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  • July 22, 2020 5:50 PM | Michael Guyre

    You likely have heard the phrase, “you need to spend money to make money.” I'm not here to argue that from either side but digital marketing has allowed businesses with very small budgets to make a big impression. While it hasn't exactly leveled the playing field, it certainly has helped businesses gain a larger audience with very little investment.

    Most of these tools and strategies are free. But it's important to note that when it comes to social media or online advertising, you will have to spend some money. In these situations, it's best to create a very targeted audience for the strongest return on investment. After all, Facebook and other online platforms are very happy to take your money. But if you tell them exactly who it is you want to place your message in front of, you will spend less of it and achieve greater click-throughs...

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  • April 09, 2020 7:36 AM | Michael Guyre

    Be honest. Do you love or hate video conferencing?

    There's nothing more awkward than dialing in to a conference call only to find out it's a video conference call and you haven't showered since the weekend.

    Even if you have showered, video calls can be awkward and agonizing especially for those of us who've spent the better part of the pandemic eating their way to a cure. Still, it doesn't have to be an awkward, agonizing experience. Here are a few tips you can put into practice to look your best.

    Before you start saying that there's not much a camera angle can do for you, you'd be very surprised. A good camera angle and lighting can be the difference of 15 pounds and 10 years so let's get started in helping you look your best.

    4 Ways to Look Awesome on Video Conference Calls

    It's impossible to look your best if you're frozen or pixelated. So before we get into how you look, let’s optimize your set up for the most effective transmission.

    Make It More Efficient

    With that in mind, it’s important to make the most of the internet speed you have. Eliminate anything that taxes your bandwidth such as:

    • A busy background. Minimize the busy-ness of the background behind you. Avoid a lot of patterns, if possible. Solid walls are ideal.
    • Large gestures. Cut down on hand movement and rocking.
    • Moving objects. Eliminate moving things in the background such as traffic, a pendulum, or other items that aren’t still.

    Become a Lighting Connoisseur

    Lighting works wonders. It can give you the appearance of having had a good night sleep and good health, even if neither is true.

    Make sure you have good lighting but not harsh lighting. Direct, natural lighting is best. Light coming from above you or from the side may cast unflattering shadows.

    Before the call, walk around with your phone and find the best possible natural lighting in your home. Remember, bright natural lighting can be too much. In that case, use a thin curtain to diffuse or minimize it.

    If natural lighting is not an option, use a lamp. Set up your laptop and place the lamp directly behind the screen so that it is facing your face. The lamp shade should act as a diffuser to give a nice soft lighting to your face. A light with a dimmer can also be ideal to help you find the most flattering light for you.

    Angles matter too.

    The worst camera angle is positioning the camera from below your face. Trust this advice. Even if you don’t have double chins, this camera angle will make it look like you do.

    A camera that is angled slightly above you will keep you looking up and help minimize the appearance of your chin(s). It also keeps your eyes more open. If the camera is positioned below you, you will naturally look down, which may cause your eyes to appear slightly closed. Not an ideal look when you want people to think you’re awake.

    Perfect Your Look

    Now that you’ve found the ideal spot, in your home and your camera angle, let’s work on positioning. For this you want to use the exact technology you’ll use during the call.

    Many video conferencing solutions allow you to log in and start your own meeting so you can see how you will look on the platform. In Zoom, you go in and click on “start new meeting.” Then you'll see exactly how you'll appear to your peers and can make adjustments accordingly.

    If you're going to use your phone, get a tripod or pop socket that keeps it in place so you don't have to hold it. If you hold it, you run the risk of accidentally doing one of the “up the nose” or awkward angle shots if you have to reach for anything during the call.

    When you're testing out your position in front of the camera, make sure you are in the center of the screen, the screen is far enough away from you that it doesn't distort your face and yet it's not so far that you can't reach your keyboard. Don't forget once you're in the right position in front of your laptop, you can angle the screen to find the most flattering look. If you’re on a phone, you can do the same with an adjustable tripod.

    Customize Your Background

    It’s hard to look great if the background of your room is in shambles. But you don’t have to waste half your day running around picking up or finding the one corner in your home that isn’t a mess. If you're using Zoom, you can customize a background that will hide the messy room behind you.

    Finally, make sure you're working (or visiting) on a good video call platform. Popular ones include: Zoom, Slack, Facebook Portal, FaceTime, Skype, Houseparty, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, and Squad. Zoom seems to be the preferred solution these days for most professional calls. But take the time to audition a couple and see which ones fit your audience and are favorites of your group.

