It wasn't pretty. It wasn't eloquent. There are no hearts or Cupid's bows, no cutesy sayings, no X's and O's. But my husband sent me a love note this morning. And today? Today, it's everything.
This week has been tough so far. If anyone tries to tell you being an entrepreneur is easy, just assume they're lying. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster - with no seatbelt. The highs are high, the lows are low, and you're never quite sure whether you're strapped in and ready to go.
At one point in this rollercoaster ride today, I found myself pulling out my phone and texting my husband, "I'm so sorry. I wanted this all to be success and smooth sailing. Ugh, I feel like such a failure!"
The phone was silent for a long moment.
And then he sent me this:
I burst into tears. It may not have made sense to anyone else, but I knew what he was saying to me.
Earlier this spring year I had a conversation with a very successful businessman. In the course of our conversation, he told me a story about a young man who worked for him. They had met for lunch, and the young man was venting to him about how he had all of these ideas but was too afraid to start. He didn't know if they would work. He didn't know if he could make a go of it. He didn't know if he was brave enough to try.
The businessman said he grabbed one of the cocktail napkins off the table and in bold ink letters wrote "permission to fail" on it. He signed his name and dated it and silently slid it back across the table to his employee.
Not long after, the young man gave his notice and left his job. A year later, the two men met again for lunch. As they sat down, the former employee took a small white square out of his pocket. He unfolded it, then set it down and slid it across the table between them.
It was the same cocktail napkin with "permission to fail" written on it.
The young man had carried his "permission to fail" with him every day for the past year, and he had looked at it every time he was afraid or uncertain. Now he could look across the table at his former mentor and say "I did it. I made $1 million this year."
I had told my husband that story because it really impacted me as an entrepreneur. We hadn't spoken of it since. Until now.
Keep going. If you need permission to fail, then consider it given. Just don't let fear stop you from doing what you're called to do.
So I might be a little stubborn. And resistant to change. But I've learned that if I have to force something, it probably wasn't meant for me. Of course, I learned it the hard way.
For the last year, I've been trying to force one of my social media accounts into a mold that just didn't fit. As a social strategist and digital media marketer, I have no trouble creating content and building accounts for my clients. In fact, I have a great time learning my client's voices and creating posts and ads and sales funnels that ooze with their style and personality.
So why was it so hard to do the same with my own business? When it came to my own stuff, I struggled. I struggled to the point that I was barely posting at all. I couldn't help but think to myself that it shouldn't be so hard, but I wasn't sure what to do to change things.
One day, a friend of mine and I were chatting back and forth about content and copy. (Yes, these are the riveting conversations we social strategists have together.) We started spouting off crazy ideas for social media profiles. "What if everything rhymed?" "What if it all was written in alliteration?" "Memes with animals! Memes with animals!" It was so much fun - we were having a blast and giggling like mad.
It hit me then. That's what I was missing - fun! I'm very serious about my business, but I'm not a super serious person. I love to smile and laugh and enjoy life. If someone looked at my social profile, however, they'd have never known. I was providing content and creative that mirrored what I thought people would want to see, but in the process I was overthinking it and sucking all the fun right out of it.
I realized I had just spent a year beating my head against a door that wasn't mine. My business doesn't reflect ME without the element of fun that my personality brings, and it was time to put more me into my business. That very day I began rebranding, and I never looked back. When I finally quit trying to squeeze my business into a mold it that just didn't fit, promoting my own business became a breeze.
If you're feeling stuck on how to promote yourself or your business, could it be that you're giving people what you assume they want, but nothing that's really "you"? Maybe you're beating your head against a door that isn't really yours.
There is only one you. There are things that only you can bring to the world. Do not be afraid to let your business reflect a piece of that. It's valuable. It's YOU.
Hi friends! Today I'm going to take the opportunity to do to introduce a specialized branch of HUB Creative Media. This branch hasn't been featured on the blog yet, so without further ado, let me introduce you to Livestock HUB, the division of Practical Promotions designed and created specifically for the livestock sales industry.
