Five Ways To Build A More Trusting Team

Five Ways To Build A More Trusting Team

As leaders, we are always searching for new ways to build our teams to be more efficient, productive, and engaged in the work environment. After the ‘great resignation’ in 2021, it’s crucial that you create a culture that cultivates harmony and is in touch with the lived experiences of each team member. Most leaders will tell you that managing employees and contractors can be one of the most difficult aspects of our roles. But there are some tested reminders for leaders to consider that can make all the difference.

1. Show an interest in your employees' lives

It's more important than ever to humanize your workplace culture. Take a real interest in the lives of your employees and contractors. It will make a difference when they need something from you. You will already know the circumstances they are facing and will have a more complete picture of what you can and cannot do for them. 


Also, people like to connect with others who have something in common with them. Chances are, you have something in common with every member of your team. Find what it is, and nurture that relationship.

2. Communicate 

As a leader, you need to facilitate a culture focused on open communication. Most work environments will continue to involve some level of remote or hybrid work which makes your culture of communication even more important. Effective communication is fostered when you communicate with your team in a real, friendly manner. 

3. Lead by example

Make sure you don’t just sit in your office all day and bark orders at your staff. Get in there and do some of the work. Getting your hands dirty with the creation of client work will help you remember why you are in this business, and it will also show your team that you are part of the team, not just the boss.

4. Maintain transparency from the top down

This one can feel tougher, but it’s more important than ever. We’ve always been taught that the leader needs to be positive and only share certain information with the rest of the team. While this remains true to an extent, being more transparent actually brings your team members closer and allows them to trust you more. This trust is especially important to build in relationships that are remote or hybrid. It’s easier to feel distant (and less trusting) when you don’t work face-to-face. 


Keep your team updated on the status of the company, even when it’s difficult. Let them know some of the sacrifices you’ve made to make this work, and they will respect you and be willing to do more for you.

5. Hire the right fit.

This one may seem obvious, but consider looking for people not solely based on their credentials. Yes, your new hires will need to possess a certain skill set to do their jobs, but they also need the right mindset, attitude, and interest in working with you. We’re still feeling the ripple effects of the great resignation which means there are more candidates to select from. 


Hire people who show a genuine interest in being part of the team and who are positive about the company and your clients. Make sure you look for individuals who enjoy what they do, and who have expressed real enthusiasm for you as a leader, your company, and your clients. Taking time to hire the right fit makes a huge difference.


Following these basic ideas can create a company culture of trust and happiness, as well as a true desire to perform well for you and your clients, which not only directly impacts the level of productivity but also elevates the work product.

An earlier version of this article was previously published on Forbes in September 2018.

20 Tips on How To Use NLP in Public Speaking

Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Public Speaking

It’s designed for human communication! After all, public speaking is just a heightened form of everyday conversation. When you use NLP in your next speech or presentation it allows the unconscious part of our brains to take over more than usual–which can be a good thing because that means we’re paying attention to what they say and how they say things instead of solely focusing on ourselves as speakers sometimes do. Here are some hot tips to get you going!

1: 2 Minute Stories

A great way to start a speech is with a personal story, an article you have read, a statistic, or a story around a quote. You must tell the story in a way that evokes an experience. To make it sensory-based in a way that the listener sees, hears, feels, or even smells and tastes the story. Associate them inside the story, as if it is happening to them. In NLP we call this association, and it makes a difference in public speaking hugely.

Your stories should also be 2 minutes or less. If you go over, you will lose the attention of your audience. Remember, public speaking is not about you, it is about them. So make sure your stories are interesting and to the point.

2: Be Concise

When it comes to public speaking, less is more. This does not mean you should leave out important information, but that you should be concise in your delivery. The goal is to get your point across in the most efficient way possible without boring your audience. Try to avoid going off on tangents or using filler words such as “um” or “like.” Instead, focus on delivering your message in a clear and concise.

– Don’t ramble. Keep your remarks focused and to the point.

– Avoid using filler words like “um” or “uh.” Not only do they make you sound nervous, but they also waste time.

-Don’t speak too fast. Take a moment to pause between sentences for emphasis and to give your audience time to process what you’re saying.

-Don’t get too technical. Use language that everyone can understand.

– And finally, don’t forget to practice! The more prepared you are, the better you’ll do.

3: Keep their attention

When you have the attention of your audience, it is important to keep their focus by having great eye contact, using hand gestures and body language that reinforce what you are saying, and speaking with conviction. Be careful not to go overboard with any of these things, as it will take away from your message.


