Tag Archives: women business owner

What can Boardwalk Empire teach you about marketing?

I confess.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I’m addicted to a television show.  To Boardwalk Empire.  (Which is sort of creepy, but that’s another story…)

lips-that-touch-liquorThe series is set during Prohibition years.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the government actually outlawed alcohol during the years between 1920 and 1933. 

Yup, Prohibition made it against the law to manufacture, transport and sell alcoholic beverages.  

Which, of course, led to rampant black market sales of beer, wine and liquor. 

Nukky Thompson, the central character in Boardwalk Empire, is one of the key players in that black market world of buying and selling liquor.  What makes Nukky’s life difficult is not selling liquor– it’s finding enough of it to sell!

In other words, the demand for his product exceeded the supply.  Marketing was a breeze.

That’s a nice problem to have.  Wouldn’t you like to have that problem?

So here’s my question:  what needs to happen in your business to make marketing a breeze?

Marketing isn’t just about advertising or promoting your product or service.  Marketing is about knowing your target market so well, so thoroughly, so deeply, so completely, that customers or clients are drawn to what you have. 

It wasn’t cheap prices driving the demand for the liquor Nukky Thompson could supply.  Prices were higher! 

Scarcity creates attraction.  The demand was created by lack of availability. 

Think about the hordes of people who lined up to buy iPhones.  Yes, grownups standing in line at the mall, holding a ticket with a number for the privilege of buying a phone!  iPhones were cool. 

People stood in line to see the premier of the latest Star Wars or Harry Potter movie.  Why?  Because there are a limited number of seats in the theater.    But couldn’t they just wait till the crowds died down?  Sure, but some people want to be first.

What would make people stand in line to buy what you have to offer? 

The desire to be cool…the desire to be first.  Those desires are called psychographics.  Psychographics is the study of personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. 

What are the values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles, driving the people who want or need your product or service? 

Think about your top customers and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do they really love about your product?
  • What made them decide to buy your product instead of your competitors’?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What are their emotional triggers?
  • What values and attitudes affect their buying decision?
  • Who influences their purchasing decisions?

These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to be able to answer to really understand your customers. 

Marketing isn’t about meeting a need – that’s selling, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.  But marketing is about creating a need – creating demand

Even better, marketing is about anticipating the need.  That’s what Steven Jobs did with the iPhone.  We didn’t know we couldn’t live without that beautiful, sleek screen and those colorful icons.  Jobs anticipated that we wouldn’t be able to live without them once we’d seen them.

Spend a little time analyzing your most likely customers.  Then ask yourself these three questions:   

1)      What can you learn about your customers that will enable you to anticipate what your customers will want or need?

2)      What three small changes can you make that will create more of a demand for what you have so you don’t have to work so hard at selling?

3)      What one or two big changes can you make to anticipate or create the need or demand?

Nukky Thompson also treated his customers very well, which is part of marketing as well.  For those of you who watch the show, I’m not recommending his customer appreciation methods!  For those of you who don’t, I’ll just leave that to your imaginations.

You’ll have to call or email me to let me know what changes you make to create wild demand for what you are marketing. 

But please don’t disturb me on Sunday nights, because I’ll be watching the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire!


Just One Moment That Changed my Life

pocket watchesI remember this day like it was yesterday.

I’m sitting in a conference room with three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst. A very talented and professional group.

The meeting is the advisory board for a consulting client of mine who owns a large company out of state.  She’s very sophisticated — extremely bright, completely driven and a perfectionist in the best sense of the word.  She expects excellence in everything she does.  (And in everything everyone else does too!)

She’s reached that predictable growth stage – you know the one – rapid growth, few systems, even fewer policies and the company is completely dependent on her.

Now she’s having a hard time keeping things together.  The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and things are falling through the cracks.  There’s too much to do and everything is a 1-A priority.

That’s where I come in.  She hired me to lead the company through a process to get them through this growth stage.

On short notice, she asks me to attend her advisory board meeting.  I have no role other than to meet the members and hear their discussions about upcoming plans and decisions.

Ah, that’s what I thought!

