Managing the Holidays When You Are In A Long Distance Relationship

By Megan Bearce, LMFT

Are you or someone you know in a long distance relationship or commute so far that your only quality time together is on the weekends?  For these couples, the holiday season can bring added stress and overwhelm. You might wonder why that is. Wouldn’t they be excited to spend more time together? The answer is both yes and no, so having strategies for managing the holidays can make it a more enjoyable time for everyone. Here are 5 ways to make your mood this holiday season “Ho Ho Ho!” instead of “Oh no!”

1. Manage expectations by planning a realistic holiday schedule

Late December through New Year’s Eve finds many people taking vacation days to spend with family and friends. If you have been separated for long periods of time or typically only see each other on the weekends, you both may have a long list of what you’d like to do during that time off. For people who super commute or travel often for business, their ideal vacation might be lounging around the house watching movies or getting together with friends they rarely have time to see. For the spouse who is home managing kids and household responsibilities, they may want to escape to a spa or need help with projects that have been put off most of the year. And here in lies the problem. Each has their own ideas about how that vacation time should be spent and so tip number one is to manage expectations. Making assumptions is an easy way to get into conflict so I recommend taking 30 minutes in early December to plan out the family calendar until the end of the year. Each person, and the kids too, can make a list of how they would like to spend that time. Then, see how it fits together. Does one week have you out every night and no time to relax? Did you plan a date night or two? How many obligations are ones you feel like you “should” do vs. really wanting to? Can you say no to a few of those this year?

2. Cook a meal together

A great way to connect, have fun, and learn is to cook together as a family. I suggest choosing at least one night during your holiday to plan, shop, and make a meal together. If one person tends to do the majority of the cooking on a regular basis, assign them something easy. If you have children, this is a great opportunity to teach them life skills such as healthy meal planning, how to grocery shop (what to look for in produce, price comparison), math skills (fractions via measuring cups, addition or multiplication for meal servings), chemistry (baking soda makes batter rise when mixed with certain ingredients like milk), team work, and the pride of making a delicious meal. You could pick a theme for the meal, Italian or Chinese dishes, or tie it to a movie you might watch after dinner. French food followed by Ratatouille, for example. While eating, you can take turns asking each other questions from Table Topic cards. These cards pose interesting questions and come in a variety of themes including Family, Couples, and What Would You Do. However you decide to come together, a night of reconnecting ideally will produce lots of fun memories and maybe even start a yearly tradition.

3. Give and get great gifts the low-stress way

Leisure time is at a premium for most people, but especially so for super commuters and their families. Giftster.com and its app allow you to create private groups accessible from computers or smart phones where each person can post their wish list and even include links to where to buy the items. You can also use the site to organize a Secret Santa group and avoid duplicate gift giving. How does this help? First off, you save time! No need to drive from store to store or browse website-to-website trying to guess what your loved ones would like. No standing in line, no battling for parking spaces, no standing in even longer return lines when you get the same sweater from 3 people! And since many planes, trains, and buses are now equipped with Wi-Fi, commuters can point, click, and gift in route.

Another challenge of gift giving when your time at home is limited is keeping it all a surprise. Once you’ve purchased the gifts, how do you make sure no one is peeking? Keep those presents a secret by shipping gifts to your neighbor’s house or use an Amazon locker. Available in some US cities, your package is sent to a secure location and will stay there for up to 3 days until you can pick it up. A nice feature, especially when news reports about “porch pirates” are becoming more frequent.

4. Plan vacation time for the New Year

Reconnecting with loved ones in meaningful ways is an extremely important part of maintaining all types of long distance relationships and can go a long way in helping cope with a super commute. I had the privilege of being interviewed for an article about couples who commute and contributed to 5 tips on coping with a marathon commute to work. Here are the main points and you can read the details of each at http://www.today.com/money/5-tips-coping-your-marathon-commute-work-t40851

  • Get regular exercise and rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Make time for mental downtime
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Reconnect with loved ones after extended commutes

5. Logistics and scheduling

Logistics and scheduling can be tricky when you are frequently apart.  It may sound silly, but I recommend that you set aside some time over the holidays to plan more time together. Using an online scheduling program that you all have access to, or if you like to do things the old fashioned way, print out all 12 months of the new year, and together look at each month, entering events you know are happening. Don’t forget school vacations, any weddings or reunions, tournaments, visits from relatives, and those holidays that some people have off and others don’t. Planning ahead in this way also gives you plenty of lead-time to try and get the best deal possible on airfare and hotels. Most importantly, making a conscious effort to designate time together at the start of the year helps insure you WILL have that quality time together. Life, especially with children, gets busy quickly and weekends fill up fast.

