Perfect means Profitable

If you are in the business of producing products, the only reason to be in that business is to make money. Not just sell it at retail and be happy, but sell it at retail for a PROFIT.

So how do you measure profit? Beyond the old ‘buy low, sell high’ mantra, there is a science into measuring what you create, adding up the costs that are both tangible and intangible to understand where your breakeven point is, and then to get to where you are making a profit.

More about tradeshows

One more thought on tradeshow preparation, it is better to be safe and pack EVERYTHING you need, so before you go here is a checklist I just made for our recent experience with all the items in our toolbox of ‘must-haves’ for the show.

 

Checklist

STUFF TO MAKE STUFF STICK

  • Duct tape (because if necessary you can build an entire display with it)
  • Double-sided tape
  • Regular tape
  • Glue sticks
  • Velco
  • 3M Commando strips
  • Packing tape, and Packing Gun
  • Glue Dots

STUFF TO HANG STUFF

  • Fishing wire ( a couple different weights is best)
  • Zip ties (again, you can do anything with zip ties). I generally pack black and white, and in two sizes: short and long.
  • Stapler (industrial kind)
  • T-Pins, and Curtain Pins
  • Clips and Clamps
  • Pretty colored cord

STUFF TO IMPROVISE WITH

  • Tissue paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Racks or stands to hold literature

 

STUFF TO TAKE ORDERS WITH

  • Sales order pad
  • Calculator
  • Business card holder, and business cards
  • Pens
  • Price list

Catalogs

  • Cheat sheets for Inner pack, case pack prices, and distributor, wholesale and retail prices.

 

 

 

Trade Show Readiness

I am about to attend our companies semi-annual trade show event. We have a 20 ft exhibit space.

The very first thing to realize is that going to a trade show is the best opportunity to expand your current reach to new customers, and to firm up relationships with existing customers. The other advantage is to research competition and assess alternate approaches to the market. Finally the trade show event is a fantastic opportunity to meet with people both up and down your supply chain. Meetings with raw materials suppliers can help you discover new products, the latest in trends and review pricing. Also up the supply chain with promotions partners such as magazines, editors and writers are all looking for a scoop of news on the trade show floor.   Your challenge is to give them something worthy for them to report on about you and your product.

Also, it’s a good chance to bond with your own team. You will be traveling together, sharing meals together, and work alongside each other. It’s invaluable time to get to know their lives, ideas, and viewpoints on the market you serve, and how you serve it.

 

So how do you prepare for a tradeshow and make the most of this opportunity?

Let’s break it down.

First, there is the business you want to build. Most importantly is to achieve a goal of bringing  home new customers. It’s a good idea to have a goal for this. Like 6 new customers or 60 new customers. However you measure or define what a new customer is, (and know what this means for you) set a target, and go after it.

To do this effectively, it’s a good idea to have a capture mechanism to make sure you have contact information for prospective new customers. It is very tempting to just take a business card, but that’s not enough. Make notes on the back of the card about your conversations and how you would like to follow-up. Then, take a picture of it with your phone’s camera. Front and back. This is very important since there will be so much information to follow up with when you get home, you will not remember each conversation. Be present and take notes at the time of your meeting.

Second, focus on existing customers and building relationships. Ask what’s new with their business. Are they growing, or cutting back? What is their assessment of the industry? What is their pain points? What do they need that you can help them with?  Don’t get stuck here on idle chit-chat, as tempting as it is, and however friendly you may be during other customer visits, this is time to focus on the business opportunities that are at hand. This is a good time to schedule future in-person meetings or schedule a call. Take their card too, take another snapshot, and put them into your calendar for a call within two weeks.

Next, your competition is worth looking at on the tradeshow floor. Stay within the bounds of civility and integrity. All competitors are people too. Arrive an hour early before the show opens to walk the tradeshow floor to see what is going on in your industry. Take notes. Target your top three competitors to see their exhibit. Did their space expand or decrease? What is their product focus? How are they marketing it? Don’t take literature unless you ask someone if its okay. Be discreet if you must take pictures.

Supply chain partners can give you a good pulse on the industry as well. The tradeshow or sponsoring association are a great source of information on your industry. Many tradeshows have an exhibitor meeting prior to the show, or on the first day. This is a good chance to hear about the latest in market research, a tap on the future of the industry and plans for the trade association. Often there is recognition of industry leaders, and committee reports. This is all helpful information.

