50 Things I’m Grateful For, Fall 2017 Edition

When I started my business in 2012, I knew that gratitude and helping others would play a large part. Each year, I write down 50 things I’m grateful for as a reminder to not take any blessings for granted, large or small. Show your gratitude by sharing your list (of any size) in the comments or linking to your own blog post.

Yours truly at Kent State Alumni Association's National Day of Service 2015

Preparing garden beds for future vegetables during my alumni association’s National Day of Service in 2015. Do I have a future as a back model?


50 Things I’m Grateful For, Fall 2017 Edition

  • Golden retrievers and four-legged furry friends of all kinds
  • Espresso blend dark roast coffee
  • Quiet (a lack of noise and the book)
  • Soothing sounds of nature
  • A good laugh
  • Firefighters, EMS professionals, police officers and first responders
  • The feeling of crossing the finish line
  • Reading the paper while sipping a latte
  • Our wounded veterans and those who never make it home
  • Cracking open a peanut at the ballgame
  • Fireworks
  • Firetrucks in a parade
  • Fourth of July
  • Sending a card to celebrate, console, thank or say hello
  • Lunch with friendsGetting lost in a good book
  • A Swenson’s Salad Boy burger
  • My family’s health and happiness
  • Live music on a summer night, cold brew in hand
  • Solving a crossword puzzle over coffee
  • The small business journey
  • A sunset over water
  • A handwritten note
  • The sun shining on my face during a trail run
  • That sibling bond
We're celebrating 5 years in business!

CCC turned five in May!

  • CCC’s 5th anniversary
  • A day or night at the ballpark
  • The feel of a felt tip pen on paper
  • Lunch on a patio under blue, clear skies
  • Waving to the train conductor while running through the Summit Metro Parks
  • Enjoying the beauty of nature in the middle of the city
  • Bright ideas and brainstorming sessions
  • The ability to unplug (occasionally)
  • Good advice
  • My night owl nature
  • A beautiful fall day
  • Helping clients achieve success
  • Small wins
  • Contributing to something bigger than myself
  • Accomplishing something I’ve worked hard for
  • A conversation with a longtime friend
  • Hitting the trails
  • Exploring Main Street in Park City, Utah
  • Talking shop with fellow marketing professionals & small business owners
  • Learning

 

  • A place to call home
  • The ability to donate platelets to help others
  • When social media is used for good
  • Writing, writing, writing (and reading)
  • Strong women, in fiction and real life

There’s so much in life to be grateful for. What’s on your list?

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about gratitude, hopes and dreams, your marketing needs or otherwise):

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4 Ways Running Can Help You Run A Business

Are you a runner or is shopping your cardio? 😉

The author finishing a 5k

I started running later in life (i.e. post-school), and I’m so glad I did. Besides being excellent exercise, it’s fun to be a part of such a wonderful community. The running community embraces runners of all capabilities and provides support in the form of running partners, groups and tips from more experienced runners.

A Supportive Community 

A supportive community is one way that running translates to running a business. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re probably working alone. Tapping into the entrepreneurial community can help you grow and manage your business. Whether you frequent a co-working space or join an online community, fellow small business owners can give you advice, help you brainstorm ideas and offer support from someone who understands what you’re experiencing.

Related: Is collaboration the new competition?

Long-Term Plan

Runners tend to have a long-term plan, incorporating when they’re competing in races, rest days and specific things they’re working on (i.e. a stronger kick, running technique). Small business owners need to plan as well, so they can run their business effectively and look for growth opportunities. Looking at your bigger picture helps when making decisions about what opportunities to pursue and which areas to focus on at specific times. Of course the best plans should always be adjustable.

