Musings

Tips for how to travel without plans

Tips for how to travel without plans

In the past month, I’ve stayed at over 7 places. That doesn’t count the number of Airbnbs I booked and didn’t like, the hotels I checked out, but didn’t like either, and the random spots I went to to find a place. I started my trip with 2 days booked in a small town in Sardinia and took it day by day and week by week from there.

Everytime I went to a new location, I would be nervous and not sure I would want to stay. After knowing that I’d find myself in that pattern, I learned to give myself at least a full day before moving cities. Yet whenever I found a Airbnb or hotel I didn’t like, I always moved right away, even if it took me 3 spots in a night to find a spot I was comfortable with. That was important, to know that I had a safe place to call home for the night.

Even when I stayed in Orosei in Sardinia for 2 weeks, I wasn’t planning to stay for 2 weeks. I booked for a few nights, booked a few more, and then decided to stay a full week etc. What this has taught me is to trust myself, know that even in moments of intense stress and uncertainty, you will figure it out. All is well and the universe is truly working for you and with you. Even in moments of doubt and fear. There is always a path forward.

The first time I had to find other arrangements the day of was when I was in Cortona. I had booked an Airbnb, the host was late, it was raining, and the internet wasn’t working. It was in a dark upstairs space and I was like F*** this, I want to stay someplace nicer. I canceled my week stay there and after wandering around looking for a hotel, I found a beautiful historic building to stay in. The people were so helpful and I now have epic memories of pici pasta with bacon and artichokes and some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. What was supposed to be a week stay, ended up being 2 nights. So I thought where do you want to go next Dani?

That’s when I decided to go to Urbino without plans. I had found a place last minute in Cortona so I thought why not? Hah, that’s when the adventures really started. I’ll give the summary here and get to the tips of traveling without plans and then come back to that story. It’s still too raw as I sit here in sunny Riomaggiore writing this. Let’s just say 4 cities later (and lots of meditation) that I’m finally feeling more centered.

  1. Get used to checking out airbnbs
    1. Give yourself some leeway and know that you are going to book places that you don’t like, you’re not doing anything wrong, it’s just part of the process. At least it was for me. It’s my story so that’s how I’m telling it;)
    2. What’s in the photo is not always what you get. Just like dating apps, just because the photo looks good doesn’t mean it’s as advertised. I remember one spot in Porto that had cool photos of a river view, what they failed to include was the abandoned building next to it and it’s creepy AF entrance. That was a no go!
  2. You’ll know if you like a spot or not, trust yourself
    1. Go with your gut. If it looks good on paper but doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. I found a gorgeous place in downtown Urbino in an historic building that ended up being so off energetically. Even though I was practicing feeling out places from the photos, I had to give myself some leeway that I’m not going to get it right all the time. It had these creepy dark paintings and I just felt nervous there. When I shared this with the person who was showing me the room, he said that the owner is a nervous person and that they don’t actually like working with them. So that made sense, I’m not crazy. That’s why you listen to your gut, even when logically it doesn’t make sense.
  3. Book one night and see how you like it
    1. I wish I would have done this more honestly. I would get into panic mode and just book places and then decide I didn’t like them. Not a good strategy so I’m suggesting a better one for you:)
  4. Practice coming back to center
    1. When you are in a foreign country, a new city, and don’t know where you are staying that night, it’s important to know how to come back to center. Whether that’s listening to music, meditating, getting the freak out moments out, talking to yourself, praying, you name it, I’ve probably tried it lol.
  5. Visualizations
    1. What does it feel like to stay in the most epic place? How does it feel to be relaxing in a gorgeous bed as you gaze at the beautiful Italian landscape outside your window? Get into the feeling state of what you want.
  6. Follow the trail
    1. There’s always a cookie crumb to follow. That Italian relative that has a friend who has a friend etc. You never know where it will lead. Even if that’s not where your next place comes from, it gives you confidence to know that there are signs to see and listen to and that everything is unfolding as it should.
  7. Stay calm and find wifi
    1. There’s always a bar or cafe nearby that has wifi to book your next spot if you current one doesn’t work out. Like when I was in Porto and after a flight and Uber ride into the city, I was tired and hungry and just wanted to rest. Yet I went to 3 places total that night before finally getting dinner and settling in. (Included in that is the one that didn’t work out, a hotel I checked out but seemed lonely, and then the hostel/hotel I ended up staying at.)
  8. Remember you can’t get it wrong
    1. Know that even in moments where you feel like you really F*** it up, it’s okay. You can’t really get it wrong. Life still goes one even when it feels like it’s not going to. The earth will continue to spin in its orbit and the sun will rise the next day. I totally get those pit of despair moments, I’m not saying don’t have them but know there is something on the other side. Even when you can’t see it.

