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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

Motivation Through Appreciation (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and communication expertise.


Whether it is a word of encouragement or a focus on praise and recognition, when credit is due, employers need to be committed to and intentional about making these into positive experiences for the employee. From discovering new hidden gem bars and restaurants to mingle at, to taking to the outdoors for water-based activities – all of that could be a great way to help employees feel rewarded but also connected to each other and their local area. After all, effective team building ensures success on the battlefront. Taking the time to organize such events and making the investment in employees will result in a more motivated task force, happier staff and higher productivity.

Management

With one in two employees having left a job before because of poor management or disliking their manager, it seems that employees don’t necessarily quit jobs so much as they quit their bosses.

A failure in leadership can present itself through a lack of honest communication, an inability to clearly instruct or direct, or giving limited or no feedback. The style of leadership can also play a part in employee morale. Autocratic leaders tend to alienate their staff, while democratic leaders are usually more open to employee involvement, allowing them to feel part of the company’s success. This builds morale and improves productivity.

Team Building

Team building activities are an important method for improving morale and cohesion while also acting as a way of acknowledging and rewarding good results. Ultimately, the goal of team building exercises is providing great bonding experiences for co-workers. Activities that require little planning or preparation, such as after work drinks on a Friday, are great as they are a regular fixture to look forward to and give everyone an opportunity to get together and de-stress at the end of a working week.

However, more elaborately planned experiences can also be ideal every so often. Ideas may include volunteering together, encouraging employees to feel proud of their contributions, satisfied and socially responsible whilst also benefiting from the bonding time with colleagues outside the working environment. Field trips, with high adrenaline activities is another idea, combining fun with bonding which will give employees a boost in motivation and encourage them to stay.

A team that works well together accomplishes a better standard of work in a more efficient time frame than if employees worked alone. A lack of teamwork or a team that has broken down can find themselves having to deal with a variety of different problems. For example, office gossip often leads to increased unhappiness and stress level, which can cause a higher absentee rate, resulting in an overall drop in productivity. Creating friendly environments, where employees’ needs are met and where they know that they are valued, are crucial for morale and subsequently, retention.

What are your thoughts on the two studies mentioned at the beginning of this article? Do the statistics surprise you or do you feel it’s a growing trends?

Join in the conversation by sharing how your place of employment helps (or doesn’t help) to make employees feel appreciated!

Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2017

2017 blog postsHappy New Year! I hope you woke up today inspired to tackle your goals for 2018. Whether it’s kicking a bad habit, taking better care of yourself or going after a new job, everything starts with that first step. I hope I can offer you some motivation to take your first step toward reaching your New Year’s goals and resolutions with a special blog post. I’ve compiled the top articles from 2017 on life and entrepreneurship that you, the readers, helped to show me were among your favorites.

While today is a day to look toward the future, I want you to join me on one last look back at 2017 and the topics that inspired thousands of you to possibly join me on an entrepreneurial journey!

#10 The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

In the business world, it seems like when it rains it pours. Losing a few clients back-to-back can feel like the walls are caving in around you. Will you survive? The short answer is – yes. In fact, business turnover can be a prime opportunity to restructure and rebuild an even better business model that will service you well into the future.

Read the original blog here.

#9 Five Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

Speaking of rebuilding your business, did you know there are five things you can implement right now to gain more business? No gimmicks, just honest advice. Don’t overlook the low hanging fruit that could be at your fingertips right now!

Read the original blog here.

#8 How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

I’ve planned a lot of events throughout my career and have witnessed the stark contrast between events and events designed to inspire their guests. The difference in outcomes is substantial. Whether you’re a non-profit on mission to raise funds or a for-profit business looking to give back to the community, I share my tips for planning an event that inspires guests to act.

Read the original blog here.

#7 How to Win Over a Client in the First Meeting

In business, your first meeting is like a blind date. You and the client both arrive hoping to hit it off, but that doesn’t always happen. In most instances, you are in control to make a good first impression and win over the client in the first meeting. This blog shares how you can do that!

