Marketing Tips for Beginners

Marketing Tips for Beginners

I presented my first live web training class on August 25 and had such an outpouring of interest, I am offering the recording of Marketing Tips for Beginners to anyone who is interested.

In this class, I shared the marketing tips I used to establish 3 businesses in 2 different states. I also shared how I get the word out about who I am and what I do. For those of you who HATE the prospect of selling (which some people view as a combination of bragging and begging), I break down the components of marketing. I also help you figure out the best tools and methods to use based on YOUR personality and preferences.

I’m an introvert, which surprises many people. Yes, I have a much greater comfort level when I’m by myself or in small groups of people. However, if I could find a way to be comfortable and successful in a sales role for more than 30 years, and to present workshops and seminars in front of small and large groups of people, you can too!

How to watch/listen to Marketing Tips for Beginners:

Listen to the audio only podcast here

You can watch the YouTube video of the web class at any of the following places:

If you want a PDF copy of the PowerPoint slide deck used in the class (and which is shown in the YouTube video) you can download it by clicking here. Then scroll to the bottom of the page. Disclaimer: Opting in to my mailing list is a requirement in exchange for the PDF document.

Prepare for Hurricane Season

In this week’s podcast episode, I talk about how insurance agents can help their policyholders prepare for hurricane season. Here are a few excerpts from the podcast, along with resources that appear at the end of the post:

Did you know?

  • Hurricane season begins on June 1 in the Atlantic and on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific. In all locations, it ends on November 30.
  • The biggest threat during a hurricane is storm surge–especially at high tide.
  • The National Weather Service reports that the number of hurricanes keeps growing each year.
  • During high winds, the 4 biggest areas of weakness in any building are its roof, windows, entrance doors, and garage doors.
  • Not all property insurance policies provide coverage for wind–especially in coastal states.
  • NO standard property insurance policies provide coverage for storm surge caused by a hurricane. This is because, in most states, it is considered a form of flood–which is an excluded peril.

For more information about how to prepare for hurricane season, listen to the entire podcast, which can be found at: https://episodes.castos.com/5e6ccb9ab4cf97-55025247/TMoI-Ep-16-Aug-4-Prepare-Hurricane-Seaxon.mp3

Resources: Prepare for Hurricane Season

Ready.Gov Hurricanes: https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

NOAA Hurricanes: https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/weather-atmosphere/hurricanes

National Weather Service Hurricane Safety: https://www.weather.gov/safety/hurricane

Webpage with database of disaster declarations by state: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/

DHS’ DisasterAssistance.gov website: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/

SBA disaster loans: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Home/Questions

NFIP/FEMA Hurricane Season: https://agents.floodsmart.gov/pacifichurricaneseason

What Writing Community Means to Me

No, I’m not drinking two beers. One was my sister’s (she’s the photographer) and, in fact, I was drinking a soda. The photo was taken during a writer’s conference where I learned exactly what Writing Community means to me.

Conferences

I love going to writers’ conferences. Ironically, the best ones I attended were in New York City with RWA the year one of my daughters turned 11 (she’s never forgiven me for going away). The other two were in New Orleans, one with RWA and one in connection with my award nomination for my first mystery, Second Time Around. (Second Time Around will be re-released early next year.) There’s no greater feeling than the satisfaction of chatting with other writers.

Groups and Organizations

I was almost thirty years old before I experienced that feeling. Until I stepped into my first writer’s meeting, I’d always felt just a step out of whack with the world. Certain things would tickle my funny bone in a way no one else understood. I thought my imagination was wonderful thing. Sometimes, other people thought it was scary. Then there was the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere, and I mean anywhere, without a notebook and half a dozen pens.

Here’s what writing community means to me: The first moment I stepped into the monthly gathering of a group of writers, I knew I wasn’t really a step out of whack with the world. The disconnect I’d been feeling only occurred with people who weren’t writers. The immediate sense of understanding, the way we all looked at life from a quirky perspective, the unique (and often bizarre) senses of humor and imaginations … what a relief to know I wasn’t alone!

Since then, I’ve felt that same connection with not only writers but also musicians, artists, and those with a creative bent to their minds. It’s the community of writers. We all understand community in the sense of society, social standing, and in business.

We see that hashtag #writingcommunity all over social media (I’ve been using it a lot lately) and it’s no small thing.

Fellow Writers

Recently, I’ve become very involved in a couple of the writer’s groups of which I’ve been a member for years: Sisters in Crime New England and the New England Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The interaction on Zoom during this pandemic has done a world of good for me. My boyfriend brought this to my attention. He said I seem happier and more engaged with the world. I’ve also become more productive–not only with my writing but with everything.

So, thank you, my fellow writers. You who have appeared on my podcast, who have welcomed me to your online meetings, who have helped me promote my own books and events. Together, we support each other and can accomplish anything!

