Goals For The New Year - They Might Surprise You

So here we are almost the last day of 2011. Blue Gypsy Inc has nearly completed it's 2nd year of existence and through hard work, top notch service and dedication we've doubled the gross income of the company and pleased many clients throughout the year.

But the blog for Blue Gypsy Inc has taken a hit, as has the twitter feed. Which is somewhat ironic since we've probably put out an average of about 2000 tweets for clients this year, About 500 facebook posts for clients, and written upwards of 150 blogs and articles for clients this year...not to mention everything else we do!

But Blue Gypsy Inc. went from 66 blog posts in 2010 to 22 blog posts in 2011. And the numbers for tweeting and facebook followed suit.  My goal for 2012: Step up the social media engagement for Blue Gypsy Inc. I feel the most important element is blogging.  My goal is to write a minimum of 2 blogs per month for Blue Gypsy Inc. I also write 1 blog per month for Business Chopstix. Business Chopstixs is a Business Talent Collaboration blog focused on all things Business, Marketing, Tips, Advice, Technology, Social Media and more.

With this in mind I plan to balance work for my clients and work for Blue Gypsy Inc better. I also plan on balancing my personal goals which are more exercise and fitness. By this time next year with as much hard work and dedication that I put into my clients I plan to put that dedication into myself and be 50 lbs lighter!

What are your business and personal goals for the new year?

Get This

Thankful for The Amazing Blue Gypsy Road

What are you Thankful for? These are the days when we start asking this question. Just before thanksgiving between the craziness of the holidays we begin to ask ourselves what are we thankful for.

I am so thankful that in less than two years time I've been able to build Blue Gypsy Inc into a thriving business with amazing clients who respect me as much as I respect them.  As a gypsy wanderer it was a hard transition when I tried to stay in one place and work in the environs of a cubical. I felt boxed in both mentally and physically. Too many people live their work lives saying I can't do that and I can't do this, and that's not my job. I almost feel it's the nature of the cubical compartmentalizing their people.

Now as my own boss I feel that if I can dream it, I can do it. (that was always the way I lived my life when traveling...why not when working) When people come to me and ask me what I do. The question really is what am I willing to do.  With my dedicated work ethic, ability to research and learn I can do just about anything I set my mind to. Or I can find the professionals to employ to help me as a team get it done.

So when someone comes to me and asks me what I do. I always laugh and say what do you need to have done.

I'm thankful for the spirit and the way in which I live my life. I am thankful for the amazing winding road that I have chosen to get me to where I am today. I'm thankful that I have clients that believe in me and know that I am always out to do the best and give 150% to their projects. I'm thankful for wonderful friends and family that support me on a mental and spiritual level. 

Always and forever thankful.

Get This

Steve Jobs: Words To Live and Work By

Steve Jobs was an innovator and a visionary. He pushed the envelope and strove for excellence in everything he did in his short yet amazingly productive life. If we could all strive to be the best at what we do in life, in our work, with our family we will be lucky and full filled.

The following are  quotes from Steve Jobs to help inspire in many areas of our lives. On this sad day when we lose an amazing American, let's remember him and the lessons he can teach us to create our own amazing lives.

Try New Things: “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Strive for Quality and Excellence:  “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Make Your Mark: “I want to put a ding in the universe.”

Lead Or Follow: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Focus: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

Persevere: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Think For Yourself: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Choose Your Battles: “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

Quality vs. Quantity: “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

Learn How To Say No: “It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”

See Things Differently: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Change the World: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Focus on Simplicity: "That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

Be an Innovator: "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Trust Your Gut: "[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Balance: "My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."

Money Isn't Everything: “You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me.”

Values: “The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are."

America: “I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.”

What Matters: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Don't Settle: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

What's Next: “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

Relationships: "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, Like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."

No One Wants To Die: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Remember That You Are Going To Die:  “Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Life: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life."

Thank you Steve Jobs (1955-2011) for the innovative gifts you've given society. May you rest in peace.

Get This

Time and Priorties: Event Planning for Your Business

Now if there's one thing I can emphasize to individuals and companies, and especially to individuals who are sole proprietors, it's to have a very clear business plan for your event.

My plan for Blue Gypsy Bluesfest was, "hey I want to have a party and brand my company!" At first it was targeting the real estate industry in Hampton Roads, but then I just said, hey lets do this for charity and get anyone and everyone who loves Blues, BBQ, a great family day....and the list went on. I lost my focus and got caught up in other things, which was fine, I had the time and I had the energy, and I kept looking at it as a learning experience.

You need to make sure you have the time, and you can prioritize. At some point depending on what kind of business you have and the work you already have on the table you may want to consider hiring a professional event planner. One who is familiar with all the ins and outs and can give you a realistic idea of time in to plan an event.

If you want to take it on yourself you need a clear picture of what you are doing. Define the following.

What is my purpose for this event?
Who is my target audience?
How do I intend to reach my target audience?
What am I offering?
What am I not offering?
What kind of time do I have to plan this event?
What time frame do I need to create to reasonably put on this event?

If you are planning an open house, a small luncheon, or a small informal gathering of contacts that you already have you need a lot less time to plan an event. Anywhere from weeks to months. But if you are planning an event that means selling tickets or seats to an event or a seminar and you do not already personally know your target audience you are going to need to create a comprehensive marketing plan and give yourself a minimum of 1 year for a first time event. I know, that doesn't hit the instant gratification button. But in order to put on a successful event you need the time to develop a plan and execute successfully.

Get This

Business Coach Vs. Snake Oil Salesman

Wow folks, I've just got to get this out there in a post to go on the record. I am very skeptical of business coaches, and people who train business coaches. There I said it.

