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    Women Business Leaders: Avoid These 3 Start-Up Mistakes

    April 30th, 2013

    Half of all start-up firms fail before reaching the 5 year mark but being aware of and avoiding some common mistakes can increase your chance of success.

    As a woman business leader, you know launching an enterprise takes commitment and hard work. It also takes a sound strategy and the awareness needed to avoid common pitfalls.

    In a recent Forbes.com article, Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of the China Market Research Group, a strategic market intelligence firm, shares 3 common mistakes entrepreneurs make and techniques to avoid them:

    1. Build your brand: When you launch a new business, it’s easy to become so focused on delivering your product or service that you neglect to cultivate your company’s brand. But defining your company’s identity is critical to your success. Nurturing your company’s brand can take many forms. For example, you might choose clients with an eye toward establishing credibility in key sectors. Make sure you consciously consider brand-building in your overall business strategy.
    2. Conserve resources: It may seem like an obvious point, but too many start-ups spend cash reserves that could otherwise see them through hard times on items they don’t truly need. Rein advises entrepreneurs to triple-check expenditures and shares ways his firm saves cash – by negotiating leases to take advantage of previous tenants’ renovation and office furniture, using Skype to handle telecommunications and offering electronic versions of marketing collateral rather than costly printed material. Look for ways to trim costs to keep as much cash in reserve as possible.
    3. Stay healthy: As a woman business leader, you know running an enterprise requires long hours. You’re willing to push yourself to succeed. But it’s important to not become so overwhelmed and stressed out that your health suffers. Make time to unwind and get regular exercise to avoid burnout or developing serious health problems.

    Launching a new enterprise takes courage, determination, creativity – and common sense. To beat the odds and find success, make sure you focus on establishing a solid brand, maximize your reserves to get through tough times and stay healthy.

    You can read more about Rein’s recommendations here.

    4-Step Approach to a Social Media Plan for Women Business Leaders

    December 6th, 2012

    POST is one of the most effective acronyms since the four P’s of marketing. It’s a four-step approach that can help women marketers define a social media marketing plan for their business and/or clients.

    The POST method is the heart and soul of the book, Groundswell, written by Forrestter Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoffand. It is  highlighted in Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell blog post, The POST Method: A systematic approach to social strategy. The POST Method serves as a guide to help you determine the right strategy for the right audience.

    Josh says, “Executives are going about social strategy backwards: picking technologies like blogs or communities first instead of focusing on what they want to accomplish.”

    Your purpose should dictate strategy and the tactics used for reaching desired goals. A few common outcomes for your social media marketing efforts should include:

    • Gain insight into your target audience – You can use all the qualitative data you want, but some of the most interesting and helpful market research can be found within the social communities where your prospective clients interact, share information and make recommendations.
    • Link building for traffic and SEO - According to Marketing Sherpa, 80-90% of business to business transactions begin with a search on the web. Creating linkbait and promoting it to social media news and bookmarking sites can attract a slew of links from bloggers that read them. Creating value for the community is not the only rule, creating value and behaving according to formal and unwritten rules is what sustains social media sourced link building.
    • Build brand visibility and authority - You’ve heard it before,“Conversations are happening online about your company’s brand, with or without you.” You might as well participate and do so in a way that pays close attention to the interests and needs of your prospective clients – providing them with information and interactions that further support your company’s brand.


    Women Business Leaders: Do You Have a Social Media Crisis Plan?

    December 2nd, 2012

    Using social media to respond to a crisis is timely and effective, but your response must be deliberately managed and controlled. A well thought-out crisis plan should not only inform your audience that you care – it should also pay attention and respond to online conversations.

    As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, it’s up to you to make sure you retain control of the messaging your business puts out there. In an article by Chris Syme titled, “Got Crisis? Get a Social Media Mindset,” she outlines the three elements of a social media crisis plan:

    According to Chris, transparency doesn’t mean your company should expose all its warts to the public. Rather, it means making the effort to be open and show a willingness to communicate, even in times of crisis. Chris notes that “silence is a sign of negligence, whether we like it or not.” Be prepared to have an open dialogue even when you would prefer to say “no comment.”

