Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Be better in 2010.

I don't know about you, but I am stunned by how quickly the last year has gone by. Every year, I make a New Year's resolution and I usually do a decent job trying to adhere to it, but I cannot even begin to guess what my 2009 resolution was. (Let's chalk that up to the fact that on January 1, 2009, I was a sleep-deprived mom of a 3-week old.)

In any case, I am not going to forget my 2010 resolution, because I am memorializing it here. I am pledging to be better. Yup, you read that correctly: better. Maybe that's a little aggressive, but what's a New Year's resolution for, if not to set the bar high?

This year marks a new decade, and so I am taking long-term look at my New Year's resolution: I am working towards being a better mom, wife, employee, friend, sister, daughter, and person. And to accomplish all of that, I am going to take better care of myself, and live a little slower. Too often, I find myself rushing out the door (any door) in a flurry. Too often, I blow off my workouts in favor of working through lunch at my desk. And too often, I feel like I am squandering the little free time I have by doing too much, and not simply relaxing and enjoying the moment. Multitasking has its place, but there is something to be said for putting down the smartphone and focusing on one task at a time. So I'm going to try it: it's time to cut back, to relax a little, and to really make time for the things that matter. It might take some practice, but I firmly believe that there's much to gain.

What are you doing to be better in 2010?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

364 Days of Mommyhood.

My daughter is turning one tomorrow, which is a huge milestone. (For her, for obvious reasons, and for me, since it means I have officially survived 364 days of being a mom.) This weekend I spent some time reflecting on the last year, and realized a couple of things.

1. Babies are surprisingly forgiving. Though I always thought I wanted kids, it was one of those "someday" things for me: some distant day in the future, around the same time I would win the lottery, write a novel, or invent something as useful as post-it notes. Before I became a mom, I had never even changed a diaper. I lived in fear that I'd be completely clueless and inept when C was born. And I was clueless and inept, but I somehow muddled through. (This is due in great part to my extremely patient husband, who thankfully had changed a diaper or two in his day and was more than willing to do 3 AM feedings.) Soon enough, we had landed ourselves a decent routine. She didn't care whether I sang to her off key, or whether I was wearing matching socks, or whether the dust bunnies were gathering in the corners of our house. All she cared about was whether she was safe, warm, clean, fed, and loved, and I could deliver on all of those fronts. And when I went back to work, her daycare teachers made sure that she was safe, warm, and all of those other things, which made it a lot easier for me to be both a good mom and a good employee.

2. Babies are tiny, but require a whole lot of stuff. I am shocked by how much stuff we have acquired and/or used over the last year. Diapers. Wipes. Formula. Swaddles and sleepsacks. Two different car seats. Three different strollers. A swing, activity sets, dolls, blocks, things that make a lot of noise. A bouncy chair. Sheep that sound like the ocean. Four dozen tiny socks. The list goes on and on and on. We already have two gigantic plastic bins full of baby clothing that no longer fits. If we decide to have another baby someday, we'll be more than set. If not, my two younger sisters will someday be raiding my basement with the same fervor that brides tear through the aisles at Filene's Basement.

3. Multitasking takes on a whole new meaning when you become a parent. Marketers by nature are pretty good multi-taskers: on an average day in the office, I have at least three (and usually more) projects going at once. But now that I have a daughter, pretty much every waking moment is spent doing more than one thing. I read stories when I'm eating breakfast, let C root through my makeup bag when I'm putting on my mascara, and when we finally get out the door, I'm carrying close to half my body weight in baby and assorted bags. When we all get home at night, we go through a similar routine (in reverse). Come 6 AM the next morning, the whole routine starts all over again. Which brings me to my next point:

4. You don't realize how much free time you have...until it's gone. Before I had C, I was pretty darn busy. I worked full-time, attended grad school, volunteered, and served on the board of a professional organization. I still managed to get to the gym on a regular basis, go on an occasional date night with my husband, and had some semblance of free time. Now, 99% of my free time is devoted to C, and if I get in three workouts a week, I consider myself the new Denise Austin. While part of me wouldn't have it any other way, a small, selfish part is really wistful for that time when I could pursue a variety of outside interests. My compromise is: If I'm not traveling overnight for business, I make a point to have one night a week out. That might be to attend a networking/industry event, a board meeting (I still am on the board of that professional organization, but my role has changed to more of an advisory one, which is something that I am better able to manage these days), or a girls' night out. "My" one night a week is a sanity saver, for more reasons than one.

5. I love being a mom more than I thought possible. It's pretty hard to explain, but I'll sum it up with this: even if I have had the worst day ever, when I pick up C from daycare and she throws her tiny, sticky arms around me, nothing else really matters.

