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Building your dream

Building your dream

If you build it, will they come?

I know you have a dream for your business. You’re going to turn a shop on main into something amazing – a restaurant, a coffee shop, a boutique. You’re going to create an amazing office space to showcase your services and impress your clients. Or you’re going to design a fantastic website that will have your products flying off the shelves.

You have a vision in your head, of gathering people together. Helping folk with something that’s difficult for them. Educating people on finances, healthy living, or fitness. Feeding them real food, farm to table style.

You know you want to help.

And if you build your dream space, the people will come. Right?

Maybe.

I’m sorry to burst your beautiful dream, but the answer is a big, fat, definite maybe.

IF you’re able and willing to wait for word of mouth to build your customer base to the size you want…

IF you can create a really impressive brick-and-mortar space that demands attention from passerby, shows clearly on the outside what to expect inside, and draws them in like a magnet (and it’s in an area where your ideal customer hangs out)…

IF you have paid attention to literally every. single. detail and have the ability to wow the socks off each and every customer who walks in your door, creating raving fans who want to tell the whole world how amazing you are…

Then maybe your dream will come true.

Here’s the big, elephant-in-the-room problem that most small businesses overlook:

They CAN’T come if they don’t know you exist.

Or if they know you exist, but don’t know what you do.

You know what you do, so you assume everyone else knows too. And it just isn’t true.

You need a marketing plan – a strategy – to make all the elements of your business work together flawlessly.

1 – You have to build it, yes. And it has to solve a real need, for real people, who are willing to pay real money for what you have.

2 – You have to tell people what you do through clear messaging that draws them in like bees to flowers in the spring time.

3 – And you have to create that amazing customer experience that sends people away raving fans of your business.

I’m willing to bet that you’re already doing the first and third things. But what about the one in the middle?

Have you thought through your marketing strategy?

It’s a mix of physical and digital messaging tools that tells people who you are, what you do (for them), and gets them in your door. And you need it.

If you build it, they will come…

If you have a host of angels on your side.

Or a solid marketing strategy.

How I fell into the rabbit hole of marketing

How I fell into the rabbit hole of marketing

I have a degree in classical piano. People assume I should be playing piano for a living.

So how did I end up in marketing and communications?

Sounds pretty boring, when I could be pretending to be Beethoven 12 hours a day, right? The thing is, I’m not Beethoven. The dog or the composer, either one.

My story is one of learning, growing, and doing the next {not always right} thing.

At 14, I stood in front of 15 pairs of hungry brown eyes, tasked with telling Bible stories. These kids didn’t know the Christmas story, Easter story, or even David and Goliath. Often they hadn’t eaten for hours or days, their real life stories were difficult and painful. Throughout my teenage years, I learned how to use story-telling to get inside their world. I told them stories of bullies, defeated by simple shepherds. I told them of love that knew no bounds. Of sacrifice, hope, and peace even during terrible storms.

I’d like to tell you I made a lasting difference in their lives, but the truth is, I don’t know. I moved away from that Native American reservation at 18, and much of my adult life has played out in another corner of the continent. But hidden in my heart, safe in a triple-locked box, were dozens of wistful eyes hanging on every word I said.

Photo by Rick Forgo on Unsplash

Introducing: The wacky world of marketing.

Then a little over 13 years ago, I fell into the world of marketing via the rabbit hole. And much like Alice in Wonderland, I found myself perplexed and bewildered by the strangeness of it all. It was my sophomore year of college, I was broke and I needed a summer job. A direct marketing company selling knives seemed to offer the money I needed. Welcome to the world of slimy sales tactics, cold calls, and enthusiastic rallies. I sold $10,000 worth of knives that summer. My gross pay – for an entire summer of uncomfortable pushiness – was right around $1,200. The math and logic centers in my brain work pretty well, when they finally kick in. I walked away from direct marketing after that summer and didn’t look back.