Magazine staff are also good to have a chat with, to see what their editorial scope is for coming issues. Knowing this is helpful, so you can prepare product launches in tandem with their upcoming editorial. You can pitch articles with photos of your product, and it will align perfectly with the magazines focus, thereby increasing your chances of free publicity.

Other suppliers are generally at the tradeshow too. They may be exhibiting, or walking the show. Try and schedule breakfast, lunch, or a quick coffee break with key suppliers. Also, you can meet with new or potential suppliers. Have your list of questions ready. You can visit their booth if you have someone your trust to watch your booth. There they will have personnel and literature on hand to answer specific questions, or you can see a product demo. Just try and make your visit short. You have buying customers at your booth. (Hopefully!)

Tradeshow set-up is another topic. We will talk about that another day.

 

 

Why I Love PREZI

One of the most glamorous presentations I have ever seen was a PREZI. I got so excited about it that when I returned from the seminar I had to uncover it for myself on the next client pitch.

Boy did I have a lot to learn. While the Prezi interface is very sparkling shiny, clean and simple…understanding how to use it is not that easy. It is actually a very complex presentation tool. Here is a sample Prezi, in case you have never seen one.

The software works with zooms quite magically, to go in and out of focused areas. The artwork is all vector, or ‘flattened’ so that the relative image size doesn’t matter. The work in creating it is in laying out the story, so that the presentation moves along, as an actual story. And, or course without too many dips and turns to create unwanted motion sickness.

I learned Prezi with one screen playing the How-To videos, and the other screen navigating the Prezi I was trying to build, simultaneously.

I had promised the ‘new’ presentation, so I really had to deliver in a short time-frame. It’s not impossible, it’s just that it isn’t how I would recommend learning something new.

Prezi has a number of tutorials within the tool, and it is free to use. It only becomes necessary to pay for use if you want to keep your presentation protected from view.

Check out Prezi for your next presentation.

If you have used it before, leave a comment and tell me what you thought of it. Was the learning curve a bit steep for you too, or was it just me?

 

 

 

Brainstorming … the process of giving birth to only great ideas.

Periodically every creative company, enterprise, or individual decides it is time to hold a brainstorming meeting. I am a complete advocate of this idea. I think it should happen every month if possible. But when it does happen, it needs to be meaningful and productive.

brainstorming2

There was one brainstorming session I was invited to, that was outside of my particular department so I wasn’t the leader of this particular meeting. The engineer in charge started the meeting with the simple phrase, “Okay, what’s everyone’s  idea for a new product?”  There was no warm up, no agenda, no pitch about what the overall objectives for this session. Just hit it.

In my opinion, every brainstorm session has the opportunity to birth great ideas, but there has to be a general set of guidelines to achieve those results.

A perfect brainstorming session has to include an agenda, a purpose, and a stated goal of desired results, just like any meeting does. And along with that, there has to be a context of understanding where this particular brainstorming session fits into the overall architecture of the company.

Additionally, all of this information (or as much as possible) needs to be articulated in writing well before the meeting is held or even scheduled.

A brainstorm meeting can be about a new packaging idea, the next few months of blog posts, or about the whole spectrum of new products for the next 5 years, or maybe just the next 6 months. The first thing that has to be clearly established is what you are trying to create, in a clear and specific way. As an example, let’s say we are meeting about new product direction. This would be a clear statement of what, when, for whom, where, why and how. You have heard of those 5 W’s before, haven’t you?

(What) We will meet to brainstorm for at least 3 new product ideas with variations in three colorways or iterations.

(When) This brainstorm session is focused on products that will be launched 12 months from now

(for Whom) These product ideas will target the busy crafter, generally female, ages 30-45, who is a mother, and has a home to decorate, is focused on products for a holiday, for gift-giving, or for use in her home.

(Where) This product is for women who mostly buys from a specialty mass chain store or a local craft store that she regularly frequents.

(How) We would like these new products to be manufactured in the U.S., with our existing vetted vendors. Estimated production time is 20 weeks. If we go overseas the production time doubles. The price target is firm at under $20 at retail, which means our target cost is $3.00 to $4.00 for manufacturing.

