An Unexpected Blow Can Propel You..If You Let It

Last night, I had one of the best dreams that I have had in a long time. I had a feeling of peace and internal happiness as I was witnessing scenes that I will one day achieve in my life.

I think during my training session last week at Elite Wushu Academy, a door way opened that I have been struggling to get to and through. I was sparring with one of my Shifus and during the fight, he slipped in a great knee strike-it rocked me. He hit me square in my eye.

In that moment, I felt no anger, no feeling of retaliation. I took a second to compose myself and got right back into the fight, right back into my game plan. This was truly a new level of control and experience for me and has taken me a long time of training consistently (years) to get here.

Not losing focus or becoming enraged opened up some doors. Shakespeare said, “there is no such thing as good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I took that shot and didn’t judge it, it just was…all my mind told me was “keep going!”

In life, you’ll take some hard blows while working your plan. The natural inclination is to change your strategy, if only to avoid the pain of experiencing another blow like it. I say, the best path is to not internalize it, don’t judge it. See it for what it was and tell your mind (and body).. KEEP GOING!

In The End, It’s Always About The Numbers: Insight From My Negotiations With Living Social

Since launching RidingHoodBaskets.com in mid-January, I have had the opportunity to explore several advertising channels.   In the grand scheme of things, most have been successful.   A couple of months ago, I had embarked on a grand vision to potentially reach 25 million customers (or a fraction thereof) by launching a campaign on Living Social.

I was unsuccessful in my attempt.

In failure, there is always a lesson, right?  Well this is what I have learned:

  • If you plan on launching a deal around a holiday, begin the process at least 4-6 months in advance.
  • After you submit your initial “interest” as a Partner with Living Social.  Give them a call in about 2-3 weeks if you haven’t heard anything.  My first application was lost in the ether. I had to submit a new application and call about 2-3x times before I was contacted by an Account Manager via e-mail.
  • Now for the good stuff….
    • The Split: Living Social offers a revenue split from the sale of your deal on their platform. That split is 70% (you)  / 30% (them) .  They also charge a credit card fee around 2.5% that is deducted from the Gross.  So you, the business owner, will Net 70% of Gross less 2.5%.
    • The Deal:    In my case, I would be offering a coupon deal for X that doubled the customer’s buying power.  Basically Pay X and get 2X as store credit.  (i.e.  Spend $5 for $10, $10 for $20, $20 for $40, etc.)
    • The Strategy: Living Social does not want to the customer to have to pay more for a product after they have bought a coupon.  Meaning, (as I have experienced it) they will take the average price of your products/services and offer a deal for 100% of the retail price.  Meaning if your average price is $50..expect a deal like $25 for $50 or $50 for $100.
    • Big take-away: Do the numbers. I created a spreadsheet that calculated my net profit from the deal AFTER split for a given quantity against my Revenue (or loss) from sales of the exact same quantity at each major price point.   It was easy for me to see at what price point I would begin losing money due to cost of goods sold (COGs) exceeding my sales revenue less coupon.

Be prepared to negotiate with Living Social about what level of offer the deal should give and do not be so invested in the project that you can’t walk away.  In the end, the numbers should make the decision.   In my case, the deal they offered would have resulted in a loss on the books.  I walked away from the deal.

I do believe Living Social is great for certain businesses.  Here are a few structures I think could work well leveraging Living Social:

  • High margin businesses
  • Service Based Business with low overheard/expenses
  • Companies with large ad budgets  (the benefit of selling x number of deals could actually outweigh a loss taken from the campaign if reach and fulfillment are the KPIs)

These are my takeaways and the reasons for the decisions I have made regarding this particular campaign, for better or for worse.

Have you ever used Living Social or similar competitors like Groupon? Was it successful?  What was your experience and take-aways?    Share with us in the comments!

My Entrepreneurial “A ha!” Moment of the Day: Facebook Ads

I’ve been testing out multiple avenues for advertising including Facebook, LinkedIN, and Google Adwords. None have been overly successful BUT I have seen a difference in ROI for Facebook ads if I decide to run an ad that links to a Company Page vs. an External Link to a website. I have also posted different messaging “organically” on my company page and have gotten lack luster “view” results.

