Last year, my word of the year was “visibility”.
I purposefully chose a word I knew would challenge me to push myself over and over. You can read more about that here.
This year, I decided to go for something even scarier.
I chose “audacious”.
I love the word “audacious”. It has a couple of different meanings, but brazen and impudent are among them, and those are great words. I love that it can mean “bold” and it can also mean “defiant”. As I travel through the year, I’m looking for opportunities to be more audacious in both my personal and professional life.
Around the time I was deciding on my word of the year, I came across the blog Power, Peace, and the Porch Gym. In a series of posts, Bethany discusses cultivating habits. The idea of habits was interesting to me since the idea of a habit feels less stressful than big scary resolutions (which I don’t do anyway). It made me think about habits and how I could incorporate useful habits into my daily routine.
Sometime in the past six months, Selena of the Love You More Project posted this question on Facebook “What is one thing you can do to love yourself today?” The question stayed with me. It also struck me as such a fierce act of audaciousness – to choose some way you could love yourself more.
I decided I wanted to cultivate a habit of going to the gym for 60 days in a row as a form of self-care. This would be something I did for myself every day. Something I enjoyed. Something that was easy for me to do (the gym isn’t far from my house) and provided its own reward (thank you, endorphins). Choosing to prioritize self-care without tying it to anything but feeling good is both an act of boldness and defiance.
When I reached 60 days, I extended my goal to 100 days. Today is the 100th day.
I hadn’t intended to blog about the experience because my blogs are usually about marketing, and I’m pretty sure no one cares how many laps I swim. But, as I approached the 100th day, I started to look back at the lessons I’ve learned along the way. And, no surprise, they are kind of universal. But since this is a blog about marketing for small businesses, I’m going to talk about things from that perspective.
We need breath to function in our bodies, but we also need that quiet space to breathe in our business. When you own your own business, the space to breathe doesn’t always happen naturally. It is easy to work on just one more project or let work life seep into home life. But if we’re always rushing from one thing to the next, never catching our breath, we don’t give ourselves time to create, reflect, revise, and plan.
Focus on the day
I only focused on my goal for that day (going to the gym). I didn’t focus on the day after that. I showed up. I did the work. Every day. Over and over. When I was feeling unsure on day 27, I didn’t plan ahead to day 28 or day 40. I just focused on what I could do that day.
Obviously, we have to plan ahead in our business, but we also have to focus on what is happening every day in our business and do the work needed to get to the next day.
We need support and encouragement in our lives. We’re not meant to do it alone. Women, especially, need a cheering squad that has our backs. Whether it is online or in person (I’m lucky enough to have both!), find people who support you, believe in you, and encourage you. You’re worth it!
Learn from others
While I’m not a complete gym newbie, techniques and best practices change over time, and it had been a long, long time since I was a regular gym member. By interacting with and observing other members, I was able to pick up some new moves, and learn about the people I saw every day. Paying attention to what people you admire are doing helps you improve and introduces you to new ideas.
Celebrate your wins
Surpassing my personal records pretty much only matters to me, but it still feels fantastic. I celebrate the little victories because they matter to me.
Be prepared to change course
One night, on the way home from the gym, I was rear ended by a drunk driver. Although this was obviously something I didn’t have any control over, I was disappointed (and sore!). While I recovered, I reduced some gym activities and modified others. Taking it slow and changing my plans was a better decision for me than trying to do it all and injuring myself further.
During this project, there were actually TWO days I didn’t actually go to the gym. One was Easter Sunday and the other day I wasn’t able to get there on time. Instead, I used the ancient thrift store exercise bike I have at home (not comfortable for me, but the kids love it).
Set small realistic goals
Can I tell you a secret? My real goal is to go to the gym 365 days in a row. And that’s crazy, right? Who knows what could happen in a year? It is in the back of mind, but right now I’m focusing on the small achievable steps, the chunks of time that I feel comfortable doing as I work towards my bigger goal. My goal was 60 days. Then 100 days. Now it is 150 days. When I reach that goal, I’ll set another one.
I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for a couple of years, and I wasn’t sure how it would affect my goal of going to the gym day after day. Although I regularly take my kids hiking and on excursions that involve a lot of walking, I wasn’t interested in purposefully causing myself pain every day. I knew I’d need to stick to exercise bikes, elliptical machines, and swimming so I didn’t aggravate it.
That is until I tried to use an elliptical machine. I lasted only one minute before the pain was too much, and I had to limp off the machine. No more elliptical machines for me!
Around day 80, I was inspired to hop on the treadmill since my foot pain had practically disappeared (What can I say? I’m an optimist!) Around day 85 things were going so well, I thought I’d try a little running mixed in with the walking. The first couple of days were fine, and I was thrilled with the new routine. Then the foot pain came back. No more running for me. I liked the running, and I’m disappointed that is a limitation I have right now, but I’m really attached to walking without pain.
As moms and business owners, we’re not going to have the same amount of free time as others. That is a limitation we need to accept and deal with, and why I think really looking at our limitations and planning accordingly can help keep us from burning out.
Don’t do something that feels wrong
Weeks after I was rear ended, when I felt I was completely healed, I tried a new movement. Almost immediately, I knew there was something about the movement that was wrong for me. I could have pushed through, hoping things would improve. Instead, I put the weights back, stretched, and moved on.
There are so many ways to market your business, and (I hope!) some of them will feel natural and fun. Some will feel challenging. Some will feel wrong. If you run into a program or method that feels icky and wrong to you – you don’t have to use it. If it feels wrong, move on to something that feels right and true for you.
