Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pleasing everyone is hard to do.

Check out this YouTube Video: http://kemmeyer.typepad.com/less_clutter_noise/2008/07/use-this-for-yo.html

Whether you run your own business or work for a big company, I'm sure you can identify with this YouTube video featuring a company working with a graphic designer to create the ideal Stop sign (primary target: women, secondary target: men). It takes a few minutes to watch, but it is hilarious. If you've been on either side of the situation, you'll be able to relate to how tough it can be to manage a project when you have multiple inputs. Pleasing everyone can be tough - and the end result is often ineffective. Thanks to Krista Rosemary of New Tech Web for sharing it. Enjoy!

Virtually Yourz,


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Retaining Existing Customers

A colleague reminded me last Thursday that it is more cost effective to retain an existing customer than it is to attract a new one. Why? Because you've already sold them on your products and/or services, so there is less time and marketing involved. One of the best ways to retain existing customers is through consistent contact. This might include regular newsletters, monthly coupons or specials, customer appreciation events, holiday cards or e-mail campaigns. However you choose to do so, make sure that you regularly communicate with your customers. Satisfied customers can be your best marketing tools, so take good care of them!

Virtually Yourz,


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Coloring Outside the Lines - Working in Parternship with My Clients

[Note: I am so tired of the phrase "thinking outside the box" that I am naming this post "coloring outside the lines." It means the same thing, but it sounds fresher to me.]

I was recently asked by a prospective client how I can help her get more visibility for her retail business. She owns a darling, niche-based yarn and knitting shop in downtown Kent called Renaissance Yarns. She seems to be doing all of the right things right, but wants to know how to further grow her business both online and off.

My niche is marketing small businesses in the service sector, though I've done some retail marketing. Rather than say "I can't help," I'm taking this project on as a challenge. What can I learn that can help her to gain visibility? How can I draw more loyal customers to her business? That's the beauty - and challenge - of marketing. It is an art, not a science, and what works for one business might not work for another...but I'm excited about the possibilities. She has a wonderful product, a gorgeous store and a talented staff. I want to help her succeed, while at the same time learning more about marketing retail companies. In this way, we are working together in partnership.

Have a great idea to share? Please post it. I'm open to suggestions!

Virtually Yourz,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Helpful Hint, Compliments of Donald Trump

I'll admit it - I love watching Celebrity Apprentice! Not only was I fascinated by Gene Simmons and his marketing savvy, but I learned a thing or two from "The Donald" as well. One tip I learned from Donald Trump was to always call the phone numbers on your marketing materials before having them printed. It's a simple, fail-safe way to check your copy for accuracy.

I now do the same thing with web links in press releases in my materials, too. A quick click will tell you if the link is active or if there is a typo in it. Simple advice but invaluable!

Virtually Yourz,


Monday, July 14, 2008

Communication is Key

When working with any client, communication is key. This is particularly true when working virtually, especially if you've never had the opportunity to meet your client face to face. You have to count on every phone conversation, e-mail and written business agreement to fill in all of the needed blanks: work to be done, deadline, standards, expectations, payment terms, etc.

This recently came into play with a new client that hired me to do some web copywriting for her. We discussed the project by phone, and I followed up with a business agreement outlining what I'd do and when and what her role would be (providing information and paying me on time). I completed the project on time and haven't heard from the client since! She indicated via e-mail that the first page was "great," so I'm stumped as to what's happened. I've tried calling and e-mailing, but no word yet. Fortunately, I have the documentation of our agreement to back me up if needed.

This is yet another live-and-learn situation for me. I've been working virtually for nearly 5 years and have never had a client drop off the face of the earth before, though several have been slow in communicating with me. Usually when such things happen, I find a way to work an explanatory clause into my business agreement.

Have you ever had a similar situation? If so, how did you handle it? I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Virtually Yourz,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summertime Motivation

Today in Washington State is a beautiful day - the sun is shining, the birds are singing, there's a cool breeze and warm weather is predicted for the next few days. Looking out my window, I see the wind blowing through the trees and my flowers reaching for the sunlight from my deck. When it is so beautiful outside, how can I work? How do I get motivated? On days like today, it's tough. I'd rather read a book, go for a walk or nap outside...but I have assignments to fulfill and clients to contact. After returning from my workout and a short walk, I made a brief "to do" list of things that must get done today without fail. After each one, I'll take a 15 minute break outside. For lunch, I'll make myself a picnic lunch and squeeze in a few chapters of the book I just started reading. Then I'll head back inside to finish my "to do" list for the day. If all goes well, I'll finish in time to enjoy the evening outside. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the sights and sounds of summer from my office window.

How will you motivate yourself today?

Virtually Yourz,


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where do I grow from here?