Enjoy your own journey wherever it leads you! Eat gelato and be happy.

ECommerce Success Through Website Redesign

ECommerce Success Through Website Redesign

OREI Travel: The Importance of Product-Focused Design

OREI, an electronics manufacturer, launched their website in 2012 to sell a range of video, audio, power and accessory products. Joy Works Marketing was hired to design a new website that showcased their travel adapter products and other travel accessories. OREI’s travel adapters are a speciality product with significant growth potential that got lost in the noise of the existing site.

Joy Works Marketing used our five-step model to create a website that is:

  • Designed specifically for the target audience – males 35-65 who classify themselves as members of the “smart” traveler group;
  • Visually appealing and draws the prospective buyer into the site to learn more about the full range of OREI travel products; and
  • Easy to use so visitors can quickly find the perfect travel adapter for their next adventure.

after

Step 1 – Strategy & Planning

In the first step of the website design process, JWM used data collected from a client questionnaire, market research and competitive analysis to create a blueprint for the new website. OREI’s existing website didn’t have any analytics available for JWM to study, so our strategy and planning was based on client input and research.

An important research element included developing a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape, including the digital channels in use, shown below.

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One key element that OREI wanted to include on their new site was ecommerce – their goal, among other things, was to increase sales.

At the end of the Strategy and Planning step, JWM developed:

  • Ecommerce strategy;
  • Brand guidelines;
  • A content strategy; and
  • A keyword and SEO strategy.

All were approved by the client before moving to the second step, Design.

Step 2 – Design

During step two, JWM graphic designers used the market research gathered in step one to create a series of page mock-ups. Their end goal: to bring the adapters to life and focus on how travelers would likely use them on their travels. Included in these mock-ups was a content outline that included calls to action (CTAs) on each product page, metadata to ensure better discovery via search engines, set up for cross-selling on all product pages, and a dedicated search engine for the products to ensure visitors can find exactly what they need.

JWM sent these mock-ups to OREI for feedback and approval.

Step 3 – Develop & Test

Once approved, JWM moved to step three, transforming the mock-up into reality. We researched various ecommerce platforms to use for OREI’s travel site and selected Shopify, the preeminent ecommerce platform on the market today.

The key to moving from the Design to the Develop & Test stage is creating designs that will easily transfer to the selected platform without requiring significant custom coding. This direction for the back-end coding means the transfer from conception to live-site is done quickly – reducing the typical design-to-live delays seen with other design projects.

Step 4 – Launch

Everyone’s favorite step – this is when a new website is moved from staging to production and can be seen by visitors for the first time. It is important to ensure that key reporting tools, like Google Analytics, are embedded at launch. This ensures that, over time, you can see where visitors spend time and how their usage flows within the site, so that adjustments can be made as needed.

Step 5 – Reporting

In fact, at JWM our fifth, final and ongoing stage of a website project is Reporting. Only through the active and deliberate measurement of user traffic can tweaks and adjustments be made; these small adjustments will have a significant impact on the site’s revenue generation potential.

Conclusion

Highlighting your products and separating them from the clutter of your website can have a significant impact on revenue, website views and exposure. Increasing sales is a marathon, not a sprint – preparing a good base for your product so that it can stand out is one part of your training. Providing a boost to products rate of sale (aka, its speed) is another. Monitoring the progress and tweaking as you go along is key.

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Joy Works Marketing is an online marketing company with a refreshing philosophy…

Joy Works!

It’s simpleIf you bring joy to your work you are able to better deliver value to your clients and customers. We are a virtual team of talented professionals who are ready to help you with your next website redesign.

Creating a Social Media Butterfly

Creating a Social Media Butterfly

ZAQ: Online Growth for a Successful Aromatherapy Retailer

ZAQ is an aromatherapy company that sells diffusers and essential oils to resellers and consumers. A leader in the diffuser industry, ZAQ focuses on health and wellness through aromatherapy. This industry has become increasingly competitive over the years with lower price point entrants in the marketplace and more home-based sellers that use aggressive, guerilla-style marketing tactics.

