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When MetLife posted a gut health blog in December, it seemed this healthy trend was gaining the main stream attention it deserves. MetLife's message: "Ensuring your employees have a healthy gut microbiome can lead to a happier, healthier workforce with a lower incidence of both acute and chronic illnesses."
Whether employer or employee, it's time to pay attention. Your gut is literally your second brain and studies are revealing dramatic health and psychiatric implications of a dysfunctional digestive tract.
FYI: Maxis Study “Gut Health: focusing on our inner economy”
Our gut microbiota play a vital role in our physical and psychological health via a neural network: the enteric nervous system (ENS), a complex system of about 100 million nerves found in the lining of the gut.14 The ENS is sometimes called the 'second brain', and it actually arises from the same tissues as our central nervous system (CNS) during fetal development. Therefore, it has many structural and chemical parallels to the brain. In a miraculously orchestrated symphony of hormones, neurotransmitters, and electrical impulses through a pathway of nerves, both 'brains' communicate back and forth.14. The ENS produces a lot of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells, as well as about 95% of our serotonin and half of our dopamine.
| |In other words, there is a connection between your mental and physical health and your gut health. You truly are what you eat … and while this phrase first emerged in the 1800's, it seems the evidence to support it is finally here.
As a business owner, how seriously should you take MetLife’s information? Read their study here. I’d take it very seriously, by starting with your own gut.
If you're the leader of your organization, then taking control over your own mental and physical well-being is critical to the success of your company. Then champion the cause with your employees.
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Need more convincing? Here is a quick case study...meet Yogi.
Two years ago, we rescued a mange infested English bulldog. He’d received a very bad diet and was placed in a high stress training environment. His immune system was shot ~ as a result, he couldn’t fight off the mites infecting his skin. The only medical remedy was a high dose equivalent of heart worm medicine given daily for a period of up to 3 months.
We decided to fix his gut instead and reduce his stress. He received all natural, raw food including probiotics and prebiotics, such as Jerusalem root. He did receive a few treatments of acupuncture … no joke, to see him, you’d have done it too! With lots of love and a corrected digestive system, within weeks, he had complete control over the mange without use of any medication. If it works for a dog, imagine the impact a healthy gut can have on all of us.
Wondering how to start? First order of business, stop eating anything that contains ingredients you can’t pronounce. Find yourself a great nutritionist and determine what works best for you! Then consider offering sessions to your employees ~ and stock the office fridge with Kombucha tea!
Note: My nutritionist is Danielle Delaquilla ~ Eagle Vision Nutritian
In closing, here is a list of 'healthy' things I've incorporated into my life that I feel are making a difference.
(1) Brew my own Kombucha tea.
(2) Drink bone broth.
(3) Eat prebiotics.
(4) Limit processed carbs
(5) Supplement with vitamins B, D, Magnesium, Curcumin
(6) Half a lemon, a shot of apple cider vinegar with honey in tea.
(7) Joined a gym. Exercise daily!
| |The benefit? I have an incredibly healthy digestive track, have trimmed down, and experience far fewer ailments. I hope I'm benefiting from all that MetLife's article highlights, including fending off cancer and other diseases.
It might surprise you to learn that LEGO® offers a training program to instructors of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® , the only LEGO® endorsed form of professional development using their name. I recently had the opportunity to join in a session and am here to tell you that everyone can learn from LEGO®.
Through this facilitated play, you can discover a great deal about your employees, clients ~ even target audience ~ by how they respond to creative activity.
My 'self discovery' experience began at 8 am in a meeting room at the Sheraton Springfield, where I arrived to find an unopened LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® kit placed at each seat at the banquet table.
Our first activity involved opening the kit, identifying a model we wanted to build from a booklet, and under rapid fire, complete it. I utterly botched my first building assignment and realized why it was called 'serious play.' After some discussion and continued modification to our models, our group moved to an empty table where all nine participants faced one another awaiting our directions. Our kits set aside, we would now have access to 3 buffet tables piled with LEGO® pieces. Having just showed this group of strangers how poorly I executed the first assignment, I was determined to do better, disturbed by what went wrong...(I can be a tad bit competitive.)
Contrary to my initial failure, over the next 5 hours, I successfully ~ and joyfully ~ built a series of models in response to prompts, including:
So what did all of this 'serious play' mean? It was evident I failed miserably when asked to build an awkward looking creature, using an ugly color pallet, following unattractive illustrations from an instruction booklet. I excelled when offered unlimited color choices, shapes and options to create my own models. On the surface, someone might call that attention deficit disorder...or a big fat excuse for not following directions.
- 3 of my strengths
- 3 of my weaknesses
- how am I different
- 3 things I should do
- how can I set myself apart
- what do others expect of me
- 3 of my best attributes
- 2 things I like about and dislike about my job
- where I aspire to be in a year
- what support do I need to get there etc.
On the contrary, I related the feelings I had during the different activities to those I experience during my work day. When I consider the tasks I dislike, they often involve software applications with unattractive user interfaces (UI). Tasks such as bank reconciliation or paying bills are associated with a gray scale in my mind. In contrast, those applications with friendly UIs, I look forward to interacting with. Any form of creative work, even under deadline, feels good. This also extends to work environment where I feel most comfortably surrounded with color and creative images to look up at when pausing from my work.
Having gone through this LEGO® experience, I recognize and better understanding my preferences. This allows me to consciously re-framing the activities I need to perform with greater awareness of my emotional response and it has removed the previously undefined 'dread' I associated with some activities. For others in the group, discoveries about procrastination, imbalance of work and personal life, need to change career and how best to handle difficult co-workers were revealed by their play.
Whether seeking team building for your staff, or better understanding of yourself, I recommend you look into a full day workshop of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.
This is an enlightening way to help employees identify their strengths and consider how best to align those in the work place. For group dynamics and team building, it’s an eye opening experience for co-workers to learn more about one another and open lines of communication. And on the chance you're building a software application, you might want to add a bit of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to your user interface research!
For more information, visit facilitator Gail Kulas's website Leading to Unlock.
Given the heightened cyber security environment we live in, I was skeptical that any attempt to launch EXTRA DAY by email would be successful, as my announcement would be filtered into junk mail folders, never to be read.
Hence, snail mail was the natural choice. Prior to launching EXTRA DAY, I decided to monitor my own mailbox to see who shared my philosophy and I recommend you do the same…there’s a lot you can learn!
I focused my analysis on the mailings generated by the marketing folks at on-line companies. Given their virtual existence and social media savvy, I wanted to see how they would draw people to their sites through a more traditional method. Turns out these marketers have designed some of the most interesting and sophisticated pieces I’ve collected.
There's a reason for that, shared by Lauren Allergrezza, Senior Marketing Analyst with Thomas Reuters:
“In 2015, the United States Postal Service delivered 154 billion pieces of mail, which means the average home received just 1,300 pieces of mail in a year, or five per weekday…
In contrast, the average person receives 121 emails every single day.
The result? People like getting mail, and they respond to it.
When surveyed, 56 percent of Americans said receiving mail is a pleasure. Seventy-nine percent act on direct mail immediately, compared to 45 percent for email. Over 70 percent of people open most of their mail, including ads, and more than 60 percent will visit a website because of a mailer.”
So, I’m naturally feeling good about the above, but there is a right way and a wrong way to run a direct mailing campaign and let’s see what lessons I can share from my mail this week:
A Virtual 'Style' Company:
This company remains anonymous because I’m addressing their shortcomings. This 5 year old on-line personal styling service sends you a 5 piece outfit, based upon your survey. Buy what you like, send the rest back. This is the first mailing I've received from them.
What did they do right? They sent an interesting, attractive brochure that explains exactly what they do. What did they do wrong?
(1) There's no tracking mechanism on this mailing. They haven’t used a unique landing page or coupon code to track the success of this mailing against their other campaigns. If you are going to spend the money, include a means to measure the conversion rate from your mailing.
(2) There's no compelling call to action – coupon, discount, deadline to act. A unique coupon code would be a great option to tracking conversion from the mailing and also encourages a reason to check out the site.
(3) ‘Or current resident’ on the label. Most recipients don't know you're just complying with USPS move update requirements and thus, you've lost the personal touch. You've just labeled yourself 'junk mail.' Review your options and though it may cost more to validate the mailing list, depending upon your objective, might be worth it.