Read the original blog here.

#6 Five Signs a Client is Not a Good Fit for Your Business

As much as you want to win over a client, you don’t necessarily want to work with every client who comes your way. Why? Well sometimes a client isn’t a good fit for your business. Maybe it’s their budget, their values or their attitude. Here are five signs a client is not a good fit for your business.

Read the original blog here.

#5 The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

Are you a business owner/entrepreneur? Then you most definitely want to start the New Year with this two week evaluation. Find out if what you’re currently doing is aligned with what you hope to achieve. Are you happy? Satisfied? Balanced? I know I’ll be starting 2018 with this two week evaluation!

Read the original blog here.

#4 Low Cost and No Cost Business Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Use

This proved to be a very popular blog post in 2017! It seems that most business owners can relate to the topic of wanting to find low cost and no cost tools to help their business run as efficiently and lean as possible. Check out what I use and recommend!

Read the original blog here.

#3 What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

I’ll be honest. When I chose a career in public relations, I really didn’t know what it was. I knew it required writing and communicating, which I love to do. However, there are some significant details about choosing a career in PR that no one told me. It’s likely they didn’t even know what this wild ride would include! So I’ve shared what I learned to hopefully educate some future passionate PR professionals.

Read the original blog here.

#2 Seven Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While owning your own business will provide you with a lot of advantages, there are a few things I know I’ll never have as a business owner. But it’s not all bad! Take a look at what you can expect to kiss goodbye whenever you take the entrepreneurial leap.

Read the original blog here.

#1 How to Create the Job You Want

And the number one blog post from 2017 on life an entrepreneurship was “How to Create the Job You Want!” I’m not surprised. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to take control of their career by creating their dream job? Yeah that sounds glamorous and easy and I caution you that it’s not. However, I share some useful and practical advice for taking the initial steps toward creating a job that you love to wake up to each day.

Read the original blog here.

Which of these top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship inspired you the most? What topics would you like to see me touch upon in 2018? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Entrepreneur at Age 30: Life’s About to Get Good

30

Today is my 30th birthday. To the vast majority of people, that milestone doesn’t change any aspect about your career. But for me it does. I started my public relations consulting business, Bennis Public Relations when I was 23 years old. In those first few months of stepping out on my own, I also started the blog that you’re reading now.

The most fitting tagline I could think of at the time for my blog was “The World As Told By a Twenty-Something Entrepreneur.” I didn’t know where this leap of faith would take me, so I was hardly worried about what would happen when this tagline was no longer true of me or my business. I just wanted to survive my first year of taxes!

Six and a half years later, I’ve done more than just survive. I’ve surprised myself in more ways than I can count, and I’m fortunate to say the entrepreneurial journey is the path I’m meant to be on for the rest of my foreseeable future. However, this year presents me with a unique challenge. I need to take a step back, reflect on how far I’ve come, and embrace a new mindset that progresses beyond the twenty-something entrepreneur I was when I first started the business.

Bennis Inc Old Tagline

Sure, I could keep things simple and update the decade to “thirty-something,” but what fun is that? Rather, I want to share with you the thought behind what will become my new tagline and my new mantra for my personal and professional brand. I want to pull back the curtain and give you insight into how I’ve developed and re-developed my business model over the years, how I’ve had to pivot, pause, leap and stretch.

Will you join me as I relive a little of my entrepreneurial “dance?”

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In the first year or so of starting my own business, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. By that I mean I learned to live lean! I canceled cable and internet and worked out a deal with my neighbor to share his WiFi so we both saved on cost. I took on odd jobs in my spare time to help make ends meet. I tightened my budget in a lot of creative ways, all for the reward of starting my own business.

I may have been young at the time, but I was wise beyond my years for doing this. A lot of people don’t want to sacrifice the little luxuries of right now for the ability to afford far greater luxuries in the future. My business was my baby and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to help it grow.

