I'm Following My Heart

Because following your head makes more sense.

Sometimes in life, you know what you’re supposed to do. In this case, it would be to panic.

I mean, to come to the realization that everything you’ve dedicated your life to for the past 7 years – what you honestly and truly believed you were meant to do and enjoyed – really isn’t what you were meant to do, and you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought… That sucks.

To come to that realization with rent a month overdue, no sources of income, an unemployed husband and a 10 month old daughter to support – that sucks even more.

But the problem isn’t that I can’t “follow my heart” or “chase my dreams” (after all, my dreams aren’t running away – I don’t have to chase them. I just have to stop telling them to leave.)

The problem is that our society almost expects everyone to put what they want on the backburner to do what they have to do – and it almost never ends up working out anyway.

Let’s take an example… I’m sure you all know someone who has lost their job in the recession, right? And out of all of those people, there was probably someone, somewhere, who decided that they would use this as an opportunity to figure out what they really wanted to do, but before they could figure it out – they needed cash to support their family. What did they do? Probably go and find a job – any job.

And how did that work out?

Fired, laid off, quit, demoted, promoted, whatever – they didn’t stay in that job for very long.

One day, everyone comes to the realization that they aren’t doing what truly makes them happy. Sure, they might be doing something they enjoy, but a lot of the time, they wouldn’t be doing that if money and time were no object.

Take my husband for example – he started a business to work with seniors entering care when his own grandmother had terminal cancer. He knew a lot about the system, knew he wanted to learn more, recognized a need to help the caregivers (like his mom), and thought he could fill that need. But what would have happened if he had unlimited time and money when his grandmother went into care? Would he have started the same business? No – he wouldn’t have.

But now, we’ve finally figured out what we both should be doing – and we’re following our hearts.

Darren and I are building our own wilderness retreat, complete with rustic cabins, “backwoods style” camping, kids camps, and BBQ concessions on long weekends. On a lake. In the woods. Together. Starting right now.

For that and other reasons, mostly enrollment, the June Mompreneur Success Series is cancelled. I simply cannot dedicate myself to 3 months of group coaching calls with the limited enrollment we’ve had, while I’m going to be focusing so much on this project. Building a resort is no small feat – and it takes a lot of long hours and concentration to achieve. For those who have enrolled, I’ll be providing one year of one-on-one coaching by email – I am truly committed to your success!

I’ll still be providing coaching on a limited basis to the general public, and of course I’ll still be on this blog sharing business tips and stories about my life – but I’m going to be focusing on our resort for some time coming. The Marketing Mom Membership will be shut down as well. All existing members will get to continue with the video that is already up, but all PayPal subscriptions will be cancelled.

About working with my husband…

Everyone always has recommendations for married couples… Don’t work together, don’t spend too much time together, etc. etc.

Blah, blah, blah.

We work well together. Sure, it isn’t always smiles and fun – but what is? Our relationship not only survives working together, it thrives. We both grow as individuals, as well as growing as a couple. Plus there are no arguments over childcare, no missing each other, and better communication because we’re forced to put our crap to the side for the sake of our business.

This is our dream. We’ve talked about doing this since the day we met, and we’re doing it now. And it’s going to be amazing.

Readers, what is your dream? Why have you/haven’t you followed it?

Family Business

Not all mom entrepreneurs are sole proprietors… No, many mom entrepreneurs are actually partners in a business with their significant other or other family members. Sometimes this makes a great solution for moms who need more flexibility with their work, but wish to work in a business that requires more time commitment than is possible while caring for a family full time.

Right now, this is what my husband and I are looking at. I love doing the training I provide here at CrunchyBusiness, but it basically just pays for itself right now – there isn’t a lot of profit yet. It will come in time, I suppose, but I’m making real differences for mom entrepreneurs and I feel that matters more for me than the bottom line.

Hubby and I have always had a dream – we’ve always wanted to run a campground. Dismissing the romantic notions of being able to sit around and make money while camping, we actually want to organize activities for campers, renovate, maintain, manage, schedule, decorate, and do the day to day operations of a campground. We love being outdoors, so this would be a great business.

