Hey there. Are you in the right place?

You’re an entrepreneur or small business owner who wants to market your amazing knowledge effectively online, so you can sell lots of stuff, make great money whilst making a difference and live your ideal freedom lifestyle. But you struggle with marketing ideas, have no clue what to write about, don’t know how to sound different and feel nervous about getting personal. You know you need some more of that elusive ‘quality content’ but don’t know where to begin. I can help…

  • Content creation when you hate writing

    I get this question (or rather, exasperated statement!) about content creation all the time.
    “I can’t write!”
    “How am I supposed to do all this content creation everyone expects when I HATE writing!?”
    ______________________________________

    I’m one of those people you probably love to hate, because I love writing. I always have. Ever since I could pick up a crayon I have loved writing.

    My essays won me competitions in school. My unsolicited articles secured me paid travel-writing gigs. My copywriting skills got me promotion. And my succinct wit has won me a number of 25 words or less competitions (my husband is still waiting for me to win a car or something more useful than hairtongs though…)

    Yessiree, I am madly in love with the written word. It’s my favorite way to create content for my business.

    However, I know for a fact that my love is not shared by all. In fact, I know for sure that some entrepreneurs actually hate writing. They may not even be bad at it, regardless, they hate it. And that’s cool.

    I’m going to bust a myth that plagues the marketing world … that:

    great content creators = great writers. (more…)

  • 5 things I learnt about business from the circus

    You may or may not know that I ran away to the circus last week. I was accompanied by my daughter, who just happens to be an aerial student, but it was really me who ran away….

    You see I always fantasised about joining the circus, enjoying the life of a traveller, with the smell of the greasepaint and the buzz-like-no-other of performing to a thrilled audience in raptures. But there was no circus school nearby when I was little, and my parents were middle-class professionals – they weren’t exactly going to seek one out to satisfy my whimsy.  I did ballet and jazz and musical theatre and that was enough. It was wonderful, if a little controlled and contained.

    But I always loved the circus. And then I forgot that.

    I forgot that incredible thrill that the big top offers…until I saw Cirque du Soleil when I was in my late 20s. I remembered how intensely terrifying it is to watch the tightrope walkers and high flyers on the trapeze, I remembered the squeamish marvelling at the contortionists, I remembered the childish joy of the clowns.  The feelings surfaced again, those feelings of freedom and unadulterated joy that I had when I was so small.  So when Miss 9 was asked to join the performance troupe with her circus school, there was no hesitation. Living vicariously may have to be enough.

    The first performance trip with the troupe was to The Lismore Show last week. Three days, nine performances and a whole lot of fun and craziness in between.  Obviously I was there to support the kids but interestingly I learnt some things from the coaches and support crew that I didn’t expect.  Things that can directly be applied to the world of business.

    5 things I learnt about business from the circus:

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  • I want to be a dolphin trainer

    Over the years I’ve wanted to be many things: a showjumping champion, a dancer, an actor, a lawyer, a journalist, a food photographer, a dog breeder, a travel writer and tour operator. At one point I even wanted to just be a lady of luxury on a yacht. I’ve often found myself SO inspired by the place I find myself standing, or what I’ve just experienced, or who I’m with, that I seriously have considered big career-altering-life-changing shifts (CALC shifts).  I am able to perfectly envision myself doing that thing daily, and I’m filled with joy and excitement.

    My recent trip to SeaWorld – unexpectedly – filled me with that same sense of opportunity and desire.

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  • Are you one of the ‘lucky’ ones?

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the structure of my business and what I offer and what really lights me up.

    A long time ago I made a pact with myself NOT to do any more of the things that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. I started this process when I was working in corporate, in fact. I was fortunate enough to have the ear of the CEO so I was able to manoeuvre my way into jobs and projects I loved. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t happen overnight (nor did I have to sleep with him – YIKES!) I had to do the hard yards first and prove myself. But once I had done that, and built a strong relationship with senior management, I was able to ask for what I wanted and, within reason, stop doing what I didn’t enjoy. 
    It’s called, making your own way.
    And now I run a business that I truly love, using the skills and experience and networks I made throughout my corporate career, coupled with the imprinted behaviours I wanted to model and a dismissal of those I didn’t. I have the flexibility and freedom I want to be a present mother and business owner and wife. I get paid well for the work I do because I make sure it’s damn valuable and what people need – and I ‘over deliver’, or rather, ensure my clients get a super high level of service and knowledge and care, (which incidently I consider ‘normal’). I get to take a break when I want to, and I get to work crazy hard when I’m in flow. I get to run my own show and celebrate my success the way I desire. And I also get to fall apart on my own terms if things don’t work out as planned.

    A lot of my friends who work for the government, or in corporate, or at schools think I’m ‘lucky’. They see the midweek lunches, the evening events, the retreats, the volunteering at school, and think I’m ‘lucky’.

    It’s actually called ‘engineering’ your life.
    It’s called planning.
    It’s called making it happen for yourself – because noone else will.
    I get that we’re all different. And I get that not everyone has the same drive or know-how or situation. I also get that there are a lot of excuses. And I get that there is a lot of ‘waiting’ for the right moment.

    I’m no hero. I’m no superstar. And I’m also not that ‘lucky’ in the traditional sense. (Heck – still waiting to win a raffle, let alone Tattslotto!)

    I’m just me, and I took control. And I had a plan. A vision. And I wondered hard enough what would happen if I made it happen.

    It’s not perfect every day, but it’s certainly MY day, MY way.

    In October I’m running a retreat. And it could be the very start of something amazing for you. I know how much I benefited in the early stages of my business from being immersed in the process of creating. Immersed in the business of business. Immersed in the fold of like-minded people. No distractions, lots of accountability.

    If you would like to join me on this weekend – for 3 nights or just one day – please comment below or email me and we’ll talk about what it will mean for you.

    This is not a big group retreat where you’ll feel like a number, get overwhelmed or flail. This is intimate and personalised. This is a place where you will achieve what you set out to achieve. I am fiercely protective of who I let into the fold, only because the wrong energy can upset the entire applecart. But I’m super confident that this is the right way to help the right people move forward with their business quickly and calmly, and move closer to that position of ‘lucky’.

  • The 15 minute blog post

    You know those days when you’ve thrown your content calendar out the window, you’re feeling less than inspired but you know you HAVE to write a blog post to keep your fans in the loop and your subscribers happy? Well, don’t just write any old junk, or worse yet, write nothing.  Both options are bad for your reputation. I get that you’re time-poor and not always feeling like JKK Rowling, so I’m going to show how to write a quality blog post fast. In fact, you could do this process and get one out in less than 15 minutes.
    Here’s how.

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  • From BLISS to BLACKOUT; counting my lucky stars

    How life can change in an instant…

    Just wanted to say a few quick words about my past 7 days. For those who don’t know, which is probably quite a few, I had a terrible car accident last Monday night. It happened on a local freeway, at high speed, and I sustained a head injury. The good news is, it only knocked some sense into me.

    In short, I’m bloody lucky to be alive.

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  • Gifts for absent husbands

    I was buying a present for my husband for this birthday this morning from one of his favourite stores.  I felt a bit rushed and somewhat perplexed about what to buy him.  Normally I don’t struggle at all but this year it’s a tad different. There was an added element of complexity to the ordinarily joyous process of gift-giving. The gift had to be small and light and not contain anything ‘tricky’, so that it could make its way effectively overseas to where my man is currently living.

    I was staring at all the stuff, beautifully displayed, hoping something would jump out at me. The woman working in the store came up gently and said “you look like you need a hand”.

    I explained my situation and as a I did she slowly nodded and leaned in with this look of ‘knowing’ on her face.

    During the course of her ‘recommendations’, she spoke to me about how her husband spent 30 years travelling overseas for work, how it took time to reconnect when he returned (but that it did get easier), how her children were often wary of their dad and where he fit in to the scheme of things when he got back, how she encouraged immediate bonding with the kids and their dad by disappearing for the weekend with girlfriends, and how she used to cope with it all.  She joked about how she always struggled with gift-giving when he was away, so eventually they simply celebrated when they were next together. She told me how now, in semi-retirement, they travel back and forth to Noosa more often (the place they would take family holidays) and enjoy each other’s company in different surrounds.  She runs her own interior design business and he consults in the city, but they allow themselves breaks after a big project. She spoke of the simple pleasure of the perfect small leather travel bag which she keeps packed with only the essentials, so that she’s ready to join him wherever and whenever their fancy takes them. And the big lesson… she spoke of how she’s come to realise that a marriage is about quality not quantity.

    The strategies she imparted were wonderful and her gift ideas were spot on. The way she relayed her experience touched me deeply, as it was emotive, personal, yet helpful, and therefore highly powerful. I bought more than I intended to because I was so intrigued by her story, I just wanted to keep listening. I believed in her and the ideas she proposed, so I chose them all.  I wanted to breathe in her experiences and make them my own. Hell, I want to be her in 15 years time!

    Again, the lesson is clear. Be relatable to your prospects.

    Tell your story in a way that matters to them. Find some common ground. Help them with their predicament. Make your story interesting, intriguing. And they will ask for your help. They will buy.

    Go and be you. Unapologetically you. And tell your stories to those who need to hear them.

  • Email marketing platforms in review

    Email marketing isn’t dead. Let’s just put that out there first. It is VERY much alive and well. Email marketing is also one of the most cost-effective marketing tools out there. It is easy to manage, gives you full control and allows you to establish direct contact with your customers. So, as part of your overall content marketing plan you need to be considering how and when you harness email marketing.

    Email marketing is a proven strategy with which to promote your business. It helps you attract new customers and maintain close relationships with existing loyal customers.  You can manage your contacts by simply keeping a list of names and email addresses, or you can create a complex database full of subscribers segmented by demographic slices and engagement levels. The challenge is knowing what will work for you and what choices you need to make.  Which method you choose, and what tools you buy,  really just depends on how big your budget is and how sophisticated your business is at this point.

    The first step is to know WHY you want to do email marketing

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  • Overwhelmed? You Need A Creativity Retreat

    I believe that business ownership is a creative endeavour.  But sometimes it can feel more like a task factory, more like a ‘job’ (you know, like the one you ran away from??),  than a creative outlet.

    And the problem is it kind of gets worse as you get better and more experienced at what you do, which feels counter-intuitive but it’s often very true.  As you become a business-building machine, it’s easy to lose touch with your passion, your vision, your BIG WHY,  and it’s possible to even lose that genuine connection with the people you love to serve.

    What a tragedy!

    But it’s all too real for many business owners, especially as they grow from being a solo-entrepreneur or micro-business to one that is consistently driving profit and also supports others, not just the business owner.  The kicker is that your passion and creativity and the way that you express that is what really draws prospective clients in. It’s what people loved about you in the first place.  Heck, it’s what you loved about you too! And if you lose touch with it, then your prospects and fans do as well.

    That passion and creativity is why you set up shop to begin with, right? (You didn’t do it because you thought it would be easier than having a job, did you??) So it’s time to reclaim your calling and your creativity.

    But how?

    Attend a creativity retreat.

    It’s SO important to get away from your endless To-Do list, your everyday activities, and reconnect to your creative energy.   Giving time and space to you creativity, and actively working on the projects and ideas, will move you toward the future. It’s the juice that fuels your vision.

    Don’t consider this a luxury. It’s a necessary practice for entrepreneurs and leaders. Seriously.

    So I urge you to either find the time and place to have your own, personal creativity retreat, or better yet, come to mine!

    There are some biz babes and bros I know who literally check themselves into a hotel room, turn off their phone, and stay there for a couple of days.  Writing, filming, creating.  Or the really lucky ones jump on a plane and go somewhere exotic, away from everything they know.  This is awesome if you are highly self-motivated, not easily distracted and have the time to research what’s going to work.

    With a group or guided experience however, you get the benefit of structure, expertise on hand, peer support, and collaborative energy. Being around other people on a similar mission often makes it easier to get into the creative flow. (Being given a gentle nudge by a coach when you get stuck also helps!)