After graduation, I made a living teaching piano for several years. Newsflash: Most piano teachers, myself included, are de facto small business owners. Things to sort out: Studio name, policies, invoicing, communication, and…marketing. I had no idea what I was doing. I spent hours muddling a website. Learned basic bookkeeping. Made flyers, planned events, thought up promotions. I didn’t know what I was doing business-wise, but I did teach a lot of Beethoven. I also learned that relationships are the foundation of any business.

I started dabbling in web design, blogging, and graphic design. I  took several classes, figured out a lot of basics. None of it was very pretty. I was cobbling ideas together, trying to make sense of terms like SEO and HTML. I realized I’d never have a career building websites, but I did enjoy writing and making graphics.

Where the rubber meets the road.

My husband opened a small engine repair shop and business got real. Rent, bills, overhead, employees to pay. A steady stream of customers bring in a stead(ier) stream of cash, so I got busy trying to make use of what I knew. Social media, business cards, networking, more website stuff, print ads. I learned marketing has a trillion moving parts and a lot of variables. I took lots more classes and did truckloads of research. How to write a business plan, Marketing 101, Networking for Dummies, Quickbook Basics.

I was getting restless. The repair shop was going well, and I had learned a lot about starting a business. So I started my own professional organizing business on the side. It went ok, and I build new and profitable relationships with other organizers. I joined a nonprofit – the National Association of Professional Organizers.  I even landed some dream clients and the beginnings of a solid referral network.

Things I learned:

•how to effectively organize paper

•how to organize a closet full of anything

•how to pack and move 2,000 (or more) square feet quickly and easily

I began to realize online marketing should be an extension of real life. And I learned the power of community over competition.

Photo by christian koch on Unsplash

Wonderland returns.

2 years later, the kaleidoscope tilted, and the Mad Hatter showed up again. The idea had been growing on us for some time that we wanted to raise our kids in a small town, with a simpler way of life. Finally acting, we moved 1,200 miles across the continent, away from our South Florida beach life. And we settled our little family in a small town with brick streets and more churches than stores. Back in the heartland my husband and I both grew up in.

And for most of a year, I fought the kaleidoscope and argued with the Mad Hatter, trying to find my own identity in this new reality. I read piles of books, watched dozens of webinars, took an over-abundance of courses.

Things I learned:

•How to Make a Million Bucks on Instagram Instantly

•Creative and Dramatic Uses of Unheard of Skills

•Make Money Sending Emails

•Social Media in the Clouds,

•SEO for Authors and Astronomers

Ok, not actual course names. But I studied, I learned stuff, I earned certificates. I had no idea what to do with all the details and stuff in my head that would make sense for me.

Write. Bleed. Write more.

Frustrated, lost, and dealing with an ugly amount of depression, I went to the one place I should have gone first. I walked straight into the arms of a mighty Father, and begged for clarity.

He gave me only three words: Write. Bleed. Write. Remember that triple-locked box in my heart? I didn’t want to open it, because Pandora. But it held the key to my identity as a person, as a Christian, as an entrepreneur. Writing, telling stories, communicating effectively.

Those little shops on main street are not just pretty or quaint little shops to me. They are me.

The butcher, mechanic, baker, candlestick maker, real estate agent, and bookkeeper. I’ve been in their shoes. They are hardworking, practical people. They have families to care for, bills to pay, and employees to train. They need effective ways to market that put actual dollar bills in their pockets.

The things I do best are things that help others. Like using simple visuals and well-chosen words to tell stories that connect and build community. I teach and use genuine, honest, and simple methods that actually work.

That’s my story. My why.

Now I want to know: Is it hard for you to tell your story? What’s holding you back?

Lynn Hughes

Lynn Hughes

author

Hi, my name is Lynn. I am a former piano teacher, creative copywriter, and daughter of the King. I have two little girls, a husband I love dearly, and a stack of books to read someday that is taller than I am. I love dark coffee, wholesome living, and well-crafted words.

Why I work with local businesses

Why I work with local businesses

Write. Work. Learn. Listen. Make. Live free.

I scribbled the words on my notepad, feeling like they were lofty and unattainable ideals for my life.

