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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Use Pinterest for Your Retail Business

Pinterest is the next new thing, or has been for quite some time. As one of the newer kids on the social media block, it still remains to be seen how many businesses will be able to use Pinterest to help their business.

I've seen a few businesses use it with great success and would like to provide you some help.

I'm going to use the Birmingham, Michigan business named "Fun Stuff" as an example. (Note to readers: I've asked Denise for permission to use her site as an example and she gave me the okay.)


Denise is starting to post Fun Stuff products on her Pinterest page. Many of the products she sells at her retail store are sourced from other websites and businesses. I think it's a great idea to share her products on her Pinterest page, since it helps to illustrate what she sells. 

Here is an example of a product sold at Fun Stuff. It's a plastic, see-through container filled with beads and objects. Kids shake it up and try to find the items inside. My seven-year-old thought this was awesome. The pin is here:

The problem is that the object pinned to the page is pointing to the manufacturer's site, which is driving traffic there instead of to the Fun Stuff site. 

To fix this, I would suggest pinning objects directly from the Fun Stuff website.

So instead of pinning the image from the manufacturer 

Post the image on the Fun Stuff site and link it from

Right now, it appears the Fun Stuff website is a landing page with contact links, but no product pages. By adding product pages, Denise can help to drive more traffic to her website, give more visibility to her business (instead of to her manufacturers), and possibly help to generate online sales, rather than sending them to the manufacturer direct. 

Her pins will then become much more effective in creating awareness and promoting her business.

Here are a few examples of pins from businesses who are on Pinterest, and the pins point directly to their sites where you can order the products. 

Uncommon Goods 
"The Neighbors Have Better Stuff" welcome mat. See pin at

Doodie Packs 
(worn by dogs to carry their poop supplies, bags, etc.). I read about this business in Entrepreneur Magazine and now friends with the owner Kristin on Facebook. See pin at

Lego Ice Cube Tray. 
Found this at the Lego Store in NYC. Single best lego product EVER. Reusable. You can freeze water and your kid thinks you're awesome. Let me write that again. YOU CAN FREEZE WATER AND YOUR KID THINKS YOU'RE AWESOME. This photo was from Amazon. See pin here:

Happy Pinning! And if you're on Pinterest, please give my boards a follow: and post your Pinterest username as a comment to this post, and I'll follow you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My “Not So Secret” Process to Speechwriting

Think back to the reason you joined Toastmasters. Or if you’re visiting a club, what brought you into the room to check out Toastmasters?

For many people, Toastmasters was sought as a place to practice and improve the art of public speaking.

As for me, fear and lack of confidence brought me to Toastmasters over five years ago. During my first speech, my lips and chin trembled, and I spoke way too fast. In my first year of being involved with the club, I won our club’s speech contest, and went on to win the area speech contest. I know you’re thinking “pretty impressive!”

I would agree, except that the only reason I won is that everyone I competed against in that contest run was eliminated because of time limits. Yes, my fellow Toastmasters and future Toastmasters, I won because I stayed just within the time limits. But that’s another speech for another day.

Today I come to you to talk about my secret method for creating speeches. After today, it will be known as my “not so secret” process since I’m also posting a blog on this topic.

A sample speech outline.
~ from Toastmaster Brenda Meller
In Toastmasters just as in our professional careers, there will be many opportunities to sign up weeks in advance for presentations. There will also be those times that you have just the night before to prepare. Or if you’re like me, Toastmasters speechwriting was on your weekend list, below homework for class, spending time with your family, a mom-to-mom sale, and housework.

Yes my fellow Toastmasters, I admit I started writing this speech at 10:15 p.m. last night.

The beauty of Toastmasters is that you’ll learn so many techniques that will help you in the speechwriting process and delivery. Today, I’d like to share with you four techniques.

  • My speechwriting process.
  • My inspiration.
  • My practice method.
  • And as a bonus: my delivery method.

So let’s start with my speechwriting process. I always start by identifying the objective of my speech, and tie it to a manual speech so I can get credit toward my Toastmasters program. I’m working on my CL manual right now, and identified I could use this speech for project 4, which deals with time management. How’s that for irony, by the way?

Then, since there are not requirements other than demonstrating my timing skills, I have to think of my topic. I’ll wait to explain my inspiration process in the next step

I then write out an outline, thinking of a clever opening and witty conclusion, with three points to cover in the body. Okay, I added a fourth as a bonus section.

Next, I write out the speech in a narrative format. I’ll practice reading it once or twice after I’ve written it, and that’s it. I’ll use my outline for practice. More on that later.

