My Morning of Skanatra and Goal Yelling

My Morning of Skanatra and Goal Yelling

“Dey got a million tons-a coffee…in BRAZIL!”

Huh?

It’s 8:17 am, and I’ve started my morning routine.  I’m tackling my to-do list on ToDoist, and on that list are two goals I have set to recur every day.

One of them is what I called “Megaffirmations” (a sorta clever way of saying mega affirmations.)  It’s a technique I learned through Tony Robbins — one of the kings of positive motivation and getting on track.

Tony says that feeling motivated isn’t just about telling yourself that you’re going to have a good day and do great things…rather, it’s about getting yourself in such a state of manic excitement and feeling good, that then your brain automatically links “pleasure” to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.

In other words, you feel so good, you can’t help but want to do the thing you want yourself to do.

It’s an NLP technique — positive conditioning and association.  People use it to lose weight and talk to girls and stuff.

The way I get “in state” is to listen to really great, high-intensity music.  And I just rediscovered a really fun band from my youth — Skanatra.

Check it:
(post continued below awesome video song)

Fun, eh?

So, I’m listening and bouncing along in my chair, which led me to part number 2…Goal Yelling.

I have a list of goals that I want to accomplish over the next year.  Stuff like getting out of debt, going shark cage diving, adopting a dog, building a $10 million business, etc.  To make those goals real, I read them out loud EVERY day.  And on mornings like this one, I start YELLING them.

Why?  Because then I’m paying attention.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to be fully present and paying attention when you’re screaming.  And the only people listening are my girlfriend’s two cats, Rex and Bodhi.  And they’re not people at all, even though they’re giving me some awfully weird looks.

Research shows that the more you repeat your goals, the more your brain tends to remember and integrate it into your life.

And listening to a band that covers Sinatra tunes in a Jamaican accent while yelling next to some cats…I’ll probably remember this.

What goals can you yell this morning?

Customer Persona: Are You Wasting Your Time?

Customer Persona: Are You Wasting Your Time?

There’s an excellent exercise for getting into the mind of your customer.  It’s called creating your Customer Persona.

Customer Personas

Here’s the gist…your target customer or client has all sorts of characteristics that describe them.  If you know and understand that information, then you can use it to create a fundamental strategy on how you communicate with them, better serve their needs, and keep them (and your market segment) loyal to you and your services and widgets.

This is (at least) a two-part process, so stick with me.

Start by gathering information.  And ideally, this is REAL information based on your ACTUAL prospects and customers/clients…not just speculation by what you think defines them.

You can gather demographic information, like:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Education level
  • Income
  • Location
  • Marital/family status
  • Sexual preference
  • Religious beliefs
  • Etc.

You can (and should) also gather psychographic information on your market segment, which includes info that’s less quantifiable.  It’s more about preferences and habits.  Stuff like:

  • Needs
  • Concerns
  • Wants
  • Fears
  • Frustrations
  • Pressures
  • Drivers (cost vs. benefit)
  • Etc.

You can gather this information to build your Customer Persona in several ways.

The most accurate method is to ask directly — talk to several of your customers and get a sense of the similarities and ties among them.

You can also look into social media.  Using social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., you can get a sense of who they are and what they need.

And if you’re not a fan of social media, another option is to put a survey on your website or out to your email list.  A great free resource to create surveys and polls SurveyMonkey.

Once you have that information, you can then create a “customer persona,” or general archetype of your customer and market segment.  One of the best ways to do this is to actually create a (semi) fictitious profile of that person.

Write it like you were writing a biography — talk about what their day is like when they wake up, go to work, go shopping, come home, etc.  What are their frustrations?  What makes them happy?  Talk about their lifestyle and habits.  And finally, find a (real looking) picture that looks how you think they would, and place it along with the bio.

Use that customer persona bio whenever you’re getting ready to create marketing materials or tailor your new product line to the market segment you’re after.  Reference it every day so that you’re REALLY getting into your customer’s head.

You can even stop and ask, “Would ‘Steve’ be into this?”  “How would ‘Michelle’ feel about this new direction?  Would it speak to her and answer her needs?”

