Pop the Champagne! We’re 6 Years Old!

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If you would have asked my 23-year-old self if I thought I would be 29 and running a business, I would have laughed. If you had asked if I thought I would be 29 and celebrating 6 years in business, I would have thought you were lying.

I was 23 in 2011 and found myself laid off from a failing company and wondering what I would do. I knew I didn’t want to collect unemployment, and that I wanted to go back to school for my masters. My dad suggested that I start my own company and work for a few people on the side while I go to school, and that idea stuck with me.

I got laid off on Friday, and filed On-Word Marketing with the MN Secretary of State on Monday. I began working for a few companies I already had connections with, and started studying for the GRE. Over the next few months I took the GRE and was accepted to Bethel University’s Masters of Communication program.

The next year and half were a haze of highlighter ink, thesis research, and social media seminars, until finally, in October of 2013, I graduated from Bethel with a Master’s Degree in Communication. While all of my classmates were wondering what they would do with their new degree, I turned my attention to my company and began devoting all of my time to growing my business.

What I started in April 2011 as a way to earn a little bit of income while going to school, was now a full-time job. I never set out to be a business owner, but 6 years later that’s exactly where I find myself.

I am very fortunate to have found success in this venture. I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible, grown as a person, and met some incredibly talented people. I have had the opportunity to help some truly wonderful companies, and I am looking forward to helping even more companies with their social media presence.

So today I pop the champagne and celebrate all the clients, family, and friends, because without you, none of this would be possible. Thank you.

Get Noticed; Get Hired

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Last week I was asked to be an interviewer for mock interviews at the school where I got my masters. There was a class of seniors who are preparing for life in the real world so the professor wanted some of us with different types of interview history to come in and help them be better prepared. There was a group of 5 of us who came with all different types of background in the interview process. There was one person who used to be an HR director at a small company, one who is part of an interview team, one who had to look over resumes before they were passed onto the boss, one who was in an industry for a long time and just went through the interview process in a completely different field, and me; I interview for a living.

We each had a different perspective on the interview process so it was fun to hear their tips and tricks to get noticed and get hired in this day and age. I thought that since I found it interesting, maybe you would to!

Tip 1: Be Yourself

Interviewing is the easiest thing to do because all you are doing is talking about yourself. You know your history, you know your skills so all you have to do is walk into an interview, act confident and talk about your work history. If you can stay true to who you are (or at least who you are at work) you are more likely to be placed in a company where you fit in and where the people around you are similar to you. If you walk into an interview and are outgoing and loud, but in reality you want to work in a quiet place, you will be placed in a company where the atmosphere is noisy. This will all be because the employer saw you and thought, “this person will fit in perfectly here!” Whereas if you were yourself the right company will notice that you are hard-working who likes to socialize, but knows there is a time for work and a time for chatting. Knowing what atmosphere you are most comfortable in and relaying that to an employer will ensure that you work in a place that you feel comfortable.

Tip 2: Never Put Down a Number

A lot of interviews will get towards the end and the interviewer will ask if you have a price point in mind. If possible, do NOT answer this question. Simply reply with, “it’s negotiable”. This will ensure that you aren’t saying a number that is too high or too low for the line of work you’re in. Usually they will quote you a figure and then you can work from there. If you absolutely HAVE to put a price on it, make sure you have done your work first. Look at jobs that are similar to the work you would be doing, understand why they are priced that way and take into account the company you are interviewing at. Knowing a little bit of why the job is salaried at the price it is will help you better explain why you think you should be paid $X (again, only if you have to).

Tip 3: Get Creative

Are you interviewing at a place where you will be doing something creative, it’s not a bad idea to tailor your resume to show off your skills in that area. Research creative resumes and see what other people have done, then put your own personal twist on it. Making your resume stand out will make you stand out while showing that you know the industry.

Tip 4: Dress Appropriately

Now this may seem like a no brainer, but I heard some crazy stories so I had to put this one in here. Make sure that you are dressing for the job you want. No logos on your shirts, clothes should fit properly, and try to not be too over dressed or under dressed. If possible, find a coffee shop near the business and spend an hour or so the week before watching what the employees are wearing (then get a little fancier). This will ensure that you don’t stand out and even that you would fit in at the company.