    It’s best to use a platform that allows for a grid view or a view that accommodates more than one caller at once. Most of these apps recognize who is speaking and makes them the dominant square on the screen. if you're using this app for work purposes, you may want to select one that allows participants to share their screens.

    Video conferencing is becoming the new socializing so you want to look your best. Use these tips to conduct a dry run and you’ll feel more confident when you’re on camera.

    Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.  

    Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook. 


  • April 02, 2020 9:20 AM | Michael Guyre

    About a week ago the people in my county received a very different type of emergency communication. I'm in a popular hurricane area so those who signed up for emergency text messages are no stranger to them. However, even when we were evacuated due to Hurricane Irma we didn't receive anything like this.

    The first line of the text message was “be kind.” That took me aback and caused me to laugh a little. Be kind sounded a little like what our parents might’ve said to us as we were going off to kindergarten or--more appropriately--middle school.

    Most of us probably think of ourselves as nice people. Being told to be kind seemed like a no-brainer. But being kind is more than just being nice.

    I was listening to Dave Ramsey this morning and he told everyone to calm down. Our misbehavior is largely due to fear and fear stamps out hope, something we all really need now. He, too, talked about being kind.

    If you're a business leader in the community, it's even more important you let kindness rule. One reason is that kindness restores hope. The other is that people want to do business with those they know, like, and trust. If you remember kindness first, you'll be more likable and trustworthy.

    Kindness is a lot more nuanced than “nice.” Here are several ideas on how you can be kind to the people in your life and spread that in your community.

    1. Stop trying to fix people. You have not been elected pandemic czar. Protect yourself. Make wise decisions. Educate people but don't be a warden to other adults.

    2. Tip higher than you usually would. People who are doing these jobs aren’t doing them for their health, especially not during a pandemic. Even if you're worried about your own business, show your appreciation. That sort of thing has a way of coming back to you.

    3. Don't make anyone feel like a burden, not your kids, not elderly relatives, not strangers.

    4. Smile and make eye contact.

    5. Ask how people are and listen to their answers.

    6. Contact distant friends and family, especially your extroverts. The shelter-in-place orders are harder for some people than others.

    7. Share beautiful pictures on social media without lamenting what you're missing. Help people enjoy them for the beautiful moments they were. Tell the story behind them.

    8. Don't hoard. We are not in--nor are we in danger of--being under martial law. Our cultural fascination with post-apocalyptic TV shows and movies has skewed our reality. When you walk into a grocery store, don't envision yourself as a character in The Walking Dead. There's enough for everyone. We're not locked down. If you run out of something, and people aren't hoarding, you should be able get what you need.

    9. Give of your knowledge. If you are an expert in a certain area whether professionally or as a hobby, consider sharing your knowledge for free--or nearly so--with others on social media.

    10. Share your talent. If you have a special talent such as artistry, music, or writing, share that on social media. If you're good at sports, share some tips.

    11. Create an activity for kids to do and livestream it on social media for parents struggling to fill their children’s time.

    12. Read to someone over the phone or on FaceTime. Children and adults enjoy stories.

    13. “Visit” a few nursing home resident on FaceTime. Contact the nursing home administrator and ask if they think some of the residents would be interested in that. Many nursing homes are currently requiring residents to stay in their rooms. They can't even come out into the public areas. Even meals are being delivered to their rooms. These folks may be looking to have some outside conversation.

    14. Choose someone who has been mean to you or difficult in the past. Reach out to them and share a good memory.

    15. Send someone chocolates, a meal, or some little item just because. Help them understand how to order offline or better yet, do it for them.

    Finally, encourage others to follow suit. You can do so by posting what you're doing every day to be kind. You can journal about it or you can share stories about what happens when you exercise your “be kind” muscle.

    It sounds a little hokey at first but there are a lot of people who are extremely afraid right now. Being kind can have ripple effects on the community. When many people feel good about things that are happening, they are more likely to have hope in the future. Hope (and faith) is what we need to drive the economic revitalization we’ll need after this pandemic is over.

    Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.

    Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

  • March 23, 2020 7:17 AM | Michael Guyre

    Working from home is an ideal that many people have longed for but the reality of it can be disenchanting. It takes some special skills to make it work. In this article we will cover four simple things you can do to make working at home easier on everyone. If you lead a team or you're the owner of a business, you have additional challenges when heading up a remote team during a global pandemic. We have some suggestions to help with that too.