    Regardless of what way you choose to go, your creativity retreat should include these components:

    Physical Separation

    Remove yourself from all distractions – clients, employees, kids, housework, day-to-day activities. Creativity and writing require a high level of focus that is often impossible in our normal environment.

    Go somewhere different, away from what is ‘normal’. It doesn’t have to be the other side of the world, unless you have the means and the inclination of course.  A mountain or coastal retreat works well because of the natural inspiration the surroundings offer.

    Separation also means technological separation. Where possible, don’t be calling in to the office or home to see how things are without you; and ask ‘your team’ to respect the same boundaries.  Being far away isn’t useful if you keep being interrupted by phone calls, texts, updates, etc.

    Creating physical space away from your norm will allow the creativity to flow more easily.

    Creative Inspiration

    Your retreat should incorporate things that support your creative side – and everyone is a little different on this front.  Some people need the beach, others may need an adrenalin fuelled activity, still others might love the funky vibe of an urban neighbourhood.

    Moving your body definitely helps to improve focus and creativity, so ensure your retreat includes regular breaks for yoga, stretching, walks, swims, dancing.

    Other inspirational activities may be listening to mantras or music, trying something new, colouring in, listening to an inspirational speaker, cooking in a new style.

    Enough Time

    Habits and patterns are hard to break.  Unwinding from your normal routine takes time.  Don’t expect you can go away for an afternoon and slip into super-creativity-retreat-mode.  To really gain the full benefit of an intense creative time, you need sufficient time. I recommend a minimum of 36 hours, but take 2 or 3 days if you can.

    Tangible Results

    Before you go on your creativity retreat, set some specific outcomes, but be sure to have a flexible mindset that allows room for new ideas as well.  My retreat participants spend up to two hours with me planning what they want to achieve and why.  This is then condensed into a formal Retreat Plan that they pledge to follow by signing it on night one of the retreat – accountability always works best!

    If you don’t have a plan, and are simply interested in ‘going with the flow’,  you may find yourself floundering.  Time is precious – don’t go wasting it.

    Setting yourself a goal to complete X amount of blogs, or write your book outline, or create 6 months worth of Facebook posts, means you will come out the other end of retreat having accomplished something! You will have a body or work that can make a real difference to your business and carry the retreat experience forward.

    Do you need to get out of your rut and shake things up?

    Perhaps it’s time for a creative, entrepreneurial retreat!

  • Chasing Sunsets

    I had coffeee this week with a guy I haven’t caught up with for a while.
    He’s a photographer and videographer who does really great work.

    When I asked him how he’d been going, how business was ticking along, he surprised my by saying ‘just ok”… and then he qualified it by saying that it was probably because he’d been busy chasing sunsets.

    I thought ‘chasing sunsets’ was a metaphor, you know, for being distracted by shiny things like most entrepreneurs are. But no, he’d LITERALLY been off chasing sunsets, with his camera, trying to get the perfect shot!

    I laughed at the fact that my brain went straight to the metaphoric reference. But he’s a dude and dudes are mostly  very literal creatures. So I dug a little deeper. What I found out was that he’d been spending over an hour every night for over a week trying to get the perfect sunset shot….just for his own amusement, oh, and to dish up some Instagram gratification. Really? Yup.  To get likes.

    And yet he had been moaning about the fact that he wasn’t charging what he was worth, that people were taking advantage of his generous nature, that he was spending the most time with the clients paying the least, that he hadn’t increased his database for ages….

    Had he spent those 10 hours getting his podcast out there to grow his audience….
    Had he spent those 10 hours creating that free video series optin to grow his database….
    Had he spent those 10 hours refining his packages and communicating those….

    …he may have felt a little differently about his business. A little bit better than ‘just ok’.

    Chasing sunsets is absolutely delightful. I get it. And at the moment, they are stunning where we live. It’s great for the soul. It may also be great for getting likes on Instagram. But is it what you do FIRST, when the other stuff is undone?

    Prioritising business growth activities is often a struggle for creative business owners, especially if they’re not things you love to do. BUT, your business won’t flourish by chasing sunsets.

    What sunsets have you been chasing lately?

  • Losing your voice – literally or metaphorically

    I’ve lost my voice. My actual voice, not my writer’s voice, has just disappeared.

    Well, truth be told, the word ‘just’ is incorrect. I knew it was coming for 3 days. There was that telltale tickle, the waves of heat, the loss of strength, the lack of energy. And this morning it was gone. No sound. Nada.

    I’ve been using my voice a lot lately, more than usual and more fiercely. Coaching, speaking gigs, presentations, networking, parenting, daughtering. And I’ve been speaking for so many other people too: voicing their fears, propping them up, going in to bat, celebrating them, fighting for them. A change in domestic circumstance has meant I’ve had to tell the story over and over again, and I think I’ve literally run out of words.  I’ve exhausted myself by prioritising everyone else’s emotions and interests; my own have slipped by the wayside.

    And so I instinctively knew that my voice was bound to give way at some point. It’s my body’s way of saying “ssshhhhhhh…” It’s time to listen. (more…)

  • 3 Quick Ways to Stay Visible During School Holidays

    It’s school holiday time (in Vic anyway)…and you know what that means?

    It’s the juggle struggle of running a business whilst running the social lives of your children at the same time!

    Being visible in school holidays comes down to planning

    And even if you don’t have kids, you’ll probably experience that deafening silence when you email one of your clients or that cagey low-talking when they answer the phone. Because chances are they’re dealing with a child tugging at their attention, wanting to be fed, wanting a cure for boredom, wanting to make noise the minute they get on the phone. It happens to the best of us, even with the most well-intentioned children and the most carefully organised activities – they just NEED you when you are the phone.

    So, how do you deal with this predicament? How do you manage to do all the things you have to to keep your business ticking whilst you have the kids home from school? You can’t always take weeks off every time the school holidays roll around, nor can you palm your kids off the entire time (or can you???) (more…)

  • Perfect content? Are you kidding?

    Do you get nervous whenever you have to send something out, worrying that it won’t be exactly right?

    Do you cringe every time you’re about to press publish on Facebook?

    Do you muck around with your sales pages, your marketing materials, your emails to the point of spinning in circles? Or even worse, to the point of not sending them out at all?

    It’s time for a perfection intervention!

    You know that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to creating content for your business, right? It is simply impossible to get to this mythical point called ‘perfection’ because the truth is that you can continue to make changes and improvements for ever! Creative work will never be perfect, but at a certain point, you must just decide that it is done.

    An old CEO of mine once said: “Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.” I didn’t realise how true that was until I started my own business.  You see, it’s always easier to let go of the content when it’s not your baby that it relates to. Not that I was ever sloppy or slapdash with my content previously, but when I was writing for other brands, the attachment simply wasn’t as high as it is with my own; it was easier to let it go at ‘really good’ versus ‘outstanding’.

    It’s perfectly normal and understandable for any business owner who has vested endless energy and effort into getting every little detail of their business just right, to want to get every single word perfect. What I’m going to suggest however, is that you may need to lower your standards a bit. Now, I’m not saying to put out low-quality content by any means, but if your standards are so high that you never actually reach them, you are in fact inhibiting your own growth. How will anyone get to know, like and trust you if they never hear from you? How will prospects understand where you position your services if you don’t talk about them?  It is important to strike a balance and have standards that are achievable.

    Perfection paralysis is a real thing. But it’s not a good thing if you want your business to expand.

    Here are 4 considerations that may help you to embrace imperfection.

    Just start creating

    Author, Brene Brown, summed up this irony beautifully in her book Daring Greatly: “Perfectionism crushes creativity – which is why one of the most effective ways to start recovering from perfectionism is to start creating.” Perfectionism can cause us to stop creating before we even get started simply due to fear that we won’t live up to our own standards. Ridiculous but true! And the more we do this, the more it continues to occur.  The reality is that self expression and creativity are inherently messy and imperfect.

    Take the example of painting. In our culture, most adults refuse to pick up a brush and paint a picture because they think they can’t create something worthwhile.  Head to any kindergarten or preschool however, and the room will be filled with enthusiastic painters, all creating their own masterpieces freely and excitedly.  They have not yet learnt the meaning of perfectionism.  Their messy, imperfect paintings are beautiful!

    Conversation and connection

    Building relationships with people is the primary purpose of business content, therefore, when creating content it may help to think about it like a conversation. When you talk to someone you don’t plan every word you are going to say ahead of time. You may hesitate or struggle for words but that doesn’t reduce your ability to connect with that person. In fact, showing some ‘humanness’ and imperfection often makes you more relatable.  Remember the old saying ‘nobody is perfect’? Well it’s true! So stop trying to be. If you’re aiming to provide a flawless image in your business comms you may actually be doing damage to your brand. Why? Because you raise questions and concerns amongst your readers about the possibility of perfection.  You alienate them by making them feel less than worthy, which is the opposite of what you want to do with your content.

    Consider the stats

    Short-term content pieces, such as emails and blogs, unfortunately don’t get read all the way through by up to 70% of viewers. Sad but true! Most readers skim read these pieces of content.  So, as far as perfection goes, it may help to realise that your audience is NOT nit-picking your content nearly as much as you are!

    Everything is a test

    As business owners we should always be trying and testing and measuring new things.  As entrepreneurs and innovators – that’s what we do! Inevitably, it won’t all land perfectly. Viewing this as ‘failure’ however, is not useful to anyone.  Rather think of it as R&D – research and development.  The more you try things out, the more information you uncover, which helps you to do it better or differently next time. And since nothing is ever perfect, everything is a test!

    Stop aiming for perfection, and start seeking out the beautifully imperfect. It is there that you learn and grow.

    Let me know if you struggle with perfection….I can help.

  • Are measurable results the only ones that matter?

    Did you know there’s a new version of the ‘star chart’ in schools? The digital-age version called Dojos. You do a good deed you get a Dojo, you do something dodgy, one could be taken away. Standard action-reward stuff, just now in an app for all to see.
    We’ve all come across these before. Perhaps you rememebr the chart that had your name on it, either on the fridge, comparing you with your siblings, or on the school wall, highlighting your actions compared with your school mates’.  There was your name, in neat handwriting down the left with a hopeful blank column, waiting to be filled with stars.

    In the class Dojo system, there is currently a predictable distribution of ‘points’ — nothing unusual amongst an average population of 9 year-olds. Most have earned two or three Dojos. One girl is streaking ahead with six. Then there is Tom without a single star to his name. There’s always a Tom.
    Everybody, including Tom, knows he’s at the bottom of the Dojo pile. And nobody, including Tom, really knows why. Dojo-less, Tom now bears the label of ‘the naughty one’ because he can’t seem to get to grips with performing at a Dojo-worthy level, of doing the measurable Dojo-worthy things.

    And so it is in business, where most success is defined by what it’s easy to put a number on.

    Revenue, sales, profits, visitors, growth, impressions, likes, database size, event numbers, open rates, page views etc. All the things that fit neatly on a spreadsheet.  And yes, they’re important, and the truth is spreadsheets – like Dojo apps – don’t lie.

    The problem is, they don’t tell the whole story. There’s no measurement for the intentions we have, the effort we made, the impact of our work and the difference we will make over time—not just this term or this quarter.

    Interestingly the people with the most Dojos, or gold stars, or numbers on their spreadsheets, don’t always win.

    In fact, sometimes they lose. They’re often so busy reaching for the stars to stick on the chart, doing the Dojo-worthy deed, that they forget to really see the brightest stars or the daring deeds outside the Dojo.

    I hope you’re spending some time NOT measuring your success on an app or a star chart.

  • You ARE creative: find out how then use it

    Creativity and self-expression are transformative – both in business and in daily life.  And I believe everyone has the capacity to be creative.

    But don’t go getting all uncomfortable and start backing away….I can hear you now saying “but I’m NOT creative. I can’t do that!”

    The truth is, you can, and hopefully you’ll see that too, when I let you in on what I believe is ‘creativity’.