In a few short days, I have gone from 312 Company Page Followers to 424. My account notifications stays lit each day (which is great!). On the other side, I have ran ads that link out to my site directly and the ROI (CTR & Impressions) is pitiful for lack of a better term. I just read an article that stated Facebook’s algorithm is in the process of slashing organic reach down to 1-2% and the only way to reach those people (Your company page followers) would be to buy your way to them. <– this makes sense to me because I have seen the results of it, but didn’t know the cause —

Food For Thought — when you are creating your advertising and planning out your campaigns for social media. Understand not only the ROI you what to achieve AND the marketing message, BUT also the algorithms of the platforms you decide to advertise on. This should be done for BOTH organic and paid messages! Hope this helps!

——————–

Original article was read on LinkedIN:
https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140408234213-6621557-how-facebook-really-failed-eat24?trk=tod-home-art-list-large_0
Excerpt: “Facebook introduced changes to its news feed algorithm late last year which limits the organic reach of content posted to brand pages. This means those 10,000 people behind the Likes you have on your brand page won’t all see your posted content. How deep is the pain? Valleywag cites a source familiar with Facebook’s strategy claiming the social network is in the process of slashing organic reach down to 1-2%. The only way to reach those people who like your page would be to buy your way through the limitations and pay Facebook to get your post to those people.”

The Price Is Too High Not To…

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – R. Branson

As a business owner, I am constantly evaluating how I spend my time, what I spend my time on, and what is the return from the time spent on that particular project. When I spend the time training someone, I have a bit of a nag in my mind that fears my investment may run out the door with newly acquired skill sets and some other company is going to benefit from it.

I have read from two different motivational speakers and business consultants that the best decision is ALWAYS to train. Richard Branson (whose quote is above) and Zig Ziglar who said: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them.”

I can say that ALWAYS deciding to train has paid dividends in not only a more positive and connected team, but for even those that I no longer work with, I have a network of contractors that I can vouch for and KNOW will get the job done in case I ever need to outsource!

I Like Your Idea, Let Me Get Your Card

As professionals we have to be better at networking. I went to a social event, it was actually a “new position” celebration, and there were many people from the industry or related to the industry that attended. Even though it was casual, I ended up connecting and meeting some really good contacts. When I got home and went through my card holder I only found one business card (though I had exchanged my number a few times that night via my cell phone).

One of the attendees actually told me that they only had a few cards left and were being strategic in who they passed it out to. It didn’t bother me that we didn’t exchange cards nor that I wasn’t on his “it” list. What bothers me is that the only actual card I got was from a Deputy Director, but everyone else I spoke with either had no cards or didn’t bring enough… Lesson here:

  1. A Senior Executive had his cards…take note.
  2. If you have cards…bring enough. I had my bag with me, so when I ran out, I was able to refill my card case. And YES, I always have a pack of extra with me.
  3. If you don’t have cards…Get Cards!
  4. The ART of networking is not irrelevant, it is not a lost art. On the contrary, because of the over use of technology to build connections, it has become ever more important. Passing out a biz card can be received with the same excitement as getting a hand written letter. It is even more impressive when an entry level or technical professional has them because the opposite is expected!

Not every industry requires the use of business cards – many companies are implementing better sustainability programs – but if your industry is high touch, if your executives, managers, and c-suites carry them, then you best have them yourself!

Quick note: Invest in a card case/holder. It doesn’t have to be fancy (mine is a base silver color). Passing out a card with bent edges or worn lettering is like walking out your house with a wrinkly suit. It’s not polished, it looks sloppy, and no one is really gonna take you seriously.

Fortune Favors the Bold

But:

~If only I had the resources
~The plan I have been developing isn’t ready.
~The timing is wrong, there is no market for this idea yet.

