Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Don’t Let Your Communications Date You

Three writing “rules” to break. Now. 
By Guest Blogger, Carie Sherman 

When you rely on the written word to communicate with your customers, it’s important to extend the right image. Unless you want your customers visualizing you with a beehive hairdo or wearing MC Hammer pants, get with the times and forget these rules.
1.       Type two spaces between sentences. Why this is wrong: Save yourself time and paper by forgetting this obsolete practice. I know, I know. It’s how you learned to type. But most major style guides agree that this practice went out the window with the typewriter. It’s not an easy habit to break. Until you get used to typing one space, use Microsoft Word’s “Find and Replace” function. So why did we type two-spaces anyway?
2.       Avoid personal pronouns. Use “one” rather than “you.” Why this is wrong:  One was lead to believe in school that one would always sound more professional by avoiding personal pronouns. Well, one sounds a little bit pompous when sticking to “one”—in this writer’s opinion anyway. When writing to your customers, you need to make a connection. It’s much easier to facilitate that connection by writing like you speak. 
3.       And finally, don’t start your sentences with And. Or But. Why this is wrong: Unless you’re writing for academia, keep it conversational. Only the most diligent grammarians avoid beginning sentences with a conjunction in conversation. And when was the last time you met one of them? As long as you don’t overuse conjunctions, they can help your writing flow and can help keep your readers’ attention. 
Keeping your writing style up-to-date doesn’t need to be hard. Pay attention to the things you read and enjoy. Next time you start typing, think about the techniques and style that writer used. And model your piece accordingly.
Carie Sherman is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. Carie helps organizations craft messages that create action—on the Web, in print, and through social media. Connect with Carie at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Darts

Marketing is a particularly tricky business these days with so many new media.  And still too many businesses think they can send one postcard, attend one conference, or place one ad and the customers will come flooding in the door.  Not so fast!  Marketing is a whole strategy, an entire package.
A company must be “seen” multiple times in multiple ways before it is recognized.  And even more before it is trusted.  Businesses must use everything at their disposal (within their marketing budget, of course) to reach current, and potential customers.  Advertising, networking, social media, store fronts – there are endless avenues to reach people.  Be creative!
5 tips you can use in your marketing strategy:
1.       Keep your website fresh.  Outdated information is a big turn-off.  Also, beware of too much information, and the need to scroll or click too many times to get useful information
2.       Keep your social media professional and useful
3.       Maintain a strong brand across your material
4.       Know your target(s)
5.       Make sure your customer service is top notch. This is the best tool in your arsenal!
Remember, one throw of a marketing dart will not win the game.  Have a plan, use multiple media, and be consistent for best results.
Do you have a marketing strategy?
Kim Luedke is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tool Review: Use a Wibiya Toolbar to Make Connecting Easier

One of the most important functions of your website and blog is to connect with customers and potential customers. They come to your sites to learn about you, and to make a connection. Every web page and blog page should offer visitors the ability to easily connect with you through whatever social media and communication channels you are using. Links to connect on social media, contact through email, chat with you, etc. should be available and easily seen from everywhere.

Wibiya toolbar is an easy-to-use solution available in a limited free version (more than accommodated our needs) with more enhanced versions available for a small monthly fee. The Wibiya toolbar allows you to quickly and easily create a toolbar that is always available at the bottom of every page of your web site and blog, which includes links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and much more. It literally takes just minutes to build and customize your toolbar. There is a small bit of code that has to be copied and pasted into your web page, but the step-by-step instructions make this very easy.

Check out the Wibiya toolbar at the bottom of this blog or at our website at and take a second to connect with us!

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I’m LinkedIn, Liked, on Google+, and Tweeting…Wait…What the $#%! Is Pinterest?

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I was dragged into social media kicking and screaming.  I was already on Facebook; it’s a fun way to keep up with the cousins and friends who are far away.  And I’ve been on LinkedIn for awhile, gathering connections without any sort of strategy.  But there seems to be a new “must do” social network every month! My business partner has been all over this for awhile, but I’ve always been the one late to the party.  I like to think about it, consider it, analyze it, and ease my way into it.  She likes to jump, and learn, and just see what happens.  This relationship provides a great balance in our business (and some really interesting conversations, but that’s another topic entirely).
I definitely have my creative side, but I am often most comfortable in spreadsheets and flowcharts.  Numbers don’t lie.  So recently she showed me the analytics of social media.  “Look what happens to our website visits when we post a blog”.  There it was in black and white and pretty, colorful graphs.  Something I could wrap my mind around.  I wasn’t just sending something out into an unknown universe without any results.  They were there, and I could see it, analyze it, think about it, and AFFECT it.  Sold!  Now I am UNSTOPPABLE!
Here are some thoughts:
1)      Don’t try to do it all at once; take small bites
2)      Have a strategy.  Don’t sign up for everything that comes along and do things halfway
3)      Use available tools to manage your social media
4)      Read others’ success stories
5)      Look at the analytics to see the effect you are having
6)      Continue to read this blog and we'll continue to share some great ideas to help you
Are you kicking and screaming about social media?  Click the comment link below and tell me – the doctor is in!
Kim Luedke is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Working Yet? The Scoop On Starting A Business

By Karen Okulicz , ProfessionalEdge Guest Blogger

After becoming unemployed twice in three years, I had had it. Done! At 40, I no longer wanted the corporate setting, the 9-to-5, or the job-robbing bosses. I wanted something of my own. But what was it? The "it" of freedom to be my own boss.

I live at the beach in New Jersey. I wanted my own ... what? What was "it"?

At the shore there is ice cream available practically on every corner. That was "it." I would own an ice cream stand.

