mothers business

Women, mothers, and all that business

During my first year in business, I tried stupidly hard to never let motherhood impact on my work. Ignoring the exhaustion, over-compensating for small-person illnesses and working every spare moment I could to juggle the demands of family and self-employment.

It couldn’t continue, though. I was feeling the burn, dropping plates left, right and centre and always, always coming last on my to-do list.

Crying tears of frustration as I somewhat manically rocked my infant son back to sleep, praying for another hour to complete a near-deadline project was not how I wanted to live.

How had I got here? And how could I find my way back?

It had started like it had for many mums or mums-to-be. I was freelancing before our second child was born and had given notice to all but my two regular clients, deciding I could manage some work while the baby napped. Maybe it would even be good to have some time away from the intensities of a newborn, whom I’d secretly always thought of as more hard work than heavenly. (Give me some giggles and positive feedback, baby, then I’ll start enjoying you.)

And ultimately, I had considered the reality of shutting up shop completely: about my future – about my way back in.

mothers in business

So, while barely scraping five broken hours of sleep each night, I trudged on with the days, saying yes all of the times I should have said no. I refused to acknowledge the tight knot in my chest with the ping of each email notification; carrying stress around with me, just like I carried my baby.

And when I eventually stopped – it’s a sweet story involving losing my phone and having the best day ever without it and with my children, I learned something.

I didn’t need to have it all, or do it all, or constantly struggle. It is completely normal for motherhood and work to overlap, I just needed to be honest about my current reality – both to others and myself.

I’m proud to be a woman, and of the irrevocable changes motherhood has brought about. I have been wholly altered – why was I hiding from this inevitable truth?

We should be able to be honest about every part of parenthood, both the triumphs and the challenges. In a time where flexible working and gender pay gaps are rightly newsworthy, we need to be open about the realities of work and parenting in order to find solutions. We need to not dismiss practical circumstances as weaknesses and feel no shame for wanting flexibility or reduced hours.

Once I stopped apologising for being a mother and acknowledged all the positives I offer to the businesses I work with, it became apparent they welcomed working differently: they recognised my strengths and fresh approach. I was open about having priorities other than work – and nothing bad happened.

I don’t work Fridays, and I don’t want to. I value the time away from my laptop, and enjoy the balance. I treasure the unhurried walk to school and heading to the park after pick-up. And I love the trip to toddler music group before curling up on the sofa with picture books – just being, just enjoying motherhood.

It’s my time to build a different kind of tower, using different blocks to strengthen a different foundation.

Life is made up of more parts than business, it shouldn’t have to be a choice of career or time with children, and a healthy working relationship is always two-way.

So, my fellow women and fellow mothers. I have this to say :

Shoot for the stars, should you wish – this world is equally yours. Just remember you don’t have to be superhuman to shine.

Because you show up, you work hard and you’re good. At both of your jobs.

making brand message stick

Why your brand message should be simple to be sticky

It’s very tempting when you have a captive audience – or even when you don’t, to throw every single thing you have at convincing them of your greatness. We’ve all done it: at job interviews, on dates, when selling our house or bike or car. Look at how well I do this! See how this sparkles! Watch when I press this button! (I’ve never used the button line on a date, obviously.)

In business, we’re aware of the miniscule amount of time there is to impress with our brand message, the teeny 7.5 second window we have to convince a potential client that our product or service is the right one for them. And so we overdo it. We cram. We stuff our adverts and flyers and emails full of benefits and solutions and far too many options.

The result of this? Diluting our key message, overwhelming our buyer, decision paralysis – and no sale.

Oh no! Darn, blast, and blow it! We were only trying to showcase our stuff! Jeez Louise…

I completely empathise with the temptation to use your chosen platform – be it landing page, email, home page or advert, to shout out every awesome thing your brand stands for. After all, you have built something totally amazing, right? People won’t know about it if you don’t tell them. If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it still make a sound? Etc. etc.

The issue isn’t the promotion of your brand message itself, that’s non-negotiable in its importance. The trick, however, is to use the space or platform you have to deliver your brand’s core message without other distractions polluting the stage and dialling down the importance of what you want people to know.

Shall we look at an example? (In my head, you’re saying yes. Or at least giving a curt nod.)

Bliss Manor Hotel & Spa are running a time-sensitive special offer. Book a one night stay between March and May by the end of the month, and receive subsequent nights at 50% discount. Pretty cool, huh? And definitely worth shouting about.They have an email list of 827 and a Facebook following of 4.2K. Around 38% of their email list signed-up following a day spa or individual treatment with them, and their Facebook audience is 44% local and 56% national.

What should the basic shape of their email and social media post include?

 

  1. Details of the 50% offer, highlighting its time-sensitive nature with a PS code offering 20% off spa day passes for those not interested in overnight stays.*
  2. Details of the 50% offer, with links of activities to do in the area.
  3. Just details of the offer and its time sensitive nature.
  4. I no longer actually care – I kind of just want to book a spa break

While it is tempting to cover all bases via option one in order to catch those high percentage day-trippers, what this is more likely to do is dilute the original, and most important brand message to potential customers. For starters – and to prove I’m not just being awkward – you’d need to pick one headline or email subject anyway, so the people not interested in booking a room probably aren’t going to open it / read the Facebook post anyway, let alone get to the the PS. And those that might be interested in staying an extra night at half-price are going to automatically downgrade this oh-so-special offer in their head to one that ‘Probably happens all the time because they clearly never charge full-price – not even for day passes.’

It doesn’t mean there’ll be no take-up.

But it means the power of the message will be significantly weakened…

…and if it casts any doubts at all in people’s minds about the value of what they are reading, they need no excuse not to click through to the close.

You may be wondering how I can get in any sort of sweat between two and three, and I will say that some of this comes down to the design of the email, which holds its own in terms of impact. But putting that aside, while it isn’t a terrible idea to offer further reason to make a booking, the offer – or core – of the message and its call to action must be central, so why risk distracting your reader when you only have so long to hold their attention?

In this particular scenario I absolutely would choose option C: clear, bold, and simple – so there is no confusion about what the offer is, how special it is, and what action you need to take to get hold of something so valuable. I’d then send a chaser email one week later with a reminder of: the offer, the deadline, the CTA, plus a few carefully selected ideas of the wonderful things you can do during your stay at Bliss Spa Manor.

You have a lot to say about your business – I totally get that. But just remember your potential customers only have so much time and attention to spare. Choose your brand message wisely, keep it succinct, and they might just listen.

*Of course, if you use email segmentation you won’t even need to worry about cheeky PS dilemmas to reach your whole list, because you can contact different customers with different, tailored offers. But that’s another story for another post. Next time maybe?

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