Blogging: Where to start?

We’ve recently had a few of our followers comment on various articles asking us how to start a blog of their own. They, like many people, wanted to know where to start and if we had any tips/tricks to help them be successful in their venture. This in turn is what led us to writing this very article- so thank you commenters! This one’s for you.

 

Step 1

What do you want to blog about?

This can really be anything if you ask me…anything that you feel passionately about writing about? I say go for it! Worst-case scenario? No one reads it… SO WHAT. At least you got to express yourself. You got it off your shoulders.

This is a serious step one though… because without a general idea and purpose for your blog… well… things could get messy. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the blog. Is it a personal reflection blog? An informative blog? A community blog? A business blog?

Step 2

Who will host your blog?

We use WordPress. We are familiar with their plugins and have knowledge of the back-end, which is a bit more manual than some other hosts like blog.com. I find blog.com is the easiest for someone who maybe isn’t as computer literate but definitely look around. There are so many different platforms and price packages. Most platforms offer you a free and paid version. The difference is usually ad placements flashing on your blog, custom URL’s, larger file storage etc. Take a look at all the packages because depending on what you need- the packages may be worth it for you.

Beebom wrote a pretty good review of top blogs for 2015: http://beebom.com/2015/02/5-best-blogging-platforms   they don’t mention blog.com but in my experience it has been the easiest for newbies to grasp.

Step 3

Designing your blog.

This is more than just what pretty colour you want. Your main goal should be functionality, readability and overall set up. If your blog is on photography? You are going to want something that displays images the best, that has great gallery options and allows you to save an adequate amount of files in your back-end. If you are more informative- you still want to make sure that you can display images to make your blog aesthetically pleasing- but you won’t need as much storage space. Make sure that your menu is large enough to see and easy to navigate and that you can easily add and manipulate your pages as new content is added.
Make sure that your font is large enough and easy to read if your target audience is 65+ then up that font a couple points. Make sure the colours aren’t harsh on the eyes. Keep your pages white because it is easier for people to read than on black- and skip the neon.

Step 4

Content.

It’s time to write your first post! (Exciting) One thing I learned was that your post doesn’t have to be perfect. Your posts are easily editable and that you just have to go for it! Better done than perfect- obviously keep in mind your basic spelling and grammar but don’t be afraid to hit publish. A trick I use is, I write my blogs in word first- THEN I copy them into my blog. It allows for auto-correct to come to my rescue and I save my work as a backup. Keep your audience in mind and write away. Be sure to add a corresponding image somewhere in your article because it not only breaks up your blog and is appealing to the eyes, it also adds an automatically generated icon when you are sharing your blog link.

Write enticing headlines and remember that your work is SEO friendly- so who knows who will be searching for information and stumble onto your blog?

Step 5

Sharing your blog

Your blog will share organically in your providers forums, in search engines and through like’s and shares on social media but it is also up to you to share your links and promote your work. Be proud!

How Did BROCCOLI Consulting Get its Name?

We are asked from time to time…

Why BROCCOLI? Why is your company name BROCCOLI Consulting?

Is it because we all LOVE to eat it? Because we like the colour green? Are we vegetarians?

None of those explanations are 100% untrue (We do have a vegetarian in house) – but none of them are what led founder Crystal Lengua to the name.

Check out her explanation video below!

What I have learned being an entrepreneur… so far.

CEO Crystal Lengua

Making the decision to become an entrepreneur wasn’t easy. There is a lot of risk involved, you lose the comfort net of corporate and I wasn’t sure how I was going to balance it all properly. Two kids, a house and a husband PLUS a company sounded like a lot of work but the flexibility I was going to have ultimately made me take the leap.

Entrepreneurship is EXACTLY what I thought it would be in some ways and NOTHING like I thought it would be in others. It really is an adventure and I thought I would share the top 10 things that I have learned in my (almost) first year of entrepreneurship.

  1. You need to keep a schedule

If you think that you can manage your own social media, blogging, marketing, sales, business development, life and anything thing else that comes along WITHOUT a schedule? You are in for a treat. It won’t be easy. I am luckily very much a “schedule” person but I had no idea that I would eventually have to schedule in housework to ensure it gets done on a weekly basis.