The more energy you can devote towards truly answering wants, needs, and desires of your market segment by understanding them, the more success you likely find.  Researching and writing a customer persona is well worth the time if it’s going to mean a bigger bottom line for you.  social media

* Special thanks to Jenny Magic and Clay Delk for their contributions about creating a Customer Persona.  Damn smart folks.

Emotional Freedom Technique: Get Unstuck

Emotional Freedom Technique: Get Unstuck

Emotional Freedom Technique.

There are times when we all feel like something is holding us back and keeping us from feeling good or productive.

Days when we can’t seem to push past some type of negative energy that, maybe we don’t even understand why we’re feeling it.

On those days, I like to employ something called “tapping.”

Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a series of movements that help you to release “stuck energy” throughout your body.  Sure — it sounds hokey, and honestly, it is hokey.  But for millions of people, it works.

Although it looks funny, its motives are based in physiological science.  Essentially, you are tapping on nerve centers and connecting those with positive messages to yourself through a set affirmation:

“Even though I am feeling [whatever you are feeling — scared, worried, angry, sad], I still fully and completely accept myself.”

The idea behind it is to create psychological congruency within your body and mind.  You are making everything work together.  Our minds work hard to get us feeling the way we desire, but if our bodies are tense because of something we experienced or felt either recently or a long time ago, we aren’t in full congruency with ourselves.  That means we aren’t productive and will likely have a really hard time getting there.

Once you release that trapped energy through tapping/EFT, your body and mind are aligned, and you can start to move forward.

There’s a great intro video on how to do this on Tapping.com.  I think he also has a free ebook you get for signing up for the mailing list.

Check it out, and get back to work!

Interview with Cash Matthews of The Solomon Group

Interview with Cash Matthews of The Solomon Group

Despite a childhood mired in poverty, Cash Matthews has gone on to build a small empire that gives financial advice support to individuals and small businesses across the country.  His company, The Solomon Group, gives people the tools to get out of debt and build a solid personal and/or business future with his staff of investment, real estate, tax, and mortgage experts.  He also hosts the Business Owners Networking Group (a.k.a. “The BONG”) once a month, a free Meetup for small business owners to network and promote themselves.

In our 33-minute interview, Cash and I talk about:

  • How to avoid some of the most common mistakes that most new business owners make
  • The basics of legal business structure and tax strategy
  • What’s more important; reducing debt or saving money
  • The secret to good networking (hint: It’s not about you)
  • How to build a positive relationship with money so that you can make more of it
  • Lots more

 

 

Want Better Negotiations?  Learn to Make Concessions

Want Better Negotiations? Learn to Make Concessions

We’ll get to the negotiations part in a second.

I used to write editorials for the paper when I was in high school.  I basically had to come up with an argument, then list out reasons and points to support that argument.  It was kind of like being on the debate team, but I wrote instead of talked, and no one could talk back.

That didn’t necessarily make it any easier.  Coming up with a cohesive point is one thing, but trying to find ways to convince people to change the way they see something is another nut entirely.

One of the best strategies I learned through that experience is using something called “concessions.”

We’re not talking about cotton candy and pretzels at the hockey arena.  Making a concession in negotiations is essential conceeding a point.  In other words, you’re acknowledging that the other side HAS a point.  In doing so, you’re accomplishing two things: 1) you’re making the other person feel listened to, understood, and respected by showing them you see the value in what they want and/or believe, and 2) you’re showing that you’re looking at all sides of the equation, showing that you’re not just making a half-assed decision.

Let’s do an example.  Say that I’m talking to my friend Ryan about where to go for pizza.  He wants to go to Nino’s, and I want to go to Nuno’s.*

I argue my point, but first I start with a concession: “Y’know — you’re right.  Nino’s DOES have great tomato sauce.  And that’s a good place.  But Nuno’s is closer, it’s cheaper, and they’re having a two-for-one deal tonight.”

I’ve conceded that Ryan has a point and I understand his argument.  In doing so, he’ll be more likely to be open to my point of view and feel good about the exchange.