So how do I come up with these fabulous speech topics? Well that’s easy. I choose something I like to talk about, and make sure it’s relatable to my audience.

For today’s speech, this was a no brainer. Use my process as the topic. Pure genius!

I’ll often use projects at work for my speech topics, since by delivering them here at Toastmasters, I’ll gain real, usable, productive feedback. Not the “great job Brenda’s” that I get at work, which really don’t tell me if the presentation was effective or not. But the descriptive, specific evaluations we can only get here at Toastmasters.

Other times, I draw on my family as stories of inspiration. In fact, if you Google my name, you’ll find a YouTube video of me at Toastmasters describing my son’s Easter Egg hunt a few years ago. I have to confess: that speech was written the night before, too.

Now onto my practice method. As I mentioned, I’ll write out my speech then read it through once or twice. Then, I collapse it into an outline that I use to rehearse my speech. In the car. Yes, that’s how I practice. Back in the beginning, I would actually practice my speech in front of a mirror or in my basement. But unless I give up more sleep – I don’t know where I would find the time to practice. We all have the same number of hours in a day, and we have to find the time for things we really want to do.

I have to share that when I practice speeches while in the car, I’m entirely hands free and I’m keeping an eye on the road. The people next to me probably think I'm singing along to the radio!

As I practice, I’m also envisioning delivering in the room.

Once I arrive at the meeting, I’ll try to get up in front of the room to assess the “feel” for the group before the meeting starts, if I can.

And that’s really it. I know a few of you were probably thinking I planned this speech weeks ago, practiced it a million times, but just like you, I’m pressed for time. I admit that I thought about cancelling my participation in today’s meeting, but then others started cancelling and I didn’t want to get yelled at by Charles, our club’s VP of Education. He scares me sometimes. (I’m kidding, of course)

This reminds me though that my Toastmasters training has prepared me to be unprepared, and how to quickly prepare. In fact, today’s speech is little more than an extended Table Topic for me.

If you attend a Toastmasters meeting, you’ll get the chance to try a table topic – even if you are not yet a member. Do yourself a favor: do one. Your mind will get practice that will pay off huge in the long run.

My last point I’d like to address regarding my now not-secret speech process is in my delivery. I will make an effort to ensure I’m having fun up here. I start my speeches by walking to the front of the room with a swagger and a smile, like I’ve just won an award that I’ve worked really hard to earn.

I’ve noticed that if I have a strong, confident opening, and I’m enjoying my speech, my audience will too. You should try this sometime!

In summary, my fellow and future Toastmasters, I’d like to say that you, too, can be a public speaking all star. With just a little practice – okay a LOT of practice – you will learn that Toastmasters teaches you techniques that will help you think on your feet, find time when you have no time, and make you a stronger, more capable presenter in any situation.

I’ve learned that whether you’re here at Toastmasters in a safe environment, or at work in a professional situation, you should honor your obligations. Oh, and I’ve also learned that the wrath of Charles is something you CAN avoid by not coming to a meeting, but in the long run, he’s doing all of us a favor by holding us accountable to become better speakers.

For that Charles, I say “THANK YOU.” J
Presented by Brenda Meller at
Toastmasters at Walsh College - Troy
October 21, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marketing Tip: Facebook Pages

I've been blogging for a while about marketing tips. Usually my inspiration comes from things I see, experience, need, or sometimes from other people. One thing I've noticed is that there's a lot of integration and places to find people and businesses on the web.

Take me for example. You can find me on:

Bloggers should consider setting up a
Facebook page to cross-promote your blog. ~ Brenda Meller
Plus on my two blogs. The one you're reading now, or my LinkedIn blog,

I started poking around my marketing blog the other day and discovered I have one blog post that has over 18,000 views. I'm still trying to figure out how/where it might have been picked up. The blog topic was about a great experience I had at a Tim Horton's drive-through, so my guess is they may have shared it somewhere. 

But this got me thinking about how I'm promoting my blog. Right now, I mainly do cross-promotion on LinkedIn, Twitter, and occasionally Facebook. My blog is just a hobby for me. I enjoy marketing and like helping others. I'm not using it for serious business promotion like others are doing. 

This got me thinking -- what if I really wanted to make my blog more widely read? And what about the other people out there who want to gain blog readers, but really aren't sure how to do it? 

