Happily Unmarried?

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Almost three years ago this guy said I love you, and I said thank you. I wrote about it, and the best part is it had a happy ending. Because I decided to not be afraid. I decided to take a leap even though that leap seemed like one only an adventurous frog could make. Let’s just say I’ve been successful at many things; relationships wasn’t one of them. This was different. I was different. He was different.

So we’re doing something I didn’t think I’d do again: getting married. I once said I was happily unmarried and that it wasn’t something that mattered to me. I still think marriage is just a societal norm and a legal transaction. I still think most people get married because they think they have to or they want a wedding. I had a wedding. It was beautiful. Everything planned very meticulously by me. A good marriage it did not yield. I do not regret it. It was what seemed right at the time.

Looking forward, I have no desire for a wedding. This time I’m more concerned about a marriage. Why did I change my mind? Why throw my ideas and convictions about marriage away? First, let me state I’m not against marriage. I believe any two people who are in love and want to share a life should have the opportunity to marry. I’ve witnessed many wonderful marriages. My grandparents were married for decades and seemed to always be blissfully happy. My Pop called my Granny sweet names like June Bug. They were a beautiful pair. They were so in love that even though my Pop passed 10 years before my Granny, she never even considered another man.

I also have many friends that have solid marriages. I was there for their weddings, watched them welcome children and continue to be happy and in love. How do I know they still like each other? I’ve seen them be affectionate, tease each other and laugh. Oh, and they haven’t killed each other yet. Their marriages have grown and changed over the years, but every good relationship should.

So why would someone who once said she was happily unmarried, change her mind. Well, I am a woman; we do change our minds. It honestly simply came because I want to call this incredible gift of a man my husband. I want to grow old with him and raise furry babies. Being his girlfriend just isn’t enough. Our decision to marry isn’t about anyone other than us.

I never really thought I’d find this kind of love. It wasn’t even anything I was seeking. It just kind of happened. I’ve never been happier, never had someone get me and more importantly be there when it mattered. In my life I’ve experienced so much pain and disappointment. Not with him. He’s a beautiful soul who always has a smile on his face. I’m a lucky girl and can’t wait to be his wife. I go into this with no delusions. I don’t think it will really change much between us. That’s hard to know. Life is unexpected. We really have nothing but this moment to be sure of; I don’t want to look back or look forward. I like being right where I am, and it’s sure nice to have someone I’m so sure of by my side.

Domino’s Wins at UX, Focuses on the Details

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Did you know that Domino’s is a technology company? They just happen to sell pizza and a lot more? That’s how they like to think of themselves, but it was an evolution. One that started with the brand in major crisis back in 2008.

They even admitted that their pizza was terrible. So they got honest and serious about improving that. Here’s a great rundown of how and why they did it by Jeff Beer.

So the food improved, and the technology made ordering a pizza an easy and fast experience. They understood that online ordering and focusing on the user experience would result in more orders and more dollars.

So as a customer who orders online, I love the app. It lets you customize everything, which is super important to me as a picky eater. They’ve thought about everything down to the smallest detail to eliminate frustration. So here’s the smallest thing they are doing, which makes me love them even more. When it comes to a point in the process to enter numbers (telephone, credit card, etc.), the screen that pops up are numbers only! Typically, the keyboard pops up, and you must navigate to numbers, which is clumsy and annoying. But simply by understanding that I have to punch in numbers and then presenting me with just numbers, it’s genius and so simple. It makes it a better user experience.

The Money Talk: What Are You Worth?

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I don’t dream of money. Sure, I like money. But it’s not the number one driver for me in terms of success or happiness. But it certainly helps. My mom used to say, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure makes things easier.” It’s true. Money can’t guarantee happiness, but it does remove all the worry that not having it presents.

