3 Goals to Set for 2020 to Improve Your Life and Work

There’s a lot of talk this season about how to set resolutions for the New Year. Here’s why it’s worthwhile to play along: any chance to take stock of our personal lives and businesses is one we should grab. When others around us are doing it, there’s more collective energy, encouragement and enthusiasm to tap into.

The general sense of renewal that comes with January 1, especially at the start of a new decade, is one we should internalize as our own.

For me, I’m still energized by my personal new beginning that came with my rebranding of Sparkr Marketing in August. After 18 years working in communications and nearly a decade in freelance, I finally launched my own brand with big plans to scale. I partnered with a crew of talented women to support me in my dreams. With that new beginning, I took on some new daily habits that I’m still practicing four months later.

I’d say that’s a win, so I want to share this formula that’s worked for me. I’ve used this same growth formula for 20 years, since learning about it in school in Israel.

How to Choose SMART Goals

In every new beginning, I select three small goals. I make sure they’re all SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

I choose three goals that fit into three categories of a meaningful life:

  1. A personal goal between me, myself and I
  2. A goal in my relationship with others
  3. A spiritual goal

My 3 Goals

To illustrate these three goals in practice, I will share the three goals I set on the day I launched Sparkr.

  1. My personal goal: Strength training throughout the day. I’ve been running for 20 years, so I’ve already made a habit of exercising. But now that I’m sitting or standing in place a lot of the day, I need ways to break that up. I do this by breaking my work up into blocks of time with short strength training breaks in between. I’ll do a 1-minute plank, some pushups, squats or attempt a pull up on the bar outside my office.
  2. My relationship goal: weekly coffee dates. Building a business while serving clients lends itself to some long days in solitude. If I don’t commit to scheduling a date a week with a friend or family member, I’ll just hunker down and work all day long. Because I recognize that would be completely insane, I make sure to schedule a coffee date ahead of each week.
  3. A spiritual goal: morning journaling. Every morning, I follow the same formula in a journal. I list 2-5 things I’m grateful for, without repeating anything I’ve already listed on other days. Then, I write 3-5 things I plan to focus on during the day. I schedule this in my calendar and do my best to complete each one without interruption. Then, I do an exercise recommended by Rachel Hollis to write out 10 of my dreams as if they already happened.

That’s it! Best wishes for a happy new year and new decade! Here’s to striving for big goals and achieving big dreams in 2020.

Let me know in the comments👇 what your goals are for 2020. Because committing to them publicly makes YOU more committed.

3 Content Batching Tips for Small Businesses and Inspiration to Get Started

As a busy small business owner, becoming a master at content batching is key to saving you time and promoting your business online. But first, let’s make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. Online media for small businesses can feel overwhelming, or It can feel like an opportunity. Consider this: sitting in your office or store right now, you have the opportunity to have a conversation with your exact target customer. You can build a relationship with them without ever even meeting them. If you focus on the “social” part of online marketing today, the “media” part feels like less of a burden.

Ready? Let’s do this. 🚀 Key to successful online marketing so that you stay top of mind for your target customers is showing up. Showing up means creating daily social media content and weekly website content.

In last week’s blog, I talked about three forms of content you should be creating weekly, but let’s review them briefly here.

Choose your weekly website content medium

Blog: Blogging is a great way to consistently show up for your audience weekly and to keep your content easy to consume. If you enjoy writing, blogging is an obvious choice, but even if you’re only a mediocre writer, I still say go for it. Writing is like a muscle that improves with time. And there are a lot of tips and even online content writing courses that can help you improve tremendously. With time, writing gets so much easier, so put away your high school anxiety and try out this medium if you can. 

Video: Like blogging, video takes some getting used to, but if you’re able to practice getting comfortable in front of the camera, it’s a great way to churn out content quickly. There’s a whole range of what’s acceptable in video content, and you can grow with it as you get more experienced and comfortable. Video blogging can be scrappy, with just your phone, a mic and a ring light. Or it can be as crisp as a TV episode.