The Goals

To create a strong social media presence across a variety of channels – Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – and reach a wider audience, introducing them to ZAQ’s products.

To increase fans, followers and buzz about ZAQ products in a way that increased brand awareness and click-thrus to the ZAQ website.

The Challenge

When JWM was asked to develop a Social Media strategy, ZAQ’s two Social Media channels, Facebook and Twitter, had no clearly defined strategy, no fan-base growth targets, and most importantly, the posts were too promotional.

JWM created a Social Media plan and calendar designed to achieve ZAQ’s goals by:

  • Adding Pinterest, important considering it markets to ZAQ’s preferred target audience – women 25-45 with an interest in aromatherapy;
  • Changing the tone of the posts from “selling” to “social”;
  • Developing a storytelling approach, giving fans an emotional relationship with the brand;
  • Driving engagement with a schedule that matches the times when users were active;
  • Widening the range of topics to appeal to a larger audience;
  • Creating a cohesive and unified approach across all channels for a single brand message;
  • Designing new, vivid imagery to be shared across all platforms.

The Results

Overall, the results speak for themselves, as you can see in the chart below. Social activity and engagement increased throughout 2015 into 2016 on all three Social Media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. This improvement was created with consistent posting, continual review of data and a refined content strategy that pays attention to the target audience’s interests and consistent storytelling.

Statistics & Results over a 15 month period
(January 2015 – March 2016)

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Conclusion

Developing a successful multi-channel social media program is the end goal for many health, wellness and consumer product companies. This is the same across the industry – from the resellers, like ZAQ, to the direct-to-consumers producers.

Best practices for a successful Social Media strategy are:

  1. Gaining a thorough understanding of the business strategy;
  2. Developing a clear definition of preferred target audience;
  3. Creating a baseline analysis of all channels to determine what’s working, the level of engagement, number of participants, etc.;
  4. Establishing a written content calendar to ensure consistency and structure; and
  5. Evaluating/measuring all available data to confirm what works, requires improvements and revisions, and will continue delivering results.

Using this 5-step approach delivers successful results for ZAQ, and for any company that is ready to grow their online community. Becoming a Social Media butterfly is only a few steps away.

start-logo

Joy Works Marketing is an online marketing company
with a refreshing philosophy – Joy Works!

It’s simpleIf you bring joy to your work you are able to better deliver value to your clients and customers. We are a virtual team of talented professionals who are ready to help you with your next website redesign.

A Platform for Travel Stories

A Platform for Travel Stories

Wander Forrest: Giving Voice to Work-Travel

Wander Forrest is an information based blogging website created by Danielle Forrest, owner and founder of JWM, and her husband, Ryan. Wander Forrest’s main goal was the share Danielle and Ryan’s experiences as they travelled and worked remotely. The website redesign was also a way for the JWM team to work together on a website project that followed our six-step process.

The Goals

To create a website that was visually appealing as well as interesting to read content-wise, so friends and family (and the occasional new visitor) would enjoy their time on the website.

The Challenge

Wander Forrest’s website was relatively new at the time JWM started on the redesign. As such, it had no analytics in place to see what was working and what wasn’t; also the original template needed an overhaul – and finding the right look is sometimes the biggest challenge of all.

JWM simplified the process a bit, since the client was our own fearless leader:

  • Reviewed the completed the website redesign questionnaire;
  • Research of other travel blogs and sites, finding the ones that Danielle liked;
  • Discussion of the materials with the website designer;
  • Mock-ups sent to Danielle for review;
  • Completed light competitor research; and
  • Updated the logo.

The Results

The final website was a big success with the regular visitors (Danielle and Ryans friends and family). We found a site design that made it easy to keep up-to-date with the wandering Forrests while also representing their personality as a couple. JWM set up website analytics so that we can better track the success of each post – the most popular this year was “Yin, Yang And the Importance of Embracing Balance”.

start-logo

Joy Works Marketing is an online marketing company
with a refreshing philosophy – Joy Works!

It’s simpleIf you bring joy to your work you are able to better deliver value to your clients and customers. We are a virtual team of talented professionals who are ready to help you with your next website redesign.

How To Triple Your Web Leads With The Right Design And Planning

How To Triple Your Web Leads With The Right Design And Planning

Goal:

After our initial collaboration and planning with Spevco, we hypothesized that the redesign of the website would result in a 33% growth. View live before and after versions of the website.