My skepticism comes from watching a whole business arise in this flagging economy. Have you ever heard that old Woody Allen quote, "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym." Well when it comes to your business, wouldn't you want the person coaching you to have real world experience, firsthand knowledge and years of experience as a successful professional, preferably an entrepreneur who has owned and run a business? Especially if you are paying them big bucks? I would!

Placating me with motivational sayings and asking me rote questions to get me to think about my business is not my idea of business coaching. 

I think you need years of trials and errors, successes and failures in order to impart a full understanding and important insights into a business in order to help it grow. Yet all over the place there are people coaching others to become business coaches. Now if all these pupils were successful business owners in their own right who have gone from rags to riches, or built their own organization from the ground up but they just need to transition into helping others that would be one thing. But sadly, I see people who have no real world experience turning to coaches to coach them to coach...now follow that one.

How long would you want your coach to be in business for themselves before they took on the task of coaching you? How successful would you hope that their business would be before you had them coach you? How much coaching experience would you like them to have before you pay them lots of money to coach you? How much money should you pay a business coach? What should you get for that money? These are all important questions!

Even more important, what would you like your coaches credentials to be? What if their client list consisted of lots of big name companies...and yet later you found out those companies didn't hire your coach directly or for the services that coach is selling to you? What if they worked with those companies on the periphery while working as a mid to low level employee for another business? Can they genuinely list them as clients?

Words that would come to mind for me to describe those individuals are snake oil, or bait and switch. Yet those people exist out there. They pay other coaches lots of money to teach them how to coach. Why wouldn't they when business coaches can earn upwards of $100 - $500 per hour, and life coaches (that's a great one...how are you qualified to coach about life) can charge between $100 - $300 per hour.  So you may not have a successful business, but if you can take enough classes and convince others to hire you you surely can create a successful coaching business, if you are motivated enough. (By money)

When choosing a business coach be skeptical. After all you are paying your hard earned cash for someone who is supposed to help you improve your business.

Get This

Balance: Work and Life

When you work in front of computer all day, and you own your own business, the tendency is to work to fatigue. At least that's what I do. There is always something that needs to get done, and there seem to not be enough hours in the day to get it all done.

At some point, you, have to step back and say, it isn't all going to get done today. Set  reasonable expectations for yourself, and for your clients. Develop a routine for yourself so that you can do things for yourself, like eat right, exercise and get your work done.

Some of this is about goal setting and creating manageable business goals for yourself, but it's also about personal goals. While growing your business, you can't let your personal life, and your personal health go.  It has to be a balancing act. Just like a high wire acrobat. You've got to create balance in your life.

It may not seem like it when you are building your business, but if you are happier, and healthier you are going to be more productive in your actual time you spend working. You will also project a happier more confident aura to your clients and potential clients which will increase your business over time. 

Get This

When Social Media Works and Doesn't Work in a Crisis

There were very good ways that social media was a huge help during and in the wake of Hurricane Irene. And there were many ways where it was more of a hindrance than a help.

Living on the Eastern Seaboard in Northern Virginia and owning several properties nearby the Chesapeake Bay both in Norfolk, VA and in Mathews VA there were times that I was very frustrated with general media and the news services. And there were times that I was thankful that they had social media streams, though ironically not because of their use of it but because of their fans and followers.

Let me elaborate. Sitting in northern Virginia, I wanted to know what was happening around the southern areas where the hurricane was making it's presence known. Yet over and over and over again, the reporting up in my neck of the woods was about the early rain bands we were getting, and what New York was doing to prepare for the storm, but very little of what was actually going on where the southern Virginia areas were getting pummeled by the storm. Huge fail, in my opinion, on the part of the networks. If you are going to go to a 24 hour news only cycle, give us some news. I only heard over and over again about the sensationalized parts of the storm that were happening.

I heard about the tornado touching down in Sandbridge for hours and hours after the event, yet nothing useful like flooding information in Ocean View (Nearby one of our homes) and other important information. Further more the social media sites and many of the websites of the news programs were streaming video, but they were not WRITING anything about what was going on. Okay folks, what happens when lots and lots of people are trying to download larger bandwidth items like, say, video? That's right and add to that the slower nature of doing it on phones and other devices. A little written information would have gone a long way for many of us trying to find out what was going on.

But the place where social media paid off was when I went on WAVY TV 10's facebook fan page and started reading the local accounts by local people (not the news) on what was going on in specific neighborhoods, towns, and zip codes. And when I posted that I was trying to find out information about Mathews County (Something no one was reporting about) I got some responses so that I wasn't totally in the dark (Like my neighbors had been since 1:00pm yesterday)

So there were pros and cons to the media coverage and the grasping of the necessity for social media during this disaster. There were many people on the social media sites for the main stream media asking them to write some reports. Spread out their coverage and stop covering only the fatalities and the attention getting stuff. If people are safe and sound during a hurricane it is news to report that as well. We want to know about people and properties fairing well against the storm, not just the people who are surfing or getting caught in the rip tides.

Hopefully traditional media will get the hint and implement a little more diversity the next time we are faced with such a wide spread incident that begs for this kind of coverage.

Get This

How Much Time Does It Take To Plan A Successful Event?

How much time should you give yourself if you are planning an event for your business? That is an excellent question everyone should ask themselves as they embark on the journey of putting on a function or corporate event.

No really, I'm telling you, ask yourself how much time you think it will take to plan, execute and have create a successful outcome for the event. And then at least double that time.

I learned this lesson trial by fire. Last year when I planned the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest and BBQ, a first time charity event, I gave myself 6 months. I thought, wow that should be plenty of time...and then the event grew...and grew. I was pulling my hair out by the time the event actually happened, and while I hear the music was great and the food was amazing I really couldn't tell you because I was so busy managing the process.

The next series of blog posts will be valuable information to help newbies who want to do events for their company but aren't quite sure where to begin.

