Why Critical Thinking Skills Matter…Even When You Think It’s Just Data Entry

A few months ago we talked about how much your business is worth to you. I’m going to ask you again…no, beg you…please stop thinking about the dollar signs in areas of your business where critical thinking skills matter. Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a few emails from a friend and colleague who works on a team. Her client is switching to Ontraport. That makes me so freakin happy. Ontraport is amazing to work in. But, the email said she was having her “$15 an hour VA” enter her contacts without tags, and is this going to create a problem? Hell yeah, it’s going to be a problem. It’s not going to be a critical problem, but as far as time management and efficiency, yes, it is a problem.

Here’s the thing, big picture thinking is critical to your business. I was away this past weekend with a client and her team. She also happens to be my coach, and asked us to write down 20 things that we do really well. One item on my list was that I’m a big picture thinker. I love planning and then doing the detail work to connect the dots. That’s why I love Ontraport so much.

Critical Thinking Skills Matter

You can always find someone to enter contacts, but if you’re using a high-end system like Ontraport, I can guarantee you that if you haven’t thought through the process of tagging to segment that list, and are having the tagging done when those contacts are entered, you are going to pay more money in the end having someone else fix it. The person doing that work needs to be a critical thinker. Where did those contacts come from? Have they made past purchases? What are they interested in that you offer? Have they attended an event you held or sponsored? Without considering at least some of these factors, your only options are to send everyone your emails and put sequencing in place for click-throughs — basically you’re still doing the spray and pray method of marketing — or you are going to end up paying someone to go back through your list and manually tag people.

Ontraport is designed to make your business automation as easy as possible. And they do a damn good job of it. You, or someone on your team, needs to know the programs you’re using or have time to really dig in and learn them. Your business needs someone who thinks through the process from a customer perspective, considers what they need, and can implement your systems with the big picture in mind.

Why Shift Didn’t Work For Me

Shift is out! Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

I am a Google fan. I run my business with Google for Work and I love the way everything works so well together. Now, if you have multiple Gmail accounts you need to toggle between them. Not difficult, but not super-efficient either. My biggest issue with it is that if you use separate calendars or Drive accounts, a new tab is opened each time you check something different. I have three Gmail accounts; one for my primary business, one for my secondary business, and one is personal for family. Overall, I try to keep all of my Google documents and my calendar in my primary business account regardless of whether they’re business or personal. But I still have those three email addresses. I ]forward my secondary business account to my primary business account. It’s a system that works really well for me. However, a few months ago I heard about an application that was close to being pushed out to the public.

Enter Shift. I was so excited. I put myself on the waiting list, checking back every now and then. Yesterday I got the email. It was time! I added all three of my Gmail accounts, and I had high hopes that this would solve a big Gmail problem. The interface is fabulous for switching between accounts. Everything is right there; mail, calendars, documents. I read the mail in all three of my accounts without ever leaving the application. It was awesome!

Then…I composed a new email and my hope vanished. That’s when I realized that all of my chrome extensions wouldn’t play into this application. No Wisestamp email signature, no Todoist or Asana extensions. All of that seamless productivity not available. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I can’t sacrifice the productivity I get with the Chrome extensions for the ease of switching email accounts.

Will I delete Shift? Not yet. There may be times when it’s more convenient to just check my email all in one place without worrying about “doing” something with it. We’ll see.

If you haven’t checked out Shift yet, definitely do. It might be great for your situation. If you have tried it, what did you think?



Stop YouTube Suggested Videos and Keep More Traffic on Your Website

If you have a home on the web, one of your goals is to drive traffic to it and keep your readers there. When you embed a YouTube video on your website, you may inadvertently be driving traffic away. YouTube by default shows suggested videos at the end of your video. That’s great for YouTube, but not so great for you. Your readers will click those suggestions and head to YouTube, possibly never to be seen again. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to fix the leak. You can stop YouTube suggested videos and keep more traffic on your site.

Normally, you head to your YouTube video page, click share, click embed, and grab the code. Instead, when you get to the point where you grab the embed code, click the “show more” feature just below that code. You then have a few options for your video. You can adjust the size and choose whether to show the title or video controls, but the most important feature there is the checkbox that lets you choose whether YouTube shows suggested videos when your video is done playing.

Super-simple, super-quick — uncheck that box and keep more of your traffic on your site.

By removing that one distraction you increase the likelihood that your readers will stay on your website, and stay engaged with your brand.



The Tools I Use To Rock My Branded Images

There is absolutely no doubt that I adore creating images, and I have found some kick-ass tools to create branded images for my brand and for my clients. These images can be used on blogs, in social media feeds, in newsletters, and in general add another layer of beauty to a brand’s digital marketing strategy. But how do you create them easily, and without spending a fortune?