I’ll be honest. There were some days I really would have rather stayed home. Not many, but definitely a few. I had lots of excuses and reasons to skip, but I went anyway.
Show up. Keep going. Do the work you need to do. Every victory you achieve gives you a chance to create another.
Tomorrow will be day 101. Sometime in the future is day 200. But right now, I’m celebrating today’s win.
Do I have to blog to succeed?
No. Nope. Not at all.
End of blog post? Not quite.
No, you don’t have to have a blog on your business website. Lots of businesses don’t.
But before you leave thinking “Gwen says I don’t have to write blog posts,” I want to talk about the benefits of blogging for your business.
Communicate with Current and Future Clients
Blogging gives you a chance to speak to your audience directly AND gives you a chance to speak to an audience you haven’t met yet. I have no idea who will read this blog post. I don’t know where it will be shared or how often. Which means, I may be speaking to someone who needs my help with their marketing, even though we’ve never met and they’ve never heard of me before (if that is you, welcome!)
Write about topics that are important to you and and your clients
You get a chance to go in depth with ideas and topics your audience would find useful. Many of my blog posts are instructional. My SEO 101 series and my Periscope 101 post are great examples of this. I’m able to provide information that is useful and relevant to the people who could benefit from my expertise.
This is my blog so I could talk about my favorite cookie recipe (best cookies ever!), my obsession with Hamilton (no shame here, I adore it), or my volunteer work with a local animal shelter and other non-profits. Instead, I prefer to talk about things my clients (and potential clients) would find helpful as they navigate the world of digital marketing.
Use Keywords to Help People Find You
Including keywords and keyword phrases in your blog posts helps your potential audience find you.
When someone uses a search engine they enter a specific word or set of words. If I have a craving for dim sum and I live in Portland, I enter the phrase "dim sum Portland" - this tells Google both *what* I'm looking for and *where* I'm looking for it. In many instances, I don't need to specify Portland because Google already knows where I am via location tracking on my phone or laptop.
For local businesses, blogging can be enormously important as it can educate, inform, build trust in what you do, and focus on your specific location in a way that attracts potential searchers to your blog page.
Once upon a time, Google relied on specific keywords to tell it what was on a page, but now it looks at other words that are in the same topic family or should be associated with those words. In my dim sum example above, Google might also expect to see the phrase "Chinese food" and maybe the names of specific dishes.
If you were doing an internet search for your business, which words and phrases would you use? What questions do your customers need answered? If your business is highly technical or specific, and your client base is the general public, remember to use words that *most* people would use to search for your business.
Earn Links from Other Websites
Links are becoming increasingly important as Google and other search engines find ways to provide both value and context to their users. By providing good, useful, interesting content that someone might want to share with others you create the opportunity for linking. Quality websites sharing links to your website will affect not only your website traffic, but also your overall ranking on search engines. Thanks to social media, links can spread quickly.
Creating Your Own Content to Share
Speaking of social media, blogging allows you to create your own content to share and reference again and again. This means you are able to share your own work and connect with people, rather than sharing another persons thoughts and ideas. I'm a fan of mixing it up on social media and sharing your own posts and posts that inspire you.
Many of my blog posts are inspired by questions I'm asked frequently. Rather than rewrite the same thing over and over, and possibly missing an important detail or distinction, when I write a blog post, it is an easy to find and reference piece of information when the topic comes up.
Which means the next time someone says "Why do I have to blog?" "What is the purpose of blogging?" or "Are you really going to make me write a blog?" I can send them here where they can process and think about blogging and how it applies to their business.
If you want to learn more about best practices and how the look of your blog can help you reach more readers, you can read my Anatomy of a Blog Post. If you're stuck on what to write about or how to do it in a way that feels right to you, email me and we'll chat!
I love digging into the different facets of marketing to learn more about how and why they work. I believe modern digital marketing tools like social media and websites should be an extension of how we interact with each other in person.
Right now, I want to talk about some annoying marketing trends I can’t wait to see go away:
Too many emails
Sure, you want to stay in touch with your audience, but does that really need to be daily?
Emails with no value or just links back to their site
If you are taking up space in someone’s inbox, you owe them the courtesy of providing something of value. A fluff-filled email wastes your reader’s time.
"Six figure” anything
Money is awesome! I love money! But the “six figure” crap needs to go away first.
Trying to make me feel bad for not signing up for "the thing"
Don’t guilt people into doing things. That’s rude.
Downplaying the importance of hard work
Owning a business is hard work. Marketing your business is hard work. Balancing life and work and everything else is REALLY hard work. Some things will come easy to you, and you’ll struggle with others. That’s normal.
“Passive income” (especially when coupled with photos of the beach or a hammock)
This is the big daddy of “look how easy it is”. Just create a thing, sit back, and watch the money roll in. And, by the way, if you pay me thousands of dollars, I’ll show you how to do it. Yuck.
The idea that each email has to have a yucky (I mean "effective") subject lines
Last chance, You'll be sorry, Oops, we made a mistake, You'll never believe this, You MUST do this today – do any of these make you feel good? Are you sick of seeing them in your own in box?
Awful freebies (either no value or poorly put together)
Is there anything worse than signing up for a freebie that sounds interesting, only to have it be worthless or riddled with typos? And now you are on someone’s mailing list.
Any video or music that auto plays.
No. Don’t do this.
Webinars that are a waste of time
Someone is giving up time to watch your thing, you owe it to them to be good, helpful, and useful.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.