Empowering Women Business Owners

Last night,  I was an Expert Retail/Arts Panelist for the Women’s Initiative Fast Track Incubator Program in San Francisco.  This pilot program has taken several women from dreaming of being business owners to creating prosperous businesses through training, mentoring and setting high standards and expectations.  I was very proud to serve on the panel that reviewed their portfolios.  What an inspiration these women are!

The Women’s Initiative has offices in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Marin Counties.  Their clients are high potential, low income women in the Bay Area who intend to become or currently are small business owners. They provide training, individual consultations, events and access-to-market opportunities to their basic training graduates.

According to their statistics gathered over the last 20 years, for every dollar invested, $30 are generated for the Bay Area.   Average annual income for their graduates increases by $20,000,  and the women who participated in their training last year will bring in an estimated $11.7 million in 2008.  That’s a stimulus package!

I encourage you to get involved through donations, as a mentor or volunteer.  This was my first involvement with them.  It won’t be my last!

Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment

How to Create Buzz and Stimulate Word-of-Mouth Marketing, An Interview with Bob Baker

artists-marketing-business-academy-interview-with-expertsCreate Buzz

On this call, author and speaker Bob Baker dissected and examined buzz and the elusive qualities that create ideas that spread.

 

 

Here are just some of the topics Debra and Bob discussed:

  • The four stages of successful viral marketing
  • Lesson from the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”
  • The 3 things an effective brand identity must communicate to cut through the clutter
  • The role of innovators and early adopters
  • Buzz marketing secrets from “The Secret”
  • How to make your talents and creativity “spreadable”

Additional Resources for this Interview:

Additional ArtistsMBA Classes on this Topic

Listen to the Interview:

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Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Foundation Program
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(Transcript coming soon)
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5-Year Plan: Got Goals? Get a Plan

Artists MBA, Professional ProgramFail to Plan, Plan to Fail – right? Since we all pretty much accept that’s true, why is it so hard to create your plan for your life?  You wouldn’t go on a long trip or tour without an itinerary would you?  At least a general plan of what city you’re going to be in and where you’re going to stay, right? So why would you go on this much bigger journey – your life’s journey – without a plan? In this hands-on session, we’ll work through the 5 steps to a 5-Year Plan.  You’ll find that creating your life’s Plan isn’t so hard or complicated after all!  And you will walk away with a real-world plan for your goals and the tools to get you into action.

Additional Resources for this Class:

Prerequisite Classes:

Listen to the Class:

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Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Foundation Program
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Next Class:

 

Meetup.com Creating Community in Your Community

social media, networkingMeetup.com was mentioned in response to a question from the March 2009 Ask Coach Debra call.  The question was about finding and/or building community with fellow artists.  I have found meetup to be an incredible tool for finding and creating community centered around common interests. I have been both a Meetup organizer with my Bay Area Music Business Success Meetup and a frequent participant at other people’s Meetups.

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Check out Meetup.com

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Debra Recommends Songsalive

songwriting, businessSince 1997, Songsalive! is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the nurturing, support, promotion and education of songwriters and composers worldwide. Founded in 1997, by Gilli Moon and Roxanne Kiely in Sydney, Australia,  Songsalive! is run by volunteer songwriters for songwriters and has reached the far corners of the globe with over 25 chapters worldwide. Through our grassroots international efforts, we’ve put a stamp on what “global community” truly is and it’s the type of community that is definitely needed in this ever changing music business where songwriting can be a very isolating experience and career.

I have spoken for the Songsalive! organization and count Gilli as a good friend.  I’ve interviewed her for the Artist’s EDGE Membership and given great value to my Members.

Check out Songsalive! – supporting and promoting songwriters and composers worldwide

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3×5 Contact Management System

Back in the good old days, before such things as computerized contact management systems, salesmen created a physical contact management system.  I learned this system many years ago, while working in the Network Marketing world.  For those of you who prefer the tactile sensation of a physical contact management system, but are finding that just having an address book or a notebook or a pile of papers isn’t working for you, try this:

Supplies (links go to the Amazon.com site for purchase):

  • Index Cards (3×5 or 4×6)
  • 2 Index card file boxes (also 3×5 or 4×6)
  • 3 sets of dividers (size appropriate to the cards you choose):

Set one box up with the numbers in front and the months in back appropriate to the current date.
e.g. – Today is May 8th.  You would have May, 8, 9, 10….31, June, 1-7, July, Aug…..
As each day passes, you put that number tab divider into the next month.

