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    Bright blue and white print dress

    Symmetrical print and great length!

    Dress: Ross

    Heels: Alfani Step ‘n Flex

    Earrings: NY & Co.

    Like the outfit? See more details here!

     

    I was debating about even trying this dress on when I found it at the store. My husband was with me, and he really wanted me to try it on, but I just couldn’t do it. Enter my mom and my sister… who not only convinced me to try it on, but ALSO convinced me to buy it! Marketers take note of the power of the peer.

    From what I’ve seen, heard, and personally dealt with while shopping, it seems that most women prefer to shop with at least one other person. We like to have someone to give feedback, and sometimes we WANT to be convinced to buy something that’s slightly out of our comfort zone. Men seem to be the complete opposite, with an “I’m on a mission” and blinders attitude that results in quick, fruitful shopping trips. However, men seem to pay heed to peers in other areas, like electronics or cars. This seems pretty stereotypical, but I’ve seen my husband scour forums for information on amps, keyboards, and video cards, eliciting information from others who’ve been in his position.

    Marketers already know about the power of the peer, and they’ve taken steps to create entire brands around what the collective peer group finds attractive. This brand identity is carefully crafted to not only make a customer feel like they fit into their immediate peer group, but also helps them come back to the brand by fitting in with the larger peer group. This is why brands can’t be everything to everyone all the time, since people gravitate toward those who are “like them.” There’s also aspirational brands, which seek to help customers fit in with a peer group they would like to be in. It’s the reason that celebrity and athlete endorsements are used in advertising; to make the customer feel like they are peers with that person, since they use the same brands. Entire store concepts and industries flourish around the power of the peer, with elaborate dressing rooms and lunch spots, to take a quick trip to the store from mundane to shopping excursion with the girls!

    I’ve seen the power of the peer in my own life, and I know it works! What are you doing to encourage the power of the peer as they interact with your brand or retail location? How are you shaping the collective peer group that your brand represents? By getting the attention of the peer, you’ll up your chances for getting the attention of the customer! Like the outfit? See more details here!

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    I just had a thrilling first in my career… managing a website go live! I’ve been on this project for almost 4 months now, working with a third party programmer and an internal team to get the final product, a brand new website, pushed out. It’s been a long time coming, and I was excited to push the “go live” button. So, a few things I’ve learned from my first go live…

    Glitch-free? Yeah, right! Things will go wrong, no matter how much testing and editing you do prior to the release. There’s a few things you just can’t know until you release the site out into the world. Being married to a software development engineer, I know this logically in my head, and I know that problems on the live site do not indicate total failure. However, it’s hard to combat the failure feeling when links are breaking on a site that’s out in the real world.

    Your on-site programmer is your best friend. Due to the afore-mentioned glitch problems you are sure to encounter, your on-site programmer is your best friend! My IT guy helped me work out problems as I encountered them on the fly, which was tremendously helpful and comforting. He was just a chat window or quick walk away, meaning that any issues we faced could be fixed in real-time. I highly recommend maintaining a strong working relationship with your IT personnel, as they are invaluable in today’s technology-driven world.

    Your highest priority is not everyone’s highest priority. I’ve been heads down on this project for several months, and I was just sure that my mass email about the new live site would result in an onslaught of feedback. Simply untrue, as my highest priority is not everyone’s highest priority. Again, I know this logically in my head, but it’s a little deflating when only a handful of people share my enthusiasm about the culmination of this HUGE endeavor. This is also important to remember when thinking about your on-site IT/programmer… his schedule doesn’t automatically prioritize my website go live! I made sure that he was going to be available to make on-the-fly edits, and that for the few hours immediately following go live, my priority became his priority. Again, I highly recommend planning for second or third place, and making sure that you inform the key personnel about when you’ll need them at the drop of a hat!

    It’s been a crazy week, and it’s only Tuesday! I’m still soliciting feedback from my team and other external users (a big thanks to my husband, for instance!), but I’m proud of the work I’ve done on this project. It’s been a great learning experience in project management, software and technology, and cross-functional teamwork, and I’m excited to turn my attention to the next website overhaul on the docket.