I cut my professional teeth as a layout and design artist for the Iowa Angus Association over 15 years ago, and that was the beginning of a beautiful path that led to the co-founding of HUB Creative Media, under which I spent over a decade doing graphic design and advertising development with Conover Auction Service out of Baxter, Iowa. Although I grew my skills over the years and began to branch out more with professional offerings like web design and social media management, I have continued to love the work we do for the livestock industry. This summer, my business partner and I felt it was time to invest more deeply into this industry and co-founded Livestock HUB.
Through Livestock HUB, we offer promotional services for the livestock producer. Sale catalogs, web design, advertising, database management, and social media management are some of the services we offer. But even more than that, between my partner and I, we offer over 40 years combined experience and expertise in the livestock industry. We're excited to bring this experience and expertise to the table and offer livestock producers the services and tools they need to promote their sales and events.
So welcome to Livestock HUB. We'd love to have you check out the Livestock HUB portion of our website where you can find our full menu of services, updates on up-and-coming events and sales, special features, fun trivia, and more!
If you're a member of the livestock community, thanks for visiting this blog. As our way of expressing our appreciation, we've created this fun infographic
7 Simple Must-Haves for Effective Livestock Sale Advertising.
Thanks for visiting the blog. Check back next week for more.
Happy Birthday to the Cutest and the Wisest: A Story of How Social Media Connected Family Across Generations
Yesterday my family celebrated the shared birthday of two guys we've designated "the cutest" and "the wisest".
Name: Justus Floyd Burton
Past Times and Hobbies: Being cute, duh. Also saying things that are so adorable you want to squeeze him, playing hardcore with anything with wheels, and pronouncing anything that has the "k" sound as a "t" (e.g. "fork" equals "fort").
Claim to Fame: He is really, really good at redistribution. And by redistribution, I mean redistributing Cheerios from the box to the floor.
Name: Floyd Wesley Burton
Past Times and Hobbies: Antique cars. Spending time with friends and relatives. Helping out on the farm. Serving others.
Claim to Fame: There is so much. He can fix anything. Anything. He's a self-taught farmer/engineer/mechanic with an intense work ethic and a never-give-up attitude. He's faithful to his wife of over 60 years, faithful to his family, faithful to his friends, and faithful to his community.
These two. There are almost no words for how precious this relationship is.
Justus is the youngest of my brother and his wife Tyler's children, the youngest of Floyd's great-grandchildren. Floyd is my father's father, my gramps. Weeks before Justus' birth, I followed a link from my sister-in-law's Facebook to an online blog, accidentally discovering that she had commented under the blog article that if their baby was a boy, they were going to name him Justus Floyd.
I virtually tiptoed away, and never said a word about it to anyone. On August 28, 2014, the phone call came.
They'd had a boy.
They'd named him Justus Floyd.
I just could not imagine how Gramps was feeling when he heard the news, but my heart was smiling so big because it was just so right.
Backtrack a few years. My brother and sister-in-law lived overseas for years, doing hard things in countries people don't go to. They gave birth to their two older kiddos in the States, and we all treasured the early months of their lives, then watched the first few years of their lives in pictures through the internet. And guess who was first in line for updates on Facebook?
Gramps. He lets nothing stop him from being there for his friends and family.
And aren't we all like that? The things that are important to us are the things we spend our energy, time, and money on. Most people wouldn't guess than an 80-something-year-old great-grandfather would be eager to learn new-to-him social media platforms. Most people would say, "There's no way you'll see my grandfather on Facebook!"
I wouldn't be too sure.
Family was a powerful motivator for Gramps, and he's never been afraid to learn new things. So he bought a laptop. Then an iPad. A smartphone was next, followed by a mobile hotspot. It's entirely possible that today, at 87 years old, he owns more tech gadgets than the rest of us.
Gramps dove headfirst into digital communication. The 13-hour time difference made direct communication difficult, but he made it work. Before long he was researching how to set up and maintain solar electricity panels and sending blueprints to my brother's e-mail, catching on all the latest photos from overseas, posting and commenting from his winter home in Texas, and Skype calling to say hello.
