About Kate

 

I’m a scrappy, southern marketer loving the west coast and all things related to branding, marketing, startups, mobile, and technology. Art, music, and pop culture fuel me. I love Twitter, finding viral videos first, dresses, and design thinking. See what inspires mehere and please reach out and say “hi!”

Anything written in this blog is strictly my opinion and not the opinion of my employer.

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Monday
Dec202010

Why ask why?

The word why is one of the most important questions you can ask your employees, customers, and colleagues. Asked in a calm, curious tone you are communicating that you want to understand something or someone further - that you are open to a different perspective or way of doing something.  And this is how you get to the bottom of things.

Why did you do that?

When you are unsure of how to respond to a situation, try asking why. Asking why will give you an explanation that you can use to make decisions.  It helps uncover misunderstanding and gives you insight to the other party's motivation.

Why do you need to know that? 

Although it can feel awkward to ask, it is sometimes important to understand why someone is requesting certain information from you - especially if it is information you are not volunteering or if it is not relevant to a project. At times, it can be important to protect confidentiality and establish boundaries.

Why do you think that?

Personal growth is often found in challenging our own opinions.  Be open to what you might learn from someone who feels differently than you.  This is particularly true when working with your team members. They often see your business through a particular perspective, and their feedback is valuable.

Why do you feel that way?  

It is easy to forget to consider how our actions and words can be perceived.  This is especially true when you are discussing conceptual ideas or when you are communicating via email or text.  Conceptual ideas can be interpreted differently because there is nothing tangible to which you can point or demonstrate.  Email and text do not accommodate tone of voice and often create misunderstanding.   

Why is this important?

You may feel that someone is wasting time on a task.  But maybe there is more complexity or importance in the task than you originally considered.  There is only one way to find out.  

Why can't I _____?

Asking why in this context will unleash your creativity.  Wherever you find a why like this, you will usually find an idea. Why can't I buy milk, meat, and bread in one place?  Hello supermarkets.  Why can't I get from my house to yours more quickly?  Hello Ford.  

You get my point.  Without understanding why, it is easy to assume the worst in a situation and to overlook important information or ideas.  

While asking questions often comes easy for small children, for some adults it is more difficult.  You may worry that it will put you in a vulnerable position or that you will lose respect for not knowing the answer.  You may also not want to make things feel awkward.  But this is a high cost for missing important information.   

Beware that the only way to benefit from asking why is to be open and to listen to what the other party is saying.  If you are not, there is no point in asking.

Thank you to my advisor, Michael, for teaching me this lesson as a response to my why.

Tuesday
Dec142010

Break It Down

Taking the leap into a business idea or starting a new phase in your business takes courage.  It is easy to commit to your vision and to go all in.  But even the best poker players know that it is all about calculated risk, awareness, and understanding where you are in the game.  It is about having your eye on your vision but keeping your focus on the details and adjusting your strategy as things play out.

Grumpy Little Fellaphoto © 2008 B D | more info (via: Wylio)

 

When you make a big decision, you are basing that decision on many factors: opportunity, timing, vision, available resources, etc.  But when you make a big decision without breaking it down into smaller goals or milestones, it is very difficult to change direction.  There is an ego and thrill factor involved which drives your effort instead of feedback, results, and events.  This leads to a loss of time and money due to major headaches like feature creep, correcting poor hiring decisions, and restructuring your services after launch.

It is important to break down all aspects of your business goals into small steps.  This includes development, relationships, and marketing.  If you feel unprepared to make a decision, this feeling is a clear indication that you have not broken it down enough.  When you take small steps, you get feedback along the way that points you in the right direction and eases decision making.

  • Getting Started. Take time to think though your goals.  No matter how exciting a goal may be, it is usually made up of many small, somewhat less exciting tasks.  The smaller you can break down the tasks, the better.  You will have a greater sense of achievement if tasks are easy to accomplish.  

    If you are just beginning, write down your main goal.  Then, write down the major milestones that will lead you to this goal. Under each milestone, write down action items that make up that milestone. Next, write down a to-do list for each action item. Finally, prioritize your milestones and action items.  Now you know where to start. 