Without warning, she asks me to come up to the white board and sketch out the model I would use for the changes that needed to take place in the next year.

I launch in and began to draw a diagram with captions.  As I write, I explain that the company needs structure – strategic planning, an organizational chart, job descriptions, and definitions of accountability.

Now, as a trainer and a speaker, I’m right at home with a marker in my hand and a white board.

But now there’s a moment, just one moment…

As I write, I turn to face the board members and notice something.

I’m speaking and they are listening.  No, not just listening.  They’re taking notes. 

For a fraction of a second, my knees go weak. 

Three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst are writing down what I say.

I push this awareness out of my mind and continue.

As soon as the meeting ends, I retreat to the ladies room and sit down on the floor, trembling with … what?  Fear?  Adrenaline?  (Classy, right?)

I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life because this is the exact moment I went from feeling like a fraud, an impostor, to knowing I was a capable, competent consultant. 

I bet you know the feeling I had in that moment.  That sick worry that you’ll be discovered, found out.

This feeling, commonly known as “the impostor syndrome” is one of the biggest factors holding women back.  We suffer from the dreaded disease of self-doubt.

We were raised to be nice girls and nice girls are humble.  We don’t brag and we don’t boast.

Some of us were also raised to defer to other voices.  Some of us were taught to be seen and not heard.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology, spoke to this gender difference in his article about why so many incompetent men become leaders.  “When it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women…is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.”

He explains that people in general confuse confidence with competence.  Men typically behave with more confidence than women.

Women see right through this mistaken belief.  And in a desire to NOT be like that, we go too far in the other direction.

Women confuse confidence with arrogance.  They are not the same thing.  Arrogance is overconfidence — definitely not a desirable leadership quality.

Women value humility, which is indeed an admirable quality.  But any strength overused becomes a weakness.  And false modesty is just as distasteful as arrogance.

Women commonly default to self-discounting behavior.  We discount our own competence and that’s self-defeating.

This self-doubt is what leads to feeling like a fraud – the impostor syndrome.

Women would be smart to adopt a healthy dose of confidence (stopping short of hubris of course!).

Our self-beliefs define our success. 

It’s time to stop feeling like a fraud.  Give yourself credit for what you do well.  

In that advisory board meeting, all that mattered is that I knew what I was talking about — that I was the only one in the room with the particular expertise that the company needed at that point in time.

In that moment (more accurately, sitting on the floor of the ladies room!), I stopped feeling like a fraud.  I never want to over-promise and under-deliver.  But I won’t sell myself short either.

And neither should you.  Believe in yourself!  Find your moment.  (And tell me about it in the comments!) Take care,




P.S.  Would a little knowledge help you develop your competence and find your moment?  Check out my webinar:  9 Specific Steps on How to HIre Great Employees for YOU

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hiring Decision

Her name was…well, maybe I’d better just leave that out.Signature:baed3687aecc9fc02b05e033f52ab04b5ac34144c6f0702c4e0cfe36f9d34041

She was young and had tons of energy and enthusiasm.

She had a degree in adult education – a great fit for my market, since we educate professional women.

She had potential (we’ll come back to that).

And I hired her with high hopes about what she could accomplish.

It didn’t turn out that way.

First it was task deadlines being missed.  Then it was writing assignments that were so grammatically mangled I had to re-write entire pieces.  Then it was late to staff meetings.

Then…oh yeah, you know what’s coming.

The drama.  Tears about an old boyfriend, excuses because she wasn’t getting enough sleep, and a full blown anxiety attack that culminated in collapsing on my sofa. I’m not kidding.

I’m a really compassionate person.  I’ve been trained as a lay counselor and my women entrepreneur clients have been telling me their problems and secrets for years.

But if you’re my employee?  I really don’t want to be your counselor .

I want someone to complement my skills and strengths.  I want another pair of hands to help get the work accomplished.

I want someone who can begin with the basics, then bloom and grow.

But this misfire was 100% my responsibility.

I made a classic hiring mistake.  I thought we clicked and hired based on a gut feeling.

I subconsciously attributed qualities to her that I wanted her to have.  I saw potential! (It’s like the bad boyfriend thing.  Sometimes we get attracted to the wrong people and we’re just plain blind.)

