Categories

Recent Posts

Women’s Conference of Florida Recap 2019

womens-conference-of-florida_featured

by Nikki Devereux, Director of Account Management

I attended the Women’s Conference of Florida for the second time, and it was just as awesome as that first time two years ago. There’s so much energy, positivity and inspiration surrounding everyone in the room, it’s contagious.

Being general admission and going it alone, while it may sound frightening to some and boring to others, is actually a great way to attend this conference. There are lots of ladies attending solo, and the general admission tables are shared by all of the many solo conference-goers, those independent spirits. I sat at a table towards the back, and throughout the day, between the breakout sessions, lunch, and all the other activities, my table’s attendees rotated, so I was able to meet and chat with even more people of all walks of life.

The first keynote speaker (and for some, the highlight of the day), was Monica Lewinsky. She talked about the traumatic event in 1998 that skyrocketed her into infamy, and how it took years to recover. “I’m the only person over 40 who doesn’t want to be 22 again.” She lightened the mood with jokes like this and facts like, “there are about 125 rap songs that mention my name.”

After telling this heart-wrenching story (it’s so jarring to hear it come from her, the one who lived it, rather than via all the gossip and news and opinions from everyone else), she went on to discuss how words can be just as painful as physical violence. This led to her talking about the very real problem of cyber-bullying, and how it especially inflicts teens.

Lewinsky and advertising agency BBDO recently collaborated on a public service announcement that tells the story of a teenage girl being harassed so badly via texts from classmates that she attempted suicide. Warning, this video contains triggers for victims of cyber-bullying and suicide.

Lewinsky admits her life would have taken an entirely different path if she hadn’t fallen in love with former president Bill Clinton. She talks about how she earned a master’s degree years later, just trying to live a normal life, and when she tried to get a job, found that no one would hire her because of the scandal. She was a pariah, in a sense, and had to find a new direction for her life. Her first step into her passionate advocacy to end cyber-bullying was a presentation to a class of Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees. That speech launched her into a lifelong endeavor to prevent others from experiencing what she had, or at least help them to recover from the trauma of it. I have such a new appreciation for Monica Lewinsky!

My personal favorite was the brilliant and funny Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. She talked at length about how we raise our girls to be “socialized to avoid tech and math, and to be perfect.” You know those shirts that say, “Allergic to algebra?” In Saujani’s eyes, these seemingly harmless shirts are part of what is wrong with society. They are the bane of her (and now my) existence, because they promote the idea that girls can’t do math or that it’s not “cool” to be good at math, or some other ridiculous assumption about women and mathematical intelligence.

womens conference florida

As a science person myself (I majored in engineering during college), and having been raised by a family that encouraged me to be my own person without promoting or implying strict gender rules, I have never understood the “pretty in pink” value system. I played rough sports, came home with black eyes, helped my dad build houses (having installed several hardwood floors and doors, helped frame a house, and painted countless walls and doors by the time I was 18), and took college calculus classes before I graduated high school. Certainly doesn’t sound like society’s image of a “pretty pretty princess,” and it’s how I’m going to raise my daughter too, always leading by example.

To Saujani’s point, “they watch us, follow us, mimic us,” so the best way to teach is to model the behavior. Yes, that girl is going to go fishing, learn how to lay wood floors, build things, while at the same time learning how to cook and sew. “We put our own unrealized potential into the potential of our girls, but we have to stop doing that, and we raise girls to be perfect and thoughtful, and boys to be brave.” Here’s to being and raising a brave girl, Reshma Saujani! We hear you!

One other speaker that I really loved and wanted to mention is author and host of “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” podcast, Nora McInerny. She was just hilarious! Her time slot was toward the end of the day, after lunch, which is a tough place to be (they really pack a lot in one day, so the eyes and brain start to weary after the delicious lunch complete with giant chocolate cake for dessert). Her energy and irreverence were the perfect cocktail to bring the audience back from nodding off.

