Six Degrees of Separation - I am a believer
They say there are six degrees of separation. Tonight, I coincided with two. This week, I was a true road warrior and so far I have driven close to 700 miles. Monday I was in New Jersey. Tuesday, I left the house at 6:00 am and drove to Virginia Beach and today I started my day in Williamsburg and then north of Richmond. My visits tomorrow are both in northern Virginia so I decided to overnight in Warrenton. I pulled into the quaint and historic town at 7:30 and spotted the Black Bear – a restaurant on the main drag to have dinner. I was worn out from a long day and hungry as I had not eaten anything since 8:30 am when I had breakfast at my hotel.
When I sat down at the bar where I planned to have a quick meal, a couple to the left of me were engaged in a delightful conversation. They appeared to be middle aged, in-love and very happy. They tried to engage me in conversation about how delicious the Chicken Marsala was. Having spent most of the day behind the wheel and a good portion by myself I decided to chat. I soon realized they were a delight to converse with and I found out they had owned a small retail bike business for over 20 years in Connecticut before they decided to pack up and moved to Florida. As I looked at them, I found myself curious about many things. Why were they sitting at bar in Warrenton, why did they own a bike business and why did they leave Connecticut and move to Florida? We talked for a long time, and they shared stories about their times in Connecticut and their family. They had lost a child to an illness; they loved Florida as the cost of living was much better than Connecticut and they were on a road trip to Connecticut for a family wedding.
At one point while discussing retail, I asked them what they had valued in their sales reps, and they answered someone who brings in and shows product and who believes in customer service. Both things which I deem important. Although retired, the husband found a bike shop in Florida where he works one day a week. How nice to still be in the industry but not in charge of a business. Toward the end of our conversation a man sat down on the other side of me. He appeared shy and quiet at first but when he learned I was from Pennsylvania he mentioned he lived outside of the town of Phoenixville. OMG what a coincidence! What are the chances? I grew up outside of Phoenixville and he happens to live a mile from my stepsister.
When the couple from CT paid their bill and left, this man started to open up to me. He was not trying to be inappropriate in anyway. He was just trying to connect, be real and he needed to unload. Plus, he needed my phone to connect with his daughter. Why? Wait it is coming! It turned out that he was also a sales rep but in a different industry. He had been out with a client the night before in Delaplane and had drunk too much. He should not have gotten behind the wheel, but he did and he was picked up by the cops and thrown in jail for 12 to 15 hours. His phone, laptop, and everything else was in his car so he had nothing accessible. He had walked from the jail to this restaurant to wait for his daughter (in college in Maryland) to pick him up. His eyes teared up as he talked about being put in jail and we talked about his wife, his children, the EAGLES (poor Eagles) and Phoenixville. As the restaurant closed, I stood outside with him and waited for his daughter to arrive. As she pulled up, he hugged and thanked me for staying with him and I sent him on his way.
Tonight, was a lesson on being open to trusting people you might randomly meet and to never get behind the wheel after one too many drinks. It was an evening where I was reminded about humanity and connections.
Who would have thought I would share stories with a small business retailer on one side and a sales rep from my hometown on the other?
Hope Birsh of Maryland Saddlery shared these resources with us that we thought might be helpful as you reopen your stores and move forward in these challenging times.
We all have that aha moment when we see THAT HORSE. You know the one; the horse that shows off three lovely gaits in the dressage ring and also demonstrates scope and a big ground-covering gallop as it smoothly and eagerly jumps its show jumping and cross country courses. THAT HORSE takes our breath away; reminding us why we love horses and the sport of eventing.
This week I had the opportunity to attend the USEA Young Event Seminar held at Fair Hill in conjunction with the Young Horse Championships. Marilyn Payne was the panelist and she shared a plethora of information and experience. The participants were composed of passionate judges, breeders, trainers and riders all eager to learn and soak up what goes into judging and placing a top event horse.
Being a relatively new USEF r Eventing judge, I was thrilled to have the time and opportunity to join this free seminar. I’ve had a year of significant stress. Being immersed in two days of watching quality horses was like sitting back and having some uninterrupted time to savor a fine wine. And it was filled with a lot of THAT HORSE.