I didn’t ask the right interview questions.  I really didn’t ask her specific questions about what she had  accomplished in previous positions.

Because I saw this young woman with potential, it felt rude to press for details.  Because I wanted HER to like ME I didn’t ask her to give examples of what she did well.

And — this was the killer – I didn’t check references.  That felt just plain uncomfortable.

It felt like saying, “I think you could be completely scamming me about how wonderful you are, so I need to ask someone else if you’re as great as you tell me you are.”

But I was wrong.

It’s not rude to ask pointed questions.  It’s not impolite or discounting to ask for samples of someone’s work or verification of accomplishments.

And it’s definitely not insulting to ask a third party to validate what a total stranger has told you.

No more flakes in my company.

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hiring decision was years ago.  Since then I researched, I studied and I learned how to do it right.

I’ll be teaching the nine specific steps to making good hiring decisions in a webinar on September 26th, so come on by!  You’ll even get customizable templates for job descriptions and interview questions to ask.

And that young women, the one with potential?  I have every hope that she has matured and grown into a wonderful, capable employee!

Take care, Darcie


Small Changes with Big Impact

It’s a typical Monday morning.  globe compass, compressed

You hit the ground running, armed with good intentions.  You tell yourself, this week is going to be different.  Better.

This week I’m going to get more accomplished.

This week I’ll get organized.

This week I’m going to get caught up.

But you’re crazy busy.

You open your email and you get sucked down a rabbit hole.  You check your social media pages and there goes another hour.   A misdirected employee needs your help to get back on track — another half an hour.  An unexpected phone call eats up twenty minutes.

Sound familiar?

You’re working like mad, but is your business growing? 

Are you working on the right things, the things that help you reach your goals, the things that help you make more money?

The truth is, there’s a ton of stuff to do and not enough time.

Most likely, a full blown strategic planning session with your staff is probably the best medicine.  But right now, that just feels like one more burden.

How could you find the time to carve out a entire day or two for you and your entire staff to just talk and plan when there is already so much to do?

It’s not as hopeless as it sounds.

Small changes can have a big impact.

You’ll be amazed at how just three small changes can make a dramatic difference in what you accomplish.  You’ll begin to feel like a human being again, not just a human doing.

  • Clarify your staff responsibilities:  Get really clear on who is responsible for what.  Make sure your employees know what they are accountable for.  Define specifically what they do and how their efforts move the company forward toward defined goals.  Make their responsibilities measurable.
  • Begin every Monday morning by making a list of your Top Five Priorities for that week.  What five things absolutely must get accomplished?  Then identify the top-one-of-five.  If all else fails, this is the ONE thing I must accomplish.  Have every employee do the same thing.  Then meet every Monday morning to discuss your lists.
  • Never open your email until you have written down your Top Five Priorities.  Yeah, this sucks.  But you have to be ruthless about this.  (Sure, I’d love to think that you want to read my emails first thing Monday morning.  But even this can wait till afternoon.)  Chart your course first, get focused, then set sail.

And if you’re in a place where even these three small changes feel like too much…just do one.

If you can only make one small change, make sure that one thing is your Top Five Priority list.  Your top-five list is your compass, your guide.  Never begin a week without clearly defining for yourself and others what you want to accomplish by the end of the week.

You’ll be delighted with the difference this makes in your productivity.

Sure, a full-blown strategic plan is an incredibly valuable and essential part of being in business.  But sometimes you have to dig yourself out of a hole and get a breath of fresh air before you embark on that journey.

Start where you are. 

The most important thing in life is knowing what’s important.  (Someone famous said that, and I don’t remember who!)

Choosing your Top Five Priorities helps you make peace with the fact that you’ll never be “caught up” — some things just won’t get done.  (Sorry, hate to be the one to break it to you.)  But the important things will.

And my promise to you?  I won’t send you emails on Monday morning! Take care,


How to Rewrite the Stories that Keep You Stuck

Welcome to the Alpha Mare Academy, a collection of courses to make you the best business owner you can be.

Our “stories” are the beliefs we hold about ourselves, other people, the world around us, our relationships and the way we interact with others.