Using “Young” to My Advantage

Throughout my twenties, I felt like I needed to constantly prove to people that my age was an advantage. I’ve witnessed many businesses who simply like the idea of hiring an older PR consultant because they feel as though age alone qualifies someone as being more experienced and knowledgeable in their field. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was strategic about calling out my age and positioning it as one of my greatest strengths. In my biography, on my website and in client meetings I made sure to align my youth with the concept of new energy, innovation, fresh ideas, cutting-edge technology and a different way of thinking. Again and again, I was able to build confidence in my clients and win their business over other consultants who were easily twice my age.

Learning that Responsiveness is Unique

As I grew my business, I felt like I really hit a tipping point when I focused on providing quality, reliable service. It sounds so simple, but it was a huge point of differentiation for me. Being responsive to my clients and delivering good, fast service helped me to substantially grow my book of business.

These satisfied clients turned into ongoing retainers and also my best form of marketing. Nearly 90% of my clients are word of mouth recommendations in some form. That’s powerful! Not only do recommendations result in very qualified leads, these businesses tend to share the same values as my existing clients who are a pleasure to work with.

The bottom line: If you are responsive, attentive and reliable, you will instantly set yourself apart from the majority of other businesses out there! It’s a disappointing truth I have used to my advantage.

Increasing My Value, Increasing My Bandwidth

About two years in, I had built up a good book of residual business and my brand was growing. In order to continue to take on more clients I needed to do one of two things. I needed to raise my prices or hire employees. I had no interest in splitting profits and managing employees, so I needed to re-evaluate my rates to determine what was fair to both me and my clients. It’s a delicate balance. If you charge too little for your time, you’ll have plenty of business but still be dissatisfied with your earnings. If you charge too much for your time, you’ll turn away good customers. And the customers who do hire you at this premium price will want the moon and the stars. So how did I manage this?

Every year my hourly rate goes up by $5. This becomes my new base rate for all new clients. For existing clients, I honor the rate I gave them when they initially signed into their contract. So long as they maintain or increase their level of services with me, they get the benefit of this rate. If they choose to pause or decrease services, their new contract will be at my current market rate. Make sense?

By implementing this new policy, I was able to give my loyal clients the benefit of great rates that aren’t arbitrarily raised on them each and every year. That’s way better than a box of chocolates at Christmas! In return, they give me the benefit of consistent business. My annual $5/hour raise covers inflation and the growing demand for my services that keeps me at market rate.

Forming Strategic Partnerships

By 2015, I found a whole new untapped potential for my business and that was strategic partnerships. Through my network, I was introduced to an advertising agency, media firm and government relations firm, all of whom are now my strategic partners on an ongoing basis. How it works is that I am often called upon to offer my public relations services to their clients as an enhancement to the services they provide. They pay me (directly) by the hour or by the project and their client in turn pays them. For some of my partners, I use their business’s email address and business cards, giving them the benefit of the appearance of a larger in-house staff. For others, they prefer me to work with all clients directly, under my name and entity. Both work for me!

Through my strategic partnerships, I am able to work with huge corporations and associations that I could never tackle alone. When we combine our resources and expertise, we provide a full menu of services that directly compete against the region’s largest agencies that have way more red tape and overhead. It’s the best of both worlds for our clients: they get everything they want under one “roof” at a highly competitive rate. And it’s the best of both worlds for my partners and me: I get a constant stream of new work at my market rate and they get to make a little off the top.

Refining My Sales Process

For many consultants, the hardest part of growing a business is refining the sales process so that it’s efficient and consistent. Personally, it was for me. I would struggle to leave a client consultation with a clear path for how to proceed. How do I structure the proposal? What if the client wants to haggle prices? It wasn’t until about the last year or so when I finally felt like I had a clear sales process that allowed me to craft quick proposals that resulted in signed contracts in a matter of a few days.