4: Focus on the Inspiration

We all know that the best way to teach is by doing, and in this day where technology has made it easier than ever for us to do just about anything from anywhere with an internet connection… well why not use those tools? This means you can focus less on what your speech will contain

 and much on how it is going to be delivered.

The key here isn’t necessarily getting everyone’s attention or making them listen; rather inspiring the desired mindset through methods such as humor (which was

 proven very effective), stories/numbers – whatever works! The bottom line: “How” matters more than “What”.



5: Stay Loose and focus on the experience

When you’re public speaking, you want to avoid coming across as stilted or robotic. To do this, it’s important to use a variety of words that help create vivid mental images for your audience. In NLP, we call these predicates.

Predicates are words specifically chosen to evoke a sensory-based experience. They help create mental pictures based on what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. 

Some examples of auditory predicates include: “hear,” “listen,” “melody,” “harmony,” “rings a bell,” and “sounds like.”

Visual predicates might be: “look,” “see,” “colorful,” “

For example, if you wanted someone to feel happy, you might use words like “joyful”, “delightful” or “blissful”. If you wanted someone to feel scared, you might use words like “terrifying”, “scary” or “frightening”. By using the right words, you can create any emotion in the mind of the listener.

6: Gesturing Positive and Negatives, Past and Future

When you talk about something negative point away from yourself and the audience, when you talk about something positive point to yourself or the audience. 

When you are speaking about something in the past, move to stage left. When you are in the present, take center stage. When you want your audience to be in the future, move to stage right. This is based on the NLP eye movement theory and it works like a charm!

7: Gesturing to Engage

When you are talking, act out what you are saying with your hands. This works on a deep subconscious level and engages the visual audience member.

8: The Power of Silence

Silence is golden! In public speaking, it is often underused. Use it more! Here are some ways you can use silence:

-After you make a powerful point, pause for 6 seconds or more of silence. This allows the person to take in what you just said.

-If you want someone’s attention, say their name and then pause. They will look at you because their name was called. Then you have their full attention to delivering your message.

-Use silent pauses throughout your presentation to emphasize certain points. Just make sure the audience is comfortable with the silence before proceeding. You don’t want awkwardness!

You can use silence for emphasis, but make sure it is purposeful. Also, use pauses to gather your thoughts. Do not let the silence drag on too long though or you will lose your audience.

9: Anchoring & Chunking

This is an important public speaking tip, as it is often one of the main things people are worried about when they stand up to speak. The best way to remember your speech is to use a technique called “anchoring” and “chunking.”

Anchoring is a technique where you associate a physical sensation with a certain part of your speech. For instance, every time you get to the part of your speech where you talk about your company’s history, you might touch your nose. Or every time you get to the part of your speech where you make a key point, you might tap your foot. This will help anchor the information in your memory so you can easily retrieve it when you need to.

Chunking is a technique where you group information together in manageable “chunks.” For instance, instead of trying to remember every single detail of your speech, you might chunk it into three main points. Or you might chunk it into sections such as the introduction, main body, and conclusion. This will make it much easier for your brain to process and remember the information.

Both of these techniques are extremely effective in helping you remember your speech, so be sure to use them when preparing for your next public speaking engagement.

10: Use Props

Props can be a great way to engage your audience and add interest to your presentation. Be sure to use props that are appropriate for your topic and audience.

11: Vary Your Tone

Your tone of voice can be just as important as the words you are saying. Varying your tone will keep your audience engaged and interested in what you have to say. When you say something powerful, say it softly and you will watch your audience lean in. Then, use your silence.

12: Use Humor

Humor is a great way to engage your audience and make your point. Just be careful to not offend and not rely on too many jokes.

13: Use of “I” and “You”

Using the word I is very useful. It connects you with the audience in a first-person way. You are saying this to me directly. It has more impact than if you say, “one should…” You can also use the word you, but be careful as it can have an opposite effect where people may feel like they are being talked down to. So I would recommend using I more often than you, as it has more connection.

14: Eye Contact

Use affirmative body language and make sure to maintain eye contact throughout the entirety of your speech. Not only will this help with engagement, but also with building trust between you and the public. If you make eye contact for 6 seconds the person you are looking at and the people around them (left, right, behind, and in front of) will think you are making eye contact with them as well. Move your eye contact through the crowd and they will feel seen, which everyone wants.

