03 Jun

Life Lessons and Sports

When you think about sports, there’s no denying the valuable life lessons that kids can learn. You don’t need to be a great athlete to gain the benefits.

In my own life, sports gave me confidence, drive and the physical ability to work and achieve. I learned dedication, persistence, will and how to overcome obstacles. I learned camaraderie, hope and how to cope with failure as well as relishing in the victory of success.

Several months ago, Tracy Evans, 3 time Olympic aerial skier contacted me to help her to market her non-profit, Kids Play Intl. I created brochures, business cards, did a PR campaign, created a short video and worked on branding with her. When she spoke of her upcoming trip to Rwanda where she would work to teach children in orphanages about sports, I never imagined it would be somewhere I would go or something I would do…but guess what?… My flight leaves on Monday!

Over the next 2 weeks, please follow my journey (at the Raising Boys World blog) as I build a sports room, work with the children and even go on a gorilla trek in Rwanda. There will be 8 of us traveling, including 4 Olympic athletes; Tracy the aerial skier, a 2006 bronze medal winning women’s ice hockey player, a luger and a silver medalist in 400 meter track & field from Senegal (who is now the President of the African Olympics Association) and a film team that’s working on a documentary. I’ll introduce you to everyone  as my adventure takes shape.

So here’s the very coincidental thing that happened in this experience, a few days ago at an event I attended, I met a young lady who came to the US from Rwanda with her mother when she was 4 (she’s now 15). I learned that there’s a connection between where I live and Rwanda as many people made Buffalo, NY their home after escaping the 1994 genocide. Tomorrow morning, my family is coming with me to this girl’s house to have breakfast and talk about my trip. She still has family near Kivu in Rwanda – which also happens to be near where I will be. So, I will likely meet her family and bring photos and necessary items for them from their family.

As I’ve prepared for this journey, I’ve shared with my boys where I’m going, with whom and why. They’re excited to learn and I think their awareness of the world around them is critical is developing their own compassion and future philanthropic outreach. I’ve heard them talking to their friends about my trip and I can hear the pride in their voices in knowing that I’ll be working with kids their age. I think it sends a message of strength to  them that I’m doing something on my own that’s going to make a difference to someone – even though they’re far away. The only thing they’ve been upset about is that I will be away for my 40th and my son’s 8th birthdays.

As most parents spend countless hours in ice arenas, on soccer fields and in gymnastics centers, we know first-hand the time and dedication required to participate in sports. In our country, we’re fortunate that even the poorest children in our community have access. Elsewhere in the world this access is simply not available…until now that Olympians like Tracy have made it their focus to bring sports to kids everywhere so that all children use the confidence they gain to help make their dreams turn reality.

Click here if you would like to donate to Kids Play Intl.

Tracy and Jerry Rice: chosen by the United Athletes Foundation as this year's Male and Female Athlete Philanthropist of the Year

27 May

Creative Meets Clarity

I’ve talked about the need for any representation of your business to be easy to understand. Clear and concise. While this may seem obvious, it’s obvious by what I’ve noticed around me, that it’s not. That said, I want to move onto another equally important issue…design.

While what you are putting out may be appealing, is it clearly understood by your target audience? I have found several instances where the design was unique and eye-catching, but the message was unclear and the intended target audience didn’t seem appropriate either.

There’s certainly value in creativity. I absolutely love anything that gets my attention and makes me want to know more, but not at the cost of clarity.

Every business is different and likewise, so is every message. As you work to create a look that communicates your brand, you must see the process as a complete package. You need the structure (which might comes from a plan, with goals and objectives aimed at your specific target audience), the message (that will likely involve some call to action), and it should all be “wrapped” with visual elements that blend with the message and the goals of the brand. of course, there’s research that goes into all of this that should also be part of the design and word-smithing process.

I guess my reason for posting on this is simply to remind you to be thorough, well-researched and careful not to overlook basics. Oftentimes, I seems that businesses can get caught up in the specific elements and forget about the big picture.

30 Mar

More Auto DM Smackdown

I know I see things differently than say a new Twitter user might. Perhaps I’m jaded by what I see now as insincere and disingenuous but as a new Twitter user could be perceived as thoughtful or kind.

I started thinking more about my (and most of the #usguys crew I roll with) strong dislike for Auto DMs as several of us have posted recently on this topic. Then it dawned on me… when a baby is born it doesn’t really matter who the baby is being held by, as long as it’s in the warm arms of someone. That sense of being cared for and feeling love and comfort is what’s important. A nurse vs. the mother or a relative. In those early days, a baby wants to feel the connection to someone.

I think that for the newcomers to Twitter, Auto DM’s are kind of the same. A newbie is so excited when someone they’ve followed sends them a reply (an Auto DM) perhaps not even realizing that the message was sent to every other person who follows that person. Since they don’t know that it’s not genuine – they do think it’s personal and might even think – wow, how nice of that person to DM me. In essence, they feel loved and connected.

Eventually, the baby wises up and wants only mommy (or daddy). When another caregiver tries to step in, of course, things can get hairy because baby is smart enough to know better.

