What to Do About Your Business Competition

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Pixabay

 

It is often said that competition is a great thing for business. That it helps drive the economy in amazing new directions, and can see monetary benefit for everyone. I’m not going to deny that any of that is true. But sometimes it feels like it’s impossible for it to be true. Think of those times any competitor has trumped you in some business endeavor. It’s certainly feels difficult to defend the benefits of competition then!

The fact is that competition is good, but you need to put yourself in a position where it is good. You need to use the competition to drive you to do better. If you can’t do this, then you’ll keep getting beaten.

One of the best ways to do this is to keep track of your competition. After all, if you don’t know what it is they’re up to, then you’ll have no way of accurately gauging yourself against them.

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Flickr

 

Start with the website

 

The website of any business is one of their most important assets. It’s what most people see when they’re introduced to a business. It’s where first impressions come from. So you need to check out the website of the competition if you want to start with the basics, here.

You can look at this from a purely functional perspective. After all, the usability and like-ability of a website is very important when it comes to driving sales. How does your website compare? Does their website look better? Does it work better on mobile? Do all their links work? Is it obvious from the off where you should click to get to where you want? You can read more about user-friendly website design at www.websitemagazine.com.

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Geograph

 

Keeping track of local competitors

 

If your business isn’t web-based and is located in public, then you need to take things further. For some, keeping track of local competition seems like an easy game. Some simply pose as customers and visit competing stores in order to track prices.

I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t do this. After all, actually visiting the competition tells you more about their business as a physical entity, which is very useful. But you need to consider the fact that all reputable businesses have reviews and performance analyses online. The tricky part can be tracking down and collecting all of this information. But you can actually get management tools that help you track competitor performance. Find out more at www.chatmeter.com.

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Flickr

 

The content

 

So much of efficacy in Internet marketing boils down to content. How much have you got, and how often is it being shared? It’s the second question here that you’ll probably need to focus on the most.

Their website should reveal to you just how many social media platforms they’re on. Not only that, but it will show you what platforms their content can be shared on. Most of their content – let’s say, news or blog posts – will come with ‘share’ numbers. This will tell you how often their content is being shared across social media. What kind of competitor content is going viral? How can you capitalize on this sort of interest?

[post contributed for tamarhela.com]

You Are In Control

I have something to confess. I’ve been struggling a lot this year. Creatively, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Those are a lot of areas to struggle with, huh? And you know what? I know why I’ve been struggling.

I forgot that I AM IN CONTROL.

It’s easy to do, even though it sounds like something stupid. And I’m willing to bet lots of you have done the same—or are even in the same boat RIGHT NOW.

Sometimes, we can become so wrapped up in our routines and the day-to-day stuff, that we forget to live our lives with meaning. We forget to infuse our activities with intention, and then we get dragged down by the mundane and feel like we aren’t being effective. We feel like we have nothing to offer others, much less ourselves, and we keep sinking further and further down until, one day, we wake up and ask: “How the hell did I wind up here?”

I know, because that’s been me.

And while everyone thinks you’re making progress—which, perhaps you are—you really aren’t. Not at the level you desire and are capable of, anyways. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living or what you’re passionate about… You can be a writer, artist, businessperson, parent, educator, server, or flight attendant. If you’re not able to give 100% and feel like you did something meaningful at the end of the day, it feels like nothing matters. But, you know what?

YOU MATTER.

You do. You really do. I matter, you matter, we ALL matter. And I want to share with you how I’m getting out of my funk and writing more than ever while being productive in other areas of my life. It’s simple and complicated all at the same time.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I control what I read, what I do with each minute of my day, what messages I choose to listen to (positive or negative), who I work with, and what I write and create. It’s the simplest thing, really, yet it can be daunting to realize the responsibility we have to ourselves. Especially when it feels like everything else is out of control.

I’ve been reading—a ton—and have become quite selective with the kinds of messages I put into my brain. I now have narrowed down my reading list and email subscriptions to only those that will give me insight into what I do and create, while propelling my vision forward. I have been making small changes to benefit my health, taking baby steps each week. I have been more intentional about the precious relationships I have with others—relationships that are mutually beneficial, that give me energy from every interaction.

Am I going to become superwoman overnight? No. But am I going to slowly and intentionally gather all the fuel I need to become a better writer, friend, daughter, sister, and influencer? Yes. Absolutely yes.

So, if you’re feeling like you’ve been in a funk too, here’s an action step I want you to take. Take a note card or a post-it and write this: I AM IN CONTROL. Put it somewhere you’ll see every day. And make it a mantra. Make it an intention. Make it an affirmation.

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Remind yourself that you are in control of yourself. You are responsible for YOUrself. Sure, we can’t control others and we certainly can’t control many other things in this life, but that’s not what we’re supposed to do anyways! When we realize that we have the power to change ourselves to be better—to give more and feel fulfilled—it makes a huge difference in how you live your life and how you look at others.

The change starts with us. The change starts with YOU.