    Creativity according to Jo Johnson

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  • There’s nothing wrong with being an ostrich

    There’s absolute validity in knowing what your competition is doing. And there are very good reasons to study those in your field, particularly if they are ahead of you in skill or experience.  HOWEVER, there is also real danger in obsessing about who’s doing what, when and why, and how much more they’re earning/doing than you are.

    Think for a minute about how many days and how many brain cells you’ve wasted this year worrying about her over there….or him down the road.  Think about how many grey hairs you could have saved yourself by not stressing about the fact that so-and-so seems to be everywhere doing everything, whilst you’re stuck behind a computer trying to make ends meet.

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  • The moments in between

    A friend of mine was once upgraded to First Class when flying for work.  She was stoked! To be fair, her company had paid for all the flights that gave her the status credits to be chosen for the upgrade, but that’s cool – she was the one actually travelling!

    The cabin crew, of which there were four, only had eight passengers to look after – how’s that for a ratio! There’d be no “umm, excuse me…excuse me….excuse me….can I please have a glass of water? Oh ok, when you’re ready….”

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  • From meat pies to sushi – has your business evolved?

    I found myself in between appointments the other day, and I was hungry. Really gut-gurgling hungry.  I didn’t want to go searching far and wide for food, so I opted for the foodcourt that was in front of me – not something I do very often. I’m not pretentious about food, but I do like to feed my soul as well as my stomach when I eat, so I tend to go for deliciously fresh options that are prepared specifically for me.  However, on this occasion there wasn’t a lot of time so my choice was limited.

    As I ordered my ricepaper rolls, I had cause to giggle. Two young burly tradies, with their tanned, hairless legs and Northface puffers on, sidled up next to me and ordered Fiji water and sushi.

    What the??

    Since when did tradies trade the Four’N Twenty pie and the chocolate Big M for imported water and seaweed?? (more…)

  • 13 Reasons Why it’s a great story

    I have a hangover. A ’13 Reasons Why’ hangover. And it’s a bad one.

    If you don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s a TV (Netflix) series, based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The show revolves around a student who kills herself after a series of negative incidents brought on by school mates.  Running over 13 episodes, the central character, Hannah Baker, narrates the story via tapes she has left as evidence for her suicide.  Each episode ‘outs’ one of the students, outlining their impact on her final decision. It is harrowing and compelling, and has left a lasting impression on me as a parent.

    I binge-watched the last 4 episodes last night because I needed to know what happened.  I simply couldn’t think what Clay, the shy boy who loved Hannah who acts as an audience surrogate as he listens to the tapes, could have done to her so I had to watch his episode, tape 11. And then, well, there were only 2 left and I couldn’t sleep not knowing what had compelled this young bright girl to finally take her own life. (In the end, I couldn’t sleep anyway, because the content was so alarming that I kept dreaming about what life-changing horror the suicide of one of my kids would bring.)

    (more…)

  • What does confidence mean for you?

    As a business owner there is nowhere to hide when things get tough. There is no boss to look up to, and often no subordinate to blame! It is you and you alone who needs to take responsibility for whatever is going on. So how do you find the confidence to step up and out when it matters most? How do you continue to find the gumption to communicate your message and your value?

    What does confidence mean to you?

    Is it being so comfortable in your own skin that nothing and noone else matters?

    Is it the feeling that you can be relied upon?

    Or is it the slightly irritating attitude of bravura, of highly opinionated people?

    (more…)

  • Positioning and presentation – make your coffee worth lining up for

    As I wandered my way through the small local village to the butcher the other day I was struck by something – most of the people I could see were in line for one store. One cafe.  It got me thinking about how important ‘exposure’ is to all of us as business owners and entrepreneurs.

    You see, the only perceivable difference between that one cafe and all the others in the village is its position and the way they display their items.

    Trust me, the prices are the same (or bigger) for their coffee and food, the quality is arguably the same, the service is equally nonchalant. In fact everything else is much the same.

    The only real difference that appears to generate 4-5 times the sales of their competitors is their positioning and presentation.

    (more…)

  • 5 Ways to Increase Visibility as a Business Owner

    Business owners need visibility for growth. In the highly connected world in which we now operate, there are new ways to increase visibility, beyond the boardroom. Don’t get me wrong, I love an old-skool face-to-face meeting with a prospect. Maybe I’m showing my age (!), but when you’re sitting down with someone you have ALL your persuasive tools at your disposal—your voice, your body language, your active listening skills—those are the big guns.

    But face-to-face sales take a lot of time and time is the modern business owner’s nemesis. Given many of us work with (or want to work with) clients from all over the world it can be a near-on impossible task to reach people in person. And have you noticed too, that a lot of people don’t want to meet face-to-face as a first step, like they used to? There’s a whole lot of research that happens first…a gathering of information from a variety of sources to help them make up their minds before contacting you.

    These realities have forced me to get creative and look for alternative ways to ‘get in front of’ my prospects. None of these options put pressure on people to buy. Instead, they compel people to learn more about you in their own time, which may make them more inclined to buy down the track. Eventually you’ll get the ‘face time’ you want. (more…)

  • Meaningful connection with audience begins with connection with self

    The content you produce for your business should be about creating meaningful connection with your audience.  Yes, it should demonstrate expertise, yes it can be for the ultimate goal of creating sales, but the underpinning motive should be to connect.   The thing is, meaningful connection isn’t only about the content you share with your people – it’s also about connecting with yourself and your ideas.
    Arguably, if you get the second type of connection right first – the self connection –  meaningful connection with those you want to help will come as a natural next step.

    A really great way to encourage self connection is with old fashioned pen and paper.

    The process of writing long-hand is SO good for the brain and for the free-flow of ideas.   There is evidence to suggest that writing long-hand:

    • improves retention of information (handwritten notes helps retain knowledge as the brain summarises and comprehends better when committing notes to paper)
    • increases critical thinking and problem solving (strong writers and avid readers are non-linear thinkers and are more able to draw connections and develop unconventional solutions to complex problems)
    • heightens creativity (using paper forces the brain to slow down and use phrases or shapes to solidify complex ideas).

    A huge bonus is that you also can’t self-edit as easily as when you use a keyboard, which means a higher likelihood of actually getting all of your ideas out on the page before pressing the delete button!Writing in long-hand is a fabulous way to create a meaningful connection with self partly because of the physical act of feeling the writing surface and holding the pen. Your brain is actually required to use thought to direct precise movement of that pen across the writing surface.  Whereas, the alternative, using a keyboard, is a simple memory-based action – executing keystrokes is a repetitive motion based on letter placement on the keyboard.People often prefer typing because of the speed and convenience and the ability to share and print documents easily.  All very valid reasons.  However the benefits outlined above are often lost when you hit the keys instead of the paper.  Thankfully there are ways to have your cake and eat it too – using a stylus to write on a tablet or using a service such as Evernote to scan your handwritten notes are great ways to get the best of both worlds.

    Here are a couple of ways to connect with yourself and your ideas

    Mind Mapping

    The writing of content on paper requires more than just scribbling on sticky notes or idle doodling.  Mind mapping is a great way to develop concepts or solve problems because it encourages unstructured thinking and it activates the creative side of your brain. When you write a whole bunch of ideas down around a particular topic, you get to see the connection between them.  This often helps you find the story or pathway within the idea and connects you more fully to it.

    Multiple Colours

    Incorporating different colours into your writing is beneficial in both academic and professional settings. Using a consistent colour-coded system allows you to easily see where your priorities are and where pertinent activities or thoughts are included.  If you’re more of a visual person then this will really suit you. You can get quite creative with your colour coding!

    A Focused Moment

    When you’re in a position where you know you need some help or it’s time to make a change, but you’re not quite sure where to begin, stop for a minute and take a good look around you. Where you are right now is super important.  Then write it down. Describe what you see, how you feel, who’s around you and what you’re doing. Be ok with where you are but acknowledge you want something more or different. That clarity and acknowledgement of the present will help you figure out the next best step for you.

    Examination of Fear 

    Being wrapped in fear is paralysing.  Sometimes the fear is founded but often it’s only perceived.  So if you’re able to pause for a few minutes to examine what you’re actually afraid of, you’re better able to face those fears.  Write them down.  Where is the fear felt on your body? How does it affect your thinking, your breathing? What if that fear wasn’t real? What if it was removed in an instant? When you can face the fear, you can embrace the fear which helps you work with it and move forward rather than stay paralysed.

     

    Connecting with yourself first, through pen and paper, to understand where you’re at is going to put you in good stead to write the words your audience needs to hear at any given point. Take a moment, don’t rush it. The right words to create meaningful connection will come.

    If you need a hand with implementing this process into your weekly marketing schedule, drop me a line. We can do a thirty minute power session to get you on the right track.

  • The art of resilience – there’s never a wrong age to learn it

    This is a story about my girl Lucy. A story of resilience and dogged determination – two values I regard highly. It’s a story whose lesson most adults could learn from, and a story which is equally valid when applied to dealing with tough situations in our business as it is here in the childhood swimming pool.

    Lucy was determined to give the school swimming trials a go. As a grade 3 it was the first year she was eligible. Not many of her friends were keen to try out, in fact there were only 8 girls out of about 55 who were attempting it. She’d been equally excited and nervous all week, unsure of what to expect, but really wanted to give it a crack regardless. She’s a great little swimmer but not what I’d call a natural fish.  However, she’s very competitive with herself, so she wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass her by.

    Her race was up first and it was the compulsory freestyle – not her favourite stroke, but a necessary one. I could see the nerves on her face, but she patted her friend on the back to encourage her and made a joke at the starting line to cover up her feelings. (more…)

  • The power of a mentor. If not now, then when?

    The fastest known way to grow your business is by working with an experienced mentor.

    Why?

    Because they’ve been where you are, faced the challenges you’ve faced and know what works.

    When people message me to say they’re struggling to hit their goals in their business, or that it all feels ‘hard’, I always ask them “who are you working with to help keep you on track?”

    (more…)

  • The value of content marketing

    While content marketing has been a very hot topic for the last few years, many companies and marketers still do not understand how to use it and why it is so effective. Understanding the importance of content marketing and ways of efficiently using it could be a turning point for your business’ success.

    First of all, did you know that approximately 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile consumers are using ad-blockers to remove any advertisement on websites they are visiting? (ref: Interactive Advertising Bureau study, July 2016). These numbers are huge, and it is a good indication that traditional marketing is losing its power.  Paid advertising was THE way to spread brand’s message in online marketing, but not any more. Ad blocking is on the increase, which is great for consumers, but a terrible trend for marketers who rely heavily on paid advertising.  Luckily, there is still a way to get cut-through with your message.

    (more…)

  • Batching is bitchin’

    Have you ever wondered how to get more done in less time? I certainly did….and still do, often (but that’s because I’m determined to only ever work a 3 day week!)

    Well I’ll tell you how all the super prolific content stars do it. It’s called BATCHING. And it’s absolutely BITCHIN’ when done well (that’s surfer dude speak for awesome, cool, amazing).

    So what is BATCHING?

    (more…)

  • More is more when it comes to your ideal client

    Sasha is 41 years old.  She’s married, has two young children, a dog, a lovely house in the suburbs and a relationship that’s comfortable.  She runs her own business, formally exercises once a week (but kids herself she’s burning serious calories picking up after the children all day), drinks wine and coffee and then green juices. She usually shops at  Target but has no problem buying $300 shoes. She has heaps to say and can talk underwater but struggles with a pen. She is passionate about her passion and is desperate for it to consume more of her life…if only she could carve out a few extra hours each day.  She’s happy, driven, but not ecstatic – yet.

    You know quite a lot about our ideal client don’t you? Because you’ve been told ad infinitum that this is the cornerstone of business marketing.  Every program, every course, every webinar has banged on about it for years. You got the message.

    Or did you?

    (more…)

  • 2017: Your voice matters more than ever

    2016 was a very interesting for many of us. I know upon reflection, we can pretty well say that every year, but last year the universe really seemed to rock for many people.  I know little about stars and planetary alliance, but apparently that had something to do with it. Or maybe it was just people pissing each other off.