I recently outlined a lot of my tips for achieving this. Now I leave client meetings in control of the next step and with the promise to deliver a proposal to them the same-day. If you choose to embrace a similar sales process to mine, you will be amazed by how much time and energy you were putting into proposals that simply didn’t need it. If anything, all that extra “fluff” was a distraction from what you were really trying to sell them. Trust me on this one.

Planning for the Future

What does the future hold for me? I’m a PR consultant not a fortune teller, how should I know? But in all seriousness, I do have a strategic plan for my future and that’s to continue to forge more large-scale partnerships with other businesses who want to offer their clients the service of public relations and strategic communications. I plan to selectively work with fewer, but larger clients who are on annual and quarterly retainers. I plan to continue to take on one-time projects as I desire as a means to help small businesses grow. And I plan to cut back to a 3-day work week, when reasonable, and enjoy more time spent on vacation and with my family.

It’s beyond measure the amount of hard work, drive and sacrifice it’s taken to get me to this point, but at the same time I feel I was also in the right place at the right time for much of this to happen. As the philosophical saying tells us, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I suppose this quite rightly sums up my entrepreneurial journey thus far.

Having shared with you some of the most significant moments I’ve experienced in my career as a “twenty-something entrepreneur,” I now want to share with you my new blog tagline as I enter this next decade of life.

Passionately Communicating My Entrepreneurial Journey

 

This new tagline will suit me for the rest of my life. I’m passionate about communicating, in every form you can imagine. My blog is just one way in which I can give you a window into my entrepreneurial journey which I plan to be on for a long time.

Though it’s bittersweet to close the chapter on my twenties, a time in which I took risks, hustled hard and learned a lot about myself, I realize that I plan to keep doing exactly that in my thirties….forties….fifties…you get the idea.

Whether this is your first visit to the Bennis Inc. blog, or you’re one of my loyal subscribers, thank you for being here and stay tuned. Life’s about to get good!

How to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

How to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

So your business has done something awesome. Maybe you’ve set a new record, received an award, given back to the community or opened a new location. You want to get credit for your good work, but you’re not sure how to get anyone to pay attention. What can you do?

The good news is there are a lot of ways in which you can promote your business using public relations. Here’s a look at the top 6 PR tactics I recommend using when you want to promote your business, or even you – personally!

Press Release

Not everything is worthy of a press release. I mean, you can still put the time and effort into sending one out but the media is not really going to care unless your news is deemed interesting to their readers. Be strategic with the angle of your press release. Be sure to clearly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” that readers will likely have. If your business received an award, great! But why should anyone else care. That’s what you need to focus on if you want your press release to get picked up.

Letter to the Editor

Unlike a press release, writing a letter to the editor is an opportunity to share your opinion. You must be factual, but you can also add your personal insights. You can use a letter to the editor to promote your business indirectly, yet still effectively. Keep a lookout for recent news or events that relate to your industry. Offer your advice or bring to attention a larger issue impacting your community. Most importantly, you will be given a byline, which you should be sure includes your business’s name and website.

Guest Column

Contributing to a guest column is another great way to gain media attention for your business. Your writing will be published in the main news sections, which is an advantage over letters to the editor or op-ed pieces which can sometimes get buried. Some outlets openly welcome guest contributors and post their rules for submission on their website. Others are less clear. You should reach out to reporters who regularly cover your industry or area of expertise. Most importantly, be sure you provide high quality content and are timely with your responses. If you can build a relationship with a reporter, you will have the opportunity to contribute again and again.

Media Pitch

If you have something really newsworthy to promote, consider reaching out to reporters and pitching them your story. If you can earn a live feature story at your place of business, this is a highly valuable marketing opportunity! Now, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to make sure your pitch is clear and compelling. Again, be sure to answer the “What’s in it for me?” by making it obvious how your story impacts their audience.

Public Speaking

You don’t need to be a polished public speaker to make this PR tactic work for your business. If you have a compelling story to share, maybe it’s how you’ve grown your business or how you’re giving back to the community, you can promote your business and its work through public speaking. Think of local clubs and organizations that often have featured speakers. Reach out to them and pitch the idea of having you as their next guest speaker. Getting in front of your local community is a great way to grow your presence, and grow your business as a result.

