Why I Welcome the New Anti-Spam Law

BYE SPAM!

As most of you know- there is a new anti- spam legislation coming into effect on July 1st. This law is set to protect people from unwanted electronic messages (spam).

For those of you who are unfamiliar- I quote the Government of Canada’s website:

“Once the law is in force, it will help to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.

When the new law is in force, it will generally prohibit the:

  •  sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent (permission), including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone;
  •  alteration of transmission data in an electronic message which results in the message being delivered to a different destination without express consent;
  •  installation of computer programs without the express consent of the owner of the computer system or its agent, such as an authorized employee;
  •  use of false or misleading representations online in the promotion of products or services;
  •  collection of personal information through accessing a computer system in violation of federal law (e.g. the Criminal Code of Canada); and
  •  collection of electronic addresses by the use of computer programs or the use of such addresses, without permission (address harvesting).”

 

Pretty scary, right? After all- we have become so reliant on digital communication! Which is why I am OK with this law. Not because I get spammed a lot- because I actually don’t- but because I think this marks a tipping point for business communication.

People hide behind computers, email, text- no one calls anymore and frankly, I am starting to think that people are forgetting what it means to be involved in HUMAN interaction. People aren’t being forced to think and use their brains in one-on-one situations/conversations- they are able to mull over what they will say and how they will respond. I think this generation of communicators will thank this law for forcing them to lift their eyes from their Smartphone long enough to personally/face-to-face network and make a sale.

Rather than mass electronic communications- we will receive tailored packages that we actually WANT to receive. Mail in our inbox, direct messages, and social media- wherever- will have meaning again! We won’t just assume that it’s junk… maybe…? I think that this will add a personal touch to digital, if that makes sense.

I am also excited about print making a comeback. I love printed material! I love physical marketing pieces I love the process of designing them. The feeling of the box of flyers being delivered and opening it up like “YES, they are here!” and holding them in your hand and feeling the real sense of pride for your creation. Of course you are proud of your e-blast… but do me a favor, print it out and hold it. Does your pride go up a notch? Or am I crazy…

People are saying that this will hit small businesses the hardest- and I agree when it comes to updating (expensive) technology that will assist with consent of digital communication, but I also think that this could help knock businesses down to a fair(er) playing field. Start-ups don’t have the resources to design out of this world digital pieces to stand out in the sea of email marketing and social media buzz. Start ups don’t have a team of researchers to search for and collect contact information all day, and they can’t afford to buy the email lists that are circulating- yep, that happens, folks. Small businesses are known for their guerilla marketing, their personal touches and their one-on-one, so I think overall they are used to relying on themselves more than computers!

I honestly think that although this law will require us to make an adjustment, that it should be a welcomed change. If you can’t welcome it? At least pretend to- because it’s coming!

What are your thoughts? Share them below. I want your take on this!

To learn about this new and upcoming legislation, visit: http://fightspam.gc.ca/

 

How to Write a Business Plan

Writing a Business Plan.

The great business plan debate- is it necessary? Is it a waste of time?

Some may say yes- times have changed and to a certain degree- I agree. What I don’t agree with is phasing them out completely. It is a great referral document for you to have on hand and if you ever look into getting bank loans or obtaining outside investors? You should have this available for reference.

I believe that the real significance of creating a business plan is not the finished product in hand or who you submit it to; rather, the value lies in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a methodical way. You do not have to complete the sections in order- but I recommend completing your executive summary last. Remember that this is a living guide that you should develop as your business grows and changes.

Below are the sections that you should include in your plan.

Executive Summary

Explain the basics of your business:  What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?

Company Description

What business will you be in? What will you do? What is your legal form of ownership (sole proprietor?) Include your mission statement, company goals and objectives: business philosophy, your industry, target market… your company strengths and weaknesses.

Products and Services

Describe your products or services. What factors will give you competitive advantages or disadvantages? What are the pricing structures of your products or services?

Marketing & Advertising Plan

Your marketing plan details how you intend to meet your customers’ needs and communicate the benefits of your products or services to them. You want to identify your target market and their needs and wants. Research your competitions strengths and weaknesses and think of how to position your brand, products and services so that your target market sees your business as better than, or different from, the competition.

Complete a S.W.O.T analysis and include it. (Download a free template HERE.)
Outline the budget and what avenues you think will work best for getting your message across.

Operational Plan

Explain the daily operation of the business, its location, equipment, people and processes. How and where are your products or services produced? How will you handle customer service, quality control, returns/refunds? How will you be storing your inventory? (If any), will you need to ship anything to your customers/suppliers?

Your Internal Organization

Who will run your business? Who is their backup should something happen to them? How many employees will you have? What experience will your employees need to bring to your business? How will you hire them? What benefits will you offer? What training do they need? How will you track their attendance and performance? How will you pay them?

Personal Finances

Show your assets and liabilities held outside the business and personal net worth.

Startup Expenses Planning and Forecasting

Estimate your expenses accurately and then to plan where you will get sufficient capital. It is best to overestimate than under. Consider all your startup expenses such as: legal work, logo design, business cards, brochures and marketing material, web site design, office supplies and furniture etc.

