Invest in Family Togetherness

Invest in Family Togetherness

It’s hard to read your Facebook news stream and not see an abundance of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun promotion raising awareness and resources for a good cause.  But for those of you balancing a career and raising children, I have a different challenge for you: The Dinner Challenge.  No need to pour freezing water over your head or post a video; instead, the next time you are dining out, look around you.  Scan across the restaurant at other tables and notice the interaction amongst family members.  What you see may shock you—or perhaps resemble you.

On several occasions, we’ve observed entire meals with each person at the table independently engaged with a mobile device, phone or game, almost oblivious to one another.   Families, from the point of sitting down to when the food arrives—and sometimes while eating—electronically plugged in and sadly devoid of conversation, completely alone while sitting together.  We live in a technologically advanced age with connectivity at our fingertips and yet we are a society starved for connection: human relationships.  The art of conversation.  Genuinely enjoying being with one another.  We spend our days building professional communities yet our family communities are slowly drifting away.

As parents and working professionals, we have the power to change that.  As simple as making a commitment to eating a meal together as a family and using this time to talk and interact, you can begin to reverse the disconnected trends and make a positive difference where it matters most.  Challenged by the thought of family dinners?  You are not alone.  In the past 20 years, the frequency of family dinners has declined 33%, replaced by busy schedules and structured activities outside the home. (source: NYU Langone Medical Center)  But in the interest of raising confident, healthy kids with strong family values—our future workforce—I urge you to make family meal times a priority.  Drawing from my own mistakes and successes, here’s what I’ve learned along the way for maximizing our time together:

Unplug during meals.  At our house, we have tech curfews and boundaries.  This includes the table.  No phones.  No texts.  No TV.   Facebook can wait.  Make meals a community occasion—your time to spend 30 quality minutes with undivided attention to each other!

Eat at a table.  Even if you’re eating take-out, resist the urge to eat on the couch or in front of the TV.  Not only is it just easier to eat at a table, but a table is also more conducive to conversation.

Make the table a “safe zone.” Fear of correction, judgment or criticism kills the desire to participate.  If you want your kids to enjoy family meals, avoid correcting, criticizing, arguing or nagging during meals.  Instead, talk about fun topics—sports, positive events from the day—and be genuinely interested in the things your kids want to share, good, bad or beyond you.  Our son enjoyed talking about his favorite class…physics!  I have to be honest.  Physics is one of those “beyond me” subjects; it’s just not my thing.  But listening to his excitement and watching his enthusiasm as he shared, I couldn’t help but be interested and engaged in the conversation. Over time, your kids will look forward to meal times for reasons other than the food.

It’s never too late to start. Maybe your kids are older.  Or your work schedule is demanding, requiring long hours.  It doesn’t matter.  I encourage you to start somewhere, even if it’s small.  Make a commitment (and keep it) to eating together two nights a week.  If dinner doesn’t work, target lunch or breakfast.  Start with a manageable schedule and once you’ve established a pattern that works, look for opportunities to expand your frequency.

I cannot encourage you enough: engage with your kids. Take an active interest in who they are; invest in family togetherness.  There’s plenty of time to work and climb the corporate ladder, but our family time will eventually come to an end.  Yes, there will be times when you question if your efforts are really making a difference.  But one day, when you least expect it, you’ll know it was all worth it.  Before our daughter left home to start school at Montana State University, she asked if she could call in for family dinner times.  I smiled as she unknowingly confirmed our family meals were less about food for the body and more about refreshment of the soul.

To everyone reading this post, I nominate you: take The Dinner Challenge.  You’ll be glad you did.


Media Innovation:  I’ll define it as the new and creative means in which we communicate our message.  Marketing messages, educational articles, heart-warming stories– we now have many more options to reach our target audience, strike an emotional connection and engage with them: print, online, social media, video.  Technology advancements have sparked new creative ideas changing how we approach media; “integration” is our new buzz word– and the new expectation.  Marketers and designers alike are expected to know more, do more and achieve greater results, often with fewer resources.  Unfortunately, many creative artists don’t feel equipped to thrive in our new media landscape.

In research released earlier this year by Adobe, 2 out of 3 creatives expect their role to change in the next 12 months yet 1 out of 3 lack the training needed to advance in this new media era.  Creatives know they need to reinvent themselves…91% say they need to be skilled in more than one area with 90% attributing digital tools and channels as the primary source for the changes.  80% agree: we are in a creative revolution.  (Adobe Survey Data, April 2014; view entire report)

So what’s a creative to do?  How you adapt to the changes is up to you; you control the direction of your career.  As a seasoned creative, I’ve seen my share of media shifts over the years.  I’ve had to adapt my creative skills more than once to fit the market.  The creative artists who thrive embrace the changes, proactively prepare for new client requests, and as a result, their skills are in demand.

As for me, I’d like to help shape the future of media and be on the forefront of change.  New technologies also mean unlimited creative possibilities.  To me, that’s exciting.  The creative world is at our feet. We are indeed in a new era of media innovation.  Are you prepared?

