5 marketing ideas to make winter feel shorter

Whew! We made it through the holidays, and all that remains is the scattering of pine needles in the carpet. Can we all take a collective deep, cleansing breath together? On three: one… two… three!

In Minnesota, the months of January, February, and March are loooong. They’re typically our coldest months, our snowiest months, and our darkest months. There are no cheery holidays to pull us out of hibernation. It’s mostly grey and slushy and miserable, so we hunker down and wait for spring.

But wait! As business owners, couldn’t we find a way to bring sunshine to those dreary months? I decided to think of some ideas to build community, get people out and spending time together, and get them into your store. Of course, the details will depend on what kind of business/store you have, but here we go!

Ladies’ night

A lot of businesses do sales and events for ladies encouraging them to spend money leading up to the holidays. What about after the holidays? Try hosting some kind of make-and-take hosted at your store. Even if you don’t typically have handmade items in your store, or even if you’re not typically open in the evenings, you could hire a local person to do a wine & painting (or craft & draught for us beer people). That gets groups of ladies out of their homes and into your business with smiles on their faces.

Community over competition

Can you partner with other businesses to do a cool event? Back in November, a local car dealership hosted a “Heels and Wheels” event. Women bought inexpensive tickets (I think they were $20?), and came to the dealership first for appetizers and drinks. Then the dealership staff drove them to various boutiques and shops that had partnered with the event. There were drinks, appetizers, and light desserts at each shop, and the groups had an allotted amount of time to shop at each store. Women loved going out for an evening with their friends, and it got them into shops maybe they wouldn’t have visited without the event. Many of the shops stayed open later than normal just for the event. It was a creative way to get businesses to collaborate and think about community rather than competition!

Or try partnering with a local restaurant or brewery for an event? Is there an aspect of your business you could highlight while offering unique foods? This is great if there’s a new restaurant or bakery that is trying to build their reputation too!

Reward kindness

Dogs at the local animal shelter need to be walked, and when the weather is bad, they have a hard time getting volunteers. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are also busy and full this time of year. How about offering a reward to people who volunteer? You could partner with the organization of your choice, have some kind of coupon* that the staff stamp or initial to verify, and the volunteer gets a reward for donating their time! Or, do a food drive for your local food pantry or backpack food program and offer a discount in exchange for a donation. (Many organizations prefer cash donations because they can stretch the dollar further, so keep in mind that customers who didn’t bring in a food item can still contribute!)

I recently wrote about a local shop that started a “Kindness Campaign”. Read about that here, then think about how you can do something like it to bring sunshine to your community during the grey months!

Celebrate the cold and snow!

Could you do some kind of promotion with the temp/inches of snow to make the weather a little less painful? Try something like, “If it stays below zero for 3 days, take 30% off…” Or give a free gift with purchase the first time it snows over 6 inches (of course, make sure that gift has your branding on it)!

Family time

What can you do to get families out and spending time together? Kids love crafts, and moms love crafts that happen outside of their house, so could you use your business to get kids doing something hands-on? Build something, create something, DO something! Make sure to put an age range in your marketing, and get some extra helpers for the day too. (Teenagers are a good option here!)

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What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them! Let’s get through these next couple of months together!

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*I’m going to talk about coupons in an upcoming post… stay tuned!

 photo credit: pixabay.com user MabelAmber

motivation in a calendar

I have a friend who keeps track of how many days in a row he runs over a mile. If he has an exceptionally busy day ahead, he plans a run around midnight so that he would have at least one mile on each side of the start of the new day. He kept his first run streak alive for well over a year, then when he missed a day, he started over again. I’m not sure where he’s at right now, but in November he posted on Facebook that he had run 574 days in a row. That is so impressive! I marvel at his commitment, and it has inspired me.

I live in Minnesota, and in the winter, I put my road bike on a stationary trainer and “ride it to nowhere”. I hate it. It’s boring and miserable. As a mom of two busy kids who also works full time, I knew that I’d be setting myself up for failure if I tried to shoot for a ride streak. Instead of trying to keep a streak going, I decided to set my own goal and my own way of tracking it. I thought I’d share it here for you, in case it helps you set a new routine and achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself.

I decided that my goal would be to ride my bike to nowhere on most days. That’s kind of a vague goal, I know, but I was shooting for 4/7 days per week. (I’m a realist, so I decided I’d forgive myself if I didn’t make the 4/7 during a week as long as I made up for it in following weeks and hit the bike most days of the month.)