    Honor immediacy
    Basically, you need to be prepared for an emergency or crisis so that you have a well-crafted and sensitive response to situations that could be difficult or stressful. The time to craft these statements is not when you or your business is in the midst of a crisis, however. Chris also notes that even if you don’t have all the information, it’s better to say you are trying to find out rather than offer no statement at all. A timely, “we are looking into it now,” shows that at the very least, you acknowledge the situation and are concerned.

    Remember it’s not about you
    Chris notes that this is the hardest concept for companies facing a crisis to understand. “When you have herds of media knocking at your door,” says Chris, “it’s hard to remember that the public really doesn’t care about you.” They want to know what happened and what you are going to do about it.  Think about the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and how BP mishandled the early responses.

    Planning for a potential crisis is key. Having a response ready will give you a moment to regroup while showing the online community you care. Protecting your brand requires thought and planning, especially today. Here are a few of my favorite blogs on protecting your brand: “Social Media Branding Mistakes Women Business Leaders Should Avoid,” and “6 Ways Women Business Leaders can Protect Their Brand.”

    7 Social Media Tips for Women Business Leaders from 7 Experts

    September 18th, 2012

    As I have become more involved in social media, both on a personal and a professional level, I often see the same tips and suggestions about social media in online blogs and articles. I thought this list of tips from social media experts was refreshing because it offers advice for women business leaders from real industry experts. Many of the tips are not what you would expect.

    I’ve condensed this list from an article by Amy Porterfield, author of  Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.

    1. Offer live events on Facebook
      “To provide additional value and fresh ways for your fans to interact with you, periodically conduct live chat sessions or live webinars or teleseminars,” says Mari  Smith, co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.
    2. Help others who aren’t necessarily famous
      “Don’t try to build your personal brand or company brand alone. Go out of your way to look for opportunities to help others and give others credit,” says Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. “Easy ways to do this include recommendations on Twitter of others’ work, retweets and hot tips on the comment section of blogs,” Erik added.
    3. Don’t over-focus on marketing
      “All too often, businesses overlook the ‘social’ part of the phrase social media marketing and jump straight into the ‘marketing’ part… to their detriment,” explained Hollis Thomases, author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day.
    4. Research what your customers are saying
      “Stop reading the success stories and best practices to model your social media strategy. Use them for inspiration, but my best advice to you is to go figure out what your opportunity is first,” said Brian Solis, author of Engage: The Complete Guide to Building, Cultivating and Measuring Success in the Social Web.
    5. Meet people in real life
      “You can meet people online, but solidify these online relationships face to face,” says Steve Garfield, author of Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business. Steve founded a networking group that meets in person each month. “What’s very important is that the meeting is free, we never cancel and everyone is welcome,” explained Steve.
    6. Invest in social media after you do your research
      Corporations should gauge their own social business maturity and prioritize spending decisions based on the industry benchmarks, according to a study by the Altimeter Group. “Just as you would invest your personal finances based on your family size, age and market conditions, you should be spending in social business with the same industry knowledge,” Says Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang, partner of customer strategy.
    7. Share the knowledge of experts with your audience
      “Get experts involved with your content. Determine who the experts are in your industry. Then go to them and offer to interview them about their hottest new project,” said Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner.

    As the owner of a strategic communications firm, I was surprised to find a social suggestion on this list I haven’t yet tried. Tell me what your best social media tips are, and if you try any of the tips above, let me know how they worked for you.

    Lessons for Women Business Leaders on Delighting Your Customers and Creating Brand Advocates

    August 20th, 2012

    photo credit: jiazi via photo pin cc

    I am a recipient of under-delivery, and I hope to turn my disappointment into some sharable lessons about customer service. I love the concept of excellence and over-the-top delivery articulated in the Ritz Carlton brand. When I choose to stay at a Ritz hotel, I have a particular set of expectations.

    Last December, I stayed the night at The Ritz in White Plains, New York, celebrating my niece’s 14th birthday. While preparing to check out of our luxurious room, I broke my toe on a protruding bathroom ledge. I preferred to deal with the issue on my own, and the hotel management team was so excited to have a non-litigious guest — they radiated gratitude and relief as they watched me sign a release. In this celebratory moment, I was asked if I prefer wine, soup or fruit. Making my choice, I was told that whenever I stay at a Ritz, for the rest of my life, I would have fruit in my room.