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    Welcome to Friday, it’s a good day! I’m on pins and needles to make a huge transition to a new website for work, and I can’t wait for the light and free feeling I’ll have once the site goes live. How am I coping with my pent-up anticipation? Internet articles of course! Here’s a few that have helped take my mind off the pending insanity:

     

    For the marketer, via Forbes: Disney and GM Genius

    For the social media fiend, via The New Professional: How-To Guide: Facebook Friend Lists

    For the techie: Microsoft Buys Skype

    For the MBA student, via US News: 2012 Graduate Business School Rankings

     

    Like the links? Follow me on twitter for links and blog posts all week long!

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    Jersey dress with knit blazer for the office

     

    Great length and neckline

     

    A little sassy for non-work events!

     

    Dress: Ross

    Pumps: Alfani Step-N-Flex

    Knit blazer: don’t remember, but they’re everywhere these days!

    Earrings: Silpada

    Bracelet: NY & Co.

    Like the outfit? Click here to see more details! (We went a little picture crazy on this shoot, check out some random poses/facial expressions!)

     

     

    This is another dress from Ross, and it fits the breezy, jersey dress that I’m loving for the summer. For those unfamiliar with Ross, it’s a discount store that offers name-brand styles at a lower price than the department stores. Competitors include Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, and I’m sure most regions have their own version of these types of stores. It’s always hit or miss in terms of selection and store atmosphere, but I’ve had great success in the past few months at the Ross just across the street from my office. One thing that Ross does on ALL items, is show the “Compare At” price, just above the substantially lower “Our Price”. As I’ve just completed my Buyer Behavior class, I’ve had comparative pricing on the brain, and this dress gave me a little push to write a post on it!

    Comparative pricing is often ambiguous, as it generally doesn’t say where the “compare at” price comes from. Is it the suggested MSRP, the retail price at another store, or just some random dollar amount to make the “our price” look better? Part of me falls into the trap that the comparative amount is completely founded, and it does make me feel better about buying the item. But let’s be real here…. there’s a little marketing hype in this, as it’s highly unlikely that this EXACT item is currently selling elsewhere for triple the price. Granted, sometimes things go on sale because they have limited quantities, or they’re out of season. For Ross, it seems like it’s usually the former, as there’s only one dress in one size. Thus, a department store doesn’t want to carry a single piece in a single size at a single location, since it can hurt customer expectations of variety and availability. However, for stores like Ross, customers expect that they can’t find it at another Ross, and that there’s only one size.

    All the pondering about why an item is priced one way at Ross and another way elsewhere is less important than what the comparative pricing does to a customer subconsciously. At first glance, in spite of the most logical argument to the contrary, our brains see the lower price and categorize the item differently. By giving you a benchmark, no matter how off-base or unfounded, the marketer for that retailer has effectively made the customer question their initial price point and evaluation of the product. It’s just like marking something for “sale” or calling something a “good deal”. Sure, most people will investigate it, but at least you’ve given them cause to further consider the product. Sometimes, the extra minute that someone thinks about the product is all that is needed to convince them of a sale.

    I try to be wary of my fellow marketers’ mind tricks with “compare at” pricing, but sometimes, a piece really is a good deal! My recent jersey dress purchases from Ross have proved versatile, easy, and functional, and I don’t feel bad about the price tag either! Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

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    It’s been a wild ride the past few weeks, with class, work deadlines, travel and generally running around like a crazy lady! I’m long over-due for a good butt-kicking at the gym, to help me mitigate the stress I’ve been feeling recently. So, I figured, why not share some of my tips to handle stress, in exchange, hopefully, for some of your tips?

    Leave it all on the track. I’ve found that when I’m stressed, I usually need a good, long run. Granted, about 3 miles in, I’m about done with the run, so it doesn’t have to be THAT long of a run. Either way, my motto is, “leave it all on the track”, meaning you should run, lift, cycle, swim, or generally exert yourself until you’re physically too tired to care about the stress of the day. I don’t mean hurt yourself, but get to the point that you’ve got to focus on your breathing, leaving you zero focus for your stress. Currently, I’m very wound up because I haven’t had a good work out in almost 2 weeks! I’m going to spend at least 4 nights in the gym during my two week hiatus from class before summer school starts.