Arguments are usually much more hairy and complicated than this, obviously.  But you get the gist.  You can apply this tactic to any sort of business dealing or discussion; negotiating with a vendor, arguing with a partner, resolving issues with customers, etc.  The more people feel like you’re listening to them, the more the negotiations will end not just in your favor, but that both sides feel respected and positive.  I concede — this doesn’t always work.  But it helps.

* For the record, there are no pizza places nearby named Nino’s OR Nuno’s.  But I do have a friend named Ryan, and I believe he does like pizza.

Interview with Vicki Flaugher of FamousinYourNiche.com

Interview with Vicki Flaugher of FamousinYourNiche.com

Forbes Magazine named Vicki Flaugher, of Famous in Your Niche, one of the top 50 social media power influencers.

And rightly so.  Vicki is one of those people who seems to escape every attempt at categorization and pigeon-holing that is thrown at her. She goes out of her way to meet people with whom she disagrees, just to get a new angle on life.

She’s a larger-than-life, blonde techno-diva who gets around town straddling a diesel-spewing hog and engaging everyone she finds.  She’s equally at home with C-Suite Fortune 500 exec’s as she is with Compton-bred, F-Bomb slinging hardcore rap impresarios. She thrives on building corporate and personal brands and is damn good at it. When she speaks, people listen, and they learn.

I made Vicki sit down on my couch one morning and talk to me about…

  • How to build a positive digital reputation that follows you everywhere
  • The right ways to use social media (and why it’s never going away)
  • Why she goes out of her way to meet people she disagrees with
  • How to be an honest marketer without being 100% honest
  • Why being interesting starts with being yourself

Listen up:

Download the MP3 (64 minutes, 59 MB)

 

The Top 5 Best Premium WordPress Theme Providers

The Top 5 Best Premium WordPress Theme Providers

So, that bland, white and black, functionless free theme just ain’t cuttin’ it anymore, eh?  Or maybe you’re just getting started and want to really make a big splash on your website.

Either way, premium themes offer greater functionality, better looks, and generally stronger support than most freebies out there.  Below, I’ve listed five of the best and most-widely used premium WP theme providers out there today.

I’ve personally used themes from all five of these companies, and recommend them all.  You should know — these are my affiliate links, and I make a commission if you purchase a theme or package from them.  But I’d be recommending them even if I made nothing from it.

1. Elegant Themes

Honestly, these guys are my favorite.  I use them for most of my sites and am consistently impressed how great they look.  In fact, this site is made using an Elegant Themes theme.  (You should try to figure out which one!)

They have some fantastic shortcode options where you can drop in graphical sliders, testimonial boxes, ad blocks, quotes, price comparisons, and more with just a few characters and customizations.

All of that said, ET themes tend to need a little finessing after installation.  These themes tend to be built for flashiness, with less focus on utility.  The header area is usually larger than most people would prefer, and I cut it down by about 100 pixels before doing anything.

Click here to visit Elegant Themes

2. WooThemes

One of the most respected companies in the business.  They’ve been around a long time and are known for themes that look good and perform well.  I know million-dollar marketers who use these themes for their sites.  My friend Kate Buck, Jr’s Let’s Get Social course on how to become a social media expert, as well as Stu McLaren’s Wishlist Insider (the learning site for membership plugin Wishlist Member) are run on themes from WooThemes.

Click here to visit WooThemes

3. ThemeForest

Part of the Envato Network, these guys are really cool.  These are themes that are produced, sold, and supported by other members of ThemeForest.  There are some terrific niche themes in here — I found some a couple weeks ago for cooking and recipe sites that looked fantastic.  While you’re there, check out the other Envato Marketplaces for royalty-free stock photography, audio clips, graphics, animations, and more.

Click here to visit ThemeForest

4. Thesis

This particular theme is produced by DIYThemes, and is known for its speed, precision, and exacting standards in design and W3/browser compatibility.  It’s a little more complicated to use, but not by much.  It gives you a ton of flexibility when it comes to customizing your site, but the learning curve is a little bigger.