I suppose I’ve been worrying about money most of my life. We didn’t have much of it growing up. I was raised by a single mother who was a teacher so I guess you can tell by that description that we weren’t raking it in. Luckily, my mom had help from her parents. I never really thought that I didn’t have nice things. I had lots of Barbies, brand named clothes and a house to live in. But we never had new furniture or a nice car. We didn’t have fancy vacations; in fact I never took a flight until college. I know now that my mom sacrificed a lot so that we never felt that we didn’t have everything we wanted.

I’ve been on my own for a long time so I’ve had to pay bills and be responsible for my own finances since my teens. I’ve always understood the importance of paying bills on time and how if you don’t what can happen. I’m proud to say I have a credit score in the high 700s thanks to this practice. I also never expected anyone to pay my way: not a man or anyone else. And no one has. I put myself through college and grad school. I bought myself all the cars I’ve ever driven. And I’ve made all my own mortgage payments. I’ve struggled at times; done better at others.

And even though money isn’t the number one driver in my career, I still believe I should be paid my value. A former manager once said to me, “You’re only worth what someone will pay you.” True enough. This was in response to my request for a raise. The request wasn’t made because I had bills to pay or that the cost of living had gone up (although of course it had). The request was made after years of dedicated work and a proven track record of real growth and revenue. Yet, he wouldn’t budge on my salary. He said he wanted me to make more money, but that I would need to do that through my bonuses. These bonuses, however, were out of my control. They weren’t based on my production (inbound leads) but rather some percentage of new sales. I protested this wasn’t fair because it wasn’t based on the work I was doing.

I did research on PayScale.com and showed him that I was in a very low percentile of salary based on my experience and education. He was unmoved. Then I started interviewing for other jobs and went back to him with a firm salary number. This was a number that other people were willing to pay me. He again did nothing to make my salary competitive so I left and immediately started making over $20,000 more annually.

It’s hard to take when someone doesn’t believe in you even though you’ve proven yourself and shown great results. In my experience, however, this manager was the exception. In other jobs I’ve had, I received numerous raises – based on my performance. When someone won’t pay you what you are worth, there’s more to it than just the fact that you should be fairly compensated. The message is that you don’t matter; that you aren’t an asset; that you are replaceable (he also told me this on more than one occasion).

Money isn’t everything. But it does give us freedoms; freedom to travel, to have safe homes, to live with a bit more ease. So my advice to anyone who deserves a raise or who is in the job market is to be clear about what you are worth. If you don’t make a case for yourself, no one else will. I’ve interviewed for many jobs that I thought were great fits for me, but the salary wasn’t where I needed it to be so I said no. I know what I am worth. I won’t say salary is negotiable or I’m open. I say what I deserve. If they don’t like it then it’s not the place for me. So many times in life, we (especially women) don’t speak up about what we are worth. We just keep trying to make ends meet in this year with last year’s salary. We miss out on opportunities and experiences because we didn’t have the funds. So money doesn’t make you happy; it is, however, the currency of life so we’ve got to keep making it. Never accept less than what you are worth. You’ll be disappointed; mostly in yourself.

 

 

Bad Grammar & Monobrows: Both Should Be Avoided

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As a writer, I read a lot; lots of posts, blogs and articles every day, mainly about marketing and business but also pop culture. I also typically read a book a week. Reading informs me, inspires me and makes me a better writer. I would say about one-third of what I read every day is really well written. The other, although it may have some good ideas, lacks a clear voice and often is too long and uses language that is harder to digest for the masses. I am a big supporter of having a large vocabulary and using it to be expressive; however, most content should be super simple to understand (as in dictionary not required) and should be 500 words or less. Brevity is a beautiful thing.

But I think what breaks my heart as a lover of words and writing is to see grammatical errors and typos. For me, it just rips away any authority you built; I can’t take you seriously, especially if you are by profession a writer, communicator or marketer. Now, I’m not saying I’m immune to such errors. I’ve certainly published things with errors. But I caught them eventually or someone else did (big shout out to my SO for finding an error in one of my posts from last week. He has excellent grammar and he’s super cute – lucky me!). But when I read your articles and posts (some published by major websites or magazines), and find errors, my brain kind of shuts down. Yes, I continue reading, but I’m turned off.