    There were many political and cultural challenges (Trump, immigration, gay marriage, legalisation of cannibis and Syria to name but a few), which prompted outrage, annoyance, confusion and hurt.  And there were many amazing artists and icons lost (Bowie, Ali, Fisher, Cohen, Cole, Lee, Rickman…the list goes on). And whilst we didn’t know them, they entertained us, changed us, made their mark on the world. Why? Because they had the courage to use their own voice. Sometimes it was used well, others inappropriately. Regardless, they had the guts to stand up and be counted.

    The year was tough and tricky in many ways, but the tides of change have been fuelled.

    (more…)

  • I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions

    I don’t believe in regret.

    I’m also not sure that people actually change that much. And I certainly know that what’s said in the heat of the intoxicated-midnight-moment is almost definitely never going to come to light in the cold hard reality of January 1.

    This scepticism may sound odd, given that essentially my chosen pathway is to support and coach people through change…given that whether I’m working with groups or individuals, I am constantly talking about change, the affects, the stories.

    But here’s the thing. I’m not completely without hope that people can morph or rehabilitate or alter their pathway.  It’s just that THIS is what I believe in: (more…)

  • Festive reflections

     “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

    As the year draws to a close, most of us take time to reflect on what was, what could have been and what the hell! And it can surprise us, just how much we’ve achieved, or it can make us squirm uncomfortably as we realise it was just another ho-hum year that dwindled by without a whole lot of positive progress.

    Now, it would be completely unrealistic to expect that each year is going to be extraordinary, filled with massive highs, few lows and progression in leaps and bounds. Some years just aren’t meant to be that way. And you know what? Your adrenal glands will thank you! Rarely can every single year be an adrenaline fuelled party where success is all you feel. However, I do think it is important to keep aiming for better each year. Better health, better wealth, better connections, better balance, better fulfilment. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    (more…)

  • Words have power – use them wisely

    Your words have a huge impact on those that hear them or read them, particularly those who look to you for leadership. The power of words goes well beyond their explicit meaning; do not underestimate the implicit and intrinsic too.

    Words can be used for good or evil; the great orators of our time are testament to this.  Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler, Bob Hawke, Barack Obama, Donald Trump.  Love them or loathe them, those who choose their words carefully, and craft clever messages, can whip individuals or entire countries, into frenzied action.

    (more…)

  • ‘Positive stalking’ – is it really a thing?

    I met a gorgeous woman last week. She approached me in a crowded room and said, “I’m only here for you. I’ve been watching you and reading your blogs and posts for months and I needed to meet you. I’ve driven for an hour to be here, so can we talk?”  This gorgeous woman then invited me out to lunch, which is where I was today, enjoying great food and company in the sunshine, with a like-mind.

    Now, if I was single,and if I was so inclined, I may have read this approach as a proposition. Or, if I wasn’t in the business I’m in and therefore able to read the subtext, I could easily have been highly weirded out and worried about her stalker-ish behaviour. But the thing is that in the circles I run in, in a professional sense, this kind of behaviour is actually the highest form of flattery.  In fact I commended her on her ‘positive stalking’ (a phrase I coined about 12 months ago when a similar thing happened to me), and she just laughed, knowing full well I wasn’t offended or turned off by her approach.

    (more…)

  • Trump the Trump: create your own future

    You would have to be hiding under a rock if you hadn’t seen or heard what has transpired over the last 48 hours in the US. The Presidential Election which has gone on FOREVER is finally at a close, with a not terribly popular (ironic, given he’s the winner) result.

    The media, bloggers, journos – hell, everyone in social media land – has gone crazy reporting every minute detail about the outcome, including their own fears and freak-outs about what it’s going to mean for America and the rest of the world.  And whilst I have to admit that when I first heard that Mr “You’re Fired” is now a world leader I almost choked on my protein ball, I have to say I didn’t immediately go into “the world is going to end” mode.

    Little known fact: I’m actually an American citizen. I could have voted in this election. But I chose not to. One, because I don’t live there and postal votes only get counted if it’s looking like a tie, and two I wasn’t informed enough about the individuals and their parties to know what they actually stand for.  I’m not an idiot, so on the surface I could see that Trump was a pretty revolting choice. His ability to shoot his mouth off and offend an amazing cross-section of the community is quite remarkable to say the least.  But I felt like a hypocrite voting for just anyone in defiance of him, given I have little idea about what their policies would do for the larger population.

    (more…)

  • WeetBix and God – a story made in heaven

    There was a moment at the breakfast table recently, when my daughter randomly said: “So, who actually IS God?”

    “Well…..” I responded, taking a sip of coffee, buying time to find an appropriate and easily digestible answer before her WeetBix got soggy.

    “You see…he’s not a HE but she’s not a SHE. God is a feeling, a spirit, a moment in time, an expression, a sensation, a comfort, a joy, a leader, a teacher. God is the creator of all living things… if that’s what you want to believe.”

    She mulled it over between mouthfuls and then said: “So does God still exist? Like, wander around and stuff. Didn’t Jesus actually wander around and eat breaky and live on the earth? And isn’t God supposed to be his dad?”

    Hmm. Tough one.

    (more…)

  • A timely reality check

    Keeping a reality check on what is actually achievable at any given time is SO important. Whether it’s life, work or parenting it’s important for everyone… but it’s absolutely vital for business owners if you’re going to survive beyond the initial adrenalin of the start-up phase and not burn out when you start to level-up.

    I am very tough on myself when it comes to getting stuff done and making the absolute most of every single waking and working moment I have. It started out this way when I began working in recruitment. It was the late 90s and everyone I knew was working hard so they could play hard. Being seen at the right bar, drinking the right drink, wearing the right gear was high on the list of ‘success markers’. No-one wanted to leave the office first for fear of being seen as a ‘slacker’ and everyone aimed to arrive in the morning before the boss, hangover or not, so they could already be on the phone getting deals done. There were targets to meet and leaderboards to climb so everyone made the absolute most of every moment. It was a culture that self-perpetuated and I was right on board.

    When I started running my own business, I felt a pressure of a different sort.

    (more…)

  • Making assumptions about your audience is foolish

    You probably know by now that I’m overseas on a big long-awaited family holiday. It’s been equally wonderful and exhausting – and we’re only half way through.  Travelling with young children is not easy and tempers have been frayed at times, but we’re all still speaking and noone has been sent home alone…yet…  So whilst I have a spare moment, I want to share some thoughts about the assumptions we make of our people.

    We’ve been in the US, camping and meeting bears, renewing our wedding vows in Vegas, chatting with heroes in Disneyland and all along it’s struck me how often we make up stories about places and people before we’ve even met them or experienced them.  Aussies definitely have preconceived ideas about Americans, and the reverse is also true.  As travellers we  make assumptions about how we should be treated and as adults we make assumptions about how our children should behave in certain situations.

    (more…)

  • Magic happens when you keep believing

    Sorry it’s been some time between messages but I’ve been kinda busy getting ready for a rather large trip. Today, however, I felt it necessary to share a story about magic.

    You see, a year ago today I sat my husband down, gave him a glass of champagne and then wheeled in some brand new suitcases. On one of the suitcases was a message from Mickey Mouse. It was inviting him to celebrate his 40th birthday at the Happiest Place on Earth. And now, 365 days later, I am writing to you from a hotel in Anaheim, and Disneyland is a mere 7 minute walk away.

    It’s kind of surreal that it’s all actually happened. We’ve had the busiest of years with my business and my book, with the kids, with my dad’s illness, and with Simon’s work, but we stuck to our guns, made a plan and made it happen.

    (more…)

  • The awesome power of immersion

    Wow. I have seriously only just come down off the high from hosting my third Writer’s Retreat this last weekend. What a rush! It was so relaxing, so joyful, so engaging, so mentally stimulating and challenging – SO rewarding. The ladies who attended did everything planned for and asked of them, plus much, much more. They were gracious and willing and committed.

    We worked hard, worked smart, brainstormed, set our intentions, made decisions and created plans. They are now much clearer on what they stand for and where their value is. They know who they can help and how. They also know how to chunk up their knowledge and create marketable products out of it.

    And the biggest take away?

    That immersion is absolutely the key to getting ahead swiftly in your business.

    When I was 4 I knew just what I wanted.

    (more…)

  • Get your butt into gear. No more excuses.

    You’ve heard this before, I know you have, but I was reminded of it again this morning when speaking with a client. (She’s amazing, but she needed a gentle kick in the tush.)

    YOU ARE ENOUGH.

    YOU KNOW ENOUGH.

    Already.

    Don’t go watching another video, attending another random webinar, or reading another book. You don’t need to right now. NOT that those mediums aren’t useful ways of disseminating content, but they are also AWESOME TIME WASTERS when you are in the throws of generating your own content.

    (more…)

  • How to write like a somebody when you feel like a nobody

    Are you sick to death of everyone telling you how to stand out in this online world? Do you ever wonder whether anyone is actually going to bother to listen to your advice anyway? I used to feel the same way.

    I have never been an introvert but, after many years of successful corporate life, somehow I lost my nerve when it came to promoting myself and my own business.  I knew what I was offering was valuable and I had the credibility and know-how to back it up, but I didn’t understand why people would read my writing and marketing tips when the web was completely flooded with information from people I deemed more authoritative than me.

    Why would anyone listen to me?

    (more…)

  • The entrepreneurial school holiday blues

    Four days in and I’ve given up the fight.

    The tussle and juggle of solo-business owner versus school holidays was over today. It just had to be. Because I was driving myself mad and the kids too, and that’s just not cool anymore.

    This working from home (albeit in an awesome custom-built studio!) combined with kids at home scenario just does not work for me, or them.  And I knew that. I know that.  It happens every term, every year.  I head into school holidays with a sense of trepidation and angst – the complete opposite of my non-business-owning or working friends – as well as a huge bag of mother guilt for feeling that way.  The “can’t you just take some time off? You’re the boss aren’t you?” comments don’t help either….

    (more…)

  • Don’t undervalue yourself: how to remove the stress of pricing your services

    Pricing is one of the trickiest P’s of marketing.  It’s especially tricky when you are pricing your OWN services because a) you’re too personally involved and b) it’s hard to measure exactly like-for-like value. Putting a price on a can of soft drink is a whole lot easier than pricing a health transformation service for instance. It doesn’t seem to make it any less complicated when you know that you deliver amazing value and transformation for your clients – many of us still get stuck.

    I struggled with this when I first started my copywriting business.  I went from a large 6 figure salary in corporate world, believing every day that I was absolutely worth every penny of that to the company, to charging myself out at less than half of my hourly rate as a copywriter when I first opened my doors.  In hindsight it was ridiculous! I had SO much experience, so much to offer, but somehow I just found it vomit-worthy charging more.  When I first tried to settle on an hourly rate I looked at competitors for ideas and I looked at complementary services to try and find where I fit. Whilst I could gauge an industry ‘norm’, I really struggled to know what would be an acceptable amount for me to charge. The thing was that I wasn’t a kid just starting out in this profession, nor did anyone have exactly the same experience as me.

    I felt I deserved to earn roughly what I had been earning prior but somehow it didn’t seem to work out that way…

    (more…)

  • Key things to consider before attending a writer’s retreat

    Whether you’re a business-owning 40 something (ahem) like me, a fresh university graduate, a middle-aged career-changer, or a retired widow, a writing retreat could be just what you need to start that book, finish your online course content, or finally get those blogging ideas out of your head and onto the page. It isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it certainly is mine….and it’s also exceptionally useful, productive and necessary when you lead a busy life and need dedicated time to get things done.

    There are people I know who are mystified as to why I would want to run away and ‘just write’ for the weekend. They can’t fathom why I’d have to ‘go away’ to do that when I have a perfectly great work space at home. They also don’t really understand when I say that I actually just want to write ALL day, like 8 hours per day, almost non-stop, only breaking for coffee and chocolate.

