November 27, 2017

Recap: Digital Summit Chicago 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

The Digital Summit series made its inaugural stop in Chicago this year. The 2-day digital marketing conference was filled with insights on digital, email and content marketing. Here are a few of my top takeaways.

Deep thoughts by Ann Handley…

The conference kicked off with an inspiring and entertaining keynote by content queen, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, who encouraged us to be bigger, braver and bolder with our digital content. Ann talked about the importance of data, used in conjunction with listening and instinct. Your brand should be in a place where your customers or clients will say “They get us!”

She also emphasized that your story is the start of what sets you apart. She challenged us: what is the story everyone tells in your industry and how can you tell it differently?

Lastly, she suggested that we be braver in our perspective and tone of voice. Think about how you sound vs. how you look. How can you make the ordinary (about pages, landing pages, email confirmation pages) extraordinary?

Email is still king—but keep it simple

Nora Snoddy of Emma told us that ROI of email is double of all other channels, (so yes, you should be sending out those regular email campaigns). She said that including video and GIFs can lead to higher CTRs. And she also advised not to give people too many options, stick to a single call to action (using first-person, action verbs) and tell people exactly what you want them to do.

She encouraged us to use automated email campaigns, as well as using reminder emails as a way to increase sales.

A few of her recommendations were to monitor CTR increases between campaigns, as well as subscriber growth over a year. And, split test those subject lines!

Don’t create new content—reuse what’cha got!

One of my favorite sessions was from Ginger Shimp of SAP. The visual learner in me loved the content map she presented, as well as her easy system of creating and repurposing content.

Ginger recommended starting your content creation with the end product, say a whitepaper, and then versioning it into various other content pieces: blog, cast study, podcast, video, eBook, microsite, presentation, infographic, web documentary, just to name a few.

She also brought up the idea of creating a video whitepaper (Is anyone doing this already? Please share, I would love to see!) One of her recomendatons is

Make search work for you

Shana Sullivan of Vertical Measures spoke about how to make search work in this ever-changing time. A few things to avoid are:

  • Duplicate content
  • Slow page load times
  • HTML problems such as missing metadata or title tags
  • Bad (or not enough) backlinks
  • Poorly optimized images and videos
  • Thin content (too short blog posts)
  • Not being mobile-friendly

She also told us what people are actually searching for:

  • Cost/price comparisons
  • Problems/issues
  • Comparisons
  • Reviews
  • Best of/Top posts
  • Resources

And she recommended using Google Suggests and Keyword Tool to get keyword ideas before you start writing your content.

Prepare for the skim

Lorraine Goldberg of Allrecipes.com spoke about being data-informed, not data-driven when doing email marketing. Look at and analyze trends, web analytics, news, social intelligence, SEO as well as top subject line performers.

She emphasized preparing for “the skim” and creating content that stands out. She also encouraged thinking at the little things in people’s lives—what are their day-to-day challenges and how can you help. And most of all, stand for something!

Take it from The Onion…

One of the most entertaining sessions was from Joe Fullman of The Onion. In addition to sharing classic Onion moments, he spoke about the 3 Ds of content: design, distribute, develop.

He suggested to continually measure reach of each content type by network, make sure content is format-driven, and develop content to be derivative and modular, easily targeted to each audience.

Now, time to put it all to work!

Overall, my takeaways at Digital Summit were to make a plan with concrete goals, be bold and tell a unique story, create content that can easily be repurposed—and most importantly, stand for something.

November 21, 2017

October 25, 2017

Recap: Women Supporting Women Conference 2017

Filed under: Biz Mama,Small Business — lidia @ 9:00 am

Last week, I attended the Women Supporting Women Conference in Chicago presented by WeWillWomen.org (formerly Mom+Baby), an event that aims to advance women in both professional and political interests.

The event offered 2 tracks of speakers on topics such as marketing, networking, public speaking and community and political involvement.

I was happy to see so many familiar faces from my local moms in business groups—as well as to meet new people who are running businesses large and small, and making political changes both locally and nationally.

Keynote speaker and Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza spoke about how she streamlined the Illinois driver’s license renewal process—as well as her trick for getting her 4-year old to practice his Spanish homework.

Another speaker, Becky Carroll of C-Strategies LLC has been active politically for two decades and is one of the co-founders of the recent #StandWithAleppo movement.

And Mom+Baby founder Alexandra Eidenberg, is an active local advocate for women’s rights, and is a candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives 17th District seat.

All in all, it was a day of catching up with old friends, making new friends, and feeling hopeful about the future—as well as my children’s future. Seeing all of the moms in business making changes big and small was inspiring. And as Susan Mendoza so poignantly said: “Anything is possible!” (both in politics and parenting)

Learn how you can become involved with WeWill. 