    So, as I travelled to my next family reunion in New York, my hotel of choice was the Ritz Carlton in White Plains. My husband and I checked in after a stressful travel day. Although we were hungry and tired, I convinced my husband that we should wait to eat, as there would be a wonderful fruit basket waiting for us when we arrived. We were greeted with this message: “Welcome back. Thank you for choosing the Ritz Carlton.” Imagine our disappointment when we couldn’t find the fruit – was it perhaps hidden in the mini bar? No fruit to be found yet my toe continues to ache in cold weather.

    Given my experience, here is the advice I have to offer when it comes to customer service:

    Brand promise: Ensure that the brand promise is echoed through every activity. Make sure that the entire staff understands the nuances of what your company stands for and makes decisions based on this promise.

    Action rather than words: Rather than state that you are going to do something special – just do it and then you will have the opportunity to talk about it. Surprise your customer in a good way.

    Keep meticulous records: The more you know about your customer the more you are able to delight and super-serve. Beyond keeping records, develop a system to tap into the information that you are collecting without having anything fall through the cracks.

    While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I am sure that you all have many more lessons to share. I have written about the importance of customer service before, and you’ll find more tips in my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Create Brand Super Fans.”

    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity

    July 22nd, 2012

    Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    My daughter started her career in a high stress male dominated industry. We were reflecting on how a woman can succeed in this environment  without becoming masculinised. Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    The truth is that women have been liberated. We no longer need to spend our energies proving that we’re equal. We own our own companies, we assume leadership roles and we don’t have to wear ties to work.

    Here are 5 ways to create this balance while getting respect from both males and females:

    1. Don’t pretend that you’re one of the boys – you’re not. But at the same time don’t play the “us girls” game.  Work at your individuality as a person. Use your unique leadership strengths when dealing with an issue.
    2. You shouldn’t dress provocatively but you also don’t need to wear a burka.  You have a wonderful opportunity to express yourself  and your femininity.  Make sure that you are dignified and professional and let your gender work for you.
    3. It’s OK to talk about kids, make-up and hair but please consider your audience – these discussions may be boring to whomever is listening. Be yourself but remain sensitive to the situation.
    4. Respect both male and female employees. Disparaging remarks about men set a feminist tone and put a line in the sand when there may not have been an issue to begin with.
    5. Watch out for “womens only groups” why would you want to segregate ideas and talent. Position yourself as an entrepreneurial leader rather than a proponent of  “Women rule”

    You have a real advantage as a woman running a business – don’t blow it by  wearing workboots and snarling at men, rather walk around in your stilettos with strength and conviction.


    5 Ways Women Business Leaders can Achieve More Impact with Social Media

    June 17th, 2012

    photo by Marc_Smith

    Most women business leaders would agree that social media is an important component of a company’s successful marketing strategy. Many have a blog, Twitter account and a Facebook page. The paramount goal for most businesses is increased sales or a measurable return on investment. However, what can be confusing about social media participation is how to effectively maximize your time investment in these platforms.

    Here are five questions from Lee Odden that you need to ask. Your answers will help you identify your brand and achieve more impact from your social media efforts.

    1. Who are you?
      What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for? What’s unique about you?
    2. What makes you special?
      How are you incorporating your professional “unique selling proposition” into your social content, sharing, and engagement?
    3. Have you looked in the social mirror?
      Have you looked at the past 20 tweets that you’ve published? Do the same on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or other social networks you’re involved with. When looking at 10 or 20 social content objects together, you can see what kinds of messages you’re sending and determine if those threads support your social objectives or not.
    4. Are you reactive or proactive?
      Are you thinking about the impact of your social content on others or is it mostly a form of self-expression in the moment? If you have professional objectives from your social participation, think about that each time you tweet, update, or comment.
    5. What’s it like to experience you on the social web?
      Rather than viewing each tweet, update, comment, or blog post as a stand-alone engagement effort, think about how others will view the cumulative of your social engagement. What memes can be found within your own social content streams? Do they support what you stand for? Do they reinforce what you want to be known for?

    While your messaging and content development are key to creating a social media presence, understanding and listening to your audience can’t be stressed enough.  But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have thousands of followers or “likes” immediately – it takes time and effort.