My first go-to image tool is usually Photoshop, and while it’s not “easy-peazy”, I’m a control freak and Photoshop gives me the most control. The learning curve is a little steep and unless you already know the in’s and out’s of Photoshop, it’s not the most efficient way to get your images done quickly.

Keeping that in mind, for the last few years, I’ve been using Canva to knock out some beautiful images for myself and my clients. Canva is a very intuitive app with a great user-interface. It’s feature-rich with free and paid images, icons and shapes, photo filters, hundreds of font options, plus added features for paid accounts. Their layouts are beautiful and their features are easy to use. It’s been one of my go-to tools for quite a while.

One of my favorite quotes is by Hugh Macleod. He said, “There’s no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership. None. Zilch. Nada. Actually, as the artist gets more into his thing, and as he gets more successful, his number of tools tends to go down. He knows what works for him. Expending mental energy on stuff wastes time”. I believe that’s true for physical and digital tools. So, between Photoshop and Canva, I was rockin’ right along, using what I know and love. Now, I’m not averse to trying new tools when they come along, and a few weeks ago, I was reading a post by Donna Mortiz of Socially Sorted that mentioned a tool that quickly became one that makes my list of go-to tools.

Meet Easil. How did I not know about this before? When I start using an app or website for the first time I have the normal yes, no, maybe reaction. Easil was a big hell yes! The features are similar to Canva. Easil has icons and shapes, free and paid image options, photo filters, and hundreds of font options, plus added features for paid accounts. Their layouts and image options are gorgeous. Because I just started using Easil, I’m still digging into all of their features, and learning the interface, but right now I can say it is a fun and fantastic tool to add to the mix!

How do you create your branded images? What are your favorite image tools?

And if you’re not creating branded images yet, but need some beautiful templates to get you started, send me an email. I love helping entrepreneurs look good.



The Benefits of a Client Face-to-Face Strategy Session

I have run my business for nine years and just before the Christmas break I had a fantastic opportunity to have a client face-to-face strategy session. Shannon is one of a few long-term clients that I support in her digital marketing and web maintenance. We worked in person for some serious business building and strategizing, and I am here to tell you, if you have the opportunity, do it!

Shannon is in NYC and I’m in Maryland so we met halfway, in Philadelphia. Our intention was to stay at an Airbnb we had set up but that didn’t happen. We ended up at the Sonesta Hotel in downtown Philly. Beautiful space and functional for what we had planned. I tell you that so you know that we were flexible, and that was a big part of the weekend.

Going into this, we knew we wanted to work on both of our businesses. Our respective areas of expertise complement each other really well. I am a structure builder and digital strategist, and she is a kick-ass content strategy coach. We’ve worked together for three years now. We each had a list of things we needed to get done so we jumped right into our Friday work session alternating between the two of us. We worked. We had dinner. We worked some more.

Saturday was pretty similar except we decided to play for the first part of the day, have lunch, and then work until dinner. We set out to see what we could get into on Saturday morning. We didn’t have a plan. We walked down to Dilworth Park and watched the ice skaters, found the Liberty Bell and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was introduced to “real” Ramen for lunch at Nom Nom Ramen. The Ramen was great but the vegan “pork” buns were out of this world fabulous. I need to find some of those in Maryland.

Instead of working in the room on Saturday we went down to the restaurant in the hotel. The large tables in the center were perfect for plugging in and spreading out. We spent hours there working through our lists, alternating between her list and mine. By creating that focused time to work, we got a ton accomplished.

One of the main things on Shannon’s list was her re-brand. We’ve been talking about it virtually but to sit together and go over all of the pieces, to show her how I work and the tools I use, to really hear what she was thinking and how she envisioned this re-brand was priceless.

One of the main things I hoped to gain from the weekend was to have a solid content strategy in place. I have ideas written down on sticky notes, in Notepad, in Google Drive, all over the place. And to be honest, there are so many ideas that writing my blog posts was starting to feel a bit overwhelming. I walked away with so much more than I had hoped for. I finally got super-clear on my writing process.

So, if it is ever an option to have a face-to-face big ideas session with a client, DO IT! It is fun and rewarding all the way around.



A first for me and the benefits of a client-virtual assistant strategy session

Lighten up on your social sites

First things first, I send my unending love and gratitude to the families of our service members who have lost their lives defending our country and protecting my freedoms. God bless you. ♥

Many of us spend Memorial Day weekend with family and friends, and I hope you all had a wonderful, long, and relaxing weekend. Mine was pretty low key. I celebrated my birthday with my daughter and tried to unplug as much as possible. We had a nice dinner and then saw Pitch Perfect 2.