McInerny’s talk was about grief, loss and suffering, and that benign, casually tossed question, “How are you?” which usually has a much more profound answer than “I’m fine.” Interesting that such a vibrant, bubbly person is a grief expert, but her experience has catapulted her into this realm. She starts her presentation with, “first, I had a miscarriage, then my dad dies, then my husband dies, all within six weeks.” That’s enough to stop anyone in their tracks and leave them crippled with grief, but McInerny used humor, family, friends, and in general, human connection and honesty, to not only overcome her losses, but build an empire of creativity around the topic of grief. She encourages us to offer compassion and support for those around us suffering from loss, but also to reach out when we are in need, for this is how you get through it. Not alone, but with a community. “It’s not my job to protect my children from the cold world, but to teach them how to get through it and be there for others as well.”

The variety of speakers this year, as always, was excellent, and I would be surprised if anyone, men and women alike, walked away without a spark of inspiration for their next project, their next educational endeavor, relationship, or just about any aspect of life. I certainly have a whole host of ideas and goals now!

Budget Season Coming Soon!

marketing budget_news

I know, it’s still summer and I’m writing about marketing budgets. How about this? Instead of writing about budgets, I could write about something fun, like branding and networking. But we wouldn’t get to do any of those fun things without a budget. Am I right? So, let’s talk budgeting for your marketing and I promise to make it worthwhile.

Budgeting for What’s Next

You have a budget in place, but it probably needs to be tweaked a little to fit next year’s needs. Marketers have a lot more data to go on these days, so they know what brings in returns and what’s stale. Staying on top of the data means getting the right activities into your mix. There are several activities we think you should put as line items in your budget, if they aren’t in it already.

Building Communities

We are in an engagement economy where businesses need to engage with their clients and their employees to strive for success. When you build a community for your clients, you’re creating a stronger network and engaging with them as an industry leader. This type of engagement opens new possibilities and leads to organic growth through word-of-mouth recommendations. So, it definitely deserves some consideration in your budget.

LEGO has a great example of engaging with their community through LEGO IDEAS. This interactive community setting allows everyone to contribute ideas and vote on great designs. Communities like this are a two way street—offering enthusiasts a platform while providing valuable marketing data. Another example of a great community is the Oracle Interactive Community. This is mixed-use site with a forum and lots of information to support their users better.

To build a community, you’ll need a cause for your platform. Usually, the cause you pick is something that separates you from the competition. It’s how you add value to your business. Then, you can pick your platform where this cause is supported. This will need social media and maybe an interactive website. How about an annual event? Print materials? You’ll definitely need employees to run it all. Starting slow and small to test the waters is always a sure bet.

Public Relations

This area of marketing has changed quite a bit over the past 10 years. I’ve seen how it’s changed and why. Good public relations have developed into consistent, positive messaging that crosses multiple platforms. It also helps with search engine optimization (SEO) and keeps your community connected. The press release is still the foundation, but how it’s used and why have evolved. Spreading the word means spending more time and energy.

Looking at ROI

There is more data available to us than ever before. Marketing is no longer a guessing game. It’s strategic planning and implementation. Contextualized data will show how your clients are engaging with your marketing campaigns. If you’re having trouble seeing what works and what doesn’t, beef up your data gathering and analytics. This may be in the form of analytics software or statistical research.

Striking a Balance

Some experts believe that many traditional marketing activities no longer work. That’s why it’s so important to engage with clients and customers in a more authentic, one-on-one basis. Building a customer community is the perfect thing to do using content marketing, social media, and possibly a website to interact with them. Investments in public relations and getting a better grip on ROI will help your bottom line. These are definitely things we need stay on top of in this dynamic marketing landscape.

 

 

Volunteering Builds New Skills

volunteering and leadership_news

For many years, Pinstripe has been committed to causes that are close to our hearts. Our own personal and professional growth can be tied directly to the many organizations that provide valuable services for our community. And, because of this, we have gained so much.

Leadership

Each opportunity with a nonprofit organization places us in a new environment. These organizations are short on resources, so you have to really know how to get the most from people you know, especially within your business network. Getting others involved in a nonprofit shows leadership and drive.

