Quiet Time–The White Space of Life


It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic moments of the holidays. Between parties, shopping, letter-writing, and the usual chores and errands of daily life, it seems that none of us ever has time to sit and reflect.

Now that we’ve made it through the gift exchanges, meals with relatives and shopping the clearance sales, we’re in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Many companies close down this week, knowing that people can’t concentrate on starting the business year without a healthy dose of down time.  For those of us who don’t have that perk, we know it’s time to clean our offices, clean out our email and voicemail boxes and throw away the detritus from another year.

Something else happens during this week.  This lull in the action always allows me to let go of the immediate and let my sub-conscious bubble up to the surface.   In just a day I’ve realized how I want to direct my business next year as well as what I want to focus on personally and professionally.

While this happens every year at this time, I’m always amazed that some of the issues that I’m struggling with seem so clear when the daily press of life slows for a while.  The quiet time is like white space in my life, allowing the truly important to finally displace the immediate–and often irrelevant matters.


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Sage Marketing Quote

The biggest mistake we see companies make when they first hit twitter is to think about it as a channel to push out information.

–Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein

Co-Authors, The Twitter Book

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Year In Review–Themes vs To Dos

If you haven’t read Chris Gillebeau’s ‘The Art of Non-Conformity” blog, look at a few of his posts and see if each one doesn’t cause you to pause and think about your life in a different light.  As I was reading his latest post, I decided to do my own year-end review and make it public, as Chris is doing with his “2011 Year in Review: Looking Back” series: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/2011-annual-review-looking-back/

First off, I never make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do make Business and Marketing Plans and I’m in inveterate list-maker in all areas of my life: business and personal.  I find it easier to make “resolutions” as I go along during the year after I have some epiphany that guides me to writing down a new direction.

In 2011, I decided to try something different and frame my year around themes, rather than individual items on my “to do” lists.  My husband has previously themed his years around “having more fun” or “connecting more with nature,” so I thought I’d give it a try.

There were three themes I chose for my personal life: travel, creativity through fiber projects and moving from my long-time passion of gardening to working more with native plants.  I was more successful than I hoped on the first and third themes and did virtually nothing on the second.  Maybe three personal themes are too many with a nascent entrepreneurial business?

For my marketing consulting business, my two themes were to exceed and delight my current clients’ expectations and be more selective in taking on new clients–for their sakes and mine!  In assessing the outcomes, I would give both these themes mixed reviews.

After I took on new clients, I realized this year that I can’t take projects at face value.  What clients said they needed, most often was not the work they truly needed to be successful.  It has become a process to peel the layers of a brand’s current situation and discover what was missing, not what the proposal said that I was going to deliver.

In terms of evaluating what I could offer a client and agreeing to projects with those that I think I can help, I’ve become far more discerning, but still not batting a thousand.  Many startup entrepreneurs that I met with this year had focused on the product offering, then the operational aspects of their company.  As an afterthought, these new entrepreneurs believed that marketing could come in at the end of the process and fix any problems that they had overlooked.  It was painful to explain that when the customer and her/his needs are not the product focus from the inception, there may not be a market nor a target audience, no matter how great the visionary thinks the product might be.

All in all, I like the theme versus accomplishment list approach to a new year.  Specifics always change, but if the theme or goal is kept top-of-mind, I’ve found that success will follow.

What’s ahead for next year?  Chris mentions doing something that matters with his business and life.  I think we can all relate to this.  This will be a clear theme for me for the remainder of my career, as I decide how to guide my business and my talents.  I’d like to take all that I’ve learned over a long marketing career, combine it with personal interests and come up with a legacy job or focus in the next few years.  Any ideas out there?


Thanks, Chris Gillebeau, for your continuing inspiration!


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Sage Marketing Quote

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.  By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

–Steve Jobs

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Everyone Needs to Be a Problem Solver

The radio show was about creativity and how to be creative in the workplace.  The woman being interviewed was talking about the creative qualities she looks for in employees when she said: “…everyone needs to be a problem solver.”

How simple, yet how profound.

Lately I’ve ben grumbling with family and colleagues about how the economy is sabotaging business and personal life, or Congress should do this and the Post Office should do that. While discussion is part of solving problems, deliberation can get stuck and spiral downward into arguing, disapproval then stagnation.

A simple statement about being a problem solver, rather than a:


one who plays the Blame Game,

a Victim;

urged me to take the talk to a higher level from disapproval to answer.

Now more than ever, with no “normal” to rely on in everyday life, everyone needs to be their own problem solver.