Happy birthday, my girl.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NMHC Tech Roundup

Last week, a colleague and I went to Phoenix for the National Multi-Housing Council's Apartment Technology Conference & Exposition, aka NMHC Tech. This trip was an exciting milestone for two reasons: 1) Though I've been in real estate marketing for more than 10 years, I had never been to this particular conference; and 2) this was my first overnight business trip since C was born. (I am happy to report that everyone survived just fine.) 

The conference covered everything from revenue management (one of my favorite panels: I took pages of notes!) to social media, to resident/prospect portals and automated payments. The panelists were fantastic, and there were several "roundtables" where conference attendees could really hash through topics. I attended a great roundtable session our last morning, where more than 50 apartment management professionals discussed alternative methods for communicating with residents. I also appreciated the fact that the exhibition floor was fairly small, giving us the ability to meet with vendors, check out product demos, and not feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of booths.

Though overall, I thought the conference was outstanding, I would have really liked a little more unstructured time. Perhaps it was just the fact that I haven't been to a conference in a while, but we jumped right into a session an hour or so after we got off the plane, and the pace never really slowed. We went from coffee to session after session, to a rushed (standing) lunch, to more sessions, to cocktails and then to off-site dinners. That pace made it tough to really absorb much information until after returning home, and made me eternally grateful for the hotel's on-site Starbucks. It also made it a little difficult to have one-on-one meetings with vendors or networking contacts, without feeling like I was missing out on valuable content happening elsewhere in the hotel.

Interestingly enough, the organizers announced that the 2010 Tech Conference would be relaunched as an Operations conference. I personally am very curious to see what that means in terms of both who attends, and what type of a boost in overall attendees is expected. One of the things that I'd heard many repeat attendees say was that they loved attending NMHC Tech because it was a smaller, more intimate conference, with highly relevant content. Perhaps the conference organizers will offer specialized tracks?

In any case, I really enjoyed the conference, and came home with some great information, a stack of business cards, and with a new appreciation for anyone whose job description includes the role of "road warrior." Can't wait for 2010!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...(sorry, Julie Andrews)

For better or worse, I find that new moms are full of of suggestions when it comes to products and services - and I, of course, have more than a few favorites of my own. Just this past week, I helped a mom decide which bathub to buy for her 5-month-old daughter when I was browsing the aisles at Target. (In case you're curious: the whale tub wins, hands down.)

To be clear, no company or product asked me for an endorsement, and I didn't receive any free samples or the like. I just happen to really like these products/companies. In no particular are some of my favorites.

1. The Belle Baby Carrier is by far the simplest one I have seen. We have another brand, too, which my husband likes and I cannot stand, since it puts a lot of stress on your upper back - but the Belle is comfy, cake to use, and it fit both me (small) and my husband (strapping, 6'2" triathlete). Plus, it rolls up into a tiny ball, so you can stuff it in your diaper bag. Now that C is more than ten months old, I don't find a front carrier comfortable, period...but the Belle was a lifesaver while I was home on maternity leave, and something that we used for months afterward.

2. I love, love, LOVE They carry a wide array of supplies, including organic products, and deliver your entire order for free in two days if you order more than $49 of stuff (which I always do). I bulk order formula, wipes, and diapers. Huge time saver.

3. A friend of mine from high school told me about the Lilypod/Padalily carseat handle pad, a simple but genius product. It velcros over the handle of an infant car seat, and makes it much more comfortable to lug around. C switched to her "big girl" car seat at 8 months, but I cannot say enough about the Lilypod (which, coincidentally, was invented by a mom).

4. If you live in the Greater Boston area, you are so fortunate to have Isis Maternity in your backyard! There are four centers, in Needham, Arlington, Brookline, and downtown Boston, and they sell all kinds of mom/baby gear, but Isis is really on my list because of their outstanding customer service, and the great classes they offer. I took a bunch of classes before C was born (husbands/partners are welcome!), and then signed up for a "new mommy group" that C and I started going to when she was just 4 weeks old. If you have ever had a baby in the dead of winter, you will understand when I say that having a regular excuse to get out of the house and bond with other brand new moms was a complete sanity saver. My Isis Mommy friends are a wonderful group of women, and we still get together on a regular basis (both with and without our kids). As to customer service: we actually purchased two car seats from Isis, after an incredibly helpful associate helped me figure out what would fit in my car (and my husband's car) when rear-facing. She actually hauled several different seats out to the parking lot and helped me install them to see whether or not they would work. I will be an Isis ambassador for life.

5. On the topic of car seats, I have to give a big thumbs-up to the Sunshine Kids Radian 80. It has a five-point harness, is steel reinforced, is super easy to install, and it folds (it even comes with a carrying strap). My husband actually brought the Radian on the ferry to the Vineyard this summer, popped it into the car once on the other side, and was on his merry way. Plus, it lasts eight years, or until your child weighs 80 pounds...but it's surprisingly compact. Rumor has it that you can fit THREE Radian 80s across the back seat of a car. (Not planning on testing that theory, but a great option for those who need it.)

6 and 7. Not sure whether it was the Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe or the Halo Sleep Sack that helped C sleep through the night at an early age, but I'm certainly not going to start questioning a good thing. We started using a SwaddleMe after C started pulling a Houdini and wriggling out of the "blanket burrito" that the neonatal nurses taught us. Once she started to roll over, we graduated to the Halo. She's actually in the Early Walker version now, which makes her look kind of like a Teletubby, but I feel more comfortable having her in a sleep sack than rolling around with loose blankets.

8. Land Of Nod - This store is a spinoff of Crate and Barrel. You can say what you want about people needing to buy fancy bedding for infants that don't know any better, etc., but we outfitted C's room almost entirely in Land Of Nod gear, and yes, it's adorable, but it is also really well made: after almost a year, we have yet to see any wear or tear. Plus, they have lots of choices for girls that don't look like a "pink explosion" (my husband's pet peeve). They also carry furniture, toys, books, and baby gear, as well as kids' stuff.

9. Maclaren Triumph Stroller - After C outgrew her infant travel system, we realized that we needed a lightweight stroller. The Triumph is ridiculously easy to fold/unfold, and weighs only 11 pounds. The buckle is a little tricky to master at first, but since the stroller carries up to 55 pounds, I consider that a good defense against wily toddlers.

10. I never really thought about how quickly kids grew until I went to pick out an outfit for C this summer and realized I had essentially chosen a crop top and hot pants. For cute, affordable baby clothes, I shop Old Navy and Baby Gap on a regular basis, and look for sales at Hanna Andersson and Gymboree.

I could go on and on - but I think ten is plenty for one post! What are some of your favorites?

Monday, October 12, 2009

A "sneak preview" of Baby Steps

In between starting my new job and chasing after C (who just learned how to climb stairs last weekend...yikes!), I have been working on Baby Steps, the e-book. I am so incredibly excited about the women who have contacted me with their stories: marketers, entrepreneurs, lawyers - these are amazing women who have all found a way to balance mommyhood and successful careers. In honor of their achievements, here is a sneak preview of some of their anecdotes and tips.

Jennifer, a marketer and a mom of three, reflects on "juggling" it all.
For a long time I held onto a lot of guilt that I could not give the same level of attention to my job, my house, my husband, my appearance/self and other things that I did before kids. One of the things that got me past that was hearing a quote somebody said about my generation of women being the first ones to have our father’s job along with our mother’s responsibilities. I found relief in knowing that what I was expecting myself to take on was almost twice the amount my mom and her friends had done and I really did not have to do it all. I basically said to myself, “Look, every day I can’t be a model mother, employee, wife, housekeeper, friend, frugal shopper, accountant, educator, etc. So pick one today.” Each day, especially when my kids were in the infant stage, I’d pick one area and be absolutely focused on that area and allow myself permission to give less energy to the others.

Sara, CEO of and mom of two, suggests adjusting your expectations.
Keep it in perspective...and GO EASY ON YOURSELF! It’s really easy to feel like you’re so behind in “things” and will never get caught up (there are so many more balls in the air to throw/juggle/catch!), so try to adjust your expectations of what is truly important to get done versus OK to leave until later. Also, for me, I realized that it was a good exercise to look back in hindsight… it seemed that every 3 months or so I remember realizing how much better I was doing than 3 months before, which was better than 3 months before that, etc.

Josephine, an entrepreneur and mom of three, offers some sound advice for heading back to work.
On your first day back to the office, GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Be upbeat and positive. Remember you are going back to work for a reason. Gently remind yourself why you are going back to work. In my case, I gently say two words to myself, College Education. That usually gets me back on track. I know I'm working to create a better life for my kids and somehow I feel better.

Gennifer, a consultant who spent 14 years at Nickelodeon/MTV Networks, and a mom of two, stressed the importance of having a strong network.
I founded a support group called "The Mama Birds" that I brought to human resources' attention so that we could get the company to support our needs for balance and so the company could retain its excellent employees. My group grew from 7 women on my floor to over 65 in MTV's regional offices and included some dads. After I left the company in 2007, it became an official group at MTV. The name for Mama Birds came from one day when I was hysterical on the phone with my mother after having a rough drop off with my clingy 18 month old and racing for a train into the city to get to the job that I felt no longer supported who I was spiritually. I said it wasn't natural for me to leave my child and go off to work and that cave women had their kids with them while they picked berries etc. Her response was, “Mama birds leave their babies safely in the nest while they go out to get their babies a worm, and that's all you're doing...getting your baby a worm.”

This is just a taste of some of the stories that will be incorporated into Baby Steps. I am working diligently to tie everything together and hope to have the e-book completed by the end of the year. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bad blogging can pay off.

I have to confess that even though I know it goes against all the blogging rules, posting just hasn't been top of mind for me the past couple of months. But I have a really good reason: I have just landed a new job! Any spare time I've had was spent prepping for interviews (or chasing my daughter around the house—but that's a post for another day.) Now that I am getting ready to transition to my new role, I am looking forward to getting back to a more consistent blogging schedule. So please pardon my absence, and know that I don't intend to vanish for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Though it's always hard to make a change, I can honestly say that I am ready. It's been a great four and a half years with my current company, and though I am sad to leave, I am also really excited about my new role. As I think back over the course of the past few weeks, I wanted to share a few things I've learned about interviewing. If, like me, it's been a while since you had to think about any of this stuff, some of it may surprise you.

1. Nothing beats networking. Who you know—especially in today's economy—can help make the difference between getting an interview, and your resume ending up in the blue bin. I have two former coworkers (one a colleague, one a manager) to thank for their help in getting my foot in the door. That being said, tools like LinkedIn have played a major role in making networking easier for all of us. Thanks to LinkedIn, I have been able to introduce a number of friends and colleagues to connections, or connections once removed. While I don't have an enormous network, my recent interviewing experience has once again proven that it's a really small world (see below), and I love being able to help when I can.

2. It's a really, REALLY small world. My former manager knows my new manager. And the Director of HR at my current company knows the Director of HR at my new company...and so on. Granted, I have been in marketing and real estate, in Boston, for 10+ years, which are pretty tightly knit circles, but it just goes to show that relationships really matter, and also serves as a great reminder to never burn a bridge. Your coworker could hold the key to your next great career move, or you to hers.

3. Who you know matters, but so does WHAT you know. Even though it's a little tougher to do now that I am juggling motherhood and a career, I still make a concerted effort to get out there. I take classes, sign up for webinars, attend networking events with keynote speakers or panels, grab lunch or coffee with my peers, and try to stay up to date on the latest trends. My ongoing quest to stay current means that I've also tried to learn as much as I can about social media, and the ways that Web 2.0 can be used for business—in real estate marketing, that translates to building awareness, renting apartments and positively impacting resident retention. My new company is very interested in using social media in these ways, and because I have made it a priority to know and understand these tools and technologies, I think it gave me a real edge over some of the other candidates.

4. Go with your gut. If you are really enjoying the conversation with your interviewer, chances are it's going well. And if it isn't, chances are that it's not. I also think that going with your gut extends to the whole vibe of a place. I interviewed with a couple of companies that I was initially really excited about—but even though the conversations all went well, something just didn't feel right. Call it intuition, or whatever else comes to mind, but I firmly believe that when you find the the right opportunity, in the right company, with the right people, everything else falls into place. I felt that way almost five years ago when I joined my current company—and I felt it when I interviewed at my new company, too.

I learned a lot of other things this time around, too—like how to answer some tricky interview questions, and to always have an extra pair of heels in the car—but those are my top takeaways. What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts on interviewing/networking these days. And if you have any tips for making time to blog with a nutty schedule, I'm all ears.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What we can learn from Brody PR's mistake.

This week has been an interesting one in the PR and marketing world. There has been a ton of discussion about Brody PR's "fail" yesterday, where Beth Brody, President of Brody PR, sent out a pitch via email to a large group of professionals in PR, social media, marketing, and advertising, as well as some very well-known bloggers and journalists...and used the cc: field, instead of the bcc: field.

I wasn't on the receiving end of said email, but have been following this story out of sheer interest. The email triggered a number of "reply-alls" from angered recipients, and a flurry of activity on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Instead of responding immediately, Ms. Brody inadvertently poured some fuel on the fire and delayed sending a response until several hours after the incident. Her response was the same on each blog I checked (including a post by Chris Abraham and Ken Wheaton's post on AdAge). I found it to be very brief, and somewhat impersonal; her text is pasted below.

An apology from Brody PR - I created a list of social media experts who might be interested in reviewing a new guide to social media for small biz. I inadvertently put the list name in the cc: box, rather than the bcc: box. A few folks must have hit the "reply all" button, rather than clicking on the “unsubscribe link” at the bottom, which started a stream of spam. Please accept my personal apology, albeit a little late in the day, since I was trying to remove everyone who wanted to be unsubscribed from the list immediately.

What can marketers and PR professionals learn from this situation? A few thoughts:

1. Proofread your entire email. And then do it again. Include the subject line and the to/cc/bcc fields as part of your proofing. Haste makes waste, and too many people have smacked themselves in the forehead for a hastily composed message.

2. If the house is on fire, get out the hose. In other words, if you've angered people, and they're letting you know that they're angry, respond immediately. Ms. Brody said that her delay in response was due to the fact that she was handling the unsubscribe requests generated by her email. In my opinion, that was a poor judgement call. If she knew no other emails were going to be sent out right away, she should have dealt with the kerfuffle first. And on a related note, why was she managing the unsubscribe requests herself? Seems like that could have been something that was easily delegated.

3. Consider alternative methods of communication. Why not post the pitch on a blog, announce it via Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, or pick up the phone? As proven here, email is not always the best tool to share information.

What do you think? What else could Brody PR have done better?

Monday, August 17, 2009

On your mark...get set...go! Or: keeping up with an 8 month old.

I have been sick on and off for weeks, thanks in part to C's ever-increasing mobility, and the past month has been one big blur of doctor's appointments, fractured sleep, and cold medicine. In the meantime, she's gone from scootching on her tummy to crawling and now cruising all over the place. I am grossly unprepared for childproofing our house, but it really needs to happen...and now. What worked for us just two weeks ago (leave C in the middle of the living room, run to get a bowl of cereal, and come back) is no longer an option. Thanks to that experiment, a box of Kleenex met its early death last week.

I polled a few friends who have already been to the races (so to speak), and the majority suggested that we start with babyproofing just one room. So far, we've invested in a baby gate, though we have yet to install it, and we've bought a bunch of plug covers. Those little things have made me feel a bit more secure, but there are so many other things that I feel like we should be doing. If you've ever searched online for "babyproofing products," a zillion results come up...everything from toilet locks to cabinet magnets to faucet covers.

Another friend said that I should let C show us what needs to be changed. While I agree with that (no sense in buying a bunch of stuff that you don't need), it's hard to wait and see. Before C was mobile, I never thought twice about a rogue dust bunny, or whether an electrical cord was sticking out. Suddenly, I am crawling around on my own hands and knees to try and get a better perspective on what would be attractive to her. And the answer is: everything. It makes me feel like the entire house needs to be reorganized, which is a little overwhelming.

Any tips? What worked for your family?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ten of my fave Tweeters.

At a recent CMO Club dinner, I was talking up Twitter, and one of my new contacts asked for a list of some people to follow. So, without further ado, and in the interest of keeping my promise, here's a (very) short list of some of my favorite people, pubs, and brands who Tweet.

In no particular order:
  1. @adage Constant feed of media news from the online publication.
  2. @MediaPost Another great marketing/social media news source.
  3. @mashable Pete Cashmore runs Mashable, a fantastic resource for all things social media.
  4. @chrisbrogan Social media giant. Reading his tweets is like reading someone's stream of consciousness (and I mean that in a good way: he always has interesting things to say).
  5. @CocaCola and
  6. @Ford Coke and Ford really listen to their fans, and are models for how big companies can and should use Twitter.
  7. @HubSpot Fascinating inbound marketing company, hosts of timely webinars, and geniuses behind the fantastic Inbound Marketing University. While you're at it, follow
  8. HubSpot founder @dharmesh, and
  9. Singing inbound marketer @repcor.
  10. @MktgExperiments The science behind sales and marketing.

And for your reading pleasure, here's a bonus short list of some CMOs on Twitter:

@BestBuyCMO (Best Buy)

@TedRubin (e.l.f. cosmetics)

@KentHuffman (BearCom Wireless)

@ExpressLisaG (Express)

@SonnyG (WeddingWire)

@JeffreyHayzlett (Kodak)

I have a lot of additional favorites, and will post another list soon. Whose tweets do you love to read?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Baby Steps, the e-book.

I recently had a revelation—the kind that literally stops you in your tracks and makes a cartoon lightbulb appear above your head—which has me to a new, very exciting project. I am thrilled to announce that I am writing an e-book, to be titled "Baby Steps: A New Mom's Guide to Navigating Mommyhood and the Workplace."

"Baby Steps" started to take shape months ago, after I put together a list of my "top 25 new mom tips" for a friend's baby shower, when my daughter was only six weeks old and I was still on maternity leave. A self-described Type A control freak, my life was turned upside down by the birth of my daughter in December 2008. I read every book under the sun in preparation for her arrival, but all the reading in the world did not prepare me for the reality. Motherhood and maternity leave was more demanding and more wonderful than I had ever imagined. And control? I had none: it was all in the hands of a tiny 8 lb. infant.

As the primary breadwinner in our family, staying home was never an option for me, and I returned to the office full-time at the end of February 2009, when my daughter was three months old. Now that she is almost 7 months old (where has the time gone?), I feel like we generally have a pretty good routine. However, my first few weeks back in the office were really difficult, and I realized that I had never had a good handle on what to expect—both while I was on leave, and especially when I came back to the office. And I wished I had. Enter "Baby Steps."

If you are a working mom (whether you had a baby six months ago, or sixteen years ago!), I would love your comments and feedback for this project. Please email me at sarasgraham {at} gmail {dot} com with the following information:

1. Your name (if you would prefer, you can remain anonymous in the e-book)
2. City and state
3. How many kids you have, and their ages
4. Age of kid(s) when you went back to work
5. Occupation
6. Your tips for new moms:
a. while still on leave
b. transitioning back to the office
c. juggling it all

7. Anything else you would like to mention.

I will be working on this project over the summer and hope to publish the e-book in Fall 2009. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inbound Marketing University - a must for marketers!

I just attended a fantastic series of FREE webinars, hosted by Hubspot and dubbed Inbound Marketing University. Consisting of 10 virtual classes over the course of 5 days, Hubspot recruited some of the industry's smartest experts to share their knowledge, with classes including the following:
  1. How to Blog Effectively for Business, with Ann Handley & Mack Collier, MarketingProfs
  2. SEO Crash Course to Get Found, with Lee Odden, Top Rank Marketing
  3. Social Media and Building Community, with Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs
  4. Successful Business Uses for Facebook and LinkedIn, with Elyse Tager, elymedia
  5. Viral Marketing and World Wide Raves, with David Meerman Scott, author of New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Raves
  6. Advanced SEO Tactics: On Beyond Keyword Research, with Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz
  7. Calls to Action and Landing Page Best Practices with Jeanne Hopkins, MECLABS, Marketing Experiments
  8. Inbound Lead Nurturing, with Brian Carroll, MECLABS, InTouch
  9. Successful Email Marketing with Eric Groves, Constant Contact
  10. Analyzing Inbound Marketing with Marshall Sponder,, Web Analytics Association for Social Media

The series concluded with a wrap-up session, led by Mike Volpe, a Hubspot VP, and also included a certification exam. I dutifully attended all of the classes, tweeted with my classmates, attended the review session...and found the test (surprisingly) challenging. Makes the certification very desirable!

With a very few exceptions, the speakers were all outstanding. I especially enjoyed David Meerman Scott's presentation—if you ever have the chance to hear him in person, run, don't walk, to buy tickets. I had never considered writing an e-book before hearing David's class, but he was so inspiring that I recently added that to my "must do" list. Chris Brogan's discussion on Social Media and Building Community was very enlightening; they don't call him a social media rockstar for nothing. And the SEO classes made me wish that I had the budget to overhaul my corporate website again—but that's a topic for another day.

The Hubspot team did an amazing job coordinating this massive project, and also went above and beyond the call of duty to help us all keep in touch with our fellow classmates, developing its own online forums, and creating groups on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Bravo!

If you're looking to get up to speed on all things inbound marketing, you MUST attend IMU. For those who didn't attend the series, Hubspot is offering more classes later this summer, and the full IMU program will make an encore appearance in August. Don't miss out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A marketer's primer to networking - Part Two.

We all seem to be doing a lot of networking these days. Whether you're looking for a new opportunity yourself, or helping a friend, former coworker, relative, etc. find their next calling, you simply can't help but get involved.

I attended a wonderful Boston Women Communicator's breakfast meeting this morning, where the topic du jour was—of course!—networking. Marilyn Edelson, President of Ontrack Coaching, had some outstanding tips that I thought were well worth sharing.

So, without further ado, here are the principles of relationship networking, according to Marilyn:
1. Set your intentions
2. Be present
3. Suspend judgment
4. Follow up
5. Take care of others in your network

Happily, these principles aren't much different than what I posted myself a few weeks back in Part One of this primer (good to know that an expert and I are on the same page!). But Marilyn also offered these tips:

1. Believe in abundance
2. Be generous
3. Know your strengths
4. Be authentic
5. Include supporters, shakers, and mentors in your network

These are quite succinct points, and very well stated, but I'd like to expand upon them.