With video, it’s easy to recycle that content. You can start with the video, but then add just the audio to your website as a podcast. And you can write a blog to explain what’s in your video as well. Trifecta! 

Podcast: Podcasting is a great way to show up weekly for your audience, especially if you’re comfortable talking to your audience but don’t love the idea of a video. Podcasting makes it really easy to showcase guests too because you don’t have to be in the same location to be on the show together. Guests can call in from all over the world to join you. With podcasting, it’s also really easy to create a blog post with each episode by writing some of your notes or even pulling and editing the the show transcript. Rev.com is a great tool for this job, for $1/minute, and there are others like it.

3 steps to batch your content

Once you have your content medium of choice in place, you’re ready to start batching content. Content batching is simply setting aside times where you focus on creating a bunch of content at once. This ensures you’re productive during the time you work on your online content and rescues you from ever staring at a blinking curser. I recommend content batching by implementing three steps into your routine that I use in my own business.

  1. Collect notes on the go: Whether on your phone notes or you’re kickin’ it old school on an actual notepad, start jotting down content ideas you come up with on the go to create a running list. An encounter with a customer, a quote from a book or movie or a problem you overcame in your business can all be sources of inspiration. These ideas are more likely to come to you during a workout or even in the shower. Add these content ideas to your list so you don’t forget. I’ve even found myself with an idea on the go when I didn’t have a chance to write it down, and I instead thought of an acronym or a trigger word to help me remember later.
  2. Set up a brainstorming session: Reserve a 2 hour session on your own or with your team to create several weeks’ worth of content ideas. This should be a total brain dump where you think of every possible idea you can. Whip out the post-it notes and use the whole pack. For each idea you think you might use, develop a short abstract or an outline so that creating that actual content later is easier. Try some of the ideas I list below for inspiration, including the notes you’ve already collected.
  3. Mark your calendar: Creating weekly online content means working weekly on content. And like the shoemaker’s son, you’re less likely to work on your own business when you have clients’ needs to meet. That’s why you’ll need to proactively reserve 2-3 hours each week to focus on creating your content. Since you’ve already developed a list and an abstract or outline, the time you set aside will be productive. I recommend creating content first thing in the morning, when you are sharpest. For my own business, I do this 2-3 times a week, around 6AM before anyone else needs me.

Content batching sources of inspiration for small businesses

Need help on your brainstorming session? Try some of the following sources of inspiration:

  1. The calendar, including holidays and hashtag days. Here’s a great downloadable 2020 hashtag calendar that syncs with your Google calendar.
  2. Seasonal themes: Depending on your business, focus on the seasons that affect your audience and create content themes, where you can go in depth over a few weeks or a month at a time. I’ve even done this with a B2B insurance broker, so you can for sure think of ones that will work for your industry (30 days to protect your business during cyber awareness month, anyone?).
  3. Check out what’s working for your competitors. Of course, you never want to copy your competition, but you should check out what’s working for them (and what’s not) to glean inspiration. Key to not replicating what they’re doing is to take a peak and then walk away before you dive into your own content.

Like any new habit in life or in your business, creating content takes time to get used to, but once you get going and see the chatter increase about your business because of it, you’ll never look back. Happy creating!

Let me know if this blog post was helpful for you! Leave a comment or send me a message over on your social channel of choice.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself to Spark Your Core Business Story

There are a lot of marketing services that offer small businesses quick ways to gain followers and customers. Gone are the days of buying mass lists of Facebook likes, but there are still subscriptions that promise an easy fix to gaining your target market’s trust.

In reality, it takes a lot more than an app to get your target market to know, like and trust your small business. Instead, the brands that are winning at marketing are telling a compelling story about what they do.

Brands that consistently offer a clear, concise and memorable message about their product or service stand out in a crowded online market place where everyone is screaming for our attention.

Brands famous for telling their story well

Apple was started in Steve Job’s garage and then went on to totally reimagine technology. The goal was to make technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future.

Friends in college started Warby Parker when one guy lost his glasses and couldn’t afford to replace them. They reinvented the glasses industry to make prescription eye glasses easy to produce and cheap to buy.

Nike, SoulCycle, Lululemon and so many favorite brands have stuck because users identify with their story.

Those brands that master the art of tapping into their higher purpose are the ones that really last. Take REI, for example. They sell outdoor equipment, just like so many other businesses like them. But what their customers are buying is a lifestyle of outdoor adventure. REI makes stunning documentaries about athletes that don’t even mention the store’s gear or products. On Black Friday, they actually close stores because they believe employees and customers should spend time outdoors, doing what they love on a day off work. Their social media message to #optoutside went viral.

Why storytelling is so powerful for small businesses

One vivid story is more powerful than the best PowerPoint slideshow ever created. That’s because storytelling is literally in our genes. As far back as mankind discovered fire, people have benefitted from the power of storytelling. In fact, anthropologists point to fire as igniting evolution. Not only did fire lead to a more calorie-rich diet, but communities were built around the fire at night–sticking together to tell stories (and not getting eaten by a sabertooth tiger). Masterful storytellers became leaders.

Scientists today have shown that telling stories literally connects brain waves. And anyone who ever sat around a fire at summer camp or on a camping trip doesn’t need to understand the research to intuitively understand the impact of storytelling around a fire.

4 questions to ask to spark your brand story

Now, if you’re thinking you just don’t have a compelling brand story, the good news is that you don’t have to be legendary to tell a good story. But do be consistent. Carmine Gallo offers four questions in The Storyteller’s Secret that every business owner should ask in order to get to the heart of the business story: 

  1. Why did you start your company?
  2. What does your company do? 
  3. What are you passionate about?
  4. What makes your heart sing?

This last one is the question that leads to the most compelling answer. It’s the higher purpose of why your business exists.

Sparking your story doesn’t have to be hard. But it requires time and space to think. This is why many successful brands will offer key employees a retreat together. It can be the reset button that gets everyone back to the heart of what matters. But, even if you don’t get a company trip to a resort, you can still try the following exercise. Take some time on a walk, run or find a spot in a quiet, creative space to think. Then, imagine what you would say if you were sitting among friends by a fire. (For me this is outside among mountains, but for you it might be around an indoor fireplace at a 5-star resort.)

Now, imagine telling close friends why you launched your business, why your organization exists and what your place is in it. You don’t have to be feeding starving children to matter. Does your product make someone’s day easier so that they have more time? Do you help people stay healthier? Do your services make people’s homes last longer so that they can create more memories? There’s a higher purpose to everything worth doing. Reach back and remember what’s yours and what makes your heart sing. This is your story.

Here’s my story: 

As far back as high school, I understood that my ability to articulate ideas in writing was the most essential skill to master. From college admissions essays to summer program applications, I attribute learning to write well as my key to doors of opportunity. It was why I studied journalism in college – not because I wanted to be on the frontlines of the news cycle – but because I wanted to hone the craft of storytelling.

Storytelling is what I did for five years straight at a local Chicago magazine, and storytelling across all media is what I mastered for 14 years as communications director at a private high school and in my freelance work.

But here’s what I found. Digital marketing today moves at record speed, and our attention span is at an all-time low. Small businesses and organizations are so busy in the weeds of online marketing tactics, that they’ve forgotten to focus on strategy. Most people who come to me are so overwhelmed with the tactics, that they’ve lost sight of the big picture. The story behind it all.

This realization, that so many businesses need someone to the heart of their story and to support them on how to tell it across digital marketing is what drove me to launch Sparkr Marketing.

No matter what you do, there is a story buried behind why you do it. Your story is your strategy. Everything else is just a tactic to tell that story.