It is also a business that costs $500,000+ cash (and a few million in capital from lenders or investors) to actually start – something we, like most of you, don’t exactly have just laying around.

To make that dream a possibility, we’re looking at what we can do together.

What strengths of his can I compliment? What passions do we share? What experience do we have that works with the other person’s experience?

Running a family business with your significant other gives you more time, more flexibility, and possibly a more profitable business (given the time resources available).

Have you ever considered running a business with your significant other? Do you? Share in the comments!

Inspiration…

I’m feeling a little bit uninspired today… Maybe its from taking a weekend off, maybe its from being concerned about finances right now, maybe its PMS – who knows. In any case, I feel like I need to review some of what inspires me today…

I’m inspired by my husband, who has almost completely taken over the household chores in the last week so I can continue working.

I’m inspired by my daughter, whose smile can light up the world. I mean, just look at her – watching the hockey game in her jersey, cheering for the Canucks!

Speaking of which, I’m inspired by the Canucks… 40 years without a Stanley Cup, and they still play with heart. Hope this is your year, boys!

I am inspired by my mother, who managed to raise 3 kids, keep a house running, and keep a marriage together through all kinds of trouble.

I’m inspired by the thought that it won’t always be this hard. That maybe, next long weekend I’ll be able to take off and go camping with my family.

I’m inspired by my readers, who always have nice things to say, and (hopefully) take my advice and run with it!

I’m inspired by my secret project, because you’re all going to freaking love it!

I’m inspired by other moms who make this work.

I’m inspired by other moms who don’t – and instead stay at home without a business, or work outside of the home.

I’m inspired by the sunshine trying to peek through the clouds right now.

I’m inspired by the fact that I’m starting to finally smile a bit right now.

I’m inspired by the fact that this blog post is starting to write itself a bit more.

I’m inspired by cooking, and the possibility of blogging about some of the meals that I make – after all, this blog is for mom entrepreneurs. How many moms do you know who cook? EXACTLY!

I’m inspired by what inspires YOU – so tell me, mompreneurs – what inspires you?

Take heart, mom bloggers…

Just a 3am note because I wanted to share something I’m giggling about right now.

One day, you’re going to be merrily blogging along, and you’re going to start getting emails via your contact form about SEO services or marketing services or some random service. Usually the email will be written in horrible English. Around the same time, you may start to see an increase in spam comments, spam user registrations, and trolls (people who post hurtful, rude, baseless comments on your site like “ur gay” or “thats dumb” in order to antagonize you).

First, install plugins to combat spam… There are probably a million of them. I like invisible defender because it protects all forms, you might like others.

Two, giggle. Happily.

Getting spam in comments and forms, and having trolls on your site means that you’re getting attention. You’re worth spamming. And in a world with a billion blogs that nobody even reads, being worth spamming is something!

It has always been at the cusp of success for every site I’ve ever worked with. We’ve had to develop anti-spam measures right on the edge of a major community forming around the blog.

So if you’re just starting to get spammed, and thinking “sure, I get spam, but real people won’t comment…” – wait for it! It isn’t far off 😉

How to Market a Cloth Diaper Business

Or “How to Sell Lots and Lots of Diapers!”

In my digital travels, I’ve come into contact with many, many moms running cloth diaper businesses. Whether you sew your own, retail, or wholesale, a cloth diaper business faces a multitude of unique challenges. If you yourself are in the cloth diaper business (or any business for that matter!), read on to discover how to market a cloth diaper business!

Before you put up your website, decide on a name, decide what diapers to carry and what color scheme to use etc. you need to stop, sit down, and think about someone else : customers. Specifically, your customers.

Diaper businesses have one major obstacle that I see almost daily – they all blend in. It’s hard to stand out when you offer the same product as a million other websites, but diaper companies often make it harder on themselves by neglecting their USP – unique selling proposition.

It seems that most diaper companies are split between marketing as “eco friendly” and “budget friendly” – and some try to ride the fence and be both.

Even those who try and niche smaller than that are too afraid of niching down to actually say so. Recently, I spoke with a cloth diaper store owner who prefers to ship her diapers locally only. What do you see when landing on her website? National shipping in Canada for a set price.