On Thursday we met in a tent above the dressage rings. It was a chilly, windy morning and the tent had a mind of its own. There were moments I thought we all might be taken away like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Everyone introduced themselves and Marilyn began by initiating a discussion on YEH rules, basics, procedures, judging methodology and scoring. It is quite different than judging a dressage test. The rider executes a basic test written specifically for the expectations of a four or five year old. The judge is looking at the gaits and overall rideability and determining if the basic training is correct. The score sheet reflects those determinations. It relies on scores from 1-10, as well as comments. You can use decimal points as well as whole numbers. If the horse has a minor inconsistency, due to outside influences such as flags blowing or loud noises, it’s not penalized. The judge must remember these are young horses. The judge is looking for the overall impression and he or she basis their overall judgment and comments on what they are seeing at that time and on that particular day.
After lunch we had the opportunity to judge six horses and discuss our marks, comments and overall placing. Since I am used to judging each movement it took a test or two to get in the groove and navigate a YH Test. Once in the swing of things, I was pleasantly surprised that when we went over the tests my marks and comments were not far off of Marilyn’s. Phew!
The end of the first day was spent walking the SJ/XC courses with my fellow friend and judge Heather Gillette. We carefully analyzed the courses; walking distances, measuring fences and we discussed our likes and dislikes. The courses incorporated 5 show jumping fences including a two stride (ascending oxer to vertical) followed by immediately galloping onto a 10 fence cross country course. The cross country portion had a variety of fences including a water jump. It finished with another gallop of approximately 150 meters, which was also judged.
We began the day on Friday by gathering at cross country. We were lucky that it wasn’t as windy as Thursday -but it was still quite chilly making me thankful I had long underwear, layers and a hat. As a group we discussed the competition rules, which again were quite different from a standard horse trial. We talked about judging methodology, judging the gallop and what a judge wants to see in a young horse for upper level potential. At the Championship the four year olds have a minimum of height at 2’11” to maximum 3”3” and the five year olds have a minimum of height at 3”3” to a maximum of 3”7”.
To get rolling, Marilyn had us observing several partial rounds, which we scored and discussed. This allowed Marilyn to teach us what to look for. After we felt comfortable we judged six horses and discussed our scores and reasoning. I found the jumping phase fascinating.
The judge scores each individual fence from 1 to 5, and then gives marks from 1 to 10 for an evaluation of rideability between fences, the open gallop and the overall general impression. Decimal points are allowed and again there are places on the score sheet for comments.
Giving a score for each fence makes you think and react quickly. Although you are scoring each fence you must also take into consideration the entire picture/course and how the horse negotiated it. A simple pleasant “hunter type” round from a horse with little scope or attack of the fences shouldn’t be the winner. The amateur or senior rider (like myself) might love a horse like this but it’s the horse that has scope and a fabulous jump with bascule and a ground covering effortless gallop that is more desirable as a potential upper level horse, even if that horse misses at one or two fences. Given that the rules differ from horse trials one sees some odd results. For example, one horse placed in the top five in the five year old division after jumping the wrong last fence. The rider was told of her error and was allowed to come back in and jump the correct final fence. At a horse trial that would be the big E.
Using Instagram hashtags is one of the most effective ways to increase engagement and reach new audiences. Here’s how to develop a practical strategy to grow your business.
Step 1: Move your Instagram to a Business Profile. This provides you access to Instagram Insights and allows you to promote your posts.
Step 2: Research your target audiences, your competitors, and industry leaders and create a list of hashtags they are using/following. Also make note of related hashtags from the list of hashtags shown in Instagram. This is a good place to start as you test effective hashtags for your business.
Step 3: Once you have used a hashtag on a post, click “view insights” and see how your hashtag choices are performing.
Step 4: Swipe up to get the full view and pay particular attention to the “From Hashtag” number. This is the number of views your post received through your hashtags.
Step 5: Develop(or purchase access to)a system that will monitor your traffic and identify your best performing hashtags. A spreadsheet is likely the most lo-fi solution. Create columns with “Hashtag”, “category”, “number of posts”, “number of from hashtag”, etc. Keep this up to date and review your metrics each week.
Step 6: Create an ever evolving list of effective hashtags under 3-5 categories and then rotate through them in your posts. Using a variety of hashtags will keep your message fresh. Niche posts for your brand, category of business, lifestyle will likely yield the most quality engagements, new follows and new audiences.
Step 7: Use hashtags in your Instagram bio. Simply add a # before any words in your bio and that word will become a clickable link, leading visitors to that hashtag.
Step 8: Add hahstags (up to 10) to your instagram stories as well. You can put them in your text or use a sticker. Those who use the Search & Explore option will see you in there results if searching for your hashtag.