    4 Simple Things for Employees

    Create your own space

    People are getting really inventive with their home offices. If you're fortunate, you have your own space with a door and a lock. But for many we have to improvise. Try to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle. This may mean turning a walk-in closet or balcony/porch into a home office.

    If you don't have any private spaces you can take over, carve out a little section of a public area. Use a screen or furniture to segment it off from traffic flow. Having your own space--even if you have to make it--will help people understand when you're working and keep you out of the fray as much as possible.

    Start or continue a ritual

    It's likely if you worked outside the home that you had a morning ritual. Maybe it was stopping for coffee every morning; maybe it was getting up and exercising. Whatever your morning ritual was, continue it. Your body and mind get used to these rituals as signifiers that work is about to begin. You will feel more on schedule if you keep them up. The rituals may need to be altered for our current reality. For instance, if you always have a cup of coffee on your way to work, make a cup of coffee and take a moment to enjoy it.

    If you didn't have a ritual before, now is the perfect time to start one. You have eliminated your commute so you now have extra time to do a few stretches, have a cup of coffee outside on your deck, or spend some time meditating. Again, the value of these rituals is that it sets the tone for the day to begin and provides you with some well-needed me time. Treat these rituals like a morning appointment. Do not skip them.

    Understand expectations

    There are two schools of thought when it comes to working from home. There are employers that expect butts in seats for a certain number of hours. If they try to reach you during those hours and you are unreachable, this will cause a problem.

    On the other hand, there are employers that are measuring productivity, not hours. That means they are concerned about what you're accomplishing, not the hours you're working. This is wonderful for parents of small children because it gives them the flexibility I'm getting the work done on their schedule.

    You want to make sure you understand which one of these categories your boss falls into so there are no misunderstandings about expectations. If they don’t mention specific hours, ask.

    Come with solutions

    Most employers are doing this for the first time. We have not faced a pandemic like this in the age of technology. That means there are going to be hiccups. Instead of complaining about the things that aren't working, come to them with suggestions.

    4 Simple Things for Employers

    If you are the boss, there's a heavy weight on your shoulders. You're likely worried about the future of your company and wondering what that means for your employees. How you manage them at this time of crisis can be a turning point that improves company culture and morale or it leaves people feeling disengaged and not wanting to be a part of your organization in the future.

    Good leaders should:

    • Communicate expectations. Will you have an 8:30 a.m. virtual meeting every morning? Do you have daily deliverables? Let people know up front what you need from them.
    • Socialize. While not everyone on your team may need the social interaction, some will. Some employees will be struggling with the stress and challenges of the situation on top of the regular workload and the feelings of isolation. Be understanding of this and make time to have some fun virtually with your team, if they want to participate.
    • Be transparent. You are the leader so you can't be “doom and gloom” and expect to keep up morale. Instead, show them the best in a bad situation. This places you in a difficult spot because you might not always be feeling the things that you're saying. Remember, you're a team and you should be able to count on one another. If you're struggling with a concern, consider sharing it with the team and crowdsourcing a solution. When people help find a solution, they generally support it.
    • Evolve. One of the things that's the most frustrating about this time is that everything needs to remain fluid. There are constant changes with new limitations coming down several times a day from local, state, and federal governments. You must evolve and change your approach based on these things. This means finding new solutions on a regular basis. Advise your team of this early on. Let them know how important their health (both physical and mental) is to you. In light of that, you will be evaluating things on a consistent basis and protocols are subject to change. Invite them to talk to you about them. Whenever possible, explain the why behind your decisions. Right now people are afraid. Fear drives imagination in an unproductive way. But if you fill in those blanks they won't need to imagine the reasons behind them.

    This is a difficult time for everyone. We all need a little more patience and understanding. Consider this a time of reset that may affect the way we do business and educate far into the future. Even after the danger of the virus has passed, there is a good chance that what we are learning about virtual work and schooling will create a much different workforce mentality after the virus than what we had before. We're going to learn a lot about ourselves and our businesses.

    Finally, as strange as this is to say, enjoy this time for what it is. As of this writing we're fortunate enough to still have the many luxuries we've grown accustomed to like electricity, running water, and the internet. We can enjoy, while limited, the beauty of the outdoors and the little things.

