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Real Fast Holiday Promotions – ANY Time of Year for ANY Business, Part 1

national ice cream day

National Ice Cream Day is July 16, 2016. Why not send your best clients a gift card for a scoop?

One of the biggest myths is that “the holidays” only come once a year.

Maybe that’s true for “The Holidays” – capitalized because if you’re thinking of the big 3 of Thanksgiving – Christmas – New Years (or Thanksgiving – Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Your Holiday of Choice – New Years), you’re right. But when you want to communicate with your people, market your business, serve more people, and make more money, you’ve got an opportunity to use a holiday promotion 365 days a year – and I’m not just talking about Christmas in July sales.

Certainly there are the obvious traditional holidays that people celebrate – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and such. Plus there are the “mattress company and car dealership” holidays that apparently only mattress retail outlets and car dealerships seem to market around like Veteran’s Day or Columbus Day.

As you peel away the next layer of the holiday promotional onion, you see some organizations marketing around a cause like Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October – heck just about the whole NFL wears pink socks and if that organization isn’t about making money, nothing is!

But then, digging even deeper, you’ll find a different reason to celebrate – and promote your business – every single day of the year! They can be a day, a week, or a whole month. Holidays like these related to my business of speaking, writing, coaching and consulting:

  • National Motivation and Inspiration Day: January 2
  • Just Say No to PowerPoint Week: February 7-12
  • National Be Heard Day: March 7 (instituted by my friend, PR Pro Shannon Cherry)
  • National Bookmobile Day: April 13
  • National Small Business Week: May 1-7
  • Effective Communications Month: June (I’ve celebrated this for many years annually)
  • National Talk in an Elevator Day: July 29, last Friday in July, (I may have to do a promo around my Kill the Elevator Speech book!)
  • Weird Contest Week: August 8-12
  • International People Skills Month: September (I’ve got a weekly show called “Creating Connections” – it’s all about people skills for business and marketing!)
  • National Face Your Fears Day, October 11, 2nd Tuesday in October (public speaking anyone?)
  • National Entrepreneurship Month: November
  • National Thank You Note day: December 26 (in case you don’t have enough other options in December!)

Are your wheels turning yet?

You can visit a site like Brownielocks.com, which looks VERY “homemade in the basement,” but has accurate info plus links to any and all holidays that have websites and organizations attached to them. Find a holiday that’s fun or interesting, or related to what you do and make your plans now.

My friend and colleague, Daniel Hall, and I are teaching a course called Real Fast Holiday Promotions on all the ins and outs of how you can use holiday marketing. Check that out here now to help you bring your ideas to life!

In Part 2, I’ll give you some ideas for how various kinds of businesses can use wild and wacky holiday marketing creatively to create connections with potential customers and clients, nurture those who you already have relationships with, and stand out in the crowd of others who do what you do to make more money and have more fun!

Your Business Has a Lifestyle?!

healthy business

Your Business Has a Lifestyle – It’s Up to YOU to Make it a Healthy One!

I didn’t have to make a resolution to determine that I want to learn something new every single day. Being a lifelong learner is simply part of my lifestyle. And that got me to thinking about a major ah-ha moment I had this week while listening to my friends and colleagues Jim Edwards and Jeff Herring.

You can watch this webinar on demand (that means right NOW!) and I promise you’ll pick up something new – I did! – (You can hear about my major ah-ha at about the 16:30 mark).

During the webinar, Jim was talking about the importance of CONSISTENCY and something I hadn’t considered before hit me. If you think of marketing your business in terms of how you live your LIFE – anything you’re NOT consistent with isn’t going to work for you.

Think of diet and exercise.

  • If you workout sporadically or just once a week, is that going to get you the amazing body you know is under there somewhere?
  • If you only eat healthy foods when you feel inspired to, are you going to be in optimal health?
  • NO! You HAVE to make exercise and healthy eating part of your lifestyle to get the best possible results.

The same is true with content marketing. You need to make it part of your business lifestyle. That means every day you want to create SOMETHING that can help DRIVE MORE TRAFFIC. It can be:

  • An email article you send your subscribers
  • A blog post on your own blog (like this!)
  • A guest post on someone else’s blog
  • A video doing a demo, telling a story, clarifying a point, explaining a detail… whatever
  • A webinar – either that you teach or you present
  • A speech – that you deliver live or show a video of
  • A podcast – either that you run or that you’re a guest on
  • A live stream event – either that you run or that you’re a guest on
  • Slides that you post online for people to learn from

The list goes on.