In the U.S., long-distance marriages increased by 23% between 2000 and 2005, according to census figures analyzed by the Center for the Study of Long Distance relationships. In 2005, roughly 3.6 million married people in the U.S. lived apart for reasons other than marital discord, the center estimates. – WebMD.com

No matter what holidays you and your loved ones celebrate, ideally those days are filled with laughter and memory making. Use the holiday season to strengthen your love and connection.  Managing expectations, incorporating strategies for lowering holiday stress, and planning time together are three ways to help make that happen.  Physical separation doesn’t have to mean emotional distance for super commuter couples or couples in long distance relationships.

Succession Planning – Is It Only for the CEO?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQhAAAAJGI2ZjQxZTYzLTM2NzYtNGJmOC1iZTA1LWQwNWY2ZGYwNmM1Yg-e1450119386422

When we think of succession planning, we immediately think of the CEO and/or President of a company. And that is crucial to have in place or at least for the Board of Directors to have documented discussions about their succession plan. However, part of enterprise-wide risk management is to think of the entire company as a whole. Community banks face the challenge that because they are small, they don’t have the luxury of having depth of staff. Therefore, one person ends up wearing several hats—sometimes too many. From one perspective, that is a great opportunity for employees because they get to learn about the various areas of the bank and that makes them more marketable. From the risk perspective, however, this situation presents a challenge for banks if that key employee leaves, gets promoted to another position, or simply goes on vacation for a week!

The topic of succession planning falls under various areas of bank management. Succession planning is part of Talent Management, which entails assessing the talent of the organization to see if there are internal candidates to potentially fill key positions within the bank. Talent Management should be integrated into the bank’s Strategic Plan so the bank can clearly see the type of talent needed in the future. At the same time, succession planning is critical to enterprise risk management because if the bank’s leader is no longer there, the bank must have a plan to implement immediately. I call it “disaster recovery plan” for the CEO. But what about the other crucial positions in the organization such as the operations person who has been with the bank for 30 years? What about the employee who knows how everything is done and holds an immense amount of knowledge in his or her head? Who will do their jobs when they move on—whether that’s unexpectedly or planned?

When we work with bank clients on Talent Management, we first identify all the key positions throughout the organization—regardless of title. Then we implement a backup plan for all the critical positions of the bank, which includes cross training employees and establishing procedures that anyone can follow. Having backup and cross training are two strategies that avoid a crisis not only on unexpected situations but also for the planned vacations, so bank operations can continue to run smoothly while key employees are out. The next step is to writethe Succession Plan for all critical positions and make it part of your Strategic Plan. Regulators usually ask for the CEO and senior management team Succession Plan but it is wise to also have it ready for other vital positions in the organization.

Lean In, Lean Out—What’s a Woman to Do?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAcGAAAAJGExNWU3YjY4LWViMWItNGYzZS1iMTczLTU4OTY1ZTViMDI0NA

I was born too late to have been inspired by the wave of the feminist movement led by Gloria Steinem and her contemporaries, and I wasn’t wearing a bra yet when women were burning them. The origin of the feminist movement can be traced back to the 14th century when Christine de Pizan, a French poet, became one of the first women to earn a living by writing. Interestingly, the word “feminism” was first coined in 1837 by a man—Charles Fourier, a utopian socialist and French philosopher. The modern feminist movement began near the close of the 19th century, with the push for women’s suffrage, and has traveled through the 20th century on the waves of equality, affirmative action, women’s health, the glass ceiling, and many other powerful and polarizing issues. There are two women who are serious contenders for the 2016 presidential election—we’ve come a long way, baby.