15:Use of Questions

Questions are a public speaker’s best friend! By asking questions, you engage the audience more and get them thinking. Here are some ways to use questions in public speaking:

-Ask a rhetorical question. This is a question that does not require an answer. It is more for making a point. For example, “Can you imagine what it would be like to never have to worry about money again?”

-Ask a leading question. This is a question that leads the person to a specific answer. For example, “Wouldn’t it feel great to be debt free?”

16: Anchoring for yourself

Anchoring is a tool from NLP that can be used in public speaking. It means that you associate a certain feeling or state with a physical gesture. For example, every time you want to feel more confident on stage, you can do a certain gesture, like rubbing your hands together. This will then trigger a feeling of confidence. You can also anchor positive states to objects on stage, like the microphone. Every time you touch it, you feel more confident. The possibilities are endless! Just make sure to anchor states that are congruent with the message you want to deliver.

17: Speak as if You Are the Expert

When public speaking activities and feel as if you are an expert in your field. This doesn’t mean that you have to be, but by acting and feeling this way. It will come across to your audience. Remember that people like to do business with, and learn from those they perceive as being an expert. So make sure when public speaking that you come across this way.

18: Use Metaphors to Explain Complex Concepts

People understand the world through stories, or what we call NLP metaphors. Whenever you can explain a complex concept or idea using a metaphor or story. Do so, because it will make it much easier for people to understand what you are talking about.

Stories are the longest-lasting memories we have, and they also engage more of our senses. So if you can tell a story that ties in with your content, do it! If you cannot tell a story, use a metaphor. A metaphor is a story in one sentence. For example, “He was as fast as a cheetah” is a metaphor. It engages the imagination more than saying “He was really fast.” By using metaphors you make public speaking more fun, and people will remember your content better.

19: Be Passionate

Having a positive attitude is important, but it’s not the only thing. You also need to be passionate about your presentation and show it in your posture and gestures. This will help you build rapport with the audience quickly.

20: End on a High Note

To end your speech on a high note, summarize what you have said in a way that is clear and concise, tell them what action you want them to take, and thank them for their time.


If you are ready to learn how to use NLP in your speaking let’s find some time to chat!

What the Dame of Influence Award Means to Me

What the Dame of Influence Award Means to Me

Sometimes I feel like the name of my game is ‘just keep walking’. Many of you know my story already, and like many entrepreneurial journeys, it was riddled with ups and downs. I happened to get handed an extra dose of death and loss and things most people don’t have to experience at this phase of life. Because the people that I loved and lost were also critical parts of my company I had to pick up the pieces while it felt like the world was watching. 

You don’t build the muscles of resiliency because you want to. You do it because you have to. You do it because there is something bigger than the pain or the fear that you have to get done. You change yourself so that you can change the world around you and let me be the first to say that changing how you see yourself or how you respond to life SUCKS. It’s hard because it has life-changing value and they don’t hand out awards for ‘trying super hard’.  and then I learned that I just don’t back down…period. 

I am proud of how far @revenue has come in the last five years, and of the amazing things in our future and I am continuously humbled by the people that show up for my vision. This little family business has survived and grown so that we can serve all of those other ‘little businesses’ grow. 


For all these reasons and so many more, I feel unbelievably honored to have been recognized as a 2022 Dame of Influence for Chicago.

The Dames stand for something so close to my heart: the ability to do great things and be a great person. They value community contribution and mentorship, and they’re here to break down the barriers that stop 98% of women-owned businesses from reaching the million-dollar mark.

@revenue has shared this mission of supporting diverse people and their businesses and goals, hoping to make a reality of the amazing empowerment from the late, great RBG: Women should be in all places where decisions are made. The Dames are committed to this, @revenue is committed to this, and I am committed to this, and I am so humbled to be recognized for this work we have tirelessly taken on over the past five years.

I am so thankful for this award and everyone who has made our achievement possible, and I can’t wait for all we can keep accomplishing together.

What will 2022 Look Like?

What will 2022 Look Like?

Business owners have spent the past two years navigating a pandemic, supply shortages, employee shortages and cash flow issues. Many have survived by pivoting their service offerings, or pivoting again to meet more current demands. When it comes to running a small business, this is just part of the game, but if we are being honest, 2020 and 2021 have caused some ulcers. 


As we round the corner of Q4, we start to look at what the new year will look like - and many are afraid of what it might bring. While we are all hoping for some sense of previously known normalcy, it may not be in the cards. 