Solution:

Spevco tasked our team with redesigning a site that helped turn more visitors into sales qualified leads. We approached this from 3 angles:

  1. Restructuring the hierarchy of the website to highlight their core services and subcategories so users could find the right solution for their business right away
  2. Turn the text-heavy old version of the website into an immersive experience by calling out to customer examples, incorporating more interactive content (videos, photos and animations) and speeding up the website’s load times
  3. Provide several new ways for visitors to submit their information including large yellow callout buttons, a popup to download collateral, a scrolling contact us bar that sticks with them on every page and a newsletter signup

Results:

  • Averaged 15 form completions pre-redesign
    • Averaged 45 form completions post-redesign
  • Averaged 6.6 second website load time pre-redesign
    • Averaged 2 second website load time post-redesign
  • Averaged 1,800 website visits per month pre-redesign
    • Averaged over 3,000 website visits per month post-redesign
  • 300% growth in leads
  • 70% reduction in website load time
How To Bring Back Over 20% Of Visitors And Turn Them Into Leads

How To Bring Back Over 20% Of Visitors And Turn Them Into Leads

Goal:

When we first started working with Spevco it was clear that their primary concern was not in generating awareness or visits to their website, but rather converting more of the existing traffic into leads for the sales team to follow up.

Solution:

With several thousand people already coming to the Spevco website on a monthly basis, we needed to create ways to capture their contact information from their first visit, or if they weren’t ready, to remarket to visitors with engaging banners while they were on other sites like Facebook, Youtube, CNN and more. Thanks to the combination of remarketing and marketing automation, we brought back nearly 25% of visitors and approximately 3-5 new sales qualified leads per month!

How We Got People Back:

To get people back to the website and then get them to fill out their information, we had to first give them a reason to come back! In addition to promotions to schedule a free visit to the facility, we also created a well-researched guide to experiential marketing. This document killed two birds with one stone. First it helped educate potential customers on what a full-service mobile marketing tour really takes to design, build, operate and maintain; which helped us cut down on time the sales team might normally spend educating prospects. Secondly, it provided a valuable tool that the prospect was willing to submit their information for (first, last, email, phone number, etc.).

Once the materials and incentives were created, we set up our campaign parameters to target anyone who had come to the website in the last 90 days, but had not filled out a contact form. Using Facebook’s remarketing program and Google Adwords Retargeting, we were able to reach thousands of people with hundreds of thousands of display advertising views. The best part? Spevco was only charged when someone clicked on an ad and the average cost was less than $.40/click. As a result, nearly 25% of total traffic came back as a result of these ads resulting in roughly 30% increase in total leads.

How We Used Email To Nurture Prospects To Sales Qualified Leads:

When new leads sign up for the best practices guide, they are also automatically opted into a 5-part email series designed specifically to nurture them into a sales qualified lead. Email 1 comes from the company:

  • Email 1: Thanks for downloading!

After that, the user is assigned to a sales rep and more informational emails are sent to help them become more familiar with Spevco’s experience and expertise:

  • Email 2: Hi %first name%, I’m %sales representative% (Ex: Hi Jimmy, I’m Steve Sampleton)
  • Email 3: Have you seen the Dallas Cowboys’ mobile marketing exhibit?
  • Email 4: [Case Study] Check out This Mobile House

Finally, after several warm-ups have been sent, a final email is sent from the rep, asking them to get in touch:

  • Email 5: Turn Your Dream into a Reality | Book a Free Tour Today
The Top 5 Benefits of Hiring a Contract Project Manager

The Top 5 Benefits of Hiring a Contract Project Manager

  1. Save your sanity! By working with a project manager it frees your time and your team. Especially with a contract or remote PM, you also have the added benefit of a fresh perspective on your business.
  2. Save money. Over the long term, having someone manage the project assures that it stays on time and on budget.
  3. Bring your team together. A project manager keeps tracks of the details plus is a team leader and brings everyone together to accomplish the task.
  4. Easy to start. Instead of looking for a full-time project manager, start with someone contract who you can get to know. By working in a defined scope, it gives both of you the chance to see what your needs really are long term.
  5. Have fun! By working with someone who knows how to keep a project moving forward and have a good time while doing it is an extra bonus;)

Looking for someone to manager your project? Look no further, send me an email at dani@daniforrest.com and we can chat.

