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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Pomodoro Technique for Small Business Management and more…

Time is MoneyIn operating The Write Hand, LLC, I often find that balancing my client workload and personal tasks gets tedious. As a Virtual Assistant keeping accurate time for clients is imperative because I charge on the least increment of time to save my client’s budget.

For those that have read my blog previously, you will recall my posts about time management as I am still trying to master this. I have previously used the method of Dale Carnegie but somehow I still allow myself to lose focus; or sometimes I even sit way too long and then tire myself out. So I started searching for alternative methods. I learned recently of this Pomodoro Technique and maybe, just maybe I can manage this one. I use a timer to record my per-client work so the technique herein should align well with my existing time methodology. I thought I would share this for your own benefit and maybe even hear back from folks that have successfully used the technique.

Here is the basis of the technique as described by Wikipedia…

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato”. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software design, the method has been adopted in pair programming contexts.

  • There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
  • Decide on the task to be done
  • Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • Take a short 3-5 minute break.
  • After four pomodori, take a longer break of 15–30 minutes.

The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing, and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To-Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodori are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.

For the purposes of the technique, “pomodoro” refers to the interval of time spent working. After task completion, any time remaining in the pomodoro is devoted to overlearning. Regular breaks are taken, aiding assimilation. A short 3–5 minute rest separates consecutive pomodori. Four pomodori form a set. A longer 15–30 minute rest is taken between sets.

An essential aim of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible. When interrupted during a pomodoro either the other activity must be recorded and postponed or the pomodoro must be abandoned.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Time Management

 

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How to make Email Marketing Campaigns Successful…

How to make Email Marketing Campaigns Successful…

Email iconWith internet / email marketing clearly being a huge play for businesses it’s critical that your messages are crafted in such a way that you get maximum open rates and does not bring about violations that can be costly. So how do you ensure your business stays on task in reaching your target audience? It’s rather simple but first evaluate what goes into an email marketing campaign.

Email marketing usually involves using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. Email marketing can be done to either sold lists or a current customer database. Broadly, the term is usually used to refer to sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately. Madison Logic posted global data in April 2014 that claimed 122 billion emails are sent every hour.

Email marketing can be carried out through different types of emails:

Transactional emails are usually triggered based on a customer’s action with a company. To be qualified as transactional or relationship messages, these communications’ primary purpose must be “to facilitate, complete, or confirm a commercial transactions that the recipient has previously agreed to enter into with the sender”, along with a few other narrow definitions of transactional messaging.

Triggered transactional messages include dropped basket messages, password reset emails, purchase or order confirmation emails, order status emails, reorder emails and email receipts. The primary purpose of a transactional email is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it. But, due to its high open rates (51.3% compared to 36.6% for email newsletters), transactional emails are an opportunity to engage customers: to introduce or extend the email relationship with customers or subscribers, to anticipate and answer questions or to cross-sell or up-sell products or services.

Many email newsletter software vendors offer transactional email support, which gives companies the ability to include promotional messages within the body of transactional emails. There are also software vendors that offer specialized transactional email marketing services, which include providing targeted and personalized transactional email messages and running specific marketing campaigns (such as customer referral programs).

Direct email or interruption based marketing involves sending an email solely to communicate a promotional message (for example, an announcement of a special offer or a catalog of products). Companies usually collect a list of customer or prospect email addresses to send direct promotional messages to, or they can also rent a list of email addresses from service companies, but safe mail marketing is also used.

Email marketing is popular with companies for several reasons:

An exact return on investment can be tracked and has proven to be high when done properly. Email marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic. Email marketing is significantly cheaper and faster than traditional mail, mainly because of high cost and time required in a traditional mail campaign for producing the artwork, printing, addressing and mailing. Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of email subscribers who have opted in (i.e., consented) to receive email communications on subjects of interest to them.

Disadvantages that companies find in their email marketing:

A report issued by the email services company Return Path, as of mid-2008 email deliverability is still an issue for legitimate marketers. According to the report, legitimate email servers averaged a delivery rate of 56%; twenty percent of the messages were rejected, and eight percent were filtered. Companies considering the use of an email marketing program must make sure that their program does not violate spam laws and if they are not familiar, inadvertent violations may occur.

So now, how do you do it right so that your business puts out a successful marketing campaign? By employing a knowledgeable resource that uses a trust worthy and respectable marketing platform you help eliminate the risk of violations. Further to that, you want to be sure that your resource is knowledgeable in the means of crafting your message and the very first words your client (or potential client) will see is your subject line. You have to start at the beginning and a solid foundation with your resource is your ticket to successful email marketing campaigns. Many small to medium businesses already have a database of clients that they simply are not utilizing. Keeping your business name on your clients’ radar is key to repeat business. A top-quality virtual assistant can help your business produce these successes.

At The Write Hand, LLC we use a reputable email marketing platform that is in full compliance with CAN-SPAM. We have the knowledge and expertise in crafting successful messages that engage your clients and result in high open rates. Contact us at: the_write_hand@yahoo.com for a free consultation and we can help you get your email marketing campaign up and running swiftly.

So many Options... Let's Get Started Now!!

So many Options… Let’s Get Started Now!!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Marketing and SEO

 

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How to Manage Time with 10 Tips that Work

Time-FliesIt seems like I have my hands into so many different things that I really am challenged in managing my time wisely. I get the important stuff done first of course, but then sometimes I forget things or feel frustrated because I didn’t do enough in one day. My top priority is managing The Write Hand, LLC and making sure my clients’ needs are met. I have the luxury of mostly avoiding strict deadlines and having a future due date but this means I derail and work on things like the Amp’d Rider Project, the SOX Project, and managing my personal litigation and healthcare paperwork (which in my case is way longer than my left leg – hahahaha). Since I have moved to Western North Carolina, I have been blessed with Mom visiting twice and so far four friends from Illinois have visited. This weekend and next week will bring three more friends to my Heavenly Hill. Sometimes I feel bad because when folks visit they are on vacation but I still have to work. I try to finagle my schedule so needs are met and quality time is spent. It goes without saying that I am constantly trying to spend my time wisely. With riding season just around the corner, my passion will have to fit in somewhere and articles like this to keep my SEO rating up on search engines and marketing my business are a must. Only true client work generates income; none of the other things do. So, I am having to cut out a few things and while I love writing my motorcycle magazine column and putting on my motorcycle radio show; that combination generates the least leads to my business. As such I believe I may be saying good-bye to that for a while.

When I research for business I try to find topics that will serve me and other small business owners, while also trying to find articles that will serve nearly anybody. After all, not all those that follow me are motorcyclists, nor virtual workers, so I need to share information that is useful to a very wide audience. I hope you will find this article of interest; I sure did.

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How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work

By Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival

Chances are good that, at some time in your life, you’ve taken a time management class, read about it in books, and tried to use an electronic or paper-based day planner to organize, prioritize and schedule your day. “Why, with this knowledge and these gadgets,” you may ask, “do I still feel like I can’t get everything done I need to?”

The answer is simple. Everything you ever learned about managing time is a complete waste of time because it doesn’t work.

Before you can even begin to manage time, you must learn what time is. A dictionary defines time as “the point or period at which things occur.” Put simply, time is when stuff happens.

There are two types of time: clock time and real time. In clock time, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. All time passes equally. When someone turns 50, they are exactly 50 years old, no more or no less.

In real time, all time is relative. Time flies or drags depending on what you’re doing. Two hours at the department of motor vehicles can feel like 12 years. And yet our 12-year-old children seem to have grown up in only two hours.

Which time describes the world in which you really live, real time or clock time?

The reason time management gadgets and systems don’t work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time. Clock time is irrelevant. You don’t live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time, a world in which all time flies when you are having fun or drags when you are doing your taxes.

The good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage. It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around “not having enough time,” or today not being “the right time” to start a business or manage your current business properly.

There are only three ways to spend time: thoughts, conversations and actions. Regardless of the type of business you own, your work will be composed of those three items.

As an entrepreneur, you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do get a say on how much time you will spend on them and how much time you will spend on the thoughts, conversations and actions that will lead you to success.

Practice the following techniques to become the master of your own time:

    1. Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going. You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.
    2. Any activity or conversation that’s important to your success should have a time assigned to it. To-do lists get longer and longer to the point where they’re unworkable. Appointment books work. Schedule appointments with yourself and create time blocks for high-priority thoughts, conversations, and actions. Schedule when they will begin and end. Have the discipline to keep these appointments.
    3. Plan to spend at least 50 percent of your time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of your results.
    4. Schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you’re doing. Take, for instance, the concept of having “office hours.” Isn’t “office hours” another way of saying “planned interruptions?”
    5. Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day. Don’t start your day until you complete your time plan. The most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.
    6. Take five minutes before every call and task to decide what result you want to attain. This will help you know what success looks like before you start. And it will also slow time down. Take five minutes after each call and activity to determine whether your desired result was achieved. If not, what was missing? How do you put what’s missing in your next call or activity?
    7. Put up a “Do not disturb” sign when you absolutely have to get work done.
    8. Practice not answering the phone just because it’s ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Disconnect instant messaging. Don’t instantly give people your attention unless it’s absolutely crucial in your business to offer an immediate human response. Instead, schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.
    9. Block out other distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media unless you use these tools to generate business.
    10. Remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results.

Full article and credit can be found here.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Time Management

 

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Invest in Your Success: Strategic Planning for Small Business

I found yet another great article that provided me some fresh insight for my small business at The Write Hand, LLC and reminded me of a few things I need to never forget. If you are a small business owner, I think you will like this article by Clate Mask from Small Business Trends online

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Running a small business can be chaotic. It’s easy to get sucked into the day-to-day operations required to keep things running smoothly and profitably. By taking the time to invest in a strategic planning process, you’re saying, “I am ready to take this business to the next stage of success.”