Make your meeting objectives clear. Give as much information as possible to your team. Be transparent about the targeted outcomes. Provide a picture of how it is to get done. And if there is room for discussion on issues where there is flexibility (such as where you might manufacture this product in the above example) state that as well. And where there is not flexibility, such as a firm price target, share that type of information with your team too.

Now, your team has a scope of information to wrap their heads around. This assures that each member first has the information necessary to achieve the desired results. They have time to formulate concepts, do their own research and come ready and equipped with ideas that fit within perimeters of the known expectations.

How about your team or organization? What do you do to prepare and equip team members for great brainstorming meetings?

 

The brand value statement for VanessaDenniston.com

So I understand that the best way to resonate with my audience is to actually write down who I am writing for, and what value I hope to offer to readers. So here goes.

I have tons of marketing experience. I have held many hats in different types of organizations, like healthcare, industrial safety products, and consumer products. I even invested in an MBA at mid-career. I have communications experience, product management, and director-level strategic vision. I have worked with contractors, ad agencies, web designers, software developers, research companies, production companies and have been through the marketing planning process for every job I’ve held.

Here’s the thing though, my passion is in developing products. I have paid particular attention to the process, and outcomes. I have a particular skill set now that I feel is very valuable.

But for whom?

Here’s who I have determined the perfect audience is for me: the creative maker. I am currently employed in the creative space. I am the marketing manager of a company that produces products for the crafter, sewer and quilter in the specialty mass chains.

I am the marketing manager of Fabric Editions, Inc. a company that produces products for the crafter, sewer and quilter in the specialty mass chains. So while I am sharing, here is the disclaimer: nothing I am writing here is on behalf of the company I work for; Fabric Editions, Inc. Also, I am intentional about keeping this blog separate from my work life. That said, understand that I draw on all of my career, including my current position, to share my own knowledge and insight about those experiences.

If life was easy, where would all the adventures be?

Today’s quote accurately records my intention of starting a new blog – with my name on it no less- to begin a new adventure.

I have lots of ideas about the direction of my personal site, but here is what I am intending..

To support my marketing experience, and to show the world what my collective body of knowledge is made up of, and how it can be used to help a small business, or a creativepreneur to get a strong footing with their marketing plans.

I have tons of experience in marketing, but here is what I know: communication of any kind is just noise unless it’s heard.

WIth so many digital avenues available on which to build a platform, it’s important to make choices intentionally, and with a strategy at the core.

Here is what I can do:

  • Build a content map
  • Develop a copy platform which is much like a style guide for visuals, except for words.
  • Assist with website planning for optimal user experience.
  • Social media; writing, posting and providing analytics for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and blog
  • Blog writing

Here are the ad campaigns I can create:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Adword campaigns
  • Retargeting
  • Affiliate ads

Here are some digital marketing activites I can build :

  • E-mail campaigns with appropriate movement of your lead through a sales funnel
  • Landing pages for leads
  • Lead generation give-aways, such as white papers, ebooks, infographic, content deliverables
  • Timely execution

 

Ace the Big Show

An excellent professional will speak with clear objectives, understanding the purpose of the interview or presentation, and how the objectives, once accomplished will lead to strategic changes. A candidate will be able to discuss the design of any given project, and how it will be conducted, and why a specific course of action may have been chosen over another.

In addition to competency in the aspects of the position, a general knowledge and ability in proving excellent communication skills are also necessary. Being knowledgeable about the subject to the point of clearly communicating complex information in a concise and meaningful manner, are key components of a business professional

Several guidelines for successful presentations that are widely held conventional wisdom tips in any profession. They are, as stated:

  1. Know your audience. This is key, because it is important to understand the perspective of the people being addressed, and their possible concerns or issues. It is also possible to frame additional information, or provide a context of the issues being presented.
  2. Structure the presentation. An old boss of mine illustrated this by saying we should ‘create a funnel of information’, which essentially means going from the large pieces of information of the subject, to the smaller, so that it becomes directed right down to the business issue at hand. Other ways to provide structure are to provide an intro, body, and conclusion. In speech classes they say, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.”
  3. Create interest. Keep information relevant, and relational. Keep reminding people why they are listening, and what does this information, project, or person have for them.
  4. Be specific and visual. Attractive styling is a good hallmark of effective presentations, but the presentation overall has to have good function.
  5. Address validity and reliability issues. This final step means it all has to come together. The data, the results, and the strategic understanding all have to add up to something that is reproducible, and proves reliability.