On Tuesdays I have a little Twitter party with some virtual assistants in my network but I don’t really need to log into Twitter to do that. I attend Twitter Twitter using email and Hootsuite or Buffer. So today while I was sitting in the car rider line at school, I decided to do a little Twitter scrolling and catch up on my notifications. I would say I was a little hurt by what I saw, but I really wasn’t. ☺

Are you curious yet? Well let me tell you. Apparently someone followed me on Sunday and in the three days it took me to sign into Twitter and follow back he was pretty pissed. Enough so that he sent me a nice sarcastic post about not reciprocating the follow and then proceeded to block me. Really? Three days? And a holiday at that.

I love connecting with people on social media and I get a lot of great information from the people I follow, but I’m thrilled to say that I don’t sign into my social sites every day. You might see some posts because hey, a girl’s gotta market, right? And I don’t necessarily need to sign in directly to do that.

So here’s the thing. Everyone uses social media differently but whether it’s for personal use or business use, social platforms should be fun and engaging. Make connections. Learn all you can. Enjoy the conversations. But don’t take it so seriously that you can’t enjoy some time away.

Image Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Data Tracking Made Easy

During some of my internet cruising, I stumbled on this awesome, easy data tracking tool. I’ve added it to my arsenal of must-have resources. I’m a creative geek, not a data geek, but even I can get into SumAll.

We all know how important it is to stay on top of what’s working and what isn’t in your business and marketing efforts and SumAll was created with me and you in mind.

What it offers

Once you set up your account you will want to set up all of your platforms. I personally am tracking all of my social media accounts, my Google analytics, some of my Bit.ly links, and MailChimp. SumAll has a ton of platforms to track including banking, fitness, blogging, and payment processing just to name a few. Additionally you can create groups to add your platforms to.

Other fantastic features…

  • SumAll will email you either daily or weekly with your stats but they also give you the option to have your stats sent to team members.
  • If you’re feeling it, you can set up thank you tweets or have SumAll send weekly and monthly performance tweets through your Twitter and Facebook preferences.
  • Add collaborators to your account for added insights.

The metrics

Your metrics start rolling in daily or weekly into your email so you can see exactly what’s going on with your social media engagement, website traffic, and click-throughs. And if you’d rather go into SumAll to take a look, you can choose to review all of your stats in one place or select the platform you want to focus on and see what’s happening in that area specifically.

I am psyched to find a program that tracks my numbers and does it in a simple way. Check out SumAll and come back and let me know what you think. Does it look like a useful tool for you too?


Know your audience

I sign up for a lot of lists. Some come through referrals. With some I happen to be reading their blog and know the information they put out is great for my business. Some because I want their free report or other information to look through.

I started to think about why I unsubscribe from lists. I thought I had as many reasons for unsubscribing as I do for subscribing but when I started to think about it, I realized the one consistent element in each unsubscribe is that the content isn’t geared to me. While most all of them send great content, not all of them send great content that I need or want. That is where group email lists come into play.

I love content geared toward social media, images, WordPress, and direct sales. If someone is sending me quality information about any of these topics I am all in. However, if I start to get more emails about something entirely unrelated to my interests, they’re probably headed to the top of my unsubscribe list.

The best way I’ve found to really get people the information they need is to ask them what they want. Most, if not all, email service providers give you a way to make that happen with some kind of group email lists. You may decide to add checkboxes to your opt-in form with various topics. You may decide to use different opt-in forms on different sites or with different promotions. However you decide to do it, make your audience a priority and let them tell you what they want.

Having engaged subscribers is far more beneficial for your business than thousands of people who don’t have an interest in what you’re doing.

Quick Tip: URL Shorteners

Today’s tip is simple, but definitely worth taking action on. I’m talking about URL shorteners.

There are several good sites out there but I personally use bitly.com. Shortening a URL is a no-brainer. We live in a world where keeping posts under 140 (or 160 for mobile) is critical so you want your link as short as possible. But the reason I use a shortener comes down to tracking. And that’s the number one reason I use bitly.com. It makes shortening, customizing and tracking super easy.

Quick Tip: YouTube Transcripts

Today’s tip can help more than you probably realize. Do you have videos uploaded to YouTube? These could be any type of video you use for your business. Now, do you have these videos transcribed and uploaded to YouTube? You absolutely should! Adding your transcript to the video helps YouTube identify what the video is about, giving you a step up when it comes to searches and your video SEO.