Financial Plan

This is what will ultimately tell you whether or not you are going to waste your time. Remember to BE REALISTIC when entering your numbers.

This section was/is the trickiest for me to explain- because it’s so important I found a handy template online- it was created by The Commonwealth Bank and it helps give you an idea of what you are looking at! Download the free template by clicking this link: Financial Plan Template by Commonwealth Bank

Also think about whether or not you plan on offering any credit to your customers- and how you will manage that.

Appendices

Keep track of the information that you used to come to your business plan conclusions. There is a lot of information in one document so it’s easy to forget sources! Even a copy/paste of the links will suffice.

So there you have it! Your business plan.

Take your time and enjoy this process- you will learn a lot about your business and yourself!

ATTENDING A TRADE SHOW: HOW TO ENSURE THE MAXIMUM BENEFITS

tradeshow

Do you get the most out of the trade show’s you attend? Do you leave satisfied? Are you inspired? Have you met at LEAST one person via networking that you feel like you can collaborate with at some point?

If the answer is ‘No’ then we have some work to do.

Trade shows, when chosen correctly, are an opportunity for you to gain valuable trade show experience, knowledge, product exposure and trends, they can help spark your creative and can align you with like-minded professionals.  “When chosen correctly” being key. You can’t expect to meet an apple at an orange fair… catch my drift?

Choose trade shows that are relevant in your industry. Local trade shows are great to connect with vendors (and potential clients) in your area, but if you have to travel for a well-known show (and have it in your budget) then do your research and consider the advantages- if any. You need to choose trade shows that will help you reach your business goals! If your goal is more sales? Choose a show that will feature new products for you to offer! If your goal is to scope out the competition? Do your research and make sure they are attending. If you simply want to network? Choose a show that is offering seminars and breakout room speakers. Like anything in business, do your research and make sure it fits.

So you know what show(s) you want to attend but don’t know how to make the most of them? Here are some tips to help you out:

Pre-register

  • You will get updates on the show. You should also follow the show using their social media outlets to stay up to date.
  • You might even save a few bucks if you’re an early bird

Have an objective for attending

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How will you measure the return on your investment?

Bring business cards

  • You would be surprised how easily that is overlooked

Take other people’s business cards

  • Make notes on them. Bring a fine point sharpie to write the notes on the cards because some people still feel the need to gloss both sides and your regular pen won’t write on it. No your pen isn’t broken… it just can’t write on gloss.

Know who is exhibiting and plan out who you want to spend the most time with and start with them.

  •  If the show starts at 10am? Be there at 10am. Fashionably late doesn’t work very well when you want to absorb their morning enthusiasm. Also make sure that the vendors don’t work by appointment- if they do? Then make one in advance.
  • Download a map of the trade show floor- it should be found on their site
  • Think of what you want to ask who- having your questions prepared in advance will ensure you don’t miss anything
  • Even though you are going in with a hit-list? Don’t forget about the little guys. Startups can surprise you and their hunger can’t usually be matched by corporate. They need your business and (sometimes- I don’t want to say always and you hold me to it!) they will work hard to keep it.

If you are attending with colleagues

  • Split up to gain more ground and fill each other in. This also goes for seminars. Spilt the sessions and gather as much information as you can.
  • Don’t be a “free seminar” snob. Take advantage of them. Just because YOU THINK you know everything there is on a subject? Chances are you don’t and will learn at least one new thing.

If you are attending a multi-day trade show

  • Book close to the venue. You will appreciate the ability to move back and forth easily- whether it is to rest, review and recoup? Or to simply unload information. Maybe you don’t want to lug around every piece of info with you all day.

Remember that trade shows aren’t open 24 hours.

  • Use your time wisely- even if it’s spread out over a couple days- use your time wisely.

Don’t avoid eye contact.

  • You will see what I mean- every exhibitor is waiting for the second your eyes meet to pounce their pitch on you… Don’t be afraid.  You may THINK you don’t want to talk to the exhibitor, but a quick conversation could lead to anything. It’s a small world after all.

Don’t rush out when the trade show ends

  • Perhaps there is a networking event you can attend? Usually there is a mixer following the show… whether or not it’s public? I don’t know. But ask.

Last but not least, remember to stay open minded and enjoy yourself! You will be more approachable and absorb more information if you are relaxed and stress free.

Seems like a lot of work? Well, it is if you do it right.

When did LinkedIn turn into Facebook?

linkedbook

It seems there is some social media confusion out there in the World Wide Web. It seems that people are confusing LinkedIn with facebook. The more and more I read LinkedIn homepage posts, the more I realize that people are blurring the line between personal and professional.

Maybe it is because they don’t have a facebook account to share their beliefs, intimate details, inappropriate pictures or meals of the day?

Maybe they originally signed up for LinkedIn to utilize its business networking (original) purpose but got carried away with the narcissistic temptations that make up social media platforms?

OR MAYBE they just don’t realize what they are doing.

LinkedIn is to, and I quote:

“Manage your professional identity. Build and engage with your professional network. Access knowledge, insights and opportunities”

Facebook is to, and I quote again:

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

The two- although alike in ways, are different.