Change Theory

Two Approaches to Change Theory

Vanessa Denniston

No one likes change. Fact. Period. End of story. Yet, we all have to face it.

Embracing it is another whole story. How then, do we embrace change, not only for ourselves but also for a whole organization, department, team or workgroup? The answer is to facilitate change in a methodical architecture of implementation.

Two schools of theory on change have been examined and published by prominent business and management leaders that each provides a different methodology structure for change. The first is Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great”, and the second is John P. Kotter in “Leading Change.” Collins theory in its basic form describes the transformation process as a ‘buildup followed by breakthrough, broken into three broad stages: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action.” (Collins)

Kotter’s list is an eight stage process briefly described as ‘establishing a sense of urgency, creating the guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering the broad based action, generating short term wins, consolidating gains, and anchoring the approach into the culture” (Kotter).

These two methodologies are very similar in scope. Collins says ‘get everyone on the bus’ and then ensure everyone on the bus ‘has the right seat’. Which is a simplistic manner of illustrating forward motion, with a lot of people, in a fast manner, but also creating the properly resourced team that can influence the direction, journey and arrival of the ‘bus.’

Kotter’s eight-stage approach is much the same theory. Kotter’s viewpoint is clear about creating the team, the vision, the mechanisms and action plans. He also expressly defines a “sense of urgency” as a necessary component of the change process. Collins likens this sense of urgency by discussing a “buildup followed by breakthrough.”

Kotter also defines a very important step of the change sequence that Collins does not include, and that is the communication phase. Communicating the change is a key component of a change structure, and Kotter is very clear on this point, as he espouses the idea that the ‘guiding coalition models the behavior’ which is also a form of communicating the vision. Every person should understand the change desired, as well as the process to get there.

Collins’ approach is focused on the culture of discipline as a methodology for change. His theory is based on the premise that if discipline is present in a culture, then hierarchy, bureaucracy, and excessive controls are unnecessary burdens that disallow the creativity necessary to adapt to an entrepreneurial culture where change can thrive. He calls this the ‘magical alchemy of great performance.’ While is seems ideological in practice, the theory is that a disciplined person, in his thoughts and actions, is actually free to acknowledge and accept a culture that is moving toward greater efficiency.

Both authors agree on several key components to change. They agree that change has to start from the top to gain momentum. Collins calls this phase the “First Who…Then What” with the clear expectation that the leaders are behind setting the vision. Kotter calls this group the guiding coalition, and they are responsible for driving the change process through its series of steps, all the way to adapting change into the culture.

They also agree that action is the key to change. It is not enough to plan, discuss, and research. There comes a point that action is required. Collins adds that accelerated action can come with use of technology as a facilitator for change.

Finally, they both agree that the framework for the change sequence ends with change firmly rooted in a new culture, with adaptations that have strongly taken their place as the new norm. Jack Welch, the legendary executive for General Electric held a dictum that required GE to be #1 or #2 in all the industries in which they did business. There was no question, no doubt, and no uncertainty. It was a command. There was no room at GE during a turbulent turnaround to spend resources on mediocrity. The plan was to be the best. That was his vision.

Strong and capable leaders have a vision, and communicate it by building a shared vision or ‘meaning’ as to why the company exists, and where it is going. Shared meaning is described as a collective sense of what is important and why it’s important. In the case of GE, it is clear that excellence is the value that paved the way for a majority of decisions.

The main value of building a collective vision is to create a sense of community that gives all the stakeholders, including vendors, creditors, employees (and even the families of employees) the big picture of what the mission and purpose is of the organization. When prompted or asked, any member of any organization should be able to articulate what the main values are, what the mission is, or what we do that makes us different or unique. When members at any level understand the vision and purpose and it has a personal meaning for them, everything changes.

The second value of creating a shared change vision is to provide an understanding of the difference between faith and facts. Having an executive vision with a true and total belief that an idea could work is only half the equation. The other half is having a sound basis of reality to measure faith against. Collins reports on the equation as the Stockdale Paradox, which means ‘you must retain faith that you will prevail in the end and you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality’ (Collins). In a manager’s role this could mean reporting bad news to team members or a supervisor. In a healthy organization this is rewarded. In most organizations however, it is human nature to hide or gloss over the reality of an underperforming unit, product, or idea.