I am a visual person so I needed a visual way to track my progress. I went online and found a free printable calendar that had the whole year on one page, similar to this one I designed for 2019:

On Task Calendar - Yearly

Then I got an ultra-fine tip marker in a super fun color and put a small X through the dates that I rode to nowhere. It was so satisfying to see the weeks and months fill with X’s, and it helped keep me motivated. Days without X’s stood out, and served as an in-my-face way to remind me I had missed a day or two… or three, and it was time to get back on the bike.

So, as we get ready to start a new year, rather than referring to our aspirations for change as “resolutions”, which have a reputation of failing after few weeks, let’s refer to them as “goals”. Then let’s measure and track our progress!

If my simple system fits for your goals, please feel free to download, print, use, and share the calendar I created to keep you on task. It’s yours! (If you have any trouble downloading it, just comment below with your email address and I’ll send it your way.)

2019 Printable Calendar

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If my system helps you, I would love to hear about it! Or share the goal-tracking idea that has worked for you! If you have a system and want me to create a handy-dandy tool for you, let’s talk about it!
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cover photo credit: pixabay.com

going beyond fear to faith

I’ve told you about the push I got to attend Christy Wright’s Business Boutique 3 day event in Nashville, TN in early November. Months before the trip, I wrote about that generous gift as well as many of the reasons I had NOT to go, and how I turned those into my reasons TO go:

If you know me well, you know I’m irrationally terrified of flying. I also have two very active kids to drive all over the place, two dogs to worry about, and a full-time job outside of this side-venture. It is also VERY MUCH outside my nature to accept help or gifts like this from anyone. I have a million reasons (excuses?) to turn down this most generous offer. But I have one big reason why I accepted it:

It is 100% outside of my comfort zone.

And it was. My anxiety about the trip increased exponentially as the days approached, specifically about getting on the plane and logistics of the trip, but also about details at home like which kid had practice/games when, how they were getting there, I’d be missing my son’s first hockey game of the season, etc.it will be fine

Okay. Deep breath. You can do this.

All of the flights went well from a getting-from-point-A-to-point-B standpoint. I thought I was brave… although my husband perceived it a little differently as he saw tears streaming down my face with every takeoff and landing. (I gently reminded him that being brave is not being without fear, it is pushing through your fear.) In any case, we arrived safely with all our luggage and all was well.

At the conference itself, I was inspired, energized, and motivated with practical strategies I have already started putting to use in order to serve you well. I was encouraged to step out from behind my logo and allow you to get to know me personally. I heard speakers who gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears, encouraging me to believe in this business and myself. (Seriously, if you are a woman business-owner, look into Business Boutique.) There were so many takeaways, but the quote from Christy Wright that stood out to me the most was this:

Both faith and fear require believing in something that hasn’t happened yet.

Does that hit you like it hit me? I caught my breath when I heard that one. It’s powerful! But because I wanted to justify my fears, I spent a few moments trying to think of loopholes and reasons this statement isn’t true… but I came up empty. There was no rationalizing the power out of it for me.IMG_3098 2

Pushing beyond fear in this case meant getting on a plane and leaving my day-to-day life behind in order to invest in myself, and therefore in you. I was vastly rewarded with amazing speakers and information I could immediately take back and apply to my business.

In addition to all of the practical tools I took with me from that event, I also took away a change in perspective: when fear arises and I start to doubt what I’m capable of achieving, I am going to take a deep breath and choose faith. You can too!

Just do it scared. Don’t wait. Don’t wait until you’re “ready”, or until the thing is perfect, or until you get approval from him or her… just #doitscared.

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Tell me about a time you were rewarded for pushing past fear – a time you DID IT SCARED. Or I’d love to hear what you think about the quote about fear & faith – did it hit you like it did me?

You might like this FREE downloadable wallpaper for your smartphone! I put it on my phone to remind me that I have a choice between faith and fear, no matter the situation. (If you have any trouble downloading it, just comment below with your email address and I’ll send it your way.)
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photo used in the free download is from pixabay.com user “oadtz”

cover photo credit: pixabay.com user “sasint”

why use a graphic designer?

Do you need a graphic designer?

Sure, you can put together that ad or coupon using your basic word processing software. Yes, it’s cheaper, and yes, it gets the job done.

You may not have the need for a graphic designer on payroll, but finding one that you can contract and work with consistently will build a relationship. Your designer will come to understand your business, learn your audience, and work more intuitively over time, thus needing less of your time and input. That groundwork and communication on the front end will help you immensely as you develop a relationship, grow your business together, and excellently serve your customers together.

Then this:

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…turns into this:

2018.11.05 Heels&Wheels discount-01-01

…with minimal effort from you.