  • In Business Development. Being successful in this fast-paced environment is usually linked to iteration and creativity.  It is important to test ideas immediately and to listen to your market's feedback.  This is why your product can not be perfect before it is tested and why you want to test your idea before making it public. Find out if your idea resonates with your audience, and most importantly, will they pay you for the product?  

  • In Business Relationships.  Working in an iterative environment requires communication, and trust is the key element of a working relationship.  It takes time to understand how someone works and what they are like to work with.  As a small business owner, you often want to believe you can trust someone immediately.  You want the person to be the right fit and to solve your problems, but these are things that only time can tell you.  

    Like dating, you need to build experience with someone before committing to them.  Think about delegating small tasks to someone before offloading a large project.  If you are hiring, incorporate a trial period into your agreement and hire one person at a time.  If you are a tech startup considering an equity agreement, tie the agreement to milestones and think long and hard about what those milestones are.

Big adventures make life exciting, but small goals and decisions give you more control of risk.  If you need help breaking things down, email me.  Otherwise, please leave your comments and opinions below.

Thank you to Secret Ingredients, my first startup, for teaching me all of these lessons the hard way.  And thank you to Arry for reflecting on these thoughts with me this week.

Thursday
Dec092010

It's all about the numbers.

Wanting to accomplish something is often not enough- no matter how badly you want it.  It definitely helps to be passionate about what you do, to have goals, and to be surrounded by smart people.  But ultimately these things do not ensure success.  

What helps you succeed?

Wage dislikes spreadsheetsphoto © 2009 Dyanna | more info (via: Wylio)

 

The numbers.  

Think about it like this.  Do you ever lose weight just because you really want to?  No.  Does hanging out with health conscious people help?  Yes.  What about buying a gym membership?  Yes, that can help too- if you use it. But ultimately, you may not lose that weight until you commit to the numbers and the facts.  

Looking at numbers draws you to an awareness of where you are with your goals.  It forces you to deal with reality and to see your actual progress.  It's tangible, motivating, and empowering to look at numbers. And it is often at times when we feel unhappy with progress or vulnerable that we avoid looking at the the facts.  

What is the best way to motivate yourself to lose weight?  Start by writing down everything that you eat. Believe me - those five cookies you ate will not taste nearly as good as they did before you committed to writing them down.  And before you know it, your eating habits will change because of this.  

Next, write down how much you exercise each day.  If you take the stairs instead of the elevator- write it down.  Before you know it, you will be walking more, driving less, and finding ways to exercise more. Take it a step further and add up the number of calories you are eating and the number of calories you are burning each day. Weigh yourself once a week and add this number to your tallies as well.  

Now you have the tool to figure out what works for you.  Watch the data over time, and it will tell you more. You may notice that those Tuesday meetings at the doughnut shop are affecting your progress, or your long Monday workdays leave you no time for exercise. This information tells you where to put your effort and what to change.

This blog is not about weight loss. It is about business. But reaching your business goals involves the same process as what I described above with weight loss.  You can create a spreadsheet to track anything in business, and it is important that you do.  You should have a spreadsheet or tool that tracks the overall health of your company. This includes your revenue, expenses, number of customers, number of prospects, how many events you have attended, and how many people you have met.  You should create a spreadsheet to track your marketing efforts, business development goals, and anything else you want to accomplish.

If you are unsure of how to start, just start somewhere.  Think of one goal you have, and then consider what is trackable.  Fill it out once a week for several weeks, and you will figure out what to add as you go. Also, consider finding tools to help you.  Between SaaS and smartphone apps, you can find tools for just about anything.  I recommend finding some project management tools will help you organize your thoughts and to see what tasks are part of larger objectives.  Check out Curio7 or OmniFocus if you are on Mac.  After you have figured out your main goals, create spreadsheets to track your progress.  

It is important that you intentionally fill out and look at the data yourself.  Just looking at a QuickBooks report is not good enough.  You need to customize the data according to your priorities so that you get the feedback you need.  This will help you think through and plan your day according to your goals.