Rest Days / Down Time

As noted above, part of a runner’s long-term plan is incorporating rest days. They’re vital to performing well, in running and business. Small business owners tend to wear a lot of hats, which can make it difficult to unplug. It’s important to your long-term outlook (and health) that you take time for yourself so you can be at your best when focusing on your business. Don’t burn yourself out and short circuit your business before you’re able to achieve your dreams. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Related: How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

Aha Moments 

When I run, I listen to my tunes and try to empty my mind (or think of inspirational movie scenes if I need an extra boost to reach the top of the hill). I’m not thinking about customers, business issues or other important topics. That’s probably why I come up with some of my best ideas or feel confident making a decision I’ve been thinking about after a run. The combination of physical activity, clearing my mind and the euphoria of finishing my run seems to spark creativity and clarify my decision-making process. The next time you’re struggling with a business decision or client project, go for a run. It may spark an ‘aha moment!’

Running translates well to running a business on several fronts. Runners can draw inspiration and insight from their hobby while they tackle the tough task of running a business. Not a runner? It’s never too late to lace ’em up and hit the pavement or trails. Couch to 5k can help you get started, or find a running community to join. You’ll find the same support, camaraderie and inspiration as you find in your entrepreneurial or small business community.

Happy running (a business)!

Just a (small biz owner &) runner from Akron,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, running, your marketing needs or otherwise):

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5 Years In: Life as a Small Business Owner

Something crazy happened this week: CCC celebrated its 5th anniversary. In the midst of client projects and deadlines, I almost missed it — which is so appropriate. It was just another day in what has become my life as a small business owner.

We're celebrating 5 years in business!

When I started this journey, I never thought I’d get here. Sure, I made plans and thought about where I — and my business — would be in five years, but to be honest, none of it was real. There was too much treading water just trying to stay afloat.

Looking back, I’ve learned a few things and will continue to do so every day. That’s part of the process, one that I enjoy.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years as a small business owner:

  • This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and my greatest accomplishment (to date). Finishing my first half-marathon is a close second, but the daily grind of starting and building my own business has permanently changed me. It’s challenged me beyond my wildest dreams, and shown me what I’m capable of. You can read and plan all you want (and you should), but until you jump in, it’s hard to imagine.

An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

  • You have to learn to say no. Your time is your most valuable commodity, especially because you probably won’t have the money to hire help when you start out. It’s not about missing opportunities or being afraid to take chances; it’s about taking control of your time and your business. Saying yes to everything and everyone will leave you burnt out and likely out of business.

The Power of Saying ‘No’

  • Enjoy the everyday moments. Take time to sip a latte on a patio on a beautiful spring day while brainstorming a blog post or contemplating future business decisions. It may be tough for you to take time off from your business for a long time, so enjoy these moments that relieve stress and sustain you for another day.

Celebrate the Magic in Everyday Moments

  • Be honest — with your clients, prospects and yourself. It may be uncomfortable, but it will benefit all involved in the long run. As difficult as some situations may be, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you’re not best suited to help a prospect, refer him to another company. If you’re continually running into issues with a client, have an honest (yet professional) conversation. It will either spur changes or an end to the relationship, which may be for the best. Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships cannot be built on lies and half-truths — in business or in life.

A Look Back: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

  • Stay true to why you started your business. It can be difficult to remember your vision as you get bogged down in day-to-day activity, start to grow or deal with a catastrophe. Whether you create a vision board or have an image burned into your mind, keep it front and center. Remembering why you started the business can help you make decisions and decide which opportunities to pursue.

It’s been fun looking back on the last five years this week, which have been an incredible journey. Right now, there’s more work to do, but maybe I’ll be able to sip a latte on a patio this weekend to celebrate this special milestone in CCC’s story.

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Starting chapter six,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Understanding Social Media Etiquette with Real-World Scenarios

Google social media etiquette, and you’ll retrieve over 4,000,000 results (at the time of this writing). Clearly, it’s a topic that resonates with people, and in the ever-changing, real-time realm of social media, it’s easy to understand why people are confused on what’s appropriate and what’s not. Throw in trying to balance personal and business accounts on a variety of platforms, and we have a free-for-all on our hands.