The third value of creating a shared vision is to provide clarity. When the busy ness of business gets in the way, rising to the 30,000 feet level for a quick view from the top gives clarity. In this same manner, having aligned a values system within an organization makes it a rote task to reach the level of clarity often called for in day-to-day decisions. Collins identifies this role of clarity with an analogy to the ancient Greek parable of the fox that knows many things and the hedgehog that knows one big thing (Collins, 2001). Creating the clarity that comes with following one ‘big idea’, and the path of simplicity, provides single-minded focus that is like a bullet to a target for a direct hit.

In summary, leading change is comprised of building a vision, based in reality, with a clear focus on the path based on values to reach the collective goal. Following are a few points of advice to follow and pitfalls to avoid in leading a team on a mission of change.

 

Advice to follow

  • Gather wisdom. Creating a two-way dialog with all stakeholders allows for understanding at all levels, and with buy-in, changes will make sense to more people.
  • Set a change path and keep to the course. Change is hard enough, but it the end goal changes with every season, employees will grow weary of changes to the change plan, and lose faith in the overall direction. Modifications that make sense are certainly allowed, but arbitrary changes to the end-goal are not advised.
  • Know when to quit. If a vision isn’t working, if a direction gets blocked, if time runs out, if market conditions change, then respond. Quit, smartly, and on time.
  • Understand, categorize and manage outside pressures. It is a truism that armchair quarterbacks are in every organization. Pressure can led to personal agendas being carried out, harming the entire change plan.
  • Communicate the vision-repeatedly, in all media, to all levels.

 

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Don’t assume the vision is always clear, by free to explain what it means to each worker, from his or her perspective. If quality is a key value, explain to the receiving manager, or the packer, or the facilities personnel what it means to them.
  • Don’t avoid resistance, deal with it, understand it, and work through it.
  • Avoid focusing on the short-term wins, keep the long-term view of a change plan. Short-term wins are glorious, but be certain to measure them against the plan. Be certain that the short-term wins hold the real substance of change, and are not ‘short-term gimmicks that can produce problems in the future’ (Kotter).
  • Don’t ever forget the customer’s viewpoint, and how internal change effects the customer. Appoint someone to be in charge of the “voice of the customer” in every dialog on change.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t. New York; Harper Collins Publishers Inc.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Old Rules of New Marketing

I wrote this article in January 2009 for a Risk Management magazine. Social media was just starting to be used for business purposes. It is so funny to read this now, in February 2015, Facebook has 1.23 billion users.

Old Rules of New Marketing

The old rules of marketing a small business have gone away. Advertising platforms that once could be relied upon to saturate a given market are not as effective anymore. Mass mailings, advertising in the yellow pages, telemarketing, are the old school marketing endeavors that customers know how to avoid. So how is marketing changing? And what is everyone is talking about when they say the new ‘social media’? And how can it be used to effectively market in this electronic age? The reality is that new online marketing methods are simply tools to do what insurance agents and brokers have done for years…work at the relationship between you and your customer in a transparent manner that holds integrity and trust as the key.

Marrying the concept of relationship marketing and the new social media together is easy once you understand what social media marketing is and how to use the tools for the online work of marketing on the Internet. Social media marketing is defined as “engagement in the online community to generate exposure, opportunity and sales” and includes the uses of tools such as Facebook, Blogs, Twitter and YouTube.

Facebook
Facebook was created by a group of Harvard University students to link students together, and now it has over 200 million users. To get started on Facebook it is as easy as creating a username and password, and uploading your picture. With your personal account open, you can then add a page for your business and invite your contacts to become who are also on Facebook to become ‘friend’ and interact with you in your Facebook community.

Facebook has made it easy and safe to find friends. You can invite someone to be your friend, and then they are allowed the opportunity to ‘accept’ and become your friend. Facebook has three main sections, the Wall, Info, and Photos. The Wall is where you can create a ‘post’ which is a simple response to the Facebook question “What’s on your mind?”

