Sunday, August 26, 2012

Small Business Marketing: Eye of the Beholder

You've probably heard the maxim, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." This is nowhere truer than in defining a small business. Everyone from chief catalyst to receptionist to clean-up crew needs to be concerned with company image, performance, response time, etc., because every action, no matter how seemingly insignificant, affects client perception.

This is the real definition of branding: how your clients see you. It doesn't matter how slick your website, how memorable your logo, how many Twitter followers or Facebook "Likes"  — or even how outstanding your product or service may be. If a customer's experience is being left on hold for three minutes while she silently fumes, that's your brand.

Think about the positioning that describes your core brand. For example:

  • What we're known for: comprehensive marketing communications, with a specialty in social media marketing
  • Our clients: emerging businesses in the health/wellness vertical
  • How customers see us: solid experience, broad knowledge, end-to-end programs
  • What sets us apart: fresh approach, industry expertise, creative and effective campaigns, measurable results.
Now the key is living up to this promise. Just as you wouldn't appear for a major presentation in shorts and a T-shirt (unless, perhaps, the prospect sells surfboards or beach apparel), you don't want to unintentionally sabotage client perception by ignoring a request for information or failing to resolve a complaint.

However, it's also human nature to be forgiving when a business acknowledges its error. Consider this story: a customer ordered a book and card set from a small online retailer and received an e-mail response saying the order would be shipped no later than July 31. When she hadn't received anything two weeks later, she e-mailed again, saying that unless the package had been sent via media mail, it ought to have arrived by now. She also left a telephone message a day later. Still no response.

Quite annoyed, the customer phoned a second time a day later and reached the company owner, who, it turned out, was a solopreneur. She explained the shipment had been held up due to a last-minute cover redesign and apologized profusely, saying, "It's entirely my fault. Forty lashes! I should have let you know…" The customer and business owner spoke for five minutes, and the owner promised to overnight the package at her expense.

The upshot? The customer enjoyed her encounter with the entrepreneur, received the product the next day, and now holds the company in positive regard. However, the entire scenario could have been averted had the business responded right away, and indicated when the customer could expect the order to be shipped.

So how can you create the brand you want to be?
  • Return phone calls promptly. If you say you'll call back within 24 hours, aim to make it sooner. If it takes you two days, customer perception will be: you don't care. Same with email: respond with 24 hours — or hire a VA (Virtual Assistant) to help you.
  • Treat callers with respect. Avoid transferring a call more than once, don't place people on hold unless absolutely necessary (and then, just for a few seconds), and NEVER disconnect them!
  • Make the customer right. If someone purchased a defective product, apologize sincerely (send a follow-up email as well), replace it immediately, or refund the customer's money promptly if that's their choice.
  • Have an easily navigable site with clear contact information. Include a toll-free number if possible — and do your best to staff it with a live voice, not voicemail.
  • Know your clients. Greet them with a warm welcome when they enter your place of business, get to know their names, and make them feel glad to do business with you.
Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say." He might have been describing the hidden dimension of branding. Your brand is you, so let it represent you and your business in the best possible light. Then you'll attract customers who are eager to help you shine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Harmonic Convergence: Closing the Cycle

Where were you on August 16-17, 1987? That's when the seminal global event known as Harmonic Convergence took place. The brainchild of Mayan researcher and author José Argüelles (who is now on the other side of the veil), Harmonic Convergence was a call for 144,000 “sun dancers” to gather at sunrise on those dates at sacred sites around the planet in order to create a synchronized meditation for world peace. An untold number – perhaps millions – answered the call.

The point of the synchronization was two-fold: to establish a common unified field of mind and intention, and to create a type of mental network or field around the planet – a proto-noosphere, or worldmind.

This Thursday and Friday mark the 25th anniversary of Harmonic Convergence, in essence the closing of the cycle, the end of history and the beginning of a new World Age. Synchronized global peace meditations are again taking place around the globe. Join the event on Facebook, and become part of the Rainbow Bridge to our collective future of peace and prosperity.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Synchronicity Rising vs. Shopping Away Your Soul

On Thursday, the cross-quarter gateway known as Lammas, with a full Aquarian moon lighting up the sky and the Olympic rings, I had an incredible encounter with a man ahead of me in line at the grocery store. We casually commented that the lines seemed to be moving slowly, and I said, "I think most of the checkers are new; it's not easy to master all those codes on the register. I had to use one at my very first job when I was 16 and (I imitated the hunt and peck motion)." I laughed and said, "Now, of course, we all have computers so we're fast on the keys."

Then I looked at him and said, "Are you old enough to remember what I'm talking about?" He said, "Oh, yes, I'm older than you." 

Naturally, I had to take the challenge so I asked, "How old are you?" He said, "55." I said, "Dude!" and high-fived him. Then I asked, "When's your birthday?" He replied without missing a beat, "2/4/57" ~ which is exactly the way I always say it! I got what I imagine was a look of incredulity on my face and asked, "What time?" Meanwhile he's still processing what's happening, and says, "Wait ~ you're an Aquarian too?" And then he says, "It was sometime early in the morning, like 1 am." I was born just after 1 am. I said, "We're twins!" It was the coolest connection, though I think it flipped him out a little. For me, it was simply "synchronicity rising!"

Contrast this with some construction that's been going on for quite awhile next to the community pool here. The pool is located not far from the freeway onramp, but a stand of trees afforded a measure of privacy and peace. I noticed the greenery was slowly morphing into bulldozers, but had no idea why. Over the weekend I happened to mention some other nearby construction to a young Whole Foods employee, and he referenced the swim site construction by saying, "I'm designing the benches for the mall!" I thought he was making a very dry joke.