    (more…)

  • Red light and blue sky

    This morning as I set up office in my new favourite cafe, my lemongrass and ginger tea brewing silently in its pot as the toddlers noisily bustled around their mother’s legs, I had one of those moments of bliss. Those moments where you realise your kids are independent enough to be at an activity on their own (kung fu and school) and I have 40 glorious minutes to just be me.  With a calming sigh, in delicious anticipation of doing some writing I gently lifted the lid on my MacBook and pressed the start key.

    But instead of that welcoming ‘da-daaaaam’ sound, I was shown the ugly face of the red light, battery symbol.

    ***NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO***

    How could I have been so stupid!  My heart pumped faster, my legs crossed in indignation and my mind raced to all the ‘issues’ I’d have now because I couldn’t get 1, 2 and 3 things done in my allotted time.

    (more…)

  • Shadows stifle success

    You’re amazing at what you do. I know that, because otherwise you wouldn’t have had the guts to buy the domain name, agonise over the logo, and head out at all hours of the morning and night to attend networking and training events. You bothered to step out of your comfort zone, finally gave the coprorate job the finger, sucked up your pride and told your parents and friends that you were “now open for business.” You made the move because you know deep down that you can do that ‘thing’ better than anything else and anyone else.

    What I reckon might be happening now though is that you’ve made it to the end of year one, or two, or even three (if you’re lucky) and you’re not feeling the rush of momentum anymore. The sparkle of newness has fizzled, the excitement of being a ‘start-up’ has faded.  You’ve exhausted all your networks and you’re wondering where your next clients will come from. It’s getting tiring but you kid yourself because you’re ‘busy’ that you must be progressing.  You’re doing ok, but be honest, you’re not really soaring are you? You’re paying your way, but you haven’t exactly lived up to the dream promised in that first ‘entrepreneurs get rich’ seminar you attended.  There’s a fair bit of spinning in circles, doing the same things on a different day hoping for a different result. You tell yourself there’s still so much to learn and you get distracted by the beautiful shiny things “because they might just be the missing piece of your puzzle”.  You fumble about continuously trying to figure out which one should be next on your To-Do list…the ever-growing To-Do list.

    (more…)

  • 21 awesome email subject lines that work

    Email marketing is not dead!

    BUT, given the amount of email that the average person receives each day, it’s hard to make a positive impression on that inbox that gets results.

    Email marketing is about one thing: engagement.

    It’s hard enough to get people to read your email when it’s in their inbox, but what if it doesn’t even make it past the spam folder? Some email service providers such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, use an ‘engagement score’ to decide whether your email will get beyond the gate keeper or not. (more…)

  • Geeky Google info, relevant to business owners who write

    So, the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) world was abuzz last week. The little techy nerds have been at it again and Google has made some changes. And it’s all to do with headlines. Ironically, the headline announcing the change was decidedly dull…

    “Google Increases Width of Search Results Column.”

    Boring title aside, what exactly has changed and why is it important to you as a business owner who writes?

    (more…)

  • Why sharing your back story is important to your business

    Before you can expect anyone to buy from you, particularly if you are in a service based business, it is essential to build trust. The best way to do that is to let your target audience into your world by peeling back the layers and offering a little bit of yourself at each and every contact.

    Whether you’re introducing yourself before a keynote speech, conducting a workshop or meeting someone for the first time at a networking event you need to be clear on what your story is and be able to tell it succinctly.  The same goes for when you’re writing your website About page, a bio for a collaboration, or social media posts – you need to share your story in a way that resonates and demonstrates your expertise.

    People buy people. It’s plain, it’s simple, it’s true.

    (more…)

  • Repurpose your purpose: blogs become posts become tweets

    You know those days when you’re sat in front of the computer wringing your hands, or nervously staring at your phone, wondering what to post about next on your Facebook page? And you get that prickly feeling of anxiety in your chest, that bile rising in your throat, that rush of heat to your head because you have abso-frickin-lutely NO idea what to write about next? Well don’t panic, don’t fall apart, we’ve all been there before…and there is a solution! The answer lies in the blog content you have already written.

    If you’ve been doing a good job of your blogging – writing articles that answer the questions of your target audience, positioning yourself as an expert in your field, offering valuable ideas – then you already have a plethora of posts for social media just waiting to be extracted. Did you know that???? Look no further than your own backyard and you will find SO much great information that you can simply break apart and repurpose for social media.

    Why repurpose your content? (more…)

  • The origin of language: a 4 year old boy’s musings

    I had a very interesting chat with Master 4 the other day. It went something like this:

    “Mummy, how did I learn to talk?”

    “Because I taught you. And so did daddy, and nanny and poppy, and your sister. Everyone that is around you and loves you has taught you to talk. We speak to you, you listen, and you connect the words to the thing or action.”

    “So, who taught you to speak then?”

    “Nanny and poppy and my teachers.”

    “Ok, then. So who taught them? And who taught those ones? And really mummy, who taught the first person EVER in the world to speak? They didn’t have anyone to teach them?? And why did they just make up sounds and give names to stuff like TREE. How did they know that was supposed to be called a TREE?”

    Hmmm.

    Yes. Umm. Well?

    (more…)

  • Great results with minimal effort. Really?

    If you’re brutally honest with yourself, in the quiet of the middle of the night when your brain is still racing like a wild horse through a fire, and you can’t turn off the twitch in every fibre of your being that is linked to your desire to succeed, and every ounce of your mind body and soul is tired from trying, you’ll admit you wish this was true…..

    …That creating and running a successful business really was as easy as those people promise.

    You know, THOSE people. The ones with all the ‘luck’. The ones with all the right people in their camp. The ones with supportive parents and partner. The ones with the nannies. The ones with great marketing speak as a natural gift. The ones with money to invest. The ones who make it look easy.

    You know that deep down, even though you tell people you love what you do and that you enjoy working hard and figuring things out for yourself, and that you relish the challenge of your solo growth path, that you REALLY wish you could achieve great results with minimal effort.

    (more…)

  • Do you know what problem you solve?

    Too many businesses focus on the solution they provide rather than the problem they solve.

    Whilst coaching people, I’ve asked them: “What problem does your business solve?”

    Often there is deafening silence…followed by an “umm, I’m not sure.” Worse still is the response: “I don’t think I do solve problems.”

    The thing is that in a world where most people have what they need, and where businesses are popping up all over the place, you need to know how your business is going to stand out and why. Why does the world need your ‘thing’? What is your differentiator? What problem are you solving and for whom? It’s almost impossible to tell your story or market your business if you don’t know what problem you solve.

    The One Sentence Pitch

    It’s a really challenging – but worthwhile – exercise to articulate what you do in terms of solving ONE single problem. Understanding what this is, and using it to drive you, is at the root of doing meaningful work.  So how do you do it? Pretend you are pitching to an investor for a $1million injection….they don’t want to hear about all the solutions you provide, they only have 30 seconds to hear about what issue you can solve.

    For example:

    Dropbox: People have no reliable way to store, access, update and share all their data from one place – a USB or emailed file doesn’t cut it.

    Uber: Why can’t I just push a button and get a ride?

    So, in one sentence, tell me, yourself, your business partner, your mirror, what’s the key problem you solve in the world with your business?

     

  • Expectations of self

    Yesterday I had a crappy day.
    It felt doubly crappy because I was really pumped to have a good day. But it just didn’t pan out that way.

    You see, I went on an excursion with Master 4 and his kinder crew. The weather was stunning, the location awesome, the anticipation large and I had high hopes that we’d be creating beautiful memories to savour for years to come. In fact, I thought this day was seriously going to rock. And so did he.

    But instead it was just really shitty. And we both cried a lot, shouted a bit (him more than me – I do have some modicum of control when in public!), and really didn’t like each other for a good few hours. I kind of sulked, he got really uppity and it was pretty darn miserable. It will go down in my books as a huge parenting fail and one of the first conscious moments for remorse from the 4 year old.

    I won’t fill in all the blanks, but needless to say my expectations were not met… and in the quiet of my pillow cuddle, with tear-stained cheeks in the safety of the dark, I was forced to reconsider whether I had been unrealistic in my expectations.  All I had wanted was for him to play and respect me in the same manner as he did at home, to join in the group activities and to give everything – even the scary tube slide – a go.  I wanted to get grinning-selfies, peekaboo-pics and laugh in the sunshine with him. But instead of being his bestie I became his worstie. And he didn’t join in – he stuffed around with his new bestie. And he didn’t take my hand and give it all a go, he screamed and shouted and told me I was mean to make him do something he was scared of. It broke my heart and his spirit and pretty much annoyed the hell out of anyone in a 200 metre radius.

    So as I put my big girl pants back on last night, stopped pouting and being cross, and let the sadness wash over me then start to dissipate, I realised that our expectations are often not met – by our families or our businesses, and in particular by ourselves. I wanted so much for everything to be like a storybook and yet, why?  I’m not stupid or unaware – I’ve already been there done that with another 4 year old. I know stuff doesn’t always work out beautifully, (in fact I know there’s a high percentage chance of it NOT working out beautifully when it comes to 4 year olds!) and yet as my hopes for the perfect memory-making day were dashed I behaved like a spoilt teenager. I was SO disappointed I could have cried like a …well, like a 4 year old…..

    It’s weird how our behaviour sometimes surprises us. It’s kind of odd how we sneak up on ourselves and do something that makes us feel uncomfortable, awkward, outside of ourselves.  We’re in control of own behaviour and it shouldn’t happen like that, right? I mean I’m a sane, grown woman, with an educated mind and a rational sense of self. What the hell happened?? Thankfully these moments are pretty rare for me now (believe me, I did HEAPS of sneaking up on myself when I was in my 20s and 30s…) but it does still happen.

    I guess as I mature and check in with myself more regularly it is less and less likely to occur (unless of course I start to lose my marbles….at which point I reckon I’ll just embrace ‘loopy’ and not worry too much about what I say or how I act!).  What I do know is that I’ve become really good at not letting my business sneak up on me anymore. There was a time when it would bite me on the arse because I was just not aware, not in control and not conscious enough of my own impact. Now, I am very mindful of where I should offer advice and when I should back off, where I can add big value and when I should leave it to another expert, and what makes me tick and hum and flow.  I’m also really cognisant of who I want to work with, who I can help and who I should just let go…..THIS state of ‘knowing’ and subsequent control has only occured after many years of working at it – with plenty of help from others and lots of work by myself, ON myself.

    If only there was a sure-fire manual to help heal the heartstrings of a mother’s momentarily dashed hopes and dreams for her crazy-beautiful 4 year old….

  • Business storytelling at its finest.

    IKEA – we either love it or we hate it.

    Regardless of your opinion on the ease or otherwise of their flatpack furniture instructions, what I know is that they know their business, their market, and their value inside and out. And they are FANTASTIC business storytellers.

    In this 2 minute video the Start Something New commercial tells a complete and compelling story that demonstrates that IKEA:

    1. understands the views of their customers. They know the answer to the questions, “why would I shop at IKEA?”
    2. makes the customer the hero. He comes first, always. The products play a supporting role.
    3. knows that the ‘outcome’ for the customer is crucial NOT the features of the product.  It’s all about what you could become.
    4. gets that how the customer feels when they use their products is central to their business. His belief about his own possibilities changes.
    5. knows how to tap into emotion. There are no product names, branding or anything in site.
    6. helps us to see ourselves in the hero’s story. We are all on a quest to find the best version of ourselves.
    7. knows that the feel-good factor of this story is perfectly aligned with its overall business philosophy. All touchpoints of the business deliver on this.
    8. asks the audience to buy into this story and discover our own along the way.

    These are the words published by IKEA with the video:

    IKEA invites you to start something new. Because THIS is the moment, let’s get going. Change something, do something different, big or smalls things. What’s important is to start. Get some inspirantion and DO it.

    It’s perfect. Perfect for their business and perfect for their customers. And perfectly aligned with my business vision too – particularly given my week ahead.

