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The First Month of Lift

25 November

A day or so after starting this project, I read a blog post on why our resolutions often fail. Turns out, it’s often a failure to change those nit-picky little things that we do- those small changes in our habits. In other words, we should start small, and gradually the bigger changes will come together. Go figure, right?

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I have a bit of a competitive streak (even if I’m just competing with myself…)

Which is a perfect lead in for Lift. In the last post, Lift became the app of choice for this personal development project. After one month of using Lift, I’ve (sort of) gotten the hang of it. Setting it up was straightforward- you just click the + sign in the upper right hand corner, and there’s a list of categories:

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I already had some specific ideas in mind, so I just searched for them in the little toolbar and started following them. The winners were: No Sugar (3x a week), Speed Work (running) once a week, Spend 30 Minutes Writing (3x a week), Stop Drinking Soda (All week), Cook New Recipe (once a week), and 30-60 minutes of Reading (4x a week). Here are some of my opinions so far:

Things I Like:

  • When you follow a certain task, you can see the comments, questions, and helpful tips others who follow that particular task have. There’s quite a bit of support that goes along with this app (which, according to the aforementioned blog post, is another key component to increasing your chances of success).
  • You can “follow” questions within a task. For instance, in my “No Sugar” task, I can see all the questions people have asked for support. Some examples include: “Anyone have any sugar free recipes?” (a bunch of people answered this guy), “Did anyone else feel dizzy about 3 weeks in to a no-sugar diet?” and, my favorite, “Does alcohol count?” If someone has asked a question that you find compelling, you can follow it and get a notification whenever other people offer an answer. Of course, another option would be to ask a question of your own and get answers that way, but if that’s not your style (it’s not mine), following questions is a great way to get extra support.

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    An example of questions from “30-60 Minutes of Reading”

  • You’re in charge of how pushy Lift gets. If you’re the type of person who needs external reminders to do stuff throughout the day, Lift can make that happen. If you’re more hands-off, you can tell Lift to leave you alone and not send any notifications at all. There’s plenty of gray-area here, too, so if you don’t identify with either ends of the scale (like myself), then you can toy with it a bit more.

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  • You can track goals privately or publicly. So, if you’re working on something that you aren’t keen on sharing with the whole world, don’t. Mark it as “private” and get to moving!
  • A fun sidenote: when you click that you’ve accomplished a task in Lift for the very first time, it kinda makes it sound like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it (ex. “Congratulations! First time ever Flossing!” As if I haven’t flossed in 24 years…).

Things I Don’t Like:

  • There’s one BIG issue that I have with Lift. I forgot to check off something that I’d done one day, and it ruined my “streak.” Lift doesn’t allow you to go back to the day before and check something off, which annoys me (although it makes sense, I suppose). It threw off my little progress calendar, and now it’s driving me nuts. Again, this is 87% user error…but it’s annoying when the computer thinks you’ve broken a streak that you have in fact, not broken.

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  • It’s not clear how to add tasks. At first, I started adding random tasks. A bunch of other tasks pop up, so I was under the assumption that you could only join the pre-determined goals that Lift created. In reality, these are groups that other users have created, and it offers a chance for you to join a little community, if you want. Once I figured out that you CAN in fact add your own personal goals, it made me happier.
  • I started getting some annoying e-mail and notification activity (happening around 3-4 times a day), until I re-did my notification settings.

After the first month, Lift has helped keep me accountable, and I’m still interested in keeping up with this whole thing (my usual resolution checkout happens about two weeks in). And, since Lift shows my progress on a daily basis, I remember to check in (most) every day. For the next month, I’m planning on taking things up a notch (this month was more of a trial and getting the hang of things) and adding more challenging tasks. If anyone has any suggestions/ideas, they’d be appreciated!

 

Why You Only Need 300 Fans

21 November

Thumbs up or like symbol in coffee froth

I’ve been working with small businesses for over six years now, from the ‘ we haven’t even opened yet’ stage to running for multiple generations. And I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern.

Once we reach about the 300 fan mark on some social media platform (usually Facebook), they seem to do much better. Payments are more likely to come in on time, they are more open to us experimenting with their marketing, they are just generally more confident, likely because they are seeing traction, financially and otherwise.

There is a part of all of us that probably wants to be famous. We want to be sitting on the Today Show stage or on the front page of the New York Times, saying our equivalent of ‘golly gee, we started in our basement/garage/spare bedroom and look at us now!’