My brother and his family are back in the States now. Last month, they moved in just down the road from the family farm. Guess who was there almost every day during the renovation and move in process? That's right, my Gramps.
Last night we all gathered at their new home for a joint birthday party, celebrating the cute and the wise. We ate good food and laughed a lot. Our days of overseas communication are over, but Gramps is still going strong on social media. He tried it. He liked it. And he came back for more. I'm so glad.
Happy birthday boys. Love you!
With planning, organization, and content, the foundation for a website is laid. The basic structure is in and ready, and now it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the process: design.
Although the overall concept of design encompasses much more, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use the term “design” to refer to the overall look and flow of the website. And when it comes to the overall look and flow of the website, my main goes is to make sure the visual look of the website consistently portrays the image the client is wanting to project. I also make sure to ask my clients what feelings or emotions they want web visitors to have when visiting their website, because design plays a huge part in this as well. A website can be fully planned out, organized down to the last detail, and have the best-written content in the world, but if the overall design is poor, the whole website will fall flat.
There are four key elements I utilize when designing a website: typography, space, image, and color. We will be discussing image more in depth in next week’s blog. Today I’m going to break down typography, space, and color.
Fonts and typefaces, serif and sans serif, display and script. Why are there so many buzz words when it comes to typography? To put it plainly, because typography matters. The way words and letters look on a screen can invoke emotion and motivate action. It can also frustrate or clarify. Choosing fonts is an important step in the process, because font sets the tone for how the text appears.
Sometimes my clients have definite opinions on a font they want to use, especially if their existing logo uses a certain font. Other times they're more open. Regardless, I always ask myself the following questions when choosing fonts
When choosing a font, besides readability and relatability, consider the typefaces available within that font family. Is the font available in bold or italic? It's nice to have those options to offset content text that's extra important or carries heavier meaning. I also suggest using no more than two fonts throughout a website - one for body text, and another for headings and featured text. Below are two examples that show what a difference is made when typography is used carefully and effectively.
Space, the final frontier . . . and when it comes to web design, each page needs some. Space is really the unsung, underappreciated element of design, but without it, a website will implode. Take another look at the two examples above. The first example is, shall we say, crowded. There are so many elements on this page, the eye doesn't know what to look at first. Instead of looking like a cohesive unit, all the colors, text, and highlighted phrasing fights for attention. Sometimes what's not on a web page is as important as what is, and the first example is the perfect case in point.
The second example shows an excellent use of space. The large, single image compliments the bold headline text, which drawing the eye directly to it. You can tell right away what the page is about - the Autumn Winter 2016/17 line of this brand. The navigation bar at the top right is streamlined and clear. Nicely done!
Many people fail to consider what a useful tool space is in their websites, assuming that blank space is wasted. It's not true. Space is like a tour guide for the eye. When used to the web designers advantage, web visitors can find the information they want quickly and efficiently, which is always a win. Just remember, too much to see is just simply too much.
Color is such a fun element and probably ranks even higher than typography at eliciting emotion from viewers. Color used well is like dynamite that sparks memory and knowledge retention in the brain. Color is one of the first things on a page to make a big impression, either good or bad.
If a client already has a logo or a color scheme, that's where I start. More often than not, even if they don't, they have an idea what colors they like and want to be associated with. The color chart above is a great starting point to show your client as you begin your discussion on color. I love searching the web for color schemes. You can see some great examples of website that use color well here.
When the color scheme is settled, I then think of ways I can incorporate the chosen colors into the website itself - page backgrounds, photo frames, header text, navigation bar, footers, featured blocks of text, a chart or graphic. Using color throughout the site helps help tie elements of the website together and promote the cohesive look your client is going for.
In the client example for this blog series, color first entered the discussion with their logo. My client is wants a completely new look for their website, beginning with their logo. Red and gray are the colors they'd like to use. Although the logo is still in the final stages of completion, the color palette looks like this:
Design Wrap Up
Typography, space and color are three of my favorite stages of designing a website and a chance for me get creative. Throughout the process, I continue to communicate with my clients every step of the way. Quick recap:
Building a website is a time-consuming, involved task, but when it's done right, your new website will be the launching point for an established web presence for you and your business or organization. In the first two posts of this series, we covered website planning and organization. Now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of website building: CONTENT.