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Sage Marketing Quote

To undertake a major new initiative, you’ve got to let go of something else.  There are only so many hours in a day.  What will you alter or no longer do so you can make the most of the new activity you want to pursue? And you can’t say, “I’ll sleep less.”

–Michael McLaughlin

Editor, Management Consulting News

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The Most Powerful Marketing Words for Your Business

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”   –Mark Twain You know how difficult it is to find exactly the right terminology. Even Mark Twain knew over a century ago that  just the right words make all the difference. While marketing your business and brand, terminology can make a crucial difference in customer perception of who you are.  Several brands have changed their names so that your impression of them would shift.  Did they succeed?

  • The Shack vs. Radio Shack
  • Starbucks vs. Starbucks Coffee
  • Altrea vs. Phillip Morris
  • Xe Services vs. Blackwater Worldwide

This week’s Advertising Age magazine had an article that attributes the record-breaking Black Friday weekend retail sales not to price-cutting, but landing on the right marketing message.  It seems that consumers expect stores to have the lowest prices.  Now it’s about permission to buy, finely crafted into tag lines.  So once again, the right message with the right attitude drove record retail sales.  Are there secret words that convince someone to open their pocketbooks now and throughout the year? When I researched the most powerful words in the English language, they read like those lists of “Everything I needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  The “Seven Most Powerful Words” according to one website are:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Please
  • Thanks
  • Help
  • Stop
  • Sorry

I think many of us learned those words before kindergarden. Then I looked at a Yale study that defined the “10 Most Powerful Words” that motivate people.  This list has been widely circulated for advertising, marketing and sales applications.  This list starts with:

  • You and continues with
  • Results
  • Health
  • Guarantee
  • Discover
  • Love
  • Proven
  • Safety
  • Save
  • New

This list gets a little closer to choosing the right category of words that we as marketers should be focused on as we craft key messages for our brands and product lines.  The blog Copyblogger brought me a little closer to what I think should be our focus as marketing/communications professionals.  In a blog posted a couple years ago, Brian Clark claimed that there were two important words for blogging: You and Because.  You can read his article by clicking here:  The Two Most Important Words in Blogging. It’s obvious if we think about it that “you” appeals to the reader.  So many Brand Teams forget that a company-centric view of their product is chest-puffing.  The consumer doesn’t want to know why the company thinks its products or services are so special or differentiated, they want to know the WIFM: What’s In It For ME? The “because” word in blogging, and in marketing in general, is the part that answers the WIFM question.  “Because” terminology gives the customer the reasons the product solves his/her problem. If you remember only one thing from this article, it’s to market your brand from the point-of-view of the consumer.  Figure out the consumer problem, then address your target audience with your brand’s solution. And never forget that the right verbiage is always in the second person: You.   Photo Credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum

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Sage Marketing Quote

Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content & enthusiasm & ideas about how to solve that problem.

Laura Fitton

Founder, oneforty.com

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“Why Waste a Good Crisis?”

This magazine article stopped me mid page-flip.  I was reading an onboard airline publication, and the article by Leani Wessels on “Wandering Workers,” dealing with flextime, seemed interesting.  But the real show-stopper for me was the small, inset photo of Finweek magazine whose story on the current economic market crisis was titled “Why Waste a Good Crisis?”

More than a couple years ago, I decided to be an independent marketing consultant.  Since then, I’ve noticed that the economic doldrums have caused many, many of my clients and potential clients to “hunker down.” They’ve stopped spending on any “unnecessary” marketing programs.  In some cases, they’ve shut down their marketing functions altogether and laid off their entire marketing staff.

Instead of exploring, creating and innovating their way out of economic stagnation, these companies have decided to put their heads in the sand and wait until things get better.

Get better–what does that mean?  Many analysts and prognosticators are saying that there is no “normal” to go back to with our economy.  Other, more dire predictors, are saying that there isn’t even any “new normal.” If all the old ways of doing business have been swept away, then how will not spending, not changing or waiting for “the right moment” work in this brave new business world?

Instead of “wasting a good crisis,” perhaps the best thing we can all do is to develop tools, strategies and coping mechanisms to help us survive and thrive in uncertain times.

By the way, the name of the airline whose publication I was reading is: 1Time Airline.   With the perception they’re creating with an airline named “one time,” maybe they need some marketing help…???



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Sage Marketing Quote

Bring the best of your authentic self to every opportunity.

–John Jantsch,

Duct Tape Marketing

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