I will share what I've learned and help other businesses and individuals get a better handle on the amount of time and the key elements that are necessary in order to plan a successful event.

Get This

Buyer Beware: Your Daily Deal

So many "Daily Deal" sites are cropping up these days and one has to ask, how much of a deal are they really? It's hard not to blink at a deal for a luxury hotel offering 70% off on a 3 day trip, or special deals on tubing, water sports etc, not to mention the facials and more.

On some items it's easy to know that the deal is genuine. $50 worth of flowers for $25. Easy.

I tend to look at travel. Always trying to find inexpensive ways to escape, even if it's just for the weekend. But more and more I think we need to ask ourselves, if it sounds too good to be true, maybe it is. I've been looking at a deal for a Wellness Spa in Mexico. They advertise Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Massage services, spa services and more... They tell you that if you purchase the daily deal you will get a 70% discount on the package...

But upon closer scrutiny, there are no rates on their website. They could tell you the rates are anything they want. In this day and age of shopping online, if you are offering certain products and services your rates should be clearly spelled out online. There are definitely exceptions to this rule. If your services are customized, if the scope of work determines your pricing, or if each quote depends on unique circumstances then by all means don't list a rate on your website.

But I'd say that if you are a hotel you're going to get better booking turnover if you have your rates, especially for packages, listed online.

As I dig deeper into this "Deal" I find that if I were to "Book directly through them" I would receive all the wellness activities: i.e. Tai Chi, Yoga, Meditation and other things as part of the booking. But on the Daily Deal site, this is not the case. Instead each class is about $45 per class. If you were to take 3 of these activities a day, all of a sudden you are increasing the cost of the trip by double....hmmm not such a deal anymore.

Now if you were going to this hotel to simply sit by the pool, then no problem. However there are daily deals for all inclusive resorts that are great for sitting on the beach or by the pool and don't hype themselves as a Wellness Resort and Retreat. In that case you are getting 50% off their true value. But if your reason for going to a Wellness Retreat is for....uh....wellness services, then this no longer looks like a good deal.

Okay end of rant. Buyers beware.

Get This

Anti Social On My Social Networks

I find it ironic that a large part of my business is helping other companies with social networking as part of their lead management and interactions.

I currently teach companies how to target their message while not selling. Socialize, while not bombarding people with their product through social networking tools. I help companies search out groups and followers that will be the right place to interact with on the web. I write and or edit blogs for targeted markets, and I even do some twitter and facebook updating for certain clients. I create and send eblasts as well. Generally I help people come up with a plan to interact, and then a follow up plan for when people begin to communicate.

I evaluate websites and help companies see they need more calls to action, more ways to interact with traffic they drive to their site, and more ways to drive traffic to their site.

Yet when it comes time to do all this for my own company, I tend to allow it to fall by the wayside. It's a case of the shoemaker's children having no shoes. I'm on facebook, twitter, linkedIn and wordpress all day long for clients. I'm in Vertical Response, Constant Contact, and Buildtopia all day long. I work with an amazing team to help build economical websites for small and new businesses.

And yet I haven't updated my own website in over a year, I barely tweet, I haven't sent out an eblast for Blue Gypsy Inc. in ages nor updated the business page, and I've got writers block when it comes to blogging.

I need to hire a company like Blue Gypsy Inc.

The irony.

Get This

Does Facebook Rage Exist?

What are your thoughts? Do you think that with the growth and popularity of facebook there is now something called facebook rage?

Yes I've coined this term myself...though I googled it and I found this in the Urban Dictionary: When a person getting angry at another person for interrupting their Facebook time...this isn't what I'm talking about. Yes the bad sentence structure is in the urban dictionary. I'd have said when a person "gets" not "getting".

But this is not the facebook rage I'm talking about. I'm talking about when you read stupid stuff and it gets you mad and then you experience the same feelings when some idiot cuts you off on the highway. (Yep I have road rage too) There's so much stupid stuff out there. And it's not just in your friends' feeds, it's in the way the news is reported as well.

I recently commented on a news organization reporting something. All I said was "really reaching for news." The news organization responded "have a nice day Leah." Hmmm do I read that as, middle finger in the air, have a nice day Leah? It's just an odd response....but then someone else follows with, Really, Leah? Hardly "reaching" for news.

So the article in question was about the routine fly around that the first lady's plane had to make while they cleared another plane off the runway....really. All of a sudden "John" made it into an I must hate the Obama administration for thinking it was not news worthy.

But the fact is, that all the accounts I heard YESTERDAY was that this is routine, the first lady was never in danger, and the only reason it is making the news at all is because the first lady was on the plane. If they reported this every time it happened for us common folks on planes there would be a huge fear of flying.

Yes I don't dispute the fact that there have been some near miss incidents lately and the FAA is under fire to take a look at how they are staffing air traffic controllers. But I think this is another case of the 24 hour news cycle making a mountain into a molehill.

But here's where the facebook rage comes in. So "John" has his panties in a bunch. But then "Drew" writes, "To bad the president wasn't on there and it crashed"...first off, someone should educate this man. Not just because of his poor sentence structure, and incorrect use of the word to, but also for the inappropriateness of his statement.

Just because you can say anything on facebook, doesn't mean you should. It's these kinds of things that start to get people inflamed. Hence facebook rage.

Get This

TED Talks: What Does It Feel Like To Be Wrong?

What does it feel like to be wrong? We can all learn from Kathyrn Schulz on being wrong in this TED Talk. If you've never visited the TED Talks site you are missing out. These talks expand your mind, make you think, and help you become a stronger individual both in your personal and your professional life.

If you take 20 minutes a day to listen to a random TED Talk I'm sure it will create many ah-ha moments for you.