Does “National Flat Rate Shipping” say “I prefer to ship locally”? No – it says exactly the opposite!

My advice to this cloth diaper business would be to scrap the national flat-rate shipping, remove all provincial, national, and international information from her site, and plaster information about diaper and crunch resources in her local area everywhere.

She started the business because there was no one local selling cloth diapers – and if you stumbled on her website, you would think there still wasn’t anyone selling cloth diapers in her local area.

This mompreneur has lost her USP in her struggle to conform to what a “cloth diaper business should look like”.

What is your USP?

Do you really like all-in-one diapers? Are you passionate about them? Sell ONLY all in ones. Become the source for all-in-ones, and any and all information about them. Plaster it all over your website and every one of your marketing materials that you ONLY sell all-in-one diapers. << FYI, anybody ambitious should take on this idea. This is probably a six figure business idea.

Do you like selling locally? Plaster it all over your website!!

Prefer selling only girly diapers? Boy diapers? Gender neutral? Specialize, and tell everyone!

The cloth diaper industry has gotten large enough that selling cloth diapers isn’t enough of a specialty anymore. If you want to make any real money as a diaper business, you have to find a specialty.

Figure out what made you switch to cloth to begin with – what products made cloth easy for you? What products made you smile? What about cloth diapering did you love? Make that your business and you can’t fail!

Cloth diaper businesses, weigh in! What makes a difference in your marketing? Could you use some direction with your business? Post your URL in the comments!

Branding Makes a Difference

As moms, we’re all familiar with formula company samples. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed, we all received them – those little promotional packages that encourage us to choose their brand. I’d like to talk a bit today about how branding makes these companies so successful.

You see, formula is a highly regulated industry. The FDA requires all manufacturers to meet minimum nutritional requirements to be legally allowed to sell the product – much like pharmaceuticals are required to pass certification before entering the market place.

Much like pharmaceuticals, however, the minimums probably aren’t enough to prevent negative side effects, and therefore formula manufacturers typically exceed these minimums in almost every area.

But here is the kicker – store brand formulas and brand name formulas often contain the exact same levels of nutrition, from almost identical ingredients.

They’re essentially the same.

Just take a look at this comparison of one popular store brand, Parent’s Choice, vs. a popular Name Brand – Enfamil.

They’re almost identical, and yet when you look at the cost comparison, the Parents’ Choice formula is almost $15 per can less than the Enfamil.

Why? Branding, that’s why.

Brand name formulas have developed a brand that people trust. People believe them when they say they are the closest of all formulas to breast milk, even though all other formula companies say the exact same thing. Enfamil even recently lost a major lawsuit by store-brand manufacturers for their “best formula” claims – and paid millions in damages. The courts found that in reality, all formulas are essentially the same.

How do they achieve this brand?

Well, they start by placing their products everywhere – in television ads, in the mail, in magazines, in the hospital… Everywhere a new mother might be, brand name formula attempts to get a sample in her hands.

They talk about the health benefits of their formula – DHA, AHA, prebiotics and probiotics – compounds all found in breastmilk, they say.

Compounds all found in store brand formulas, too.

They use words like “Premium” for their normal variety, and then special labels for any type of formula that serves a specific allergy or dietary need.

With every contact, brand name formulas attempt to get a sample to a potential customer, while trying to convince them that the formula company is on a mission to give their child the best possible nutrition, and do what is best for their child.

In other words, buying this formula is what is best for the child.

Anyone reading this post has the ability to effect the choices of their customers in the same way.

Make potential customers believe you have a mission. To make the best formula, to sew the best diapers, to change the world with food, whatever it might be – share your mission.

Get a sample into their hands, if you can – a picture, some information… Something that shows them not only are you the best option on the market, you support the same values as they do – whether that is eco-friendly, organic, socially responsible, child friendly, or whatever your values might be.