Sometimes our stories are positive and affirming, but more often than not they hold self-limiting beliefs that hold us back and cause us to play small.

Rewriting your stories will help you find the freedom to discover and embrace your full potential.

If you want to discover more about who you are, and strengthen yourself from the inside out, I hope you’ll join me for our new webinar series.  You’ll strengthen yourself from the inside out and get tools that will help you the rest of your life.


Are business problems wearing you out? Try these eight steps…

“The only business without problems is a dead business.”

~ Dr. Ichak Adizes, Author, Corporate Lifecycles

I love this quote, because it simply normalizes the fact that your business will have problems.  Kind of takes the sting out of it.  Makes you feel less…inadequate.

So let’s just be honest with ourselves.  Running a business means solving problems.

Not just occasionally.  Daily.  Hourly.

And these business problems can just wear us slick.

Our time as leaders is not best spent on solving problems.  It is best spent on creating possibilities and opportunities.

So here’s another powerful quote to help move you in the right direction.

“Fast and roughly right decision-making will replace deliberations that are precise but slow.”

~ Rita Gunther McGrath, Professor, Columbia Business School

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy little guide to help you think problems through and make the best decisions possible, as quickly as possible?

Here are eight simple steps to consider in any situation that requires problem solving:

  1. Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Seriously, just like yoga. Because taking in a long slow deep breath and exhaling slowly two or three times instantly lowers your heart rate and your stress level.  So relax.  Breathe.
  2. Suspend your assumptions.  Yup, you have them.  You just have to be intentional about naming them.  It might even help to write them down.  “I assume______.”  We hold on to assumptions because they create a safety zone, preventing new thinking and new ideas.  But they can be fatal unless we check them out.
  3. Ask “Why” five times.  This takes you deep into the core of the problem.  You’re looking for a real solution, not a Band-Aid, so find the core of the problem and fix that.  For example:  The printer won’t work.  Why?  It says the print cartridge is damaged.  Why?  I don’t know, but this happened before.  Why?  Tech support says it’s a known issue with this model.  Why?  There’s a bug in the software.  In just four Whys you realize that you don’t just need to replace the print cartridge.  You need a different printer model.
  4. Define your desired outcome.  What are you looking for, ideally?  Wrap your decision about what really matters most.  Of the five or six strategic objectives you want, which is really the top priority?  Of all the people you are trying to keep happy, which one is the most important?
  5. Think possibilities.  Every problem holds an opportunity.  You don’t need a short term solution that leaves you in the lurch long term.  Look down the road.  What you are facing might look like a huge mountain to climb.  But on the other side of that mountain is a lush valley.  Think bigger.
  6. Apply logic.  Whether we realize it or not, most of our decisions are based on emotions.  We simply use logic to justify them.  Emotions like anxiety, dread, or fear lead to bad decisions.  Know your facts.  Be very intentional about applying logic to the problems you face.
  7. Run your options past a “devil’s advocate.”  Years ago another consultant and I had an intense heart-to-heart with our client, trying very hard to talk her out of a very risky decision.  We were the devil’s advocates.  She decided to pursue the opportunity anyway, but the objections and concerns we expressed provided valuable information that she used to mitigate her risk.  And her project was over-the-top successful!
  8. Make a decision.  Speed matters.  Procrastination is deadly.  We can gather information indefinitely, but if we delay difficult decisions to long, all that information will change anyway.  There are very few decisions that can’t be undone.  Get it over with.  Remember, there really are no “perfect” solutions.  We always have to deal with an uncertain future.  One decision leads to the next.

Above all, teach this problem-solving method to your employees.  Print it out and discuss it at your next staff meeting.

Never neglect an opportunity to train and educate those who work for you.  Don’t just teach them WHAT to think – teach them HOW to think. 

The more capable they are of solving problems and making decisions, the fewer problems that will land on your desk!

Take care, Darcie


Almost forgot!  Get your free Self-Growth Secrets – a new 3-part podcast series you can listen to at your convenience.  We’ll talk about stress, guilt, self-doubt and creating your personal vision.  Get it right now, just click here…