May God Bless America!

This is one of my most favorite weeks of the year! My kids and I spend the week leading into Independence Day on Lake Martin and my husband joins us for the holiday. My family has had a home on the lake for almost 20 years. John and I got married here in 2009 and my kids love being at Mimi’s and Papa’s house. Every year I am reminded of how we lucky we are to live in our great country, but this year I feel especially blessed.  During my 16 year career, I have spent 10 years working in small businesses.  This year I am creating something that is not only a career passion of mine, but I am working with business owners who have turned their passions into viable enterprises.  What could be more of an American Dream?

There is a huge “shop small” movement going on across America and the statistics are telling.  According to the American Independence Business Alliance, "More than one dozen studies over the past decade show locally-owned independent restaurants re-spend twice as much per dollar of revenue in our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers re-spend more than three times as much of each sales dollar locally compared to their chain competitors. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and local wealth." 

This year while I am eating barbeque and watching fireworks, I will also be reflecting on how great it is that we live in a country where those who start small businesses can truly make a difference in our communities.  From sponsoring little league teams and breast cancer walks to supporting local chambers of commerce that give members the resources to thrive, small businesses not only fulfill the dreams of the entrepreneurs that run them, but they lay the foundation that give our communities their identity and their life.

 From my family to yours, Happy Independence Day and may God bless America!

But We Have Always Done It This Way

I love traditions. I picked my mother’s and my great aunt’s silver pattern and my grandmother’s pearls are probably my most prized possession. That same grandmother used Palmolive to wash dishes and I have a big bottle of the green stuff under my kitchen sink. We have had turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas all of my life and I intend to serve that menu for the rest of my days. I like traditional worship, I still wear panty hose and I like antiques. Almost everything I do in my life from how much allowance my 5 year old gets to what brand of toilet paper I buy is grounded in tradition. So why is it that the following 8 words….But we have always done it this way… stop me in my tracks when I hear a business owner or executive say them? Because being grounded in tradition is one thing, staying in a rut is completely another.

The world of marketing and public relations changes on a daily basis. I was at a meeting today of the Lee County Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. Two young women who are recent graduates of Auburn University presented their Campaign Class project to us. They worked with Fox Sports U and NASCAR to create a campaign to engage the coveted 18-34yo market using primarily social media. Out of several proposals, theirs was chosen to implement. I cannot do the full project justice, but a brief synopsis is that NASCAR is currently followed by mostly 44-67year old men. NASCAR and Fox Sports U see that they have to expand their audience and they have to remain cutting edge on their messaging to engage new and younger fans and viewers. While I was sitting listening to these bright, young women it struck me that tradition has a place in marketing and PR. Tradition in marketing, advertising and PR is your brand. It is the core of who you are and what your values are. It does not change often, if ever. How you relay that message and educate people on your brand is what has to be dynamic and changing with the times. NASCAR stayed true to their culture and who they are, but by working with these students, they added another way in which to reach viewers and potential fans. They did not let “but we have always done it that way” lead the way to complacency and lost revenue.

I worked for a small consulting firm for years beginning in 2002. We did not have voicemail for almost a year after I started. The COO was terrified that clients would see voicemail as a move to be less customer service oriented and excellent customer service was a core value that was measured at this firm. What she did not understand was that people were so used to voicemail by that time that they were hesitant to leave messages with a live human for fear that the nuance of the message may be lost or it may not get to the intended recipient. Because she had always taken hand written messages and dug her heals in so deep, she failed to consider how the person on the other end of the phone felt about voicemail. She wanted to maintain her core value of excellent customer service, but was not considering that the perception of what makes customer service great had changed over time. Business owners have to honor the traditions that work for their enterprises and further brand awareness, but they must also be willing to try new ways to reach clients and potential clients. If Lemonade Social can help you stay true to your traditions, while exploring new ways communicate your core values, please let us know!

Tooting your own horn?

Lemonade Social has been up and running for a couple of months now. I am so excited to be out on my own and working for myself. So far, I have been fortunate and the business is picking up projects. I have also had the opportunity to speak to students at Southern Union State Community College at their 2nd Annual Ready to Work Soft Skills Seminar. And if you have read this far, I have to come clean and tell you that writing the last 3 sentences has made my stomach hurt and caused a scowl on my face that could lead to frown lines and crow’s feet. Everything I have said is true, so why is it making me cringe? Well because I am as southern as a butter bean and anything that borders on “tooting my own horn” makes me come close to breaking out in hives!

There is a funny story about how I chose marketing as my life’s calling. I started out at Auburn as a speech pathology major. I made it through my junior year in the curriculum and figured out that I HATED it. I mean the word loathe would be putting it lightly. So sitting on the bed in 209 Dobbs Hall on a fine spring afternoon, I picked up the phone (it was corded and I used a calling card) and with shaking hands dialed the number to my dad’s office. He picked up and I immediately burst into tears. Once he made sure I was not bleeding and got me calmed down enough to understand me, he sort of caught that I hated my major, that I wanted to change and I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. So he asked me what I loved to do most in the world, through tears and sobs my 21 year old self replied, “shopping and throwing parties.” He chuckled, which was good since I knew he was calculating in his head how much this was going to cost him, and said “Shug, you need a marketing a degree.” So off to the business school I went…

So my love of shopping and party planning got me this degree that pays me to “toot the horn" of others so to speak. I am really good at sitting down with a business owner and talking about what they do and why they are passionate about it. I can put together a plan and shout from the rooftops why everyone in Auburn and Opelika should call them for whatever good or service they provide, but when I sit down to do it for myself I am so afraid of sounding pompous or uppity that I second guess everything I put on paper, say to a group of students or post on social media. Until yesterday, I thought this might be a problem that was unique to me and my business, but apparently it isn’t. I sat across the table from a very successful professional consultant that I hope to make a client. Over the course of the conversation he mentioned a couple of times that effective marketing scared him in some ways because he was afraid of sounding cheesy or like a know it all. I left the meeting excited about the opportunity to potentially work with this gentleman and as I was recapping the meeting in my head a light bulb went off. A lot of business owners, especially those with small town enterprises, must have some of the same fears that I do about “tooting my own horn.” That revelation is huge for 2 reasons, 1) it helps me relate to my clients in a new and exciting way and 2) it helps to give myself permission to tell people that I am good at my job as long as I can back it up with client success stories. So, is tooting your own horn at the next class reunion something I recommend? No, absolutely not. Is tooting your own horn something that I think you can effectively do for your business, or better yet, allow me to help you do for your business? You bet!

Thank you for reading my little walk down memory lane. If Lemonade Social can help you and your business toot its horn, please call me!