Numbers are everything.  They show progress.  They tell you what you are missing and help you make decisions.  If you need help figuring out where your focus should be, email me.  Also, share your thoughts and comments.

Thank you to Carolynn for teaching me the importance of numbers.

Wednesday
Dec012010

Think about it

There is no doubt that technology has made us more efficient and connected.  And with this comes noise and interruption in our daily lives.  There are fewer barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, resulting in more businesses competing for attention and ad companies finding more ways to interrupt us.  Not only does this intensify the pressure of business owners to be unique and smart all the time, but it is often more stressful and time consuming to sift through options before making purchases and financial decisions. 

Don't bother me: I'm thinking deep thoughts. It looks even more impressive when you hold a cellphone while you think...photo © 2009 Ed Yourdon | more info

 

Our world is getting faster, and expectations are getting higher. People expect you to answer emails within hours.  Customers expect service immediately, in the way they want it, and at a price they find reasonable. And the expectations we put on ourselves in regards to family are changing. We want to give our children more, be more involved in community, and travel with loved ones more often and to more exotic places. We want to have it all.

To adjust to this, we make decisions much faster.  We answer emails as quickly as possible to get them out of our inbox and to keep people happy with us.  Entrepreneurs iterate as they go and have less time for planning and critical thinking.  We post things online as they happen- often not considering who may be reading what we post or thinking about how people could interpret what we say.  And when a personal problem comes up, we react and try to get through it as quickly as possible.

It is easy to see why we make such quick decisions.  But should we? What's wrong with saying, "I want to think about this. I will get back to you very soon?"  

Nothing. 

While it is important to be communicative, open, and responsive, it is as important to be thoughtful and to take enough time to fully consider the dynamics of a situation.  Try it.  

Take more time to think about a simple email before pushing send. Consider how others might read your next 140-character tweet.  Think about how you spent your time today.  Are you prioritizing your goals, thinking through outcomes, and considering your options?

You may be surprised what you find when you take an extra minute to think about a simple interaction.  In practicing this, I have found that it has increased my understanding of other people, made me more aware of my options, and helped me listen to my gut reaction.  

Let me know your thoughts.

Friday
Nov192010

The Fun Theory

If you google "what does fun mean," Answers.com will tell give you an answer that sounds like a quote from Cookie Monster:

F is for friends doing stuff together
U is for you and me
N is for never ends

But when you think about marketing, fun is something that engages people in an unexpected way that they like. It makes people smile or laugh and look at the person next to them.  And if you do it right, they will tell their friends, who tell their friends, and you get a lot of people talking.  

the fun theory ferris wheel

This is beyond being or doing something different and unique.  It is about engaging people in a way that they welcome and surprising them with your cleverness.  It is about taking interests to another level or making something commonplace interesting again.

For example, how do you get people to stop riding the escalator and choosing to take the stairs instead?  Watch this video to find out:

This video is part of The Fun Theory, an initiative by Volkswagen, based around "the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better."  Take several minutes and look at their other videos.  It is well worth your time.

Think about the everyday communications you have with your customers.  How can you make your service more engaging and more fun?  How can you entertain your target market? Are there elements of fun that would encourage your current customers to keep coming back for more?

These same principles go into the creation of games.  If a game is too easy or too predictable, people quit playing.  If a game is too hard, people quit playing.  But if the game involves their personal interests, creates a feeling of success and a hierarchy of reward, and is entertaining, people will keep playing.  

Watch children playing, and you will see the same thing.  Children are very focused and engaged when they are entertained.  They are thinking, communicating, and using their imagination at the same time.  

Think about how the element of fun can help other aspects of your business and your personal life.  Managing people is difficult, but what if you reward the behavior you are looking for?  What if you make it fun to come to work?  If you are feeling burned out, how can you make work more fun for yourself? 

Thank you to my advisor, Michael, for making me think of The Fun Theory this week. 
 
Photo by Svenstorm