  1. You need to follow your gut

You know what the right move is deep down. If you are sitting across from a potential client and you don’t feel good about it/them? Walk away. You don’t have to take that job. Another one will come. It’s better to walk away (professionally) than to regret not doing it later.

  1. Don’t sell yourself short

You will hear on more than one occasion when you are just starting out “I have a job for you, it isn’t paid BUT it is GREAT exposure!”

Trust me. Work hard enough and the exposure will come organically. You don’t need to work for free- exposure doesn’t pay the bills. If you feel the need to discount for a charity or friend? That’s fine! That’s up to you but value your time and your work.

  1. Be productive- Not busy

It is easy to get caught up in “being your own boss”. Lunch meetings, day freedom, getting lost on the web. Yeah, you FEEL busy but what have you produced? Set goals for yourself and achieve them. Make sure that you can measure your productivity so that you can feed your success.

  1. Keep your finances in order

If you can’t afford an accountant off the hop? Invest in a program to help you with your accounting! Losing track of your finances is frustrating and when it comes down to tax time you don’t want to be in the red. Stay diligent and take your company seriously regardless of its size or income when you are just starting off.

  1. Keep learning

Stay on top of your industry trends and news. It will help make your sales meetings flow naturally with great conversation, it will help inspire your next moves and help you grow as an entrepreneur. It isn’t easy but when I first started I always had a business oriented book I would pick up a couple times a week. When I got busier I didn’t even notice that I had stopped until I got into a mental entrepreneur rut (it happens) and picked a new book up. I instantly noticed a difference in not only my creative self but my confidence grew as a business professional.

  1. Shut work off for your important relationships

Work isn’t the most important thing. It feels that way sometimes- but it isn’t. Life is too short and kids grow too fast. You really need to make sure you are nurturing your relationships as well as your business because it is too easy to get caught up in the chase and too easy to miss out on memories.

  1. Take ‘YOU’ time

Whatever it is you like to do- do it. Shut off work mode and just be in you mode. Yoga, running, walking, climbing, eating, mani-pedis- WHATEVER IT IS. You owe it to yourself to reward yourself for a job well done. OH and having a husband, house and kids is no excuse. Sorry.

  1. Don’t take criticism to heart

Of course you need to take some constructive criticisms to your head. If you feel that it warrants attention then by all means you need to always be seeking to improve. But not everyone has your best interest at heart. Some people will envy you, some people will be negative by nature and some people won’t really know what they are talking about so their opinion won’t really matter. Learn to decipher constructive from callous.

      10. Failure is only a detour sign pointing you back to the drawing board

Not every idea will work or work right away. I have tried seminars that no one replied to. Videos that no one watched. I have blog posts that no one read and twitter chats that I AM STILL working the kinks out of. But guess what? I tried and I have put some ideas onto the backburner JUST IN CASE the future holds a re-try. You can’t let a little bit of failure stand in your way. There are good weeks and bad weeks, good and bad days and hours… You won’t always succeed and that is ok. Stay focused.

What have you learned since opening your business?

-Crystal Lengua-

CEO of BROCCOLI Consulting

Welcome, Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation! (CASL)

email-marketing-legislation-opt-in-casl-300x220

The anti-spam law is now in effect.

For those of you who don’t know what that is- visit: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/casl-lcap.htm

Last week I attended a CASL seminar to learn the ins and outs of this new law and how it would affect not only my business, but my clients businesses as well. I wanted to share some important facts that I learned but do recommend that you attend a seminar yourself!

What I learned in a nutshell (and in no particular order):

  1. July 1st the anti-spam law comes into affect BUT it is only the first phase. We have a 2-3 year grace period to get all of our ducks in a row. For all of you starting to sweat about not sending out your “opt in” emails? Don’t fret. The speaker actually suggested sending them in January 2015 once this rush of emails passes.