Click here to visit Thesis/DIYThemes

5. RocketTheme

This company has been around for awhile too, and they produce themes for other platforms like Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc.  The themes are focused on fantastic design, although they’ve recently implemented their “Gantry Network,” a similar structure to the Thesis theme.  Both use what’s called a “parent theme,” and then you implement “child themes” in order to customize the look and functionality of a site.  Again — a bit more complicated, but you get more options on how you want it to look and work.

Click here to visit RocketTheme

What’s great about WordPress, or really similar content management platform, is that you can buy a theme, install it, and if you don’t like it, you can then switch to something else with minimal repercussions.  And with the release of WordPress 3.4, you can now customize and preview what your site will look like before you actually make the switch public.  So, check out one of these top 5 best premium WordPress theme providers, and don’t be afraid to try a few of them on for the best fit.

Crowdfunding and the New Lexicon of Business Capitalization

Crowdfunding and the New Lexicon of Business Capitalization

On April 5th of this year, President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), which made several dramatic changes in the access to capital for small businesses. The JOBS Act actually contains several pieces of independent legislation, and perhaps the most interesting one is Section III, Crowdfunding, also called the CROWDFUND Act. Several new terms have been introduced in this piece of legislation, as well as several old ones that some people may be new to the casual reader. Once one understands these terms, it’s not hard to see why crowdfunding may be the most important change in small business and startup financing in decades.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding itself is not exactly new. People have been doing it for a little over 10 years. Crowdfunding is simply a way of asking for donations in an online format. There are a few large, and several smaller, online crowdfunding platforms. The major features of a crowdfunding campaign are that the fundraising organization offers “perks” in exchange for donations, and that there are goals associated with the transfer of money. Perks are typically scaled to offer increasing value for larger dollar amounts (this is very similar to the technique used in public broadcasting campaigns). There are usually no limits to how much (or little) an individual can donate. As target fundraising goals are met, the funds are released to the fundraiser and the perks are given to the donor. Typical crowdfunding raises are in the neighborhood of $5,000, but a few have exceeded $1,000,000.

Investment/Equity/Capitalization Crowdfunding

Investment crowdfunding is so new people haven’t even figured out what they are calling it yet. All three of the above terms, and possibly others, are in use, and they all refer to the same thing. Investment crowdfunding uses the crowdfunding mechanism to sell securities, usually stock. The CROWDFUND Act authorizes Crowdfunding, pending the approval of regulations that the SEC has until the end of the year to write. It will not be legal to offer securities through crowdfunding until these regulations are approved, probably early next year. Instead of making donations for perks, investors will buy equity in a company through an authorized platform. Companies can raise up to $1,000,000 per 12 month period through crowdfunding offerings.

Funding Portal

A funding portal is a new type of intermediary created by the CROWDFUND Act which facilitates crowdfunding securities transactions. All crowdfunding offerings must be made through a funding portal or broker. The funding portal/broker will conduct a certain amount of due diligence toward the issuer, list the securities being offered, and oversee the transaction and issue of stock certificates or other documentation. They must maintain an arm’s length from the participants in the transaction, acting as a neutral party who ensures that the rules are being followed. As things currently stand, none of the big brokerage houses have indicated an interest in participating in crowdfunding at this time, so we expect that most of the early activity will be with newly registered funding portals.

Accredited Investor

An accredited investor is an individual whose annual income is greater than $200,000 ($300,000 for a family) or who has a net worth of more than $1,000,000 not including primary residence. Such people are assumed to have better understanding of the risks associated with investing and therefore do not require the same level of risk factor disclosure than presumably less sophisticated investors. This is not a new term, but an important one in most non-public stock issues. Most private stock placements are restricted to a combination of accredited investors or friends and family of the issuer. Crowdfunding specifically allows sale to non-accredited investors without restriction. This alone dramatically increases the size of the potential investor pool for any new stock issue.