January: Out on the Town

January: Out on the Town

Hey friends! Happy New Year! Let’s go out on the town together. What fun events do you have on your calendar? I’m looking for more events to go to in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro if you have events or organizations you’d like to share. Here’s what I have on my calendar so far:

January 16, Freelance League of NC Holiday Invitational

January 24, Startup Summit: Learn & Network Night with Grace Ueng, CEO of Savvy 

February 7, Larger Than Life Science 

Every Thursday, Venture Cafe

Let me know if you’d like to go together!

P.S.  I also started a new meetup for Reiki if you are interested in joining that as well.

P.S.S. I choose this group selfie photo because well events are always a great opportunity for getting together and taking photos so we look cool on social media;)

See you around town!

Out On The Town: December

Out On The Town: December

Hello friends! Here’s the events I have on my calendar if you are interested in joining. What’s on your calendar? Let’s go out on the town together!

Dec 11 12pm: Lunch & Learn: A Point Well Made with Katie Marshall

Dec 12 5:30pm: Young Professionals on Tap 

Dec 12 7:30pm: Wise Women Wednesday

Dec 13 6pm: SheWolf Howlday Party

Dec 9 and 16 4pm: Reiki Circle (To take a break from the rush this season and this is an event I host:)

This is the season of holiday parties and planning for the new year. How are you doing? What are your rituals and routines for new year planning? I’ve been working on my own 2019 plan and one of them includes updating my website. Wish me luck and see you soon! 🙂

All the best,

Dani

Projects with Purpose

Projects with Purpose

When do you feel most engaged, fulfilled, and inspired by your work? Do you feel like your work has purpose? These are the questions I am pondering for myself. I’m playing with a new slogan of Projects with Purpose and wanted to talk with you about what that means and the process I took to get here.

I had a friend date with a fellow business owner today and it is always interesting to see how we describe our work and how it’s perceived by others. While both of us have been working in the same areas, I feel like for myself I am talking about it in different ways and am looking to see how it is perceived by others. My focus has been marketing strategy, planning, and project management and recently I’ve decided to put my project management foot forward. (I still do my other work yet I have found that there is more of a demand for marketing project management.) With this decision being made, this is where we get to the fun part of any client discovery work, where we have an idea of who we are, what we are doing, and why and then we connect the dots with the customer. (This process can just as easily be done in the reverse and start with the customer.)

With this clarity in direction, how am I talking about my work now? How am I better engaging with my customers? Well this is where I could use your help. I have a few ideas and want to test them with you. I’m all about sharing the work that goes into the work and this is where I’m at now.

I’ve determined that there is an umbrella and 2 buckets that I feel like explain what I’m doing for project management.

Umbrella: Projects with Purpose (this is my why and what motivates me)

Bucket 1: The type of projects – video, website, exhibition, program, events

Bucket 2: The industries I’m passionate about – art, travel, fashion, food, sustainability, innovative companies (working in a field of exponential growth)

Where I’m at right now is turning this to a cohesive story that resonates with my target audience. (Which honestly needs to be refined as well as it is a mix of business owners, collaborative partners like agencies, and ideally C suite contacts for the larger scale projects I want to work on.)

What was the process I took to get here?

  • Client discovery work for myself – who are you, what are you doing, why are you doing it
  • Talking to others – having conversations with fellow marketers and business friends about my ideas
  • Storybranding – I’m a big fan of this process of following what makes a great story and translating it to what makes a great brand (in particular having a character, who has a problem, that gives them a plan, that calls them to action, that leads them to success etc.)
  • Notecards – writing out my goals (more like feeling statements of what I want) on notecards to have at home and the office for me to see on a daily basis (I’m a visual person and the act of writing it down and seeing it is very helpful for me)

What is next? 

  • Turning these ideas into a story (will be working with a writer on this:)
  • Refining target audience

What is my ask? 

  • Does projects with purpose resonate with you?
  • Where do you see a need for contract/freelance project management in your circle of business?

I welcome your thoughts on this direction and what is resonating with you! I’d also love to hear what you are pondering. Looking forward to starting a conversation.

All the best,

Dani

 

P.S. I have it on my mind to also do a post or Facebook Live on the future of work, how I can be an agent for change in my community, my grand plans for Dani Inc, The Healing Tree Circle (a healing center I’m collaborating on with others) and my other business idea Moonwater. I’m thinking big right now and have lots of ideas I want to chat about!