It’s through volunteering that you may get the opportunity to lead others, especially when there are limited opportunities in the office. Volunteering has taught us new leadership skills, such as:

  • Maximizing a limited amount of resources
  • Application of expertise in new ways
  • Using innovative ways to reach people
  • Leading a group of individuals with one common goal

More importantly, the relationships you build while volunteering can last a lifetime. These relationships will expand your personal and professional network, helping you to realize your goals.

Soft Skills

For recent graduates, soft skills have become more prized than technical knowledge. Business owners can teach them how to perform their job, but not how to interact well with others. If you have these skills, then practicing them is just as important as developing them. Volunteering is a good way to both learn and continue to practice soft skills.

What are soft skills? They include the following:

  • Communication skills
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Being a good team player
  • Empathy and compassion

Developing these soft skills can have a big impact on your career. For millennials, this type of experience can boost credibility and give them the edge in a tight marketplace. Over time, volunteering teaches how perseverance and tenacity can overcome roadblocks and changes in the economic landscape.

Personal and Professional Growth

With all of the changes in technology and the way we do business, we need to be able to react swiftly and with confidence. We can vouch for the fact that volunteering helps us face new challenges without fear. Volunteering is as much about personal growth as it is about helping others. It allows us to engage with people in our community, listen to them and try to help. This gives us a deeper understanding of what the community needs and also experience in addressing those needs. Volunteering may start small, but who knows, over time this can change to even bigger roles. That’s up to you and how far you want to take it.

Women’s Conference of Florida Recap

women leadership_news

We attended the Women’s Conference of Florida this fall – what an incredible experience. We walked into the Marriot Waterside Hotel on a bright and sunny Thursday morning, full of anticipation. As we walked through registration we saw other faces full of excitement, anticipation, hope. And boy, we were not disappointed.

The first presentation was given by Nely Galan, author, real estate mogul, founder of the Adelante Movement, and former President of Telemundo. What a great way to kick off the conference! Nely was full of energy and inspiration, her stories were riveting, and she sent a wave through the crowd that made us all want to leave that room and do amazing things. She started her story with her childhood, when her family immigrated to the United States from Cuba. She ended up in a strange school, strange neighborhood, and they all had to learn a new language. She told of her and her family’s struggles, but through each and every obstacle, she was able to make the most of the situation and create positives out of negatives – EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Galan was so vivacious in her story-telling, so funny and sincere – she really wants other women to succeed and listening to her story is a step in that direction. Each attendee received a copy of her book, “Self-Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way,” which we will review when we’re done reading! The title is fairly self-explanatory, and as a sneak preview, Nely recounts the story of her childhood and rise to real-estate moguldum and self-made woman. Her motto, “buy real estate, not shoes,” is wise advice, one that we can all learn from. As she told story after story, this kept coming up; she also reminded us that everyone has moments of insecurity and “around the corner from my biggest failures are my biggest successes.”

Another stand-out presenter was Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer of LEVO. She talked about “dropping the ball” as a positive, in the sense that if you let yourself drop the ball on certain things, you can excel in others. In other words, you have to figure out what is most important for you and focus your energies on those things. For example, sometimes you have to leave the dirty laundry for another day when you have a tight deadline to meet on a project, or you may be forced to order pizza for family dinner instead of that super healthy home cooked meal if you really need to squeeze in a workout. She also recommends learning to ask for help. Many super women try to take on all the heavy lifting without asking partners or friends for help. Stop this! Tiffany’s final point is that when we do things like this, we should own it, not feel guilty, not beat ourselves up. No one is perfect. If you’re going to try to “do it all” and be Wonder Woman, you will have to accept the occasional slip up or assistance. And when it comes to ordering pizza for family dinner instead of that healthy, vegetable heavy meal, you know no one else is complaining!

There were many other incredible women presenting during the conference, each one with a unique story of their rise to leadership, fortune, and in some cases, fame. Our takeaways – if you see a women’s conference or presentation, sign up for it – it will inspire you. Women are powerful, stop doubting yourself. Hard work pays off. Do something every day to achieve your goals. Rid yourself of guilt and go conquer the world!