We all have things that bother us or turn us off. In addition to being repelled by bad grammar, I also can’t handle bad eyebrows or a monobrow. I’m sorry, but these traits among a few others make me discount someone as a person slightly. I’m not saying it’s right; it’s just my reaction.

So when I read well researched articles moving toward some interesting insight then come upon apostrophes used incorrectly or incorrect usage of punctuation with quotation marks, I have to question how much care you put into your writing. When I see a post littered with typos, I know you didn’t take the time to proof it. So why should I take the time to read it?

I just want writers to take as much care reviewing the work as they do when they initially write it. Don’t be in such a rush to post that you overlook this key step. If you are a professional writer, meaning you actually get paid to write, and still commit these sins then my concern is even greater. For those of you who aren’t professionals, here are some tips:

1. Have someone else proofread your work. Don’t know anyone? Send it to me.

2. If you are unsure about the correct use of a term or what is grammatically correct, Google it.

3. Unsure if your piece is clear and readable? Try the Hemingway App. It will help you edit, call to your attention when sentences are hard to read and prevent you from using passive voice.

4. Use spell check. Seems simple enough; yet so many do not.

5. Read it out loud. I try to do this with everything I write. It helps me self-edit as well as catch areas where I may have missed a word.

In this world, everyone can be a writer. Everyone can be published. Should everyone? Probably not, but I’m not going tell someone they shouldn’t do something. That’s not my place. Writing can be very cathartic. It can help people express what they can’t say. I’m all for this and for celebrating good ideas. I just encourage all writers to remember that the finished product should be something that should resonate with your audience. Errors detract from your message. Keep your readers interested with a wonderful use of words, snappy syntax and great storytelling. Leave the errors in the drafts, and please don’t ever be the victim of a monobrow.

 

 

Feeling Disconnected: The Disappearance of the In-Person Meeting

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We live in a very connected world. However, most of those connections are virtual. It has become a rarity to actually meet with someone in person. After all, it costs money to be physically present. And with phone, video and screen sharing all available at a small cost, it makes more sense to just have a conference call.

Except I’m feeling disconnected. I have been lucky in many positions to have had the ability to meet with my team in person to discuss and create plans. I was also able to physically visit many prospective and current clients so I could present them with options and have face to face conversations on what their challenges were and how we could overcome them.

Now, I found myself in a position where the majority of my co-workers either work remotely or are not in the same city so there’s really no opportunity to interactive except via phone and email.

I do believe there is great insight into body language. However, the seven percent rule isn’t actually valid and has been misquoted for decades.  Without a lot of the physical cues that go along with verbal communication, it’s often hard to interpret an individual’s motivation, position and drive. Without looking someone in the eyes, I feel that I may never truly connect with them. But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been someone who could be truly engaged with someone just from emails or texts or even phone calls. I could never make long distance work for a romantic relationship, and I couldn’t fall in “love” via social media.

Lots of people telecommute every day and have no challenges. They work with people all over the world that they will never meet. I’m not saying I’m right or they are wrong. Everybody just collaborates differently. What I will say is there is real value in in-person meetings; especially at the beginning of a working relationship. In-person meetings make you really show up. You’re not distracted or multi-tasking. You are present (something that seems almost mythical these days). In-person meetings also remove all those conversation blunders of conference calls where everyone talks all over everyone else to the point where you don’t know if you can make a comment just to get interrupted.

Technology has made it easier to interact with people all over the world. It’s saving companies money, but is it making us more productive? Is it building camaraderie? Is it permeating trust? I don’t claim to have all the answers; I can only say that people on the other end of the headset is lonely. It’s lonely to have very little personal interaction during the work day. This may be exactly what a programmer or analyst needs to be productive. But as a creative person, I simply feel isolated. Marketing isn’t really a one-person job. It’s nice to have different personalities and perspectives when fleshing out ideas. Success is rarely about individual effort. People who are really dialed into each other and work well can accomplish amazing things. I know because I’ve been part of teams like this.

Ultimately, we all have different work styles and all learn differently. But if you have an option, meet face to face, shake hands and connect in a good old-fashioned way.

A Friendly Reminder on Retargeting Ads

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Retargeting ads can be part of a great inbound marketing strategy. Yet, most retargeting ads are missing the mark. Retargeting ads are not like traditional banner ads because they “target” prospects that have already been to your website through cookies. I won’t go into the how to set up retargeting. I’ll let Hubspot’s awesome blog post do that for you.

However, I do have some experience with retargeting in a B2B setting. Most retargeting ads are B2C. Example, you are online shopping and view several pages and maybe even put something in a cart but don’t checkout. A retargeting ad may pop up on the next site you view with an offer of 20% off your next purchase. The ad is attempting to convert you to a sale.

B2B retargeting can also offer some of the same things – an offer of free trial or demo. But when I was using retargeting, I used the ad to promote a content piece that aligned with whatever previous interaction the prospect had with the website. For instance, if they had been viewing information on the volunteer platform then the retargeting ad offered an ebook on that topic.

In my opinion, this is the way to use retargeting, but I rarely see this. In fact, most of the offers for B2B or even B2C (with the exception of retailers) drive you straight to a landing page to sign up for the service. Wait, I’m not ready! These brands are clearly not taking into account the buyer’s journey. Or even worse, the ads don’t lead you to a landing page at all; just a page from the website. How can you measure this if there’s no call to action? This could also inflate bounce rates tremendously on that page.

But one of the biggest fails of retargeting ads that I continue to see is not suppressing internal IP addresses. Employees often visit your website – of course they do because either they need information or just want to see what’s new. But then to retarget them later after they leave is a huge fail, and it’s costing you real money.

If you are going to use retargeting, which I highly recommend over traditional banner ads, then determine the objective and goals of your strategy. Then optimize the design and the offer attached to the ad to drive goal conversion. Otherwise you are allowing precious marketing dollars to fly out the window with no hope of a return. It’s amazing how some of the largest companies with huge budgets and layers and layers of marketing employees forget the little things. So consider this your friendly reminder!

What I Learned from 5 Years of Business Travel

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I haven’t been to the airport in months. This wouldn’t seem like such a strange thing except for the last five years, I was a very frequent traveler. And 90% of it was for work. Many of my colleagues and friends would make comments like, “That’s so cool you get to travel,” or “Must be nice to get out of the office.”

But the reality is that it was not glamorous at all and rarely fun. I was able to go to some great places and sometimes extend my trip. I often traveled with some lovely ladies, and we always seemed to find great food and shopping. However, much of the time, I traveled alone, worked 12 hour days and ate a lot of room service.

In these five years of traveling, I worked for two different companies. The travel was different for each. For one company, the travel was directly related to site visits, client meetings or prospect pitches. The second company, the travel was directly related to trade shows.

I can say I’ve been to a lot of cities across the country, but often I saw very little except for boardrooms, convention centers, hotels and airports. This is what I learned from five years of constant travel:

It’s really hard on you physically. I’m no spring chicken anymore. And constantly dragging around heavy equipment and doing physical labor like setting up booths just adds to the toil that flying puts on your body. After over 20 weeks on the road last year, I was physically and emotionally drained. I didn’t have a great support system at my company that understood all the things I was doing so if my flight got in at midnight, I still had to be at the office at 8AM the next day.

The days are so long. Whether it’s the time spent at the airport, which often had me arriving before 5AM or the long hours on the trade show floor, the days are unbelievably long. And of course when I finished my time on the floor or meetings with clients, it was back to the hotel to work several hours catching up on all the other stuff I needed to do.

I should have explored more. Maybe, I shouldn’t have spent all that time working in the hotel. It certainly didn’t get me anywhere. I did certainly do more exploring in cities that I was interested in doing so. I had great fun in Austin, Denver, San Antonio, Dallas, Boston, DC, Portland and Chicago. I went to places that I would have never gone otherwise like Des Moines, Lexington, KY, Indianapolis, Lincoln, NE, Sioux Falls, SD and many other less touristy spots. I do really love to travel and explore what makes a city unique. But it’s often too hard to get motivated to see the city when you’ve been on your feet for 10 hours.

Air rage is a real thing. I don’t really have fits of road rage. I’m a pretty patient driver. I’m a less patient passenger. I would often say, “How did this people make it out of their house?” when looking at the other passengers around me who seemed to still be surprised that you can’t have liquids and need an ID. Not only was I surrounded by incompetence, I was often in the midst of simply bad behavior. Do people need to be reminded that they’re in public while at the airport? Apparently so. The things I have seen in airports and on airplanes is astounding: shoes off, clothes half on, people half in your seat, people falling asleep on strangers, children kicking chairs and throwing things, water pouring down on my head from the A/C unit…my list could go on and on. Most of the time I kept it under control, but occasionally, I could no longer bite my lip. One time, I was on a flight coming home from I don’t know where. I was toward the back of the plane, but I always waited my turn to disembark. That’s how it works. We file out in order. But so many times, people would rush up from the back and push people out of the way. So on this day, a young lady was trying the same thing. There were some elderly people on the other side of my aisle. I got up pushed my arm back so that the lady couldn’t pass us, and let the other people out. I simply said to her, “Let’s learn some manners today.” Honestly, that’s what being a good passenger is about – being polite and cognizant of other’s personal space. I’m still shocked by some of the behavior I witnessed, but I have no doubt those people act like that everywhere, not just the airport. I just don’t believe the world revolves around me. Being at the airport will convince you that many don’t share that sentiment.

Spending too much time on the road made me depressed. I’m someone that has been dealing with depression since my early teens. It is a disease I deal with on a daily basis; some days are better than others. But being on the road and away from the man and pups I love really got me blue last year. There were multiple times when I broke down in tears in the airport or on the airplane. I am not a public crier. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with crying; I’d just rather do it privately. Whether it was how tired I was or how much I just wanted to be home, spending that much of my time away made things feel unstable. And when I feel like my life is unstable, the depression gets worse. It’s very isolating to be a traveler, especially when you are on your own, as I was much of the time. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m an introvert so I’m not going to make friends with the person sitting beside me (or on me) on the plane. I’m just not someone who strikes up conversations with strangers. I always had my nose in a book and that was a great escape. However, at the end of the day, it can be very lonely.

These are just a few things I learned. Hope you weren’t expecting travel tips; although I have plenty of those. I’ve been to at least half of the airports in the U.S. I know who flies where and how tricks to get cheap tickets. I just wanted to share the reality of constant travel and how it impacted me and my life.

For the immediate future, the only travel I see for me in 2016 is purely for pleasure, including another trip to Jamaica in December!

And just to give you some perspective, here’s a list of all the places I visited in the last five years for work; many of them more than once:

  • Austin, TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Portland, OR
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Denver, CO
  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Lexington, KY
  • Louisville, KY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Orlando, FL
  • Dallas, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Fort Dodge, IA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Nashville, TN
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Norfolk, VA
  • D.C.
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Columbus, OH
  • Long Island, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Savannah, GA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • St. Simons Island, GA
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Wichita, KS
  • Connecticut and New Hampshire (can’t remember exactly where)
  • McAllen, TX
  • Atlantic City, NJ
  • Memphis, TN

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head! To all those still traveling regularly, be safe and stay kind.