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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 to use telepathy to save your ideas

How to use telepathy to save your ideas

How to save your ideas for later

Let’s say you’re driving down the road, and you have dozens of business ideas exploding in your brain. You can’t risk losing them for fear you will forget, but how do you safely get them recorded so that you can turn them into actionable ideas?

Of course, jerking the car off the side of the road and scribbling on a notepad, the back of a receipt, or a napkin from your glove box is always an option, but there is a certain amount of risk involved. Like getting hit on the side of the interstate, getting a traffic ticket for reckless driving, or worst of all, not having a clean napkin and a pen that writes.

Start with your phone

If you were an alien life form, you could simply force your thoughts into the mind of an unsuspecting human host, make them write everything down for you, and then collect your ideas in a neatly written format at your convenience.

I’m not an alien, so I’ve found a few ways to collect my thoughts without having to resort to telepathy. Assuming you’re not an alien either, and would prefer not to write and drive, maybe you will find these techniques useful.

Let’s start with that mini-computer in your pocket: yep, your phone. I promise they are the closest to a telepathic instrument we have so far, and everyone has one. So why aren’t we mind-melding yet? With the recent scientific advances in brain-to-brain communication, it certainly may be on the horizon.

Until mind-meld and telepathy are mainstream, here are a few simple ways to start making the most of your current pocket toolbox.

Use recording software

google keep screenshotgoogle keep screenshot

  • Google Keep – available on both Android and iOS. The coolest thing about this app is that it will transcribe your voice memos to text if you want, so you could record an entire interview, blog post, or sales letter, and then convert the audio file to text. It won’t be 100% accurate, but it should be a very useable place to start.

 

screenshot of voice memo appvoice memo app screenshot

  • On iPhone, use Voice memos. It’s a native app, so it comes pre-installed on your iPhone. Just ask Siri to open it, or type Voice memo in the search box at the top of the screen. This app won’t transcribe your audio files like Google Keep, but if you are just saving reminders or ideas, you may not need a written version anyway. Or if you’re saving sounds like your kids screaming in case you ever need to torment anybody, there’s nothing to transcribe anyway except “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!”

inside Evernote audio noteEvernote screenshot

  • Evernote has a voice recording feature that is very clear and simple to use, so if you use Evernote a lot, it might be worth saving your audio notes there directly.

Use speech to text

notes app audio file

  • iPhone native speech to text software. You can access this quickly from Notes, or any other app that has a keyboard. Just tap the little mike next to the space bar and start talking. Other apps you could start from include Evernote, Trello, and Pages.
  • Siri or the non-iphone equivalent. These artificial intelligence helpers tend to be pretty clunky in terms of speech interpretation, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve ever tried to use Siri to text, but with some practice they are useable.
  • Dragon dictation, or some other dictation app. There are literally hundreds available, both free and paid, so pick one that makes sense to you. Dragon just happens to be the one I know best.

Video

I’m not recommending the use of video while you’re driving down the road, but if you’re not driving and just want to save a quick thought, video is a quick and easy way to do it. It could also make sharing your thoughts with your team or audience via social media very simple and fun. Just open your camera, switch it to video, and turn the camera to the selfie-cam. Voila – magic idea capturing device!

Use your phone the way it was originally designed to be used

  • Call yourself and leave a message. This one fails big time if you don’t check your messages though, so make sure you routinely check your answering machine or voicemail and get your thoughts on paper.
  • Call someone else, such as an assistant or coworker, and talk through the idea. My sister is typically my go-to for bouncing ideas around and generally getting things out of my head, and she will often remind me of things I said later on. If you have an assistant, have them take notes and email them to you. My sister refuses to do this without pay, sadly.
  • If all else fails, go back to the telepathy model. It would definitely work in Roswell, so maybe it will work for you. If you have success, feel free to let me know how you did it via email. I’ll be busy engineering a protective bubble to keep you out of my head, so I won’t have time to grab coffee with you.

Seriously, there are dozens of ways to get words and thoughts out of your head and into your regular world, even if your computer is indisposed and your trusty pen and paper are out of reach. So leave that poor human host alone and start recording your dreams, the book that you want to write someday, or your perfect sales pitch. Happy telepathic adventuring!

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.

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