I’d like to share the best practices I’ve used to grow Infusionsoft from a start-up with a handful of employees to a thriving, venture-backed organization with 450 employees. They are rooted in the philosophies of experts like Jim Collins, Verne Harnish and Tyler Norton and vetted over 10 years of real-world application. I believe in this process and its power to help small businesses achieve success, and I know it can help you too. So let’s get started.

Strategic Planning for Small Business

1. Articulate Your Vision—Your Purpose, Mission & Core Values

Creating, articulating and sticking to your vision is the single most important job you have as a leader. A clear vision is needed to guide and influence your strategic planning process. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the purpose of my business?” If not, sit down right now and figure it out. Our purpose at Infusionsoft is quite simply, “To help small businesses succeed.”

Once you’ve clearly articulated why your business exists, it’s time to identify the concrete “what” behind it—the three to five-year Mission you’re embarking on. Your Mission should be bold, inspirational and compelling and just gutsy enough to give you butterflies in your stomach. Think of President Kennedy’s Mission to put a man on the moon and return him safely home within a decade. Our Mission is, “To create and dominate the market of all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses, with 100,000 customers worldwide.”

With your Purpose and Mission in place, the last piece you need is Core Values. This is the “how” of your business. Core Values should articulate what is already true about your business and culture, not describe how you want it to be:

  • How do you go about your work?
  • What do you value in yourself and your employees?
  • What characteristics do you want your customers to experience?

These are your Core Values.

Once you have your Purpose, Mission and Core Values in place, it’s your job to hire, train and also fire employees that don’t align to it. It sounds like extra work, but you’ll actually discover that finding good people is much easier when you’ve clearly articulated your Vision. At Infusionsoft, we’ve found that our Purpose, Mission and Core Values attract the right candidates and repel the wrong ones.

2. Understand How Strategy Drives the Plan

When you take the time to define the why, what and how of your business, you’re ready to identify strategies to achieve your Mission. To determine what those strategies should be, examine the company strengths that you can employ to achieve a strong return on your investments. Look for resources and capabilities you can leverage for maximum gain. To develop a competitive advantage that is sustainable, I recommend focusing on no more than three to five core strengths.

I firmly believe that strategy is an exercise in saying “no.” Focus is an incredible thing. Just think about the power that’s achieved when you focus a magnifying glass on a very small area. By focusing your resources on a few core areas, you maximize your chances of success.

Remember: Identify three to five strategies that are borne out of your greatest strengths, all highly focused on achieving your Mission.

3. Link Your Vision to the Annual and Quarterly Priorities

It can sometimes be a challenge to bridge the gap between your long-term vision and the daily operations. The structure we use to bridge this gap is called our “Strategy Planning Methodology.” It breaks down our current Mission into the annual and quarterly priorities we need to complete in order to achieve our Mission. The work of the quarterly priorities then gets broken down into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) objectives that are owned by employees and have deliverables.

Here’s a closer look at the structure of our Strategy Planning Methodology:

  • Mission: This is typically achievable in three to five years. It should be bold and exciting.
  • Strengths to Leverage: Three to five key strengths you will need to use to achieve your Mission.
  • Strengths to Develop: Three to five strengths you will need to develop to achieve your Mission.
  • Annual Priorities: Three to five priorities you will focus on this year to leverage your current strengths or develop new strengths to get closer to reaching your Mission. It important to remember that the annual priorities must: Support the current mission, be set annually by the leaders and not become individualized by department or employee.
  • Quarterly Priorities or Tactical Operating Priorities: Three to five priorities that support the annual priorities.
  • SMART Objectives: Projects and/or tasks that are required to accomplish the quarterly priorities.

Using this Strategy Planning Methodology makes it possible to connect your Mission to the annual, quarterly and even daily operations of the business.

4. Establish A Rhythm for Success

Strategic planning isn’t a one-time event. Once you’ve laid out your strategy, it’s crucial to stay focused over the long-term. I’ve found that it’s vital to schedule a steady rhythm of productive meetings—annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily. During these meetings, evaluate the plan, what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. You may be tempted to skip these meetings, but don’t do it. You’ll waste a lot more time throughout the week, month and quarter if you’re not clear on your goals. Make this investment in regular meetings and you’ll get the best thing to help you succeed—confidence.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve always believed in measuring performance to help people and companies make steady progress toward their goals. One of my favorite quotes is:

“Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is reported, performance improves dramatically. Where performance is reported publicly, performance improves exponentially.”

At the end of every quarter, each department goes through what we call a SWOT + exercise. During this time we do a SWOT analysis where we analyze our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We take it a step further by evaluating the accomplishments, lessons learned and strategic issues from the quarter. (How do we achieve X outcome, given Y situation?)

By doing this, we are able to make informed decisions about what the next quarterly priorities should be.

Effective strategic planning is the linchpin for your long-term business success. Grounded in your Purpose, Mission and Core Values, a solid strategy can help you develop a plan of action and maximize your likelihood of success in achieving your vision.

Full article and credits can be viewed here.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Marketing and SEO

 

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