Trends predicted to continue well into next year and beyond include:


  • Hybrid events and Zoom meetings are just part of the way we meet with each other and communicate now. 
  • Work From Home/Hybrid options- More companies are offering more WFH options and will need to find more ways to engage virtually with their workforce.
  • Advances in AI and virtual technology will help companies combat shortages in labor, and help us all find new ways to escape.
  • Distance learning is part of our Educational system now. Many parents are finding better solutions for their children than the typical school day, and this changes their work/life balance dramatically. 


Small businesses have felt these pivots and changes more than the big guys, and that’s not about to change. Studies show that small businesses need to adapt faster, and embrace more technology and have a solid plan to move forward into 2022. 


The number one thing all this change has impacted? Revenue. Since the pandemic began, revenues have been falling, and business owners are cutting budgets and salaries to make up the difference. As we enter 2022, there is a better way.  


Now, as things begin to stabilize, business owners can look at the coming year as an opportunity to make up what missed revenue. How?  By being intentional. 


Intentional about what?

  • Goal Setting - I know, it’s been hard to set goals for a while, but now is the time to sit down, dig in and look at where we are realistically. Chances are your revenues have dipped and your big goals feel far away- but that’s no reason to panic or give up. Now is the time to think about what you really want to accomplish in the next year and put together a plan for getting there. 
  • Budgets- Now that you have a plan, the reality is that you have to figure out how to budget for that plan. Take into account your overhead and capital expenses and start looking at what areas you can give more budget to- remember to keep this focused on the areas that increase your revenue and help you meet your goals. 
  • Fractional Teams-  After you’ve realized there just isn’t enough money in the budget to do all the things you want to do (it’s inevitable- sorry). Don’t panic. Do some research on how working with fractional teams can save you money while increasing your bottom line. Some of the best fractional teams are accounting, and marketing teams who cost 30- 50% less than an in-house team and get you the same, if not better results.  Our fractional CMO offering provides senior level strategy and implementation, so you get more direct impact and revenue for the budget. 
  • CRM and Automations - If you don’t have a functional CRM that houses all of your sales pipeline and contacts, now is the time to invest in one. Getting all this organized and having a place to clearly see your financial forecasting is going to be a lifesaver. Additionally, many CRM systems have built in automations for reminders, appointment setting and follow up emails- all of which saves you a ton of time. 


The coming year shouldn’t be scary, it should be an opportunity to take a look at the bigger picture, and congratulate ourselves on our adaptability and success during these past two tumultuous years. Now we are in a space where we can set some intentions, and carry them forward. Finding the right partners to meet your goals is paramount. If you have questions about how a fractional marketing team can work with you to create an intentional marketing strategy that actually impacts your revenue goals - give us a call. 

5 Ways to Revamp Your Marketing Strategy

5 Ways to Revamp Your Marketing Strategy

We’ve seen the effects of supply chain issues in restaurants, hardware stores, department stores, and more — and the promotional products industry is no exception.


The year of the pandemic saw nearly 20% decrease in distributor sales as events and trade shows were cancelled and swag bags went back on their shelves. Now, as these gatherings are reinstated, many of these same distributors are seeing order counts double and are struggling to meet the demand. 


Industry trends are showing strong projections for recovery, but it won’t happen overnight, and you’ve likely got some extra unused dollars that would usually be spent on these items that just can’t be supplied right now. 


So how do you solidify your marketing strategy when you can’t get your promotional products? Here are five ideas to get started.

Know your audience

Just as the corporate and bigger business sides of the professional world have pivoted and adapted during the pandemic, so have small businesses and individuals. Rediscover your audience and evaluate how your prospects and leads — and their needs — have changed. Understanding your buyer persona is crucial to your success, and you can earn their trust and loyalty by proving your business to be adaptable and sensitive to their experience.

Run a brand audit

Does your visual identity accurately reflect your business’s mission and goals? Once you’ve evaluated your buyer and how they’ve changed over the last eighteen months, perhaps your brand might need a little revamping in order to stay aligned with your mission while still attracting your evolved audience. 

Invest in A/B testing

Increase your ROI from existing traffic, reduce your bounce rate, and establish successful conversion rates through extra A/B testing. With one control and one variable group, modify your CTAs, content length, email subject lines, email frequency, or any details that may affect your content, social, or website performance. With each of these tests, you’ll learn more about your consumer and which strategies to more fully invest in for success.

Develop your SEO and social media strategy

Increase your Google ranking by investing in your Search Engine Optimization strategy with both organic and paid strategies. Remember, too, that YouTube processes billions of searches each month, and, as a result, optimizing your video content can help you rank higher on the biggest search engines. 