One simple brand statement that sums up your story

Once you’ve developed your meaningful business story, you’ll need one simple statement that sums up what you do. Every great brand story considers the purpose and dream that birthed the company, and understanding what has brought you to this point and where the company is going is a strong place to start. This should be entirely focused on how you solve your target market’s problem.

Your brand statement considers what matters to your customers and the deeper purpose of your business. It goes beyond the money you want to earn and instead is driven by values. It explains how you improve the lives of those around you.

Try this formula: I/We ___________ (action) for ___________ (target market) in order to ___________ (solve a specific problem).

In the end come up with a story that describes a problem, shows you understand it and you are the one to solve it.

For example, here’s mine: I teach small businesses DIY online marketing to improve their businesses and their lives.

The most disappointing business loss is an idea that fails to connect to its audience not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because it wasn’t packaged as a great story.

So figure out your story and tell it well.

Why I Donate to the Nonprofits I Work With

By Wendy Margolin, owner

There’s this thing when you’re Jewish that you give back 10% to charity. Kinda like a tithe. Actually, exactly like a tithe.

If that sounds like a lot of money, it’s because it is. Until you realize that you lose nothing and have a whole lot to gain by giving it. 

Literally. 

True story: 

The first time I gave away a lot of my personal money was in college after a road trip with a campus organization. When they dropped me back at home, I decided to give a donation for gas. I’m so old that $40 was equal to a tank for each way, but in the end I decided to give $60. That was a lot of beer and pizza money. I left the car feeling pretty unsure UNTIL I got to my mailbox to find an unexpected check from my Papa. Good old Gramps had dropped $60 and a note in an envelope just for nothing. Coincidence? You decide. 

I’ve been happily giving charity ever since. I mostly work with small businesses, but for the nonprofits I coach, I always think they’re worthy. I give my 10% charity right back to them. I think of my Papa every time.

In addition to the nonprofits I work with, following are a few to consider this #GivingTuesday:

Charity: Water: Nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide live without access to clean water, and many of them walk hours every day to haul water you wouldn’t let your dog drink. $30/month provides one family with clean water. Access to clean water means education, income and health – especially for women and kids. 100% of your donation goes toward clean water projects because some really rich people cover all this organization’s overhead. Sweet!

Holiday Toy Drive: There are so many holiday toy drives this time of year, so be sure to give to at least one of them. My favorite is from my high school yearbook buddy, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, whose charity work on the side is just as impressive as her Netflix shows.

Make Every Vote Matter: Make Every Vote Matter is an apolitical, nonpartisan movement to promote the election of the president and vice president by popular vote. Currently, whichever candidate gets the most votes in your state gets all the Electoral College votes from your state (unless you live in Nebraska or Maine). That means that, if you didn’t vote for the winner in your state, your vote doesn’t matter to the Electoral College. MEVM is working to change that so that the winner of the popular vote becomes president.

Jewish United Fund: I started my career at JUF News, and I’ve been a big cheerleader ever since. There’s a reason Chicago has the best Jewish Federation in North America and that their Charity Navigator score is one of the best around. There are few I trust more to spend my charity dollars locally and around the world more wisely than JUF/JF.

Plan Your Small Business Online Marketing for 2020

Just because the New Year is around the corner, doesn’t mean you’re too late to get a jump start on planning your small business online marketing content for 2020. And, when you consider that many small businesses plan website and social media content on the fly, you’re pretty much a rockstar right now – waaaaay ahead of the game. So here we go 🚀

3 key steps to successful online marketing

Before you can plan your online marketing, you’ll want to be sure you’re reaching the audience you intend to serve. This means knowing who you are, knowing who they are and knowing the best way to reach them. Let me explain:

  1. Know your core story: We talked about this in an earlier blog. This is your 1-sentence practical and higher purpose explanation of what drives you in your business. Read here how to spark your core story.
  2. Know your audience: Knowing what your audience needs and what they value you for will help you determine what content you should create. Your goal is to provide your audience with exactly what they want so they feel like you are speaking directly to them. This comes from audience research. Read here how to conduct audience research and swipe my Google audience survey.
  3. Show up consistently: This means creating content every week on your website and then sending it out to your target audience’s inbox. On your social media channel of choice, you’ll want to show up nearly every day or more.