But golly that can get time consuming. Even if you’re repurposing your content, which smart marketers do, you still have to create it in the first place.

Enter the CUSTOM CONTENT WIZARD. This tool Jeff and Jim talked about makes creating that content you need to be consistently sharing very EASY. And FAST!

The fact is, your business DOES have a lifestyle of it’s own. But YOU are the one who drives that. Isn’t it time to get your business lifestyle in the BEST possible shape it can be in? Of course it is! Go see what it’s all about at:

http://feliciaslattery.com/ccw

BTW There is a special deal going on right now that expires in a couple days, so go see it this weekend while you’re thinking of it.

How I Won The Smoky Mountain Chapter of the Association for Talent Development’s Thrown Down Contest

ATD Smoky Mountain Chapter Throw Down Winner Felicia Slattery Receives $100 Visa Gift Card from President Cindy Light

ATD Smoky Mountain Chapter Throw Down Winner Felicia Slattery Receives $100 Visa Gift Card from President Cindy Light.

Moving to a new town can be a challenge.

Moving to a new town after living in the same area for almost all your life can be daunting.

Moving to a new town, and trying to break into the business scene where literally NO ONE knows you could lead to professional suicide.

Sounds like fun! So we gave it a whirl!

In July 2015, my husband and I moved our family of four, plus Sadie the Speaker Dog, away from the frigid, icy, snowy, long winters and terrible taxes in the state of Illinois, to a warmer climate all around in beautiful Knoxville, east Tennessee. I spent most of the summer getting myself and the kids settled and much of the fall getting to know the school, school moms, volunteering for this and that, and focusing on my family. Admittedly, my business was rolling along well on autopilot.

But I knew it was time to get out there and meet some people. Plus, given that for me, 2016 will bring an increased focus on building the corporate training and speaking / communication consulting side of my business, I knew it was time to do what I’d been coaching my clients, webinar students, and readers to do for years: join an association where your people are hanging out.

As a trainer, for me that meant checking out the local chapter Association for Talent Development (ATD – formerly  ASTD, the American Society for Training and Development).

Happily, there is a Knoxville chapter called the Smoky Mountain Chapter, and they have a website with info about upcoming meetings. While looking over the site, I noticed an announcement for their second annual December Trainer Throw Down speech contest. The application deadline was soon approaching.

They had me at “speech contest.” I was in.

So… A Contest for The New Kid in Town

The topic was engagement. I speak regularly about audience and reader engagement, so the topic was right up my alley. Having grown up in high school as a competitive speaker and then being recruited for Bradley University’s Speech Team, THE most winning collegiate team in ANYTHING  in the country, I am no stranger to competing on stage. Well, at least I wasn’t 25 years ago… gulp. However, given the time limit for the Throw Down was 10 minutes, I took that as a sign I should go for it because that was our time limit when competing in college.

Plus, even if I lost – remember, I’d never been to even one of their meetings to know what these people were all about – they could well have been national champ team speakers, too – but I figured after getting up there everyone would at least know who I was and get a taste of what I can do on stage, and that was my whole goal. The BEST way to meet a room full of people is always to be the speaker.

Right away I knew I wanted to talk about engaging an audience using all five senses. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I’d do, so I let the holidays, family life, and regular business stuff occupy the front of my mind while the topic of engagement percolated in the back of my brain and I waited for inspiration.

Inspiration Hits!

Suddenly I found myself at the day before the event and knew I had to get my thoughts, well-percolated now, into some

Handout Used for the Winning Presentation - Using a Speaker One Sheet Design

Handout Used for the Winning Presentation – Using a Speaker One Sheet Design

form for a presentation.

At first I was stuck staring at the cursor. Then after praying for what to do, it hit me: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas!

It was perfect because I could write a stanza about each of the 5 senses. Then I created a handout, pictured here. I used one of my speaker one-sheet templates to make that job go super fast and in a couple hours I had my original poem written, my handout done and ordered from Staples, and was in bed sleeping soundly.

Here is that winning poem. One thing to keep in mind – I wrote it SPECIFICALLY for this ONE occasion and for the people in that room. If I were to deliver this again, I’d make a few alterations, but it did the job. I won!

‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through this place
The trainers were training and throwing down with great grace.
There’s a new coach in town, Felicia Slattery by name
With hopes that the prize might be hers to claim.

The theme was engagement,
The stage was all set,
To see who would win and the glory to get.

So curl up by the fire and lend me your ear
And discover how the people can learn what you want them to hear.