Case Studies

If absolutely nothing else, you can always promote your business through case studies. Do you have an exceptional customer story to share? Has your products or services drastically improved someone’s life? Writing case studies for such examples will help to illustrate what your business does. You can then take these case studies and promote them on your website, social media, e-mail newsletters and by sharing them with specific potential customers who can relate to them. The best thing about case studies is that you’re not relying on the media or someone else to make sure they get published – you’re in control of how and where they are promoted!

Which of these tactics do you see most valuable for promoting your business? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

How to Be Your Own News Source (Guest Blog by Beth Ann Matkovich)

The following post comes to us from Beth Ann Matkovich, a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. Please see her complete byline at the end of the article and learn how to connect with Beth Ann!


How to Be Your Own News Source

Let’s face it, not every business or industry has a compelling story to tell.

When markets started turning south in 2008, the president of our firm called a meeting and asked us to brainstorm ways that we could generate income outside of our typical revenue stream. Social media was just coming into popularity, so I suggested that we monetize our intelligence. As the market was falling and things began to move ever slower, I proposed that we share our intelligence with clients and prospects to establish ourselves as industry leaders during the downtime, so that when the recession passed, we would be top of mind when our clients and prospects needed our services.

The Power of Content Marketing

But with no “news” or stories to share, how can companies become their own news outlet? The answer is easy: content marketing. Simply put, content marketing puts you in front of your current and potential clients.

Whether you offer a product or a service, or are a B2B or B2C organization, your knowledge is your product. According to an oral presentation given by Tyler Bouldin, Senior Web Strategy Manager at WebpageFX, the benefits of sharing your knowledge are many:

  • It establishes you and/or your company as a subject matter expert.
  • It establishes you and/or your company as an industry leader.
  • It engages readers and gains followers.
  • It improves retention.
  • It can turn leads into prospects.
  • It fills potential gaps in the sales process.

Start with These Key Questions

But before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to create your content, Bouldin notes that it’s important to identify who you want to reach. Is it existing clients? New prospects? Others? After you identify your audience, describe who they are by creating a persona. Are members of your audience men, women, or both? How old are they? Where are they located? What is their education and income level? What are the pain points that you can address or resolve for them?

The last point is critical, as it is the foundation of your content. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Yes, content marketing is intended to ultimately bring in sales. But the purpose of developing content is to inform your audience and share valuable information. By educating your readers, you become a trusted source of information. Content marketing is not a one-way pushy sales pitch.

Have a Clear Focus for your Content

So what should you write about? According to Bouldin, that question can be answered with another question: What do you know about that will interest your readers? Back to square one, right? Wrong. Consider what changes are taking place in your industry and how it impacts your audience—and most of all—how you can help. What do you do or offer that no one else does or that differentiates you from others? What are your clients’ most frequently asked questions?

Plan Ahead

After you’ve identified your topics, create a plan for sharing your content. Creating a content calendar is a helpful way to visualize what content is posted where, and to schedule topics accordingly around other or related topics or events. Having a plan also offers a checklist of sorts to ensure that the work gets done.

Success is in Promotion

So you’ve identified your audience and topics, written your content, and created a plan to share it. Now get out there and promote it! Bouldin notes that if your company or organization doesn’t already have a blog, create one. This is an ideal venue for your content.

Be sure to share and promote your blog on social media. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when considering social media platforms. You likely won’t attract many 55+ business professionals on Snapchat, so make sure your message is appropriate for the platform and its audience.

You can also create an e-newsletter to get your content directly to your audience. Online tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are popular platforms that can help you track engagement so that you can see who is opening your newsletter and when, and allow you to adjust send times and content as appropriate. For extra mileage, share your expertise with industry trade publications and blogs.