A Well Known Magazine
A minor lesson, but important no less…don’t trick your recipient as it may foster ill will. I received a mailing from a magazine we’d never subscribed to and tossed it… but then saw “DO NOT BEND” on the outside of the envelope as it sat in the recycle bin. I thought “oooohhhh, something inside that shouldn’t be bent!” and pulled it out of the garbage and promptly opened it. How did I feel when the envelope contained only a flimsy subscription invoice? Even the call to action to save $66.89 off the cover price didn’t excuse the trickery used to compel me to open their unattractive envelope. The take away? If using an envelope, a call to action on the exterior is a great idea, but make sure you don’t disappoint with the content.
We know Shutterfly as one of the original on-line photo printing company that also makes cards, coffee table books, and even offers an event planner for your sports team. Receiving a 40 page catalog from this virtual company was quite unexpected and a first for our household.
What did they do right? Two coupons for $20 off of a $50 order, is easy to calculate and motivating. That is enough to send me to their website, because I can only imagine my holiday cards will be at least $50. The coupon code contains sufficient tracking information for Shutterfly to measure the success of their mailing. They have cleverly offered a coupon to your friend – taking advantage of the network effect.
Barnes and Noble
Talk about a call to action, there are 6 peel off coupons on the inside of this great mailer. These include general savings and specific savings on individual gift ideas. While I’m very impressed by the quality of the mailing and tracking mechanisms on each coupon, I’ll share the fine print trickery. I’d hate to spend all that time on-line shopping, only to enter my coupons and have them denied at check out. Reading the fine print on the back of the peel off coupon (which many might never peel off), they are for ‘member accounts’ only. We are not a member household. Turning the brochure over a few times I find a banner at the base of the cover stating "Coupons for Members." While it’s a great mailing, Barnes and Noble is using a stale mailing list (as years ago we were members) and almost caused a bit of ill will. Perhaps their strategy is to (1) gain more members (2) achieve non-member purchases without the coupons. Assuming no hidden strategy, the lesson here is to make sure your mailing list is accurate and appropriate for the recipient.
The only piece of the puzzle we don’t yet know is how each of these direct mail pieces fall into the overall marketing strategies of these on-line companies. Will I receive an email follow up if I don’t respond to the call to action, or see an ad on any of my social media feeds. Only time will tell how they have chosen to integrate direct mail into their campaign. If they don't, that goes into the 'wrong' category, as your direct mail campaign primes warmer reception to emails and calls in the near future.
Once you’ve crafted the perfect mailing and obtained an up to date, clean mailing list, how will you chose to track the success of your mailing? If you plan to create a special landing page for the mailing, make sure you create a very easy URL, as you're asking people to type it in, rather than clicking a link.
A coupon code is a great tracking alternative that also contains a call to action. You can vary that coupon code by region, demographics, timing of mailing and more, in order to obtain the data that matters to you. Make it compelling – I personally like hard dollar discounts, and am not motivated by anything less than a 30% discount.
How will you integrate the direct mailing into your overall strategy? Ideally, you have the emails of the recipients so that in a week’s time, you send out a follow up email or post a similar message on your social media feeds where they may follow you. Likewise, if you have a calling plan, the cold call should be that much warmer.
No matter the intention of the mailing (business launch, special offering etc.), it’s important to have an intended goal and to monitor the results against that goal, while remaining open to unexpected results, as all data is useful in developing your on-going strategy.
For a fun read on an extreme mailing campaign, click here.
If you haven't integrated Instagram into your social media marketing strategy, you're missing out on one of the most engaging platforms - that is actually enjoyable. For me, that is the key! I love using Instagram and it's clear based upon engagement statistics that 500 million other users do too. According to Brandwatch, in 2016, engagement with product brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.
I started using Instagram as an outlet for my personal interests - antiquing, upcycling, DIY projects, rural life, health and wellness. At the same time, however, I do have a master plan to gather followers of like mind so that when I re-launched my novels as e-books, I have an appreciative following to share the news with...and from there, expand the marketing effort.
Now if you're reading this and are not familiar with Instagram, the visual platform involves posting pictures with comments, use of hashtags to categorize your posts and following those users you like and those you hope will follow you back. While it sounds simple, and it is, should you decide to delve in and treat it as a serious marketing tool, there are a number of applications to support you in transacting business as well as monitoring traffic, managing posts and more.
Five reasons I love Instagram
Encapsulating the above, unlike other social platforms, I truly believe the 'enjoyable' factor of Instagram is extremely high and for that reason, your commitment to this platform will be greater than the others you've tried.
