energy and meeting new people can just be a blur to me.  So, think about your “peak” time of day when you are at your best and try to make a good fit/connection with networking groups.

What about things like chamber of commerce mixers?  These types of events may be large in fact almost too large to really make good initial connections.  Remember, the goal of the chamber that is hosting the event is to sign up new members and the goal of a lot of the attendees is to garner as many business cards as they can to justify attendance, so these events may not be the best reasons for you to attend!  A good rule of thumb that I like to use when deciding if a mixer is a good investment of my time is to see a list of potential attendees.  If there are a lot of bigger companies attending and very few/no entrepreneurs attending, I may decide not to waste my time. However, it may be a great idea to attend one mixer just to get the “lay of the land” for future attendance decisions.

Shifting Networking Gears
The bottom line for most of us is to be prudent with our networking time and money.  While attendance may be fun and a way to get out of the house, if it isn’t bringing you new or added business, it may be time to move on to the next networking group.  Personal preference is the name of the game!

Do you need to hire a Business Coach?

Do You Need to Hire A Coach for your Business?

How do you know if you need to hire a coach for your business?  I get asked this question a lot by entrepreneurs.  My response is most often something like, “Well, before I answer your question, can you tell me why you are thinking of hiring a coach?” Now, here’s where it gets interesting because the range of answers varies widely.  Some folks will kind of look at me with a blank stare and say something like, “Uh, gosh, I don’t know, I mean, my friend has a coach and she says that I should hire one too.”  Or another answer to my simple question is, “Well, I have this friend who is a business coach and she keeps bugging me to hire her.” And then there’s my all time favorite, “Because everyone else has a coach, so I think I may need one too!”

Ok, so my answer to all is this: “Have you made a list of things that you think you need help within your business?  If the answer is yes, I ask to see the list. The plain and simple truth is that most of us don’t need a coach as much as we need some practical advice with some specific aspects of our entrepreneurial endeavors. Let me give you some examples of what you may need help with.

The top of the list to my thinking is budgeting. After you have set up a solid business plan, look at what you need to buy or invest in for the first 6 months you are in business. This list can be a long one.  Do you need a computer for your business?  While a lot of entrepreneurs starting out may have a computer, it may be used by other family members, so it isn’t solely dedicated to their business.  Or you may have an older computer that won’t work for what your current business needs are.  Hint, if your computer is over 5 years old, you will need a new computer. Add on the cost of a printer, perhaps a new desk or workspace, business cards, marketing materials … well you get the idea. Here’s what I know for sure, most entrepreneurs start out with a very small budget for just about anything.  So, there’s your first real conundrum-how do you buy what you need to get your business up and rolling when you have little or no money to buy the things you need. What can you do?  Well, you can investigate securing a small business loan from a family member or a lending institution. Or you can charge what you need onto a business credit card but remember you will be getting interest tacked onto that charge unless you can pay it off within one billing cycle. 

The next thing that you may need is some help with the back of your business.  For instance, can you run a software program like QuickBooks? Do you need to do mailings, newsletters, send out samples of products?  If you are nodding your head yes, you may need to hire an assistant to do these tasks so that you can concentrate on securing clients through networking and marketing your business.  Sometimes you can do both, but if you are taking valuable time by running to the local Office Depot to make copies, mail samples and print flyers, when you could be meeting a new client, then your time management skills are askew.  Remember what job 1 is for you and concentrate on that and only that.

Finally, ask yourself and keep asking yourself this question until you have clarity: I started my own business because…?  Until you have a defined and refined answer to that question, you don’t need a business coach! You must have a clear vision and a clear set of business goals to set your entrepreneurial ship on its journey.  You and only you can create the vision and the goals! And while having a business coach may be helpful down the road (that is when you are making enough money to afford one), in the beginning stages, you need only you and a good head on your shoulders to figure out how you want your business to thrive!

Reframe That Problem!

Reframe That Problem!

Entrepreneurs are faced with problems all the time.  How much do I charge for my services? Should I pay to advertise in print or just stick with free social media?  I have an unhappy client and nothing I seem to do satisfies them and I am at my wit’s end as to how to resolve this!  I could add a whole lot more of these types of problems.  But today, I want to talk about the possibility of looking at problems in a different light-that is to reframe our thinking about any given situation.

A couple of weeks ago as I was scrolling through Face Book, I saw a post from a local farm advertising that their corn crop was just in.  They were offering a dozen ears of corn for only $3.00 if FB readers would share their post!  Wow!  I was ready for some fresh, farm grown corn, so I promptly shared the post and come Saturday, I headed to their farm store to get my corn.  Now, I must admit that I read the post hurriedly and thought that I’d read that if you shared their post, you’d get 12 ears of corn for free! Ok, I admit that!  The farm store was charming!  I got my corn plus some tomatoes, peppers and even a basil plant!  When I got to the cashier, I asked about the FB post of getting the corn for free (ok, again my error!).  And here’s what followed: The cashier just kind of went off on me and said “No, no, no, no, NO! These aren’t free.  They are $3.00!  That’s the trouble with Face Book!  You can’t post anything without people getting it wrong!”  And on and on and ON!  I thought about it for a moment and when she’d finished her rant against social media I said, “Madam, you might think about reframing your thoughts about blaming social media!  Look, I obviously misread the post and for that I apologize.  I did share the post though, so I am happy to get 12 ears of your delicious corn for only $3.00.  What you might also want to think about is that without that post, I wouldn’t have been here today as a first-time shopper.  In addition to the corn I also want to purchase tomatoes, peppers and a basil plant from you, so you are really coming out ahead.  The post on social media cost you nothing and it probably is bringing people just like me to your farm store for the first time.  You should be grateful for the post because it is bringing you additional business.  So, instead of yelling at me for misunderstanding/misreading the post, think about reframing your response to me just now!  No one likes to be mistaken and yelled at!  How about welcoming me to your store with a smile on your face, then gently correcting my error and thanking me for my business!”  The cashier was aghast about all that I’d said.  She wasn’t very gracious to me either.  What I hope is that after I left, she had some time to think about reframing her attitude about a free social media campaign to drive more business to their store.

Entrepreneurs think about how you can reframe some of your business concerns.  Shed some new light on them and consider putting them into a new perspective.  Try reframing problems and turning them into possibilities and learning lessons.  You just may find that you are gaining in your business as you look at all possibilities!

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