One is for the office- one is for home.

Work/Play.

Professional/ Personal…

Maybe I am alone in my irritation? Perhaps people on LinkedIn WANT to know that Suzy broke up with her fiancé last night, that Bill is really drunk on a beach and that Joe has a wart on his knee…?

I on the other hand, think that information belongs on facebook. I want to see more stories of the great seminar that Suzy took that helped her manage her time! I want Bill to share a link about saving me more money for my business come tax time and I want to congratulate Joe on the great new website he just designed. I want Annie to find a new job! I want to give great recommendations, endorse people… and I want it to be professional. THAT’s what I want to use LinkedIn for.

Am I asking for too much here? Should people exercise a social media filter?

What do you think?

 

BEATING THE WINTER BLUES

winter blues

Is it over yet? Is it spring?

I am not usually the type to linger on the weather, but man… This season has been a doozey!  It doesn’t seem to want to end! If you are like me and are solar-energized then you are feeling the drain of this cold, dreary winter.  I am finding it hard to get up and get motivated to get anything done! (My toddler and infant help- but it still isn’t easy)

So what are you gonna do about it?! What am I gonna do about it!?

I didn’t really know either… so I looked it up.

Here are some of the tips I found helpful:

  • VITAMIN D: During the winter, we don’t get enough vitamin D, which can cause a decline in our immune systems. Without this vitamin our body’s T Cells — which work to ward off foreign pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses — are weakened and cannot do their job. Taking vitamin D supplements and consuming foods such as fish, mushrooms, eggs and meat will help keep us healthy throughout the season.
  • DON’T BE A HERMIT: Make a concerted effort to not withdraw from social situations. Resist the urge to bail on plans with friends just because it’s snowing and you don’t want to leave the warmth of your apartment. Being around people you enjoy is a way to get laughing and elevate your mood, which will also release endorphins and make you a happier, healthier person. After all, laughter is the best medicine.
  • VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: Gandhi once wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Positive psychologists like University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman and Dan Baker, Ph.D., director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, believe that a sense of purpose–committing oneself to a noble mission–and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to winter depression
  • EXCERCISE: As if we needed another reason to get fit! Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those “feel good chemicals” that improve your mood. 
  • ADD SOME COLOUR TO YOUR WORLD: Bring in fresh flowers, add brightly colored accents or pictures to your home or paint a room with a bright color. Having bright colors around can improve mood.

Do you feel better already?
There are more tips where those came from- check out my reference links below!

HAPPY ‘ALMOST THE END OF’ WINTER!!!

-Crystal-

REFERENCES:

http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/adult-adhd-274795-5.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oz-garcia/seasonal-affective-disorder_b_809056.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/01/04/12-winter-depression-busters/

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=341

Instagram for Business: Why Should You Use it?

Instagram for Business

What is instagram?

Launched in October 2010- Instagram is a free photo and video sharing social media platform (that is owned by facebook) that allows an accounts followers to ‘like’ or comment on the shared image/video. It also allows its users to categorize their photos using hashtags (similar to twitter and facebook). Instagram gives you an ‘artistic’ edge by giving you the option to use photo filters, blur features, frames and angle options. You can also share your images/videos by connecting to twitter, facebook, tumblr, flickr or email. You cannot share live links on Instagram- you have the option to display one URL on your profile page but that’s it.

So what’s the big deal? Well:

  • Instagram has over 150 million users
  • 55 million photos are shared daily
  • 8500 ‘likes’ per second
  • 65% of the world’s top brands have an instagram account
  • 57% of US adults visit the site at least once a day
  • 23%  of teens consider Instagram their favorite social media outlet

Just to name a few.

Needless to say, Instagram is allowing us to communicate visually. Its hashtag capability is making it easy to filter in on topics, keywords, phrases and other interests- it is also allowing marketers to easily organize their contest submissions. Instagram has exploded- so why not use it to your company’s advantage?

Humans tend to respond more to visual stimulation, it’s a known fact. You have the opportunity to tell your brand story with imagery- you can share photos of your store or employees, display your products, highlight your sales, give exclusive offers  and really give your audience an inside look at how you run your business. Which is fantastic- however- you will also want to make sure that what you are sharing is beneficial to your followers. Give them a REASON to follow you! No one wants to follow an account that is solely “ooooh look how great we are” Unless you are a top model or actor… but then you would have a personal account… not a business account… so that doesn’t count.

You can try sharing tips and tricks, inspirational quotes, info-graphs, facts… you can participate in trending hashtags and have fun with it (as long as you are staying on brand) and you want to make sure your followers feel special. I mentioned exclusive offers- but what about sneak previews? Do you have a product in the works? A new collection brewing? Maybe your followers would like a “how it’s made” type walk through? Maybe you can show them how a product works?

Keep in mind your videos are only allowed to be 15 seconds long but you can stop the recording and start again at the important parts to stay within your time frame. What do I mean? Take some time and gander through instagram for inspiration.

Share your Instagram post on facebook and twitter; let people see what you are all about with their own eyes (and your filter)!

Refrences:

http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/#.UxPVzONdWSo

http://www.factbrowser.com/tags/instagram/