    Are you going to do something different this week? Are you going to get started?

     

    If you need a gentle nudge, want some inspiration, require a handhold to get you going, then maybe you’re lucky number 5 at my retreat. Call me or message me if THIS is YOUR moment.

     

  • A surefire way to find time in your week to write.

    Writing is an art form, but it can also be considered a science. When writing for business this is particularly true. There are formulas to follow and disciplines to adhere to in order to create the best communication piece possible.

    Knowing your audience, grammar, tenses, purpose, plot development, features-advantages-benefits and that sort of thing, are all incredibly important when communicating your value to potential clients. Crafting a good piece of writing requires technique and is essential to getting cut-through and recall. (Side note: You don’t have to write scientifically, or without feeling or personality, to follow these formulas).  There is another super important writing discipline however, and that is the art of mastering TIME. It’s a bit like making money – you need to invest to get a return. Spending time writing every single day will not only improve your writing, but will improve your mindset toward writing – which will ultimately result in better writing.

    I ran a straw poll about 6 months ago, as I was curious about the key frustrations business owners have when it comes to content development. I had my suspicions but I always like to check in and have them confirmed.

    77% of respondents said FINDING THE TIME TO WRITE was their biggest challenge.

    How many of you have said: “Yup, I need a blog on my website because I have so much to say about what I do…I’m going to write something every week…I’m going to post to Facebook three times per day….” and never do?

    Regardless of whether you have lofty ambitions as a novelist, or you have a great idea for an online course, or you just want to be able to keep in touch with your fans by banging out a couple of business blogs and social media posts, you need to structure your week to factor in some quiet writing time.

    I know you have ‘reasons’ why you haven’t done this before: I’m too busy; I’m burned out; I’m away too much; I don’t know what to say today; I don’t feel motivated today; I spend too much time in front of the computer already; It never sounds quite right; I should be doing money-making activities; It’s too noisy today; It’s too quiet today…

    (I can feel you nodding now….!)

    But excuses are just that. Lame reasons for not doing the thing you know you ought to be doing. And whilst writing a novel may be considered an indulgent past time (except if you’re a published author with an agent breathing down your neck for the next book!), writing for your business is not indulgent. It is a requirement.

    Writing for your business should not be considered a luxury…it’s a necessity.

    I hear business owners constantly talk about wanting respect and recognition in their field of expertise. They want to be considered a ‘person of influence.’  And yet they wonder why their competitors are asked for comments or interviews and not them. time-to-writeWell, it’s because they’re not out there. They’re not spreading their word and knowledge wide enough. They’re not vocal enough. They’re not being seen enough.

    There is SOOO much noise out there in business land. Everyone is an entrepreneur. Everyone is fighting for a slice of the pie. The only way to really ‘make it’ is to be bloody good at what you do (that’s a given) and to tell people about how bloody good you are at what you do (with grace and professionalism not arrogance!).

    Creating and publishing valuable content is the way to do that. Writing stuff about something that you know about. Making it your own. Then sending it out to the world to add value to someone else’s life. It’s the only way to start being perceived as an authority in your space.

    I know that time has been one of my biggest hurdles too, (although I do desperately try to walk my talk on this one), so I developed a method to ensure I made time to write and didn’t view it as a chore, or worse, neglect to do it at all.

    There are a lot of organisational processes out there, and plenty of time management tools, but here’s what works for me when it comes to writing for my business.

    SCHEDULE WRITING TIME IN EVERY DAY AND MAKE IT NON-NEGOTIABLE.

    1. Choose a time of day where you energy is focused and your workspace is calm. Everyone has different rhythms, different energy burning at various times of the day, different tasks they have to get done in a work week.
    2. Schedule 20 minutes of uninterrupted time into your diary at your chosen time of day.
    3. Before you sit down to write, be clear on what your desired outcome is, or what piece of writing you are going to tackle.
    4. When you sit down, set a timer and write furiously for 20 minutes and then stop, regardless of where you are at. (The reason for this is to train yourself to use the time wisely by throwing everything into it and maximising your output without over-stretching it.)
    5. Follow this process, daily if possible. If that feels unachievable, set yourself 3 days in the week where you follow the process. You may find you actually enjoy it (and become very productive) so you can work up to more writing days in your week.

    My time is night time. It’s quiet. The kids are asleep, the cat has settled, my phone has stopped ringing and I’m calm. My imagination is better at night time and my creativity is flowing.

    I tried getting up early, when my husband does, to write at dawn, but it just didn’t work for me. My brain was too foggy and I resented not being in bed for those few extra zzzz’s. I spent the rest of the day with tired eyes and a scattered brain. I also tried writing at lunchtime, but I was either too involved in client work and felt like writing for myself was an interruption or I was hungry (and I don’t write well when I’m hungry). I even tried writing for one whole day in my week to knock over large pieces of content…but that was just too taxing and also felt like an interruption of the hours I could be getting paid for.

    I really struggled with getting this right in the beginning stages of my business.  I felt guilty about my lack of focus and hated myself for failing at all these techniques. I abhorred my laziness and was pissed off at my easily-distracted nature. But the truth was I was just damn scared to start writing and put myself out there in any kind of regular fashion; I was doomed to fail from the outset. And it was just stupidity. Some crazy blockage. I wrote reams and reams of verbose diatribe in my teens and twenties. I have degrees in Literature. I know how to write, for goodness sake! But for some reason when it came to writing for my own business I just couldn’t do it.

    (Sound familiar?)

    So here’s the thing. If you follow the above process, I guarantee you, you will get truckloads done.

    Why?

    Because focusing on one task is completely possible – and probable – for 20 minutes.

    Even when you’re tired and busy, 20 minutes is doable. Consider that it’s really only once or twice around the water cooler in corporate days terms. And seriously, if you can’t find 20 minutes in your day, you need to sort your stuff out – there is TOOOO much going on.

    The key is to stick to your allotted time and to stop after the timer has gone off. I know that if I kept writing, I’d be overwhelmed, and ultimately this would stop working for me. I may feel great on the days I wrote for an hour but then really crappy on the days I couldn’t manage 10 minutes. So, find the length of time that’s right for you and stick with it. If you find that 20 minutes is too long make it 15 – but commit to it.  The more easily you can fit this time into your schedule, the more successful it will be for you. You’ll get much more achieved and you will reap the benefits big time by expanding your profile through your content.

    So whether it’s a blog, social media posts for the week, research papers, case studies, a novel, or marketing materials, think about how much you could achieve it you just gave yourself a calm, happy 20 minutes each day to write….

  • Don’t undervalue DOING

    Planning is necessary, thinking is paramount, but doing these without action is useless.

    There’s always a client you could follow up.
    There’s that new ad you could write.
    Oh, and there’s that survey waiting to be sent.
    There’s a product you could trial.
    There’s a webinar you could watch.
    Oh, and there’s that training you could do.
    There’s those new contacts you should follow up.
    There’s that copy you could test.
    Oh, and that super important observation you might take action on.

    Each of these presents an opportunity to learn something that could change everything.
    But you have to get started to see that change.

    All the plotting and planning in the world won’t mean anything if you don’t take action.

    Don’t wait for the moment to be right.
    Don’t wait for the mood to be perfect.
    Don’t wait for the stars or moons to align.

    An imperfect first step has more chance of success, growth and creating propulsion than standing still.

    Pick one thing and start today.

  • Be a change maker not a change seeker

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the changes that have happened in my business and the improvements I would still like to make. I reflect on these two things often.  They tend to come up for me when someone asks me my story, or wants to know more about what I do.  It seems that many small business owners I speak with feel the same; there always seems to be a need for stretching, improvement, and change. The thing is that often we’re just not sure what’s missing, how to begin to effect the changes or even where to start.

    To make change happen you need three key things:

    1. The vision to know where you’re going,
    2. The skills and resources that enable you to get there
    3. A plan to drive it forward.

    There’s a big difference between people who seek change and people who make it happen – the latter understand where they want to go and why, and they have a strategy for getting there.

    And key number four? The change makers rarely do it alone.

    This kind of work is what I love to do for business leaders from solo startup to established expert. I do this work with heart, skill and experience in my corner. One-on-one consulting is the most effective method, although I also run beautiful group immersion retreats and technique workshops. Each has its own benefits.

    If you want to build a meaningful business that becomes a beloved brand you need to unlock the value of your story. The power that lies within your own words is immense; use them wisely in your marketing and you will connect with people in a way you never knew possible. When you learn how to look back and connect the dots of your own history, your present and your future will become far clearer.

    If you would like to become a change maker rather than a change seeker, then I’d love to be by your side.

    If you would like to work with me on a one to one basis, please contact me for details on terms.

    I’m also opening up registrations for the July (1-4) and October (21-24) Writer’s Retreat. More retreat info can be found here.

    I am excited to have the chance to work with you, to help you differentiate your brand, build the business you want and to see your ideas fly.

  • The horror pedicure and other important tales

    So. THIS happened today. You know, just your average morning in the Johnson household where the weird and wonderful often occurs at the most random and often awkward of times.

    This week’s episode of “not what you expect first thing Sunday morning” is brought to you by Master 4 who decided it was time to create a ‘salon’. His salon services included makeup and nail polish and there was a lovely cushion to sit on and some rather untidy, but somewhat arty, shredded paper for my feet to rest on. Apparently the paper was to stop mess getting on the carpet….(why did I ever consider he could make THAT call??)

    So the process was quite formal and really rather organised.

    After having my appointment written down with my name and phone number and preferences recorded (you know, all the important stuff like tea versus coffee, cake versus muffins, pink polish versus blue), my name was then called by the salon master’s able assistant (Miss 7) and I was placed on the cushion to begin my treatment.  Let’s just say it was a whirlwind experience. I actually didn’t see them coming at me they were that swift. They were like a well-oiled machine. I had a blush brush across my lids and a nail polish brush across my toes before I knew it (and could protest). But all the while, Master 4 sang and hummed and made beautiful ‘background relaxing music’ for me to enjoy, whilst Miss 7 chattered incessantly about the weather, the latest movies and then spoke about her children and her pets and asked if I had children and where they went to school.  I even got the odd calf squeeze from the toenail technician to make me feel better after a long week at work! Where had they seen and heard all this before? Gee, I wonder! It was a marvellous re-enactment of a myriad things they’ve experienced, salt and peppered with their own creativity and desires to be important grown-ups.

    How could I say anything awful about the execution when the process was so divine?

    Within 7 minutes, I was made up from top to toe. I had shimmer gel and blush and eye shadow on every inch of my face. I had bronze nail polish on my left hand (yes, ‘hand’, mostly) and pink on the right. And the piece de resistance? The toe nails. An eclectic mix of sparkly aqua with a dracula blood red overlay on the left, and aqua with dramatic death black and some highlights of pink confetti on the right.

    Who wouldn’t love this look, right? Apart from appearing as though my toes have been through the mincer, or possibly were used as a prop for a horror film, I actually really love what the kids did to me. Ordinarily I would be like, ‘yup, that’s great, but that’s enough now. I need to get this off and go do ….” But today, even though I had a coffee date half an hour later, I just rolled with it. Why? Because they were focused, creative, telling a story and just so lovely to watch.

    I’m really aware of the moments, the stories, around me now; but I wasn’t always.

    I make an effort to listen more closely to the tales that are told, the lessons that can be learnt and the moments that need to be savoured. I pick up snippets of conversations in public places and my brain instantly creates blog titles from them. I am conscious of what’s going on in my head versus in front of me. I am consistently finding ways to pluck gems out of conversations and create new scenarios that can be written about, retold, made relevant to the people I help. I make a concerted effort to do this now, because it’s really easy NOT to do this. And it’s really easy to miss the point, miss the day, the year, and miss the life.