But no: the construction by the freeway is a new shopping center underway. Incredulous in a far different manner than during Thursday's heart-sync'd encounter, I said sarcastically, "Oh, I'm sure we need another mall!" That was when he repeated the information about the bench design, and I realized he was serious. I congratulated him on landing the project ~ I always support art, in all its guises ~ but the desecration of nature for human consumption galls me.

In this kairos moment when reclaiming our soul connection is key to personal and planetary evolution, the trees are our allies and guides. We won't realize our life purpose by buying the leopard print tights, but by becoming our wildness ~ not as violence; as an abiding, sensuous connection with Nature and all our planetary kin.

Hey, I grew up in a town that had more shopping malls per square mile than any other; I thought the trees planted inside the mall grew there! And I enjoy a beautiful new outfit as much as the next woman (or guy). The difference is, I know materialism isn't the path to what we might term synchronicitree.

I invite and invoke your primal need to be in natural surroundings, so that the synchronicity I experienced in the market knows how to find you. When you're living in the flow, such encounters will tickle you into joy everywhere ~ and you won't rely on shopping as a way to remember your soul.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Lammas and the Olympics: A Richer Harvest

This year's cross quarter gateway of fire, Lammas, takes place on a full moon, in the middle of the only event to harness at least half the entire world's attention: the Olympic Games. And in this momentous year, says Patricia Cota-Robles, the Olympic opportunity is truly what its name implies:

"A plan has been set into motion that will take advantage of the powerful celestial alignments and solar flares that are flooding the Earth during this awesome summer of 2012. This plan requires that people around the world create a collective Cup of Consciousness through which the Light of God will flow to transmute the surfacing negativity and pave the way for the birthing of a New Renaissance of Divine Love.

"The only positive event that has the potential of drawing the global focus of humanity's attention in the numbers necessary to transmute the amount of negativity being pushed to the surface all over the world is the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are truly a global event, and they draw the attention of an estimated 4,500,000,000 people during the 17-days of competition. The Olympic Games signify the Family of Humanity setting aside our differences so we can come together to attain our highest level of excellence. This is the perfect thoughtform and intention needed for the collective Cup of Humanity's Consciousness. Together we will magnetize enough Light to transmute our human miscreations.

"The more Light we can project into this surfacing negativity the faster it will be transmuted and the sooner the patterns of perfection for our New Planetary CAUSE of Divine Love will tangibly manifest in our lives. The Olympic Games are providing an opportunity to catapult this process forward at warp speed.

"Pay attention to the positive things that are being brought to your awareness and you will confirm this for yourself. Do not focus on the bombardment of negativity that is designed to polarize people and to perpetuate fear and separation. Focus instead on the evidence of positive changes that are happening everywhere. Remember, where your attention is, there YOU are. Empower only what you want to create in your life, not the things that you do not want."

What Is Lammas?

August 1-2 marks the mid-point between summer and fall. Known as Lammas, or Lughnasadh (LOO-ne-sah), it's one of the eight cross quarter days on the Wheel of the Year (the others are the Summer and Winter Solstices, Spring and Fall Equinoxes, Candlemas (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1) and Hallomas/Samhain (October 31). (Of course, the dates are reverse for our southern hemisphere allies.) Lammas is a celebration of abundance, the harvest time, and a potent moment to bring ourselves back into alignment with the natural world.

Myth*ing Links, an annotated and illustrated collection of worldwide links to mythologies and folklore, sacred arts and sacred traditions, offer an evocative description of this turning:

" a hot, lazy, delicious time of the year. Bees buzz in the heat of the day, the air is still, and the force of the sun remains strong, even though its sway over the earth is slowly diminishing day by day. In the cooler nighttime, frogs and crickets keep us company. It is here, in the gloaming, when so many rituals begin...

"This is when the powerful gods of the grain harvests are honored. They are in their prime, sometimes generous, sometimes quixotic, and always aware with a bittersweet pleasure that their time will wane, as it always does, and they will die, as they always do, and yet nevertheless they will return to another delicious summer next year, as they always do, and have, and will, for this is the endlessly circling Wheel of the Year, and they ride it proudly.

"Yet there is a darker nuance, one that surprised me, for I had thought that this was a purely masculine god's festival. I learned however of Lugh's touching and loving devotion to his foster-mother, the royal Tailtiu, whose fate may be even more intimately woven into this season than his..."

Parabola magazine author Mara Freeman on the further genesis of Lammas:

"...Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg, who died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated. When the men of Ireland gathered at her deathbed, she told them to hold funeral games in her honor. As long as they were held, she prophesied Ireland would not be without song. Tailtiu’s name is from Old Celtic Talantiu, 'The Great One of the Earth,' suggesting she may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish goddesses. In fact, Lughnasadh has an older name, Brón Trogain, which refers to the painful labor of childbirth. For at this time of year, the earth gives birth to her first fruits so that her children might live..."

As Cota-Robles explains, our collective negativity and fear are what needs to "die" so that we may be reborn into 5th dimensional abundance and grace.

Canadian tarot reader and astrologer Tara Greene says that Lugh's festival points Southwest, and resonates to the element Air. "Southwest represents the Place of Healing, of the Dreamer and the Dream. It is the place of both your Personal Dream and the Sacred Dream of the Planet. What is your Personal Dream? What is your Sacred Dream? The Sacred Dream is your Highest Spiritual Dream."

This August, especially if you've never honored Lammas before, remember your relationship with the Earth and her cycles. Give thanks for the beauty, harmony, love and healing you are inviting into your life and into the collective. Image-in your sweet Sacred Dream.