But have we? When I look at my personal bookshelf, I count more than 20 titles having to do with women in business, including:

These authors, all of them notably expert in their field, encourage women to embrace their femininity, be one of the boys, lean in, rethink the rules of the game, and so on. Has anyone besides me noticed that there aren’t many books out there on how to be a man in business? Or are all other leadership books dedicated to our male counterparts by default?

Having been a woman in business for more than 25 years, and a reasonably successful one at that, here’s what I know and believe:

  • Men and women are different from one another—biologically, physiologically, psychologically and neurologically
  • All humans are deserving of equality, regardless of their similarities or differences
  • Women and men are likely to be most successful when playing to their unique strengths and leveraging their own capabilities
  • If you are in a work environment or role that demands something of you other than who you are, move on.

Fifteen years ago, my executive coach shared a quote that I’ve never forgotten: “Leadership is authentic self-expression that adds value.” It doesn’t matter what your chromosomal structure is—define success on your own terms and lead from your heart.

Why REI Closing on Black Friday Rocked Our World

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAV3AAAAJDBiZWJjMjdmLTIyYzAtNGM1Yy05YTI4LWE2YWNmZDcyNWM0YQ

It never fails to happen. November 1 hits and I’m bombarded with Black Friday sale announcements.  And it’s not even the typical big-box stores.  It’s the small businesses and solopreneurs who are buzz building, too.  One of the Facebook groups I belong to had a giant thread telling everyone to post their Black Friday offers.  It was all I could do to not sigh in frustration that this is still going on and that people and businesses haven’t realized that this isn’t always a viable business builder.

Marketing is dead.  Marketing tries to convince.  It’s a slippery slope that can result in your business being a victim of Commoditization.

Fascination snaps your customer’s focus on your message.

REI announced it would honor its employees family time and close on Black Friday.  In this announcement, it encouraged everyone to go outside and spend time with their families.

We were focused on their message.

They value their employees. They aren’t bowing to commercialism.

REI isn’t selling anything. But from a Fascination perspective, REI has my attention.  They not only cemented loyalty among their customers, they probably grew their raving fan base. We as a culture were fascinated.

One of Sally Hogshead’s tenets of Fascination is “Different is better than better.”

It’s not enough to have the best service or product if no one notices or cares. It has to be about providing distinct value.

REI provided distinct value to its employees by closing Black Friday.  It also provided distinct value to its ideal customer – the ones who are tired of the usual business practices that Black Friday brings – the drive to the bottom, that whoever has the best price wins.

REI defeated the Commoditization threat.

How does this apply to business owners and professionals:

You don’t have to be like everyone else.  Different is better than better.

When you are different, you are providing distinct value in a way that only you can.  Whether you are a business owner or professional, be that category of one – the one person who can do what you do in the way you do it.

Company Rebrand 101: How To Manage the Process [Step-by-Step Instructions]

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAYXAAAAJDkxNWRlOTIzLTA1MDAtNGVmYi05MThlLWRlMzJhYTUxNzVmOQ

A good brand has power. It transcends its product or service. It symbolizes something greater to people. But what happens if a brand isn’t achieving your company’s vision? What if things change so much that your existing brand doesn’t make sense anymore?Rebranding is common – healthy, in fact! Managing a company rebrand, however, comes with its own set of challenges. To help navigate this exciting, and sometimes difficult-to-maneuver process, see below for a step-by-step guide.

Why Rebrand?

There are many reasons a company chooses to rebrand. Leading this process starts with a clear understanding of “the why.” Here are the most common reasons for a rebrand:

  • Ownership Change or Restructure: This can include mergers, splits, or leadership changes. A brand is commonly up for review when executives or board members make these types of decisions.
  • Reposition: Think Old Spice, the deodorant brand. The company has been around since 1937. It recently launched the Old Spice Man campaign (also known as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”) to make an appeal to those wanting to be sexy and desirable. If the company brand stayed the way it was in 1937, it likely wouldn’t see the attention and revenue success it now experiences. Most businesses that rebrand because of repositioning do so to appeal to a different audience or to further promote a particular product or service. That said, it’s very challenging (and expensive!) for a large established company to rebrand which is why Old Spice is such a great example. It’s much easier to reposition at an earlier product stage, and with a more nimble company.
  • Expand Internationally: When introducing a brand to another country that speaks another language, research is vital. Check out some of these brands-gone-international failures. Rough. And quite entertaining!
  • Improve Reputation: Sometimes companies or products need a makeover after taking a hit to their reputation. While suffering from a negative perception is never ideal, taking charge of it with a rebrand may be the best way to recover.
  • Stay Relevant or Simplify: Apple has been around since 1976. People initially knew the tech icon as Apple Computer Company. Not only did it drop “Computer Company” from its name, but it has also undergone a number of logo redesigns over the years – each simpler than the previous.

The Process of Rebranding

After you understand the purpose, you can define the process. Here is a five-step approach.

1. Know Your Vision, Plan for Results

As famous productivity guru, Stephen Covey, says – begin with the end in mind.

  • Vision: Though you may not have the complete picture, having a clear vision of the rebrand will help you make all the little decisions along the way. Whenever you’re stuck, it’s a good idea to take a step back. Refocus on your vision, and ask yourself if the next step will bring you closer to, or further away from that vision.
  • Results: The other element of perception is knowing the results you expect once you achieve the vision. Do you anticipate being more relevant to women in their 20s? How will you measure that? Make sure there is agreement on what the outcome will be and how to judge the success of it.

2. Define Key Stakeholders

It’s important to know your key stakeholders at the outset. These are the people who will be affected by the rebrand. They can be both internal and external. Here’s a list of examples:

Internal:

  • Leadership Team
  • Board Members
  • Investors
  • Employees

External:

  • Key Clients
  • Clients
  • Potential Clients
  • The Market/General Public (publications, organizations you’re a part of, audiences you can reach through PR efforts, etc.)

3. Establish a Communication Plan

Once you’ve defined the key stakeholders, put together a communication plan. Create a spreadsheet with the suggested column titles below to keep track of how you plan to promote the change and various aspects of the process:

  • Key Stakeholder (Column A)  –  E.g., Employees
  • Message or Information Needed (Column B)  –  E.g., Key message about the rebrand – why it’s happening, what it will accomplish, the timeline, and the necessary information to share with clients
  • Delivery Method (Column C)  –  E.g., All-company meeting led by CEO; division meetings for further Q&A led by Marketing Manager; email from Marketing Manager providing marketing collateral and talking points for their client conversations
  • Frequency (Column D)  –  E.g., Once in company meeting; once in division meetings; once in email
  • Date (Column E)  –  E.g., ____ months/weeks before rebrand launch
  • Responsible for Communication (Column F)  –  E.g., Company CEO to host all-company meeting; Marketing Manager to create marketing collateral and host division meetings

4. Create a Project Timeline

Create a timeline, and stick to it. A simple spreadsheet will do if you don’t have project management software. Not only will a timeline keep you on track, but it will also help you remember to share information with the right people at the appropriate phases. Here are some suggested column titles and examples for this spreadsheet:

  • Phases  –  E.g., Develop Key Message, Develop Communications Plan, Communicate to All Audiences, Communicate to Market, Back Office Tasks
  • Internal Team  –  E.g., List the names of the individuals or teams participating in each phase
  • Stakeholders  –  E.g., List the key stakeholder affected by each phase
  • Calendar  –  E.g., Add one column for each week in the project. Highlight the corresponding row(s) to visually define the length each phase will take. Note that some phases may only be one square (one week) while others may span the length of the rebrand

5. Design the Ultimate Project Plan

This final element of this process is the ability to stay the course. In other words, stick to the Project Plan. Use this spreadsheet as the ultimate keep-you-on-schedule, don’t-forget-anything tool. Different from the communications plan and project timeline, this spreadsheet includes all of the little details and has color-coding for easy-to-read status checks. Use these recommended column titles and examples to get started:

  • Type of Activity  –  E.g., Communication; Branding; Website; Legal/Internal Process
  • Description  –  E.g., Develop Key Message; Create email template for communication to clients; Employee voicemail updates
  • Point Person  –  E.g., List the individual who will handle making sure this gets accomplished
  • Participants  –  E.g., List any other individuals needed to accomplish the task, such as if you need a leadership team approval or a web developer to make changes to the website
  • Status  –  E.g., (This is the color-coded part!) Red for “Not yet started” – Yellow for “In process” – Green for “Completed”
  • Due Date  –  E.g., Date
  • Dependencies  –  E.g., List any tasks that need to happen before this task. For example, you will need to create the Key Messaging prior to sending communication out to the clients. Another example would be that you need to have the rebranding launch (via a press release or other means) before your employees can announce it on social media
  • Notes  –  E.g., Anything else you think would be helpful to remember

Plan for the Unexpected

There will be things that come up along the way that you never anticipated. Here are a couple areas to keep an eye on.

1. Inventory your current brand presence

This includes all of the places your existing brand, logo, and identifiable assets live. Your brand is likely in more places than you even realize. To get started, consider the following: email signatures, voicemails, company on-hold music, building signage, marketing collateral, online presence (website, social media, Google/SEO), employee’s language (answering the phone, sales pitches), and more.

2. Anticipate Budget Spend

Rebranding costs money, therefore, getting a handle on the project cost is critical. Create budget estimates as you go through your Project Plan. Consider the following:

  • Design fees for logo, website, email signatures, marketing collateral, advertising, etc.
  • Printing fees for marketing collateral, building signage, etc.
  • Promotional items (in-house) such as mugs, pens, etc.
  • Promotional items (client-facing) such as trade show tablecloth, banners, stress balls, other giveaways, etc.
  • PR services (anything from hiring a PR agency to submitting a press release on the wire)
  • Website design and development
  • SEO services to promote your new brand

Post-Rebrand

You’ve launched the new brand! Now what? For one, pat yourself on the back – this is a major accomplishment! Following your happy dance, it’s important to give yourself space to recap what went well, what could have gone better, and what lessons you learned along the way.

If you have a hard time stopping to evaluate how the project went, reserve a conference room for 30 minutes and lock yourself in it with a notebook. Ask yourself – Did I accomplish my goal? Did I communicate with all my audiences in a way that worked? What went well? What could have gone better?

Once you’ve answered these questions, get a few key stakeholders in the room to ask them the same. Business owners and leaders quickly move from one focus to the next without pausing, so get feedback from them while you still have their attention. You’ll also want their reflection on how well the rebrand achieved the agreed upon outcomes. If the project didn’t turn out the way everyone envisioned, determine why, how to fix it, and what you can do moving forward to make sure you have successful initiatives in the future.

Seven Ways to Use Social Media

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAWmAAAAJDAyNDRlNjJmLTY2NjItNDZmYi04YzllLTEwZGRjNjk5NzM0ZA

Seven ways to use social media to sell books, or your business!

  1. Create a list of top ten words that will connect with your audience/reader. (Not sure, put in #hashtags to see what other authors are using. #book, #ebook, #yourkeywords
  2. Pick at least two social media outlets to be active on at least three months before book launch.  This could include blogs, Linkedin, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.  The sooner you can develop and build relationships the better off you will be.
  3. Post 3x a week about your book. Sample content includes:
    1. invitations to book launch events,
    2. sharing of reviews or endorsements,
    3. information about the author,
    4. articles about your topic,
    5. excerpts from the book,
    6. pictures from the book or of the author,
    7. links to your website.
  4. Interact with other authors in your category.  Authors will support each other.
  5. Write reviews on amazonBarnes and Noble and other book sites of books like to yours.
  6. Post a blog sharing your excitement for your book launch and a few interesting facts about the book.
  7. Repost any media coverage you receive in the early stages of the book launch. And as you receive book awards, repost this information.

3 Strategies for Networking on Vacation

howtovacations800xx3840-2164-0-395

Vacation is vacation, but there is always room for one more relationship.  Maybe you’ve heard that you always want to talk to the people sitting next to you on the airplane.  I take a more creative approach to meeting new people, but I still also talk to my seatmate.

Here are three approaches that can help to combine relaxation on vacation with potential networking opportunities.