While you’re optimizing videos, translate that same energy into your social media strategy as a whole. With the rise in influencer marketing, social partnerships, and sponsored feed content, both paid and organic social media strategies will help get your content in front of relevant audiences.

Target your campaigns

Once you have a clear understanding of the new pains, fears, and gains of your prospective clients, you’ll be able to run more thoroughly targeted campaigns and meet your audience through very specific touchpoints. Use your newly optimized SEO and social media strategies to implement these audience traits and speak directly to your compatible prospects.


Promotional products are not the lifeblood of your marketing strategy! With the absence of these items — and the wiggle room that may leave in your budget — this is the perfect time to dive into the core structure of your marketing plan and make sure that when the frills and gimmicks are peeled away, the bones of your business’s messaging are solid and representative of your mission and goals.

Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

I am not an artist. I can’t draw, paint, or even write as well as I envision in my mind. But that hasn't left me out of the marketing world- because it turns out even in developing processes you can be creative. Some of us (me) use our creativity not in a typical artistic manner but in the development of efficient processes and operational SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).  

Hang in there. I promise it’s not as boring as it sounds. Having a standard process in all aspects of your business helps you run more efficiently and effectively and believe it or not, keeps your team happy and proactive.  Who couldn't use more of that?! 

So, what are some ways you can be creative in your process management? First and foremost, you need to work through what type of project management philosophy works for you and your team. 

Creative Project Management Styles:

There are several styles of project management - including Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, and Six Sigma to name a few. Many project managers have a style they prefer, and tend to stick to that as a primary means of managing a team. However, taking into account the different personalities, learning styles and array of job functions on a team- sometimes it works best to be a little more creative. For example, we use a combination of Waterfall and Agile in our systems. 


To simplify: Waterfall project management involves working in calculated waves, with each step being dependent on the one before it, and a centralized Project Manager (PM)  taking care of the steps behind the scenes. Sometimes this can slow a process down over time so, combining this system with another alleviates a lot of headaches.  In our case we have combined Agile as a PM ethos, meaning we are flexible in how the processes can change and then update our SOPs as needed. While there is still a centralized PM leading the overall project, there is a strong sense of collaboration and ownership within the project team. Combining these has changed the way we work. Our systems are proven and step and repeat but we have flexibility and collaboration along the way- which is how we are able to get so much done so quickly. 

The best tool we have discovered to manage our processes is Teamwork. This tool was specifically designed with the concept that project management can be creative and therefore is adaptable to any of the project management styles you prefer.. Teamwork allows us to create overall workflows and task templates that apply to our specific SOPs, but also allows processes to be augmented or adjusted based on the realities and needs of real life execution. Everyone in the system has the capability to see what tasks are dependent on other tasks and team members, and it allows us to work more efficiently and collaboratively. 

Once you have chosen a style or combination of styles that work for you and your team, you are ready to move forward into making sure all of this theory works in real life. The first step is to evaluate your overall time management and what tools will work best. 

Time Management

Whenever I think of creative time management I envision the white rabbit running around like crazy insisting that he is late for a very important date. And, let’s be honest, we all have moments (days, weeks- months- 2020?!) like that. The key is to be prepared and flexible in your time management and build in time for fire fighting. 

The key to effective and disciplined time management is that you have to get a little creative in how you prepare and you have to develop a routine to keep you engaged and focused, not to mention motivated. 

We use a routine based approach to preparing our days, weeks and months of work, including daily stand up meetings to discuss the day's key initiatives, and regular check in meetings for small groups and the company as a whole. Communication and collaboration is important when establishing a time management system. Keeping everyone on the same page helps dictate appropriate deadlines and helps every individual plan out their work life. 

As for planning out our work lives, we “practice what we teach” by following the time management techniques discussed in our workshops.  These include intention and goal setting, and the combination of digital and paper tools to help you declutter your brain and overcome the stress. 

Yes, I did just say digital AND paper tools. Because believe it or not, writing stuff down helps you remember more than typing. As it happens a big piece of the time management puzzle is actually being able to remember all the things you need to do. (extra hint: it also helps make those goals a reality.) 

Our team uses the Franklin Covey system and personally, I love it. It allows me to prioritize my big tasks based on my larger goals, and I get a clear vision of the day's work, the needs for the next week and beyond and it allows me to create blocked time for when the fire drills happen. 