I knew nothing about the ice cream business, but knew the product and knew others loved devouring it. I decided to volunteer at a friend's place miles from where I was going to start my ice cream empire. It was pre-season, so not so busy, and they were glad to have me. I envisioned nice, easy days and nights of scooping ice cream. Easy? Never. I now know why you see 14- and 15-year-olds scooping. I have arthritis in both my hands, which flares up in the winter months. I never dreamed that scooping ice cream would trigger it.

Well, after a few evenings of scooping, I would wake up with claw hands.

The whole experience of ice cream scooping lasted 20 hours tops. My ice cream business was never going happen.

Meanwhile, my family thought I had some kind of breakdown. What is she doing down there, scooping ice cream at 40? I knew what I was doing. Well, maybe not the full picture, but I knew this was the way to new, interesting, full employment. I was on a roll. I was out there trying stuff, volunteering, being in the world. I knew the movement was going to bring the next new idea and direction.

The same summer I stopped by a pal who was in the food business. I told him I was unemployed, again. We were chatting and he told me that he was having a problem with his coleslaw vendor. I loudly heard opportunity knocking. So I said to him, "I can make coleslaw." He said, "OK, let's try it." Well, now my mind was working. Great. I could see it now! I would start with him, then provide coleslaw to every food stand on the coast. The dream began.

At home in my tiny kitchen I mixed the coleslaw, thinking, what will be the company name? Ah! My name is Karen. Mix that with coleslaw. I'll name the company K-Slaw, Inc. I would have a jingle like "K-Slaw-slaw, whatever will be, will be." It was big.

Coleslaw made, I brought a container to my friend to try it. Well, it was a bit salty. But he dragged out two 30-gallon tubs of coleslaw and said, "This is the portion I need every few days." Now it's back to the arthritic hands. I was never going to be able to chop, mix, dice or stir 30 gallons of coleslaw!

This business dream lasted until the time it took to make a portion of coleslaw for four. I did, however, use the name K-Slaw, Inc. My books are published by K-Slaw, Inc. I still sing the jingle, "K-Slaw-slaw, whatever will be, will be." In private, of course.

So there I was, still not working. Out of the vapors of an unemployment fog, a co-worker called and asked me to come and talk at a company that was laying off their employees. She had watched and listened to me at our last employment tell others about the pitfalls and traps of facing our current corporate downsizing. She said that I could do a presentation. I had never spoken in front of an audience at that point. I had no idea what to say. At that time, mind you, there were no home computers; laptops didn't exist. She said, "Just write some things down. We will type it up for you."

I never made that presentation, but I started my first book on my college Smith Corona typewriter with the correctable ribbon. Typed it on different colored paper as I revised it.

I approached an editor who lived in the neighborhood. He said, "You have something here." "Who will publish it?" I asked. "You should," he said. I asked, "How?" He said, "I don't know."

So that summer I wrote in the A.M. and learned in the P.M. about the process of publishing. My first book was written and published in 4½ months. If someone was to tell me that today, after close to 17 years of writing, I would say, "You can't do that."

Well, you can. You really can do anything you set your mind on with that first step, that first scoop, that first chop, or that first word. Whatever your time is out of a workweek -- months or years -- just start something toward the new.

As the first step toward that next new business venture -- volunteer. This is how you do it: You ask to meet with the owner of a business that you are interested in. Be honest and say, "I have always wanted to (own, operate, work) in your type of business. I would like to volunteer for (an afternoon, a day, or whatever you can do)."
If the first response is no, that's OK. Ask another business owner. This is the best way to know if you want to buy a franchise -- work in one. If an acquaintance sees you wearing a hairnet and a name tag, just wave. If the business is the right fit and you own a few franchises, who is the winner?

Just begin that step toward something. Your path may not be ice cream or coleslaw, but the process of movement toward something new will lead you to new, interesting and full employment. Your objective is to be working. With times the way they are, you may not be able to go back to what you once did. So try everything. Something will fit. And I guarantee it will be a pleasant surprise.

Karen Okulicz is the author of three motivational pocket books. Try: A Survival Guide to Unemployment; Decide: How to Make Any Decision; and Attitude: For Your Best Lived Life. Each book captures the best successful personal responses to job loss, decision making, and keeping a positive attitude. Written in stream-of-conscious style with lots of short snappy sentences, quips and phrases, Ms. Okulicz imparts her wisdom and shares ideas and suggestions for successfully navigating the world of work and thriving there. For more information or

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is it time to get out of your social media comfort zone?

Learn how to put a plan in place that will increase your small business success.

I saw a sign recently that said "Success begins at the end of your comfort zone." Isn't that the truth? Usually once we begin to move past the discomfort we open up opportunities beyond our expectations.

Social media is no different. We are marketers and at times over the past several years we have felt like we are standing in a room with our heads spinning round and round trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the changes. We'll talk about how marketing has changed over the past 20 years in the upcoming issue of Solutions magazine

As small business professionals, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with the latest and greatest. But it's critical to the success of our businesses.

Over the coming weeks and months ProfessionalEdge Associates will share some helpful methods and tools to help you stay on top of the ever-changing world of marketing and media. We'll talk about blogs vs newsletters, which social media platforms are best, and how to maximize your return on investment, plus a whole lot more.  We'll also introduce some guest bloggers who will talk about other topics vital to your business' success.

So, let's step out of our comfort zones together.  We'd love to connect with you and to hear what specific topics you'd like to talk more about. Click on the @wibiya toolbar at the bottom of the blog to connect with us and click on the comments link below to share your thoughts and challenges with us.

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff.