Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's Your Message?

I was in a meeting not all that long ago when the speaker asked anyone from the audience to tell her their slogan and what their company stood for. A gentleman in front of me stood and said, “We offer the best product and the best service at the best price.”

I sat there mentally shaking my head. Even the speaker whizzed right over this one. What he said meant nothing. Everybody says that. I mean, who DOESN’T think their company offers the best product and the best service at the best price?

I see too many generic Claims to Fame in company names, slogans and taglines. I learned a long time ago that if you have to explain what your company does, then you have the wrong name or tagline.

Have you ever sat down and gone through your stack of business cards that you’ve collected? If you’re a good networker, you collect at least 25 to 100 cards a week. And like many of us, you throw them on your desk until you “have time” to put them away.

I’m guilty. I’m a procrastinator.

But when I do get around to sorting through them, it’s a weeding process. Bad business cards get thrown away. And what I mean by bad business cards is that I can’t tell what the company does by reading the business card. Catchy name, artsy logo, pretty colors. But what do you DO? Since I can’t tell what the company does, I see no value in keeping the card. What a waste of money and advertising.

I heard the story of a person looking for day care for her child. A friend asked her if she had checked out a place called “Teddy Bear Care”. The woman said, “I thought that was a sewing shop to repair torn teddy bears!” Nothing in the name of the business keyed this woman in to the fact that it was a day care center for children.

As you set up your company name and your marketing strategy, think like a consumer and not like an insider. When you introduce yourself and company, listen to the response from the other person. If the first thing out of their mouth is “And what is it that you do?”, then you don’t have a strong message …. or the right one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sometimes it *IS* Personal --- My George Bailey Moment

There’s an often quoted phrase in the business world of “It’s not personal …. It’s business.” I am one who uses it frequently simply because it just applies.

But sometimes we are reminded that there’s a personal side to what we do. And it’s very humbling.

Allow me to share.

I am a regular contributor to the discussion forum on, a cake decorator’s website, where I’m known as “Indydebi” (that becomes necessary to know later in this article). And when I say “regular”, I’m not kidding. I hold the record for having the most posts. Cake Central even created a new category just for me: “Forum Matriarch”.

My son was reading some of my posts and of course my blog and said to me, “Mom, what are you doing? People get PAID to give out advice like this!” I didn’t have an answer for him.

For the record, I DO get paid for my monthly column in Cake Central magazine and for other articles that I’ve written for various other publications. So I’m not totally uncompensated. And I am working on expanding my public speaking work, so that avenue is moving along.

The truth is I just like sharing my ideas, tips and experiences with others in the cake and catering world.

But once in awhile I get a “George Bailey Moment.” That’s what I call those points of realization that the gifts God gave us are not just lying dormant and that we HAVE made a difference in someone’s life.

About a year ago, I shared my business plan with a woman who wanted to open her own cake business, so she could see what a finished plan looked like and model her plan likewise. I paid a lot of money for professionals to help me construct this plan, but I’ve never hesitated to help others by sharing my plan as they work on their own business plan. The other day, I received an email from her and with her permission, I am sharing some of what she said.

I just felt moved to write you. I don't know if it's hormonal or just stress but I feel like I know you.

I am 47 and last year, you sent me your business plan as I was working on my own business plan. I am so grateful and it helped me out tremendously. I don't know how many times I've been talking to my husband as we work on some plan and I say "indydebi says..." or now, it's just "debi said...". I don't even have to put the Indy on because he knows who I'm talking about.

Your confidence is amazing. I am confident when I am in a situation where I am in control but it is so tough for me to cold call or walk into a place to sell myself. I am more the mother hen - don't mess with my chicks or I'll be all over you but if it is for me, I'm a wuss. You have been such an inspiration in your approach to selling and running your business. Through that, I have been strong in my prices and haven't cut my prices to meet someone's budget. In fact, after almost a year in business, I am raising my prices on Sept. 1.

My cake business is going great! Our local TV station is currently running a 'Best of Little Rock' competition and after only 1 wedding season, we were nominated for best wedding cake. And, we are getting wedding cakes now from being referred by other brides or bridesmaids so things are going well.

On April 1, I went part-time at my day job and unfortunately, I am still there but I will stay for probably another 6 months. It is extremely stressful and poorly managed but it is guaranteed income.

After a really frustrating morning, I took a break and ended up going to your writing blog. I was so touched by your stories. The story about Vicky was incredible. She was indeed a very special girl.

Then, I read "I thought I'd missed it". If I could write, I could write a similar story. I've had a wonderfully blessed life but at times, it's easy to forget. I always wanted children but wasn't blessed with any. But, I have lots of them. I teach 4/5 years each Sunday morning and they are wonderful kids and I love them.

I don't know why I wrote this, this isn't something I normally do. Just having a really rough morning and your writing was such a breath of fresh air. Sorry for the rambling. I just wanted to say thank you but being such an inspiration.

Tracy McCauslin
aka Tracycakes
Seasons of Love Cakes

This made me cry. I mean make-up ruining, grab the tissue cry. It is very humbling to be reminded that sometimes a little thing, a small piece of sharing, makes a difference to others, and that we have left our mark as we travel this road of life.

Thanks, Tracy, for your very kind words and a reminder that sometimes it is NOT just business; that sometimes it is just being helpful and paying it forward.

"Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence." ---- inscribed on a book for George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Venue vs. Wedding Coordinator

I'm a big advocate of having a wedding planner. In this day and age, with the cost of weddings getting more elaborate and expensive, I believe a bride needs someone on her side who is looking out for every detail on behalf of the bride.

Many brides choose to skip the cost of the planner because "the venue has someone who does that." I'd like to caution brides to take care in this decision. The venue coordinator works for the venue, not for the bride. The venue coordinator will probably not be at the church before, during and after the ceremony, nor will they be there between church and venue during the photography shoots.

I could go on and on but I'm just going to refer you to this wonderful article from the Get Married blog. They list it out perfectly.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lying About the Wedding Date. Yes, They Are Doing It

I discovered an interesting new piece of advice being circulated on some wedding forum websites. Brides are lying to their vendors about the wedding date to help insure "prompt" service.

This is being done mostly to bridal shops so that dresses will be received in plenty of time prior to the wedding, with no last minute surprises. Kind of like building in a cushion of time for the shipment and alterations.

But conversations on these forums reveal it is not just bridal shops being told a false date. Some brides confessed to telling the florist an earlier date "to make sure I got the flowers in plenty of time". I wondered at the time of reading her comments if this bride realized that fresh flowers won't last the four weeks she cushioned in with the florist?

I did go in and tried to do the honorable thing and reminded these brides that many vendors will only book one wedding or book a limited number of weddings on a particular date. A bride that lies to the florist and says her wedding is the third of the month only to go back later and say "Oh, sorry! It's really the 24th of the month!" may find the florist is fully booked on the 24th and can no longer do her wedding, leaving this bride with no florist at the last minute.

I also reminded these brides to check their vendor contracts. Many contracts have monetary penalties for changing a date, if the date can be adjusted at all. Some contracts consider a date change the same as a cancellation-rebook, with monetary fees attached.

I can understand wanting to be sure the dresses arrive in time. I really can. But the solution is not for a bride to lie to the dress shop (or the florist, or the invitation designer). The solution is for a bride to make sure she is dealing with a reputable company that has a great track record with their clients.