    Challenge yourself to find something amazing about each day. For me, it was the morning quiet when walking my dog, watching the cormorants spread their wet wings into the wind like jet black kites, and the cool chill of the morning on my skin.

    What will it be for you today?

    Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.

    Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. 

  • January 24, 2020 9:18 AM | Michael Guyre

    Email subject lines are one of the most important things to master because they directly affect your open rate. And more opens means more possible action. They can’t do what you’re asking if they don’t open your email.

    The average open rate for emails is between 15-25%. If you're above 25% you have a great open rate. But let's assume you wanted to get even better.

    This article contains simple email subject line ideas that work. But before we get into those examples, let’s talk about something else you should be doing….

    The Sender

    There are two main components people assess before opening an email: the subject line and who the email is coming from. If people know you, or they recognized the name, they are more likely to open it.

    Whenever possible use a name as the sender, not noreply@yourcompany. Using a sender's name, even if it diverts to a mailbox on your end that multiple people can access, goes a long way in building a relationship. Some companies use the president's name, while others use a customer support name that's easy to remember. The emails I received from Trello, for instance, were always sent from Taco@Trello. Is he a real person? It doesn’t matter. It’s very easy to remember.

    Again, don't feel like you have to pick someone on your business roster to field all those replies. Work with your IT department to create a group inbox that multiple people can access.

    4 Practical Email Ideas that Drive Clicks

    The following ideas have been taken from real, successful emails. In order to make them more universally applicable, I replaced the product or service in "quotes" so that you could see an example and how you might tailor the details to your own needs. In most cases, you can add products or services from your business or other concepts that your audience will find value in.

    # "items or services" we’re obsessed with

    Why it works: this stirs a natural curiosity. Being obsessed with something is a very strong endorsement. People will want to click through to see what you're obsessed with. Not only should you tell them but remember to tell them why as well.

    It’s not too late! "insert action verb" now for the…

    Often people put things like registering or RSVPing off. It’s not until they're cleaning out their inbox or it crosses their mind that they panic. Then they tell themselves it's too late to do anything about it.

    Why it works: An email like this reminds people they still have time to act. it's the ideal subject line for a warm lead.

    Try Our 30-day "Product or Service" Challenge for "insert result"

    These days it seems like there's a challenge for everything. The reason why marketers use these challenges is that they are highly effective in getting attention and collecting potential data.
    These days it seems like there's a challenge for everything. The reason why marketers use these challenges is that they are highly effective in getting attention and collecting potential data.

    These days it seems like there's a challenge for everything. The reason why marketers use these challenges is that they are highly effective in getting attention and collecting potential data.

    Try Our 30-day "Product or Service" Challenge for "insert result"

    These days it seems like there's a challenge for everything. The reason why marketers use these challenges is that they are highly effective in getting attention and collecting potential data.

    Why it works: If you have a product or service that you can arrange a challenge around now is a great time to do it. You don't have to stick with a 30-day challenge either. You can do something as small as a 3- or 7-day challenge. Get people to sign up for it by giving their email, then send them a new component of the challenge every day, and invite them to a community on Facebook where you discuss their participation and results.

    Hey, "First Name" Are You Still Awake?

    This email was sent to me by Kim Garst, a marketing expert for small businesses. She sent at 11 p.m. While some people may not appreciate an email at that hour, Kim works with a lot of small business owners and solopreneurs and let's face it, we don't sleep much. As a matter of fact, she was right on. I was awake and I was working.

    Why it works: This email didn't have to compete for my attention because there aren't a whole lot of people sending me emails at 11 p.m.

    50% Off Means More Time Out of the Kitchen

    Okay, so this subject line is designed for restaurants and food places but it can be quickly tailored to other industries. It’s just a simple equation of “we’ll give you X = a benefit beyond savings for you.”

    No one can argue getting takeout isn’t quicker than cooking. However, it's not in everyone's budget to do so. So while it's very efficient, some people don’t get takeout due to budget constraints. This subject line gets right to their concerns about money and tells the recipient that there's a discount so money is less of a concern...and there’s something else. You get your time back.

    Why it works: Who isn’t interested in saving time if you can do it cheaply?

    Another thing they use in this subject line was a pizza emoji. The allows the audience to very clearly see that the 50% off reflects the price of pizza without the marketer using 4 additional characters (to spell out the word) in the subject line. The number of characters you use is very important as most phones truncate messages in order to fit on the screen. Using an emoji is a way to say more in less space.