Measure, Adjust and Refine Your Efforts

If incoming calls and foot traffic don’t show the success of your content marketing efforts, get out your measuring tools. Google analytics can give a good overview of your content’s performance and allow you to drill down into pages, users, engagement, and bounce rates.

Just like any other marketing tactic, content marketing is not a once-and-done deal. After creating and sharing your content, measure your message’s effectiveness and start again. Keeping your message in front of your audience will keep you and your organization ahead of your competition and establish you as a valued news source for your readers.

Have you used content marketing to position your business as an industry leader on a particular topic? What strategies did you find to be most successful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!


P Beth Ann McCoy (2)About the Author: Beth Ann McCoy is a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. She has broad experience with small, non-profit organizations, large international corporations and everything in between. She has written short and long-form content for local and global publications including Harrisburg Magazine, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, World Pipelines, and Water and Wastewater International, among others. Beth Ann welcomes new opportunities and can be reached at bmatkovich@hotmail.com.

5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who transitioned from a corporate HR career into freelance writing. In this article, she shares her insights on helping employees cope with grief.


5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief

pablo-varela-311608Grieving a deceased loved one is one of the most unbearable things that a person can go through, and it’s even harder to cope with the loss when you have to be at work. In the U.S., workers typically get two to three days off for funeral leave, but according to experts, workers need at least a week to deal with their grief, apart from the logistics that surround a death and burial. Even more troubling is the fact that only 57% of small businesses with staff under 100 employees provide funeral leave. Organizations must recognize the fact that grieving workers need to be given enough time to cope with their loss. Moreover, companies should find ways to help and support their employees during this difficult time.

The effects of grief

According to a study, 75% of mourners said that their ability to concentrate in the workplace has been affected. And while grieving employees may turn up for work after their bereavement leave, these employees are more likely to make poor decisions, put workplace safety at risk, and supervise ineffectively. It’s also common for grieving workers to have difficulty concentrating, become socially isolated from their co-workers, and have lower productivity. For all these reasons, it’s imperative that companies should help their employees cope with the death of a loved one. Not only will it help to ease some of the worker’s personal burden, but it’s also better for the organization as a whole. Here are some tips on how to help and support your employee who’s coping with grief.

Offer an effective bereavement policy

A good bereavement policy includes paid leave for up to a week, extended unpaid leave, and vacation leave. Find out how much paid leave your company can offer and make sure to take into account the cultural differences, as some mourning traditions may take some time.

Don’t rush your employee to get back to work

There is no specific time frame as to when grief ends, so you will have to be flexible with regards to this situation. Ask your employee if they need more time to mourn and offer other work arrangements such as telecommuting or job sharing during this time. It’s important for them to get back into a well-balanced lifestyle and process their grief so when they come back they are truly ready to give 100% for the company again.

Acknowledge the fact that your employee is grieving

Let your employee know that you are sorry for his or her loss. Offer your support during this difficult time and ask if there’s anything you can possibly do to help. Assure the worker that everything is fine at work and that his job is secure and his duties are being looked after.

Create a culture of respect

Ask the grieving employee whether he or she would like you to speak to the team about the loss. Make sure that the team members are not gossiping about the situation, as this can be offensive and stressful.

Offer support

Help your grieving employee to get grief counseling once he or she returns to work. You should also encourage team members to offer their support and thank them for their efforts to support their colleague.

The grieving process can be difficult for any worker, but building a caring and supportive working environment can do a lot as your employee learns to cope with grief. With an effective bereavement policy, you will  help your employees properly cope with grief and sooner return to their job ready to re-engage.

What is your company’s bereavement policy? How could this policy be improved to offer more support to grieving employees? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

How to Create the Job You Want

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Now entering my seventh year of managing my own Public Relations firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I’ve learned quite a few things about creating the job you want.

I was fortunate to have the realization early on in my career that my dream job didn’t exist. If I wanted it, I had to create it. So I did. That sounds simple enough, but I will be the first to tell you it was anything but simple or easy. That’s not a reason to continue with a job you dislike, if anything it should be motivation to buckle up for the wild ride of entrepreneurship, if you feel this is your calling.