Not sure if something is appropriate online? Translate it into a real-world scenario.

What can you do? When you find yourself facing a social media conundrum, translate it to a real-world scenario. For example, it’s popular nowadays to send new connections an automated sales pitch, er message, asking for favors left and right: retweet my pinned tweet, buy my book, follow me on a plethora of other platforms (where, coincidentally, your new connection blasts out the same exact content at the same exact time). You may find yourself wondering, ‘should I do this too?’

OK, let’s translate this behavior into real life. You stop in a coffee shop to get your fix, and strike up a conversation with a guy behind you in line. (It’s amazing the people you meet in coffee shops!) When you get to the counter, you ask the nice gentleman you just connected with to buy your latte. Of course! Who doesn’t do that, right?

If you think that’s nuts, I’m with you. You wouldn’t do that, and chances are, neither would anyone else. However, people do this every day in the digital world and think it’s not only acceptable, but expected.

Social Media’s Nice, But It’s Not IRL

But, here’s the thing. It blows people away online too, and not in a good way. Trying to become a thought leader in your field or connect with experienced industry professionals to learn from them? Don’t immediately hit them up for favors upon connecting, or you’ll be viewed as just another leach.

That may sound harsh, but it applies to networking in person or online. Connections aren’t things waiting to be used, they’re people to build relationships with. When you approach someone or make a new connection, look at how you can bring value to the relationship — not what you can get out of it. Eventually, this person may be able to help you, but not if you approach him or her immediately asking for favors.

Don’t Ask To Pick My Brain. (And 11 other tips for building a strong professional network)

Talk to influencers in any industry, and they’ll share tale after tale of people constantly hitting them up for favors. They usually want to help others, because people helped them get where they are today. But they’re people, and they don’t like being used.

So the next time you’re thinking about doing something online, remember to translate it into real-world (or offline) behavior. Does it sound crazy? Then move on. It’s easy to forget that we’re still dealing with human beings in our fast-paced, digital world. (Unless you’re talking to a chat bot, but that’s a subject for another blog post.)

Share Your Thoughts

Do you agree with this post, or is our online world a different place with different social norms?

What are your thoughts on sending automated messages to new connections?

What’s your best coffee shop story?

Straddling the offline and online worlds,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media etiquette, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Content Marketing: A Crucial Component of the Customer Experience

A stat from a recent article on content marketing caught our eye.

“Consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content on average prior to making a purchase.”

pexels-photo-296878

In the B2B world, buying journeys tend to run longer anyway, but consumers (B2B and B2C) are doing their homework these days. Studies show that 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.

Whether it’s leftover angst from the Great Recession or the availability of information today, it’s precisely why content marketing is so important.

Here’s a real-life example:

Recently, I stayed over in Park City, Utah, for a day after working a client’s conference in nearby Salt Lake City. On a whim, I decided to get a massage after spending the previous four days pounding convention center floors. I pulled up local spas on my phone, checking their hours, availability and services. Not surprisingly, I contacted the spas who had this information available online — not ones I had to call just to see if they were open. And the spas who had additional content available — more in-depth descriptions of their services, photos of their facility, online real-time availability, etc. — moved to the top of my list.

What does this have to do with content marketing? The information I sought was quality content created by (or for) these spas: descriptive services pages with quality photos, blog articles on the benefits of one type of massage over another, recommendations on how to maximize your spa-going experience. This is what consumers are looking for today before making a purchase or even contacting your company.

While I didn’t end up getting a massage, I did manage to take a break from technology and enjoy the magic of Park City. But not before I utilized even more content — a visitor’s guide from my condo, Park City Transit’s website — to plan my stress-free day.

We’re all consumers at some point, so don’t forget about your experiences as a customer when you put on your marketing hat. These experiences are valuable and can make us better marketing professionals, if we choose to use them.

Reader Feedback

How have you used content marketing to learn more about a business or make a purchase?