Investment caps

To offset the ability to raise money from non-accredited investors, the CROWDFUND Act limits the dollar amounts that an individual can invest in a single issue. Investors whose annual income or net worth is less than $100,000 can invest up to 5% of their income/net worth or $2,000 whichever is greater. Those whose net worth/annual income is $100,000 or more can invest 10% of income/net worth up to $100,000. The combination of this limit with the overall $1,000,000 limit per issue keeps crowdfunding investment fairly small by most investment standards. To a venture capital firm/fund, this is very small potatoes. It falls closer to the lower end of Angel Investment, with a much larger distribution of smaller investors.

Social Media

Social media isn’t that new, and we all know what it is. Whether we like it or not, we’re all learning to embrace it. While no mention of social media is made in the legislation, it may be the single most important thing for business owners who want to participate to understand. Crowdfunding is driven by social media networks where businesses engage with customers and potential investors and create excitement about their business. Those who do so successfully can use that network to develop potential investors and convert them into actual investors. Currently, this is a process that is more art than science, and most companies will need to partner with the best of the artists to make crowdfunding work for them.

As I become more deeply involved in the investment crowdfunding world, I’m finding more and more potential. The brief discussions above are just a starting point for understanding the many discussions that are breaking out on this topic. Entrepreneurs are already looking for ways to adapt to this new landscape and make it their own, which will make the next year an exciting time for all of us in the world of seed capitalization.

Robert Segrest

Robert Segrest
CrowdFund Resource

Robert Segrest is a founder and president of Crowdfund Resource, specializing in helping businesses understand and use investment crowdfunding. As a small business manager and consultant, Robert and his team have worked with many companies to solve their capitalization challenges. To learn more about investment crowdfunding please visit his website at http://crowdfundresource.com, or email him at robert@crowdfundresource.com.

Innovate or Die

Innovate or Die

The other day I met the owner of a local camera store.  And calling it just a “local camera store” is grossly undermining its local significance and rich history.

Precision Camera in Austin has been around since owner Jerry Sullivan started it in his spare bedroom in 1976.  It was there until his wife told him he needed to find new space to make room for their upcoming baby.

He’s since grown the business into Austin’s premiere camera specialty store; literally a “mom and pop” that made it big.

Jerry was telling me that, even though they’ve enjoyed consistent growth for three and a half decades and have adapted as camera fancies have turned digital, they are currently up against some of their biggest challenges yet…the monster Internet retailers.

Companies like Amazon.com are the online version of the big box retailer (i.e. WalMart, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc.).  You can buy literally EVERYTHING on Amazon.  And in most cases, you can buy that everything for cheaper than most other places.

If it’s not Amazon, there’s some other online store that makes it nearly impossible for the local specialty retailer to keep pace.  Not only are those stores’ prices as low as they can go, but they’re better equipped to handle issues like credit card fraud and returns.

Stores like Precision Camera are having a tough time competing.  But don’t count them out yet.

Aside from having the personal, “everyone knows your name” feel that only local retailers can have, stores like Jerry’s have an advantage over the big online monsters in that they can try new things faster, and get creative with customer interactions without corporate red tape and lengthy approval processes.

Jerry and I talked about several different options.

Building Local Social Networks.

A business can leverage new digital tools like BuddyPress (a WordPress plugin) to build on an online social networking forum, complete with profiles, picture-sharing spaces, contests, meetings, and more.  Combine that with event administration through Meetup.com and EventBrite ticketing services, there are all kinds of options to get the community involved and to participate with your brand.

Creating Information Products.

People turn to the Internet now more than ever to learn how to do stuff.  And creating e-learning material has never been easier.  Jerry could build some in-person classes on how to use a new model camera, film it, and then put it online and sell it for $19.95.  Or, he could even give it away.  He could then build it into an entire sales funnel that leads to a much higher-priced (or recurring billing) product on the back end.

Demos & Clinics.

This piggybacks onto the local social networking idea, but they could be holding (and recording to put online) even more in-store events that show people how to use their products, AND bringing in national photographers to sign books and talk shop with local customers.

Some of these are long-standing techniques from various industries.  But the key through all of them is the notion that you always have options to save a struggling business or career by reinventing its purpose and focus.

You have more tools at your disposal than ever, and I encourage you to explore those as much as possible to better serve your customer base, and beat the big box-ers at their own game.