Now the first thing to do, to develop the staff
Is to keep their attention and make them to laugh or
To think or to learn or to change or to grow
So they can become even better, and your lessons then know.

But you compete with their email, their bosses, their lives
What’s a trainer to do not to break out in hives?

It all starts with 5 senses
Taste, touch, sound, sight, smell
It may seem quite odd, but heed this tale well

First, when thinking of sight, shake things up just a bit,
Plan to surprise, to delight. It’s not hard, if you commit.
No need to be dressed all in fur from your head to your toe,
But put on a hat, use some props, try out a fun slide, make it a show.
Multimedia’s a way – and yes even today.
Give them something unexpected to look at, creative to see
And they’ll keep watching you and your training with glee.

Next you have sound, no you don’t have to sing,
But how about a toy that makes a sound like [ka ching].
More rapid than eagles, your students will learn
To hear their own names, for that sound they do yearn:
Now Cindy, now AJ, now Allen, now Ron
Go Amanda, go Yvonne, go Beverly, go John

To the top of the mind, to the top of the brain
Let’s move on to taste while you eat this sweet cane.

Taste might seem tricky, but learning has flavor
When you provide your people something to savor
The hippocampus of the brain an experience does produce
That engages the mind which of course is quite good, or so you’d deduce.

New research last month proves there is a connection
The brain registers taste not the tongue on inspection
That means the brain is engaged when it’s eating a food
And enjoying a treat also lightens the mood.

Next onto smell: attention, learning and memory improve with a sniff
Years ago they learned oils of lemon and rosemary took just a whiff
Pre tests and post tests and t tests did show
That details learned with scent in the brain could be stowed

And touch is so easy, let them pick up and feel anything
That you teach. It makes the learning more real.
To create a connection and build some rapport
Shake a hand, pat a back, give hive fives and you’ll score.

But touch can be inside, an emotion it’s true
Engage with a story and watch memory improve.

For trainers and teachers and students galore
Remember: enlist all 5 senses for trainees to learn more

So before this tale ends, I humbly ask for your vote
I stayed up half the night to write what I wrote.

If your mind didn’t wander and your attention I did keep
You can see how anyone here could make learning so deep.

It’s not the gift card, or the glory
No, we all win with engagement and telling a great story.
Its service from the stage, Taking care of the folks
Be sincere, be real, be yourself, tell some jokes.

As I end this, I wish all contestants good luck.
You amaze me, and I feel a certain awestruck.

And now I exclaim, as I head back to the buffet
Happy training to all, and to all a good day!

speaking with props

My Winning Props

With each one of the stanzas related to a different sense, I used a different prop of some kind – all pictured here. I downloaded a video of a crackling fire and put that up on the screen in place of a slideshow to set the scene and incorporate sound and sight. I wore a Santa hat, and dragged my prop table to be next to the Christmas tree in the front of the room, which the restaurant had so graciously placed there not even knowing I’d be able to use it! And then I enlisted help from a college student to pass out candy canes when I talked about the sense of taste. Each of the props I used I pulled from a Christmas stocking. It all went great!

I won by just two points, but a win is a win! What did I win?

  • $100 Visa Gift Card
  • Bragging rights forever that I am the 2015 Throw Down Trainer Champ
  • Ability to promote that at the national ATD meeting in the spring of 2016
  • Ability to send press releases stating that I’d won
  • Invitations from people at the event who saw me present to speak to two groups (so far)
  • Confidence that I can still compete with some of the best, most experienced and well-known folks in any room

What a relief. Want to see the presentation? Video is coming soon!

**UPDATE: Here’s the video. It’s not professional so it’s rough for the first few seconds and a couple spots in the middle, but I think you’ll be able to handle it 😉

What’s The Best Appointment and Scheduling Automated Online Service?

calendarIt’s the time of year when people begin to evaluate their systems and services to determine if they want to make any changes, improvements, or upgrades. Last year around this time, I did my own exhaustive search for a scheduling and calendar service.

Since I made that change, rarely a week goes by that someone doesn’t mention how “slick” or “awesome” they think my system is. So I thought I’d share what I’m using and the process by which I determined what is right for me. Maybe it’ll save you hours of research.

The reason I made a switch was because the service I’d used for several years, Time Trade, changed their interface at some point in the previous year. That change made it difficult for my clients and colleagues to actually complete their chosen appointment because it looked to the person that they had selected a time, but on the last page, there was a “confirm” button that often appeared “below the fold” of the website (meaning appointment-makers would have to scroll down the page to see it). That led to people calling me when I didn’t know there was an appointment – because the automation only happened if they completed the process by clicking the confirmation button. That happened enough times I couldn’t risk it any more.

