Monday, 30 April 2012

No more business cards?

When is the last time you USED a business card? Today I needed to call a new client and what did I do? Did I dig past the Snickers bars, McChicken sauce packets, stamps and ratchet sockets (don't ask) in  Truck Norris' center console to find the business card she gave me on our first meeting?

Nope, I immediately turned to my iphone yellow pages app. Google is usually my starting point, so I can get to the website or email address but this time I needed to call her like an adult.After I call someone the first time, I always save the contact info in my contacts but for an initial call - google it is. (*Side note - why are phone books still printed?*)

Am I alone in this? Do you keep a rolodex (or whatever card filing system you use) handy? Do you always turn to a business card first?

Do you have a system you utilize after networking events to capture business card info? I do. Ha! After the previous paragraphs you expected me to say no, didn't you? I actually have a really good system (spreadsheet) where I enter names, contact info, industry and relevant keywords so they are searchable when I need them down the road.

Alas, when I am driving (ahem...when I am not near my laptop) I still need to access this information sometimes. The Dropbox app on my iphone works great,but takes far more steps than google does.

What are your thoughts - do you really USE a business card or do you just politely collect them and then carelessly toss them into your own vehicle console or briefcase amidst candy, receipts and travel-sized deodorant?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Learn to brand your business, then communicate your value!

Your brand is not your logo.
It’s what people say about you or your company when you leave the room.

Learn to differentiate yourself, stand out, and see your business as others see it. Your company has a voice, a personality and an attitude (well, mine does anyway…) so learn to find it, develop it and embrace it. Then? Communicate it!

At my branding and communications workshop March 20th (9:30 am - 12:30)at the Red Deer Public Library,
we will determine your target audience, the value you offer them and how to best portray that to get the results you need. We will throw in some internal communications tools, media relations, business writing and even some social media strategy to ensure your new business has a full toolbox to take back to the office after this half day workshop.

All this for only $55! 
Register here!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Alberta businesses: Help us help others

Hey Alberta businesses: Do you know a worthy non-profit who needs help spreading their message?

We want to help!

We are teaming up with the Phoenix Design Group to offer a dynamic website and all content development  and photography at no cost to a non-profit organization in need.

Web design:   Phoenix Design Group
Web strategy, site map and content: southpaw communications (website well, here...)
Photography:  Deanna Hall Photography

(Huge thanks to the participating partners!)

But how will we decide who we build the site for?
That’s where you come in. We are inviting Alberta businesses to nominate an Alberta non-profit that either a) currently has a website that desperately needs an overhaul or b) has no site at all and needs one.

Once all nominations are in by February 29, 2012, we will get together ensure they all meet the criteria and then draw the winner on March 1, 2012.

Of course, there are some limitations and some fine print.
-      The nominee must be Albertan, serving Alberta (or larger audience)
-      They must own their own domain and have full access to hosting info (we can help set it up if they have no current website)
-      The layout and design of the site will be at our discretion, in tandem with the needs and wants of   the winner
-      The winner must be compliant and provide all information for content and direction in a timely manner
-      This is for an informational site only (no e-commerce, CMS etc.)

How do you nominate an organization?
-          Email us:
o   Who the organization is
o   Their mandate, audience, services they provide
o   Their current online presence (website or not – please include web address if they currently have one)
o   Why you believe they deserve to win the website
o   Contact information for the organization



Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Grow your successful business! But first, get a grown-up email address...

Looks like your dad's email address right? So it should not be what you use to represent your business.  Regardless of whether you have (or need) a website - you can still get a professional email address! I had my email address in action months before I had my actual site functional.

Why? Because it makes you look like you have your shit together. A gmail or hotmail account seems kinda shady, no? Seems like it just might be a scam? Someone operating from their basement?

Even worse: or

Well, even if you don't see it that way - the professional email address is still the way to go. Even if you do not have a website (chances are you need one anyway...) you can still register your domain (that's your and activate the email address associated with it. And it's affordable!

Companies like or any other website hosting company make this really easy to do. Don't wanna go at it alone? Let your resident web designer or 15 year old take care of it.  But, if I can do it, you can do it.  Trust me, it will vastly improve the image clients develop of you and your business.

Your brand is all about visibility and professionalism.  Do all you can to build it well.

Monday, 9 January 2012

I cut this post in half - Writing for business

This post used to be twice as long. Why? Because I follow my own rules. Most documents, letters, brochures, emails, are far longer, more involved, more convoluted and more detailed than necessary. Just like that sentence.

But, seriously, when writing for an external audience you have to remember that's what they are - EXTERNAL! You cannot assume that because they work with you as clients or customers that they are privy to all of your internal vocabulary and slang.