    Give yourself some space. You ever notice that you’ll stare at the same paper you wrote, trying to find typos and grammatical errors, only to have a peer take a quick glance and find a ton of mistakes? When you work on something for too long, you start to lose perspective. It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that sometimes it’s best to walk away, and give yourself time to focus on something else (like breathing while running, see point above!). Sometimes we just need to let our minds have a little room to work out a problem, like the “aha” moments in the shower. It’s not that the shower imbues magical analytical skills, but it does allow your mind to “roam”. During the “roaming” process, you might just stumble on a solution. I’ve found that when I’m stressed, it’s helpful to physically walk away from my work to allow my mind time to roam and re-focus for better productivity when I return to a project.

    Health, it does a body good. I’m terrible about not sleeping enough or eating properly when I’m stressed, which makes me feel gross, which leads to lower productivity, which causes the cycle to start all over again! While you may think that using every minute of every day to finish your projects will reduce your stress, taking time to let your body rest will actually improve your productivity in the long run, which reduces your stress level. Also, drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced meal will improve your focus. Further, when your body feels good and operates efficiently, you’ll feel like you’re making more progress throughout the day. Good ‘ole sleep and nutrition do wonders for my stress level!

    So, while I attempt to follow my own advice, maybe you have found some other helpful hints. I’ll be hitting the gym and going to bed early, will you?

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    I attended my brother’s college graduation this past weekend, and I had a few moments to remember back to my college graduation. I was looking forward at the adult life, career, getting married, going forward with a whole chapter…. then, I fell flat on my face in the career department. The marriage and the adult life worked out great, but the career was pretty much in the toilet! In the three years since graduation, the marriage and adult life are better than ever, and the career is finally on the up-swing. I’m gaining a lot of knowledge and experience in several different areas of marketing, and I’m well on my way to getting my MBA. So, how did I get here, and what did I learn along the way?

    The paths we walk are winding. I never thought I’d end up where I am after the twisty path I took. I started out as a musical theater major at a small (think smaller than my high school!) liberal arts college in Arkansas. After a series of unfortunate events, and coming to terms with the fact that I was not, in reality, going to be a Broadway star, I transferred to a large state school and tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I finally found marketing, but when I moved to California just as the market crashed, I found out that no one really wanted to hire a marketer. I had recruiters and decision-makers tell me that I was in the worst possible geographic area for my skill set, that 3 years ago I would’ve been the perfect candidate, and that no one could afford to hire a marketer full-time. It was discouraging to say the least, and I ended up job-hunting in my home state of Texas, since we have a much more diversified business community. After all that, I’ve learned that there’s rarely a straight shot to the “dream job”. Sometimes you have to take jobs you don’t like, use skills you haven’t fully developed, and consider options that seem to come out of the blue.

    Be flexible. Since the paths we walk are winding, you’ve got to be flexible! When I graduated college, I had it all planned out: the type of job and product, the size of the company, the dress code… basically, I thought I was going to get the dream job. Sure, I pretended to scale it down to “reality”, but the truth is, I had a rigid set of criteria that I HAD to follow. Wrong! I ended up working for a start-up (not my idea of a great environment), in a super casual office (not my idea of a good dress code), and the manufacturing industry (not my idea of of the perfect product). However, as ridiculous as that job was, I did learn a lot about how things probably shouldn’t go the next time around. I also took freelancing opportunities to dabble in some areas that I hadn’t learned about in school. In short, I finally decided to just walk the path that was available, instead of sitting still until I could go straight to my “destination”.

    The new wears off. Now that I’m in a much more suitable job, pursuing my master’s, and living life like a normal person, I’ve come to realize that the “new” wears off. Everything isn’t a bright shiny toy like I thought it would be. And you know what? It’s kind of awesome being in a routine of productivity! I am starting to realize that the job isn’t all there is to life, and that sometimes a lazy weekend at home with my husband is just as good as the high from a crazy day at the office. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a rush from a deadline at work, and I’m still striving to make those deadlines bigger and faster. But I think we all believe life is like a movie, and I’ve found that once the new wears off, you’ve got to have a strong foundation underneath to make life worthwhile.

    Watching the graduates this weekend made me quite introspective about where I’ve been and where I’m going, and I think I’ve grown and matured a lot over the past 3 years. It also made me look forward to the day that I don another cap and gown to attend my graduation ceremony from the master’s program, and once again move forward with bright-eyed enthusiasm. I’m glad to say, though, that I’m pretty satisfied with the present!