I think this is just such an important reminder for all of us, but especially for artists. It’s so easy for us to put our work first—along with everything else—that we forget to take care of ourselves.

So, march forward, my friends. You are in control of yourself, and you have the power to make the changes in your life that you need to, in order to have meaning in all that you do. I’m right here, alongside you, doing the very same.

We all have something unique to share with the world. We are enough, just as we are. And we matter.

Love,

Tamar

Interview with Braxton Cosby, CEO of Cosby Media Productions

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(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

Any smart entrepreneur or business person alike knows that in order to succeed and further one’s career, it’s wise to take advice from other entrepreneurs/business owners. I find that interviewing successful and creative people is the fastest way to learn about how they think while learning from their triumphs and failures.

Today, Dr. Braxton A. Cosby is a guest on my blog, and he’s here to share about his new company, Cosby Media Productions. As the CEO of the company, there is much he is responsible for, but I really wanted to pick his brain in regards to what prompted him to start the company in the first place. So, grab a cup of coffee and read on.

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1. Tell us about your company, Cosby Media Productions. What does your company do, etc.?

BC: Cosby Media Productions is a full-service entertainment company that focuses on new intellectual properties in the areas of management, print/digital books, music, television, and film. New content is already in the works with networking and partnership opportunities available for future endeavors. It was developed by me, the CEO, and my partner, Leon Cosby III, who is the acting COO. We truly endeavor to build and partner with other content creators to make fabulous entertainment in the same scope or even larger than the blueprint that my Uncle Bill Cosby started.

2. What prompted you to start this company?

BC: The lack of original content available for people. There is something missing in today’s entertainment. Good, original, family content that inspires people. I love stories that offer encouragement and display good role-modeling for young people to follow. I’m excited at the prospects of how well-received some of the many projects we have in development are.

3. Is it difficult to manage a company like this? What are some of the biggest struggles you face as a business owner?

BC: Not really. Leon and I make the tough decisions of deciding who we partner with, and I have the final say so on what content we run with. Bringing on partners who we feel we can trust to pass on managing one facet of the company is tough, but we believe in those people. So, with God’s help through prayer, we walk in faith.

4. What are some of the benefits of owning your own company?

BC: Building and controlling you own content. We love the fact that once we get these projects funded, we will be able to keep the originality and purpose of the content intact, without compromising the messaging.

5. What kinds of projects are taking place at CMP right now?

BC: We have 5 divisions: management, film, tv, print and music. We have just finished completing deals that will ensure that our print and music divisions get the authors and singers the attention they deserve, and we are shaping out the animation and live action film and tv projects for first tier development. Action, story, and messaging are our focus, and it is paramount that they blend together smoothly.

6. Is there a “dream project” you’d like to work on?

BC: PROTOSTAR. I really want the trilogy to make it to the big screen and it will. But, it will require time to bring the pieces together.

***

I’d like to personally thank Braxton for taking the time to share a bit about his company and his heart behind the creation of Cosby Media Productions. Also, DID YOU KNOW? I am the Chief Editor for Cosby Media’s Print Division. We have already put out some great books this year, and are looking forward to the future projects for 2015! 🙂

To find out more about Braxton and CMP, visit these sites:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Braxton Cosby headshotBio: Author, actor, entrepreneur. Multi-Award Winning Author Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer who evolved from concepts on pen and paper to pixels and keyboards. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulate thought. Protostar: Book 1 The Star-Crossed Saga, and The School of Ministry: The Windgate, are currently two Young Adult series he created. Braxton is the CEO of Cosby Media Productions, a full-service media company with five divisions focused on developing Intellectual Properties that will “Entertain the Mind and Inspire the Soul.” He lives in Georgia with his wife, three children, and a troop of crazy African Cichlids. 

Monday Motivation: Read This Cool Stuff VI

Well, I’m not gonna lie: this Monday is particularly rough since I’m working early and got just a few hours of restless sleep last night. But sometimes, that’s how it goes. I could definitely use some motivation today to get me through the week, and I’m sure you’re in a similar boat. Therefore, I bring you three great articles to check out:

1. How to Write Better: 7 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Writing by Jodie Renner on The Write Life

This is a GREAT article. It explains how to simplify your writing in order to have a greater impact on readers. All the tips given are ones I stand by, especially as an editor. In fact, most, if not all, of the tips sound exactly like what I would tell my own clients. Even if you don’t think you’re struggling with consolidating your writing, give it a read. How to declutter your writing is never a bad thing to study, no matter your level of expertise on the matter.

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2. 45 Tweetable Quotes About Creativity to Inspire Your Next Big Idea by Lindsay Kolowich at HubSpot

The title says it all: quotes that will help inspire your next big idea. I often write down quotes I find inspirating in my journal, and when I have a blah kind of day, I look back over the quotes and feel much better after. Check out these quotes and see if you can find a few that speak to you.