But we don’t need millions of customers and we don’t even need thousands to survive or even thrive. We just need a few hundred. Here’s why.

You’ll have customers at different levels.

In our business we have a mix of people we deal with:

Many are once or twice a year customers: they aren’t giving us lots of money but they also don’t need very much from us either.

We have some that are our power users. We are on retainer, make thousands a year from them, and are in regular contact.

Then there are people in between.

Whether you provide services like us or sell products, I bet you have customers at base, mid, and high levels of offerings.

People who move between levels, and  new customers come in as well to balance those who to elsewhere, go out of business, etc. (If you don’t have multiple levels of products, you may want to rethink that!)

Your business can’t survive on one client (well, it can but then you are kind of their employee then, aren’t you?). But you also don’t also need to kill yourself trying to serve thousands of people either since you are meeting different customers’ needs differently.

You’ll have repeat customers if you know what you’re doing.

The hardest sale is the first sale. Once people are used to working with you, however, that second (or third or twentieth) sale is not only easier but more fun.

If you have a good product with good service, you’ll have repeat customers in some capacity, whether they always stay in your hotel when they come to town or buy cheese from your shop every year for their holiday party.

Your customers have friends and family.

There will be people in your business life who inexplicably love you. There are people I have met in my travels and I have no idea why they like me so much… but they do. And they tell other people.

Every time a loyal customer sends someone your way who buys, that’s another sale you didn’t have to bust your hump for. In the biz, people call these ‘brand mavens’ (and there is a few other words for them) but they are your vocal minority spreading the love. And if you have just a few of these in the mix, they do wonders.

Between these three principles, it seems like most people need to stop worrying about getting millions to like them and work on getting 300 people to love them.

Because 300 people, and the fact that their your people, makes a big difference. And it’s not just me who’s noticed:

(Fun Fact: Kassie watches this before running marathons. I had to ask her what the movie was about.)

Tech Thursday: Sharing an Event Online

20 November

Every now and then, your business might host an event, or maybe participate in a larger event (i.e. Small Business Saturday). There are (at least) three things you should remember when you’re promoting an event using the internet, and that’s what this Tech Thursday is all about!

First, you should build excitement around the event. Give people some time to mentally prepare, and make it fun, exciting, and appealing to a crowd. The 100 Startup website has some great resources (that we reference in the video) for launching an event.

Second, get the word out on social media! Create a Facebook event, make some sort of graphic to share on Instagram, tweet about it, share with local online calendars, post in LinkedIn- anywhere that it would make sense for your event to be broadcast.

Third, make sure people know what they need to know. Where is the event? What time? Should they show up on time, or can they come and go over the span of a few hours? Is it black tie? Does it cost money? People don’t want to go to an event that makes them feel uncomfortable- so share what you can!

Also, we are going to do a musical number in the next week or so. Would you rather see us a) rap about OGP (Open Graph Protocol) or b) sing an original tune, with instruments, called “That’s Beyond the Scope of the Project”? Let us know!

Marketing Monday: Project Unbreakable

18 November

Domestic violence is a cause pretty close to my heart, for a mainly selfish reason.

I (at one point) thought I was too smart, too straight-forward, too butt-kicking to be in an abusive relationship. It was years ago since it happened but I still remember the yelling, the put downs, and one fateful night, a shove against a wall. He left the apartment and I felt small and powerless. I remember calling my parents (they were super calm and helpful). I hung up the phone and looked into the darkness, vowing to myself I’d never be there again and, if it were in my power, if I got out of this, I would do everything I could to keep even just one other person out of that situation.

I really appreciate all the work the internet has done, in particular in the last year, to really putting domestic violence, sexism, and harassment out in the open. Because let’s face it, no one starts by just walking up to a woman and hitting her or worse. There is an escalation… and an acceptance that turns into actions.

This video (where a woman is repeatedly harassed while walking in New York City) shows that it doesn’t matter what you wear, where you go, how much education you have, or anything else that we live in a society that treats women as objects: to be looked at, commented on, and even acted on at times.

And while it’s nice to wear purple and donate to charities that support anti-abuse programs, there is something really powerful about sharing your story and showing the world ‘this happened to me too.’ Not only the individual stories but the sheer number of people can produce change, in small and large ways.