Blocked time? Yes. These are often flexible periods of your day when you can tackle a specific task or set a general time aside to cover multiple smaller tasks.  Blocking time helps overcome the stress of feeling like you just don't have enough time to get everything done. It also allows for you to see where in your day you can move things around if and when a fire drill occurs. Extra hint: nothing is so important that it needs to be resolved in less than 30 mins. Breathe and take your time to resolve issues as they arise.


By being creative in your processes and sharing the successful processes with your entire team, you will notice everyone becomes less stressed and more willing to be proactive in their roles and beyond- which- let’s face it- isn’t that the ultimate goal? A proactive and happy team? 




How to Get Investors' Attention

How to Get Investors' Attention


For over a decade I worked in business financial services with a focus on helping companies find funding. In that time, I worked with various small businesses from big manufacturers to solo entrepreneurs with great new products. What I was actually doing was a form of marketing: developing a strategy for “selling” the company to the right investor partner. While I continued to work with hundreds of companies and business owners, I kept hearing the same things. Over time, as these issues kept coming up, I was able to pinpoint 3 key must-haves that investors need to see from new products and startups that signal they are ready for funding.

The first became a hard rule for my strategies and recommendations, and that rule stands to this day. If you want someone to invest in you and your business, you had better be ready to put some skin in the game yourself and invest in a solid marketing strategy and brand. Without it, you may be a great company or product—but perception is real, and you have to “look the part.”

Skin in the Game. 

You mean other than my hard work day in and day out? YES. 

One of the first questions every single potential investor asks is, “How much have you invested in this idea?” And no matter how you slice it, what you believe your time is worth and the calculation you came up with for how much time you have spent thus far—is NOT the answer they want. They want to hear a dollar amount you have personally put into this and what happened to it and why you need more. You need to have concise, real (verifiable) answers here. 


It turns out that a hand-drawn logo on a napkin that your next-door neighbor made isn’t enough to convince anyone that you have a real brand. The perception of you, your company and your products or services is predicated on what emotions your brand evokes in your audience and what they think about you as a result. Here are some often heard examples:

  • Hand Drawn logo: This person doesn’t know what they are doing and they don’t have a real business
  • Rudimentary logo by a “friend:” There’s no money behind this project and it’s just a hobby
  • Outdated logo: This logo looks like it has been recycled from something else and feels like they aren’t in touch with current trends
  • Complicated logo design or explanation: Trying to be clever or having a full 3-page story about your logo turns off investors. They want to see a clean, easy-to-understand brand. Not something that is overly complicated or has a detailed backstory that only means something to you. 

Secondly, you need to get out of your own way. There comes a point in every entrepreneur’s life where they must realize that even though they built this company or product to solve a problem they themselves were experiencing, they are not their own target audience. 

Target Audience.  

As the owner of the company, your target audience may be patterned after you. They are probably very much like you in many ways. They likely have similar problems to yours, have a similar occupation and experience many of the same issues you are trying to solve. However, they are not you. Your personal taste in design or content or color does not necessarily appeal to everyone you are targeting. That is why it is important to remember who your audience is and appeal to them, not yourself. 

Does this typically mean that you will end up with a brand that is broader than you originally thought? Yes. Does it work better? Also yes. Working to find something that appeals to the larger audience will not only work in the long run for your brand, but it will also help you get the positive attention of the investors that you want—because you are demonstrating your solid understanding that your company/service/product is not for YOU. 

Go Get Funded.

Once you have some skin in the game, a real, thoughtfully developed brand and some insight on your target audience, your investors will start to look at your offering more seriously. If they are going to bet on you, they want to know that their chances at success (meaning yours) are good. Making sure these elements are integral to your pitch shows potential investors that you’re committed to your idea, you know there’s an audience out there that wants to buy your product and that you know how you’re going to sell it to them.

Need some help putting the pieces together? Let’s get in touch.

How to Succeed in Retail in the Age of Amazon

How to Succeed in Retail in the Age of Amazon


So you had some extra time on your hands during quarantine and came up with the “next big thing” for retail. Maybe it’s a new premium direct-to-consumer item or a platform for social shopping. Whatever the case may be, in the current age of retail, every business team needs to ask themselves the trillion-dollar question: How do we compete with Amazon?

Amazon’s Corner on the Retail Market

Like Walmart did for brick-and-mortar big box stores, the retail giant has hoarded market share by offering lower prices on thousands of retail products in virtually every industry, and it’s paid off. Amazon reached the trillion-dollar mark in 2018, being only the second company to do so (Apple was first just a month before).