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3. 5 Top Social Media Dashboard Tools to Manage Your Social Accounts by Pooja Lohana on JeffBullas.com

Again, it’s all in the title for this article. Not only does this post provide a list of the top 5 tools, but it also gives readers a breakdown of the benefits of using such tools. As your small business, freelancing gig, or author platform grows, I guarantee that you will get to a point where you need such tools. Social Media is everything nowadays, whether we like it or not. So, I highly recommend you checking out this article to see if any of these tools will work for you. 

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That’s all for now, folks. Hope you have a great week. And, remember: if you’re in need of an editor, make sure you contact me! 🙂

Make It Work: Approaching a Problem with Multiple Solutions

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

"Make it work!" Photo via Jessie Pridemore from Flickr Creative Commons.

Tim Gunn: “Make it work!” Photo via Jessie Pridemore from Flickr Creative Commons.

If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, then you’ve heard the famous “Make it work” motto of fashion genius Tim Gunn. My family and I often use this phrase in a patronizing or humorous way, but Mr. Gunn has a great point. In other words, he’s admonishing the show’s contestants to figure it out–make something happen. And that’s what we need when it’s problem-solving time.

Solving problems can be a daunting task, especially if you only look at the big picture rather than piecing it out in parts. Believing that there’s only one solution to a problem can also stop you dead in your problem-solving-tracks.

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Before I started my business last year, I was a school administrator. The school’s Director of Operations, to be exact. Solving problems was at the top of my job description. I had the support of our leadership team, but at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for all the small- and large-scale events, community gatherings, communication processes, and marketing. Talk about putting out fires.

I knew I had to keep my cool, no matter what the circumstance. The most important part about problem-solving, for me, was to draft out solutions and keep an open mind to the ideas my team members and the school’s parents had. If I had chosen to shut out every opinion, there’s no way I could have accomplished everything I did while in that position.

Solving problems involves efficiency, the ability to move quickly (mentally and sometimes physically), and the desire to involve the appropriate people to get the task done. Being a good leader means that you abandon the temptation to be a “lone wolf” and you get your team involved.

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Needless to say, I learned a lot from that job and was able to apply multiple solutions to the hurdles that came my way. So, just how can you solve a problem by using multiple solutions?

Here’s my process:

1. Brainstorm

Approaching a problem organically is a huge factor. It alleviates the pressure of finding the perfect answer right away (kinda like the stress of huge math problems). Here are some ways to brainstorm:

  • Draw it out: Use a web, diagram, or pictures to generate ideas. Don’t throw out any crazy ideas during this process. Sometimes the crazy ones are the best.

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  • Write it out: Grab a journal and have a dialogue with yourself; walk yourself through the process of solving the problem.

 

  • Talk it out: Call a meeting with those you trust most; those who have the ability to give you varying perspectives. Be open to their ideas and hear what they have to say in regards to finding a solution. This would be a GREAT time to use someone who has strategy as one of their Top Strengths. Since my Top Strength is strategy, I have often been called into various planning meetings to give input during the brainstorming process. Strategists usually have great solutions, but make sure they don’t dominate the entire conversation. 🙂

2. Narrow It Down

Once you have generated multiple solutions, prioritize the ideas that could actually work. Throw out the ones that are bogus. You can use a criteria list to help with this part of the process. Look at things like: 

  • Efficiency
  • Time it will take to implement a solution
  • Cost of the solution (especially if you have a tight budget)

3. Choose the Best Solution–or a Combination of Some

Again, there is not always ONE right answer. Sometimes, it may take a combination of solutions and ideas to approach a problem and solve it. Keep an open mind while trying to figure out what will work best, and be wary of falling into the trap of over-analyzing.

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4. Set A Timeline

This is one of the most important areas of problem-solving. A solution is only as good as its plan. I know that sounds strange, but planning is so underrated. Once you have an answer, set up the blueprint for execution. Here are some questions you may need to ask yourself:

  • Does this problem/solution have a due date?
  • When will I/we begin working on the problem, using the chosen solution?
  • How long will the problem take to solve?
  • Do I need others to help me solve the problem?

5. Delegate As Appropriate

The key to success begins with delegation. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you’re like me, wavering between perfectionism and creativism (totally made up that word), then you can empathize with the real temptation of doing everything yourself. I had to learn the hard way that it’s a good thing to ask for help, and that I can actually get more done with extra hands. Who knew, right?

Build a team (if applicable) of people who are trustworthy that can get the job done. They may not do things your way, but that’s okay. As long as the outcome is successful, you’ll be grateful for the extra help. And let me be the first to say that my former assistant was a godsend! I wouldn’t have been alive at the end of the school year without her.

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6. Execute

Once you have the pieces in place, it’s time to solve the puzzle. You have your solution, timeline, and team, so get to work! Just picture Tim Gunn looming over your workstation, and ask yourself if he’d be impressed or horrified by your creation.

 

I hope you find yourself using some (or maybe all) of these tips the next time you face a big problem. Nothing (except hangovers and procreation) happens overnight, so take a breath and give yourself a break. Look at the problem as a whole, then break it up into manageable pieces. You’ll be surprised at how much simpler it looks that way. “Make it work!”