Like the Auto DM… once the newbie is no longer new to Twitter, he realizes that all these sweet replies are really a pile of crap and that the sender could care less who he is anyway. Then bitter-ness creeps in and a jaded attitude shifts into gear…soon you’re like the rest of us rolling your eyes at each Auto DM. So unless you can specifically target newbie Twitter users, Auto DM’s are not recommended.

Another Auto DM-related thing I’ve been raging about lately are these ridiculous people who feel it’s ok to take my information (since I’ve decided to follow them) and interpret that as to mean that I want to receive there silly little emails, newsletters and announcements…I don’t. I have found this happening especially on LinkedIn a lot lately. It’s not a good thing to do. When I choose to follow you, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level…assuming that is a huge mistake and frankly is best tactic used for getting people to unfollow you.

21 Mar

Trade show promotional items at SxSW ’11

There’s no doubt that trade show promotional items can help create a buzz and draw traffic to your booth as well as increase recall after the show. At SxSW, loads of promotional items could be found, with some appearing to get more bang for the buck. I collected a small sample of t-shirts and have compiled my stash here for your review. Also worth noting…I limited my t-shirt finds to only those that did not require filling out a form. I’ve also included my children’s favorite swag item – the Angry Bird keychain. By the way, the Klout shirt is my favorite…too bad they only had a small – I can’t even wear it!!

What do you think? Which would you remember?

18 Jan

Your website sets the stage

Before even setting foot in your business, your customer had most probably already scoped out the Internet for your website (as well as what other shoppers have to say about you).  Needless to say, your website, or whether you even have one, will be making that first impression.  Your online presence can ultimately affect your customer’s view on whether your business is worth their time, or to move on to another option.  You might say: I don’t conduct any businesses online, why should I bother?  Here’s why: Your website is the first place your customer will look to decide whether or not to make that first contact with you.

What is your website saying?
If your business already have a website, or if you are considering creating one, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The quality of your website should match the quality of your product or service.  Your customers will decide if your website matches their style and aesthetic, and from there, decide if your brand and product is the right fit for them.
  • Other than style and aesthetics, your website will also show your level of professionalism.  This can be anything from how clean the general look of your website is to whether you have spell-checked.
  • Your website should not be a one-time project. Your website must be maintained and updated constantly.  There is nothing more off-putting than visiting a tacky, old website with outdated information.  Your (once) potential customer will just assume your business is equally outdated and irrelevant, and move on.

Are you using your website to reach out to your customers? And letting them reach you?
Shoppers will also use your website to gauge how you interact with your customers.  Especially in the luxury market, people are looking for a two-way communication, personal attention, and they want to know that their satisfaction and needs is a priority to you.  Having an updated contact/customer services page or other social media outlets (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc) shows that there are open lines of communication, and you value customer feedback.  If they don’t feel that your company are easily accessible, they might opt for another company that they feel is.  These outlets can be invaluable if building a strong relationship with your customers is important to you, and your potential customers will take into account how you use them.

 

06 Dec

Get Out of Town!

This is an article I wrote for one of my clients (ARMS). It appeared on their blog and in Instore Magazine on April 5, 2010. I think you might find it to be useful.

Many store owners feel strapped to their business and are unable to leave to enjoy the fruits of their labor. One reason for this of course, is that some people are not managing the funds they have open to buy and then over buy and put themselves in a financial pitch where they’re paying for less employees hours and as a result, spending more time at the store. For this you need to get a better handle on your inventory and take control of your store. Your investments will pay out with more financial freedom.

Then there’s the owners that made the investment into an inventory control system that has fended off financial woes, through sheer management of inventory and better buying. These people get to go on vacation.

When you head to surf and sun, you leave the office behind and relax. Forget about those nagging customers, you have nagging children or grandchildren to worry about!

Well, not quite. If you recall, marketing is how we interact with our customers. It’s both making the sale and proving customer service afterwards that enables us to retain existing customers and gain referrals.

I was making calls to some clients and received a lot of  “out of office” messages and email replies. It’s annoying. It seems kind of rude and impersonal…and I’m not a client who might have just dropped a chunk of change on a gift!

Here’s why. I want attention when I call. Sure, I know you, even my favorite jewelry store owners go on vacation – you should, you deserve it, you worked for it. But,…my problem or question is (in my mind) important and warrants attention NOW. So an impersonal message, quite frankly makes me feel slighted.

I know you think I’m being a little selfish, but how do you think a customer feels?

All I’m suggesting is that you leave an away message that makes me feel like you care – like I matter to you. It’s more courteous and friendly and it’ll make me feel like a priority even when I know you’ll be relaxing in the sand.

Here’s a message that wouldn’t make me feel dejected if I called you:

“Hello. I appreciate your call, unfortunately I am out of the office for the next five business days, and will return on April 15, 2010. Your call is important to me, so in my absence my associate Susan Strang will be taking care of all of your needs. You may reach her via email at susan@yahoo.com or by calling her directly at 555.555.1212. Please know that while I’m away you will be taken care of in a timely and efficient manner. Thank you for your understanding and I will follow up upon my return to ensure your satisfaction.”

Now that would make me feel like a happier customer.