Which led me to my next conclusion - Facebook. It's where people hang out. If you're reading this, there's a good likelihood you found this post on Facebook. (tell me if I'm right by posting a comment to this blog)

I'll admit - I log and check into LinkedIn maybe once every day or so, poke around, read some posts, look in the groups, then I'm outta there. Twitter is something I dabble in from time to time and lately I've been using for digital notetaking (that's a blog topic for another day), but I don't spend a great deal of time there. 

But Facebook - what fun! I can have virtual conversations with all of my 498 closest friends. We share stories, highlights of our day, posts from other websites, jokes, pictures of our families, videos, etc. etc.  And I will proudly admit when I have the time, I'll spend (not waste) a good hour on Facebook just hanging out. It's kind of like eating junk food though - I can take it only in small doses at a time, but I'll indulge when I can. 

My guess is you're like me when it comes to Facebook. There are a whole other active/inactive group of people on Facebook whom I'll call "readers" (rather than lurkers). They see the value of Facebook, but either for personal/privacy or professional reasons, are only a spectator and don't participate in conversation, "likes" or any of the other stuff we do while on Facebook. That's totally okay, too. These people are among my FB friends and might be blog readers, too.  

So back to Facebook page for your business. If you aren't a marketing professional, why set up a Facebook page if you're only using Facebook on a personal level? 

Did you know you can set up a FREE Facebook page for your business?
Did you know you can set up a FREE Facebook page for your blog?
Did you know you can set up a FREE Facebook page for your organization?
Did you know you can set up a FREE Facebook page for your cause? 

Do you see a pattern here? You pick what you need to promote. Facebook gives you a place to do it free.
And if you're like me, you may not want to accept friend requests from people you don't know, but you use FB for personal and professional reasons, and you want to provide a way to engage with people you don't know well. 

PLUS: If you struggle with website design because you're too small, don't have a designer, or don't have the desire to spend (not waste) the time and money into creating a website, use a Facebook page instead. 

It's really easy to do. 

  1. Start by visiting Click the obnoxious green button that reads "Create a Page."
  2. Follow the step by step instructions. Facebook makes this process super easy. And if you make a mistake, you can always go back and edit your information. You'll choose a major and sub category, then select a product or company name, then agree to terms and conditions.You an upload a picture or skip it for now, write a short description in the "about" section, add in additional address, website info (I pointed my page to my blog), or skip this for now. Choose whatever best matches your business / blog / cause. Facebook will not deny you access if you choose the wrong category. :)
  3. Save your changes.
  4. Gain page followers. After you save your changes, you'll now be able to start inviting friends to your newly created page. You'll want to promote on your personal page and encourage people to give your page a "LIKE." 
  5. Give your page a simplified username. Once you get to 25 "likes" on your page, you can personalize the page address to something that is easy to remember. As a page manager, you'll see in your "Insights" section at the top of the page how many people have liked your page. And once you receive 25 likes, you'll see the link to give your page a username. Choose something that is as short and easy to remember as possible, like this: 
  6. That's it! If you're a blogger like me, consider reposting a summary of the blog topic and a link to the blog in your Facebook page. 
What's a Username on Facebook?
It's a simplified page address.
~ Brenda Meller

As of right now, I have 39 likes on my page. That's in just about 3 hours. And I promised I'd give a shout out to the 25th person who liked my page. It was pretty close, between my friends James and Christy. Christy works for Gift of Life Michigan, which works with the organ donor registry program. Please consider signing up with them if you can, and give their page a like:

Now I have 41 likes on my page. This is more exciting than an ebay auction! In comparison, prior to posting this blog, I had 15 followers. I'd say my blog test was a pretty successful project. Hope it provided you with some insights, too.

Please share your FB page in "comments" and I'll give your page a "LIKE" on Facebook, too. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mom + Wife + Career + Motivation = Balance (I Wish!)

Alright ladies, let's face it - you can try to have it all, but some days it's simply not going to happen. You're going to fail miserably and feel overwhelming guilt and regret. Other days, you'll feel incredibly blessed and happy. Those days usually start with a Starbucks and a full night sleep, in my experience.

This isn't my typical "advice" or "educational blog." Rather, this time I'm writing so you can get to know me a little better. 

Don't Ask Me.
I Don't Know How I Do It, Either.

I can look back at photos and tell you I'm a great girlfriend, too, although I admit I haven't been out for a girls night in years. 

Driving out to see the fireworks was the first time I've been behind the wheel at night in months. I vaguely remember the days when my friends and I would be getting ready to go out at 9 pm thinking it was early. As I write this, it's 9:30 at night and another hour is lights out. 