Maybe you’re ready to take the leap, or maybe you’ve only just begun to wonder what being an entrepreneur could look like for you. No matter where you are on the journey, let me offer you some advice on how to begin creating the job you want.

Confirm it doesn’t already exist

Do your research! Does the job you want already exist? It’s possible your current company or another company offer a role that’s close to exactly what you want, but you just need to work to get there. That’s great! Establish a plan for how you you’re going to move toward this role. There’s no need to take on the added stress and complication of trying to recreate your dream job if it already exists.

In contrast, your research might confirm that your dream job is something so unique you must forge ahead as an entrepreneur to create it. Knowing that no other job currently out there matches the job you want should give you inspiration and drive to move forward with the career of self-employment, because not doing so would mean compromising your dreams.

Get real about what you want

Okay, so you have a clear understanding of whether the job you want already exists or whether you need to create it. Now it’s time to be honest with yourself about what makes this job so appealing to you. Is it the expected pay, flexible work schedule, power, purpose, fulfillment or something else? If in this process you discover the job you want is really centered on a perceived salary or title, this should be a red flag that maybe your priorities are a bit skewed.

Entering entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, or the mildly committed. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must want it with every fiber of your being. You will never stick with it long term, through the highs and lows, if you’re only in it for the pay or power – those don’t come for many years, if at all. Get real about what you want out of your dream job and check your priorities again and again.

Then, get real about why you want it

Similar to the point above, once you know what it is you want out of the job you’re going to create, take it one step further. Ask yourself “Why do I want it?” If you can’t confidently answer this question, that’s another red flag that maybe you’re not cut out to forge your own career path outside of the corporate box.

While there are no “correct” answers to this question, the following answers are often good indicators that you’re entering entrepreneurship for the right reasons: I want to make a difference; I want to control my own destiny; I want to apply my passion toward a purpose; I want to maintain a better work-life balance. Be crystal clear about what you want out of your dream job and why you want it.

Talk with someone who has already done it

Next, I urge you to talk to someone who has created the job they wanted and have progressed along this career path for five years or more. They are going to be a wealth of knowledge to you as you consider creating the job you want. They can also help assess your business model, motives and drive to help determine if this is the right choice for you at this time in your life. If you find someone who really inspires you, ask them to mentor you on your entrepreneurial journey!

Develop your model

To create the job you want, you need a clear business model for how you’re going to make a profit. Are you selling a product or a service? Who are your target customers? How will you promote your business? What is your expected overhead? How can you minimize this, especially in the first few years? Work to clearly outline your business model, because you’re going to need it for the next critical step.

Test your model

Yes, you have to first test your business model to prove it works. A lot of business opportunities seem great in theory, but what if you’re answering a problem that doesn’t exist? Or what if you’re pricing model sucks? Fully commit to creating the job you want by fist doing a soft launch of your business to test the market. Is your marketing strategy attracting new customers? Can your friends or family offer constructive feedback? First testing your business model, and further refining it before your full rollout will help you present a more professional and polished first impression of your business.

Commit fully

This is the most important step in creating the job you want, and the biggest determination of whether you will fail or succeed. Will you commit fully to your dream? I said it above and I’ll say it again, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Daily you will experience, setbacks, uncertainties, crises, losses and criticism. If you are anything but fully committed, this will surely have you headed for the hills and back to the corporate world before you complete your first quarter.

Keep in mind that the first five years of running your own business is still its infancy. That seems like a long time, but if you’re in this for the long-haul it will be only a blip of the full history of your career. Don’t allow yourself to give up in those five years; push through. Think of it as a hike up a steep hill. Those first few miles really test your endurance. At times you will think it’s better to turn around before you’ve reached the top. But I promise you, if you can make it five years creating the job you want, you will see some magnificent views along the way and be rewarded with renewed strength and commitment to keep forging ahead, higher and higher.