Choose Your Content Medium

Now that you’ve determined how to describe who you are and better understand what your audience wants, you can begin thinking about how to reach them. You have three choices for a content medium, and choosing one of them will depend on your preferences and how your audience tends to consume content. We will talk more in depth about the how to’s for each content medium in the future.

Blog: This, obviously is my content medium of choice. Blogging is a great way to consistently show up for your audience weekly and to keep your content easy to consume. If you enjoy writing, blogging is an obvious choice, but even if you’re only a mediocre writer, I still say go for it. Writing is like a muscle that improves with time. And there are a lot of tips and even online content writing courses that can help you improve tremendously. With time, writing gets so much easier, so put away your high school anxiety and try out this medium if you can.

What’s also nice about blogging, is that it’s really practical to refer back to other content within your blogs. Internal linking is good for SEO, but more importantly, it’s practical for your reader. I listen to podcasts on the go, and I often hear hosts tell me to refer back to episode whatever, and I’m just not going to stop my run to refer back to the one they mention. But in a blog, it’s as simple as a click to dive in more.

Video: Like blogging, video takes some getting used to, but if you’re able to practice getting comfortable in front of the camera, it’s a great way to churn out content quickly. There’s a whole range of what’s acceptable in video content, and you can grow with it as you get more experienced and comfortable. Video blogging can be scrappy, with just your phone, a mic and a ring light. Or it can be as crisp as a TV episode like, Marie Forleo’s Marie TV with a whole crew likely filming and editing it. If you show up on Facebook live or IG TV, you can skip the editing and just talk to your audience on the fly. Or you can pre record and try out some easy, do-it-yourself editing on a site like Kapwing or hire a video editor on a site like Fiverr.

What’s nice about video, is that it’s easy to recycle that content. You can start with the video, but then add just the audio to your website as a podcast. And you can write a blog to explain what’s in your video as well. Trifecta!

Podcast: Podcasting is a great way to show up weekly for your audience, especially if you’re comfortable talking to your audience but don’t love the idea of a video. Podcasting makes it really easy to showcase guests too because you don’t have to be in the same location to be on the show together. Guests can call in from all over the world to join you. With podcasting, it’s also really easy to create a blog post with each episode by writing some of your notes or even pulling and editing the the show transcript. Rev.com is a great tool for this job, for $1/minute, and there are others like it.

Once you have your content medium of choice in place, you’re ready to start batching content. I’ll be discussing content batching next week, so stay tuned. But in the meantime, start jotting down content ideas you come up with on the go and create a running list in your phone or on a notepad.

The Digital Marketing Every Small Business Needs

Small business marketing used to be simple. Choose a name and logo, print up some business cards and post cards to mail out and place an ad in a newspaper. But, before you long for yesteryear, consider this: today’s digital marketing is far more complex, but it comes with far more opportunity. Your small business with a small budget can reach your exact target market instantly.

What businesses used to spend in dollars to reach their target market, you can today spend on time reaching your target market.

Time and money, of course, are limited for small business owners, so make sure the time and money you invest in digital marketing is well spent.

The problem you’re more likely to face today is not the cost of marketing, it’s figuring out a formula for your digital marketing and conquering the technology to get it done. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a basic element of doing business today. It’s the equivalent of an “OPEN” sign on the door of a storefront. Your job is to find out where your customers spend time online and make sure you’re spending time there with them.

How to get started with digital marketing

Here’s the basics of what every business needs to get started with online marketing.

