8.29.2014

Autumn? I'm not sure what you mean ...

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This time of year you'll find any Southerner (and anyone without the proper drawl who lives down here and knows what's good for 'um) at a football stadium. Probably multiple times per weekend. I remember reading once that in the South we have four seasons just like anyone else, they're just slightly different than you were taught in school. South of that Mason-Dixon line we say "Spring, Summer, Football, Winter."

True to form, on this weekend's docket:

High school football game (Go Raiders! Beat Milton!), middle school football game (Go Raiders! Beat whoever we're playing!), college football (Go USAFA Falcons!) and more college football (Go Vols!).

We'll also squeeze in barbecue at my sister's, the Decatur Book Festival and fireworks at our neighborhood lake (it's an impressive show. Not quite as outstanding as Boomsday in Knoxville:
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I mean, those folks use 5 tons of dynamite, but it's like the neighborhood version of that ... no bridges, and far fewer drunk undergrads.

Hope y'all have a great weekend!

XoXo---

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8.28.2014

Winding Up for the Pitch

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Is your mouth watering at the mere thought of the sublime fragrance of succulent, sun-warmed peaches interwoven with brown sugar and a hint of fresh vanilla bean and freshly ground cinnamon? Ahhh .... yes? Are you concerned with whether the restaurant owner paid $1.84 or $2.03 per pound for those peaches? Yeah, didn't think so ...

Whenever I hear the phrase "I need to pick your brain" I think "BLOG POST!" Usually the brain picker has a very specific question related to their business or cause, but strip away the specifics and the principles are useable for darn near any communication ... whether you're looking for a job, pitching a product, or just writing a sternly worded letter to your homeowner's association.

A little background: one of my dear friends is launching her own business. Very exciting stuff. I can't share more due to national security restrictions (kidding, she's just still in prep mode), but it's a solid concept that she'll take out into the world very, very soon. So, said adorable friend comes to me with this query:

"How do we prep for the big pitch on a super-tight budget?" 

This can be tricky. When you're low on capital it's tempting to go cheap on marketing. But if your print or digital marketing comes off as "budget," your audience starts getting antsy. They start wondering if you've really thought this whole thing through, are you fly-by-night, do you go single-ply instead of double which is both cruel and wasteful, are you stirring up more questions than you are solutions ... not exactly a confidence building exercise for you or the audience.

Take the time to build thoughtful, compelling marketing messages and package them professionally -- whether in a letter, with a website, or with a gorgeous printed piece -- and you'll find your audience takes you far more seriously and is far more likely to do what you want ... whether that's buy something, agree to something, or give you a raise!

Here's my advice how to Land the Deal on a Shoestring Budget:

Adopt this mindset: you're not selling ... you're telling a story. In order to really connect with your audience, you must package your story in a way that lets them see themselves with a better life. I stumbled upon this video from a TED conference that sums up this concept so well that I want you to hop off my blog and go watch it ... but then you have to come right back. Watch at least to around the 5 minute mark (where he talks about how Apple creates their story by turning the message on its head,) but I encourage you to watch the whole thing (my favorite quote: "Martin Luther King did not give the 'I have a plan' speech. No, it was the 'I have a DREAM speech.')

Take care of the basics. Grab testimonials from your current customers and incorporate the best ones into your marketing materials. Start collecting statistics on everything: your sales, your customer satisfaction rate, your customer retention and loyalty ... whatever you are doing, you can collect stats on it. Why are testimonials and stats so important? Because people are more willing to try something if someone else has vetted it first and is happy with the results.

Get very solid on what makes you better than your competition. What are you doing differently -- and way better -- than your competitors? The question of "why should I go with you over them?" will come up, whether you're giving a presentation or someone's just reading your letter. Have a compelling answer.

Remember you have two audiences: the gatekeeper and the end user. So, let's say you're trying to convince the owner of a restaurant (gatekeeper/person who has buying power) to buy your brand of fresh peaches for their world-renowned peach cobbler. Yes, you need to address the owner about how your exquisite, farm-fresh peaches in plenty of time daily to prepare for the lunch crowd, and for three cents less than your competitor. Guess what? The folks tying on their napkins at lunch (end user) could care less that your peaches cost the restaurant less. Nope, they want some hot-from-the-oven peach cobbler that makes them feel a little shaky it's so good. You must appeal to both audiences to land the deal.

Flip your message on its head. Don't get so caught up in your awesomeness that you fail to tell your target audience how your product makes their life better. Talk about their needs first, then about how you fill that need.

Budget for an excellent marketing professional to help you craft your story. This is not a sales pitch. Hire me, hire another qualified professional, just hire someone to help you pull together your brand story professionally. I believe more businesses go up in smoke because they put more money into their systems or supplies and failed to invest in excellent marketing. Guess what? It doesn't matter how amazing your product is if no one knows about it. True story. Companies that see the value and invest in marketing are more successful. Hook up with a great marketer ... it's worth every penny.