How do you use your experiences as a customer to become a better marketing professional?

What types of content do you prefer when researching a company or purchase?

A professional customer and marketing professional,
Jaime

 

Let’s chat (about content marketing, customer experiences or otherwise):
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How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

The views were breathtaking.

snow covered mountains in Park City, UT

Park City, Utah

After a client conference last week, I took a day off in nearby Park City, Utah. If you’ve never been, the landscape is breathtaking, and I didn’t even have a chance to hit the slopes. If you’re not a skier, there’s plenty of other sights and sounds to entertain you.

There’s almost a magical quality to Park City, with its old-fashioned Main Street, Mom and Pop shops and mountain backdrops. As I was heading back to the airport the following morning (in a snowstorm), I realized my stress level was much lower than it had been when I arrived. Why? I tried to limit technology as much as possible for a 12-hour span.

Technology transports us to new worlds, allows us to work remotely and offers nearly unlimited learning opportunities. It’s also addictive, available 24/7 and difficult to get away from in our lives today. I’m not suggesting that you move to the woods and shun all forms of technology, but there are ways to take a break from technology and lower your stress level.

How technology gets us hooked

How to Take a Break from Technology and Reduce Your Anxiety Level

  • Switch Screens: Some days you have to be plugged in all day; there’s no way of getting around it. It helps me to switch screens, going from my laptop to mobile, when possible. Something about not standing (or sitting) in front of a computer makes me feel like I’m not as plugged in.
  • Take a Break: Most people work better in spurts, and as counterproductive as it may seem, taking short breaks can make you more productive. You may have a mountain of work to do, but taking a quick walk or heading out of the office for lunch can give you a productivity boost for the rest of the day. I try to move around in between projects to break up the work day.

Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

  • Go Old School: Can you lose technology for any part of your job (even once in awhile)? I love to write outlines and rough drafts on paper. A blank page is much more inviting to me than a flashing cursor, and the process of writing by hand is soothing to me. Pick up a physical business book or attend a conference in-person to hone your skills instead of reading an article or attending a webinar online.
  • Change Your Environment: When I worked in corporate America, I loved to go out to lunch to change the scenery. Oftentimes, I would come up with an idea or solve a problem while sitting at a local cafe or coffee shop. Changing your environment can drive creativity and refresh you, which is why coffee shops are popular alternative working locations.

How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity

  • Adjust Your Schedule: What is your typical work schedule? Do you have any flexibility? Try to group projects so that you’re able to enjoy some time off, even a few hours. Maybe you can schedule more on 3-4 days a week so that you can regroup and plan on lighter days or even take a day off. What works best for you? If you’re an early bird, work on your most important projects first before you lose momentum. More of a night owl? Save more thought-provoking work for later in the day. We all work our best differently, so try to make your schedule work for you.
  • Shut It Off: Take a vacation, even one day. It’s amazing how much more relaxed you’ll feel when you leave your phone at home or at least don’t check it every five minutes. As a small business owner, I understand how difficult it is to clock out, so to speak, but I always feel so refreshed when I do. You may not be able to take a week-long vacation to some tropical destination, but enjoying an activity you like — ice skating, shopping, getting a massage — can pull you out of the digital world back into the real world.

As amazing as technology is, it’s important to unplug regularly to recharge and enjoy the world around us. You may be surprised at your reduced stress levels and improved productivity and efficiency. So turn off your computer, put your phone down and head outside. The world awaits!

Your Turn: How Do You Unplug?

How do you take a break from technology?
What’s your favorite getaway destination?
What are your favorite activities that don’t involve technology?

p.s. It’s a coincidence that I wrote and published this post on the National Day of Unplugging. It’s not a coincidence that I wrote it in a coffee shop. 😉

An old school Gen X’er in a digital world,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about unplugging, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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4 Ways to Add More Fun (& Productivity) to Your Events

Are attendees excited to attend your company’s events? Or are your events just another stop on the circuit?