Once you’ve mastered this task, consider following your most effective hashtags. This gives you the opportunity to be shown on your feed and the hashtag feed. Showing in two feeds increases your views.
You can also consider creating a branded hashtag unique to your visit and then invite your viewers to also follow that hashtag. This will help to build your instagram community and promote your campaigns. A branded hashtag may be your brand name, your tagline, or a consistent theme related to your brand lifestyle. You can use more than one. The key is to get your followers to use these hashtags to help you reach new audiences. In my shoe business, I could use #roxannelava (my brand), #homeiswheremyshoesare (my tagline) and #handmadetoorder (a theme).
You can use community hashtags that are broad themes that relate to your business. Using my shoe business as an example, I could use #womensshoes (my large category) or #upcycled (a broad theme of my work).
You can also use campaign specific hashtags. These are generally shorter term hashtags that are related to a specific story or promotion. For example, I am launching a bridal collection. To promote this on instagram I might use #specialshoesforaspecialwomanonherspecialday.
Get started today. Track your success and within a few weeks you should see an improvement in your Instagram strategy.
Need help, contact Anne at email@example.com
“My love affair with shoes began when I was 8 years old…” –beginning of my brand story for RoxanneLava.
What is a brand story?
A brand story tells your audience who you are and why you are doing what you do. It presents and connects your brand philosophy and differentiator from your competitors, or what I refer to as your brand “ONLY”. Ideally this information is delivered in an authentic way that connects emotionally with your customer.
The RoxanneLava brand story could be “I’ve loved shoes since I was 8 and now I make them.” Or it could begin with the line above. Which sentence interests you more? Which do you respond to more from your emotional self? If you aren’t a shoe lover, perhaps neither interests you. The point is that YOUR story will be for an audience that does share your passion and you want to entice them to engage with you.
Why is a brand story important?
Today we are marketing to an audience of one. Essentially that means that each of your customers takes an individual path to purchase from your store. Customers today want to know whom they are doing business with. They want a “personal” relationship with two-way communication. Your brand story is the thing that will invite, build and enhance that relationship.
How do you create a brand story?
Start with writing a paragraph or notes on why you do what you do. Focus on what you are passionate about-your passion will invite emotional connection. A good approach is to use a personal experience. It is likely your customers will have had the same or similar experiences and that will allow them to immediately connect with you on an emotional level.
Edit this section down to 2-3 sentences that communicate the essence of your passion in your own style.
Hint: Write as if you were speaking, or actually speak it with the microphone on your computer or smart device. You may need to edit a bit, but this will be a great way to deliver your authentic voice.
Next, do the same with your brand philosophy and ONLY. Remember to use your authentic voice. Edit so you have one brief (4-6 sentence) paragraph.
Test, Test, Test
Try it out on your website, in your conversations through social media or face to face, on your in store materials. Pick and choose pieces to test. Turn your sentences into questions to illicit response. For example, using the RoxanneLava story, I could ask, “Do you have a love affair with shoes?” or “What is your first shoe love memory?”
Continue to revise, update and build your brand story based on your findings. Keep notes as you go so you can create your own personal Brand Story Guide.
What is a Brand Story Guide?
A brand story guide is a document you create that ensures brand consistency. When you are conversing with your customers you want to keep consistent language, voice and style, no matter the communication or the communication channel. If your customer engages with you on Facebook and then reads a description of a product on your ecommerce site, they want to know they are connecting with you.
As you test and edit, create a section for each - language, voice, style. Look at your competitors and analyze their communication on consistency of each area. Take a look at big brands in your category as well. Sephora is an excellent example of consistent communication in language, voice and style across all channels.
Hint - One of the best categories to explore is Small Batch Food/Beverage. Look at small batch breweries and spirit makers especially. Food overall is a category that connects language with product.
You may well need to have a number of people working on your communication, so it may be worth your while to create a “character” for your brand. The character will have particular language, voice and style that is not so deeply connected to you personally. Because the character is based on you but not you, you can allow others to be the voice of the brand.
Hint – Your character may be your logo symbol.
How do you communicate your brand story?
You have your story? You’ve tested it. You’ve refined it. You’ve started your brand story guide. Now what?
USE IT! Use it through each and every channel your interact with your customers. Tailor it for each message AND keep refining and building on it.
View a 30 minute Facebook Live webinar on Brand Story, or listen to an ONO podcast on Brand story. Need more help visit ONO made in the 191.