To Marilyn's first two points: I truly believe you can't do enough networking; Marilyn actually shared with us that she keeps a database of some of her key contacts' interests, so that she can keep in touch appropriately. Brilliant idea! And in this economy, we can all afford to be generous: helping someone make a great connection may only take a few moments, but the good karma that will come your way (and perhaps a return favor at some point down the road!) will last for a very, very long time.

Knowing your strengths ensures that you aren't wasting your time—or anyone else's. If you don't have expertise in online advertising, don't go down that path. If you DO, by all means, share the wealth. Sharing best practices is a wonderful benefit that comes from having a network made up of savvy, seasoned professionals.

Marilyn's fourth point, be authentic, is so incredibly important. Be yourself! Yes, everyone has an "off" day now and again, but being your true self is the only way to be your best self. No one wants to connect with a charming Dr. Jekyll, only to find out that he is in reality a slimy Mr. Hyde.

Marilyn's last point is a great pointer for building your network effectively. If the only people you meet and mingle with have similar backgrounds to your own, the world would be a very boring place. Our differences go a long way to define us! In addition to surrounding yourself with peers, connect with people you admire, people who admire you, and people who are just a little removed from your core "circle," and you'll be well on your way to building a strong, dynamic network.

Good luck—and if you have other tips for building a strong network, please do share.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Social marketing for business (not an oxymoron).

I just had a great conversation with a long-time vendor about the perks of using social media for business. He was wondering what networks to use, how to use them, and (the kicker) how to find the time to use them. There are only so many hours in the day/dollars to spend; do you sacrifice some other marketing activity in order to add Twitter or Facebook to your marketing mix?

Though I'm sure there are MANY differing opinions on this topic, I offer the following tips for those reluctant to take the plunge:

1. Decide what you want to achieve. Are you looking to create awareness? Drive sales? Position yourself as a thought leader? You MUST have a goal in mind, otherwise you are just wasting time and resources.

2. Who do you want to talk to? Your message is not (and shouldn't be) relevant to everyone.

3. How do you reach those people or companies? Twitter is today's media darling, but it's not always the answer—sometimes you are truly better served by pursuing more traditional marketing activities. If you determine that you need to add some social media marketing to your mix, maybe you should choose to be really active on LinkedIn and not so much on Facebook. The trick is to build a community or following where your audience is already talking. Think of yourself as Mohammed; you need to go to the mountain.

4. Create a plan—and stick to it. What will you talk about? How often will you participate? I find it is much easier to pick only one or two topics, and stick with them, than try to cover everything under the sun. And I enjoy reading other people's blogs, etc., when they follow this model, too, since I know exactly what to expect from them.

5. How do you find the time to tweet/blog/fill in the_______? Start small. If you are able to carve out 10 minutes twice a week to tweet, blog, or comment, etc., etc.,—then you're off and rolling. As you gain more confidence, you will likely want to ramp up your activity.

6. Set guidelines. If you choose to delegate social media marketing activities, make sure that you are utterly clear about your goals and expectations. It's important to remain flexible, however, since you never know what interesting discussion might crop up.

7. One last point. Social media marketing is NOT about "controlling" the conversation. The point is to invite conversation, to participate in others' conversations, and to build authenticity for you and/or your brand. This is not your grandfather's PR!

What do you think? Any other tips?

Monday, May 4, 2009

A marketer's primer to networking.

I recently got a phone call from a friend who said she was debating joining a professional organization. She was partially on the fence, she said, because she didn't want to attend an event and not know anyone.

Though I am by no means a master networker, I do feel like I've gotten much better at it over the past few years - and so I offer my friend (and any other reluctant networkers!) the following tips:

1. People in professional organizations all have something in common already. Use this to your advantage! I love attending marketing events, since the bulk of attendees are usually marketers, too. No matter who I meet, we are bound to have something in common. You can start with an easy icebreaker, like "What brought you to the event tonight?" and you're off and rolling. (A side note: if you walk into a room and everyone is already talking with someone else, approach a group of three or more and introduce yourself. People talking in pairs can be having a private conversation, whereas there's almost always room for one more person in a group discussion.)

2. Set a goal. Sounds a little silly, but setting a networking goal for an event is key. You can set your goal as wanting to meet three new people, to swap business cards with one particular person who you know is also attending the event, or to introduce yourself to the keynote speaker. If that sounds terrifying, decide that you will talk with the person sitting/standing next to you (baby steps!). Once you feel more comfortable, you can set your goals progressively higher. And once you've met your goal for the evening, you can let yourself off the hook and simply enjoy the event.