What’s your dream job? How do you plan to pursue it? Share your personal career goals by leaving a comment.

Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

Blogging is more than just a popular pastime, it’s becoming an increasingly important part of brand building and business development. Whether you’ve committed to a daily, weekly or monthly blog, regularly fueling its appetite with quality content can feel like a looming task on your to-do list.

So often we don’t stay consistent with publishing to a blog because we feel it’s too time consuming. Before you throw in the towel – and risk losing all the benefits of your blog – begin with these tips for writing better, faster blog posts. The easier and less time consuming this tasks becomes, the more likely you are to find a good routine and stick to it!

Let’s take a look…

Keep a running list of potential blog topics

It can be challenging when you know you need to write a blog post, but you simply don’t have any ideas come to mind. You may waste valuable minutes trying to come up with a topic that doesn’t motivate you to write and the result is a painful writing process that leaves you frustrated and drained. Overcome this hurdle by keeping a running list of potential blog topics. You never know when an idea will strike you, but it’s not likely to be during an ideal moment to sit down and write. Throw the topic into a word doc and then come back to it when you’re prepared to take on this task.

Save a folder of photos and quotes for inspiration

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. You don’t even need to have a particular topic in mind, but so long as a photo or quote sparks your creativity, it’s worth keeping in a folder for future use. Then, when you’re ready to write, browse through this folder and see what new ideas come to mind. I love pulling from quotes for inspiration. Most importantly, take a new spin on a quote to make the blog post original.

Start with the title and closing question

Staring at a blank word doc can be enough to signal anyone’s writer’s block. Once I open a new document, I immediately slap a headline up there and also write the closing question (you’ll see these at the end of every blog post I write). This gives me an immediate sense of productivity and also helps to set the tone of my blog.

Outline your sub headlines

Once you have a main headline, continue to outline the core pieces of your blog post with the sub headlines that shape the flow of your article. Many of my posts are lists of some sort, so I use this step to establish how long my list will be and what it will include. This helps me to visualize the full scope of the blog post and ensure I’m not missing any major components.

Leave your intro for last

You read that right. I’m suggesting you write everything else about your blog post then go back and do your introduction. This may seem backwards, but once you do it a few times you’ll see the major time-saving benefit. Once you have written all the other content within your article, you will have a better understanding of how to “preview” your main points in the introduction. Starting here cold will take you much more time to gather your thoughts, plus what you write may not even be relevant by the time you are done shaping the rest of the blog.

Write it all out, then proof read

For this particular technique of “speed writing a blog post,” you don’t want to take any more breaks than is necessary. I know I’m personally guilty of stopping after reach paragraph to proof read my work before moving it. This is a sneaky procrastination trick that we often don’t know we are doing. My rule of thumb for pumping out a quick blog post is to write everything out as it comes to mind and then switch to my editor’s hat and proof read the entire article at once. This is much better for efficiency and should also result in better overall editing.

Write several blog posts at once, when the mood is right

If you find yourself particularly inspired or with a good chunk of time to dive into writing, don’t stop with one blog post! Keep writing as many as you can. Once your writing muscle is warmed up, it’s a great opportunity to stock pile some blog posts for the future. Pay attention to when your creativity and quality of writing may start to wane and call it quits for the day. But push yourself a little further to write more than what you were planning, should you have the motivation.

Short and sweet works for everyone!

Finally and most importantly, avoid the pitfall of making writing a blog post into a far more daunting task than it needs to be. I, too, can get longwinded at times and before I know it I have wasted 2 hours on a blog post that should have only taken me 45 minutes to complete. The end result is a longer, but not necessarily better article. I actively try to get my thoughts out in a paragraph or two per sub headline. If I find I want to dig deeper into that particular topic, I note it as a potential blog post of its own in the future. Trust me, everyone will appreciate a short and sweet blog post that gets straight to the point!

Do you struggle to write quick and quality blog posts that don’t consume too much of your time? Share your challenges by commenting below and I’ll personally offer you an answer!