Here's a link to Kathyrn Schulz: On Being Wrong

Get This

Nothing Like Under Estimating How Long A Project Will Take

Time management. A key ingredient to being an effective small business owner or independent contractor. Your time is literally money. You need time to spend on each client and project. And you need to know how effectively to manage all that time, juggle your projects and keep your clients happy.

But there are times when a project balloons out of control. A contractor quits, you run into glitches, simple things become more complex and all of a sudden a project that was supposed to take weeks ends up taking many many weeks. What do you do?

How do you explain it to your client?

You create a contract, you set a deadline, you quote a financial estimate....and none of it matches up. At what point do you bite the bullet and absorb the cost of things, and at what point do you say to your client, "Look, this is far more than we bargained for, and it's going to go over the price quote."

No really, I'm asking you to give me some insight into this kind of situation!

I'm such a giver and a people please-er I don't know when to say, "no." One thing I've learned is to be very very clear on the scope of work. I think there can be some ambiguous loop holes and nothing worse then getting caught in a perpetual loop.

Be precise in what you will and wont do. For instance, today, I was talking with another company and they said to re-wrap their plug-in for the website was free the first two times, but after that they charge. Okay fair enough. How about 2 edits of a website and after that, charge for changes. (Yes I know this is probably typical of most web design firms yet it wasn't spelled out in my contract) This will cause a client to really be clear on what they want on the website. This would be a smart thing to write into my next contract.

Please pass on any sage advice and ideas for creating stronger contracts, better scopes of work, and keeping projects from ballooning out of control, while still keeping clients happy.

Get This

When it Comes to Email Communications: Stop-Breathe-Think-Act

Okay everyone, deep breath. I've seen a lot of miss communications via email lately, not just in my business, but others seem to be having the same problems as well when we compare notes. This happens in a fast paced, stress filled environment both on personal and on professional levels. There's a good reason for this. Black and white typed emails are only one third of the story.

Communication is a fragile and tricky thing.

We've gone from personal meetings and phone calls, to emails, texts, facebook communications, and the limited field of twitter as a means to do business. This is great! And this is awful at the same time. In speeding up life, we've lost two thirds of the sensory input in understanding communications. We no longer hear vocal intonation, nor do we see body language or facial expressions.

Just imagine, if you are stressed out and you read an email you may read it with your own tone, not the intended tone of the sender. Same thing if you are frustrated. If you are feeling frustrations, inadequacies, or annoyances on either a personal or a professional level you may transfer this to the reading, and at times the writing, of an email.

When I was teaching scuba diving we used to teach in an underwater stress situation: Stop - Breathe - Think - Act.

Always easier said than done, but it's important to take a step back. Are you really reading what is being said correctly? Or are you reading it through the filters that you have personally put in place that have to do with the things you are going through?

Read all critical communications several times, and read non-critical communications at least once. This goes for receiving and sending. By dashing off an email and sending it without a re-read you may find that either something seems unclear, or something sounds inappropriate when written quickly. Always try to think, how will the other person read this.

And be careful when you write a veiled snide comment to someone. You may think they wont get it, but guess what, they probably will and that will make a situation worse. When you read the written word you are missing 2 thirds of the communication that is actually happening.

When it doubt talk it out.

Get on the phone, have a skype video call, meet in person to discuss the situation. Something small and inadvertent can turn into huge miss interpretations when they go unchecked.

So remember, before you jump to conclusions, Stop - Breathe - Think - Act.

Get This

Successful Email Marketing: Permisson Is The Key

Scraping emails off facebook, linkedin, or business cards for your newsletter is not cool. This is why email marketing gets a bad name.

First off the key to correct and effective email marketing is to have a permission based list.

a list of people who want to get your emails.

Just because someone hands you a business card at a networking event or accepts your friendship on a social network does not mean that you can troll through their personal data and add them to your newsletter.

Huge companies like Constant Contact will shut you down if you get too many spam reports, and people who haven't given you permission in the first place are very likely to report you as spam. Besides, uploading a ton of emails that you haven't earned through generating interest in your product or service defeats the purpose of email marketing.

It's not how many random people you have in your database that counts, it's how many actively engaged people you have in your database that matters.

In fact it's not a bad idea to take the pulse of your database every so often with surveys to see how engaged your audience is with your content. Emails letting them know, "It's okay to unsubscribe....really." Are a great way to see who will take you up on it. What? You are afraid of losing the sheer numbers you have in your database? Don't be. The more targeted your database, the more targeted your message.

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to get yourself in front of your client base, people who request information are interested. Now figure out how to engage them. Use social media to engage the people in your circle who haven't added themselves to your mailing list. If they become interested enough or have a need for your services and information....they will ask to be added.

Get This

Singing the Blues About Blue Gypsy Bluesfest 2011

I'm singing the blues about the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest. As successful as the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest was last year grossing almost $15,000 and bringing together over 350 enthusiastic people in the Tidewater Area to enjoy a day of blues and BBQ, I had to make an executive decision.

Sadly I've tabled the event indefinitely for the future.

There are two major factors that contributed to this decision. The first is the fact that I am not a non-profit. The second is that in the interest of a growing business and having to take time management into consideration, I know I don't have the amount of time to devote to the bluesfest and still keep my clients happy.

Because my business is not a non-profit there are many issues that were stumbling blocks in setting up the event for charity last year. These would continue to be a problem and would continue to grow as the event grew. I did a lot of research and soul searching about setting up a non-profit to handle the event in the future. I just couldn't see myself running a business and a non-profit at this time.

I asked several local non-profits if they wanted to take it on under their umbrella, but for each, very understandably, they had various reasons why the bluesfest would not fit into their mission or their fund raising needs. Events are time consuming to plan and in the early years do not raise nearly the amount of money in correlation with hours put in as other fund-raising efforts do. I'm well aware of this after taking on what grew into a huge project last year.