3. Remember your business cards! I went to an event last night, and when I pulled my card case out, realized I only had four business cards with me. It was both embarrassing and a drag, since I met some fascinating people. Fortunately, people were very gracious and gave me their cards anyway. Which leads me to my fourth and final point...

4. Follow up after the event. So you went to an event. You met your goals, and you (gasp!) even found yourself able to relax and enjoy. As you review the stack of business cards you collected, recall what you discussed with each person, and shoot him or her a quick email. If they are on Twitter, find and follow them; if you had an extensive discussion, you might want to invite them to connect on LinkedIn. The point is to keep in touch...and that's really what networking is all about.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coughing = coffee.

In my first post, I promised that I would write about both marketing and motherhood. While being a mom has been a wonderful journey so far, it is also a lot of hard work, even at the best of times. (All the experienced parents reading this: please feel free to say "Duh.") And no surprise, when the going gets rough, the tough get...COFFEE.

I have consumed more coffee in the past few weeks alone than I probably have in the last year, reason being that my daughter has had a cough since the end of March. And every time she coughs, I want to jump out of my skin. Unfortunately, that's not exactly conducive to a restful night's sleep, hence my new coffee addiction. (Or Diet Coke. Or caffeinated Crystal Light. Or anything else that has a hefty dose of caffeine.) Fortunately, she is happy and healthy as a horse, the doctors claim. A infant's cough can apparently linger for weeks - who knew?

In the meantime, I am thrilled that it's now warm enough to add iced coffee to my caffeine rotation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Twitterpated (with apologies to Bambi).

I've been on Twitter for a whopping six days - and I have to confess, I'm hooked. I even managed to link Twitter to my Facebook account, so my status automatically gets updated in both places. (It's the little things!)

This morning, two of my coworkers asked me, "What IS Twitter, anyway?" And though I tried my best to explain, I honestly think Twitter is one of those things better explained by trying it out. I follow a few friends, vendors, some big brands, and some news channels...and a few just for fun. For example, tweets fun food facts. Who knew that 4/17 is National Cheeseball Day?

The more I explore Twitter, the more I like it, and from a marketing perspective, it seems like the sky's the limit. I work for a real estate company, and could see us eventually using Twitter to market to college students and first-time homebuyers, as well as promoting move-in specials and upcoming events. The issue, as with many Web 2.0 technologies, is that Twitter is still a little bit misunderstood, and its effectiveness as a business tool is not completely embraced by people accustomed to more traditional marketing methods. Another challenge is that staying on top of the conversation requires serious effort. A lot of larger companies are using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels very successfully (IBM and EMC, just to name two), but often have resources dedicated to managing these programs. With a small in-house marketing team, we haven't quite figured out how to manage this ourselves - yet.

In the meantime, just consider me Twitterpated.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Facebook: not just for kids.

I joined Facebook about a year ago, and I am amazed at how many of my friends from high school and college are using it, too. I'm in my early 30's, and my husband is in his late 30's - and pretty much everyone we know has "friended" us.

Before I signed up for an account, I was convinced that FB was "just for kids." And in some cases, it is. My husband's niece, for example, who is 19, sent out evites via FB to her wedding. (I must confess that this cracked me up - though she also sent out lovely, traditional hard copy invitations, too.) Though I can't see any of our contemporaries using Facebook for their wedding invitations, I DID just get an invite to my 15-year high school reunion.

Interestingly enough, I've also started using FB at work, to market some of our condominium properties. The channel came highly recommended from the EVP of Marketing at our condo broker partner, and though I will admit that I am still a teensy bit skeptical, I really do think that it will generate some significant traffic for the sites. Our biggest demographic is first-time home buyers, so it seems to be a natural fit.

Not surprisingly, FB has a boatload of metrics built into its reporting system, so advertisers can see exactly what they're paying for...and because we can set up the campaigns as pay-per-click, we literally have nothing to lose: no clicks, no cash outlay. We're hopefully launching the campaigns next week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Baby steps all around...

This is my first blog post - and I'm looking forward to getting started. As a new mom, and a new blogger, "The Baby Step Blog" seemed to be a pretty appropriate name.

I intend to write about a couple of things:

1. Marketing. I've been in marketing for more than 10 years, and I love how quickly everything is changing. For example, I just signed up for a Twitter account - I'm not completely sure how to use it yet, but I honestly think that Twitter (and other social media) will change how we as marketers do business. Follow me on Twitter @sarasgraham.

2. Motherhood. My daughter, C, is just 4 months old, and juggling work and motherhood is already quite an adventure. Though I know I'm not unique in that respect, I do think a lot of people can relate to the balancing act that is my new reality!

Thanks for reading.