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    Wearing a structured blazer for the office

    No blazer (and no cami in real life) for dinner

     

    My fun new heels...great for day OR dinner!

    Dress: Ross

    Khaki Blazer: NY & Co.

    Heels: Sam & Libby, via DSW Shoe Warehouse

    Necklace: Forever 21

    Earrings: Target

    Like the outfit? See more details here!

     

     

    I think we can all agree that sometimes you need to take a break from the corporate life! Granted, that break may only be a dinner date, but still, a break is needed. Now that summer is creeping in, I’m ready to enjoy some evenings with my husband. But, between work and class (and attempting to get to the gym!), sometimes the easiest thing is to meet at a restaurant right after work. I’ve found my new summer obsession to be jersey dresses, as they work well for my business casual office and for my after-work commitments. They’re comfortable and breathable, both essential qualities in the Texas heat. So, how do I take my new favorite items from day to dinner?

    Modesty. My main concern is making sure that my “dinner” look doesn’t creep into my “day” look. I’ve found that some people think these looks are the same, but I must disagree. I’ve talked about buying into the illusion, and that modesty is one part of the reason to dress in “business” clothes. For this dress, I usually add a cardigan or blazer to make sure that the thinner straps are office-appropriate. I also make sure that my hemlines skim my knees in the front AND the back (checking the length in the back is critical!), to ensure that the casual fabric doesn’t overshadow an otherwise office-appropriate dress.

    Balance. I also try to make sure that if I’m wearing a dress made of casual fabric, I raise the formality of my other pieces. For example, I’m wearing nude heels and a structured blazer to tone down the effect of the flowy, light-weight dress. If you’re wearing a more casual T-shirt, you might consider pairing it with a pencil skirt and conservative pumps to make sure that you balance out the casual feel of an outfit.

    Conservative. For office looks, I think it’s best to stay conservative with jewelry and make-up, and then swap these out for bolder statements for dinner. Maybe you can plan to swap out a nude lip color for a bold red, or plain silver studs for long, bright pink earrings. The office isn’t about showing your most fun and crazy accessories, so I recommend using these items to take an otherwise toned-down office look into a dinner look.

    While it may seem like business is your life, sometimes LIFE is your life! I love taking this dress from day to dinner… how do you make your office looks more versatile? Like the outfit? See more details here!

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    Wow, it’s been a fast and furious week! As I mentioned, I was on a business trip to one of our sister companies last week. I had a great inspiration for a blog post during a trip to Starbucks, and while contemplating this post, I made a connection to one of the theories we discussed in my Consumer Behavior class. I love making connections between my current academic pursuits and the real world! (Yes, I really am that much of a marketing nerd). We’ve been talking about the “scarcity effect” in my class, which basically states that when consumers feel like there is a limited amount of an item, the item must be more valuable. Think about collector’s items, or “limited edition” cars or toys. Everyone decides to stock up, because when the items run out, surely they’ll be worth more in the aftermarket.

    Starbucks utilizes this effect all the time, particularly with their holiday offerings. Lots of customers wait in anticipation for the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice latte for the fall, and the Gingerbread latte for Christmas. This past year, Starbucks introduced the Caramel Brulee latte at Christmas, and it was a HIT. Personally, I LOVED this drink, and I would hit Starbucks a few extra times during the week to grab one, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to get it once the new year rolled around. I justified my additional purchases with the thought that I could only get it for a month, so I needed to stock up. The scarcity effect for these seasonal offerings has been marketing gold for Starbucks, as they’ve increased their sales when customers “stock up” on the limited edition product.

    But what happens when you take the products off the market? During our trip last week, a barista mentioned that they STILL had customers asking for the Caramel Brulee latte. Upon hearing that they could not purchase this beverage, some customers abandoned the purchase altogether! Wait, Starbucks might be losing customers because they’ve stopped offering a popular product, that was known to be a limited time offering? Apparently so. This is where my marketing brain kicks in, and makes me ask, “Should Starbucks bring back the Caramel Brulee latte?” It doesn’t seem like customers have the same response to the Pumpkin Spice latte, so it would make sense to keep increasing short-term sales of each store by utilizing the scarcity effect for this beverage. But, if they’re losing customers after pulling a more popular seasonal offering, it might make sense to bring it back “for a limited time”, or add it to the menu as a regular offering. From my observation of one, I would be more likely to increase my purchases if they brought back the Caramel Brulee latte. I normally buy a Peppermint latte, which costs about $3.00. However, if Starbucks offered the Caramel Brulee latte, I would increase my purchase by $.75, at least every so often. I think it would be an interesting study for them to try bringing back the Caramel Brulee latte for a limited time this summer to see if it’s still got the clout that it had at Christmas. If it does, maybe Starbucks should consider the sales potential when the scarcity effect is NOT influencing the sales of this product.