After organization, content is easily the most important feature of your website. For the sake of brevity, we're mainly going to focus on text content in this blog post. Elements like photos, videos, and other graphic elements will be discussed in a separate post. To see how content comes into play in a website build, let's refer back to my client's website tree:
While a website tree serves as the framework of the website, the written content fills that framework in, providing the details and information website visitors are looking for.
Our website example for this series belongs to a father/son team who run a manufacturing business. Because I'm not a manufacturing expert, I will rely heavily on my clients who are experts in this field during this stage of the process. I will sit down with them, copy of the website tree in hand, and we will go through it step by step, website page by website page. I ask myself, and them, a whole lot of questions in my quest for information:
Once I've finished discovering all the content, it's time to write. Again, this will be a back and forth process of reading and proofing between my client and myself. Going page by page, I take the information they've given and I begin placing it in where it belongs. I pay special attention to not only what the message I'm writing says, but also how the message is given:
Once the content itself has been written and approved by the client, it's time to do one last edit. Nothing screams "unprofessional" like spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. This is when I often call in extra eyes to proof read, as I find that it's easier for a new reader to spot an error than it is for me.
At this point in the process, it's a temptation to call it a day. My brain is tired. My eyes are tired. But I have a few fun memes I keep around as reminders that the editing step is vitally important.
Amazing! Okay, just one more:
I can't stop. That's so entertaining!
Providing your website visitors with quality content is a winner every time. Although it's a time-consuming task, creating good, clear content can make the different between a website visitor cruising on by your website or clicking through for more.
Have a great week! I'll be back next week with a sneak peek into my design process.
I was twenty years old when I first met these two. I walked into their modest home, the new girlfriend of their oldest grandson. We sat down in at their drop-leaf wooden table, and we played Pictionary and laughed. A lot. We laughed until we cried.
It was here, in the midst of our rowdy game, as I was gasping for breath with laughter-tears running down my face, that I caught the eye of my now-husband across the table and he flashed me the "I love you" sign. No one caught it but me, and I will never forget that moment or the genuine look of joy and contentment on his face. It was the first time either of us had expressed the "L-word" to the other. We had only been dating two weeks, and I was dead-crazy in love with him too.
I was stunned. I was terrified. I was elated. What he didn't know was just that morning I had woke up thinking about him, as usual, and had come to a startling realization: I wasn't just infatuated with this handsome fellow, I was in love with him. THAT VERY SAME MORNING! I went about my day and never said a word about it to anyone (although God and I were having a running conversation about it. "Am I nuts God? This is nuts. I've lost it. It's only been two weeks." You get the picture). Then that evening, he backs me up me up with his "I love you" sign. American Sign Language has never looked so good my friends.
We left that night and our love story continued. Within another month and a half, we were engaged, then married that summer. People thought we were crazy. There may have even been some bets that it would never last. But not Grandpa and Grandma Kelly - they knew. They believed in love. They believed in us. This weekend, we'll have been married for sixteen years.
When I left that night, the night of Pictionary and American Sign Language and laughter tears, they both hugged me. Even thought I was a virtual stranger. Even though we had just met. It's not that I was special - or maybe that's exactly was it was. You see, they're like this with everyone. They see the specialness and worth in everyone who walks into their lives, and they always, always see the specialness in each other. They are two people who know the value of building relationships and building families. They've been doing it all their lives. They will do it until they pass on into eternity.
I build things for a living - websites, promotional plans, sale catalogs. I love it. However, even more important and vital in my life is following the example that Grandpa and Grandma Kelly set in building their family. My husband's grandparents have been married over 60 years, and they're still dead-crazy in love with each other. In another 44 years, we'll be in their shoes, God-willing. I feel so blessed that the beginnings of our love story played out in their house, at their wooden table playing Pictionary.