  1. A functional website
  2. Weekly content updates on your website
  3. Daily social media content
  4. Email marketing

Now, let’s break that down.

Website basics

A functional website means that your website is only 3-4 years old at most. Unless you work in e-commerce, most small business websites can be simple and cost effective. Keeping your site up to date with current digital marketing best practices will not only make your business look professional, but it will also save you time. The older your site is, the harder you will have to work in the backend to get the most out of it.

You’ll also need an SEO (search engine optimization) audit and optimization. This is work you need to do on the backend of your site to make sure that your target market in your area finds you online when they are searching. It’s the technical side of how websites improve their ranking on sites like Google.

Digital marketing content basics

Once you have your website set up, it’s a working asset. You’ll need to regularly post new content to your site so that you drive traffic to your website, stay top of mind for your target marketing and continue to improve your search engine ranking. Content can come in the form of a blog, a podcast or videos. All of them work well, so the choice is yours. It will depend on what is easiest for you and how your audience tends to consume content. For example, if you’re trying to reach young men, videos on YouTube and then embedded on your site might make the most sense. Or if you love giving advice and chatting, a podcast might be really doable for you. What’s important is that you choose your medium and be consistent.

Daily social media content

Social media is the next layer of a robust digital marketing plan because this is how you can promote your content, your website and your brand story. Social media is the public marketplace of today, and like it or not, every seller needs to show up. You don’t have to focus on every channel, but figure out what your audience prefers and make sure you are there joining the conversation. Better yet, create great content to drive the conversation. Posts on each social media channel have a different lifespan and you’ll need to post regularly to stay relevant in that space. We’ll talk about each channel separately here in future blog posts.

Email marketing

What’s that you say? You day email marketing is dead? Think again. Consider these stats from Wordstream:

  • 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention
  • Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.

It’s true that no one wants your email newsletter, unless you’re sending out awesome deals and great buys to customers who want it. But there are better ways to do email marketing, and we’ll talk about them in an upcoming blog post.

Be patient

The most important part of your digital marketing plan is to be patient. Your online presence is built brick by brick, and it’s not all or nothing. What’s great about digital marketing is that it’s easy to make changes later on as you adjust your plan or gain more wisdom. Start at the beginning and keep pushing forward. And when you have a question, send it our way. We always write back.

Join our digital marketing group on Facebook for digital marketing tips, tricks and to find answers to all your qs.

3 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Marketing Manager in 2020

So, you’re ready to hire a new leader for your marketing team this upcoming year. Or perhaps it’s the only member of your marketing team.

How do you know what marketing skills to look for?

The answer to this question becomes less obvious as the field of marketing and communications becomes more specialized. There’s branding, SEO, analytics (no, those aren’t always one in the same), bloggers, content specialists, social media specialists, graphic designers, videographers and more. With so much to know in marketing for 2020, it’s impossible for any one marketing specialist to have deep knowledge in every area. And even if someone managed to master most of the latest marketing tactics, everything is likely to change tomorrow.

Still, there are some basic, core characteristics that can make some marketing professionals stand out.

Following are 3 questions to ask candidates for your next marketing leadership position.

  1. What’s your core story? Your brand’s story–how you were founded and what you stand for–is instrumental to your success as a brand. You MUST have an origin story, preferably one that’s as short as one sentence, to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. (Think Apple starting in a garage or Facebook launching from a Harvard dorm room.) Your story is one that you should know well, your employees can describe and your customers understand. If you’re hiring someone charged with getting that story out into the world, they should understand the importance of an origin story and have one of their own prepared from their own life.
  2. What’s the best piece of work you ever published? This can be a blog, a lead magnet, a social media ad or a sales letter. It doesn’t matter what the medium is, but if your marketing candidates cannot write, they aren’t the best fit for your job. Writing is instrumental to telling your story in blogging, on your website and on social media. Digital tactics can be learned with a Youtube tutorial or a coach, but writing is a skill that takes time and patience. Find a pro.
  3. What blogs do you read or podcasts do you subscribe to? There is so much to learn about marketing today, and it changes every week. There are marketing influencers keeping up with all of it, and anyone paying attention can learn from them for free. Be sure that someone you hire to lead your team is passionate about learning and spends time doing it already on their own.