Slow marketing and sales lessons

What marketing and sales professionals can learn from the Slow Food Movement

Have you seen the commercials for McDonalds that portray the fresh produce and grains?  These advertisements are part of a well-executed marketing strategy to boost brand positioning.  Think about it:   how many of us associate McDonalds with “real” food vs. a convenient quick stop to suppress the immediate hunger pains?  Precisely.   That’s what the commercials are aimed to address and are in response to the “slow food” trend.

If you’re not familiar with it, “slow food” is a movement to link the pleasure of food with the community and environment from which it comes.  In other words—it’s a movement to slow down society, strip away the complexities of food production, and reconnect consumers with the actual ingredients that provide their daily sustenance.  Savor what you eat, make it real.

Hungry marketing and sales professionals take note: there’s a lesson for you in here as well.   It’s called “Slow Marketing”, which I’ll define as stripping away the corporate façade and allowing your customers to get to know the person behind the brand.  It’s not really a new concept, but one that will impact your business production and bottom line.   If you’re eager for new business, here are 3 ways you can get back to slow marketing basics:

Be You.

You have a lot to offer your clients.  You can answer their product related questions, be a professional sounding board, a trusted resource, a go-to person.  You can guide them through their business decisions.  You.  Not your company, not your brand, YOU.  Remember, people buy from people, not companies.  Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your marketing efforts.  Strip away the corporate jargon and allow your customers to get to know WHO makes up that brand.

To start, fine tune your unique value proposition- or should I say “You-nique” value proposition—you know, the defining blurb you rattle off at cocktail parties and business mixers.  For example, if you are a financial  services professional, instead of responding to questions about you/your company as, “We’re a full service agency offering personal financial, estate planning and business strategy advisement” how about: “I help executives develop investment strategies to protect their personal finances.”  Hmmm.  Interesting.  Now you’ve captured my attention on how YOU can help ME.  You made it personal and I responded.  Be you.

Be connected. 

The premise behind the slow food movement is reconnecting with the ingredient source.  So is slow marketing. Reconnect with your community, your customer base.  Put yourself out there.  In person AND online.

Whenever I meet a new business acquaintance at an event, if it’s someone I want to stay in contact with, I follow up by connecting on LinkedIn.  For personal contacts, I use Facebook.   If you aren’t on the major social networks, you are missing key business-building opportunities!  Like it or not, this is how people connect and communicate today.   Build your profile, use that stack of business cards to add connections, and then maintain your network presence.  Again, it’s about drawing attention to the person behind the brand.  Because when you become part of my network, it helps me see beyond your corporate name and focuses my attention on the individual with whom I’ll award my business and trust.  Help me see you the person, not just your brand.  Be connected.

Be recommended.

OK, so you’ve stripped away the corporate jargon, you’ve connected to your community, now what?  Now you promote the merits of the ingredient…YOU!   You offer quality service and have helped real people…isn’t it only natural then to publicize this-?  The easiest way to accomplish: ask your customers to write you a recommendation for your LinkedIn profile.  Don’t make it complicated, a mere 2-3 sentences of the services you provided and how you helped them will suffice.  Testimonials not only give you, the person behind the brand, credibility, but also ease the anxiety of potential clients researching you.  Plus, when your contacts write you a recommendation on LinkedIn, their praises are publicized to their connections, giving YOU prime viral exposure!


I’m not a granola head or into organic food, but I love what the food industry is doing with the slow food movement.  The concept of getting back to the basics and allowing the core ingredients to shine makes so much sense.  For food and for sales professionals.  Remember:  be you.  Be connected.  Let yourself shine.  And that, my friends, is a recipe for  business success.


Our engagement photo, 1987

This month, my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.   As I reflect back across the years and how our relationship came to fruition, I see a lot of parallels to a sales conversion funnel.  (Hmmmm…something tells me I need a life!)  Like marriage, most B2B purchases are a big decision—and even bigger commitment.  Marketers that recognize and respect the relationship building process will be the ones getting the ultimate “I do” in the end.   Allow me to illustrate my point.

Start with Courtship

When our relationship was in its infancy stages, my husband courted me.  A lot.  He wanted my attention, so he’d leave me notes at work.  Nothing major, no commitment required, just little notes he was thinking of me, small tidbits of information he knew I’d be interested in…things that made me smile and notice him as well.  And when he saw the interest was mutual, he mustered the courage to ask me out.

Spend time dating and getting to know one another

Our first date was small, a lunch date one Saturday afternoon.  But it was nice and we (obviously) wanted to know more about each other.  So we continued to spend time with each other.  And over the course of many months, we started talking more seriously: our life dreams and ambitions, places we’d like to live, children….the heavy stuff.  We eventually began talking marriage.

Commit to one another

The time finally came.  One summer evening shortly after I graduated from college, my husband asked me out, but this time it felt different.  He was unusually quiet as was I.  Instead of sharing a pizza, he took me to his favorite fancy restaurant on the beach.  After dinner, we sat on the sand and watched the fishing boats return to the harbor and the sun majestically set over the ocean.  It was the perfect moment.  My husband asked me to close my eyes, I heard the tiny creak of a box and there he was, on his knees with a ring, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.  And the rest….is history.

