small business

I Don’t Answer my Phone

If you know me or have done business with me, you may have learned that I do not answer my phone. Unless it’s from a family member, it’s probably not going to get answered. The funny thing is, I am always near my phone, and most of the time I am looking at it. I simply don’t have the time to tap the little button that would connect our call.

You can’t do business without a landline phone…

Years ago, my father would have said something like the above. It’s probably due to his years of business consultancy combined with constant traveling. Being the daughter of a mobile businessman helped me learn the power of constant communication very early on. He also taught me a little bit about great customer service, the biggest lesson being:

If customers cannot reach you, they won’t do business with you.

Well, my father is from a different generation, because I have not had a landline phone since 2001, yet I have been a self-employed professional for nearly 10 years without one. It hardly seems like a business requirement anymore – especially if you are a solo –entrepreneur. Technology has created new (and cheaper) ways of communicating across distances.

Cell Phones Are Not For Talking

My reluctance to answer the phone skyrocketed this year when I purchased my first smartphone. Yes, I said first. This is because I find the vast possibilities of a smartphone to be distracting from phone calls. I mean, why would I answer the phone, when I could be skype chatting or tweeting? It just doesn’t make much sense.

That is why I am convinced cell phones are no longer designed for phone calls. If they were, they’d have a longer battery life, be more comfortable to hold, and wouldn’t include YouTube. I can’t possibly be the only independent professional to feel this way…

Maybe I should just send an email…

The last ten years, the Internet has proven that it can solve nearly any problem- including the fact that I never have time to answer my phone. First there was Netmeeting. It came installed on my Windows 95 computer but strangely disappeared in Vista. Then there was the handy dandy Magic Jack, which I cautiously purchased from Radio Shack only to lose interest after a few weeks.

By the time most of the world had adopted Skype, I had already used and disposed of a Google Voice number, forgotten the password of numerous GoToMeeting credentials, and pretty much loss hope in terms of what the Internet could offer for voice communications.

A Beacon of Hope?

The great thing about technology is that is always evolving, and it appears voice over internet protocol calls (VoIP) has now reached a point of being worth my consideration again. I have been fortunate to meet two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (yes, Silicon Valley like the genius’s behind Facebook and that ridiculously humorous HBO show) that understand the problems I am facing.

They have created technology that helps busy professionals like me continue to not answer their phones while still making money.

In yo’ face, Dad!

Their company, Smith.ai, combines real receptionists with the best in technology to create a marketing and customer service solution that does not involve me answering the phone. Considering the fact that I plan to stay in business for a while, this is a total win.

 

Screw Your Hack, I’m Trying To Work Here!!

Yesterday I wasted 4 hours trying to optimize my online business. It was supposed to be a simple upgrade. I wanted to customize my desktop, background and create a custom start menu on my Firefox browser.

What happened next was a disaster. First my Firefox froze, so I CTRL-ALT-DEL it. Then it refused to open, so I reinstalled it, losing all of my bookmarks. Finally, my in-house tech guru gets me back online and I happily install the plugins of my dream and get on with my day.

You would think that would be the end of it, but sadly, it is not.

The next day, after working seamlessly for a full 4 hours, my Firefox refuses to open again. I refresh it again, only to lose all of the customization I did the day before.

Now I am staring at my screen, wondering if I should bother with customizing my Firefox again. If that was supposed to be a productivity hack, it sure backfired.

How Does Anyone Get Anything Done?

The Internet can be frustrating. With all of our advancements, it seems like we’ve only made it more confusing. One example of this is blogging which started in the 1990s as a series of journal-like entries shared over the Internet. A blog was somewhere you could go to read people’s opinions, learn new things or connect with others. It wasn’t a sales tool.

My, how things have changed. ..Now every business needs a blog if it wants to survive online – but what do they write about, and best of all how do they find the time? Enter the copy blogger – a professional blogger that specializes in writing sales-oriented business blogs.

No longer is it about sharing opinions and connecting with others. Blogging has become about word counts, keywords, engagement, call-to –actions and readability. As a result, countless blogs, all saying the same thing (absolutely nothing) pop up repeatedly all over the Internet.

It’s no wonder many people have given up reading them.

Is There Even a Solution?

I gave up trying to hack my Firefox into optimized productivity. Yeah, I’m missing my colorful tabs, and screen grabber – but I know it’s for the best. My system is running smoothly, and I can function without an add-on.

Businesses can do the same thing when it comes to their business blogs. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. It doesn’t have to be bells and whistles. It doesn’t have to look like everyone else.

In order for a business to use the Internet to their advantage, they don’t need another copy blogging hack; they need some straight up common sense.