You may be wondering how Jeff Bezos grew his operation to the giant it is today from its humble beginnings in his garage in Bellevue, WA, but consider this: Amazon has been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to online shopping and shipping to your home. It revolutionized shipping speeds with Prime memberships, paved the way for the use of delivery drones and even built more warehouses to accommodate large metro areas.


And that's not all: Amazon is always looking at the big picture and making highly intelligent organizational moves and acquisitions. For example, healthy eating and finding organic food choices are trends that have been on the rise for some time now, and consumers have been willing to pay more for those choices. So what did Amazon do? It bought Whole Foods, the largest, fastest-growing organic food chain. No wonder it reached the trillion-dollar mark.


Paying attention to what consumers want outside of the online arena and giving it to them in a new format is brilliant, and something to think about if you are trying to compete in the e-commerce space.

The Customer-Centric Business Model

As a rule, once a company obtains a certain level of success, the customer satisfaction rating will slowly decline as the corporation has bigger things to deal with. Amazon has only gotten more “customer-obsessed” with their exponential growth. A list of their company leadership principles explicitly states that at Amazon, “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards.” Earlier this year, in a Harris Poll on corporate reputation, Amazon was ranked in the top 3 for the 8th year in a row and the top 10 for the 12th consecutive year. And Amazon topped the ACSI Retail Report for the eleventh year in a row. Clearly they are onto something when it comes to customer satisfaction.


Smaller businesses have an advantage because they have always been better at building relationships. However, they can hold onto customer satisfaction as a top priority by posting crystal clear return policies and by offering one-on-one assistance when needed. Live chat is a fast-growing trend in customer support. We all feel more appreciated when we feel a connection with someone, so allowing your customers to make a personal connection with you and your business can go a long way.

The Coronavirus Effect: Recovering from a Spending Freeze

As in all other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. E-commerce sales are forecasted to jump 18% by the end of 2020, but brick and mortar sales will drop by 14%. This TechCrunch article points out that the bump in e-commerce will not make up for the expected 10.5% drop in overall retail sales to $4.894 trillion—a level not seen since 2016. E-commerce may be enjoying a boost, but when all is said and done, Americans are technically spending less and gravitating to the top two in the category, Amazon and Walmart, for only the most essential purchases.

The Bottom Line For Small Businesses

While most new small businesses won't be able to directly compete with Amazon, there are ways you can be successful without feeling like you need to overcome the impossible.


Here are two ways of staying relevant in the space:


  • Go where consumers already are: that is, Amazon. For some, this is a classic “if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em” scenario in which a business foregoes fulfillment hassles by distributing directly through Amazon. For many, this has proven to be a successful strategy, turning a profit by letting Amazon take all the credit.


  • Create highly specialized products and services. Another new rule of thumb emerging across multiple industries, narrowing your niche and focusing on a very small percentage of the market can help you gain loyal consumers who know you are the only place to get what they need. Now that Americans are spending less, and Amazon has proven to be resilient, the retail behemoth is sure to keep its market share for the time being.


What may have worked for small businesses two years ago likely won’t work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Being nimble and finding small (but bright) windows of opportunity may be just the thing you need in order to survive.

An earlier version of this article was published on Forbes.

The Rule of 2/3

The Rule of 2/3

There Are No Unicorns: Making the Hard Choice for Good/Fast/Cheap Marketing Support


You've heard of this rule before. It’s basically a law of physics in the business world: you've seen it applied to various industries of service providers, but that doesn't make it any less true. Marketing professionals know this rule all too well, but it can still be a stumbling block for our clients because it doesn’t seem fair and it’s not fun to think about. The hard truth is that the killer deals and 10-in-1 unicorn gadgets that exist in the retail product world just don’t exist in the realm of professional services.


The Rule: GOOD. FAST. CHEAP. You can only choose 2.


In short, it translates to this: you can’t have it all. If you don’t have a bottomless budget or all the time in the world, anyway, something else in the equation has to be sacrificed. While we would love to promise you that your great marketing strategy will pay for itself, we know that’s not exactly how budgets work. Instead of urging you to dig deeper into your pockets and put a strain on your business to put a top-tier marketing plan in place, we would much rather walk through the Sophie’s Choice situation with you and help you make the decision that’s best for your business right now.

The Options

CHEAP: You are always looking for a deal. It is our human condition to try to find ways to save money and retain the best value for the work we are paying for

FAST: You also want your projects done as quickly as possible.