(Okay, it's a weeknight, so it's really not that bad.)
(And if the baby sleeps through the night, that's a rush like no other!)

There's this whole concept of work-life balance out there. But I have to tell you, I don't think there's a balance that can be achieved. Some days, work has to win out and family falls to second priority (like the time I missed my son's field trip this year). Other days, family has to take priority and work will have to wait. (like when I'm bolting out of work by 5:15 to get home by dinnertime)

I think it's better to look at the situation this way than to imagine you can do it all, every day, consistently. Some days you will do it all and feel phenomenal. Other days, you'll feel that you're failing everyone - husband, kids, work, career, self. On those days, you'll inevitably spill your coffee or leave your travel mug at home, forget about a meeting and walk in unprepared, get a call from the school that your son is sick, and you'll be operating on maybe three hours of sleep due to baby being up all night congested with a head cold. Oh, and then you'll leave your expressed milk - all 14 oz of it - out all weekend and not realize it until Monday morning.
Joshua and Me in the Fraser Parade.
(Sponge Bob had heard that I'm a
good "juggler" and wanted to see)

On the whole, though, I admit that I do feel blessed. I have a solid marriage. A healthy family. A husband who has volunteered to be a stay-at-home-dad for our daughter's first year, and who now does all the laundry, all the grocery shopping, all the cooking on weeknights, all the homework with my son, and he enjoys it.  
Side note: it's not all idyllic and it's definitely not perfect. When I was getting ready to return to work after maternity leave, he and I had a conversation about who would do what. I was pumping while at work and would be nursing baby when I got home, and since he would be there, I assumed that he'd be taking over dinner duty. He replied that he would be home taking care of two kids, so how would he be able to cook? We ended that conversation with me crying and him agreeing that he would cook at least once a week. Okay, maybe twice and we'd do takeout until we figured out a system. 

Fast forward to today: I walked in the door and the house smells like dinner. The kind of smell that never you can't create yourself, but makes you fully appreciate that food has been prepared for you. My plate is waiting on the counter. Dishes are done. Living room looks like a toy store exploded, but both kids are happy and in good moods, and excited to see mommy. My little one runs into my arms and squeals with delight. My older son has to be ordered away from his Legos to say hi and give mommy a hug, however.

So for all the younger ladies out there who are just starting your career and family, my advice is:

  1. See this movie, "I Don't Know How She Does It." Trailer here: Warning: this movie was good, but I was also very anxious watching it. Especially the scene where she forgets to pick up her kid. 

  2. Whenever possible, bring your kids to work for a short visit. This helps them understand what mommy does all day long, plus they can have some fun picking through your office and leaving notes for you to read during those really long work days. I have the luxury of bringing my kids to weekend events sometimes, too, like this past weekend when I was working at a parade.   

  3. You can do it all, or as much or little as you want. If you want it all, you'll have to determine how you can make it happen, and get a really really good support system of relatives and sitters. 

  4. If you're blessed with a husband who is a stay-at-home-dad, make sure you tell him frequently how much you appreciate him. I joke that my husband is the best wife ever imagined. He takes this as a compliment. And open your mind to the possibility that you might be the breadwinner, and that yes, he can learn how to cook!

  5. Good news:
    More workplaces are
    mom-friendly these days.
  6. Seek out the advice and support of fellow working moms. I can't tell you how many times I've asked women in my network for their advice on summer camps, getting baby to sleep through the night, summer vacations, birthday party ideas, and simply to get together over lunch or coffee so I can have some much needed "girlfriend" time that I don't yet permit myself on the weekends. 

  7. If you're planning to have kids, seriously give thought to breastfeeding. A good book: "Nursing Mother, Working Mother." You'll find that breastfeeding will give you a connection to your baby that will help ease the separation anxiety (yours, not the baby... yet). 

And if all else fails, drink coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free Marketing Tip for Bakeries (Pi Day)

My day started with a tweetup, or rather, a #pieup at Grand Traverse Pie in Troy, Michigan. 

"Mmmm...pie on Pi day!" ~Brenda Meller
I met a half dozen other people (including      and a few others), for pie and coffee to celebrate the day that is linked with my favorite baked good: pie. 

Today is March 14, or rather, 3.14.

You may remember Pi from high school geometry. The area of a circle is equal to Pi times the radius squared. If you need a refresher, check out the Pi wikipedia page. Or ask any 16-year old.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to read the Facebook post from Grand Traverse Pie a day beforehand, promoting their celebration of Pi / Pie day on 3.14 at 3:14 p.m. One of their franchises took this a step further and gave away free slices of pie at 3:14 p.m.! This was not the reason that I visited their location, however, as I've been planning this along with a few connections for weeks. 