How to Earn Customer Loyalty

Regardless of what business you’re in–whether you write and sell insurance or novels–customers are only going to buy you and your product if you earn their loyalty. No one is automatically entitled to trust.

How can you earn trust and loyalty?

  • Be authentic and sincere. If you’re a vegan selling Angus beef, that fundamental contradiction is apparent–if only in a funny feeling prospective customers sense.
  • Be open and honest. The popular word these days is “transparent.” And it’s appropriate. You don’t want people to lie to you, be deceptive, or withhold important information. So, don’t lie to, deceive, or withhold from others. The imbalance of treating people in a way you won’t tolerate being treated is going to topple you eventually.
  • Understand people. Do you know how your customers communicate? Would they prefer a phone call, a text, or an email? What do they believe? What do they want? What do they NEED? What do they consider important? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you possibly give them what they want and need … or what they value?

The most important things to remember about people are that they want to:

  • Be viewed as important.
  • Know you care.
  • Be heard.

I talk about this subject in more detail in episode 14 of my podcast, Taking the Mystery out of Insurance. You can find it here.

If you’d like to read more about the subject, check out Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People or any of Jeffrey Gitomer’s sales books (gitomer.com).

COVID, the Insurance Industry, and our Crystal Balls

This week, I ventured down a slightly different path on my podcast. I talked about COVID and insurance, but more about what I believe we need to consider for the future rather than about what is happening today.

Take a listen and then share what YOU think might happen: https://episodes.castos.com/5e6ccb9ab4cf97-55025247/TMoI-Episode-12-MR.mp3

Independence or Community?

In America, we either brag about our independence or gripe because we feel we’re losing it. In reality, we don’t have it, never had it, and never will have it.

You might think I’m full of baloney, but I’m not. Just read the dictionary. When you’re independent, you’re free from the control of others. You don’t rely on other people for help and assistance. You are truly autonomous.

If we’re going to bandy about terminology, we need to understand the vocabulary we use.

We can’t live independently without the assistance, advice, and assent of others unless we march into the wilderness and set up home off the grid. Otherwise, we live in a community, which means we mutually depend upon each other for support and aid.

Regardless of where we live–off the grid or in the community–we all have the ability to choose a level of autonomy, a state of being where we strive to achieve independence to whatever degree we can while also living within the community.

Problem is, independence is costly in terms of time, effort, and humanity.

When we’re truly independent, we don’t adopt the opinions of others, we form our own. We listen to as many other perspectives as we can, weigh the variety of the input, and reach our own decisions. When we only seek out the voices of those who echo our own, we’re handicapping ourselves and leaving ourselves vulnerable to those who do not believe in independence.

This world contains people who exploit the fact that few of us will ever achieve true independence. They seek to control us to achieve what they view as their own independence. Clearly, they haven’t read the dictionary, either.

Throughout this pandemic, some of us have drawn closer to our community to work together to overcome the challenges to our health, financial survival, and emotional well-being. Others of us have chosen to withdraw from the community and strike out on our own, literally striking out in harmful ways. Harmful to ourselves, to others, to our community.

We all talk about our rights and how the government grants us our rights. Well, if we were truly independent, no one would give us anything. We’d obtain what we wanted for ourselves. Truth is, we were more independent thousands of years ago than we are today. The way people are behaving these days, our society will achieve total autonomy and, instead of advancing, regress. It’s already started that downside.

The very reason we formed society (aka community) was to improve the quality of our lives. The concept of community relies upon sharing, variety, and cooperation. Let me share an analogy.

A small, six-inch long critter found its way into my yard last week. He ventured from his own community into mine, without conducting any research. When my eighty-pound dog discovered the interloper, Angus thought he was friendly and wanted to play. As you can imagine, the critter was terrified. I chased Angus into the house and examined the little guy.

I thought the critter was a baby muskrat. (We live within 100 feet of a brook that connects two large ponds.) I snapped a photo of him and texted it to my brother, who immediately pointed out all the reasons why the little guy was a dark brown field mouse and not a muskrat. Or a rat. Or a beaver. Or any other type of rodent I thought he might be.

I investigated the interloper before making any type of decision about his future other than to save him from becoming my dog’s chew toy. I also walked the yard to see if he was the scout for a band of fellow interlopers. I didn’t rush to judgment. I didn’t run off in fear. I didn’t start screaming.

I conducted my research and relied on my brother, an outdoorsman and hunter, to provide me with information and knowledge I clearly lacked. And then I acted.

How would you have acted? Not if you were in my shoes and had just reviewed your brother’s information, but the moment you found your dog playing with the creature?