Then when people DID make their appointment, it only sent one confirmation but had no option for reminders. I also did not like that.

So I did the same thing you may have done, asked my smart friends on social media what they use. I gathered all the suggestions and spent many hours checking into every one of them. Then I narrowed it down and spent a couple days looking closely at each, asking questions to people in the know, even calling the sales offices of several.

The Requirements

Here were my requirements:

  • Had to sync automatically with my Google calendar
  • Had to have the ability to send multiple reminders
  • Had to be able to have multiple meeting types (for example I have 4-hour Virtual VIP Days, 1-hour client sessions, 30-minute meetings with potential clients, affiliates and JV partners, etc.)
  • Had to be EASY to use on my end in setting it up and on my clients’ end to set up an appointment
  • Cost has to be $100 or less per year

The Contenders (And Losers)

Every single one of the services I checked came from the recommendation of people I trust (that was the first hurdle). Based on the above criteria, following are the options I looked into, in alphabetical order, with the price I would pay for my business’ needs (the service may have other rates higher and lower, but I was only comparing pricing on what I would need, not the company’s pricing strategy overall!) and the reasons why I didn’t select them. Here’s the breakdown for you:

Acuity Scheduling: ($10/month = $120/year) This was a close second because it met most of my criteria, but in the end, there was just too much “stuff” to contend with and it didn’t meet the “easy” factor.

Appointment.com: ($8.25/ month = $99/ year) I couldn’t even find the information on their website that I needed to determine if this was going to be a good fit. Obviously that couldn’t be the winner.

Genbook: ($20/month = $240/year) FAR too confusing with nowhere near enough information offered to help me make a decision. Plus the price was more than double my budget.

Hitappoint: ($89/year) Not easy and there was no information on if it would sync with my Google calendar.

Schedule Once: ($49/month = $588/year) Even though it ticked most of the boxes I needed (except the easy one again), at $49/month for the package that met my purposes, there’s no way I was going there.

Schedulicity: ($20/month = $240/year) double the budget and still couldn’t tell if it’d sync with my Google calendar made this one easy to pass by.

Setmore: ($25/month = $300/year) this ticked every box except the price. I loved how easy it was to use and it did everything I wanted (and more), but I found another option for a third of the cost. Mind you, I have no problem paying for business services I need and like, but if I can get a similar service that meets my needs and I also like that can save me money, I’d be foolhardy not to.

TimeTrade: ($49/year) This is the system I had been using and wasn’t happy with, but because so many people recommended it and I already knew the interface, I checked to see if there was an upgrade available or if there was another option that met my needs. There wasn’t.

The Winner: Calendly – Weird Name. Great service.

In the end I chose Calendly which has a weird name, but the service is excellent. I can login with my Google credentials and it easily syncs everything up nicely. I have about 8 different types of meetings with various lengths of time and follow-up/reminder messages and can keep on going. They also automatically create a custom URL for my meetings, which is a nice feature you might be interested in, but I make all mine into redirects that I can more easily remember, because I’ve been using many for years. And the price at $8/month can’t be beat with all the bells and whistles. I love it.

Are you searching for a new appointment scheduler online? Give Calendly a try. Go ahead and set an appointment with me if you want to see how it looks (and if you actually want to talk to me!) Go to http://FeliciaSlattery.com/meeting to choose your time now and check out how cool Calendly is to use!

How to Run a Successful Holiday Promotion for Your Business

Just because you’re not a major retailer doesn’t mean you can’t do a holiday promotion for your business that brings you new customers and makes you some great spending money for the holidays!

Watch this interview with millionaire marketer, Daniel Hall, creator of the Black Friday thru Cyber Monday online mall for speakers, experts, and authors. He shares some excellent golden nuggets of information to help you be ultra-successful while running your own holiday-themed promos. Then be sure to visit the awesome sale at http://FeliciaSlattery.com/bfcm to get all the goodies at 70-90% off their regular pricing!

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Speaker One Sheet Review: Shel Horowitz

Shel Horowitz is an expert in going green. He’s published books on the subject and speaks about what people and organizations can do to clean up our environment and protect our planet. He recently sent me a one-sheet that he had designed for a review and I thought I’d share that with you here. I hope you benefit from it!

And if you’re ready to create your Speaker One Sheet, I invite you to use one of my templates at www.SpeakerOneSheetTemplates.com.