I wanted to put together committees to assist with the bluesfestival. However I added several new clients in succession last year and I didn't have the time to translate all the information that was in my head, in order to be able to guide a group of individuals. Especially since I couldn't meet with them on a regular basis due to the physical distance between Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach.

The truth is, the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest was a huge undertaking last year for a single individual.

I did everything from updating the website, canvasing for sponsors, setting up and planning the actual event, pounding the pavement and burning up the phone lines for sponsors, BBQ restaurants, and charity auction donations. I fumbled through photoshop to put together banners, advertising, flyers, bags and mugs and more. I wrote press releases, articles, and maintained all the social media while finding media sponsors and the list continues. And I fronted all the money for advertising, deposits, and services in the hopes that I'd be able to raise enough money to cover the costs. Only those closest to me knew that I wore the hats for everything.

I met some amazing people throughout the journey of putting together the event. People I hope to continue to know and possibly work with on efforts in the future. I was so pleased and happy with all the vendors, sponsors and supports who dove in and believed in the event. Every time I talked with someone about the idea, they gave me several more contacts to call. So while I did it alone, I was never really alone.

The Blue Gypsy Bluesfest was a full time job and a labor of love.

Countless unpaid hours went into the effort. I kept chalking it up to a learning experience and at times I'd worry that I would go into debt verses raising money for the charities. I was so happy by the time the day rolled around and everyone seemed to have fun, enjoying the food, the music and the sentiment of the day. I was ecstatic that we were able to not only break even, but raise money for the two charities. (Not going into debt from the event was payment enough for the amazing and at times stressful experience.)

However this year I had to make a decision. Without the proper organization, back up, and taking into consideration the distance, and the committment I owe to my clients I came to the conclusion that I had to consider my time and what the best use of it could be. With much less time than it takes to put an event of that magnitude together, I can help other local charities in many ways that have as much impact if not more.

Before the event I was always involved in charity work and after the event I realize how important those seemingly little efforts really mean.

I continue to support Habitat for Humanity and the Natchel' Blues Networks in their efforts to achieve their mission. I'm sad to let the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest go. I know it would have continued to grow and would have become an amazing annual event in the area. But in the end decisions have to be made as a small business owner. In order to grow, I knew I couldn't continue the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest in it's current model.

I want to thank all those who got involved with this fledgling event last year. You are an amazing group of people.

Get This

The Power of Social Media: Should Jewish Organizations Jump on The Social Media Bandwagon?

So I thought I'd share this interesting debate I'm having with my sister with you.

My sister, like me, has traveled the world. She's lived in foreign countries and traveled Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and the Middle East. She's visited small little villages in South East Asia and she's even been stranded in a Typhoon on Mauritius, a tiny tiny island off of Africa.

My sister used to be a costume designer and then worked in sportswear manufacturing in Hong Kong. She led a pretty interesting life. Most of her travel was related to her business, unlike me, who was a vagabond backpacker traveling the world for discovery and adventure.

At some point in her travels, and the details are too many to go into, she became more and more devoted to her religion. And with that she became a part of Modern Orthodox Jewish society, in Hong Kong no less.

She now lives amongst the religious community in Baltimore and has traded her exotic travels and creative clothing design for creative teaching methods while working with an Orthodox school for girls. It's an interesting juxtaposition sometimes since my sister has chosen to conform to a more traditional lifestyle yet she herself was very unconventional for many years. She definitely keeps within the parameters of the society and yet she pushes the envelop at times with her creativity and worldly experience.

Her most recent venture is to win a grant to help her school. This is actually a contest where you can vote on your favorite idea. This is where the debate comes in. Her community, her school and her family embraces the belief that social media is something to be kept at arms length. They are wary of the addictive behavior some take on when using facebook, twitter and the like, and they want to safeguard their children from the ills that lurk on the internet. Fair enough.

The Jewish Communities' plight to figuring out the appropriate and best use of Social Media is no different than that of businesses when they first dipped their toe into the Social Media Stream nor that of Charities, non-profits and philanthropists.

My sister believes that what she is applying for while marketed as a "Grant" is not really a grant because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of her idea for education, it has more to do with popularity. So I in turn have explained the trend toward public opinion choosing the receipts to such grants as the Pepsi Fresh Grant and others like it. These large companies that have always done philanthropic works are not only giving money away for a good cause but creating a social media playground surrounding the "Grant" contest.

This is a changing trend, and without the support of a whole community much needed money for ideas and improvements can be given to others simply because they understood the need to go "viral" with the idea to the masses who would support it.

Because of the current uncertainty in the community about the good of social media, her school did not want the fact that she was applying for this "Grant" in an online contest to go out to the parents.

What parent wouldn't want to see more money come in to their school? By allowing the parents to know about the grant contest, I'm sure this could up her number of votes. They reluctantly agreed to let the faculty know about it. My sister herself is not on facebook to support and convey the value message that has been formulated in her family and in her community.

Well of course when I heard about this contest, I took to my favorite medium, facebook. No stranger to the power of social media it was primarily my contacts through facebook that powered the positive outcome of the Blue Gypsy Bluesfest last year.

With my facebook efforts (And a little twitter thrown in) I've seen her ranking in the contest bump up from number 27 to number 14. I've been posting it on my wall, within a group of friends and family members my mother started, and most recently to Jewish fan pages on facebook.

I'd love to make a case to open her school and perhaps her community up to the positive impact social media can have on a project, a community or a cause. It's not all addictions and child predators. There are 130 people trying to win this grant. The top 10 will win.

Please go to this link and help my sister win so we can prove a point to her community about the power of Social Media and how it can be used for good.

Voting closes tonight at midnight.

Get This

Groupon Super Bowl Ads: #Fail? or Success! - New Media Vs. Old Media

Every year, when the Super Bowl rolls around there are some of us who tune in for the action, and some of us who tune in for the advertising.