It’s simple actually. Share what you know and love. Do so on a regular basis. Make sure you use good grammar and spelling. Show some pictures if they are relevant, and most of all… have some personality.

You didn’t build a successful business based on shortcuts. Don’t use a content marketing strategy that does.

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill …

So what are you going to do? Follow the masses of websites running behind the Google train or jump into the great unknown of the Internet without guarantee of reward?

You know, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

There was an internet before search engine optimization, and there will continue to be one if search engines suddenly stopped existing. Will people still find you if that happens?

The copy blogging formula says I should end this blog post with a call to action, but I’m not going to. I will, however, say that I offer services for businesses who seek to be different, and who aren’t afraid to say: screw your hacks. I do this because I remember when the Internet was worth a damn, when I wasn’t constantly afraid of ‘hackers’, Big Data harvesters, and fake friends trying to sell you something.

To survive online nowadays, you need to keep it real while still understanding the ultimate game.

Your future customers are out there, you just have to work a little harder to find them.

From Prison to the Boardroom

I like to write about entrepreneurial motivations, partly because of my experiences, and partly because of the entrepreneurs I have been able to meet. So when I received a text message about Defy Ventures, Inc., it definitely piqued my interest.

What is Defy Ventures? Well, simply put, they are a group of motivated Americans trying to help those with criminal backgrounds become entrepreneurs.

Wait, what- you don’t want hustlers trying to scam you out of your money?

Well, before you judge, consider this fact.

5% of Americans have a criminal background, and the majority of those people return to prison. Even if you don’t know someone who has been to prison (with those odds you probably do), if you are American, you are paying for their crimes.

How? It costs money to prosecute crimes, run prisons, and rehabilitate a large amount of people – money America does not have. As a result, we have under-paid, over-worked police officers, for-profit prisons, and rehabilitation programs that are destined to fail. It’s a cycle that feeds off the most disadvantaged communities in America- the poor.

Defy Ventures attempts to break this cycle by reducing the likelihood of returning to prison. By giving those with criminal backgrounds business skills and corporate connections, they hope to empower these people with the tools needed to keep them out of a life of crime.

Will it work?

Well, it’s not exactly a new concept. Immigrant communities, often arriving in America with little to no money, have always embraced an entrepreneurial mindset. They understood the need to build their own futures, rather than be defined by what was expected of them. Perhaps it was because they knew the odds were against them and they wanted to put up a good fight.

Now, a new class of American outsiders –those with criminal backgrounds- are preparing to use entrepreneurship as their stepping stone toward success.

Hey, it beats stealing cars and selling crack.

The hope is that with proper education, these ‘criminals’ can come up with a ‘hustle’ that adds to society; not take from it. They could learn how to start their own businesses, small and large and stay out of prison. Their children would learn the benefits of self-employment and stay out of prison as well. In other words, entrepreneurship could reduce our growing prison economy.

Is small business a cure for our society? Defy Ventures seems to thinks so.

Learn more about Defy Ventures on their website.

Does Your Online Content Reflect You?

I had a discussion with my husband the other day about what my work entails. Strangely enough, although I work from home, my family believes I type away at my keyboard and read Twitter all day. If that’s all I did, that would sure be an awesome way to pay the bills- but I digress…

My husband – like many traditionally business minded people- believed that my job entailed making people look better. I explained that it was a little bit different; that I give people a voice.

My writing business is formed around a marketing principle that I passionately believe in. It’s called authenticity, or as I frequently call it, ‘keeping it real.’ Authenticity builds trust, it forms connections, and ultimately, it closes deals.

As a salesperson and promotional marketer it was easy to use authenticity. I simply remained very honest with people, giving them the good and the bad, and letting them make their own decisions. See, I was confident in what I was selling, so much that I didn’t need to hype it up to get the job done. I simply needed to know what I was talking about and smile pretty.

Yes, appearance matters… unfortunately, for some.

But in writing, this process is not as straightforward –                                         and it takes a talented writer to do it well

How does a company remain authentic when marketing on a platform that is mostly text based?

How do you stand out from every other business in your industry? You could create videos, display professionally designed info graphs, or record informative podcasts; but what are you going to write in the description?

My point is, building authenticity online is about maintaining your business’s voice. It’s not about using industry buzzwords or copy-writing formulas for putting together a website. It’s about taking your business, and everything that it is – the good, the bad, the unique – and accurately depicting that online in an attractive way.

For the small business, the Internet is not about looking better than you actually are; it is about extending who you are to a different market.

You made the business, let me help you share it with the world.

Check out my newly launched website, Jenn Marie Marketing & Writing for a list of all the services that I provide for small businesses, individuals and anyone seeking an authentic voice online.