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The Expert, Speaker, Author’s Business Building Resource List

"You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want." Zig Ziglar This week I had the pleasure of holding a live Community Appreciation Q/A session for members of my community. We talked for two hours and I answered questions submitted in advance as well as questions that people who were live on the call asked for.

As we were talking, I provided a number of free and low-cost resources to help experts, speakers, authors, coaches and consultants build their businesses. Many people asked if they could have that list, so I figured the easiest way was to post it here for everyone.

Some of the categories of questions I answered included:

  • Speaking: Making money, Getting over fear, How to get booked to speak
  • Elevator speech: what to say to be concise
  • Using a VA to grow your business
  • Working with JV partners
  • Social media: For list-building, Facebook personal vs. business
  • Podcasting resources
  • Identifying your ideal customer

Based on the comments and messages I received afterwards, people were very happy with everything we discussed and what they learned. So, in order of how they were presented on the Q/A webinar, here is that resource list now:

Public Speaking Comics: www.PublicSpeakingComics.com

what's the worst that could happen when public speaking

One of the questions was about how to get over the fear of speaking. Of course, as a former college instructor of public speaking, I have

trained many (many!) people both before I started my business and since, how to get past the fear associated with public speaking. A few years ago, I sat down with a comedian friend of mine and we came up with 15 comics that answered the question, “What’s the worst that could happen when you’re speaking?” This was one of my favorite projects and always makes me laugh. I hope it helps you have a little chuckle, too!

21 Ways to Make Money Speaking by Felicia SlatteryHow Many Speeches Do You Need?: Free Infographic

As the author of the #1 Amazon best-seller 21 Ways to Make Money Speaking, another common question I receive is about how many speeches a business professional who wants to market their business with speaking or have a speaking business really needs. The answer, as it is with so many questions like this, is “it depends.” For example, I have been delivering my original Signature Speech™ about “Credibility and Cash Flow” since 2007. Just that one speech alone has helped me build thousands of relationships, get me some of my BEST clients, and of course made me more than a pretty penny for all these years. The best tip I have is start with the ONE speech. Make it EXCELLENT. Deliver it A LOT. Then decide if you’re going to make money with that one speech or if you want to make money speaking other ways, too. I shared the resource to pick up my free infographic, so folks could see all 21 ways and decide for themselves. If you’re interested in reading the book, you can find it here at Amazon.com.

Podcasting for Everyone? Nope: Free webinar rebroadcast about how to podcast.

We had several questions about podcasting. One astute community member asked if podcasting was coming back (YES! – it actually never left and continues to grow) and of it’s right for everyone. The truth is, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to your marketing. Even if you’re a speaker, podcasting may NOT be the best strategy for you. It depends on your strongest skills, your ability and desire to continue delivering quality audio content on an on-going regular basis, and the ROI you see from your podcast. Also, like all marketing, podcasting works if you do it the right way and follow a proven path to success. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can use your iPhone or iPad to create, edit and post a podcast easily. The webinar rebroadcast will show you all about it.

Be a Podcasting Guest: Join a Facebook Community for Podcasters

One alternative to hosting your own podcast is to be a guest on someone else’s podcast. You get exposure and marketing to a group of people who likely wouldn’t have heard of you any other way, and if the interviewer is a good one, you’ll get a really great recording you can use in Shelley Hitzother areas of your business. To get booked on someone else’s podcast, you’ve got to connect with podcasters, check out their shows, see if it’s a good fit and ask them if they’d be open to talking about having you be a guest.

Get Booked As a Podcast Guest or Speaker: Create a One-Sheet with These Templates

When you contact the podcast host, it helps to give them an idea of what you’d talk about. The more professional your pitch is, the more likely you are to get booked on a show. The same is true of being on stage. Put together a segment or podcast show guest proposal, provide the topic you’d cover in your interview, a few potential questions, an image of your book or you speaking on stage or just your head shot, your credibility-building bio and you’re on your way to getting booked!

No, You Don’t Need An Elevator Speech: Free Chapter and Resources to Help Say Goodbye to the Elevator Speech

keep calm and kill the elevator speechMy most recent #1 Amazon best-seller is Kill the Elevator Speech: Stop Selling, Start Connecting. People have LOADS of questions about this topic because everyone in business has heard we need one of these suckers if we’re going to a networking meeting, conference, trade show, or other event where we will meet people and be asked the dreaded question, “what do you do?”

The truth is, people are only going to remember 2-4 words about you anyway, the purpose of networking is to connect with other people and begin a relationship, and if you go in looking for a sale you’ll come across as the desperate salesy person no one wants to talk to.

If you don’t get out to meetings much and work primarily from home, you don’t need an elevator speech. If you’re saying more than “I’m a XYZ,” and have more than 2-4 words after that, you need to change what you say. Instead talk about what you love about your work, what lights you up, what you’re passionate about, what project you’re working on now, what your clients are up to, or what your favorite part about doing what you do is. Tell a story about your work; don’t verbally vomit marketing gibberish on someone who simply wanted to open a conversation with you but didn’t know what else to say. Get the book on Amazon or wherever fine books are sold.

Tales from Box Mountain Part 3: Broken Promises, Cut Locks, and No Texting While Driving (Not what you think!)

Note: This post is the third in a series about what I learned about life and business from moving my family from the suburbs of Chicago to Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the first post here and second here.

Not our container... ours was obnoxiously overstuffed!

Not our container… ours was obnoxiously overstuffed!

Whenever you move, one of the biggest issues to contend with is how to get all your stuff from your current home to your new home, expediently, efficiently, and safely – and as cost-effectively as possible, unless you are being moved by your company and they are footing the (potentially massive) bill. That was not us.

During our recent move, we looked into the options, which as far as we could tell included:

  • Hiring a big cross-country moving company (far too expensive).
  • Renting a truck and hiring a driver (not sure we wanted to trust some random driver with all our earthly possessions).
  • Renting a truck and driving it ourselves (no one in our family has a truck license, plus … just no.).
  • Having a service bring a container to our driveway, we load it up/ hire movers to load it up, and have it picked up again, shipped to our new home, dropped off, and unloaded.

We went with that last option because we had done it before, twice, and while those moves were local, it worked out well enough both times we felt confident it would be the best choice for us this time. So I did my research and made a choice on the company to use.

First, I have to say, ultimately we were happy with the service. However, there were A LOT of missteps by the company we choose, ABF Freight, otherwise known for it’s consumer service called UPack.

We chose them on the recommendation of my father-in-law, who had used them in the past and remembered their prices being far and away less expensive than PODS, Pack Rat, or any of the other consumer container storage and shipping companies. He was right… the price was almost half of what everyone else was going to charge. That was explained in their marketing. Because the company is a commercial freight service, they may place a few boxes of their own on the back of our truck, to be delivered to another of their commercial customers en route to our new home.  Makes sense to me.

The first misstep came with their scheduling online. I wanted to set up my moving date for the last few days in June. But their online scheduler automatically chose a random date two weeks into the future, which was still early June, and wouldn’t allow me to change it online; so I had to call.

Lesson #1: If you have an online scheduler or order process, make sure everything can be done online without forcing your customers to make a phone call or jump through other hoops.

After I *thought* we had the date squared away (more coming later), the phone rep told me part of the deal was that the driver would be texting my container’s location to me along the route to my new location so I would have an idea where my stuff was. That wasn’t anywhere on their website, but the site had already proven to be less-than-reliable, and it sounded like a cool value-add. Plus, with my knowledge of technology and what’s possible, it was perfectly feasible that a driver could check into an automated system, that would then send me an auto update like “Driver 7245 has now entered Kentucky with your container.” It makes sense right? Well, the person I was on the phone with was making that up apparently, because in subsequent conversations (to fix the wrong drop off date AGAIN), this customer service agent said there was no such offer of texting while driving, so to speak.

The only thing I can think of now, as I reflect, is perhaps that is an offering for their freight customers but not for their individual consumer customers and the customer service agent I spoke with was confused. I don’t know, but I felt like I missed out on a great service.

Lesson #2: Deliver on your promises.
Lesson #3: Make sure your entire staff can effectively explain your offerings correctly.

Interestingly, I soon learned this company DOES use texting to confirm that your container will be dropped off to be loaded on a certain date. That was good because I received a text with the wrong date, so I had to call AGAIN. In fact, I planned an out of town in Minnesota for a business retreat on that date, which had been scheduled for months, so I would have never set that date up as a drop off or pick up date. The good news for this company is they had the text confirmation set up so I could see the error and immediately call to avoid having a driver show up at my home while I was out of town and pick up an empty container 2 days later because I was still out of town. Their system worked in this case to catch the customer service agent’s mistake.

Lesson 4: Have systems in place to catch any errors before they turn into bigger problems down the line.

After we received our container, on time and set up exactly how we wanted it, we set to the hard work of packing it. In another post, I’ll share about the fabulous service our movers provided, because they deserve their own post with more lessons learned.