In the last 5 years, I have gone from a part-time freelancer to a full-time business owner, writing for publication and writing, editing and marketing for clients. My business has grown so much that lately I've been turning down prospective clients, referring them to colleagues, because I don't have the capacity to take on more business unless I outsource, subcontract or hire an assistant. This has prompted the question - where do I grow from here? Do I stay where I'm at, taking on the same amount of business and finding ways to become more efficient? Or do I consider hiring others to help with the workload and reposition myself as a team of professionals rather than just one person? How much do I want to work? How much do I want to make?

Not sure how to analyze my answers or whether to consider taking the next step, I contacted my local Small Business Development Center at Green River Community College. I will consult with business guru Kirk Davis there to help me sort out the answers. In addition, I plan to consult with a CPA and/or attorney to decide if it is time to move to an LLC from a sole prop.

Has your business grown recently? How did you decide how to take it to the next level? I'd love to hear from you!

I'm not sure where I'm headed - or even where I want to go - but the prospects are exciting. Stay tuned!

Virtually Yourz,


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Project Management - Hardest part first or last?

I just finished phase II of a big project for a client. It required numerous hours of work and I was on draft #2. A friend asked me how I approached it. I started with the easier pages first and saved the hardest for last. She, on the other hand, said she would have done the tough parts first to get them out of the way.

Why did I tackle the easier parts first? It goes back to my test-taking days in high school. I always went through my tests by glancing over all of the sections, and questions, first. Then I'd answer all of the easier questions first - multiple choice, true & false, etc. Those I knew for sure I'd answer right away. If I wasn't sure, I'd pencil in a question mark and move on. On pass #2, I'd answer those with the question marks. On pass #3, I'd answer the hardest questions or those that were fill in the blank or essay. By answering the easier parts first, I saved my time to devote to those that required more thought. If I had time left over, I'd review all of the questions - and my answers - one final time.

The same is true of my project. I knew certain pages were almost finished and just needed fine-tuning or proofreading. Knowing that I had 7 of 11 pages done, I could devote the rest of my afternoon to researching, rethinking and rewriting the remaining pages without feeling rushed or pressed for time.

Neither my method nor my friend's is right or wrong. It boils down to what method works better for us. How about you? What strategies do you use to break down a project into manageable parts?

Virtually Yourz,


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Blogging Basics - Moderating Comments

I encourage you to leave comments about my blog postings to add information, ask questions or leave feedback. Please note that I will post all relevant comments to my blog as quickly as possible. However, I will be reviewing comments before they can be posted. Why, you ask? The age-old problem of SPAM. If I don't moderate, it seems that anyone can post any bogus stuff to my blog. I hope to avoid that. Thanks for your understanding!

Virtually Yourz,


My Master "To Do" List

A colleague asked me yesterday how I manage my time. Time management is, of course, different for everyone, but I find it helpful to keep a master "to do" list. I create a spreadsheet in Excel with four columns, from left to right: Done; Start Date; Item; and Due Date. I then sort by Start Date and then Due Date. The items that I MUST do the current day are highlighted in yellow, and Top priority items for that day are shown in RED. I leave blank lines at the bottom to complete as new assignments come in. At the end of each work day, I review and update the list, printing out a fresh copy so I know exactly what I need to start on the next morning.

In addition, I often break larger projects or assignments into steps (schedule interview, conduct interview, type/transcribe notes, ask follow-up questions, write, edit, submit) and I schedule each of those separately on my "to do" list so I can anticipate how much time each step will take me. Scheduling an interview, for example, might only take 10 minutes, but typing the notes and writing the article could take hours for each step.

For more ideas like this one, subscribe to one (or both) of my free monthly newsletters: writing and editing & marketing. You can subscribe at http://www.virtuallyyourz.com!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Your Marketing Should Be Original - Like You!

Lately I've been asked by several prospective clients to create or duplicate another company's marketing materials (e.g., brochures, training manuals). Not only are there legal and ethical issues involved (copyright, for example), but each business is as unique as its owner(s) and their marketing materials should be branded to reflect that uniqueness - from the layout, logo and design all the way down to the copy.

If you are creating or redoing marketing materials for your business, explore the materials of your competitors to see what elements you like and what you don't like. But when you sit down with your graphic designer and copywriter, make sure the materials reflect YOUR BUSINESS, not someone else's!


Virtually Yourz Enters the World of Blogging

I started my own business 4 1/2 years ago and have marketed myself in the usual ways - press releases, networking, a website, etc. Up until now, however, I have resisted blogging. To me, it feels like an online diary that no one aside from family and friends will have an interest in. But the ways we do business are changing and, with them, so must I.

I hope you'll find my blog interesting. I'll share business tidbits, marketing ideas and other tips & tricks I've learned along the way. Hopefully, you'll find some useful ideas to take away with you.

I welcome your comments and suggestions for useful information!

Virtually Yourz,

Dana Blozis

The virtual solution to your writing, editing and marketing needs.