 

  1. You can still send initial emails to people that you do not know. You can still send initial emails to businesses you don’t know- as long as your business can obviously/directly relate to or assist the company that you are contacting. You need to be able to align business opportunity. YOU DO however have to have all of your contact information in your email should the person you are contacting not want to receive any more messages from you. The only time you cannot grab contact information online and send a message is if there is a disclaimer on their site asking you not to.

 

  1. SOCIAL MEDIA: YOU CAN still send messages via social media. YOU CAN still message people on linked in, twitter, facebook and talk business as long as you are connected. What you cannot do, is take their information and add it into your email messaging software without their consent. Social media messages are implied consent because the individual has accepted your invitation to connect, liked you or is following you. The unsubscribe option can be easily exercised with a click of a button (un-follow, un-like)

 

  1. TRADESHOWS: Your business card fishbowl is not dead. You can still collect people’s cards and information at a tradeshow as long as you are clear in your description on your fishbowl as to what the people will receive if they drop their card in. You can’t be sneaky with a sign like “drop your card in and win a trip”. YOU CAN write “drop your card in to join our mailing list for a  possibility to win a trip”. OH and If you have a pile of ballots lying around with a little box that says “click here to receive information”? Those are no longer valid and you need to re-obtain consent.

 

  1. Track your opt ins. Be sure that you can prove people opted in to receive your electronic emails. Software systems make this easy-  keep an electronic file on hand just in case.

 

  1. THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE: Registered Charities (not not-for-profits) and political parties are not included in CASL’s rules. They are the exception as long as the emails are about fundraising or campaigns. If a Registered Charity’s email is strictly fundraising? They can email anyone they want.

 

  1. If you have emailed anyone back and forth in the last two years- you are allowed to email them. You have a relationship with them and that is not considered spam under CASL rules.

 

  1. Your email marketing HAS to have an ‘unsubscribe’ option. If you don’t use a software program (constant contact, go-daddy etc.)- Then you need to make it painfully clear that the person you are emailing can opt out of your emails at any given time.

 

9. Verbal consent does apply to CASL. If you meet someone and they tell you to shoot them an email don’t be                       afraid..

10. Do you advertise your mailing list on your website? You still can BUT you have to be clear on exactly what                       they will be receiving. A newsletter containing what type of information? How frequently?

 

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar and would love for any of you to chime in! I have my notes but am sure I am missing a few great points. Please comment below.

-Crystal Lengua-

Honest Work & Your Integrity

Be Honest I recently stumbled upon a website of a company offering similar services. They ‘liked’ a picture on my company’s instagram account, my curiosity set in and I clicked the link to their website. Their site was well designed and professional. I selected the services/solutions button on their menu and what happened next was not only a complete fluke, it left me speechless…

They had copy & pasted my ENTIRE website. Every word. Every definition. Everything- word for word. Even the organization of information… everything. It was like I was reading MY site on theirs and I instantly felt sick to my stomach. A few phone calls later and the issue was resolved with apology and I know that I am very lucky. Things could have taken a turn for the worst. I can honestly say that the feeling of having your hard work duplicated without your consent is one that I don’t wish on anyone. You feel helpless, angry, empty and numb. It’s a whirlwind of emotion.

This event really got me thinking and a friend suggested that I write about the importance of having an honest work ethic. That plagiarism in any form is nothing to be proud of and that in the end you are only disgracing yourself and your work if you decide it’s better to get credit for someone else’s labour. You embarked on your professional journey because you feel like you have what it takes to succeed. That you are an expert in your field or that you have created a unique product/service that people can benefit from… so shouldn’t you be able to use your own words and communicate your vision? OF COURSE YOU SHOULD.

Maybe you lack the confidence because you are just starting out and you are inspired by someone or a company? That’s normal! We all have people/places/things that inspire us- but you should never pass someone else’s hard work off as your own. It isn’t fair and at the end of the day? It isn’t going to help you either. You will never memorize someone else’s work enough to pass it off as your own for long and people will quickly discredit you and BOOM there goes your reputation.

If you had what it takes to embark on the entrepreneurial journey- you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Have faith in yourself. Give credit where it’s due, ask for permissions and remember that (at the end of the day) copyright infringement IS against the law.