Setting Client Expectations

people meeting business marketing_news

You’re talking to a prospective client. How would you present the work your company does? What might you say about your company’s productive efficiency. How responsive are you to client needs? What would you say about the professionalism of your staff? How important is corporate responsibility?

We’d guess our readers always answer these questions exactly to same way, even if talking to their BFF at their favorite bar and after a drink or three. But for others, there may be glaring discrepancies between some of the answers in first scenario and those in a relaxed, non-selling situation. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to worry that somebody’s business is off to a bad start managing client expectations.

We know the temptation to oversell. A good company that provides a worthwhile product or service and operated by a competent staff of decent people can suddenly become a socially crusading, budding Amazon, led by super heroes (but with a gentle, caring touch) and providing a better ROI opportunity than the ground floor investment in Microsoft.

Okay, that might be a little hyperbolic, but few prospective clients come away from a sales pitch expecting to frequently hear the word “no” to future requests. And when there has been too much “gilding the lily,” someone is not going to be happy. Interestingly, that someone is often the business owner and her or his staff.

Unless a company is run by true rip-off artists, most clients can walk away from bad business relationships having merely lost a little time and not quite getting what they thought their money was worth. More often, the real suffering comes to the other side of the equation as businesspeople take on unprofitable jobs that require excessive workloads. The probable outcome is a painful, ultimately fruitless attempt to hang on to a difficult client.

So how does one prevent (or handle) this predicament? Well, here are our thoughts:

  • Appreciate your own worth. For contractors and others in professional services industries there can be a tendency to take on work for too low a fee because “something is better than nothing.” Often this is accompanied with the rationalization that one can raise rates later. (Why would a client agree to that?) It can be same with willingness to accommodate abnormal business hours. Make your standard prices understood upfront and don’t give the impression that you’re anyone’s indentured servant.
  • Lead with your value proposition. You’re not exceptional at everything, because no one is exceptional at everything. If someone claims to be, you know they’re lying. When selling, make your top value proposition clear to the prospect and be realistic about other aspects of your business. Don’t be afraid; a strong value proposition should appeal to a lot of clients, and others may like enough of everything else they hear to give you a fair trial. You can’t win them all, and you don’t want to lose by “winning.”
  • Listen to what your client is saying. Rarely do prospective clients hide what’s important to them. In fact, they usually mention it quite often, especially if they’ve been previously disappointed. If their demands have been a problem for others in your line of work, they might be a challenge to you as well. Carefully and thoughtfully evaluate what prospects want and let them know where you can, and where you might not, meet their expectations.
  • Lower the bar. We joke and say that every client wants everything yesterday, but thankfully that’s not (always) true. People may be quite reasonable in their expectations—they simply don’t want to be disappointed. What if you made your costs estimates a little higher than you truly anticipate and your set deadlines a little further out than you think necessary. Then you could watch your client’s delighted reaction when you can charge less than you initially said and you get the work done faster than promised!
  • Play up the client success stories that you’d want to repeat. Testimonials and case studies make for excellent sales collateral, but be careful about how you present these stories to prospects. When you go far above and beyond the call of duty for a client, perhaps you should keep the specifics to yourself and share the client’s appreciation in a brief testimonial. And when you’ve done a great job following your normal procedures, that’s the time to go into the details with a lengthier case study.
  • If you’re having trouble competing, look for the cause and make changes. Suppose you’re regularly disappointing your clients while killing yourself and your employees, AND losing money for your trouble. Then you notice your competition seems to be doing fine. It’s time for some research. Try to figure out what advantages your competitors have and see how you can even things up. If the advantages are inherent (like a better location) find out how others in your situation have coped and emulate them. Be prepared to change your marketing strategies to better attract the available audience, rather than continuing to push the same old boulder up the mountain.
  • Be willing to give up. You may have heard the saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win,” but we have another one: “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” Some jobs and/or clients are simply not worth the effort and never will be. Don’t run yourself or your business into the ground trying to make something happen that can’t. After you’ve done your best but simply can’t make an arrangement work for everyone, thank the impossible client for the opportunity and bid them a fond farewell.

As Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations” … and so does his (or her) client.