October 6, 2017

On the move? Tips for moving your office or studio

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 12:18 pm

moving your offcie or studio

I’ve moved my office a few times and I will admit, it never gets easier. It can be unnerving not having easy access to what you need to get your work done—especially with deadlines looming. (Is it just me, or does work always get busy before a move?)

My recent office move has been a unique challenge as I’m in-between offices for a few weeks, so my iMac is on my kitchen island—and the rest of my office is split between my storage unit and my car trunk. I always make sure to pack and label a box of important items that I can easily access after the move—and it has really come in handy during this transnational time.

Below are some of the steps I took to prepare for my move—as well as some that, in retrospect, I wish I had taken!

Before the move:

  • Schedule movers: Do this a few weeks in advance and be prepared with an estimate of furniture and boxes.
  • Purge, purge, purge: The less you have to move, the better! Be ruthless and trash or recycle as much as possible.
  • Box up donations: Consider donating unneeded office supplies, books, furniture or computer equipment to a local organization. See my list of Chicago organizations who accept art and craft supply donations.
  • Store old files: Pack up old accounting and project files and put them in storage to keep your new workspace neat.
  • Pack a box with important items: Label this box “important” and move it yourself so you can keep track of the following:
    • Current project files
    • Invoices or other bookkeeping
    • Office supplies (USB drive, file folders, sticky notes, stapler, printer paper, pens)
  • Be specific when labeling boxes: When packing file cabinets, label the exact location to make unpacking easier, i.e. “left cabinet, top drawer”
  • Label cords on computer equipment: This makes set-up easier (poring through a jumble of cords is never fun!)
  • Create a scale drawing of your new office: This will help you (and movers) know exactly where to put furniture and other heavy items.
  • Call utilities: At least 3 weeks in advance, change your phone number and/or internet service.
  • Order updated stationery: Update your business cards and other stationery with your new contact info.
  • Forward mail: Use this USPS link to forward mail to your new location. 

After the move:

  • Update your email signature
  • Send a “new address” postcard and/or email blast
  • Call attention to your new address on invoices (I added a yellow “sticker” near my address)
  • Contact clients that may need updated tax paperwork
  • Enjoy the new view from your office window!

Above all, get started EARLY. A few weeks before your move, start organizing and purging (it will take longer than you think). Work will inevitably get in the way in the days before your move, so be prepared.

As much as I don’t enjoy moving, I do look forward to the chance to start fresh in a new office. Let it inspire you and go with the flow. Happy moving!

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October 5, 2017

Giving artfully: where to donate art supplies in Chicago

Filed under: Community Outreach,Design & Art — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

Editor’s note: this post was originally posted in January 2011 and has been updated to include new resources.

If you (or your kids) love working on art and craft projects, you’re bound to end up with lots of supplies that you no longer need. Don’t let all that good stuff go to waste: donate it!

After a recent office move, I loaded up my car with boxes of paper, books and art supplies and distributed them among several local organizations (as well as my son’s school). I had less items to move and I felt good knowing that a student, teacher or artist would make good use of the supplies—it was a win-win!

Where to donate?

There are several organizations in the Chicagoland area that accept donations of new and gently-used art, craft and design supplies and books. I have donated to these organizations and can attest to the good feeling that comes along with sharing with those in need—especially right here in my own community.

Creative Pitch

Creative Pitch (Chicago, IL) collects donations of paper, classroom and art supplies and distributes them to local teachers in need. My paper habit (obsession) leaves me with stacks of unused paper—which is put to good use by the Creative Pitch team. I’m proud to be a Creative Pitch supporter for many years. See their full donation list here.

Inklude Studio

Inklude Studio (Downers Grove, IL) offers an open, creative, and collaborative studio environment for adult artists with autism and other developmental challenges. They welcome donations of art supplies, fabric & sewing materials and photography or computer equipment that can be used in their programs. See their full donation list here. 

The WasteShed

The WasteShed (Chicago, IL)  is s a creative reuse center that collects art and craft materials and makes them available in their retail store to artists, students, teachers and anyone else at a low price. Their store is a treat to visit and they also host art events. See their full donation list here.

Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx)

Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx) is a start-up nonprofit dedicated to creative reuse. They take surplus materials headed to the landfill, and put them in the hands of educators, artists, and community groups. See their full donation list here.

Open Books

Open Books (Chicago, IL) provides books and literacy programs to children throughout Chicago. Funding of their programs comes in large part from the sale of donated books in their stores. This is a great place to donate your art, design and craft books (and don’t be surprised if you walk out with a few books after dropping off your donations!) See their donation guidelines here.

Making your efforts count

As a veteran “donater”, I can share a good way to manage donations (and get more organized, to boot!). Label a cardboard box in your office “art donations.” Once a week, go through your office drawers, cabinets and shelves. As you come across items you no longer need (but are still usable), toss them in the box. At the end of the month, drop off your donations. Make an even larger donation by combining your efforts with co-workers and colleagues, or start a donation drive at your business. Plus, all of the organizations will provide a donation letter for tax purposes.