Promotional product ideas for meetings & events

Don’t forget the fun! Events shouldn’t be all work and no play.

Recently CCC had the opportunity to attend ASI Orlando, a leading promotional products show, and headed home with marketing ideas galore. Today, we’re going to focus on how to liven up your meetings and events.

 Add some fun with a photo booth (or selfie station)! Whether you’re hosting an evening party or a potentially awkward networking session/ice breaker, a photo booth adds some fun and helps attendees connect with each other. Instead of focusing on differences, visitors will find common ground while making fun memories. The best news? A photo booth doesn’t have to break your budget. Devote a corner, order some fun props (beard fun face, anyone?) and snap away! (Tip: Make sure you have good lighting in whatever area you choose.)

Roll out the red carpet and move registration to the rooms! We’ve all been there — standing in line at a registration booth way too early in order to officially check in to a conference. Why irritate attendees right off the bat? If everyone is staying at the host hotel, move registration to the rooms. Place welcome gifts in each room along with badges and registration materials. Attendees will feel special and be able to swap time standing in line at registration with activities they’d rather be doing, like relaxing, networking or enjoying some fresh air.

Event Planning: You Need to Have a Plan

Hold a scavenger hunt or set up an escape room experience. Encourage attendees to work together to resolve a situation while having a good time. Both experiences help improve communication and problem solving in a memorable way. Kick the experience up a notch by tying it into the local area or your line of work. Commemorate the experience by printing the scavenger hunt map on a scarf or t-shirts for a job well done (I escaped the 2017 CCC Expo!).

Need to recharge? Head to the Relaxation Station. Set up a Relaxation Station where attendees can head to recharge their gadgets and themselves. Massages, refreshments, mobile chargers/outlets and WiFi are all welcome amenities to weary travelers. Other options for a relaxing space include a coffee bar, connection cafe or nature room. On a similar note, don’t feel the need to fill every minute with sessions and lectures. Unscheduled networking time can produce amazing connections, solutions and big business.

Remember, it’s OK for attendees to have fun and enjoy your events. They can still learn and be productive at the same time. Make your event an exciting destination rather than just another stop on the show circuit.

Category Archives: Event Planning

Meetings & Events Minutes

How do you add fun to your events?

What’s your favorite promotional product (or branded item) that you’ve given out or received at an event?

What activity or experience did you have at an event that was truly memorable?

p.s. Did you know that CCC offers event planning services? From big ideas to small details, we’d love to help you with your next event!

Cheers to a successful event!
Jaime

Let’s chat (about promotional products, your event planning needs or otherwise):
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Going Live: What Social Platform Suits You?

You’re hearing it everywhere — live streaming is all the rage, and your brand should be doing it. (All the cool ones are, right?)

Going Live: Which Social Platform Suits You?

Broadcasting can provide a boost for your brand, but you should think about what works best for your brand before going live. Here are three things to consider:

To Keep or Not To Keep  

Do you want visitors to have access to your live videos at a later date? If you’re sharing a flash special, probably not. If you’re broadcasting your session at a conference, maybe you do. For videos with a shelf live, Facebook Live is a convenient option. The social media giant does give preference in its news feed to live videos; however, your videos are stored for future reference. Periscope also added a permanent archive option to its app last year. If you don’t want users to access videos later, Live Video on Instagram Stories or Snapchat may be a better fit. (Note that you can delete live videos after broadcast on Facebook and Periscope, or choose the previous 24-hour expiration option by default on Periscope.)

Live Streaming Schedule 

How often will you be sharing live video (realistically)? Maybe you’re planning on going live with a travel tip every Tuesday or sharing a behind-the-scenes office view every Friday. Or will you show an occasional live look at an event or broadcast from your grand opening once? If live streaming will only be a miniscule part of your marketing mix, Instagram or Facebook would be a better fit. These platforms support other media besides live video, so you can be active on them throughout the year. What other content are you planning on sharing? Facebook supports a greater media mix — pictures, video (live or recorded), links, text, product catalogs, etc. while Instagram is purely a visual platform. This may seem basic, but it’s something to think about while creating your social media strategy.