1. Be curious about things that interest you

On vacation, I like to shop and observe the trends and differences between my home state of Minnesota and wherever I am visiting. Store owners and clerks are great for questions about something of interest.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I happened to be in a store where one side was an upscale shaved-ice business and the other side sells nicely branded clothes and accessories. I commented on a display and boom, there went the conversation. The owner and his brother had another business in San Diego, but were born and raised in Hawaii and just opened this store and launched a new brand, with a fabulous story about home, family and adventure. If I hadn’t said what I did, the conversation wouldn’t have started.

2. Try new things

Enjoy the adventure of vacation. If you’re curious about skydiving or renting bicycles, give it a try. When you explore new activities, you never know what you will learn.

On this particular trip, we went snorkeling, and the instructor showed us a nine-minute film before encouraging us to ask questions of the staff and lifeguards. My husband asked about the route and we received great information. Later, when we went to say thank you, I complimented the guide on his instruction, and that stared a conversation about his volunteer work. Another new connection made just by trying something new and engaging fully.

5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAM8AAAAJDVhZDgzNGM4LTNkMGEtNGYwZC1iNmNjLWY2MjRjY2E0MmIyOA

The last few weeks I’ve been cranking out my next book. Without revealing too much yet, there is a big focus in the book on resilience for both personal and professional success. In many of the interviews I’ve been doing with experts, leaders and workers, one of the most common pieces of feedback on amping up resilience is knowing most everything is just a temporary situation.

Things ebb and flow moment to moment. If you find yourself in a stressful spot right now, know that it won’t be that way forever. If life is grand right now, something could take you down tomorrow. And while the rollercoaster of life can be scary, being prepared and arming yourself for the ride can make it feel less turbulent.

Here are five tips to help you be more resilient to the ups and downs.

  1. Make peace with stress. If you are a living, breathing human, you WILL experience stress regularly and often. Sometimes little things will set you off. Other times giant, whopping, life-changing stuff will punch you in the gut. It’s what you do to get through those things, how you bounce back and how you create peace amidst stress that will determine your overall emotional, physical and mental feelings short and long term.
  2. Stop doing things you hate. Of course you are going to feel anxiety and stress when you sign yourself up to do something you don’t enjoy. If you commit to a volunteer gig that sucks your energy, it will impact everything else in your life. If you commit to a social outing and you really don’t want to go, you’ll dread it before it even happens and feel resentful later. But if you only say yes to things that truly energize you and your loved ones, you’re one step closer to a less stressful ride.
  3. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Massive life changes can cause massive stress because our reality changes so drastically. But if you can find ways to stretch out of your comfort zone in small ways, you will be much more resilient to the scary changes that come along. Try new hobbies. Take new routes to work. Ask for things you want. Do more things alone. All of these will slowly but surely prepare you for change.
  4. Get healthy to minimize impact. Stress really does a number on our physical bodies, thinking and emotions. In fact, stress has been found to be more damaging than smoking! YIKES! This means that since stress is inevitable (see #1), you must keep your body in fighting condition to stay strong during tough times. Eat healthfully by eliminating processed junk and sticking to natural, whole foods. Exercise regularly to strengthen your body’s defenses. Drink lots of green tea. Get enough sleep. It’s the stuff you KNOW you should be doing anyway. Make your health a priority!
  5. Disconnect to control your ride. When you constantly check your phone for text messages, social posts and emails, you are letting others define how you spend your time. You become reactive instead of proactive – and that’s a terrible and stressful way to live. Most of us are addicted to our cell phones – and it’s the serious kind of addiction, not just a play on words. If we continue to be a phone-addicted culture, we are in for some trouble as we’re already seeing with young people’s inability to communicate interpersonally, time lost to mindless phone surfing and kids feeling less important than what is on their parents’ screens. Take back your time and life by disconnecting sometimes.

When you can create happiness even when life is stressful, amazing things will start to happen for you. Instead of feeling so agitated and negative when bad times come along, you will know that the situation is only temporary and the sun will shine again.

SHARE WITH ME! How can you make the rollercoaster of life less scary?

Want more? Check out the FREE 15-Day Goal Getter Challenge to get unstuck, de-stress and go after your goals with support and accountability.

How to Get the Ultimate Website Curb Appeal and Generate Leads

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPHAAAAJGM0MjA5NjhmLTJlNGEtNGQ2OS04YTczLWU0NDYyNGZiM2RlNw

If you’re going through a website redesign, it’s time to really start thinking about your website’s ultimate “curb appeal” – your homepage.

It’s one thing to have a pretty homepage, but it’s another to make sure it accomplishes what you need it to. Let’s dive into a few elements that every website homepage needs to include. They’re basics, but if your mind is already swimming with the many details of a website redesign, these critical elements may fly under the radar.

Who Is Your Audience and What Are They Seeking?

The first question to ask is “Who is my audience?” Let’s start there. You could spend all the time in the world attracting everyone to your website, but would it be worth your time? Not at all. It’s much better to hone in on your “ideal” client and map your homepage around their needs. If you’re a B2B company, do you want to attract large players, or small start-ups? And who within those companies do you want to attract? If you’re a B2C company, who is your ideal buyer? These are vital questions to ask yourself.

Once you’ve narrowed down to your target audience, it’s time to ask another simple, but incredibly important question, “What are they seeking?” Do most of your clients want to buy, or are they typically in research mode when they land on your website? Depending on what they’re looking for, you can build a homepage that speaks to their needs – and makes sure they don’t have to dig for what they’re seeking.

Who Are You?

Once you’ve addressed who your audience is, and what they are looking for, it’s important to quickly and succinctly define who you are as a company and what makes you unique. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many websites are out there that require you need to dig deep within the website to discover what it is exactly they do.

I often find myself looking up companies on LinkedIn because I know at least their LinkedIn profile will quickly and succinctly tell me who they are, what they do, and if they can provide a solution to my need. It’s key to make sure this information is located on your website’s homepage – this can make the difference of your potential clients staying on your website, or bouncing off to a competitor’s.

What Do You Do?

This brings us to the next important element of focus – what does your company do? This naturally ties in with the last question. Are you a software company that provides marketing solutions to small businesses? Are you a bakery that provides the freshest bread in your neighborhood? It’s important to advertise this information in a very clean, easy-to-understand way.

Keep in mind that one of the primary ways Google ranks websites is by relevancy. If your homepage only has a few phases and just images, it won’t be as easily identifiable to Google. Rather, try to have at least some substantial “About This Company…” content (even if it’s simply a solid paragraph) tied in with the imagery and design elements. Overall, if you make sure to mention what you do within your homepage, it will help advance the clients you’re looking for, and deter the clients you’re not.

What Do You Want Your Audience To Do?

From there, you are able to address the next question – when the right client lands on your website, what do you ultimately want them to do? Do you want them to watch a demo video, and then fill out an interest form (also known as a CTA, call-to-action)? Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you? Do you want them to purchase items directly from your website, or make a reservation? Depending on the action you ultimately want them to take (as long as it’s logical in filling their need), you need to make sure you’ve provided the right content and CTA’s on your homepage to accomplish that purpose. Nothing is more frustrating than making a decision to buy or move forward in the sales process, but you can’t figure out how to do that (easily) on the website.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of telling who you are and what you do, as well as the importance of making sure your audience has an easy path to purchase or learn more, let’s address a few loose ends.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Q: What if most Google searches point people to a specific landing page, rather than my homepage?

A: First of all, that is a great problem to have! It’s important to invest in SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing strategies/tactics that will help drive traffic to your website. To address the question, every website will have landing pages that are deeper within the website itself that provide details on products, services, etc., but that does not negate the importance of building a strong homepage. The purpose of the homepage is to provide a quick overview of who you are, what you do, and to guide them to the details they need.

Q: Should I worry about where on the homepage my content lives – as long as it’s somewhere on the homepage, does it matter where?

A: Have you heard the phrase “above the fold”? It originally referred to the top half of a newspaper, and now it also refers to what users see as soon as they land on your website. I recommend trying to keep the most relevant, important information above the fold. And if it’s a responsive website, make sure you’ve seen the design and layout prior to your website launching.

Q: What are my final take-aways as I design my new website homepage?

A: Follow These Three Tips

  1. Avoid the Kitchen Sink: Keep in mind that you don’t need everything on the homepage ­– you’ll have plenty of space to put details about your products, services, processes, team, etc. on the internal pages. Just make sure you have the prominent information on the homepage.
  2. Don’t Make ‘Em Dig: Try to make things as easy as possible for your audience. Ideally, it should only take one click or two clicks to get to where you need to go – at least for the prominent items.
  3. Keep It Pretty: Overall, your website should be easy on the eyes – both in design and in layout. If you go to your website knowing only the information that your potential clients know, would you be able to find what you need quickly and efficiently? Do you make it easy to contact you for purchase, questions, or next steps?

Now that you know what you need to do in order to make your website homepage the best on the block (and also able to attract and convert the right leads), how do you feel? Any pressing questions?

Have you done this before and have additional advice for others? I’d love to hear your comments below!

{This article was originally posted on Deluxe’s Small Business blog. https://ww.deluxe.com/blog/how-to-get-the-ultimate-website-curb-appeal-and-generate-leads/}

6 Things I Do Everyday in LinkedIn to Build Top of Mind Awareness

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIaAAAAJDg4ZGEzMWI1LTQyMjEtNDEzYy04MmIxLWFkNzcxYzczMTlmOQ

If you are serious about using LinkedIn to maintain your professional brand reputation, stay top of mind with your connections and generate business leads than  I know you are consistently showing up.

For those who have never been to one of my trainings or have not heard me speak I emphasize investing time to grow your LinkedIn network.  LinkedIn is a long term strategy that requires consistency.  Often I get asked how I personally use LinkedIn, since I am a LinkedIn Trainer. I value my network and I have intentionally connected with people I want to know and maintain relationships with. So I decided to share the 6 things I do everyday on LinkedIn and I want to say up front, these things typically take less than 30 minutes per day!

1. Respond to any email message

I always try to acknowledge a message from someone within 24 hours of receiving it. First because that is professional courtesy and second because I want to be timely.  If someone has taken the time to message me, I always give them the respect to reply regardless of why they have messaged me.

2.  Review and accept new LinkedIn connections

Reviewing new invitations is a quick task for me because I have a process n place to read and respond.  I always read the profile of the invitee, I accept all invitations with a few exceptions such as no photo or details in their profile or if something about the profile seems inappropriate. If I received the default invitation, than I have several responses that I use in reply to learn more about the person who invited me.

3.  Check the LinkedIn news feed for current updates

I scan the news feed for current updates over the past 6-8 hours to with the intention of looking for updates from clients first that I can engage with such as posting a comment. Second I scan for people in my LinkedIn network who have new connections, and see if there are people I may also want to connect with and thirdly I scan for interesting content I may want to take a quick read on.

4.  Who’s viewed my profile

I always like to see who has viewed my profile because I look for trends in location, industry, people I may have met recently and I decide who I might take the time to send a note to if they have not invited me to connect.  This is intelligence work that has provided me new opportunities that may have been missed opportunities had I not taken the lead.

5.  Flip through the “Ways to keep in touch” section

I don’t click the Congrats! button on everyone celebrating a work anniversary, but I do scan for clients and prospects I want to stay top of mind with and I send a quick hello or comment on the work anniversary, birthday or such in a sincere and intentional way.

6.  Share an update

Staying top of mind with my connections is paramount!  My intention is to be authentic, relevant and credible.  I post content that I believe my network would be interested in and  is relevant to why people connected with me in the first place.  I typically post a combination of content through the week that consists on my blog posts, other people’s relevant content, industry content and I try to be sure each post has an interesting graphic to accompany the article.

Networking offline as well as online is all about showing up.

How do you show up on a consistent basis?
How are you building your online reputation?

While there is lots you can do everyday on LinkedIn, some are more important than others. Learn more about how to “Jump Ahead of your Competition with LinkedIn Advantages You Can Leverage”

 **Article originally published on my blog 

 

© 2016 -TeamWomenMN