    Whether it’s my kids playing or a friend rejoicing or a family member complaining, I’m more conscious of finding the second layer of meaning in the exchange. I don’t get all weird and agonise over every word in every conversation, but I do spend more time now analysing the really big convos. Why? There always seems to be more to the story than first relayed and, truthfully, I just find that really intriguing.  I realised that my kids are usually teaching me something or asking to be taught something when they role play. And when a friend bitches and moans about their kids, there’s usually something else going on for them. And when someone boasts about their achievements it’s usually a cover up for some other hurt that needs mending.

    What I know is that storytelling comes in many guises: black and white on a page; grey and murky in the shadows.

    And when you’re telling your business story, you need to let people know that whilst you’re aware there are shades of grey (50 in fact!), black and white is definitely more palatable. Be clear with your message. Be clear with your value. Be absolute with your offering. Nobody buys grey. They buy black or they buy white. But grey is just ‘meh’.

    So, if your special gift is spooky horror pedicures – let the people know. They’ll either want one, or they won’t!

  • Why the brain loves stories

    Since the first cave paintings were discovered, over 27,000 years ago, telling stories has been used as a fundamental means of communication.  Now, as well as historical evidence, there is scientific evidence to prove that we humans actually crave stories, like a child may crave sugar! Recent research in neuroscience has revealed that our brain is actually hardwired to respond to a story.  So, in the words of a famous sugary advertiser, why is it so???

    Why the brain loves stories

    We all enjoy a good yarn – around the campfire told by your grandpa, at the cinema being delivered by Hollywood or at the bar being recounted by your mate. But why is it that we feel so engaged when we hear a narrative about events?

    It’s actually quite simple. If we listen to a presentation with boring Powerpoint points, certain parts of the brain get activated. Scientists call these Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. The messages hit the language processing parts of our brain, where we decode words into meaning, and that’s it. Nothing else happens.

    When we are being told a story though, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but all other areas that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too. The feelings, emotions, physical reactions bits. Pretty cool hey?

    The thing is, humans at their very base are social beings who regularly interact with strangers – at the supermarket, the park, a restaurant, a workplace. Stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual to another. Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain and are thus better remembered. They get to the core of us as humans, far more readily than simply stating the facts.

    There are two key aspects to an effective story

    First, it must capture and hold our attention.

    Second, it must transport us into the characters’ world.

    The way to keep an audience’s attention is to continually increase the tension in the story. When you maintain attention, the brain produces symptoms similar to those of arousal – the heart and breathing speed up, stress hormones are released and our focus is high. In story terms, once it has sustained our attention long enough, we may begin to emotionally resonate with the story’s characters. This is where the ‘transportation’ begins. (Think sweaty palms as you watch James Bond fight with a villain on top of a speeding train! Or an aching of the heart as the unrequited love of the heroine plays out in front of you.)

    Transportation is an amazing neural feat. We may be watching a movie or reading a book, knowing intellectually that it’s fictional, and yet our brain simulates the emotions we intuit the character must be feeling and then we begin to feel those emotions too.

    Stories bring brains together

    Emotional simulation is the foundation for empathy. It is particularly powerful – and useful – for social creatures such as humans, as it helps us quickly decide whether those around us are happy, sad, angry, dangerous or friendly. This mechanism keeps us safe but also allows us to rapidly form relationships with a wide variety of members of our species – more so than any other animal. By knowing someone’s story, where they come from, what they do, and who you might know in common, relationships with strangers can be formed quickly. And when people come together, amazing things can be built, created, designed, and imagined.

    How we learn through stories

    As it turns out, not all stories hold our attention nor transport us into a character’s world. (Remember those tedious books you were forced to read in high school and the hideous training videos you were forced to watch at your corporate sales training day?). NOT ALL STORIES ARE CREATED EQUAL!!! The most engaging and successful stories require the ‘dramatic arc’ structure. You start with something new and surprising then increase tension by introducing difficulties that the characters must overcome, often because of a failure in their past, and then you lead up to a climax where the characters must look deep inside to overcome the impending crisis. Once this transformation occurs the story resolves itself. This is the perfect story framework and one that tends to leave its message behind more memorably.

    How stories connect us with strangers – and ourselves

    Stories can motivate us to look inside and make changes to become better people. We can make conscious choices about the stories we choose to create, believe, follow and live out. By the same token, we have free will to change a story, mid-narrative, if it doesn’t suit us any longer.

    Stories have huge power to create empathy and propel us to take action we otherwise wouldn’t; we can find ourselves stepping into a zone well beyond our usual comfort. These stories can lead us to ‘helping’ behaviours when we engage with others, which generally makes us humans happier. Caring for strangers is advocated by many philosophical and religious traditions for good reason – it helps give our lives purpose and drives us forward.

    And so it is, that by listening to the stories around us, we can find ourselves interacting with people and places we may never have dreamed or conceived of. As a wonderful by-product, we may find ourselves doing work and living a life we never knew possible, creating a deep connection with ourselves that is invaluable and precious.

  • I confess to telling untruths about my family…..

    For the past few months I’ve been telling myself some stories about my family. And unfortunately, a number of them have been negative and frankly untrue.

    “Master 4 is just that way at the moment, it must be the testosterone…”

    “That’s just Miss 7’s personality, it can’t be helped….”

    “That’s just the way we parent, it’s all we have time for….”

    “Maybe we’re not meant to have a smooth ride….”

    “I can’t help it, I don’t know any other way right now…”

    And so on.

    It’s not great. It’s not cool. And I’m not really proud of it. But I’ve thought it, felt it and said it.

    What happened on our recent family jaunt up the east coast was very interesting however; my thinking about my family shifted markedly. Master 4 isn’t THAT way, or any other way in fact – his behaviour was just that way in that moment. And Miss 7 isn’t this type or that type of kid, she just behaved that way as a result of the knowledge she had at that point in time and the triggers around her.  We aren’t any type of people or family, we have simply been behaving a certain way as a response to the pressures, emotions, events around us. And over the last 6 days, we moved from behaving in a very particular way, to behaving in a vastly different way.

    IMG_7732Days away from the home, properly disconnecting from work and renovations, and genuinely connecting with each other did amazing things for our behaviour and interactions with each other.  And it didn’t take much to do it. In fact, there was no plan for it to happen, not even a conscious thought or hope that it might happen, but happen it did.

    You see, we had a very busy year last year with a number of high stress points and challenges.  We also had some amazing celebrations which I guess in many ways added to the rollercoaster of emotions.  My husband (Simon) and I both spent a lot of time travelling, which in and of itself is not stressful (in fact we both love it), but the planning for it to occur with two children to look after, was.  We also lost two dear pets rather suddenly, undertook a bunch of renovations on our home, and dealt with some rather ordinary family health issues. My business ramped up enormously which, whilst fabulous, meant I had to (and wanted to) find more hours in the week and therefore had to lean more heavily on my already slim support systems – something I’m not very good at doing (it’s in my 2016 plan to figure this bit out!). I also felt the pressure to be there for an increasingly demanding school and after-school activity regime and all that’s involved with that.  My kids needed me more as their emotional requirements changed, and yet I felt less and less available.  My parents also needed to lean on me more and yet I didn’t know how to make that work, given distance and time. My head was elsewhere and everywhere, trying to be everything and everyone. And Simon was the same. He was asked to lead a high profile and extensive project which would see his responsibility and time requirements increase, and along with it, his stress levels. He barely got home to see the kids before bed and was gone before they woke. “When’s daddy coming home?” was a nightly question to be faced with, and “I don’t know” was often the unsatisfactory answer.  They needed him, and didn’t get him, so they needed me more. And I simply didn’t have the reserves.

    teaching fishingAnd so our weekends were a blur of trips to Bunnings, maintaining the house/garden, running to activities, a hurried visit to friends, late night working sessions and too many wines (under the guise of having a life and enjoying ourselves!), all masked as ‘family time’.  We were often tired and restless and resented the kid’s need to be with us constantly and got antsy about having no time to get anything done. And we spent too many moments saying “go and amuse yourself please, just for an hour or so,” and then got grumpy when the kids were fractious, fighting and hanging off our heels. No fricking wonder!

    Craziness. And not at all the vision I had of my ideal life.

    So it was a lovely surprise when driving home last night that Simon and I both reflected on the amazing change of behaviour our roadtrip had created in our family.  We didn’t know it would happen, we didn’t do anything special. We didn’t even try. We simply relaxed and enjoyed each others’ company. Importantly, we were present.

    Lucy learnt how to backflip in the pool and catch a wave on her boogieboard. Simon helped her and she beamed.

    Ollie learnt how to catch a fish and play cricket on the beach. Simon helped him and he glowed.

    We walked, we swam, we cooked, we rode, we found crabs and jellyfish and squid and stingrays. We lay still and watched the clouds. We talked, we shared, we read books, we watched ballet, and we moisturised each other’s warm skin. And it was heaven. It was how I remember it was when I was 7. THIS was my family. THIS is who we are. IMG_7678

    They need us just to be present. They need us to connect deeply when we talk with them, to laugh loudly when we’re learning, to give all of our body when we’re playing.

    We’re full to the brim of this goodness right now. I know it may not last as the school year starts, the workloads increase, and the challenges arise, but for right now it fills me up and I’ll hang on to it for as long as I can. What I do know though, is that we are not any particular type of people, we behave in certain ways at certain points in time, in response to events and people. My aim is to respond more regularly with presence.

    And with presence comes more positive and powerful stories…..

  • The recipe for a tasty media kit

    Clients often ask me about producing a media kit for them. Actually, usually the first question is: ‘what is a media kit and do I need one?’ Nine times out of ten the answer is YES. Why? Because over the last few years, media kits have moved from the more traditional worlds of print magazines and corporations to become a key sales and marketing tool for bloggers and small businesses.

    If you’re not familiar with a media kit, it’s basically a document that businesses use to promote themselves and sell their services to potential clients. Whilst magazines use media kits to sell spots to advertisers, bloggers and entrepreneurs use media kits to sell themselves as well as advertising on their sites, sponsored posts and brand collaborations. Service-based businesses, such as photographers, use media kits to promote their packages.

    On the surface a media kit may seem a little fancy, tricky or open-ended but that’s part of their appeal. There is no set formula. A media kit can promote whatever a business owner feels is their key selling point. They can also be presented in whatever way you wish – as a simple pdf document, a landing page on your website or a fully designed digital flipbook.

    As for what to include in your media kit, here are the most common items:

    • An introduction to yourself and your business

    This is your chance to explain who you are, what you do and for whom. It’s your chance to demonstrate what purpose your business serves. Whilst you should know this stuff intimately, it is often the hardest part to write about. Writing about and promoting ourselves can be really difficult – we’re often just too close to it to make it read well. Hint: Don’t get caught up wasting time on this step. Hire a copywriter to bang out your professional bio; an outsider can view you objectively and highlight your magic without that layer of self-consciousness. It will be money well spent.

    • Your mission

    Sometimes known as a ‘manifesto’, this is your way of differentiating your business from the competition and explaining what it stands for. This step is imperative. Unless you have developed something that is absolutely rare, you need to make yourself stand out from the myriad other choices that customers have. There are a squillion coaches, designers, nutritionists, chiropractors, financial advisors, real estate agents etc etc, so what makes YOU so special? You need to cut through the clutter here. Unique is great – don’t be afraid to be different!

    • Testimonials

    Testimonials are an excellent way to let people know how wonderful you are without sounding full of yourself! Use other people’s words. Regardless of whether they’re from clients, suppliers, partners or subscribers, testimonials add a sense of credibility to your business. They also give potential clients a sense of comfort that someone else has invested in you previously and received great results. People want to feel safe and justified in their choices, and testimonials help them do that.

    • Frequently asked questions

    If you are repeatedly asked the same questions about what you do or how, stop and take note! By including a FAQ section in your media kit you will greatly reduce the upfront email banter that comes with new enquiries.

    • List of notable clients

    As with testimonials, a list of notable clients can help the Nervous-Nellies feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. Some of your potential clients may have never worked with someone in your industry before so they want to be sure they’re making a sound decision.

