When you are alone

You will remember the people more than the place.

When you are alone for days or weeks at a time, you eventually become drawn to people. Talking to randos is the norm. I’ll never forget the conversation with the aquarium fisherman, forest ranger, and women at the Thai market. It’s refreshing to compare notes on life with people from vastly different backgrounds.

When you meet fellow travelers, you’ll find they are also filled with a similar sense of adventure and curiosity about the world. Five days of friendship on the road is like five months of friendship at home. It’s the experiences that bond you together, not the place. A rule I followed that worked well: be the first to initiate conversation. I met some incredible people by simply being the first to talk.

Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.

Travel can be affordable.

Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.

Take the cost of your rent or mortgage + food per month and divide it by 30. This is how much it costs per day to live at home. You will find that it’s possible to travel the world for roughly the same amount. Or, if you live in an expensive city like San Francisco, far less.

English is a universal language.

I was surprised how many people spoke English (apparently 1.8 billion people worldwide). Places where English was less prevalent, I made an effort to learn a handful of words and phrases in the local language. Even though it’s passable, I do desire to learn another language fluently. You can only take the conversation so far when all you can say is: “¿Esto contiene gluten?”

It’s possible to communicate a lot without saying a word. For instance, I left my phone at a restaurant in Chile. I pointed at the table where I was sitting, put my hand to my ear like a phone, then shrugged — 2 minutes later, my phone had been retrieved.

Trust your intuition.

I learned to trust that tiny voice in my head a bit more. When you are alone in a foreign country and your phone is dead, you are forced to trust your intuition. Is this neighborhood safe to walk around? Is this person someone I should interact with? Am I heading the right direction? Intuition is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. It’s feels like a sixth sense when you’re able to read between the lines of a situation.

The world is endless. The world’s a tiny neighborhood. My fav people are the ones who can hold two impossible ideas in their heads.


The new brand identity

I stumbled upon the concept of margin while reading a post by Michael Hyatt, which led me to design my ideal week. Richard Swenson, M.D. (who wrote the book: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives) describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Last year I wrote about why booking too far in advance can be dangerous for your business, and this concept of margin so eloquently captures what I had recognized had been my problem: I was so booked up with clients that I wasn’t leaving any margin for error, growth, planning, or reflection. I wasn’t really growing my business in a sustainable way; I was just booking one client after the next. At the time this seemed like a good thing: doesn’t growing my business mean getting more clients?

A long redesign.

What if instead of booking up to 100% capacity (which more often than not ends up being closer to 120%), we only booked up to an 80% capacity?
What if we left more room for growth (personal or professional) and stopped being one with “busy-ness”?
I spent nearly a year turning down every new project (and even getting rid of old ones) so that I could reduce my workload, build in more margin, and create what is now Digital Strategy School. It takes time to build margin into your schedule.Write a book. Create a program. Update your contracts and proposals (which has been on your to-do list for how long..?) Spend more time with your family. Go above and beyond for a client. Learn something new. Actually follow through on the things that have been nagging at you for a long time.

When you design your ideal week, you start to see that the time you think you have is often not in alignment with how much time you actually have.

After designing my ideal week, I had a much clearer idea of how to create a framework for my week that would empower me to feel more focused by theming days of the week, and even parts of the day. SO simple, I know. Some of you have been doing this for ages and you’re already a pro, and some of you who saw my schedule said “woah, that’s so rigid, I need more flexibility!”watch Smurfs: The Lost Village movie now

Structure enables flexibility.

If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on various tasks, use a tool like Rescue Time (their free version is excellent!) which runs in the background and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you weekly reports so you know exactly how much time you wasted on Facebook, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign different websites or programs/applications on a scale of very distracting to very productive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most productive, which times of the day you’re most productive, and the sites on which you’re spending the most distracting time. Turns out I’m consistently “in the zone” around 3pm in the afternoon; so instead of trying to tackle highly creative work first thing in the morning (when my brain is barely functioning), I handle it in the afternoon, when I know I’m at my peak!