Another promise was after we packed up our belongings, we should LOCK the wall they provided to completely secure our things in the container. A regular pad lock wasn’t going to fit, so my Dad went out and bought a $25 heavy duty industrial lock for the job. We secured our belongings as stated in the contract and on the phone and were on our way.

Not long after our container was picked up, however, I received a phone call from the local dispatch office. At this point, we were on the road somewhere between Illinois and Tennessee. The dispatcher on the phone asked me to come in to remove my lock so they could get their ramp, which was inside the truck when they delivered it to us, and we put it back inside. There was no mention that specific ramp, which we would need in Tennessee to get our stuff OUT of the truck, had to stay in Illinois. Apparently the Tennessee dispatch office would have their own ramp. Unfortunately, I had the only keys and we were on the Interstate somewhere. So they cut off a brand new $25 lock and now our personal items weren’t secure.

Lesson 5: If you want something to be a certain way (in this case, the ramp to be accessible to the local dispatch office), spell it out in your instructions and make sure it’s well-communicated.

As I said, overall we were happy with the end result: our container was safely delivered, when we wanted it, where we wanted it, and at an affordable and fair price. After we arrived in Knoxville, everything went very well and the Knoxville dispatchers were great with accommodating the times I needed for our container to be dropped off and then later the same day removed.

Could I recommend this company? I would, with the caveat that people I refer read this blog post so they know what to expect. What it comes down to is this:

FINAL LESSON: If you teach your customers what to expect from you and then deliver that exact promise through the customer experience, you will have raving fans every time.

 

Tales From Box Mountain Pt. 2: It’s Not About The Box

We never did find the box, but we DID find what we needed to get the job done!

We never did find the box, but we DID find what we needed to get the job done!

After my husband and I made the decision to move from the suburbs of Chicago to Knoxville, Tennessee, we thought renting for a year would be a better choice because we looked at more than 20 homes to buy yet never came up with quite what we wanted. Plus, we don’t know the area AT ALL, and we didn’t want to rush into buying just any old house in any old place.

In another post, I’ll talk more about the decision to downsize from our 3000 square foot home to an 1121 square foot apartment, but for this story here’s what you need to know: in that process, we realized our daughters, ages 10 and 13, would have to share a bedroom in our new 2-bedroom apartment.

I suggested the girls might enjoy bunk beds, and they were both elated to have that experience. So I set to work on finding some gently used bunk beds for sale at sites like Craigslist, Bookoo, and OfferUp. I soon negotiated a good deal on a set for sale near our former home that I really liked because the lower bunk is a full-sized bed, which allowed a few more options.

When we picked up the black metal frame of the bed, it was in parts. That’s when my Dad took over. You should know my Dad is the handiest of handy men, the most intense assembler you’ll ever meet, and a complete perfectionist when it comes to doing any project he undertakes, no matter how long it takes to get it done right. If you’ve ever seen the HGTV cable network star contractor, Mike Holmes, who makes EVERY thing perfect about a project, you have an idea of how my Dad tackles a project. Plus, he’s retired now and has FULL TIME to devote to any pursuit he wants. And in this instance it was all about the bunk beds.

Once he was involved, Dad went online and printed not one, but two full sets of directions to assemble the set. Then he took the whole bed completely apart so it would fit on the moving truck. He labelled all the little screws, nuts, bolts, and pieces that were part of the assembly of the bed, organized them by what part of the bed they came from into little plastic bags, and then put those into a bigger plastic bag. Finally he packed the whole lot into a well-marked cardboard box and sealed it up.

When we arrived at our new home, for the first couple of weeks one girl slept on the twin-sized sofabed and the other slept on her mattress on the floor because my Dad wanted to be the one to put the beds together the RIGHT way and had planned to come down the second week we were in Tennessee. He’s great at assembling anything and loves it, plus we had plenty of other tasks to do before my parents arrived (have you seen the photo of Box Mountain in my dining area?!), so we came across the well-marked box, and put it into a very safe place.

When the day came for Dad to put the bunk beds together, we started looking for the well-marked box with all the nuts and bolts and pieces neatly organized inside. The well-marked box was about the size of a shirt box at Christmas, but double the thickness, so it wasn’t a massive moving box, but plenty substantial that it could easily be noticed.

But nobody could find the well-marked box ANYWHERE.

We looked all over the apartment, which was easy enough because there are only two bedrooms with walk-in closets, the main living space, and the kitchen/dining area. No well-marked box.