Honesty and integrity play a huge part in success. We can never forget that.

”Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”

 –Oprah Winfrey

Volunteer Etiquette

Last Friday I spoke at a local volunteer fair. The ‘My Time to Give’ fair was created to help students find a suitable placement- which is great!

Both profit and not-for-profit companies set up tables and had information readily available for the taking.  I spoke on the importance of personal branding and how proper volunteer etiquette on the job would help the students get the most out of their experience.

I have hired MANY volunteers and I have to say that there is a certain level of uncertainty when it comes to “working for free” which is why I felt the need to address rules of etiquette. Some of you may utilize volunteers so I wanted to share the handout I created to coincide with my topic!

 

Volunteer Etiquette Top 10

 

 

If you want to print it out- feel free to use it as a handout!  You can download it here for free: BROCCOLI Consulting- Volunteer Etiquette Handout

 

Social Media Management Tips for the Small Business Owner

Social Media Management Tips

It’s not often a small business can afford a social media management team off the hop. In the beginning owners wear multiple hats- CEO, CFO, HR, IT and now SMM (that is an acronym for social media manager…  I just made that up)

Maybe you think it’s best that you don’t use social media in your marketing plan… and to that? I say too bad- because you are missing out! You are missing out on the SEO advantages, the branding, the communication with your audience and the low cost options for spreading the word about who you are and what you offer. If you don’t want to reap any of those benefits? Then I say that is just too bad.

If you DO want to benefit from social media? Then I have some tips to help you stay focused, on top of things and actively present:

1)      Pick one or two social media sites for now. If you try and manage too many yourself? You may get overwhelmed and quit or fall behind and look lazy and lackluster.

Figure out what platforms work best for your company- if you have no idea? Look at your competition. What are they using? What are your customers using?

2)      The golden rule is ‘Once a Day’ I ask that all of my clients post onto their social media outlets at least once a day. It can be a picture, an article that your audience will find helpful, a link to a blog (preferably yours but it doesn’t always have to be), a retweet on twitter, a repost on Instagram or a pin to a board on Pinterest. Asking questions is a great way to engage! It’s important because you want to show you were there and active when a potential client looks you up. If they see that your last post was a week ago? You could look sluggish. If it was A MONTH ago? They may think you aren’t open anymore. Telling yourself once a day will help keep you from forgetting.

If you are really hip to social media, I recommend taking a look at your analytics and figuring out the best time to post to maximize engagement. If you aren’t too savvy just yet? Just post once a day for now- and make sure the content IS RELEVANT, positive and on brand.

You may benefit from having a posting schedule. Feel free to use this one: CLICK HERE

3)      Time yourself. Once a day on one or two social media sites shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes a day. It is very easy to get lost in link-land and before you know it you are an hour and a half in and looking at what Jimmy is eating for lunch. Set a timer if you have to! You can get an egg timer for a buck at the dollar store.

4)      Don’t be afraid to store updates/drafts. Keep a file of links, images, and quotes- whatever and keep that as your go-to when posting. If you find that Sunday evenings work best for researching information to share? Spend some time and think about your weeks’ worth of posting! If you want to get fancy, you can try out HootSuite and schedule your updates automatically- click HERE for more information. Just be sure to still sign in to your social media account and make sure your status’ are posting properly and your links are working.

5)      Turn off your notifications. In an ideal world you want to respond to your audience right away. In small business world? That will throw you off and will absorb too much of your time. Turning off your notifications will keep you focused on your task at hand. It’s ok to reply within 24 hours! (Just make sure you do… but you ARE posting once a day so you shouldn’t have a problem)  It’s ok to not know how many retweets you get, or who followed you. Think of it as a social media present. Once a day you get to open it and see what happened!

One day you will have a sea of employees who will be able to do things for you or the budget to outsource- but until then? You can handle it. It is intimidating at first, but practice makes perfect and before you know it you will be able to push out your social media duties in ten minutes or less! You’ll see.

Do you have any social media management tips to share? Please do in the comment section below!

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/