    So what do you think? Would you be willing to spend more, and spend often if they brought back a limited edition beverage? Are there seasonal offerings that you wish would be made available year-round?

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    I’m on a business trip to one of our sister companies, and it’s been a crazy week! I don’t have much to give you to start off the weekend, but I figure you’ll be busy keeping up with the Royal Wedding and the NFL Draft. I’ll be back on Monday with a trip-inspired post, so have a great weekend!

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    Grey sheath dress, knit blazer, heels

     

    A comfortable outfit for my presentation

     

    Blue belt and two-tone blue necklace

    Like the outfit? See more details here!

     

    Alright, I know I just did two posts about presentations last week, but I’ve got speaking on the brain! We had case presentations in one of my classes last night, and unfortunately, it spurred me to post once more about presentations. I truly believe that public speaking is a non-negotiable skill in the corporate world, and it was a little disconcerting to see some of the presentation behavior from my MBA classmates. I started my presentation well by dressing the part, which many of classmates chose not to do. However, I want to get into a few more tips on the speaking, since I’ve already addressed appropriate presentation attire.

    Look at your audience. I was shocked to see members of several groups turn their back on the audience duringĀ  yesterday’s presentations. I was also shocked to see people holding notes up in front of their face, or just looking straight down at the notes. Generally, there’s at least one friendly face in the crowd, so if nothing else, at least speak to that person. I don’t recommend looking people directly in the eye when you first start presenting, as it can be a distraction if you’re not used to such direct feedback. Rather, look at their hairline, as this will appear more like eye contact, without the harsh “staring into my soul” effect that can ensue with direct eye contact. Practice in front of a mirror to make sure that you’re not speaking into your notes.

    Be cognizant of the time. We had a strict and short time limit for our presentations last night, and most groups managed to adhere to the cut-off time. However, one group had a huge faux pas during their presentation. A group member was plowing through their portion of the presentation, completely oblivious to the time keeper’s hand signals. Another group member saw the time keeper give the “wrap it up” signal. Seeing no end in sight, he politely and briefly interrupted the group member that was speaking to thank the class for their time. Instead of sitting down, as it was clear their time was up, the group member started speaking again to make their point! When informed that in fact, they were out of time, this person turned to the class and said, “Can I just say one more thing about The Subject?” Awkwardly, her other group members looked at the class. Don’t be this person… when your time is up, your time is up! Plan your presentation and make sure that you speak at a rate that will meet the time limit.

    Practice the transitions. I generally prefer to speak with a clicking device, so that I can move the slides forward at the same rate at which I speak. However, this is not always possible, so make sure you practice the transitions with your team mates. Is one person going to move the slides forward, or will each member move to the keyboard to advance the slides? What order are you speaking in, and do you plan to introduce the next speaker, or just move aside to let the next speaker take over? Who will lead the question and answer session; will it be one speaker, or will each person answer based on their specific portion of the presentation? It’s the “little things” like transitions that take a group from disjointed to polished, and it makes a noticeable difference in the level of professionalism exuded by the team.

    Utilize your visual aid. I saw full sentences and paragraphs written on some of the PowerPoint slides last night, and it makes the visual aid overwhelming and unclear, instead of helpful. Also, state your point up front! Several groups arrived at the end of their presentation, and I still had no idea about their stance on the issue at hand. Open the presentation with your stance, and then utilize bullet points, charts, and pictures through out the remainder of the presentation to support your stance. Don’t forget to proof-read! I saw typos and text running into graphics on some presentations, which distracts from the overall message that should be enhanced by the visual aid.

    I know I’m picky, but years of public speaking have taught me that the seemingly unobtrusive quirks really hurt a person’s ability to convey their information during a presentation. I hope these tips will make your next presentation clear and compelling! Like the outfit? See more details here!

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