It's the only time of the year we don't want to fast forward through the commercials.

With airtime priced at a premium, and millions of viewers expected to be attached to their TV's in real time, this is an opportunity for products to hit their target market... Well, their target has got to be in there somewhere since over 151 million people will watch at least part of the Super Bowl.

At least this was the theory Groupon was going with when they decided to break their air-wave silence and go from being the word of mouth internet coupon brand to finally smashing into prime time with over 3 million dollars in controversial advertising. I don't think they set out to create offensive advertising when you see the full story on their point of view in their blog.

But they definitely raised the twitter alert after they aired their, "Save Tibet" commercial.

Tweets looked like this:

Wow, Groupon's SuperBowl ad managed to piss off Tibetans, Chinese, even the Himalayan Restaurant's owner. Good job!

Worst Ad? Groupon.com. Opression of Tibet is funny? Tim Hutton - what happened to you?

Having a brother-in-law who escaped from Tibet/persecution, feel Groupon's leverage of Tibetan plight for humor in poor taste

Groupon seems to have achieved the unique feat of paying $3M to lose customers who previously loved them.

Groupon spends big on Superbowl commercials, but ads anger many viewers

Groupon久慈版でないかしらね (All I know is <---That can't be good....)

Now they are under fire from many bloggers, and loyal fans as being insensitive to the very causes they actually are supporting on their website. Would have been nice if they'd fit the fact that they are supporting these causes into their advertising.

The problem with a commercial is that you only have 30 seconds to convey your message. If you are trying to create a complex tongue in cheek poke at yourself while exhibiting that you support causes, that's a hard thing to create in a 30 second span.

This backlash may be what happens when social media brands try to go "Old School."

You can write nuances down in a blog, which they did in the hopes that people will better understand the intended humor behind what they were trying to accomplish. But if no one reads the blog, and no one realizes that they are actually trying to support these causes with both their commercials and with donation ports set up on their website...well then their "Old School" commercials fall short of their mark, and their "New Media" message, save the rainforest, save the whales, and save Tibet.

They could have better conveyed their message in a longer 2-5 minute mocumentary style video blog and had better success promoting that across their usual social media channels. The following three super bowl commercials has everyone talking about groupon. But is it all good?

What you don't get from the ads below is that if you make donations to the three featured charities on their site, they will make matching donations up to $100,000 per charity. So in essence they meant to encourage people to donate to the causes if they feel they've saved enough money by taking advantage of their daily deals...would have been good to get that into their ads somehow...

Save the Whales

Save Tibet

Save the Rainforest

I'm a huge advocate of large companies teaming up with causes and charities, to help create awareness and help increase donations to these worthy causes. But I think groupon may have fallen short due to the limitations of the medium they picked to convey their message. It will be interesting to see how this foray into television advertising effects their brand.

Will their loyal fans be forgiving? Will the message that they were trying to convey eventually get out there?

Only time will tell.

Get This

Texting While Driving: Watch This Video

In this mobile world we live in sometimes we forget to turn off. Sometimes we forget that there's not anything that's so important it can't wait. This is especially true while driving.

With our smart phones, ipads, GPS systems, XM radios and so many other distractions it's not just the stuff of fast food taking our attention off our driving any more. I remember when I learned how to drive 25 years ago it was a hard and fast rule that I was not allowed to change the radio station. Now there are so many more distractions for teenagers, and for us old people too.

But to what end? Is there really a text, email, facebook update, tweet or post that we can't live without during the same moments we are speeding at each other in death machines? I know I'm hugely guilty of this. That's why for many many years I had texting disabled on my cell phone. I didn't want to be distracted by trying to read things while driving. As it is I'm a huge offender of talking on the cell while driving.

Watching this video by AT&T brought it home that there is nothing so important it can't wait:

It's just not worth it. Let's all try to remember that even though we live in a world where communication over many devises is instantaneous, we are allowed to ignore these devises and should when safety is at stake. Don't think you can look away just for a second to see what someone has written or write a quick note back. That one character punched into the phone could be the instant of life or death for yourself or someone else.

Have you ever wished you could take back a second and redo it because you've broken a glass, or lost something important? Well, this could be the most important second of your life. And there are no take backs or do overs.

Get This

Cutting Down On Random Facebook Friends

I know I've done similar posts before. But in this I'm including some tools for you. Please feel free to use.

I know for some facebook is the wild wild west full of people willing to take their chances to accept anyone that will ask to be their friend because they use it for "networking."

Nothing wrong with that shot gun approach if you choose to use facebook in that way.

But I guess I'm more picky with my friends, and the time I spend weeding through stuff on facebook. I'm starting to eliminate people who just don't fit with my values, and who are complete strangers to me. After all 200-300 quality friends on facebook are much more important than 700-1200 people who are meaningless.

Questions I have to ask myself. Am I really interacting with all of them? Is it the best use of my time?

Here are a few great questions to ask yourself about your facebook presence:

  1. Am I here to meet people for business networking? If the answer is yes then you may want to define what exactly that entails. People in your field and related fields, people who can be potential clients, and people who can give you referrals. But how do you know that people who are requesting your friendship fall into any of these categories? Perhaps they are just requesting your friendship to push out their message. They don't really care about who you are and what you do...because you could be one of those people who can give them referrals.
  2. Am I here to socialize with old friends and family? Well if the answer to this one is yes, you must ask yourself do you want your business associates to see what kinds of things you'd be sharing with friends and family? That information could be of a much more private nature and not something for public or business consumption. If that's the case you will be constantly monitoring your image if you have business friends and networking opportunities on your account yet you are using it freely to talk with friend and family about deeper more personal information.
  3. Am I here to play games? If facebook is an outlet for you to veg out and take breaks from other things in the form of games you'll probably only want to find others who are interested in gaming. That or at least ask them when you friend them if they are interested in gaming and if they say no, do not send those people endless gaming requests...just common sense there I think.
Okay so now you've decided how you want to use facebook, and you get a random friend request. If you've decided you'll accept every friend request under the sun so you look influential and have a huge base to push out your message to, then fine your all set. Hit accept.