If you can do that, you can get people to purchase almost anything you put out there that serves their needs. You could even price it at more than twice what your competition charges for an almost identical product or service (although I’m sure that most of you here are reading this to use your branding skills for good, rather than evil… *wink*)

The bottom line is, Enfamil Premium LIPIL and Parents’ Choice Premium are nearly identical, from a nutritional standpoint. From a branding standpoint, they are drastically different – and as a result, they price themselves very differently.

The only real difference is the brand. How can you apply that to your business?

“I wrote this informative post while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mommy Brain Reports on behalf of Parent’s Choice Infant Formula. I did receive compensation for my time and efforts in writing this post. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own.”

What is a brand?

So we’ve talked a lot over the last little while about branding and how to do it… But what is it? What does it mean to your business? Is it really something you can do? Is it something you should do?

Well let’s start with a basic definition of a brand. Not the “corporate” definition – one that actually applies to real businesses like yours :

A brand is the identity of your business – it is the way that others see you in the world.

It is your mission, your values, your products and services, your employees, your website, your logo – everything that touches a customer about or in relation to your business.

So branding, therefore, is :

Making an impact on the way others see you in the world.

It is causing people to perceive your business the way you would like to be perceived.

Let’s take an example… Nike. Everybody knows Nike and their infamous “swoosh”, with or without their well known “Just do it” tagline.

But what does that swoosh do? Is it the swoosh itself that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Does that little mark, on its own, make you buy – and pay a premium for – their products? No!

It is the identity that the swoosh represents that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. The swoosh is just a mental trigger to help you remember their brand – it isn’t their brand by itself.

What does that mean for your business?

Well it means you can stop focusing so much on developing the next swoosh, the next “just do it”, “I’m lovin’ it”, or “Have it your way” – and start developing your real brand.

Figure out who your business really is – why you’re in business, what your products and services really do for people – and make that your brand. Then start branding – use that “brand” to guide your marketing and advertising decisions, help you with customer service problems, develop new products, and more.

And if you like, put your logo out there – but always remember, your logo is only a trigger. It should remind people of who you are – but it doesn’t define you.

Now, I want you to do something. Post your brand in the comments.

Who are you? What problem does your product solve? How do you want to leave people feeling after interacting with or buying from you?

You can leave the comment anonymously if you like, no one is here to judge. This isn’t a contest. It is only an exercise to get you to put your brand into words.

I help moms spend more time with their families and build successful businesses by teaching them to make effective marketing decisions and brand their companies. That is my brand. I live it, eat it, breathe it, sleep with it, bathe in it, and I’d probably get funky with it if I could. I love it.

Tell me, readers, guests, clients, and random visitors – what is your brand?

3 Steps to Confidence in Business

As if we women faced enough issues in motherhood and life, one that often comes up is the issue of confidence and self esteem. The old stories always come up…

“I don’t know how to run a business…”

“I’ve never sold products before…”

“What if my clients/customers find out that I’m new?”

“What if this business doesn’t work?”

“What if I’m not good enough?”

There are plenty of business materials out there to teach your how to market, sell, and build a business. There aren’t too many to teach you how to be confident in yourself while doing it. Without confidence, you won’t be able to make decisions… You’ll question everything you do… You won’t always put your best foot forward… You’ll be too afraid to put yourself out there. Your results and your business will suffer.

How can you prevent that from happening? By following these 3 steps to confidence in business!

1. Stop trying to look the way you’re “supposed to”. It’s hard to be confident in yourself when you’re not being yourself. Stop worrying about yoru company looking bigger or smaller than you are, using the right corporate lingo, making sure that the appropriate buzzwords are in the right places, etc. Be yourself, let your words flow without worrying who might think you’re too small/big/unprofessional/whatever. When people don’t burn you at the stake for doing it like we all fear they will, you’ll have a lot more confidence in yourself.

2. Get results quickly. This might sound obvious, but try to get some money flowing as quickly as possible. Get some quick wins. Your first job after building your product and figuring out your target market should be to get out there and sell it to someone. Don’t worry about websites and business cards and all of that so much in the beginning… I would say don’t even worry about incorporation and business licensing and whatnot. If you need a license to provide your product or service to anyone lawfully, get it. If not, worry about paying for your other legalities and technicalities out of your profits – not your pocket. The sooner you get a client handing you money for what you have to offer, the more confident you’ll be that people are willing to pay for what you have!