Tip 5: Send A Thank You Note

Finally, whenever possible send a hand written thank you note to the person you interviewed with. Thank them for having you and maybe even recap a point that will show why you would be  a great candidate. If possible, ask the interviewer what their hiring time frame looks like. If they are hiring that week make sure to send it the next day, but if they are hiring within the next day or two send an e-mail because otherwise they won’t get the thank you until after they have made their decision. The e-mail should really only be done if necessary. Also remember that thank you notes are not expensive so make sure that you invest in a good set because it is rather tacky to send one that looks like you fished it out of your mother’s junk drawer.

So there you have it; 5 tips on having a successful interview. What tips or tricks do you have to ensure that your interviews go smoothly?

Maintain Your Voice While Selling Yourself

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Recently I had coffee with a young woman who is thinking about starting up her own marketing company. She wanted to know what to do in order to be successful while she toys with the idea of venturing off on her own.

This conversation made me revisit what I did when I started to ensure that I would be successful in my own business venture.

Now I know what you might be thinking and yes I do know that not everyone reading this has the intention of starting their own company. Luckily I believe all of these tips are applicable to a person going in for a job interview or even selling themselves to their boss in order to get a promotion.

1. Maintain Your Voice– Every company (or person) is trying to sell the same skill sets. Any marketing company can promise increased ROI, more conversations, and better results, but what makes you or your company different? Why would they choose you instead of the other guy? It’s because they like the way you present yourself and your voice. A lot of companies forget that if a client doesn’t like the person or they fade into the background, they won’t get the job. Make sure to bring your personality into work with you.

This should also be reflected in your writing. No one wants to read text while by someone who speaks like a robot. Make sure your voice is heard while getting your message across. For me this is especially true in blog writing. Anyone in the marketing field can write about the industry, but what I hope keeps people coming back is the way I deliver my message. I want to inform my readers while making sure not to sound like every other blog out there.

2. Always Exceed Expectations– Almost every company will expect a person or company to work 9-5. What will set you apart is working past those hours and giving it 110%. For a company this means solving problems before your client even knows there is one. If they have to call you and let you know something is wrong, they won’t be happy.

3. Dress– Unless you are going into a very strict office, remember that you can have some fun with your outfit. If you have something that reflects your personality but doesn’t distract from what you are doing there, a person will be more likely to remember you. The people wearing a black pencil skirt and white button will fade to the background, but if you put on a fun pair of heels, a skirt with a bow on it, or a colorful blouse you’ll stand out (again, make sure it’s the right environment, but in my experience the people in the marketing field are pretty relaxed about dress so long as it’s congruent with their image).

4. Target Audience– Whether you’re a company selling yourself to a potential client or a person selling yourself in a job interview, it’s important to know who you’re talking to. This will change the way you word your thoughts, the words you use and the manner in which you speak.

This is also true with point #3: If you are talking to a company who is very type A, don’t go in wearing a pair of high pink glitter heels (actually, come to think of it… unless you’re in a very “specific industry”, please never wear pink glitter heels to work).

5. You Can’t Win Them All– Selling yourself or your company is similar to dating; not every person you meet will be interested. This is why it’s so important to remember that just because you don’t get an account or job doesn’t mean your skills aren’t great, it just means that the two companies / people aren’t compatible. The sooner you brush yourself off and move on to the next company the sooner you’ll find a great fit.

Why I Won’t Be Responding

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I’ve been working from home for 5 years and it seems as though it’s becoming increasingly more common to have work e-mails pour in around 7,8, or 9:00 at night. I used to spend my evenings checking those e-mails, and responding as soon as possible. That meant that between responding to e-mails, and monitoring social media sites, I was working 100% of the time, and to be honest I was exhausted. I was sick of not having a boundary between my home life and work life, so recently I decided not to look at or respond to e-mails or work phone calls until the morning.

Now I know what some of you are thinking; It doesn’t take a ton of time to check your e-mail to see if something important happened and needs responding to. And to you I say, “But why? 99.9% of those e-mails are not time sensitive and can wait until the morning for a response.”

In the past, I’ve had clients who don’t respect my personal time and instead of contacting me during normal business hours, they chose to contact me on nights and weekends. Because of this, I made the decision to treat my e-mail and business phone like an office. After 5 and on the weekends, I am unavailable. Sure if I get a phone call and a voicemail I’ll listen to it, but if it’s not important I’m not going to call back until the next day. I truly don’t believe that just because we have the technology to work from wherever that we should be expecting an immediate response from an e-mail sent at 9:00 p.m.

As a person who works from home and already has trouble distinguishing home life from work life, this is the line I’ve drawn. I know not everyone may agree with this, but it’s the decision I made in order to allow myself to completely relax and enjoy my nights and weekends.