I suspect that the way any of us would have reacted in this situation is the same way we react when dealing with other people. Although we crave independence and control over our own lives, some of us do not hesitate to control others and take away their independence–oftentimes by jumping to conclusions and not conducting any research. Would you have let Angus continue playing with (aka tormenting) the mouse? Would you have chased Angus away and then killed the thing yourself? Would you have let him go? Would you have conducted any research in that moment? Or would you have done something else? Some of us realize there are always more options than we alone can see?

What did you do on Independence Day? Did you gripe about the lack of public fireworks’ displays and the inability to attend a large community barbecue? Or did you sit in your own back yard with a few people you love and celebrate your own personal independence … and/or community?

How Homeowners Insurance Works When You’re Working from Home

The homeowners policy was designed to insure personal risks, not business risks. For this reason, virtually all coverage for business property and liability is explicitly excluded in the homeowners policy.

Very limited property coverage is included for business personal property. The limit usually ranges between $1,000 and $2,500 if the business property is at your house. The limit is much less for business property anywhere else–like in your car.

Liability coverage for business activities is also severely limited. It only applies to incidents that occur on your property at home, and only for those that arise when:

  • Your house is rented–either occasionally as a residence or when a part of it is rented to 1 or 2 boarders. This does NOT include Airbnb rentals, or any series of rentals. Neither does it include renting your barn to a neighbor who does lawn mower repairs.
  • A portion of your house or other building is rented for use as a private garage, office, school, or studio. Think designating a room for use to give music or dance lessons, or as an office for a writer.
  • An insured who is under age 21 runs a self-employed part-time or occasional business that does not have any employees.

What all this means is that if a person is working from home, any property used for business–regardless of whether it is owned by the individual or the individual’s employer–has very limited coverage. If the employer has insurance for property it owns, that property should be insured specifically on the employer’s policy with an indication it is located at the employee’s home. In some cases, the employer’s failure to cite the location of the property on its policy, especially if the property is valued at more than $5,000 or $10,000, might result in a lack of adequate coverage in the event of a loss.

Potential problems relating to the lack of business liability coverage under the homeowners policy are more serious. In most cases, clients do not visit employees working from home. But if anyone visits your home for business and gets hurt, your unendorsed homeowners policy does not provide any liability coverage. Similarly, if a FedEx or USPS employee trips and falls while delivering business mail or packages, any claim for injuries would not be covered. Basically, coverage for ANY other type of liability (think cyber liability, products liability, etc.) is NOT covered, either.

Endorsements are available to add limited business property and liability coverage to the homeowners policy but, in most cases, it’s probably not adequate. Some insurers also offer a home business endorsement that does include business, or commercial, coverage. That’s probably a better idea.

Remember, even if you’re working from home and your employer does have coverage for property it owns, and its own liability, your employer gets the broadest coverage under that policy. If you’re covered under it, you can still be held personally liable for property damage and bodily injury resulting from business activities conducted at your home.

Unless you buy and add business endorsements to your homeowners policy, you might find yourself uninsured in the event of a loss when you’re working from home.

For more details, listen to this week’s podcast at Taking the Mystery out of Insurance.

Debra Bokur’s new Release: The Fire Thief

The first book in Debra Bokur’s mystery series, The Fire Thief, was released last month to rave reviews. The series is set in Hawaii and you can check it out on her website at https://www.debrabokur.com/.

Debra visited with me on The Writer’s Voice this week, and we talked about how her career as a celebrated journalist and editor of magazines and literary journals did NOT prepare her for writing and publishing fiction. You can listen to the podcast episode here. A short video excerpt will appear on my YouTube channel on Friday, here.

As most writers will agree, we tend to write long or short. When you’re a journalist, as Debra is, you tend to write to specific word counts required by the outlet publishing your work, such as 1,000 per piece. When you write fiction, you tend to write thousands and thousands of words … only to find you need to slash your word count by as much as 25%.

My experiences have been different from Debra’s. I found that writing a newspaper column and magazine articles actually helped me keep my fiction writing tight and in accordance with required word counts. Then again, I began writing fiction first and found it fairly easy to cut word count. Not every writer can toss away words with relish.

But when you begin writing short nonfiction it’s much more difficult to retrain yourself. Give Debra’s interview a listen and then share YOUR take on how writing one particular type of work did or did not prepare you for tackling another type.

Sarah Osborne, author of the Ditie Brown Mystery Series

I recently sat down with Sarah Osborne to discuss cozy mysteries, pantsing versus plotting, and her take on writing the first draft so many writers dread.

You can:

Visit Sarah online at: https://doctorosborne.com/

The most recent book in the series, Murder Most Southern, was released last month.

Elder Abuse: Be Silent No More

I’ve conducted a lot of research into the topic of elder abuse. I’ve also developed and written some insurance continuing education courses on the subject as well, as it pertains to financial fraud.

Here is another person’s take on senior financial exploitation, a despicable form of elder abuse. This account was written by Connie Johnson Hambley.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/uncomfortable-complicity-silence-connie-johnson-hambley