But if you are like me and fed up with the treadmill of random people you care nothing about and who have no interest in you as a person, here's a form email you can feel free to copy and send to anyone that requests your friendship who you don't know.

Dear (insert name here)

I don't think we know each other and I'm trying to cut down on accepting random friend requests. Please let me know why you are requesting my friendship.

Have we met at a networking event? If so I apologize for not remembering. Do we have something in common that you'd like to talk about? Are you interested in some of the organizations I'm involved in? I'd love to know more about you.

Thank you so much for understanding.

I highly recommend when you request someone's friendship and you think that they might not know you, to take a moment to put a little bit of an introduction into that friend request. After all you wouldn't walk up to a stranger on the street and say hey, you want to be my friend? : )

Just a suggestion.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.


Your name here

I think this is a good way to test the water with people. if they reply, then great they are actually putting some thought into why they are requesting your friendship, and if they don't, is that someone you really want on your list anyway?

Just some ways to cut down on Random Facebook Friend requests, if that is something that is starting to become an issue for you.

Get This

What Is Your Time Worth?

When is it time to hire help? It's hard as a small business owner to make the decision to "cut into your earnings" to hire help. But that's just what you may need to do in order to increase your revenue.

It's a huge leap of faith, but if you are organized and know what you need and what you want it can be well worth the expense to hire help.

It can help you go after new business and not worry about the little things. Sure many of us can't take on a full time employee and pay benefits and so on. But there are so many options out there from temp services to virtual assistants, to outsourcing. See my last post on outsourcing. All of these are short term solutions to help you grow your business, and not go insane while trying to do it.

I just saw a tweet at 9:30 am from the same person who was going nuts trying to figure out something on their Wordpress blog at 10:30 pm last night. How many hours has she sunk into her frustration with trying to get a certain function to work?

Wordpress is great. I love all the options and I recommend it to clients who want an inexpensive solution to creating an interactive presence online. And while I know "Just enough to make me dangerous" I realize I know far more than the average bear. So I do help people with this service. I put out the disclaimers that I'm not an expert, I'm not a designer, but I can put what you want into the site if you are explicit on your needs. And I can do it for a budget that won't break your bank.

But when the time I put into it starts to exceed the amount I am making from it, that's when I have to decide, is it worth while to put in that time, or is it a function that I can outsource to share the load? This is when I cut my losses.

If I know something is going to take me 15 hours to do, and I have someone that can help me with that in a couple of hours, it may be better for me to pay them for the 2 hours, and take back my 15 hours for other tasks.

This is just smart business.

If your time is worth $50 an hour, and you can pay someone $10 an hour to get something done or even $35 an hour. (And they really do the work and don't just wallow on your clock) Then you are gaining so much productivity!

Yes your overall profit is smaller, but you will deliver a quality product more quickly to your client, you will gain recommendations, and you still have control over the finished product. And while the work is being done, you are pursuing new business, or providing top quality service in a more specialized expertise to your existing clients. It's a win win all the way around.

Some questions to ask yourself when trying to decide if you need help, and what kind of help:
  • Where do you need help with your time?
  • What projects could you give to someone else who will do as good or better a job than you?
  • What are the ideal skill sets you would need in an assistant?
  • Have you priced your work in such a way to afford help?
  • Have I created a process that someone else could follow? (if not, how easy would it be to do so and would this help you get more organized)
  • How many hours a week/month do you think you could keep someone else busy?
  • How much supervision do you have time to provide?
  • What could you do if you took back X number of hours from a certain type of work?
  • Where avenues do you plan to investigate to find help?
The nice thing is there are options out there that can help you only with the skills you need and the time you need to use. This cuts down on having employees who have little to do or need lots of training. Until you get to the point where you can consistently keep a full time employee busy there are some great ways to get the help that you need, and nothing more.

As your business begins to grow you need to start evaluating your time and make sure you are using it to the best of your abilities. I used to laugh at that saying, time is money....but it really is!

Get This

Outsourced: Not the Show

Blue Gypsy Inc has grown so much in it's one year of existence. This is a wonderful thing! This time last year I sent my first proposal out into the world and was busy getting my company name Blue Gypsy, incorporated.

Now I have several happy clients who keep me very busy. I'm not complaining! In this economy it's so nice to be needed and wanted, and actually lead management should be the business of the future. All businesses should be focusing on how they are going to engage and retain a clientele and provide excellent customer service while meeting their needs. That's what I do, take care of my clients' clients.

However in order to continue to give the top notch service my clients expect, I need to be more organized. I need to prioritize. And in some cases I need to replicate myself.

I don't have the resources to hire a full time, or even a part time employee. I don't have enough work to make it worth someone's while. I can't pay enough money for someone who possesses potentially 5 different skill sets. And I don't have time to train someone.

But I do need someone who can do the repetitive work I do, such as sending out template emails, transferring leads to data bases, looking into my computer files and organizing them, setting up leads on campaigns, and even researching certain topics and companies that may be of benefit to my clients. Later on I may need someone who can help with copy writing and more creative stuff, but on a very limited basis. As my business continues to grow I might need someone who can set up new accounts, and get them started, learn their data bases etc.

The problem is, it's hard enough for me to do it all myself, much less to ask someone else to have all the same skill sets, and explain, oh, I don't know how often I'll need you, what kind of thing I need you to do, I won't have time to train you, and I can't pay you much. That just wouldn't fly with most people looking for a job.