Applying the principles

As marketers, there’s much we can learn from life relationships.  Too often, we are so focused on the call to action—getting to the “I do” moment that we skip over the activities that lead up to the commitment.  Think about your own personal relationship—would you be with your mate if he/she proposed marriage on your first date?  I wouldn’t.  I probably would have run for the hills!  Maybe our prospective customers are feeling the same way.

Marketing Sherpa / MECLABS is infamous for preaching the value of incorporating micro yeses throughout your customer conversion funnel–get smaller buy ins before you ask for the sale.  Align your call to action with the customer’s stage in your conversion process.  In other words, if you ask for too deep of a commitment too soon, your customers will likely bolt.  Sounds frightening parallel to “popping the question” before your relationship has had a chance to mature.  Just what are the conversion stages? As defined by MECLABS:

  • Stage 1: Appeal.  Establishing: “I want it/you”
  • Stage 2: Exclusivity: “I can’t get this elsewhere”
  • Stage 3: Clarity: “I understand it/you”
  • Stage 4: Credibility: “I believe in it/you”

Marketing is a process of developing deep customer relationships.  You need those periods of courtship and dating or you’ll never get to the ultimate “Yes.  I do.”  So take a look at your marketing plan.  Do you have campaigns that allow your customers to get to know you or are you always proposing?    Otherwise, you might be scaring off someone who could become your lifetime partner.

From a very early age, I’ve been entrenched in music.  As a young child, my parents took me to watch dress rehearsals of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  By preschool, I could name every instrument in an orchestra.  In elementary school, I began learning three instruments.  By college, I was a music major and playing in a symphony.  So where am I today?  Why, I’m a content marketer.  Makes perfect sense, eh?  Actually, yes, it does.  You see, musicians are natural story tellers.  We play beyond the written note to communicate the passion of the composer and the story behind the work—and to move an audience emotionally.  A truly great performance is memorable for the audience and hugely rewarding for the creators.  Likewise, a great content marketing campaign can be very profitable for all involved.  Here are three key themes to ensuring your content marketing generates customers who sing your praises.

Content marketing is more than a note on a page

As “conductor” of Energy Central’s content marketing, I am often asked by our customers what constitutes “content marketing,” and how much of it do I need?  These questions are asked in the context of the old media “pay-to-play” model; perhaps you’re familiar with it: Spend xx dollars in advertising and the editor will write about you for free.

Is this content marketing?

Technically, yes, an article is a component of content marketing, but there’s far more to it than that.  I’m sure you know from other articles written on the subject that content marketing is a journey; it takes time to establish your thought leadership and develop customer relationships.   While receiving editorial coverage can heighten your brand awareness and industry positioning through a perceived endorsement (although I think your audience is smarter than that and can see through insincere content), if all you are doing is getting an article sporadically written about you, your content marketing strategy falls short and the long-term benefits of content marketing will not be achieved.

Let me give you an analogy:

a single piece of content is like an eighth note- it goes away quickSuppose you are asked to create music.  You write a note, a single note. But, you hire the best musician to perform it, and it’s played beautifully.  Is that music?  Technically, yes, I suppose you could say that it is.  And people might talk about your note for a brief period, but when the sound dissipates, your note does also.

Then, someone else comes along and creates a string of notes.  They compose a brilliant mix of notes (content types) to create rhythm and phrasing (topic/theme joining the content types).

effective content marketing is like a musical phrase

effective content marketing establishes a memorable theme

In short- they’ve created a melody, a theme that is remembered by their target audience.  And, over the course of time, their target audience begins to sing their praises.

Which of these two bits of “music” better achieved their objectives?

Effective content marketing is well orchestrated

To deliver a truly great content marketing performance, you must be purposeful in your preparations: Topics are thought out and in tune with your audience.  Content releases are planned and scheduled.  Resources to produce and place content are secured.  Frequency is consistent.  Metrics are monitored and adjustments are made along the way.  Great content marketing doesn’t just happen by chance.   If you are disciplined in your preparations, you are more apt to have a rewarding result.

Create variations on a theme

There are many content types you may choose to incorporate into your content marketing strategy.  Assets such as articles or blogs are relatively easy and inexpensive to do.  Then, there are more complex content types, like a conference, webinar or case study, which require considerably more time and expense to put together.  Look for opportunities to create “variations on a theme”—to transform your subject matter into a new content asset that can be distributed through different channels to maximize your content and audience reach.  For example, a webinar recording can be transcribed and turned into a white paper, and a case study or key findings from a research paper can be turned into a webinar. Some articles naturally lend themselves to infographics.  Think expansion.  Think past that single note. And, over time, when your customers need answers about your topic, they’ll think of you as a thought leader on the subject.

You can be a content marketing rock star.  Your keys to success: Be in tune with your audience, be consistent, and be purposeful.  Then it’s only a matter of time before others begin singing your brand’s praises.