I recalled having the box in my hands and placing it into the girls’ bedroom in the stack of other boxes in there, but as we organized their room and closest, emptying moving box after moving box, the one well-marked box we needed to find to make their beds was not among them.

My husband saw the well-marked box a handful of times, too. He ran back and forth to the storage area (I couldn’t part with my dining room table, our Christmas decorations, and some much-loved bigger furniture pieces!), and he could never find the well-marked box.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law, who live near us here in Tennessee had been helping us unload and unpack. My mother-in-law remembered seeing the well-marked box, but wasn’t sure where it was, either.

After several DAYS of searching off and on for that well-marked box, my Dad and my husband finally decided that we needed a Plan B. We called the manufacturer and explained our situation, hoping they would sell us just the parts, but that wasn’t going to work. So we ended on Plan C: Buy a new set of identical bunk beds to the set we already had and start fresh.

Now, being a thrifty sort who isn’t quite a conservationist, but hates throwing things away that can be used, that really upset me. We had all the BIG pieces for the bed, it was just those screws, nuts and bolts.  I knew we would someday come across that well-marked box, so I thought at the very least I could re-sell the whole original set so it could go to a home that would use it.

While my Dad and husband were at the store, buying the new bunk beds, I said a prayer to St. Anthony (the saint of lost things), and suddenly I had a revelation.

It wasn’t the well-marked box we needed AT ALL. It was the stuff INSIDE that mattered.

Suddenly, with a new determination — and NOT looking for a BOX, but instead looking for the actual thing we needed — I FOUND IT within 2 minutes.

Where was it? In the girls’ room, right next to the parts of the bed. What we needed had been removed from the well-marked box, which had apparently long been discarded, so instead it was a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags in which all the pieces were!

All along we had been looking for a BOX, when what we wanted was what was inside the box, and ignored everything else. We probably each looked right past the set of plastic bags a half dozen times each.

What a relief to finally find what we needed!

The Life and Business Lesson Learned:

Sometimes we THINK we want the box because the magic, we’ve been told, is right inside that particular box. All we have to do is open it. But instead of seeking the magic itself, we seek the box.

Put into concrete terms related to business, we want what goes with a successful business: the credibility, the clients, the cash, the freedom… but instead of working for those things, we spend a ton of time worrying far too much about the box we THINK those things are inside such as a perfect website, a finished information product, a book fully written and published, and so on. You CAN achieve what you want, without worrying about the box.

In life, too many people wait to go after their dream job or search for the person they want to enjoy the rest of their lives with because they are stuck looking for the perfect box of making their body perfect, or their resume perfect, or their wardrobe perfect. You can reach those personal goals, without worrying about the box.

My friends, keep your eye on the prize. It’s not about the box at all, no matter how well-marked and how certain you are you will find it one day. Seek what is inside. Go for what you REALLY want.

See Part 1 in the series here.

Tales from Box Mountain: Part 1 – Life and Business Lessons Learned by Moving Across Country

box mountain

Box Mountain: AKA All the stuff we needed to unpack and find a home for inside our new 1121 sq. foot home.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. As you can likely guess from the title, because you’re smart like that, I’ve been preoccupied with relocating my family from the suburbs of Chicago to the 3rd biggest city in the state of Tennessee, Knoxville. Yes, I’ve been working, but doing the bare minimum to get by.

You know how “they” say moving is one of the top 5 or 10 or whatever most stressful life experiences up there with getting married, having babies, changing jobs, and driving in traffic (that last one has to be true, doesn’t it?)? Well… I am here to say, yep, that’s about right. Whew.

During our move, over and over again I kept seeing so many business and life lessons I decided to share them in at least a series of blog posts, if not, someday soon, a short book. So I’m starting here and we’ll see where this takes me.

As a preview for what’s coming:

  • We about pulled our hair out over looking for a certain box, when I realized it wasn’t about the box at all. That’s when I found what I was looking for.
  • My wedding and engagement rings were in a super safe place… so safe I thought I’d lost them forever.
  • Two reactions to getting lost during travel; he wanted to be upset, so I let him be.
  • Broken promises, cut locks, and no texting while driving. (Not at all what you think!)
  • Going from 3000 square feet (plus garage and shed) to 1121 square feet with a family of 4, plus a dog.

These and other stories will follow this week. Some may appear as written posts and others as video posts. We’ll see what comes up!

What lessons from moving have you learned that can be related to life and/or business? I’d love to learn from your experiences – post in the comments below!

Move on to Part 2 here: Tales from Box Mountain: It’s Not About The Box.

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