GOOD: Not only do you want it done quickly and for less money, but you want it to be good. Good design, good strategy, good in every way.

Why can you only choose 2?

VALUE: The value of quality marketing work is not necessarily synonymous with the amount you pay. Value is provided when something is done well, with intention, and provides both instant results and long-term outcomes.

CHEAP + FAST: When you're choosing two, cheap and fast end up being a likely option. After all, those are your two primary motivational factors—get it done now and get it done for the least amount possible. The problem with this strategy is that it forces your marketing team into a situation in which they have to cut corners, spend less time finding the best possible solutions

and instead finish a “quick and dirty” version of your project. That means the thing you have sacrificed is GOOD. Your project will still have a lot of positive attributes, but will it be everything you hoped for, and be perfect without any missteps? Definitely not.

CHEAP + GOOD: In the above situation, it seems like the issue is one of time: by combining cheap and fast you lost quality, which is what you need in the long run. Choosing cheap and good could be a better combination because you save money while getting a higher quality completed project, which could ultimately mean higher value. The sacrifice here is time. In order to perform high-quality services at a lower rate, your team will need to manage this project differently. And you may be one of many projects in process, so in order to spend the time wisely on your project and make it beneficial to the team, they will need to take extra time.

FAST + GOOD: Yes, this is an option. Yes, we can do what you want in the quality that you want in the timeline you want, but that will mean our team will have to work double-time, triple-time, and that means itʼs going to cost you more because you will have to pay for that time and extra time spent.

Keep this in mind next time you are trying to hire a marketing company or any other service provider: you may have three options, but if you’re looking for real value, you will have to sacrifice one of them. Unicorns are hard to come by, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Which 2 would you choose?

Need help deciding? Get in touch with us and let’s talk it out. 

Productivity Tips for #EntrepreneurLife in 2020: Eat the Frog

Productivity Tips for #EntrepreneurLife in 2020: Eat the Frog

If we could sum up 2020 in one quote, it might be this one by Herbert Hoover: “About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” This feeling of endlessly chasing a moving target, treading water or running in place was already a familiar part of the entrepreneurial experience. As a marketing and sales agency that works primarily with small businesses, we’ve picked up some tricks over the years to create structure out of chaos and forge ahead into productivity. 

2020 has taught us some new things about doing business in uncertain times, but when it comes to productivity, some of our tried-and-true basic principles have come through with the best results. Our answer to Herbert Hoover’s pithy proverb is this one by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This is our classic antidote to procrastination at the @revenue office, and we pride ourselves on being adept and graceful frog-eaters. But in the time of big pivots bringing a deluge of new and daunting tasks, sometimes we find a few more frogs hanging around on our to-do lists than usual. Can you relate?

We’ve seen many successful entrepreneurs and business owners adapt this frog-eating concept into a philosophy that keeps them on track and focused. So how does it work? For me, it gets broken down into these simple steps:

Step 1: Create a list of to-dos. I am a major list creator, so much so that I sometimes have lists of what lists I have. Each morning, as I set out to start my work day, I create an all-encompassing list of things to do. This list is primarily focused on the goals for that day, but often includes larger projects that I can complete in stages. The key is to make your list as comprehensive as possible first.

Step 2: Prioritize your list. Once your list has been created, you want to take a few moments and prioritize it. I generally categorize my list into things I can complete today, those that are deadline focused, those that are in stages and those that arenʼt deadline focused but would be great to accomplish as soon as possible. Once you have a priority in mind, you know where you need to spend your time.

Step 3: Read your list. Read it, and as you do so, mark the items that make you groan vs the items that are relatively simple to complete and donʼt bother you much.

Step 4: Biggest Groan = Frog. Inevitably, there will be one item on your list that you simply do not want to do. Perhaps when you were reading your list you were trying to imagine ways to procrastinate it. You will know what that one thing on your list is. For me, it’s often something to do with cash flow. I just simply hate reviewing accounting and financials. Iʼd much rather spend my time on fun marketing projects and writing.

Step 5: Eat the Frog. As Twain said, the key to having a positive day is to eat a frog first. That biggest groan on your list—do it first. Get it out of the way and the rest of your list will be no big deal.

Mark Twain knew what he was talking about! We use the frog-eating method every day to stay on task. The feeling when you accomplish that thing you were dreading is a natural high that keeps you going all day. Just take a few minutes every morning to prioritize your task list, and when the frogs come to call, you’ll know what to do.