The second box is set up with the A-Z tabs.

For each contact, you make up 2 cards.  One card just has name, address, phone number, and basic information and that card is filed in the second box alphabetically. (For easy access by name).

The second card is an ongoing tracking of every interaction you have with that person.  So let’s say you meet someone at a networking meeting on 5/1.  You make your first call with them today 5/8 to gauge interest in your services.  They are going on vacation next week for 2 weeks.  They are interested but could you call them back after 5/21.

You make a note of all the pertinent details on the card under 5/8 (where are they going on vacation, any personal details they mention, the fact that they are interested, etc.).  You also make a note on the card “5/21 f/u call to pursue booking a gig (or whatever).”   Then you file that card behind the #21 divider.  If a contact says, call me back after the summer, you file their card behind the September tab.  Always noting what the next action is on the card.  Assume that you have no short term memory.  Write everything down.  Any information they give you about themselves, their circumstances, what they’re looking for, everything gets written down.

Each day you check that day’s divider and take any actions scheduled for that day.  Every contact should have a future action scheduled unless they have unequivocally said, “No thank you.”  Then you can decide to either toss the card (if they were a jerk about it), or clip it to their alphabetically filed 2nd card.  You never know when they may call you in the future or send you a referral.

In this way, nothing ever falls through the cracks.  Even if you only work your business 3 days a week, you just check the actions for the days preceding.  Any calls you didn’t get to today, immediately re-file under a future date.

This system can be modified for 3 ring binders or accordion files.  Whatever works for you.  What’s nice about the index card is that it is incredibly portable.  What’s challenging is the lack of space for copious notes.  You can also get creative using colors.  For example, venue owners could be one color, agents/managers another color, fellow artists yet a third color.  Whatever makes you happy, helps keep you organized and supports you in taking action!

Debra Recommends Google Apps for Business

Debra Russell recommends, google, web 2.0, cloud sourcing, calendar, emailGoogle Applications is a web 2.0 solution for email, calendar and more.  I’ve been using it for my business for about 9 months now and I’ve been very happy so far.  I was using Microsoft Outlook, but when I would search for an email it would literally take 5-10 minutes.  And with Google, without getting rid of any of my 10,000+ emails, it takes me under 5 seconds to find an email.

Since I run a great deal of my business via email, I can’t delete them.  I need the record of those interactions.  Using Google’s tremendous search capability and incredibly generous free storage capability has solved this problem for me.

And like all things Google, they are always improving the system.  Is it perfect?  No.  But, I can access my email, my calendar and documents, my task list, from any internet portal.  And now that I’m traveling so much as a Speaker, this has become incredibly important.

Not tech savvy?  For a few bucks, you can have an expert get you up and running on Google Apps in no time!  Let me refer you to my good friend Adam Schwartz at Computer Courage, here in the bay area.  You can also check the Google Apps Support Page for a provider near you.

Oh, by the way, Google Apps is free….

Find out more about Google Apps

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Debra Recommends Daylite – More than CRM for Mac

Debra Russell recommends, Marketing, time management, contact management, project management

So, first let me say – I am not a Mac user.  However, I have a lot of clients who are, and so I have been looking for a CRM solution for my Mac clients.  One of my clients brought me this product and he is thrilled with it.  So, I wanted to pass it on to you.

Here’s what Amazon says:

Product Description

Designed for the unique needs of Mac-based businesses of 1-50 people, Daylite3 is a new generation of productivity management software. Daylite 3’s time-saving features include shared calendars, seamless integration with Apple Mail, project and activity delegation, multiple pipeline views, a built-in report writer, sophisticated offline and sync capabilities, and a clean, easy-to-use interface. Daylite 3 is a milestone achievement for the Mac community, directly addressing the day-to-day productivity needs of Mac users. Daylite 3, with its many new features and upgraded Daylite Mail Integration (DMI) module, provides Mac users and Mac-based businesses with the tools they need for command-and-control business productivity.

What my client says is that, while there is a learning curve and it is significant.  This program solves so many time management and project management and contact management problems that it’s worth the learning curve.  From my viewpoint, I’ve seen him get much more productive and much calmer.  And isn’t that the point of productivity tools?