3. Share your knowledge. If you’ve developed a product or service in your niche, you likely have a bit if information that would be helpful to people seeking your products. Share it! Blog about it, write articles, tweet, answer questions in forums… Share your expert knowledge. People will appreciate your responses, and that appreciation will give you confidence! Nothing is a better self-esteem booster than someone saying “thanks so much for your advice… I really don’t know what I would have done without you!”

What do you think, mompreneurs? What are your barriers to confidence? How have you overcome them?

Why Everything You've Ever Been Told About Niche Marketing is a Complete Lie…

… and what you should do about it.

When talking with soon-to-be, new, or even seasoned business owners about marketing and branding, the word “niche” invariably comes up in our conversations. After all, most popular literature on business today will tell you to niche yourself down – target a smaller segment of the market.

“Niching in the key to success!” they say…

“Anyone can be successful if they find their niche!”

I call shennanigans.

Just like the “find your passion” mantra, those that tell you to “find your niche” are really only telling half the story.

The problem isn’t niching itself. In fact, everyone reading this should know what niche segment of their market they are working with. The problem comes when you try to market only to that niche – and start focusing on the niche part.

What the heck is she talking about?

Okay, lets get a real, workable example here. Let’s say that you wanted to open up a pet store. On the wise advice of someone you consult (or by your own desire and passion) you decide that your pet store will only sell holistic, organic, all natural pet food. That is your nicheorganic, holistic, all natural pet food.

Here is where people make the mistake. If you’re a pet store in the holistic, all natural, organic niche, where would you market? Well, one would assume that you would be marketing anywhere that all natural, holistic, organic shopping people go, right?

Well, no. I mean you could – and people would read your ad, thinking…

– “next time I need some pet food, I might go check them out…”
– “if I had a dog, that’d be the place I would go…”
– “I’m happy with what my pet is eating now…”

You might get some customers from it, but likely… Not. At least, not right now – and maybe not even in the future.

Okay, so we know what NOT to do…

But what can someone like you do when you figure out your niche? Well, lets pretend you’re the above pet store owner. Where do you advertise?

The same place every other pet store does.

What? That’s the complete opposite of everything I’ve ever been told!

Well guess what? Everything you’ve ever been told probably isn’t working, either! Yay!

Sure, the big chain pet stores have resources that you don’t. But don’t go looking for holistic, organic, all natural people – look for PET OWNERS.

See, most people don’t recognize a need for your specialized expertise – and they rarely even realize you exist.

Someone looking for all natural, holistic, organic pet food is probably just going to look for a pet store that carries it, right?

So if they go looking for a pet store that carries holistic, organic, all natural pet food – and see that you specialize in what they’re looking for – who are they going to choose? You, or the other big box guy that *might* have what they’re looking for? YOU!

This works in other niches, too.

Selling soy candles? Market yourself alongside other candles as a “natural, safe, eco-friendly alternative”. Those who value natural, safe, and eco-friendly products will choose you over other candles – even if they weren’t looking for that type of candle.

Fair trade coffee? Market with regular coffee, using fair trade as your “unique selling proposition” or USP.

Life coaching for women? Market with regular life coaches.

Counseling for couples? Market with regular counselors.

Free range beef? Other beef.

Shoes for 7-toed above average foot sizes? Other shoes.

This literally works for every niche, every market, and every product.

If you have a niche, find out where people are looking for products like yours, and tell them about your specialty!

What do you think? Are you ready to scrap the “niche” part of niche marketing?

10 Reasons to Use Facebook Instead of Email Marketing

Through a service called Networked Blogs, this blog post is about to appear on our Facebook Page and Twitter account – without me having to do a single thing. Every blog post does. It also comes with a handy header that, when a user clicks through to the blog post, appears across the top of the page allowing them to Tweet or Like it right from our blog.

We’re not alone, either. Most blogs with Facebook Pages link to every post from their profile. Increasingly, Facebook is becoming the way that people follow blogs.

This post will also be going out via MailChimp tomorrow morning at 4am, without any action from us.