There ya go. My brain dump for August 2014. Totally just saved you the cost of a Starbucks, but potentially created a craving for peach cobbler. I shall not apologize.

XO ---
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8.22.2014

Show and Tell

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I know I've promised not to craft on this blog. Or pressure you into organizing anything, or painting anything, or planting anything. Please do not misconstrue this post as craft-like pressure.

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Because heaven knows Back to School season (can we go ahead and call it a season? Because it is. And I swear it pretty much starts before I've gotten the kids home from the last day of the previous school year) is already uber stressful. There's registration, purchasing the right back pack, gathering school supplies, returning school supplies after meeting teachers and discovering they want completely different supplies, and of the utmost importance: procuring the perfect first-day-of-school outfit.

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Also, you have to find the perfect lunch box. I suggested my husband might want to upgrade his mode of transportation for his midday meal a few years ago, as perhaps it could be misconstrued as unprofessional to tote one's sammy and banana in a torn Wal-Mart plastic bag to a Fortune 500 company. As a joke I purchased this lovely 1940s era lunch pail at Scott's Antique Market in Atlanta and offered to pack his lunch for him. He said he'd only take his lunch in this when he wanted to catch himself a little tetanus, so we have called this the Tetanus Lunchbox ever since.

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The Tetanus Lunchbox is enjoying its day in the sun, y'all.

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Anywho, my sister introduced me to this lovely blog called Talk of the House. There are a million kazillion blogs about lovely homes, but this one's my new fave. She does all this fun and creative decorating around the seasons, which inspired my little Back to School entry table. So thanks, Kelly, for the fabulous idea. And giving me the excuse to pull out the Tetanus Lunchbox, along with the girls' elementary school yearbooks and other school-themed books.

Which of course led to digging out pictures of the girls in preschool. Which made me sit in amazement at the many ways they have changed, and the many ways they have stayed the same. Which led to a bizarre mix of exaltation and melancholy, which may or may not have led to me eating some of those Smarties candies. (By the way, my sister suggested mixing in some Dum Dum lollipops to see if anyone caught it. Genius idea which I sadly never implemented.)

The best part is 95 percent of this stuff I had around the house. Which is good, because it left time for me to take care of other Back to School emergencies, like:


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XOXO ---
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6.23.2014

In Lieu of Orange Daisies

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Even though we've lived in Georgia for nearly 12 years now, long enough to collect a basket full of tschotskes bearing various emblems of the state (I mean, have y'all ever seen the Big Chicken? It is, in fact, a sight to behold), and nearly 20 years since I last claimed Tennessee as my official residence ...

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I just love the juxtaposition of the Georgia glass with the floral reminder that our blood still bleeds Orange.

Hope y'all are having a splendid summer!

XOXO ---

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5.12.2014

No-Asterisk Living

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We've all heard the term "use your words." Usually aimed at a preschooler off-the-charts on the emotional scale and extremely low on the articulation scale. When I came to the unfortunate realization that it is quite likely the advice, life lessons, inspirational quotes and whatnot I pass along to my daughters was likely traveling in one ear and out the other, I decided to do what I love ... use my words and write stuff down. I'll have to pack a lot of punch into these little bursts, because let's face it ... if we want something to be memorable - no matter the audience - we better be quick. I'll address these directly to my kids so hopefully one day I can just say "boy problems? school problems? can't find anything to eat problems? Check blog post #102. It's your parent now!" Kidding, but I do hope this will become a sort of reference for them, and that maybe, just maybe, you'll find something interesting in here too. XO - Amy Mac

Ladies:

There are no asterisks in life.

That is to say, there's never a report card that says
*by the way, the teacher sucked

There's no adjusting the game score because
*the refs weren't fair

No one gets credit for an incomplete chore because
*I have an awful headache, I'm exhausted, I think I pulled a muscle, I'm allergic to clean things

Life is based on results. You get results because you figured out a way to work around the asterisks. You will have teachers that suck. You'll have refs that aren't fair. You will feel less than ideal anytime there's a task you'd like to procrastinate completing, especially if you allow yourself that empty luxury of a life built with asterisks.

Decide on the results you want (an A, a win, a clean room so I don't confiscate your phone because your room looks like several stores -- including but not limited to clothing boutiques, athletic supply stores, dirt factories, office supply centers and various food shops -- have exploded and the remnants have all settled like retail volcanic dust upon the floor in your room) ...

and decide to get those results no matter what it takes.

I find it helpful to write down the results for which I'm aiming. Because in your heart you'll know where those asterisks could have been, and the satisfaction of having succeeded anyways is sweet indeed.