So to all those work from home-ers, I say, “After 5:00 go relax, and have a glass of wine. That e-mail or phone call will be there in the morning.”

 

What do you think? Am I living in the past or is this something more people should be doing? Let me know in the comment section below!

PICTURE Your Ideal ________

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I recently went to a networking group where a speaker spoke on the topic of using the right side of your brain in order to create your ideal client. This lady said that the left side of our brain processes 40 bits of information per second while our right side processes 11,000,000 bits per second. It’s because of this that she says we should go back to the time where we would rip out pictures from magazines, create a collage, and use it to “picture” our ideal client.

I began to wonder what other things we could use this technique for in our work life? People could make a collage and picture their ideal….. (Job, co-worker, boss, etc).

I started this process small and did a few about my work life to determine the things that make my job enjoyable. I tore out pictures of things that I surround myself with, pictures of industries I like to work with, work area inspiration and much more. This made it easy for me to know what to look for when I am looking for who I would truly like to work with because it’s things that caught my attention in magazines.

I then realized, why not do this with clients? Right now I’m working with a group of people in the travel industry, so for them I made a board of travel related pictures that caught my attention. I then worked from there to try to understand how these pictures were being marketed to me and how I could in turn use that to better identify with the customer who would be using my client’s travel services.

[See Also: Maintain Your Voice While Selling Yourself]

This process made it easy to relate to the customer because I was able to get into their shoes and see things through their eyes. Using this board, I can better create posts that are targeted to the person who is following the company.

This process worked for me because I was able to look at the company from a different angle and see gaps in my social media plan that I hadn’t seen before. Since it worked so well for me, I am going to do this with all of my clients (present and future) in order to make sure I am able to better understand the needs of the customer who is on my client’s social networking sites and I invite you to do the same. Maybe using the right side of your brain will help you picture your ideal ___________?

What do you think? Have you ever done something like this? Was it helpful, or did you find another way to better understand your clients?

The Art of Tactfully Namedropping

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There are those people who seem like they can’t get through an entire conversation without dropping the name of a well-known person or company. I bet you all know someone like this. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable situation to sit and listen to someone rattle off a list of “famous friends” if they seem insincere.

In business, there are some times when namedropping is appropriate, and times where a person should be a little more humble. This is just a short list of times when you should and shouldn’t namedrop.

So when it is appropriate to namedrop?

During an interview (and even then, only if it pertains to the discussion and you didn’t bring it up)

While talking to a potential client (and you’re trying to show your experience)

While bonding over a common connection with someone who has just namedropped

If it pertains to the conversation

While looking for a connection someone may have within a company

When shouldn’t you namedrop?

While in competition with someone else

To bolster your status

In a conversation that hasn’t led in the direction of that person’s name

The key to any of the do’s of name dropping is to be authentic. If you only have met a person once, then you don’t actually know them and should not be in your name repertoire. Only namedrop a person who, if someone were to ask them, they would know exactly who you are.

I think I’ll say it again… Authenticity is key!

One of the Guys

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This week I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few different sports teams. The only problem is that when working with their representatives, the topic of sports tends to come up. While this would be fine for an athletics aficionado, being the occasional spectator that I am, I often end up lost in the chatter. When terms like “spring training,” “ERA,” and “all-star voting”  start floating around, a distinctive glaze forms over my eyes.

I have noticed this happening in several meetings over the last week. The topic isn’t always sports – conversations about deck building, car repair, and other traditionally masculine subjects have a similar effect–and when I have little to contribute, my attentiveness wanes.

Knowing about this possibility, I usually prep for meetings by brushing up on my manly topics, drinking a beer and grunting… Ok the last two are made up, but sometimes it feels that way.

I have found that if I am able to contribute to the small talk that occurs before a meeting, it increases my credibility. I think this is a part of working in any male-heavy workplace; being able to act like one of the guys can help you improve the comfort level of a meeting, and can show that you have the knowledge and style to effectively promote their company. Plus it never hurts to learn a little bit about something you had never thought about before.

This is also part of being young in the business world, where youth isn’t always fully accepted. You have to take some time to prove that you can roll with the best of them. After doing so, you can introduce new marketing techniques to an audience that has already accepted you. After all, half of selling a product is selling yourself. If that means brushing up on sports terms, count me in.

Do you find yourself needing to learn about topics not directly related to the company you are talking to before having a meeting?