Having a good website is key to developing a web presence, but it can be hard to know where to start. In this blog series, I'm giving you a sneak peek into Practical Promotion's and Livestock HUB's step-by-step website building process, beginning with Step One: Planning.
Today we're moving on to Step Two: Organization. Remember how I said you'll never regret the time spent devoted to an initial planning session because the information gained would be really helpful later on? Now is the "later on". It's time to take all the information gathered and begin to sort it into a website tree, a very useful tool for organizing information that helps form the framework and structure of the website.
Outline the Information
The first stage of organization is to outline the information gathered in the planning session in step one. We'll use my client website example as an illustration. In our planning session, my client and I pinpointed the purpose, target audience, and goals of the website, then I made an outline:
Purpose: To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events.
Target Audience: 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.
Making an outline really simplifies the information and helps the important information rise to the top.
Build a Website Tree
The next stage of organization is building a website tree. A website tree is a simple tool to help organize the information that will be contained in the website and structure it into a framework that's clear and easy for the target audience to navigate. Important questions to consider when beginning a website tree include:
In our example, my client's clear purpose and goals made building a website tree a snap. Check out the samples of my client's website tree. I've included step-by-step illustrations because I built the tree in stages, starting with the most important information and working my way down through the supporting information and minor details. The most important information became the main pages of the website and the headings featured in the navigation bar (Fig. 1).
After main pages have been determined, I begin filling in the supporting information for each (Fig.2). My client from our website example was very clear about what information he wanted, how he wanted it prioritized, and where the supporting information should go. The majority of my clients need more help with this stage of the website building process, so I ask a lot of questions, such as:
The website now has a basic organizational framework in place. Once I begin designing the physical website, it looks something like this:
The navigation bar items are all lined up at the top of the page. Hovering on a navigation bar item shows the drop down pages that are built in underneath. This example shows what happens when you hover over "Our Work" - you can see there are two child pages in the drop down, "Case Studies" and "Parts Gallery".
Now that the basic organizational layout of the site has been determined, my client and I will move on to content, which is the third step in building a website and the final brick in the base of our website building process. I'll be discussing content in the next blog post, so stay tuned.
Keep on friends!
In this digital age of information and technology, having a web presence is more vital today than ever before. The first step to achieving a solid web presence is a good website. Millions of people take the world wide web with them wherever they go on their phones, tablets and laptops. An attractive, easy-to-use website makes a great first impression, and it’s a place customers and patrons can come back to time and time again for the information they need.
In this series, I'll walk you through the process Practical Promotions and Livestock HUB use to build websites: Planning, Organization, Content, Media, Design, and Functionality. Building websites is a multi-step process with each step building on the previous ones, starting from the ground up. Miss a step, and your website structure is weak. In this post, we'll be covering the first step: Planning.
Step One: Planning
A website is like a house; without proper framework and foundation, it falls apart. It's important to take the time for planning at the beginning of the website building process in order to build a solid framework for a new website. I promise this first step sets you up for a great start on your website, and I promise it will save you so much time and mental energy later!
While in the planning stage, we ask a lot of questions. The following questions’ answers help us begin to structure the website's framework:
What is the Purpose of This Website?
It's a temptation to skip right past this question. You need a website so people can find you online, duh. But why? Why do you want them to find you? What do you want to happen once they do? Make peace with this question. This question is your new best friend. It's not until you determine what you want the main purpose of your website to be that the rest of your planning begins to take shape.
Website example: The website example I'm using for this series is a website redesign for a local company. I designed the original website, but now a second generation is coming on board in this company's management. It's time to go over the website planning steps again. My first question to them, of course, was "What is the purpose of this website?" My client's response:
"To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events."
This answer is a good one. It hits the nail on the head as far as the purpose of the website - to provide the information needed so customers and future customers will consider them for future work. Not only that, his answer touches on what we'll be considering in the next: the target audience and the website goals.
Who is the Target Audience?
This question can seem like a no-brainer. To be honest, most people already have a vision of who they want their website to reach. Even if that is the case and you feel like you already have a good grasp on this topic, I urge you to give the target audience question some extra thought. Here are some points for consideration:
Website example: My website client did an excellent job defining his target audience for me. He hinted at it in his answer to the first question above - his website is targeted at the company's customers and future customers. He then went on to break it down further into three categories, 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.