Love, Mom*
*Saying "are you using an asterisk, Mom?" the next time I blame running late on the dogs could be hazardous to your health. Xoxo!
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5.08.2014

I Think I May Be Related to Justin Timberlake

mason jar drink
We southerners love us some Mason jars. We pickle things in them, create delightful gelatinous sugary substances in them, and my grandmother used to "put up" fresh vegetables from her garden in them. Lots of us will drink iced tea in them, though I've never been a fan. Mostly because the ridged surface is an irritant to my lower lip, and no matter how many packages of straws I buy I can never locate one when I need it.

So I was already feeling all super-southern with my Mason jar sippy cup full of iced water enhanced with some fresh fruit, when my sister starts firing off texts about how we are related to our people. We come from a mighty big clan of folks from West Tennessee (The Williams' -- maybe y'all're related to us?!), so this situation gets confusing real quick.

Mim: Is Linsey Dean our first cousin once removed?
Me: Second cousin. Granny was dad and Kim's grandmother, and is ours and Lins' great-grandmother. 
Mim: What is Kim?
Me: Our first cousin once removed. 
Mim: Then why isn't Lins twice removed?
Me: Because we are the same generation. We can't be removed. 
Mim: So second gen = 2nd cuz? 
Me: Yes. And our kids and Linsey's will be third cousins, but Linsey and Mallory are second cousins once removed.
Mim: I'm trying to figure out Brent. His grandfather is the brother of our great-grandfather.

At this point I just called her. Because I know Brent and I are related, cousins of some nature (I mean I have known him since I was born, see him at least once a year at the family reunion), but beyond that precisely how it all works out is beyond my scope. Which means it's time to whip out a piece of paper.

(Also, I was starting to feel like I was reading the begats section in the Bible. You know, "Abraham begat Issac, and Issac begat Jacob ..." which is obviously important, yet confusing and perhaps not the most captivating reading. I hope I don't get struck by lightning later today.)

So we straightened out Brent's relationship to us (he's our second cousin, once removed. Because Tommy begat Linda Faye, and she begat Brent ....) and my sister said "you should totally teach a workshop on how to do this!"

Then we decided that sometimes, in the south, it's better to just stick with "yeah, I think we're fourth cousins or something." Because heaven only knows who you might have to claim as your people if you really start scrutinizing your family tree.

Just a guess, but I wonder if the term "ignorance is bliss" was coined around a situation where some Hilly Holbrook-type started poking around her family tree, only to discover General William Tecumseh Sherman was her third cousin twice removed.

On the other hand, Justin Timberlake is from Millington, which is really just a short drive from ... I'm just saying, it's not out of the realm of possibilities.

And yes, I promise that's just water in my sippy cup.

XO---
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5.01.2014

Closing the Generation Gap, One Odd Odor at a Time

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A conversation transcript from last evening with my 14-and-a-half-year-old daughter:

Setting: getting into the family SUV on a mild Southern spring evening, directly after a thunderstorm. 

In unison: "What's that smell?"

41 (that's me): "It's camp."

14 (the kid): "What?"

41: "It smells like camp. That mixture of sunscreen, bug spray and wet grass, with a faint whiff of damp wood and mildew."

14: "THAT'S SO WEIRD! I was just thinking it smelled like the church beach retreat!"

41: "Exactly. No matter what year, what country, whether the beach or mountains, a condo, a cabin or a tent ... whenever more than 5 people under the age of 25 gather away from home -- or really any place lacking a woman armed with bleach, hot water and a laundry room replete with a dryer with various settings -- this is the resulting smell."

14: "That's crazy! So your beach retreat smelled just like mine?!!"

41: "Yup."

14: "That doesn't explain why our car smells like camp."

41: "I was just thinking the same thing. Smelling camp on the way to Starbucks sorta ruins the experience."

14: "We have to stop this smell. How do we end this smell? Right now?!!!"

41: "Let's see if we can rustle up a woman with some hot water and bleach."

Per the usual, turns out that woman was me. I was able to isolate the various odors as follows:

Wet grass -- actual wet grass outside (see above: thunderstorm.) 
Sunscreen -- aerosol sunscreen accidentally sprayed independently while in my tennis bag, which was left in my car overnight. Good news is I have a can of tennis balls and various tennis accoutrements which are now completely safe from sunburn. 
Bug spray -- pretty sure that's a remnant from my husband's fishing trip this weekend. I'm just thankful it isn't the smell of dead and rotting fish. #blessed.
Mildew -- tiny leak in my sunroof. Cured with a pinch of aforementioned bleach.
Damp wood -- this one's a mystery. I suspect a popsicle stick or dowel rod from a science project is loose somewhere in my car. And it's apparently wet. 

If anyone needs a ride, y'all let me know. Because while my car now smells like a freshly scoured murder scene, it no longer smells like camp.

Xo---
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