This step can affect your friends and family… but most people don’t want to start a whole website about an abusive incident, several incidences, or a relationship. There is power in collecting these stories and sharing them with each other on a website and/or social media account already set aside for the purpose.

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Project Unbreakable has done just that. With their Tumblr blog, website, Twitter account, Instagram account, and Facebook page, they are accepting submissions of photos and sharing them with the world.

What I like is not only can the victims share what their abusers have said (as long or as short a quote as they want), they can also decide whether to show their faces or not.

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In our bite sized, social media world, the message is short and clear. Also women (mainly women are victims anyway), are getting supportive comments through the sharing of their story:

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As a visual share, we are able to connect with victims from identifying with their surroundings to identifying with a phrase, even if it is written in another language (the caption is usually translated into English).

The popularity of this group has allowed it not only to fundraise and grow for itself but has made it visible enough to partner with other websites like Buzzfeed to increase the general awareness of domestic violence.

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And whether submitting directly to Project Unbreakable itself or using the hashtag, people can take part in the message:

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No matter what cause is most dear to you, whether it’s animal rights, the rain forests, or anything else, we’d like to encourage you to not only get involved in the way of donating and volunteering with these organizations but follow them online and help them spread their message by contributing your part to the story. Use a hashtag or submit your idea to the organization itself. Yes you are just one voice but by connecting with others, you are creating powerful forces for good.

Movember: Mo Money, Mo ‘Staches

14 November

 

 

Fundraising campaigns are everywhere you turn this time of year, and honestly, seeing all that goodwill makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy. One of the fuzzier campaigns being the recently popular Movember, where men spend the month cultivating ‘staches that range from cringeworthy to glorious (Ron Swanson, anyone?), but it doesn’t matter, because it’s for a good cause. I remember when guys were participating in “No Shave November,” which is a bit more flexible in terms of facial hair and grooming (more on the guidelines later), but this was more of a “let’s see how crazy my beard can get” than “let’s grow facial hair for charity” situation. The only thing better than a man with a beard? A man with a beard who cares about charity.

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How did someone come up with this, anyway?

The Movember movement originated in a bar roughly eleven years ago. It started as a friendly mo growing competition (Aussies call mustaches “mo”s, because they have cool names for things) among friends, and was ultimately fueled by a few beers. These facial hair sprouting gents had kind souls, and decided to turn this competition into something that would benefit others. So, they chose some charities which they found relatable, and away they went. The original 30 members paid $10, and it’s been growing ever since(…get it?).
“By encouraging men (who the charity refers to as “Mo Bros”) to get involved, Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths. Besides annual check-ups, the Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of family history of cancer and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.” – The Movember Wiki Page

 So, you just grow a mustache?

Well, not quite. There are rules for partaking in Movember. At the beginning of the month, men start with a clean-shaven face, as rule #1 suggests. My favorite is #5: “Each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman…” The rules are straightforward, much like the rest of the Movember marketing plan.
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Why is it successful?

Movember isn’t just about who can grow the best mustache (though it’s definitely an incentive). The idea is that participation becomes a conversation starter. It raises awareness/increase funding for programs that aid prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues. In the past, men haven’t exactly been encouraged to talk about their feelings or illnesses. There’s been a stigma attached to men expressing a certain sensitivity, which I personally find absurd, but it exists. The Movember project is cool because it encourages men to be open and involved with their health. Going back to its roots, Movember represents a conversation.
It’s also an inclusive conversation: women can participate, too. Even though the foundation raises money for male-related issues, it doesn’t mean that ladies have to be cut out of the conversation. Women can still show their support, regardless of their ability to flaunt a ‘stache. This approach allows the discussion to grow- if the goal is to increase awareness about certain topics, limiting the audience is going to limit growth.
Another way the foundation has spread the conversation is collaborating with some corporate sponsors, such as Adidas, College Humor, Discovery, Toms, Jameson Black Barrel, and The Prevention Institute. They have a free App available for iPhone and Android, sell t-shirts and hats on their store, or offer collaborative items (shoes from Toms, razors from Harry’s) on their online store, too. In other words, they’ve taken the time to make connections and partner with other organizations that have similar target audiences or missions.  This shows that they’re serious about their own mission and are willing to do the legwork to get some big names on board.
The Movember Foundation’s philosophy is simple: do something fun for a good cause. For “Results We Seek,” the foundation has written “Havin’ fun doin’ good.”  Now, there’s a mission I can get behind.