    No matter what approach you take in drafting a subject line, the one thing to remember is what your audience values. View the subject line as bait or a teaser. It's important people know what they're getting (if they open the email) without actually getting everything they need by reading the subject line. After all, you want to drive interest and compel them to click.

    If you enjoyed this article head over to the members only blog for more useful articles just like this one.

    If you are not a member it only takes a few minutes to sign up and get access to great content to help your business grow.

    Become a Member

    Article written by Christina R. Green. Christina R. Green teaches small businesses and chambers of commerce how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at

    Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to eradicate boring copy and bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

  • January 08, 2020 6:46 AM | Michael Guyre

    In a recent survey by Daysmart Software, 54% of small business owners admitted to being worried about making enough money. Making money is a common concern because not only does it factor in bringing in enough clients or customers but also ensuring your products or services are priced right and negotiating any cash flow problems.

    Small business owners have lots of stressors as they follow their dreams. It might surprise you just how much the chamber can help with these concerns.

    According to the study, small business owners report they are most concerned about

    • Making enough money
    • Controlling costs
    • Finding new customers
    • Marketing to prospective an/or current customers
    • Managing time

    The chamber and chamber membership can help address all of these common concerns and challenges.

    Put the Chamber to Work for Your Business

    If you’re like most small business owners, you can likely identify with these common business concerns but what you may not realize is how effectively a chamber membership can help you solve these problems. The solutions may take you getting involved and participating but chamber membership can act of business “gym” that you need to become stronger and begin making healthier choices for your business.

    Making Enough Money

    In the beginning of your business, it might not be about becoming a millionaire as much as it is simply making enough money to stay in operation. Making enough money means you’re factoring in what’s coming in and what’s going out. The chamber can help your efforts in making enough money in the following ways.

    Controlling Costs

    While a chamber membership is an initial outlay of money, you can derive a lot of value from it. It can even help you control costs by introducing you to other business people who may be able to provide you with goods and services.

    In addition to meeting new business contacts that could save you money, check with your chamber to find out if they have a chamber “hot deals” program. These programs offer discounts from chamber members for chamber members. They can provide considerable cost savings to members.

    The exchange between members may also reveal how other small business owners manage their costs. While you can research that on the internet, sometimes having local advice can be invaluable.

    You can also get more for less by attending some of your chamber’s lunch and learn programs. Maybe you’ve been wondering how to incorporate Instagram into your business but don’t have the money to pay someone to teach you or do it for you. Many learning exchanges are free at the chamber and it’s likely they have a topic that interests you and can help you learn something new for your business without having to pay for it. Plus, chamber membership means any of your employees may attend.

    Finding New Customers

    The chamber is an excellent source for finding new customers. Through networking, hosting an event, sponsorship, cash mobs, thought leadership seminars or a host of other ways, the chamber can help you connect more deeply with your community.

    Many people think of the chamber as a group similar to the better business bureau and they put a great amount of trust in a business that is a member of the chamber.

    Chamber membership can also provide greater visibility for your business with opportunities to serve the greater community. While you may not feel like you have time for that as a small business owner, the chamber has opportunities for all levels of engagement. From serving on the board to volunteering at check-in for an event.

    Membership is a great way to meet people and people buy from those they know, like, and trust.

    Marketing to Future and Current Customers

    Many small business owners lack marketing skills. If you can’t hire it out, you may be happy to know the chamber likely has creative marketing opportunities that can help you get your name out into the community.

    The chamber also talks about its members on social media, which helps you leverage their large audience. They can host a ribbon-cutting for you if you’re a new business or help you celebrate a key milestone.

    They also likely have people on staff who can help you brainstorm ways to reach your ideal audience and make suggestions such as mailers, learning sessions, and social media assistance.

    Managing Time

    It comes as no surprise that with all these other stresses, small business owners are concerned about not having enough time. The chamber can help here too. Not only can they help introduce you to the “hidden” job market of people who aren’t actively looking for positions but have strong interests in the community, they also have lunch and learn sessions on a variety of topics that could help you streamline your operations.

    Learning is one way the chamber can help but it also helps as a partial partner in your marketing. The chamber supports getting the word out about your business and their efforts can save you time in your own marketing.

    A chamber membership provides a large amount of value for the small business owner if they know how to use it. Paying dues won’t help allay your fears about your business but getting involved in the chamber and the community can help you reach more people, elevate your business reputation, and improve your marketing. These ideas will help you grow and improve your revenue stream.

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