Did you know that 10 times more people will be reading this post on Facebook than via email?

It’s true. We may be small, but we’re mighty. Not only do we have more people following this blog via Facebook than via email, it seems our engagement rates are higher as well – not just more bodies, but a higher percentage of people read our blog from Facebook than email.

Why? Doesn’t that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, that email lists are the be-all end-all of marketing, and Facebook is only for teenagers?

We thought so, too – so we came up with 10 reasons you should be using Facebook instead of email marketing for your blog :

  1. Facebook hits people when they have time to kill – email does not. Have you ever been running out the door, and decided to scroll through your Facebook feed? If yes, you need help. If no, then you’re like the rest of us – Facebook is a medium you use when you have time to actually use it. Email users are often in a hurry, and skip past emails – even if they want to read them “later”, with good intentions. You have a higher likelihood of a Facebook follower actually reading an entire post than an email follower who gets your rss to email campaign.
  2. Facebook is less intrusive. Complain all you want about email – ever received a loud email notification during a meeting, only to see its junk mail? Yeah – not impressive. But how many pages on Facebook do you unsubscribe from for posting updates at 3am? I think you can see where this is going. People come to Facebook – in droves. Like it or not, that is still an advantage.
  3. Social sharing doesn’t need to be integrated. It was a trend that started about a year ago – including social sharing links in your emails. According to some studies, people are more likely to forward your email than share it through social sites. What does that mean? That if viral, social sharing is your objective, then social networks are the medium that work best! You don’t need to integrate a “Like” button when you’re already putting it on Facebook.
  4. Stats, stats, stats. Google Analytics is great for telling you what people visited and clicked on, and it can be easily integrated into most email campaigns – what can you do with Facebook? Why, view your insights of course! You can see not only how many people have seen and clicked on your page, you can see how many people see and click on your content in their news feed, what percentage of posts actually have interaction, and even pick out what days of the week see the most traffic.
  5. It’s a two-way medium. Okay, so email is too – but it’s different. If you’re blasting out an email newsletter, it is impersonal – much like a newspaper. People don’t call up the newspaper editor to talk shop. But they *do* comment on Facebook Page posts. Now you have a way to talk with your customers that is easy to use and manage!
  6. It facilitates conversations. Not just between you and your customers, as above, but customers can talk with each other as well. How many times has your newsletter spurred a community of 100+ people to have a conversation with each other? Never. How many times has a Facebook post? It practically happens every single second. Believe it or not, those conversations are more valuable to you than one-way communication.
  7. Familiarity, approachability, and personality. Email is impersonal at best – and destructive at worst. What you really want is a medium through which you can make yourself available to prospects, talk with them on an approachable level, be real, warm, and personal with them, and make yourself familiar to them. Social media allows for that because it allows for freedom of expression. Instead of needing to come up with a topic for an entire email, all you have to do is come up with something short and interesting. Thoughts like that pop into our minds all day long!
  8. Easy to leave. Have you ever tried to remove yourself from certain email newsletters, only to find it damn near impossible? Yeah – me too. And I’m willing to bet that you were a little bit more cautious sharing your email address next time! With Facebook, however, every single page has an easy to use “Unlike” button, and half a dozen other ways to hide your content if they don’t like you. Users know that – and they’re more willing to subscribe as a result! It is less of a risk to “Like” you than subscribe to you.
  9. Control. If a subscriber says something inflammatory, untrue, or spammy – you can delete it. Comments, posts, whatever – you can remove it. You can guide conversations, start them, join them, and moderate them as needed. You can’t control what clients say about you in an email. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility – moderate comments only when absolutely necessary, otherwise people may be less willing to comment on your page.
  10. Ease of use. If you’re like most people, learning a new program, website, or piece of software takes work. Guess what? There is a good 95% chance that if you’re online, you at least have a basic knowledge of Facebook. Use that to your advantage! Pages are hardly different from your regular profile, so you already know how to do most basic functions. That means you can communicate much more easily through your page, because you’re not struggling to learn!

Can you think of any other reasons to use Facebook instead of email? Let me know in the comments – either here, or on our Facebook Page!