I spent a few days at the beginning of the month in Cleveland for Content Marketing World, and Jesus, pleaseus was it amazing! Three days of intensive workshops and classes on everything a content marketer’s heart could desire — from analytics and email marketing to storytelling and scriptwriting.
I saw faces I’d only ever seen at the bottom of blog posts or on webinars, and connected with some of my fav people in the biz. And of course, I shamelessly rolled on the ground with adoptable pups from City Dogs during Yappy Hour.
But I know you don’t care about how much I geeked out when I met Ann Handley or who drooled more during Yappy Hour, me or the dogs. So I’m going to skip ahead and share three takeaways from the conference that I think we all — content marketers and business owners alike — need to hear.
#1 Be realistic.
You know the rockstar of your industry? The guy everyone’s always talking about? His name is now a synonym for “success” and — you’re not jealous — but yeah, maybe you roll your eyes a little when his name comes up in conversation.
We all have those people.
As a content marketer, we compare ourselves to Redbull, Wendy’s, Nike, Zappos, [Insert big, successful brand here.] They’re doing such amazing work, engaging with audiences, and seemingly having waaaaay more fun than the rest of us.
But here’s the thing: we’re not the same.
The creative team for Nike likely consists of more than one person. But here, it’s just me, and my time and energy is focused in 403,939,482,039 different directions. Not because I want it to be, but because that’s my reality. When you have a small team or a one-man/woman team, you have to wear multiple hats.
What about you — who are you comparing yourself to? That rockstar who has 50 more employees than you do? Let’s say it together: “I’m not him.” And that means your business doesn’t have to look like his.
Do you feel any relief? Are your shoulders slowly inching away from your ears? Good, because the best thing you can do is be realistic.
Sure, you can take ideas and strategies from businesses that inspire you, that are big and successful, and marry them to where you are in your business. But your momma told you and I’ll tell you again: stop trying to be someone else.
You can take lessons and strategies from the rockstars and see where and how they make sense for your business. But remember, you’re not them, and no one is asking you to be. Be you!
#2 Stop trying to do everything, everywhere.
This is #1’s equally incapacitating cousin. We try to do it all and we try to do it all well. It’s a natural instinct for go getters, self-motivators, and those with entrepreneurial spirits, but some of it comes from external sources…
There are webinars and blog posts and thought leaders telling us we have to:
be on every social media platform the moment it pops into existence
market everywhere our audience is
offer more services and meet every single client need or want
start a podcast, a video series, a training school…
do it all better, faster, and more profitably
oh, and find balance while we’re at it.
Don’t you wish you could just tell everyone to shut up? You can. I give you permission.
To paraphrase Joe Pulizzi, you’re not Ryan Seacrest, so stop trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere.
And here’s the big secret: when you stop Seacresting, you’ll be waaay less stressed and waaay more effective. Yup, every push, every minute, will have more impact on your business. And isn’t that what you really want anyway?
It comes back to accepting your reality: there’s only one of you and you can be much more effective if you split your energy three ways instead of 30. As a business owner, that may mean learning to delegate so you can get some things off of your plate. It may mean cutting your services down or holding off on adding new services until you’re staffed and ready.
Figure out what you can cut back on and what deserves more of your time and energy. Think about which efforts will really move the needle. See which ones are already making a difference and think about what could be if you dedicated more time and energy to X, Y, Z, instead of A-Z.
#3 Take one action item from every learning opportunity.
This one was repeated multiple times during Content Marketing World and I think it’s what allowed me to come back from the conference with a plan and not a conference hangover.
Ready for it? Write down one action item from every learning opportunity, whether you’re listening to a fav podcast, reading a book, attending a conference, summit, or convention, or just having a conversation with one of your mentors. Keep every actionable item in a notebook or a note on your phone, and revisit them when you’re planning your week.
Remember, you can’t do it all, but you can do something. So, lose the comparisons, let go of your attachment to the outcome, and just try something. Don’t try to tackle every item on your list at once — instead, pick one, maybe two a month, and put as much energy and time as you can into making it happen.
One Last Thing…
Okay, actually there is one more lesson…Go to conferences, trade shows, conventions, and trainings whenever you get the chance!
If you’ve watched any of our Power Business Minute videos or read any of our articles in the past, you know that we strongly believe that your employees make or break your company. They’re the face of your company, an extension of you, and if they’re overworked, under-appreciated, and unhappy in their work, that will come across in their interactions with your clients.
Not only that, but the research shows that the number one reason most American workers leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. Finding good employees is hard enough — wouldn’t you rather keep them once you find them? We thought so. And that starts with appreciation.
March 1st is Employee Appreciation Day, which means now is a good time to sit back, reflect, and assess if and how you make your employees feel appreciated. What can you be doing to make your employees feel appreciated March 1st, and every other day of the year?
#1 Buy the team lunch.