Home is Where Your Community Is 

We hear this all the time — “I’m leaving for a conference tomorrow and want to live stream content. What platform should I sign up for?” Creating a loyal, active community on any platform takes time, so don’t try to do it in two days or a week. If you have already built an Instagram community, stick with what already works for you — for now. Making waves on Snapchat? Stay there. If you think another platform might work better for your brand, keep a long-term view. Don’t jump ship and expect your community to follow you from one platform to the next, especially overnight. Keep doing what you’re doing, and work on building a new community on another platform over time.

Keep in mind: Live Streaming Apps: The Future of Broadcasting or Legal Liability?

Thinking about going live? Stop and strategize first. Understand what you’re trying to achieve by broadcasting live, how often you’ll be doing it and where you’ve already built a community. You — and your audience — will be glad you did.

Live Feedback

Which platform do you use for live video?

Why did you decide to use that platform?

What live streaming advice would you share with others?

What brand utilizes live video well?

A face fit for radio, 😉

Jaime

Let’s chat (about live video, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Yes, Small Business Owners, There is a Holiday Season

It’s our favorite time of year at CCC. The holidays bring so much joy and cheer — fun festivities, beautiful decorations and spending time with family and friends. How do you take part while still running your business?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... Are you in the holiday spirit?

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.”

Choose your favorite parts

You can’t do everything, so you have to choose. Which parts of the holidays do you enjoy most? Festive activities? Attend local shows and community events. Decorating in style? Spend time making your home shine. Buying the perfect gifts for loved ones? Dedicate your time to shopping for those you hold dear. Whatever areas you choose, be present. Don’t be worrying about your business or what you’re not doing while enjoying your favorite parts of the holiday season.

For example, I decided not to decorate this year. I’m not a Scrooge; I wanted to focus on taking advantage of all of the fun activities this time of year — ice skating, craft/art shows, tree lightings, parades, etc. — and shopping/baking for others, which I love to do. There’s no wrong answer here. Just make a decision and run with it!

How to Guiltlessly Take Time Off to Enjoy the Best Holiday Season Ever

Be smart about running your business 

Yes, you need to continue to run your business during the holidays, but scale back when possible. Commit to specific projects or tasks and focus on completing them within specified time periods. Don’t try to double your growth or take on herculean tasks — especially at this time of year. It’s OK to focus on outside interests and not obsess about your business once in awhile. You may even find that it will make you a better business owner, boss and person.

I’ve been busy this week finishing tasks and meeting deadlines in addition to handling a normal workload. However, I haven’t started new projects or worried about tackling to-dos that can easily be moved to next week, so I can enjoy the wonders of the season.

Time to set limits: Business owners suffer tech overload

Set boundaries and let others know about them

Are you working limited hours throughout the season or on specific days? Let clients and prospective customers know up front, and work with them to plan accordingly. You may be surprised that others want to enjoy the season too and understand that you’re closing up shop to attend your kids’ concert or preserve your family’s tradition of a special day out together. Remember to update your Facebook page, website or other domains where you list hours of availability.

As a small business owner, you may feel the need to check in, which I understand. You can do that without spending the day glued to your phone or working away in another room while everyone else enjoys the festivities. Don’t spend this magical season watching everyone else reconnect, recharge and have a good time. You’ll enter the new year with a case of the holiday blues instead of relaxed, rested and ready to go.

How do you balance your business and life during the holiday season?
What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Enjoy the magic and wonder of the holiday season!

Happy Hanukkah * Merry Christmas * Happy Boxing Day * Happy Kwanzaa

CCC’s Head Elf,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your holiday traditions, marketing needs or otherwise):
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