Now that my client has identified the three specific target audiences for his website, we can begin to define each one's needs and come up with a plan on how to best present his company's solutions to those needs in a relevant, concise, and specific, call-to-action way.
What are the Goals of This Website?
At first glance, it may seem we've already settled this question when we discussed the purpose of the website. Look deeper. The website's purpose is its end game, the what-is-this-website-here-for. The website's goals outline the practical steps you'll take to get there. If the website's purpose is the "what", the goals are the "how". Let's look at our website example to help further explain how this works.
Website example: My client wants a redesigned website that will give his customers and prospective customers (target audiences) the information they need in order to consider his company for future projects (purpose). But how will we do that? By implementing his goals:
Determining the purpose, target audience, and goals of a website is absolutely vital to getting off to a good start on a new website or website redesign. These three questions provide the foundational first brick of website planning, a brick upon which all the other steps will be built on.
Next up: organization. This is where my little orderly brain really starts to churn. In part two of this blog series, "Designing a Website, Part 2: Organization", we'll take all of the information we've gathered from the above three questions, plus much more, and begin to sort it all into tabs and pages. Exciting stuff - well at least it is to me! Until next time, friends!
Good morning friends! Yesterday we talked about accidental learning, and I gave you some tips on how to be more purposeful about looking for and using the things you learn unexpectedly in your day to day lives. Be aware. Be available. Be amenable. You never know when you'll come across something that will become a stepping stone towards something great!
Speaking of great, how great is the graphic above?! I bet you didn't know that fun fact before now. Aren't you glad you know it now? I mean, seriously, life changing! :) For more fun random facts, check out Dr. Cathie Dunal's website. Her fun little cartoons and random facts are making my day!
Before we get started on today's topic, "Leveraging Who You Know to Increase What You Know", I just want to clarify something. I'm not super crazy about the title of this blog post. The word leverage can have kind of a negative connotation. The poor word gets a bad rap! Webster defines leverage as:
"Influence or power used to achieve a desired result"
This definition might seem to imply that I'm saying you should use your influence and power over others to get what you want. No. Just no. I will never, ever encourage anyone to use power or influence over another. I will always, always encourage people to work together in community to accomplish goals. In the case of this blog post, I'm using the word leverage in a slightly different way. Think of it like a formula:
Their influence and power + my respectful request for information = together achieving a desired result
Boom. Glad we got that settled.
Learning by Association
No one person can know everything, but we all have a unique set of knowledge and skills. Working together, we can boost each other up. Everyone wins!
When you're in that place where you're ready to take that next step and launch out into the unknown, look at the people around you, those in your family, circle of friends, community. Consider what they know. Do they have skills you'd like to learn? Have they had experience that would benefit your new venture in some way? Can they offer lessons and information that would help you avoid any pitfalls and setbacks?
You can learn from these people. You need to learn from these people. But how? It's not as if you can hook up a cable and download information directly from their brain into yours. (Oh my goodness, if someone has figured that out, please let me know. I've got some super smart peeps I'd love to borrow from!) I'm going to give you three tips on how you can get started leveraging that information they have, the influence and power they possess. And yes, they all start with the letter "A". Because alliteration.
I also thought about my professional circles. Were there people I had helped
in the past who might be willing to return the favor? What do they know or
have experience with that might be key for me? Again, write the questions
down. Then get ready for step three.
People respond very favorably to an honest seeker. If they say no, just move on down the line. They may reconsider later. One thing is for certain though - if you don't ask, you will never get a yes.
Don't force yourself to reinvent the wheel when there's someone who's been where you are who can help. You can do this!
Have a great Friday!
Hi, I'm Christa, manager of HUB Creative Media and co-founder of Livestock HUB, an Iowa-based business specializing in web design and online marketing. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Softball! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) I love creating beautiful things, whether on the computer, in the garden or in my home. Helping people promote what they love is my favorite!