Creating more margin has been game-changing for my business.
What would be possible for yours?


How will Direct Mail get to ME?

Allegra Michael Grant

Direct Mail! You mean Junk Mail, don’t you? I mean, who wants that? The answer, it seems, is quite a few of us not only want Direct Mail, but we respond to it quite well.

First, let’s establish the definition of Direct Mail, what it is and what it is not. Direct Mail is a subsection of Direct Marketing. It is a mailed item addressed to a specific individual usually based upon a prior business relationship or upon research. It offers specific benefits for that individual. It’s not unaddressed circulars and flyers that arrive in the mail or with a newspaper. That’s the stuff we call Junk Mail (believe it or not, the response rates for these are pretty good too). So once again, it is marketing directed at ME. You could consider it to be like an email or SMS text message, but without the digital component, or, as more and more are saying, the annoyance factor.

Now, like a lot of digital messages, you may not have asked for it. You may not want it. You may not even look at it. BUT…it’s not in your face. It’s not in your space. It’s not using resources that you are paying for. It has not demanded your time and used your money to get to you. Like digital media, it does not have your permission to be there, but you know what? That’s okay. You can look at it when you want to. ME is in control and ME likes control. It is personal and ME likes personal.

One more time, Direct Mail is the only media that can be used to contact ME without permission. Good news! Right? Well, yes, but it’s only the first step to get to ME. You caught my eye, but there has to be more than that in the relationship. Like remembering my name would be good for starters. What about what ME wants? Have you thought of that?

Rule #1 in Direct Mail is to address ME by name. If you don’t know ME, why should ME communicate with you? If you are mailing to existing or former clients/customers, then presumably you have their names (just a guess here). By the way, according to a 2012 report from The Ballantine Corporation, after receiving direct mail, 70% of consumers have renewed relationships with business they had previously ceased using (you really called!). Now, if you are prospecting, then rent a list based upon the known attributes of your clients/customers. That same Ballantine report states that 40% of consumers say that they have tried a new business after receiving Direct Mail (you really know ME). According to the Direct Marketing Association, 66% of people will open an envelope with their name on it (ME likes ME). In addition, according to Target Marketing, 69% of marketers will use Direct Mail for new account acquisitions. The right names on the right list will provide 50% of the campaign’s success rate and remove the stigma of old school push, mass-marketing.

Rule #2 is to send a message that ME is interested in. 30% of your success will be based upon your offer. It’s all about ME. You know your product and you know your audience. Targeting is the very established process of creating an offer of specific interest to a specific group. It is relevant marketing. With Direct Mail you can deploy a PURL campaign that is focused on the wants and needs of ME. It will begin an interactive conversation with ME using content that ME controls and that you provide. Using Direct Mail as a bridge to Email marketing and thus, cross channel marketing is very effective. Remember that 143% increase in response we reviewed on May 14, 2012?

Rule #3 is to get ME’s attention right away. You have their name (50%). You have their offer (30%). Now you need their attention. Creativity and design will provide the remaining 20% of your success. Just to make it clear, creativity is not only art. It is a point of differentiation. Examples would be: images that support the message, the size of envelope, the colour of envelope, the message on the envelope, the headline. ME is busy and has lots of things to do. Drab and bland just doesn’t cut it when you want to get to ME.

Rule #4 is to create a sense of urgency. Present ME with an offer that expires in a relatively short time line of say, one to two weeks, maybe a month dependent upon the business. The point here is that there must be a final date for the offer and that date cannot be too far away. If this is something that ME wants, then ME must act right away.

Rule #5 is to have a call to action. Define what must be done, when and how. If you know ME’s name, have something that ME is interested in, have caught ME’s attention, have something that is about to slip away, then you must let ME know what to do. Now that you have taken it this far, it’s the only decent thing to do.

Next week: Direct Mail…The Dance Continues