Buy Daylite Now

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PR vs. Advertising

Small Business owners who do not have a background in marketing often confuse PR (public Relations) and advertising.  Advertising refers to a very specific thing – buying space/time in a public medium such as print, radio, TV, or billboard.  Public relations refers to everything else we do to promote ourselves and our business.

Frankly, unless you’ve got a serious marketing budget, it hardly pays these days to advertise.  The point is to create name recognition and visibility.  And in order to do that with advertising, even in a small market, you have to spend serious cash over a long period of time.   The generally agreed upon statistic is 7-15 exposures to your name/brand to even begin to create name recognition through advertising.

So, as a small business owners – the key is niche marketing (not niche advertising) using a global approach to reach a very small targeted niche segment of the market.  By global I mean – all the avenues within your reach:

  • Live events
  • Media Exposure (print, radio, tv) through press releases, interviews, etc.
  • Social Networking (FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, Linked-in, etc)
  • In person networking (going to where your niche is hanging out)
  • Internet Marketing (including blogging, pay-per-click, SEO, etc.) driving people to your website (where you have created a single action for them to take – that gives you their name and email)
  • Sponsoring, volunteering and community service

How do you do all of this while working a job, raising a family, having a life?  You absolutely must have a plan and time management/project management systems in place.  Because these things all need to happen with some consistency in order to create success.

And you need to include follow-up for the leads that these things create.  Because if you don’t follow-up, the energy that you initiate with these activities will very quickly dissipate.

Creator’s Block

Here it is a rainy March morning and as I sit down to write to you, I realize that I’ve been avoiding doing this writing for some time.  Would you call this writer’s block?  Perhaps.  And it occurs to me, that writer’s block – or creator’s block for the purpose of this conversation, can look different for different people.

But if you endeavor to live a creative life, and even more so, make a prosperous living from your creative endeavors, feeling blocked around creating can be an unpleasant, even painful place to be.  And of course, it just may get in the way of pursuing your dreams.

What Causes Writer’s Block or Creator’s Block?

Whether you are writing words, writing songs, painting, taking photographs, sculpting, designing jewelry or in any way creating on a regular basis, creator’s block can happen.  Perhaps it shows up by being “too busy” with other things.  Perhaps, you sit down and nothing comes – just blank.  Or you get “distracted” by email, the phone, the dishes….

In my experience, most creative blocks are caused by one of three obstacles:

  • Your inner critic,
  • Your outer critics,
  • And/or a lack of creative space – physically, temporally or emotionally (which leads back to the first two).

I’ve often heard from clients that they got blocked because they got a bad review or what they perceived as negative feedback and found they couldn’t create for months after.  Has this ever happened to you?  I’ve found that the artists most vulnerable to this are already fighting an inner critic and that external voice, especially from a mentor or someone you really respect, can just amplify the inner critic to the point where all creative juices stop flowing.  For artist’s who have a strong internal supportive voice, external feedback becomes just that – feedback.  Take what you can use, leave the rest.

When it comes to your environment blocking your creative endeavors, this can be tricky.  There are so many ways in which your environment can act as a block –  whether it’s your physical space (like the gardener who is right now outside with his leaf blower!), your temporal or time management, or your tendency to give other people’s requests for your time and energy more importance than your own creative priorities.

Learning to set up your environment to support your creativity is a key skill for any creative entrepreneur.

All of these issues can be summed up into one: the inability or unwillingness to prioritize yourself – prioritize your needs, your values, your beliefs, your own inner voices and muses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be open to other people’s needs or constructive criticism, but if their needs and voices are drowning out your own, then you have a problem.  And I’m betting a creative block isn’t the only way that issue is turning up in your life.

In the Artists Marketing & Business Academy, I have several classes designed to address these issues.  I also will be writing more about them in my blog.

How Can I Move Past My Block?

For this issue of the Newsletter, I’m going to focus on a method that has helped me tremendously and that my clients have used with great results.  When you are creating, whatever you are creating, use the following steps:

Step 1 – ideas, brainstorming, brain dump – no editing
Step 2 – sort through the ideas and brainstorming and develop an idea into a first draft
Step 3 – edit that idea into a first public draft and send it out for feedback
Step 4 – take the feedback and polish and hone the work
Step 5 – repeat step 3 and 4 until you are truly happy with the result!