Know of any other Chicagoland organizations that collect art & craft supplies? Please share in the comments!

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September 21, 2017

Featured Project: Event Branding & Marketing Design

For 10 years, All Stars Project of Chicago has brought growth opportunities to young people and adults living in the poorest communities. They needed event branding and marketing materials for their 10th Anniversary Benefit Luncheon—where they were unveiling plans to reinvest growth into the city by “Connecting Communities Downtown.”

I developed a design that expressed their mission of connecting communities across Chicago with business partners in the downtown community—as well as a special 10th anniversary logo.

I designed the Event Logo, Sales Pack, Invitation Package (Invitation and Mailing Envelope, Reply Card and Reply Envelope), Program and Insert, Power Point Presentation, and Onsite Signage.

See all of the designs here.

September 1, 2017

10-Minute Marketing: Add a Services tab to your Facebook business page

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

10-Minute Marketing: Add Services to your Facebook page

Did you know that Facebook Business pages now have a Services tab? I recently discovered it myself and added it to my Facebook page, but I suspect many organizations are not using it.  It’s an easy way to let visitors know at-a-glance what services you offer (and if it applies, what the costs are).

Adding Services is easy: click on the “Services” tab on the left side on the page, click “Add Your Service,” input your description and optionally add a cost and duration. I suggest using branded images or icons for the most impact.

Need help? Here’s a great how-to from Social Media Examiner. 

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Add a Services tab to your Facebook page.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

 

August 28, 2017

August 18, 2017

10-Minute Marketing: Implement a CRM system

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 11:05 am

10-Minute Marketing: Implement a CRM system

As someone who’s been tracking prospects in Excel spreadsheets for years, switching to a CRM (customer relationship management) tool has been a real game changer for me. Not only can I reach out to and follow up with my prospects and leads more efficiently, but my communication with them is in one place rather than scattered throughout spreadsheets and email folders.

There are a lot of CRMs available and they have varying levels of features and complexity, so I recommend testing a few to see which one is best for your needs.

Here are a few that have tested by or recommended to me:

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Open an account with a CRM and add 5 prospects.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

July 26, 2017

6 lessons I learned about life (and business) from Cars 3

Cars 3 movie still

I recently took the morning off to watch the new Cars 3 movie with my 5-year-old. I loved the story and characters in the first movie, so I was curious about the third installment in the Disney Cars series. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that although the story is targeted toward kids, the movie also had life (and business) lessons for all of us “big kids” as well. Luckily my son had a notebook in his backpack so I started scribbling notes in the dark.

The Cars 3 characters of Lightning McQueen (an, ahem, older racer feeling aged out of his sport), Cruz Ramirez (a female trainer who dreams of being a racer) and Jackson Storm (one of the high-tech racers taking over the sport) spoke about facing adversity, thinking creatively, gaining confidence, finding a mentor, overcoming ageism, and standing your ground. Whew—quite a lot for a so-called kids movie!

Face (and overcome) adversity

Cruz has always dreamed of being a racer, but because she thinks she doesn’t look like the other racecars, she is afraid to try. Lightning advises her, “Just because you don’t look like the others, doesn’t mean you can’t be in the race. You ARE a racer, use that.”

Think creatively

Lightening realizes that his age may be catching up with him and he just can’t keep up with the fancy, high-tech cars that are faster than him. Instead of giving up, he comes up with a creative solution to get back in the race (no spoilers, you’ll have to watch the movie!) As he says, “I can’t go out on the track and do the same old thing, it won’t work.”

Be confident

At one point when Cruz is trying to talk herself into the fact that she can be a racer, she asks Lightening “How did you know you could do it?” to which he replies, “I don’t know, I just never thought I couldn’t.”

Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance, you have the chance! – Sally Carrera

Find a mentor

Once Lightening realizes he needs help getting back in the race, he goes out in search for a mentor. He finds a (reluctant) mentor, his coach’s former mentor Smokey, who helps him regain his confidence through unconventional training methods that encourage him to use his smarts as well as his speed. Smokey tells him, “You will never be as fast as Jackson Storm, but you can be smarter than him.”

Overcome ageism

Lightning quickly comes to the realization that the younger, faster racers have an advantage over him. When the TV announcers are predicting his retirement from racing, Lightning declares, “I decide when I’m done.” And instead of speed, he instead uses his experience and creativity to get back in the race.

Stand your ground

Toward the end of her big race, Cruz faces opposition from Jackson Storm who sees her gaining on him and says, “You’re not one of us, you don’t belong.” She confidently replies, “Yes, I do!” and goes on to…well, I won’t give away any spoilers, but I think you can figure it out.

As one of the racing announcers in the movie observes, “The racing world is changing.” Things are changing in the “real world” too. And we have to use both our smarts as well as our speed to keep up.

 

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