    Why Every Woman Business Leader Needs to be Adaptively Strategic

    May 20th, 2012

    photo by Sean MacEntee

    Most of the work that I do in my firm involves leading with a clear understanding of the end goal and developing strategies to get there. Whether its for my client’s business or mine, strategic principles prevail. As a women business leader, I have had to use many of my innate traits to employ original and effective strategies. Drawing upon guiding principles of authenticity, intuition, curiosity and experience, I have enjoyed the notion of being adaptive and nimble.

    Here are six things you can do to be adaptively strategic:

    Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:

    • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
    • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
    • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

    Think Critically
    Conventional wisdom opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

    • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
    • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
    • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions

    Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution.  A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint.

    To get good at this, you have to:

    • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
    • Encourage others to do the same
    • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously

    Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

    • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
    • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
    • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views

    Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge.

    To pull that off, you need to:

    • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
    • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
    • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support

    As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by.  You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.

    Here’s what you need to do:

    • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
    • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
    • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

    What I Believe: A Woman Business Leader’s Philosophy

    May 11th, 2012

    by Skyandsea876

    I was recently interviewed for an article on women business leaders in my region. It turned out that the journalist’s probing questions made me think about some big-picture philosophies, and I really had to dig down and find the core of my beliefs.

    As the interview progressed, I found myself prefacing my replies with, “I am in the process of recovering from breast cancer, so my answers may be tempered by my current state of mind.” She continued on regardless, and her questions prompted me to think about my true feelings. What emerged is advice that I would like to share with you.

    Trust your intuition
    I always have strong gut feelings that are often tempered by weighing the options and mitigating regret. I know that if I really clear my mind and reach for my immediate reaction I am usually right. This becomes a matter of trusting yourself with a willingness to make mistakes. A great way to learn.

    Push through your fear
    There is no better way to get ahead than to face something that you know you want to do–yet the  fear of doing it may be paralyzing. When you recognize the source of the fear, whether it’s fear of failure, of getting hurt or of making a fool of yourself, it will be so much easier to forge ahead with a strategy in place. “What ifs” should not be part of the conversation!

    Focus in your strengths
    We are all born with gifts and talents. If you work on developing your innate strengths, you will not be encumbered by your weaknesses but rather will have the time to polish and master the areas in your life where you excel. Your weaknesses can be supplemented with a well-chosen team.

    Remain authentic and true to yourself
    When combining the above three doctrines – you cannot achieve success without really knowing who you are. Stay true and be honest with yourself. I always tell people to have a relationship with yourself, be your best friend and hang out “together.”

    I hope my story offers encouragement and strength to those of you who are dealing with difficulties. Please read the other blogs about my breast cancer journey.

    4 Ways Women Business Leaders can Integrate their Social Media Persona with their Brand

    May 1st, 2012

    As the owner of a communications firm, I am often asked to evaluate the social media efforts of my clients’ businesses. I cannot stress strongly enough that social media is merely a vehicle for communicating the brand message and not a solution in itself.  As women business leaders get comfortable with communicating in the “cyber” world, the methodology that we use should sync with our overall communications strategy. The concept here is that the persona we use to engage online should be no different than the personality  we convey off line. In order to effectively and consistently have an integrated social media presence, you’d be well advised to hire a community manager.  But I caution you from experience – make sure that the voice of the company is well understood prior to engaging your customers and clients online.

    Here is a great list  from Pam Drayton to help you create and maintain an effective social media voice:

    Tips for creating your social media voice:

    1. Constantly be aware of your intended market and the Social Media vehicle you are planning to use. If you are selling medical hardware to brain surgeons you will not use the same communication techniques, words and terminology you would use if you are selling gaming systems to teenagers.
    2. Identify your target market before you settle on your voice. What is the age of your preferred market; what is their education background; where do they live, what are their values and beliefs. It is also very important to determine, and always keep in mind, what your target market wants or needs from you.
    3. Have passionate, but do not become overly emotional. There is a huge difference between telling your readers, “This is an exceptional, high-quality product that will perfectly meet your needs,” and “If you don’t buy this product, your business will fail miserably.”
    4. To follow that note, always be honest. And play fair. You may actually believe the product your competition is offering is nothing more than junk; but don’t actually say that. Instead explain how you believe your product is better.

    With written social media communications all you have is words. In order to precisely and authentically relay your message you must choose those words carefully, and use a social media “voice” that not only enhances your communication efforts but is in sync with your overall brand.