Answering this question is where your marketing begins. You have the opportunity to impact your online community by engaging with them in an honest and extraordinary way by sharing yourself, and what you know about your professional with your fans and friends. Your social media marketing is truly just an extension of your face-to-face relationship. What professional, or even personal insights can you post here that would help your friend, or your customer in their business today? Perhaps you can create a post on a recent seminar you attended and what you learned, or how you helped a business reduce their risk by introducing a simple training protocol. A post can be as simple as “it’s a great day to do what I do” and your positive influence and online persona will spread to all who have made you a ‘friend’ on Facebook. Your online messages should be as casual as the conversation you would have at a breakfast with an old friend. Your personality, your likes, your response to global concerns, or local ones, can be posted on your Wall. You can also add attachments to files for further reading, or links to other web pages on your Wall. In your online world you are a central figure of the ‘conversation’, the ring-leader of building the relationship by being yourself, and engaging your ‘friends’ in the benefits of doing business with you because they know you.

The online sphere is a manner in which to keep your friends informed and therefore reinforcing your relationship in a way that is valuable to them. They become willing participants in your life, your business, and more apt to share what their needs are, and how you can help them if they know you.

Blogging
Blogging is another social media marketing concept that is similar to Facebook and in fact can be used together to increase your exposure. A blog is simply a web-log (creating the term, blog) or a diary of sorts, of commentary that is relative to your customers, friends or associates. There are lots of ways to get started with a blog, and the software is easy, and most of it is free. The two more popular blogging software services are WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and Blogger (www.blogger.com), and both of these are free. To get started takes just a few minutes to create a username and password, and post some information about yourself. From there, you just start writing! From here, it is important to build readership with good writing, and content that informs, and also has your personal insight on a subject.

Your blog is a way to establish your credibility and leadership in your industry but sharing what you know. Your blog can answer questions, can comment on what people are asking for now in your industry, or can direct some attention to a product or service that you have recently been researching. The key to a good blog is to be honest and transparent in your writing. Be the voice of authority and leadership, in a manner that is consistent with who you are as a person.

If the thought of writing 200-300 words every few days to post on your blog is intimidating, you might consider hiring a trusted writer who can put your words into a readable format. If you do hire help with blogging, review the writing to make sure it reflects your personality and style. To expand your blog’s visibility you can read and comment on other relevant blogs, and leave your blog link, so readers on another site can link over to your site. Creating links to other sites, other articles is a great way to increase your own readership. Can blogging really help to increase your marketing exposure? The answer is Yes, but it does not happen overnight. It requires commitment to the medium. Your posts have to appear timely, posted consistently, your messaging thoughtful and real, and it also requires dedication to linking to increase your exposure. It does take time, but the payoffs are exponential.

TWITTER
Twitter is the latest entry into the online social media. It’s fun and fast. Twitter is a ‘micro-blog’ where the posts are only 140 characters. It is great way to keep your ‘followers’ up to date on where you are, and what you are doing. Like Facebook, you build a network, by ‘following’ others, and they in turn ‘follow’ you. A quick Twitter post is called a ‘tweet’. Your tweet can be a insight, a response to another post, a link to your blog or other online area. Twittering can be done from your phone, and is as simple as texting a message. Again, an easy sign-up, and get started, perhaps with a co-worker, to get the hang of how the mechanics work, and see how much fun it is.

YOU TUBE
YouTube is not as much of a social media marketing forum for interactive conversation as FaceBook, blogging and Twitter, but it has a role in sharing information through video. You can view videos of almost any genre on YouTube. You can make one and post it on YouTube too! You can also, and probably more commonly, link to a YouTube video on your blog, in your Facebook, or in a Twitter post. YouTube videos are a great way to illustrate a point, or share some fun.

There are lots of other social networking tools out there, and they can all be used with success by keeping a few things in mind. The first and most important is to be consistent. That means consistency in your voice and persona, and in your frequency of communication. In other words, post often and be yourself.

Secondly, follow your personal standards in adhering to the basic rules of integrity and trustworthiness. Libel and slander are real and dangerous pitfalls of the online world. You can be held accountable for what you write, so err on the side of caution when speaking honestly about how you feel about someone, or something. We do have freedom of speech, but not when it defames someone else’s character.

Finally, have fun! The online world is a new way to build your personal network in ways you may not have even thought about. It is time consuming to get started, but once your writing ‘groove’ is found, you can turn the network into increasing your net worth. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more you learn, the more you may want to dig deeper into understanding the power of links, and using keywords to stimulate interest. There are plenty of professionals who would be happy to spend and hour or so with you to get you to the next level of understanding.