- The opportunity to create a target community rapidly. I've created my own community of engaged followers who share the same aesthetic and interests. You can easily research your competitors from around the world to determine the best strategy for your brand.
- "Go big or go home" does not apply. You decide how to use your community - whether to engage a smaller, focused group with great sincerity or throw your net out to a wide audience and use tools to 'auto-like' hashtags and immediately 'like' follower posts, to manage your engagement. You choose whether to grow organically or with tools and tricks.
- Stress-free marketing. You know your brand, so visually reflect its value and aspects of your business that will attract your profile buyer, with an authentic, unique page. You don't have to stress about content creation, pithy tweets, or relevant articles you should share. You share what you want your followers to see. When they like what they see, they'll take a look at your profile and click the link you've provided, directing them to your business. Best of all, your marketing tool is in your hand - your phone goes everywhere you do, so you can consistently gathering visual content.
- Create great visual images. On Instagram, 'organic' photos are more effective than stock photos, and with the filters available to improve your pics, you'll quickly learn to represent your business visually through your own eyes. See #3, your camera is on you always.
- Gain insights and enhanced appreciation. When you begin to think visually about your business, you adopt a new awareness of your brand, product(s), even work environment and how you wish to represent all of that visually to attract your customers. For me, it's forced a philosophy of slowing down, taking time out to capture the moment throughout the day. Whether walking into a field of sunflowers, conducting an impromptu sing along with cows, or capturing a rusting Cadillac in front of a broken down bungalow, these images resonate with my community and I'm grateful for the memories that accompany them. You will adopt a strategy to capture and share the value of your brand and it will enhance the way you view your business.
My recommendation? If your strategy doesn't include Instagram, google the latest statistics and see if your customer profile is active on the platform. Interested in getting started and need a hand? EXTRA DAY is at your service!
P.S. One final benefit...reach out to your community for support, advice and their photos! When creating my design, I looked to my community to represent me. Here I give credit to Anne Otten-Noe, whose photos grace my pages. Click any of her pictures on my Service and Overview pages and you'll be transported to the Netherlands where she collects and sells beautiful antiques. The picture of the tools? That came from an amazing collector and photographer of old tools. Click his picture and you'll head to his account, enjoy!
The business owners of Main Street in Stafford Springs are living their American Dreams. The entrepreneurial energy will make you want to give up your day job and set up shop. At the helm is Jacob Harrison Long, who two years ago re-opened the Warren textile mill, bringing the brand of American Woolen to the market place. American Woolen Company is now producing the highest quality worsted and woolen fabrics...and if I'm not mistaken, it's the only one producing at this caliber in the US, right here in Stafford Springs. Not only is Jacob fulfilling a mission, but brought a dream back to a town that, like many, had lost a piece of history.
What brought me to Stafford Springs? My daughter, meticulously planning her American Dream, was interning at American Woolen and with a secret passion for the history of mills, I decided to venture out to take a look around.
I started my day at Middle Ground Cafe, where the wifi and coffee were strong. Sitting just inside that far right window, I found myself staring across the street at Rustology and after a great bowl of soup at lunch time, headed out onto Main Street. For both picker and serious collector, Rustology is a two story collection of organized chaos. Items are creatively displayed so that at every glance there is wimsy with a whiff of nostalgia. Further up the street I met two bright and energetic women operating adjacent vintage boutiques. The first, Windowbox Boutique, contained a tasteful collection of new and vintage home, garden and personal items. The second, Three Graces Vintage, contained clothing from your favorite era with accessories abounding. I found shop owner, Lisa Zelonka, engrossed in conversation with a patron when I entered, which quickly included me. Loving what she does everyday, she could only recommend "follow your passion!" I saved the best for last...Sabor44 With a love for olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, I ventured into Luis Valentin's olive oil tap room. I received an impressive tour and tasting of the offerings, and after much deliberation chose chocolate raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. During my time at Sabor44, I learned that Luis's passion for olive oil started in childhood and while working in quality control for years elsewhere, he planned and saved to pursue his goal to open Sabor44. Take one look at Luis, and you know he is living his American Dream. A day in Stafford Springs is revitalizing and reminds us to do what we love and we will definitely end up loving what we do! I've taken this advice to heart with the launch of EXTRA DAY.