Once you narrow down your candidates and find the right fit for your company, consider finding ways to support them by outsourcing the areas where they don’t excel. Some easy tactics to outsource include graphic design, video, social media ads and social media event coverage.

Marketing in 2020 is too much work for one person, but too often small businesses can only support one salary. Consider a marketing coach to support your new hire as they determine what to prioritize and the best strategy to get it all done.

9 Essential Questions to Ask Your Target Market This Year

​I once took a 12 hour plane ride in front of a man with sleep apnea. He popped a pill the minute we took off and snored like it was a Seinfeld episode until the minute we landed. Flight attendants scurried around trying to move nearby passengers and hand out earplugs to those left to suffer.

Yeah, it was that bad.

Life lesson: 

Pay attention to what others need around you. It’s not enough to just put your head down and do what you think is best without taking everyone else into account.

Whether you’re a small business owner or working in a nonprofit, knowing what your target market wants is essential. The best way to find out is to ask them and ask often. I recommend taking stock of where your people are at officially with a simple survey at least once a year. And unofficially on your social media pages all the time.

Questions to Survey Your Target Market Each Year

  1. What was it like before you worked with us?
  2. What problem(s) were you trying to solve with our product or service?
  3. Where did you start your search?
  4. What made our service stand out from other options?
  5. Was there an obstacle that almost prevented you from buying our product or service?
  6. What do you like about working with us?
  7. Is there anything you dislike about our product/service?
  8. What are other services you wish we would offer?
  9. What has exceeded your expectations since working with us?
  10. How can we do a better job meeting your needs?
  11. Would you recommend our product or service? Why or why not?

Create a Quick Survey Using Google Forms

I made this survey below in minutes on Google forms. You should absolutely steal it. Just copy the questions in it and create your own survey in Google forms. New to Google drive? Don’t be scared. New tricks are fun, and Google drive is easy. 👇

Casual Ways to Survey Your Audience on Social Media

You can ask your audience AAAALLLLL the time about your product or service on social media, and it’s great for engagement and great for gauging your audience preferences. Instagram polls are fun, but I don’t recommending using Facebook polls, Those get very little engagement. Instead, ask questions that require your audience to comment in order to participate.

  1. Ask what color they prefer for a product you’re developing and show them both options.
  2. Ask what service you should develop next.
  3. Creating a downloadable freebie for your website landing page? Ask them which one would be most helpful.

For the record, we voted YES to cloth diapers once upon a time. Because, of course I did.

Whatever you choose, be sure to keep the conversation with your target market going. What’s worked for you in your organization?

What’s your story?

Everywhere I go these days, those who know me ask what’s my story. They mean it casually, but for me it’s such a loaded question. What’s my story? My story is YOUR story.

I set out to spark stories full time, and it’s driving every element of my business all day long. Your story is what motivated me to leave a job that was comfortable in a place that I loved. It’s what’s driving me to focus full time on my business so that I can help small businesses and organizations focus full time on THEIRS.

Here’s My Why

As far back as high school, I understood that my ability to articulate ideas in writing was the most essential skill I needed to master. From college admissions essays to summer program applications, I attribute learning to write well as my key to doors of opportunity. It was why I studied journalism in college – not because i wanted to be on the frontlines of the news cycle – but because I wanted to hone the craft of storytelling.

Storytelling is what I did for five years straight at JUF News, a local Chicago magazine, and storytelling across all media is what I mastered for 14 years as communications director at a private high school and in my freelance work.