My passion is to take your message, polish it, and create a beautiful design so you can proudly put it out in the world. If it’s a print project, I’ll take care of getting it printed up for you too. Let me take care of those things so you can focus on the parts that made you want to go into business in the first place.

How can I serve your customers? Let’s find out!

cover photo credit: markusspiske on Pixabay.com

a half mile short of the goal

I recently went on a trip to the Porcupine Mountains with a dear friend. We hiked to a rustic cabin (rustic = no water, no electricity, wood burning stove for heat) with everything we needed for three days loaded on our backs. This is how we celebrate turning 40, I guess.

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The trail in was lightly snow-covered. I have no idea if this is normal for the UP of Michigan in the middle of October, but it was certainly different than we had envisioned when we booked the trip 6 months earlier. The fall colors were just past-peak, but contrasted with the white of the snow and the blue of the sky, and it was nothing short of amazing. We navigated huge mud puddles, small creeks, ups and downs, tree roots, rocks, you name it, and we arrived at what was to be our home for two nights.

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photo credit: Rochelle Ament

Our plan during the second day was to hike the 4 miles to Lake of the Clouds. After breakfast, we packed up our lunch and headed out. When I say “hike”, I don’t mean a casual walk down a dirt-packed trail. This was rugged terrain, and with recent rain and snow, the hike was a challenge. We often had to navigate our own path around obstacles including ankle-deep water and thick mud. At about four miles, we reached Government Peak. We sat down for a snack and to check the map… we thought we had to be getting close. A look at the map revealed we had hiked 2.1 miles in entirely the wrong direction. A moment of silent disbelief preceded a quick conversation of what we should do next. We were already tired – arriving at Government PEAK meant we had just gone quite a ways up a steep incline. We decided that we’d head back to where we’d made the wrong turn, then start toward Lake of the Clouds and figure it out from there.

We booked it back, covering that 2.1 miles in about 45 minutes. Once we started on the right trail, we decided we were going the whole way. We arrived at Lake of the Clouds, only to find the “real” view, the one we had come for, was over a half-mile away. And it was UP. We knew that going up there would be rewarding, and the sight would be amazing, but we also knew we had a four mile hike back. We had already gone 8 miles, and adding in this extra bit (again, it was UP) would put us over 13 miles for the day. Our legs felt like logs… and not to mention the drips of rain we’d felt, the dark clouds looming, and the shortened daylight that comes with autumn.

I was torn. Although I wanted that reward, I also knew those miles back to our cabin were going to be tough. I knew we could drive up to the overlook the next day… but that did seem like the “easy” way out. It wasn’t that half-mile up that had me concerned, it was the miles after that that seemed so long, with the obstacles and steep inclines to get through. Luckily, my friend didn’t hesitate to start the trek up to the overlook saying, “Kate. We aren’t going to get a half mile from it and turn around.” Never mad but definitely annoyed, I followed. And yes, I was ultimately glad I did. Lake of the Clouds was worth the miles. Every one of them.

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We got back to the cabin before darkness began to set in, 7 hours after we had headed out. We filled our bellies with a hot meal and a little vodka (for the sore muscles, you know), and felt the effects of our achievement. As we settled in for the night, I thought about how a piece of me had wanted to quit just short of the goal. If I hadn’t had a good friend to give me that little nudge my brain was having trouble mustering, I don’t know if I would have made the hike up.

I am an independent person and internally motivated. I can often keep myself going in tough situations with positive self-talk and just pure determination. Some might say I’m stubborn. But sometimes, you need a good friend to step in and say the right thing to push you past what you thought you were capable of. It was a risk to ask our bodies to hike that extra distance – we were up against the threat of inclement weather and a time constraint in addition to our weary muscles. I am so grateful that I was on that trip with that particular friend because she is just bull-headed enough to hike on. She knew the reward was worth the risk.

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photo credit: Rochelle Ament

The next day, we woke up to around 2 inches of snow on the ground. Had we turned back and not hiked up to the overlook the day before, we would have missed that view. Sure, we could have gone back and the view with snow would have been cool, but those fall colors would have been camouflaged with white, and we would have missed the reason we took the trip.

So what did I learn? So many things… like, I’m not good at cutting up firewood, lake water doesn’t taste that bad, I can hike 13+ miles in a day, and every sound in a pitch black forest in the middle of the night sounds like a bear trying to break into your cabin.

But I also learned that stubborn, independent, determined people (like me) can have moments of weakness, and it’s essential to have people on your team that will push you beyond what you think you’re capable of.

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When has something like this happened to you – where you were hesitant to take a next step, but someone you trust pushed you forward? What did you learn about yourself? I’d love to hear your story about a risk you took because someone gave you the nudge you needed!
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