Those who know me well know that my baked good of choice is pie. I'm not sure what it is. Probably the combination of crust and filling. I dunno. A crust can make or break the pie, though, that's for sure. And my mom baked some excellent homemade pies when I was growing up.

But anyway, I've been very involved in social media and networking since I began my job at Walsh College, and this is the third year in a row I've tried to participate in the #pieup on March 14. I've been successful two out of three years. 

While at the PieUp, I was discussing with others how March 14 is such an excellent opportunity for every pie bakery to take full advantage of the day as a marketing tactic. They can tap in to their social web followers and find people like me who appreciate the clever connection between "Pie" and "Pi." And they can find super connectors who (like me) will invite others to join them via Twitter (a "tweetup"), via a Facebook event page, or by rewarding their VIPs on Foursquare who check in for Pie on Pi day. (sidebar: I earned 8 points on my Pi day Foursquare checkin!)

I'm hoping that you're the owner or manager of a bakery reading this blog post. If you are, please consider promoting the heck out of Pi day next year. Here are some suggestions how to do this:

  1. Make sure you designate March 14 as "Pie / Pi day" months in advance. Communicate this with your employees. 
  2. Come up with a promotional offer. Maybe it's buy a whole pie, get a piece free, or buy a piece, get a piece free. The better the offer, the more likely you'll get picked up by your local media. The better the offer, the more likely you'll gain a LOT of new traffic that day, too. 
  3. Promote the offer: add a mention in your sales receipt footers. Put a sticker on bakery boxes a month or so beforehand. Or print flyers and leave them on your counter by the registers. 
  4. Post this on your social web community pages, including Facebook and Twitter. And LinkedIn and YouTube if you have pages there, but those pages are less important, in my opinion. You don't have a social web pages on those sites? Chances are, all of your employees are active in social media. Pick someone and give them the title of social media manager and ask them to help you with your presence on these sites. Yes, you can trust them. It will be okay...
  5. Create an event page on Facebook. Invite your customers who are fans of your page to RSVP to the event. You can make it as specific as asking them to come to your store at 3:14p in the afternoon, or as broad as all day long. Have fun with it, and get those customers involved!
  6. If you have regular customers who come in with their laptops and tweet, see if you can figure out if they participate in tweetups. Ask them if anyone is planning a tweetup on Pie / Pi day, or March 14. 
  7. Create a YouTube video and tell your story about how your store is celebrating Pie / Pi day. Post it on your Facebook page. Tweet it. Make it amusing - that will help its passalong value. 
  8. When people come into your store on March 14, greet them with "Happy Pie Day" and inform them of your special offer that day. Bonus points if your cashiers are super enthusiastic!
  9. Take pictures of people who participate in your Pie / Pi day celebration. Post their pictures on your Facebook page. Tweet their photos.
Above all, have fun. People like visiting establishments where they are welcomed and celebrated. Not to mention places that sell delicious baked goods like pie. 

Happy Pi day to everyone! I celebrated with strawberry rhubarb and it was delicious. How about you?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Smile at the Tim Horton's Drive-Through Window

Monday morning on my way to work, I went to Tim Horton's at 15 Mile Road and Utica in Fraser to redeem a free latte that I won in their "Roll up the Rim to Win" sweepstakes over the weekend. 

At the drive-through window, the young man opened the window and I told him I won a free latte. He then yelled out "YAHOO! Congratulations!" in such an exuberant tone you would've thought I just won the lottery.

It was quite amusing and made me laugh out loud. I'm quite sure it was the single best drive-through experience I've ever had, and one that I'll always remember. Not to mention it helped Monday get off to a great start!

I'm not sure if he was being overly sarcastic, or if he was just an outgoing, cheerful guy. Either way, it made me smile and glad that I stopped in that day. 

This is the same Tim Horton's that I take my son to for an occasional "Donut Day" breakfast. The Friday morning tradition started when he was in daycare, and we've continued it even though he's now in elementary school. I'm explaining this to illustrate how I was already a loyal customer to this location. 

Now they've gone and won me over all over again!

They say you're more likely to tell your friends and family about a bad customer experience. Not me. I'm more likely to share the good news. After I post this blog, I'm going to share with my nearly 2,000 Twitter followers and over 400 Facebook friends. 

Oh, and by the way, I rolled the rim on that coffee cup after I finished my latte, and guess what? Yes, I've won another free latte. :)