The saying is, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But as a foodie myself, I can confidently say that saying doesn’t just apply to men. After all, who doesn’t like being treated to a delicious and free meal? By treating the team to lunch, you’re saving your employees money, making them feel cared for, filling their bellies, and encouraging fellowship. It’s a win across the board. In fact, the only way this can backfire on you is if some of your employees have special dietary restrictions and you don’t take that into consideration.
For example, if you’re ordering BBQ for the office, you need to make sure you have something tasty for the vegetarians, pescatarians, or vegans in your office (if you have any). Are a lot of your employees riding the Keto wave? Don’t bring in a carb fest as your “reward.” In other words, be thoughtful. It doesn’t have to get complicated, especially not if you know your employees, which brings us to our next tip.
#2 Get to know your employees and take interest in their lives.
One thing that will make your employees feel especially appreciated is if you take interest in them and their lives outside of work. Ask about their family, their pets, their hobbies. Yes, it requires some extra effort on your part, but it communicates something to them: that you care about who they are and how they’re doing.
A lot of bosses think of their employees as cogs in a machine, and they make it abundantly clear. They have no interest in getting to know the people doing the work, they just want the work done. How loyal do you think an employee will be to a boss like that? How satisfied do you think they’ll be with their job when they’re viewed as a cog in a machine?
This type of mindset may have worked for managers past, but that’s not the way to build a loyal, happy, and productive team in this day and age. Millennials and Gen Zers won’t put up with it. So if you want to have a business when the older generations age out of the workplace, you need to take interest in the people working for you.
#3 Recognize good work regularly & publicly.
Hard work has its own rewards, but one thing that can make your employees feel appreciated all year long is being recognized for the hard work they do for your company. Some studies report that nearly 70% of employees would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated.
“Global research conducted by the Cicero Group shows that employees receiving strong performance recognition are much more likely to be highly engaged at their job, and as a result, likely to perform at their maximum output and develop innovative ways to improve their company.” Cicero specifically found that “well-recognized employees have more drive and determination, better work relationships, improved personal standing, and stronger connections to their company.”
In other words, by recognizing good work regularly and publicly, you can boost the morale, productivity, culture, and loyalty of your team.
Here at Spark Marketer, one way we show appreciation and recognize people for their hard work is through Slack, which we use for internal communication. We have a channel called“#FTW,” which stands for “For The Win.” In this channel, anyone can publicly recognize a “win” or a job well done at any time. There’s no need to wait around for a specific meeting — recognition is given immediately, publicly, and regularly. The recognition in the FTW channel can come from peers and leaders in the company, which trains us all to be more appreciative of each other and to recognize quality work when we see it.
It’s really a win for everyone.
#4 Give gifts and awards for a job well done.
We also have monthly meetings, during which we give out awards: the “Do Epic Sh*t” award and the “Not Today, Satan” award. The employee receiving the award is recognized for the work they’ve done, and given a trophy to keep on their desk for the entire month. This award acts as a public symbol and reminder that their work does not go unappreciated or unseen. It’s motivation to continue doing good work, day in and day out.
Trophies aren’t the only options for showing appreciation. You can also give out small gifts, like lottery tickets, gift cards, and of course, time off. Get to know your employees, figure out what would have the most meaning to them, and budget it in. Don’t think of it as “just another expense” that you’d rather not have; keeping your employees happy will have serious ROI, so make it a priority.
#5 Ask for their input.
We’ve all had that one friend who seems to love talking about their problems, but never wants or heeds any advice. Sometimes being in those kinds of friendships can feel like being asked to step into a boat that’s full of holes, without being given the option to first plug the holes. Maybe this allegory is a stretch (my mom says mine usually are), but your employees might be feeling like they’re in a boat filled with holes they know how to plug — if only someone would ask them.
The truth is, when we’re asked for our opinions, it makes us feel valued and, you guessed it, appreciated. How often do you ask for your employees’ opinions and feedback? When they provide it, do you really listen? Consider adding a company-wide suggestion box or having 1-1s or lunch meetings with each of your employees. Hear them out, ask them what they would change or do differently, and find out how they see the company growing.
It may not make sense to implement every suggestion they share with you, but just being asked, being heard, and being considered a valuable member of the team with valuable contributions to make will go a long way towards making your employees feel appreciated and invested in the company. Whether you’re looking to improve every day operations, make big changes, or plan the year ahead, take the time to involve your team.
#6 Get together for company-wide events and celebrations.
Just because we work together, doesn’t mean we necessarily get to spend much quality time with our coworkers. So how can you foster a sense of community and celebrate your employees at the same time? By organizing company-wide events and get-togethers.
Here at Spark Marketer, we fly our remote employees in at Christmas time for a company holiday party. We just hang out, play some games, do some sort of gift-exchange, share food and drinks, and have a grand, ol’ time. There may not be a clear-cut ROI in terms of profit for the company, but it’s worth every penny.
The sense of community, appreciation, and purpose that these types of events foster is one of the biggest drivers for Millennials and Gen Zers, and it reminds them that they’re a part of something bigger than just the tasks they perform from 9-5. It reminds them that they’re part of a team, working towards the same goals, and that together, we can all do some pretty epic sh*t.