But here’s what I found. Digital marketing today moves at record speed, and our attention span is at an all-time low. Small businesses and organizations are so busy in the weeds of digital marketing tactics, that they’ve forgotten to focus on strategy. Most people who come to me are so busy keeping up with social media posts that have a life of only a few hours (if we’re lucky), ads to post (and A/B test!), a website that already looks dated after three years, not so mention print material –– that they’ve lost sight of the big picture. The story behind it all.

Your story is your strategy. Everything else is just a tactic to tell that story.

This realization, that so many of you need someone to remind you of your story and to support you on how to tell it across digital marketing is what drove me to launch Sparkr Marketing.

How to Spark Your Story

Sparking your story doesn’t have to be hard. But it requires time and space to think. This is why many successful brands will offer key employees a retreat together. It can be the reset button that gets everyone back to the heart of what matters. But, even if you don’t get a company trip to a resort, you can still try this exercise:

Take some time on a walk, run or find a spot in a quiet, creative space to think. Then, imagine what you would say if you were sitting among friends by a fire. (For me this is outside among mountains, but for you it might be around an indoor fireplace at a 5-star resort.)

Now, imagine telling close friends around you why your organization exists and what your place is in it. You don’t have to be feeding starving children to matter. Does your product make someone’s day easier so that they have more time? Do you help people stay healthier? Do your services make people’s homes last longer so that they can create more memories? There’s a higher purpose to everything worth doing. Reach back and remember what’s yours. This is your story.

So tell it well.

Why my competition is part of my tribe

why my competition is part of my tribe

You don’t have to know much about small businesses or nonprofit organizations to understand that a lack of competition is a formula for mediocrity. On the other hand, healthy competition – even when it can be scary – raises the bar for everyone.

I would even argue that when we 🎉 C E LE B R A T E 🎉 our competition, we lift one another up with that proverbial bar. This is why I will regularly recommend others I know in my field who do similar work as me. This can be as simple as “liking” a LinkedIn blog post of a colleague in my field.

There are so many times that I am tagged in local Facebook groups where a small business owner asks for marketing recommendations. So are other women I know in my field. And with no hesitation, I click “like” on all the posts when I see it. For me, it’s a small gesture of sisterhood. Sure, if it’s a gig that would suit me, I’ll reach out in private messages. But, whether the business owner gets back to me or another small business marketing agency in my area is ultimately not up to me anyway. So, why not root for another bright, hardworking entrepreneur I know?

I learned this lesson 15 years ago from my window installer. He had come to us after I called Diamond Windows in my area. But his business card had his own business name on it. When I questioned him, he told me that the owner of Diamond, Marty Zimmerman, had taught him everything about the industry. Marty had apparently told him that there’s enough business to go around, so why not support another person in the industry?

For me, it was a powerful lesson that stuck.

Following are 3 ways to stay focused on growing your business while still celebrating others:

  1. Know your strengths: Looking at our competition makes us see our own weaknesses in a brighter light. Try reframing this thought. When you notice strengths in your competition, think back to your own strengths that got you started in your organization in the first place. However aligned you are with similar businesses around you, there is some facet of what you offer that only you can accomplish. Focus on perfecting that area of your business. Essential to thriving among competition is the ability to identify what your organization does well and constantly work to develop that.
  2. Take ownership of what you can control: You are only the master of two aspects of your business: how hard you work and how much you know. Everything else is out of your hands. If you look around and see your competition pushing boundaries beyond you, ask yourself at the end of the day, did I work my hardest today and take steps to learn more? If the answer is no, improve tomorrow.
  3. Celebrate your competition: This third way is easier when you’re already focused on knowing your strengths and owning up to what you can control. Then, you can genuinely feel happy for those around you. Change the thought 💭 “I wish it were me” to “Next time it will be me, and I’m happy now for you.” This challenging step makes us kinder in the present and more hardworking for the future.

At the end of the day, all of us are better off for asking, what have I done today to celebrate those around me? Even when it’s our competition.