As business owners and innovators, we can come up with a lot of reasons not to launch a product or service. Fortunately for you, boldness doesn’t require all of your ducks in a row. Just a bit of courage.

Completion.

Completion.  You know, that feeling of euphoria or satisfaction or relief that you get when you see something through till the end.  The more you pour your heart into it, the more intense that feeling of completion.  You can’t cheat or take short cuts and feel completion in the realest sense.  One must envision an end goal and take every step necessary until that goal is achieved.

I was watching Oprah’s Master Class – Lenny Kravitz, on OWN and Lenny had described an experience that inspired this blog post.  Lenny had a great relationship with his Grandfather, that was his father figure.   Lenny had recently moved to LA with his parents and was enjoying the benefits that came with being the child of famous television stars. His grandfather, whom was the man of his own house at 7, used to wake Lenny in the wee hours of the morning to complete work in the yard. Lenny explained that his grandfather wanted to teach Lenny about completion — how to envision a goal and take each step necessary until you see it through till the end.

A truly inspiring story and a lesson that can be applied to our everyday family and professional lives.  Sometimes we get lost in the cycle of  day-to-day habit and routine whilst claiming a faux sense of completion at the end of it. That need not be the case.

No more shortcuts. Take every step. Envision your goal and see it through to the end.

Be Wary of Convenience! (The ATM bomb)

I just saw on a CNN news ticker that some bank ATMS (ticker didn’t specify) are going to begin offering $1.00 and $5.00 withdrawal options.

At first glance, you may think “it is about darn time!”  Sometimes you just don’t need $20.  I can even see the benefit from a safety issue – less money withdrawn, less of a target.  Finally, you may not have $20.00 in the bank, but are in desperate need of cash –in-hand for a myriad of reasons.   All of these rationales and many others are logical. But BE WARY OF CONVENIENCE!

An article on www.Bankrate.com referenced the total amount Banks made in 2010 from ATM Fees. The results:  $7 Billion! (source: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/banking/lack-of-atm-fee-awareness/)

Side note: Interestingly enough, only 9% of the 1,000+ respondents knew that figure as well.

In August of 2012 CNN Money released an article that stated: “The fee banks charge non-customers for using their ATMS had edged up from $2.37 to $2.40, while the fee banks charge their customers for using out-of-network ATMs has climbed from $1.10 to $1.28.” (source: http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/13/pf/bank-fees-rise/index.html)

So what does this mean to you, the prudent fee-adverse consumer?

ATMS allow withdrawals in $20.00 increments & say charge a $2.50 fee to withdraw money from them if you are using a competitors ATM.  Let’s do the math:

Current Options*

  • $20.00 Withdrawal + $2.50 Fee = $22.50, that’s a 12.5% (INSTANT) interest charge to withdraw YOUR MONEY.
  • 10.00 Withdrawal + $2.50 Fee = $12.50, 25% (INSTANT) interest charge to withdraw YOUR MONEY.

New Options*

  • $5.00 Withdrawal + $2.50 Fee – $7.50, 50% (INSTANT) interest charge to withdraw YOUR MONEY
  • (I don’t think I need to calculate the interest on a $1.00 – You get the point)

More Comparisons v. $5.00 Withdrawal Fee (50%)


I listed all of these examples in order to make one point: Use the ATM, BUT use it wisely!

You may be paying out in interest more than what financial/investment accounts are earning on an annual basis!!!

Here are some tips to keep a little more dough in your pocket:

  1. Withdraw a larger amount.  (in the case you NEED to use an ATM)
  2. Plan ahead. If you may need cash in hand in smaller increments, go to your bank for a withdrawal at the window.
  3. Find a bank that does not charge an ATM fee for using out-of –network ATMs and reimburses you the “service fee” charged by competitor ATMS.

Happy Banking!!

 

*Banks do not charge “interest” to withdraw your money. They charge a flat fee that can be up to $5.00 or more depending on the Bank.  I converted the fee to a percentage to make it easier to compare Apples-to-Apples (and hopefully make a bigger impression).

1% Inspiration ~ 99% Perspiration