Step 1 – The brain dump

The first step is to put all your ideas down on paper.  Good ideas, bad ideas, bits and pieces of ideas, unformed ideas – everything.  You want to have absolutely no filters here.  You may work this step in a structured way – you sit down to the page for 1 hour every day.  Or you may just carry around a notepad or tape recorder with you, every where you go.  The key here is to capture the ideas – good, bad and ugly – all the ideas down on paper.

This step can show up in many forms, depending on the medium in which you’re creating.  For a visual artist, it may be doodling in your sketchbook, jotting down ideas of themes or concepts.  For the songwriter, it may be bits of melody, lyric phrases, or even just a book of song titles.  For the novelist or screen writer, it could be bits of dialogue, scene ideas.

I was working with a novelist awhile back, and she was blocked.  My assignment to her was to write 1000 words a day – badly.  She was to write as badly as she could.  We were going for her writing to really suck!

The point is to just put the perfectionist on hold here.  This isn’t about creating a final product or even a good first draft.  It’s just to allow the creative juices to flow.

Step 2 – Creating the first draft

This step should be scheduled and given a decent chunk of time several days a week.  What you want to do with this time is to sit down and look through your ideas, your bits and pieces and starting with the pieces you feel most drawn to, flesh them out into a first draft.

You may work on more than one project at a time during this stage.  But what’s most important is that you set up this time as completely separate from either Step 1 or Steps 3, 4, or 5.  Again, we aren’t going for a final product here and you want to continue having the perfectionist on hold.

During this stage work on your projects enough to find out if there’s a solid idea.  Flesh it out enough to be ready to show to some people for feedback.  Get to a first draft.  And then put it aside for at least 3 days.

Step 3 – First round of edits on your first draft

After you’ve left this project alone for several days, come back to it and give it a read through.  Edit it, play with the language, the order.  Try different things with it, perhaps change the rhythm or the key it’s in.  Try using a different size brush or color scheme.

Again, do not mix this step with either Step 1 or 2.  The part of your brain that you use during editing and adjusting is not appropriate during the initial stages of creation – it only tends to block things.  Because this is when you begin to use your critical facilities.  This is when the voice that tells you that you can do better becomes useful.

But beware of spending too much time here.  Again, we’re not going for the finished product yet.  We’re looking to create a version that’s good enough to get feedback on, which leads me to Steps 4 and 5.

Step 4 – Get constructive critique and create a second draft

There are two critical factors for this step.  You must choose your people very carefully.  You want someone who is going to be ruthlessly honest with you.  You want someone who really knows your medium and your genre (and if they know your niche, it’s even better).  And you want someone who can communicate feedback in a voice you are willing to hear.

Some successful artists use family – although this can be tricky.  Most successful artists use experts in their field (which includes editors for the written word).  Some even use their loyal fan base.  Many songwriters use the TAXI submissions to get feedback to improve their music or the TAXI forums to get feedback from fellow songwriters.  Some writers will go to a writer’s group or their editor and agent for feedback.

Whoever you choose, remember to stay open to the pieces of the feedback that you can use.  Not all of their suggestions will be immediately useful – that’s ok.  Sometimes they may make a suggestion which you don’t want to use – but if you stay open, it may trigger you to discover the exact right change you need to make.

Sit with the feedback and go back to your project and edit it.

Step 5 – Rinse and Repeat until finished

You may go through Steps 3 and 4 several times.  Probably the hardest part is to know when you’re done, to know when more editing ends up doing more harm than good.  Be wary of ironing out all the ripples in the fabric of your creation.  There’s no such thing as perfection.  And if there were – it would bore us to tears.

If you listen to your inner quiet voice – you will know when you’re done.  And use your discipline to stop, declare the project done, and start marketing it!

One last note:  Your voice is the voice that matters.  When being open to feedback, trust yourself.  Stay open to their opinions, reactions, and suggestions.  But don’t sell out on yourself.  It’s a fine line and one that takes practice.  This isn’t about creating by committee.  It’s about always growing, developing and honing your craft.  No matter how talented you are, truly powerful art is always a marriage between talent and craft.  This method allows you to use the best of both.