One week later, I was unexpectedly out of a job. And suddenly, those random scribbles were making a lot more sense.

See, there’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time:

Helping small business owners market their businesses in local, sustainable ways that make sense for them. Both online and in real life. Writing the words that sell their products and ideas.

The heart and soul of every town are the local business owners, the “little people.”

Their success is invaluable to the entire community.


I know, because I’ve been a local business owner.

Because I have friends who are the “little people.” And because I’ve spent most of my life in small towns full of Mom and Pop businesses.

For nearly a decade now, I’ve studied marketing, read an astonishing amount of material, taken classes, amassed certifications.

It’s time to get off the fence and do what I truly love, and help the people I love.


Here’s a little of what that looks like:
-Web page content writing
-Social media setup and content planning
-Printed marketing materials
…for hometown businesses and creatives.
Here’s what I have:
-A couple of clients
-A knack for words and statistics
-God’s gentle thumb in my back telling me to get moving.

Now. How can I help you? Do you have a question I could answer?

How I learned God cares about stuffed zebras

How I learned God cares about stuffed zebras

Do you believe God cares about our daily lives?

In my head I believe He does, but in practical reality it’s a little more complicated. I want to share a personal story that just reminded me of what a very personal God He truly is, if you’ll allow me.

Last week, we moved out of our rental house and into a travel trailer. We chose not to renew the lease, as our house renovations were supposed to be nearer to complete than they are at the moment.

Change, even good change, can be stressful

Moving out was more difficult emotionally for all of us than I anticipated, coming on the heels of our major cross country move last summer. My Sophie girl in particular struggles with change, and leaving Florida last year was traumatic for her.

These new changes had me worried about how she would react (and truthfully, how I would react). The last morning we had at the rental house, I dropped my girls off at daycare, as usual, in a hurry to go get the packing finished.

Then the unexpected happened

This little incident stopped me in my tracks. One of the little boys at daycare came racing up: “Sophie, Sophie! I found your zebra!!” My daughter and I looked at each other, and her eyes were mirroring mine. Unshed tears shiny with unbelief, raw emotion, and hope. She hugged both the little boy and the zebra hard, and then promptly handed her little buddy to me for safe keeping.

You see, about a month ago Sophie lost her very favorite little zebra who has been with her since she was tiny. We looked everywhere, and couldn’t find him. Nathan and I finally decided he must have fallen out of the car accidentally. We didn’t tell her, but we thought he was gone forever.

I know it’s a small thing, but it was big to us.

I walked out of the daycare that morning stunned, holding a tiny little stuffed zebra that meant the world to my sweet girl. If you knew that little boy, you would know this is a God thing. Apparently the zebra went home with him one night. I don’t know why. I do know that should have been the end of little zebra. Nothing at all against this little guy – but he’s a little boy, emphasis on little and boy 😎

Instead, on a morning when it really mattered, he found that toy, remembered it was Sophie’s, and brought it back to her. On a week that I was struggling, worrying about my babies, and doing my best to care for them emotionally and physically, God touched our world with a little boy and a zebra.

He cares.

About mommas, children, and even little zebras. Whatever you’re going through today, He cares about you.

Lynn Hughes

Lynn Hughes

author

Hi, my name is Lynn. I am a former piano teacher, creative copywriter, and daughter of the King. I have two little girls, a husband I love dearly, and a stack of books to read someday that is taller than I am. I love dark coffee, wholesome living, and well-crafted words.

Shark attacks in bed

Shark attacks in bed

“I’m afraid,” my daughter whispered as I tucked her into bed the other night.

“What are you afraid of?” I asked.

“Sharks,” she confided.


We live in Kansas, so there aren’t any sharks in her immediate vicinity right now.

I took her seriously, because to an imaginative 5 year old, shark attacks on the high plains COULD happen, and we talked about how far away we are from the ocean. It was a real example of a strong, but thoroughly unjustified, fear.⠀

What do you have to lose if you try and fail? I’m not saying fear isn’t real, because it certainly is. But what is on the other side of your fear?