    • Services offered

    Highlight all of the services you offer, with particular emphasis on the things you really LOVE to do. It’s even better if these things are not run-of-the-mill – you’ll pique interest more quickly that way.

    • Packages and rates

    If you’re not great at talking about money, clearly listing your services with base-level pricing (‘starting at’ or ‘from’) can be an excellent way to help people understand what the ballpark investment is to work with you. Be clear about what they receive for that price and what else is on offer as ‘add-ons’. Don’t surprise people when it comes to money – don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of your pricing either. If you can say it out loud in the mirror, and believe in the value you deliver, then you can put it on paper.

    • Statistics

    If you offer a service where stats (read: traffic to your website, social media engagement, advertiser results etc) are important, then include these in the media kit.

    • Process

    If you have some kind of process you follow when you engage with a client include this. It can help demonstrate the value you offer and the reason you get consistent outcomes. By giving potential customers a glimpse into this behind-the-scenes world, you are helping them understand the work you do and perhaps also helping to justify your rates!

    • Contact information

    This is absolutely imperative. Offer all the different ways someone can get in touch with you: social media handles; email address; website address; phone number. Make it as easy as possible to book you!

    • Recent Press publications/articles

    Copies of recent press coverage are highly appropriate for a media kit. This may include article reprints, online and offline press, interview transcripts and audio or video files of speeches/performances/interviews.

    • A sample news story

    This is your chance to guide the media or your reader. Some editors will even print it verbatim; a ready-to-print article is an easy way to fill up space with little effort.

    • Other items may include:
    • Awards
    • Nonprofit and community-service involvement
    • Logo artwork
    • Photos
    • White papers
    • Schedules of upcoming promotions and events
    • Significant statistics specific to your industry, demographics and target audiences
    • Samples or examples
    • Giveaway information
    • An order form

    The Key Ingredients to Being Noticed

    If your intention is to be published in a popular publication, you need to really make your media kit stand out. Busy editors may sort through piles of media kits each day! So, to get some action on your kit, by either an editor or your target audience, you’ll need to package your materials in a unique and professional way.

    media kit 4 media kit 3 media kit 2 media kit 1

    Follow up is also critical to being noticed. You’d be surprised how many media kits get sent out and then nothing is done afterwards. First up, you need to be sure your recipient actually received your media kit. A follow-up call also provides the perfect opportunity to answer any questions or schedule a meeting. Use this opportunity to build relationships with your intended audience – it should be considered part of your marketing strategy.

    What next?

    The challenge is always just to get started. Do yourself a favour though and don’t reinvent the wheel. You probably have most of this content already written in various places – your website, your quotations, your proposals, your social media accounts – so just collate it and give it a polish.

    Typically, the media kit doesn’t have to be as fancy as people think. Those requesting media kits just want information–not necessarily glitz.

    If you would like a hand putting together your media kit, you know where I am!

  • Create the perfect ending to your story: 5 essential elements

    ‘Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.’ ~Mickey Spillane (American crime novelist)

    Whether you’re writing a book or writing a marketing piece, you need to ensure your ending is rewarding for your reader. After all, they have come on a journey with you through the beginning and middle to get there! It should have the most drama, tie up the loose ends and leave the reader with something memorable.

    Here are five tips to ensure your reader will want to finish reading the story AND be excited about reading your next story

    • Narrow your hero’s options.

    A sense of the inevitable needs to be present. Your hero (which will be your ideal client in the case of writing a marketing piece) should start to realise that the path to his or her goal lies in only one direction (your service or product) – usually the one he or she has been trying to avoid. Allow them to try other pathways (competitive offerings), but make sure they fail (show them the pitfalls of these options). Typically the hero’s rival (the devil on their shoulder) will rear their head again here, creating obstacles as a test.

    • Make everything worse for your hero.

    Keep the reader wondering whether or not your hero will achieve their story goal. Suspense is a great page-turner. The worse the story gets and the fewer pages your reader has left, the more anticipation you can build. The end of your story should contain many more scenes of action than reflection.

    • Resolve all story lines.

    Your content piece, whether a full blown novel, blog or eBook, should be written from the beginning with the end in mind. Each ‘scene’ needs to be building and carving out a plot that leads to the end game. And each story line must resolve itself. The most important story line should last the longest, thereby keeping your reader in suspense for longer. Don’t go introducing any new characters or ideas in the last quarter of the story. The most satisfying stories are those where the central conflict is resolved. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a happily-ever-after ending but readers do like to be left with some hope.

    • Tie up loose ends.

    Try not to leave your reader wondering what happened to any of the characters or be left with unanswered questions.

    • End on a strong note.

    Don’t try to be too tricky here by throwing in a red herring; the most important thing is to create a sense that the story has really ended. Readers like to know that the journey has made sense all along and that the hero has come to the conclusion they have because of choices they made early on in the story. If we’re still there at the end, it’s because we are invested in the outcome. The final impression of your writing should be positive. Trickery can leave a reader feeling cheated and not inclined to come back.

  • Is your sign-off a turn-off?

    I asked some people in my Facebook community a little while ago about how they signed off their emails and whether they had put much thought into the language they used. The question was prompted by an interesting email sign-off I had received the day before: ‘To Higher Conversions, Clay Collins.” He’s the dude who sends me information from Leadpages, the landing page application I use.   This sign-off is perfect for him and his business – helping people creating landing pages that convert visitors to customers – and is highly memorable for that reason.

    Most of the people who responded to me hadn’t put much thought into their own sign-off. They were simply using the same words they had been using forever – mostly as a layover from corporate days.  It got the creative juices flowing – mine and theirs – as to better ways to sign off emails to their clients and prospects.

    But why is a sign-off important? Why should we even bother thinking about it? Because how you sign-off or close your email sets the tone for the email and leaves a lasting impression on your reader.  It can also make or break the intention, and therefore ‘success’, of your email.

    Obviously there are different styles of writing for business emails versus personal ones, and so too should your sign-off be different. There is one thing that EVERY sign-off requires however – your name! Whether it’s first and last or your first name alone depends on the level of formality.  Usually the first time you write to someone you will include both your first and surname; subsequent communications will probably only require your first name. And if you’re writing to a close friend or family member you may even use your nickname.

    The sign-off itself will also depend on the overall tone you are trying to achieve and also possibly the intended meaning of the email content. For instance, you wouldn’t use “Yours truly” in a business email; it’s too familiar and warm and usually reserved for close relationships.  On the other hand you wouldn’t simply use “Regards” if you were trying to build a relationship with someone and sell them your counselling or coaching services! It’s highly unemotional and could be considered terse.

    You may like to consider using a sign-off that is reflective of your personality or individuality (“Sparkles and light” if you’re a cosmic cat!).  I like to encourage clients to use words that reflects their business value or offering. For example, a naturopath may use “Yours in wellness”.  A life coach might use: “To your health and wealth”.  A travel agent might say: “Here’s to great adventures.”  There are endless possibilities – most of which will be far more meaningful and memorable for your reader, (whilst still being appropriate), than boring old “Regards” or “Best wishes”.

    Here are my four rules for signing off on emails:

    1. Don’t include quotes. They can make the reader question why you’ve chosen that particular quote and therefore prove to be a distraction.
    2. Avoid oversized logos. If they are too big, they draw the eye away from the message.
    3. Include your title and contact info, but keep it short. In most business emails, you’re doing the person a favor by sharing your vitals, but keep it minimal. A link to your website or Facebook page is ok but avoid a shopping list of links promoting your projects and publications.
    4. Include some kind of sign-off, not just your name. The function of a sign-off is to signal the end of a message. It helps direct the reader and clearly communicate your message.

    Here is a list of some common and not-so-common sign-offs with a bit of commentary attached!

    Best – Totally safe but can be a little lonely on its own.

    All the best – This is better and harmless. A good one for a wide variety of recipients.

    My best to you – A little old-fashioned.

    Best Wishes – It’s a little like a birthday card sign-off from your work colleagues but it’s not bad.

    Bests – Too fussy and terrible if you have a lisp!

    Best Regards – More formal than “Best wishes.”

    Regards – Fine and helpfully briefbut a little dull and not very warm.

    Kind regards – Warmer and better than plain “Regards” if you want some formality but are building a relationship. I use this often.

    Rgds – OK if you’re sending it from your phone but it wouldn’t kill you to type the other 3 letters!

    Warm Regards – I like this for a personal email to someone you don’t know very well, or a business email that is meant as a thank-you.

    Warmest Regards – As good as Warm Regards, with a touch of added heat.

    Cordially – Very old fashioned and always reminds me of cordial…the drink…from the 70s…

    Take care – In the right instances, especially for personal emails, this works. I use this when the email content warrants it.

    Thanks – I’m not convinced this is a sign-off as such, but it would depend on the content of the email.

    Thanks so much – I use this when someone with whom I have a business relationship has put time and effort into a task or email.

    Thank you – More formal than “Thanks.” I use this sometimes.

    Many thanks – I use this when I genuinely appreciate the effort the recipient has undertaken.

    Thanks for your consideration – Quite formal, but would definitely work in the business context where you are submitting an offer, idea or proposal. Be careful though as it could be seen as almost asking for a rejection.

    Thx – I don’t approve of this in emails but in a text between friends and familiars it’s ok.

    Hope this helps – I use this one when I am offering solicited advice to help the recipient.

    Continued success – You’d want to be sure they had initial success before using this!

    Keep up the good work – As above! This can be useful however, if messaging a coaching client who has sought feedback on something from you.

    Be well – I find this  a bit grating. Not appropriate for a business email.

    Peace – Suitable if that’s your business or personality, but pick your audience.

    Yours Truly – Very much an old fashioned way to sign off. Think: your 9 year old pen pal or estranged auntie!

    Very Truly Yours – VERY VERY old fashioned.

    Sincerely – OK for some formal business correspondence, but reeks of lawyers and accountants to me.

    Yours Sincerely  – Same as “Sincerely,” but even more so!

    Looking forward to your reply – This works when you genuinely want a reply from your recipient!

    Cheers! – I use this sometimes for familiars. It’s quite a British/Aussie thing. Be mindful of using this with Europeans or Americans.

    Have a good one – Again, very Aussie. Be mindful of how this could be misconstrued too. Have a good what???

    Ciao –  I like this in playful personal emails. But then I love everything Italian!

    -Your name – Terse but ok except if it’s an initial email. I’d always try to combine an actual sign-off with your name.

    -Initial – Good if you know the recipient really well and even fine in a business context if it’s someone with whom you correspond frequently.

    Love – Way too informal in the business context for me.  This could be off-putting for some.

    XOXO – Not a good idea in business emails. Save the kissses and hugs for your bestie or partner.

    Lots of love – Only for personal emails.

    Hugs – It’s hard to imagine this in a business email but it’s great when you’re writing to your granny.

    Smiley face – Emoticons are increasingly accepted, though some people find them grating. Be mindful that they may reproduce incorrectly when read through some email applications so will appear as [smiley face] rather than the actual picture of a cute little yellow face.

    Take it easy – Highly informal and may not be read as intended. Be careful using this with people you don’t know well.

    See you around – Same as “take it easy”. Are you literally going to see them around or figuratively?

    Sent from my iPhone – This used to bother me but I realise that it can explain brevity and typos (which I hate, regardless of the device being used!). I would prefer people don’t know whether I’m at my desk or on the move, so I don’t use this.

    Typos courtesy of my iPhone – No excuses peeps!

    Pardon my monkey thumbs – Same problem here.

    Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. – A bit preachy and a bit early 2000s. Who doesn’t know that printing uses paper?

    Lengthy disclaimers – We’ve all seen these and ignored them, though I understand that many companies require them.

     

    The final word:

    Your closing needs to be inline with the overall tone and demeanour of your email. If it’s completely at odds it will be jarring and will leave the reader wondering what they’re supposed to do or feel next.  The sign-off is the icing on the cake to ensure your message is received as intended and there is no room for misunderstanding.

    By taking your time to choose your words carefully, your sign-off will become another demonstration of how wonderful it is to communicate with you!