However my situation is a perfect experiment for Outsourcing.

Yes you hear people complain that all the jobs are being outsourced to India. Some say it's not fair, some people blame the collapse of the economy due in part to outsourcing. I agree to the point that when large corporations outsource 100's if not 1000's of jobs overseas because the guys at the top make huge bank, and the stock holders want to see huge profits, this is a sad situation for middle America who depended on those jobs to live.

But for small little one woman businesses like me, this is a great opportunity to get the help I need to grow my business to the point where I may be able to actually hire an employee, but for now, I can get someone who works fast, and can do the things I need for an affordable rate that works well for my small start up company.

I did some research online and came up with a company called Talent Gurus. They have a lot of different expertise, and I wanted to know more. So I filled out their online information sheet, and less then a half hour I got an email from Heidi. She was very nice on email and set up a phone call. When she called me and I gave her all the criteria I was looking for, she explained (in a very easy to understand accent...please get rid of the stereo type that you can't understand people from India) that what I would really be getting was several people with different focused skills to do the things I needed to have done.

When I asked about hours for training since there were a number of different database programs I worked with, she explained that I didn't have to provide the time nor did I need to pay for the training.

I can purchase as many or as few hours as possible, and if I don't use all those hours in a month, they will roll over to the next month.

I can split the hours up any way I like and I can get time progress reports to see how long it takes to do a certain task assigned. The more Heidi talked the more excited I became, because this was exactly what I needed to take some of the stress off. I dreaded some of the routine things that needed to be done in order to maintain my leads, because with more and more clients, I needed to be on the phone more and more. There were just not enough hours in the day. And as my time becomes more valuable, I have to find ways to replicate myself.

So I signed on, for my 20 hour experiment. Heidi called me back and introduced me to Nancy. She is my executive assistant, she can take care of data entry, organization, and more! I created a detailed step by step set of instructions for transferring leads from my email, into my database and assigning them to a task, campaign or follow up plan. Then she filed them all away, and I can't tell you how nice it was to slowly see the back log leave my in box and go where it was meant to be.

I thought this task might take her 5 hours. It was so exciting to see that she did it in 3 hours and it was very accurate and well executed.

Sure there were minor glitches, but hey it's her first day in my data base. I didn't have to pay to train her, she simply took my instructions, learned the database and only charged me for the time she put in on the work. She tripled my productivity and what I paid for 3 hours was what less than one hour of my time is worth. (And I calculated had I done that work, it normally would have taken me a couple hours more because of all the interruptions with other things I have to do) She was focused and quick.

One key though, that I read during my research of outsourcing and that I think is a key element that helped Nancy get up to speed quickly is that you need to clearly define the parameters that you want for the work. It's like creating a mini business plan, the clearer you are in your direction the more accurate the end result will be. I tried to look at every detail in the rote process that I do every day, so that I could break it down and make it as easy as possible. Not because Nancy isn't smart, I'm sure she is, but being halfway around the world, she isn't going to easily read my mind. I need to be clear with my goals for the day.

For instance she said, "I'll make you a spread sheet of all the people...." I stopped her before she could finish. Nope nope nope, no spread sheets, that's what the database is for. Know what you want, and know what you don't want. A spread sheet could have easily added unnecessary time and busy work to her day.

I feel like this experiment may turn into a permanent solution. At least until I can generate enough work to justify hiring someone full time.

But for now, outsourcing is helping to alleviate some of my stress and make me more productive.

Get This

Thousand Crane Project: Touching The World Through Ripple Effect

Have you ever heard about the Legend of 1000 origami paper cranes? Ancient Japanese folklore promises to grant a single wish to anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes.

Well yesterday I came across the fan page, Thousand Paper Crane Project. Rich Greenhagen, a resident of Virginia Beach, has a unique goal.

He's folding 1000 paper cranes to spread love around the world.

It started out as a poem, then became a story and then transformed into a love letter. Rich's goal is to write a 1000 word love letter and send one word at a time out around the world, each on a single unique paper crane. The letter is already complete.

Now the hard part: he needs to get the words out into the world. Preferably around the world before February 14th.

He only asks that the stranger requesting a crane give their address to post the crane, and then when they receive it, take a picture of the word (folded inside the crane) so that when all 1000 cranes go out he will have a photograph of every word and will then finally reveal the love letter.

Now apparently he does have a wish in mind, but rather than this being a totally selfish act, he is sharing his journey with the world if they will jump on board and fly with the cranes.

Even if ultimately he envisions his wish being granted, already a ripple effect is happening.

Recently Rich got word from a friend that for each paper crane sent his friend will donate 10 cents to Child's Play Charity and Rich has decided to match this donation as well. Child's Play, started in 2003, consists of gamers around the world who have banded together to donate more than 7 million dollars worldwide to sick children in over 70 partner hospitals around the globe.

It's simple to help and it's an effortless way for you to start your new year helping others:
  1. Fan the page Thousand Paper Crane Project (Just so you can keep track of Rich's progress)
  2. Send your mailing information to Rich at thousandcraneproject@gmail.com and let him know if you'd like 1, 2, or 3 cranes. He will not use your mailing information for anything other than sending out the cranes
  3. When you get your crane, take a picture of the word with a camera phone (or low resolution camera to keep the files small) and email it back to Rich at the same email address, thousandcraneproject@gmail.com
  4. Follow his blog on Tumblr to see the words uploaded in order to reveal the love letter.
Help Rich meet his goal, and create something bigger than a simple wish. Something that with my predictions will grow with the potential to reach out like the ripples that reach out when a rock is cast in a pond.

Get This


Bookmark and Share

Twitter Updates

Blog Visitors

Blog Archive

Blog Catalog

Social Networking Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Book Mark on Onlywire