As you write that communication piece that will be heading out of the office, remember that even though you think you have used plain language, most likely you have still used industry lingo, internal vocabulary and terms - even if they seem plain and simple to you. Get someone external to edit it - a professional editor or someone in the 'general' public who knows nothing about the subject matter. I often ask my fiance (a millwright) to review my client communications pieces. If he has to ask what a term means - the piece isn't simple enough for external people.

Now that you have eliminated all of the technical, specific and internal language - make it shorter. Chances are, when you eliminated an industry-specific word, you substituted an explanatory sentence, rather than another single word. Go back and edit now to make it clear and concise.  Take out useless words like very, frankly, actually, honestly, truthfully, really, quite, so, very, somewhat, seems, utterly, practically, basically, and rather.

Also watch your phrases. There is no need to say 'end result' when results only happen at the end. There is also no need to say 'added bonus' because that is what bonus means.

Becoming a savvy, powerful writer will not happen overnight, but if you edit carefully, ask for help and write actively, not passively - your readers will thank you.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Happy Holidays- southpaw style!

Clients, mentors, partners, friends and followers: Season's Greetings! Check out the video link above that the talented digital media team at southpaw created to wish you a happy holiday.
Your support and business are appreciated,
All the best in the new year. Cheers!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Social Media Crutch

I asked (ironically enough, on twitter...) what my followers wanted to score free advice on this week. You know, holiday season and all. And Melsha Shea of Wedding Jitters was the first to respond. And she posed a challenge. Melsha wanted to know how to promote her new website (Inspiring Plan-It-Yourself weddings. Workshops to help engaged couples planning their own wedding) when she does not (yet) have a significant following on social media.

Tough question, right? I know I lean on social media to promote all of my initiatives, (including this blog post) but for the sake of everyone just starting out in the world of online, how would you promote your new website? You would read this blog:

1) Build a good website. Do not get your brother's girlfriend's sister's dog groomer's  cousin to do it just because it's cheap. You know you need to be online these days - do it well or people will visit the site once and never return.
- Make your content funny, clever, engaging, thorough yet concise and above all relevant to your audience.
- Make the site easy to navigate. Pretend you are teaching your grandma to use a computer. Where does it make sense for information to be categorized? Which tabs should be visible and which should be drop down? Where should images go instead of words?

2) Pick good key words and get utilize your search engine optimization (SEO). You always hear about SEO - now you know what it means. Essentially, it is how easily search engines can find your site. So choose strong, relevant key words for your web designer to build into your site. Remember that people are not always as specific as you would like them to be, and often don't know exactly what they are looking for. For example - when searching for communications and PR help, a lot of people will search "marketing". I don't do a lot of marketing, but it is one of my key words so inaccurate people can find me. Got it?

3) Submissions still work. By that I mean, submit your website to search engines using a tool like WebPosition Gold or WebCEO. The goal of submitting your site is to get it indexes by search engines such as Google.

4) Links! Link your site to others that are relevant to your business. For example, you run a wedding planning company, get your site to link from linens rental companies, florists, caterers, hotels and more.

5) Cross promote. Write guest blogs, articles or promotions for other companies to post on their site, and link it back to your own.

6) Incorporate a blog. A blog is a great way to add content, opinions, tips and any other info that you couldn't fit into your web content. It also shows that you are up-to-date on trends in your industry, that you understand what your clients need and that you know your stuff! By linking other businesses or topics into your blog, you drive their followers to your site as well.

7) Include a tool on your site. Give people a reason to come back time and time again after they have already learned about your company. For example - Melsha, your site could include a wedding budget calculator to encourage people to return to your site, and to tell others about the useful tools you offer clients.

8) Include your web address in all you do. Online profiles, business cards (my business card has a QR code on the back that scans directly to my website), email signatures, newsletters etc. You never know who will click through...

9) Tradeshow demos - when you attend tradeshows, have a laptop open to your website in your display so you can show people it's features and value as you chat with them at the booth. Then hand them a card with a link to it so they can delve deeper on their own time.

10) Social media - HA! You thought I was going to leave it out since you asked for other suggestions. But, the truth is that even if YOU only have a few followers, they each have followers, and those followers have followers. Do not underestimate the power of the retweet or share buttons in your social media streams. Use an engaging, clever title not just "Check out my new website" to pique interest and ensure people are following the link.

11) Hire a communications or PR consultant to help you promote your business. Ok, ok....that was a shameless plug but it works! There are more ideas and tips where these came from.

By ensuring your site is as visible and search-able as possible, your site will be busy in no time!
Now, if only I had found you before I planned my own wedding....