Welcome To Relax Consulting's Blog

Transparent thoughts and ideas from Administrative Consultant (aka: Virtual Assistant, Crystal Casavant of Relax Consulting.

Relax Consulting - Let Us Help, So YOU Can RELAX!

Phone: 920.645.7529

Email: Crystal@RelaxConsulting.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Running a Giveaway on Your Blog

Here's a question asked of me often:

"How do I run a giveaway on my blog?"

I'm not the expert, but one of my blogger friends told me to check out Rafflecopter and the best part is, she told me it's free! Within moments I created a free account and was up and running with my own giveaway. There is a help menu to install the widget into either a Blogger or Wordpress site and so far I haven't had any problems with the free version so I haven't had to sign up for any of the monthly add-ons.

Here is a link to the Rafflecopter site: https://www.rafflecopter.com/

I was also told that a great tip for installing with Wordpress is this: **Be sure to install in html editor instead of visual editor

If you're curious what the widget will look like, here is a link to a raffle I am currently running:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope this was helpful?

Leave your comments and suggestions below!


Friday, July 26, 2013

What Will Become of All This?

Maybe it's a morbid thought - but what will become of all this if something were to happen to me? I've got a plan for the children, my friends might divvy up my clothes, my daughter will no doubt take all my autographed books, I'm sure some organist somewhere will be happy to have my music, but what about my business? Who is going to update my blog? What about my business FB page? What about my website?

I guess what prompted this thinking is a stop at a blog. It was a nice blog with some great material, but nothing has been posted since 2009 and I found myself wondering "what ever happened to _______" and then I realized this could easily happen to me if I don't put something in motion.

If you have a big business you likely have a succession plan. Why not have something similar for your small business?

I don't expect my husband to update my blogs, continue reading and reviewing books, and I wouldn't expect him to do much of anything with my novel ... although I might sell more copies after death than before, but that's an artistic conversation we should be having over wine, right?

I would recommend at the very least, having someone you trust who has access as an administrator or who has all the passwords for your various 'accounts'. They would be able to put a final post on your blog about the circumstances surrounding your death and possibly let people know about the funeral arrangements or how they might be able to donate to a certain cause in your honor. It doesn't have to be a formal plan, just something...

What do you have planned? What would be best for your business?

Night all -


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WOW! Blog Tours Crystal is Booking NOW

As you know - Crystal (that's me) is a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Here's what's going on with the tours this summer:

Want to host one of the WOW! touring authors?

WOW! Women On Writing Blog Excellence AwardUpcoming Author Tours: If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our authors below, we are still accepting a few choice blogs to participate in our Partnership Program. 

Come and join the fun! Please e-mail us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com and put "Blog Tour Partnership" in the subject line. Please tell us the author you are interested in and your available dates. We'll get back to you with the details if you are accepted. We look forward to hearing from you!

Content for your blog: All of our touring authors are available for interviews, or they will provide a guest post on a topic related to the writing process or their book.

A Southern Place 
Tour Dates: August 19, 2013 - September 18, 2013 

Title: A Southern Place

Author: Elaine Drennon Little
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Genre: Southern Fiction   
Synopsis: Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.
Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.
Participate! Please e-mail Crystal at crystal@wow-womenonwriting.com with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book! We look forward to hearing from you!
Beyond Belief
Tour Dates: August 26, 2013 - September 25, 2013 
Title: Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

Authors: Susan Tive & Cami Ostman
Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Anthology  
Synopsis: Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they've all experienced and rejected extreme religions.

Covering a wide range of religious communities--including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah's Witness--and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure--why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that's beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.
Participate! Please email Crystal at crystal@wow-womenonwriting.com with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book! We look forward to hearing from you!
Loving the Missing Link 
Tour Dates: September 9, 2013 - October 10, 2013 

Title: Loving the Missing Link

Author: Julia Asel Thomas
Genre: Romance/Coming of Age 
Synopsis: Loving the Missing Link is a fabulous tale about love, success, hope and music. 

During the 1970s, young Cheryl Simpson feels trapped in her small Missouri town. As her mother tries to help her find a way up and out, Cheryl begins to feel that it is all an impossible dream. She sees herself living a boring and dismal life for the rest of her days. Just at the moment when she is about to give up on happiness, she gets the opportunity to join her high school band. The band promises a connection with the world outside her town, but Cheryl does not see any future for herself in music. It is just a tool to get where she wants to go. However, Cheryl's mother arranges for Cheryl to take private lessons with an accomplished musician, who helps her realize the beauty and awesome power of music. 

Still, Cheryl feels that small-town inferiority and finds it too hard to believe that she could ever be anyone special out in the "real" world. On the eve of a music contest that could help her earn a music scholarship, Cheryl begins to panic. Scared and feeling alone, Cheryl runs off with her high school sweetheart and gets married, leaving the band behind. 

During the next years, Cheryl and her husband make a life for themselves. Cheryl meets friends along the way who help guide her to becoming the woman she wants to be. She becomes interested in the arts again. All the while, Cheryl and husband Jerry face the challenges of homelessness, miscarriage and an extra-marital affair before an unexpected disaster brings Cheryl's life crashing to the ground. Cheryl survives with the help of her extraordinary friends and her life-long love for music.
Participate! Please e-mail Crystal at crystal@wow-womenonwriting.com with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book!  We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Taking the MysterE Out of Facebook Marketing

Do you ever wonder what it's like to wake up next to me? Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway - as sort of the entrance into today's catchy blog about Taking the MysterE Out of Facebook Marketing. I don't have a traditional alarm clock that's plugged into the wall. The last time I had one I was in college and didn't have a cell phone. Now, I use a cell phone (in my case a smart phone/iphone) to ensure I will not oversleep. Unless I've forgotten my charger, my phone is the failsafe way to ensure prompt waking. Even if the power goes out, the time in my time zone changes, etc... I am getting up because my phone does all the work for me. It's always in the right time zone and as long as the battery has power, it's going off. My smart phone has made me as reliable as the postal delivery person "come rain, sleet, hail and snow...blah blah blah"

Why does this matter if you are marketing your business (or yourself, you authors) on Facebook? Well... back in college, my marketing wisdom would have told you to spend your marketing money on radio ads that aired between 6-7:15 in the morning. That was because homes across the country were filled with people waking up to the clock radio who would hear your jingle and/or listen to your ad and start their day thinking about how your product or service could benefit them. Now...highschoolers, middle-agers, and yes even my mother who is an AARP member, wake up to a little ditty on their smart phones. I personally blink a few times, take a drink of the water on the nightstand and head for social media land. I allow myself 5-10 minutes each morning to check emails, catch up on Facebook, find out what's trending on LinkedIn, check out the latest 'buzz' on Twitter, maybe pin a few ideas for the day on Pinterest, etc...

Then it's time to toss my legs over the side of the bed, head for the bathroom, and then my day officially begins. I won't bore you with more of those details unless you're curious about my great looking skin and then all I can say is MaryKay has done wonders for me ... but that's another subject for another day.

So...your job dear Facebook Marketing Friend is to following the three E's so you can get my attention and then remember to post early enough in the day so you catch my attention when I wake up and then have a post that is popular enough that it keeps coming to the top of my newsfeed all day (because people are interested in what you have to say). And don't forget to post 3 times each week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are best in my opinion and add Sunday to make it 4 if you are in retail...people are looking for deals, sales, and coupons on Sundays!

Here are the three E's that will take the MysterEEE out of Facebook Marketing:

As far as Monday/Wednesday/Friday go - here are the EEE's to make it E-Z!!!!!

Monday - I want to be Educated; they are getting back into their "business" routine and some sort of information piece is most appreciated/shared/talked about!

Wednesday - I want to be Engaged - ask me a question or give me a call to action and you'll get my attention and my response!

Friday - I may just be at work but I'm checking out Facebook because I go into weekend mode on Thursday night or early Friday morning. I'm already thinking about cocktails, what band is playing, which of the children have a baseball game, etc...I'd like you to Entertain me, a funny post a cartoon, a picture, etc...those will all get my attention. Don't be offended if I don't comment though, because I may not want everyone knowing I'm in weekend mode...but trust me, you'll catch my Eye if you Entertain me!!

So - for what it's worth you now know what it's like to wake up next to me and you know what to do to get and keep my attention. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Things may differ in your business ... for example, if you're a restaurant offering fine dining and evening cocktails, you may want to post early in the morning and then again right before the evening rush? Share your thoughts and ideas, they're likely to help others and isn't that what it's all about? Sharing ideas?

Hugs ya'all!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Marketing Your Book (Traditionally Published or Self Published)

If you are planning on writing a book, it's never too early or too late to think about the marketing side of writing. Ideally, you would put the wheels in motion before the book is published, but none of these steps are too terribly time consuming that you won't be able to do them after publication. Remember, this is no time to be shy; you've accomplished something incredibly amazing - get out there and show it off!!!

1) Become a household name (and not just in your own household)
  a-Start a Twitter account or polish up your existing account (ie: add that you are an author/add a headshot)
  b-Create a FB page separate from your personal page and make sure it reads John Smith, Author
  c-Create a Goodreads profile and then upgrade it to an author profile (or if you had one, polish it up with
      your latest biography information and your adorable head shot)
  d-If you have a blog, make sure you are posting things of value as well as self-promotion about your book
      if you don't have a blog - create one (wordpress or blogger are fine)
  e- If you have a website, make sure all your information is easy to find and that it is accurate (if you don't
      have a website, you could make this work without one, so this isn't totally mandatory)
  f- If you have a google account, upgrade to Google Plus so you can share with your circles (if you don't
      a gmail account it's free and takes moments - create one using your most professional author name -
      meaning 'I<2Skittles' is probably not the one you want to be using full time right now

2) Get yourself out there - write a few Amazon reviews for other authors, follow a writerly blog or two (if you need suggestions, let me know) and definitely join in on some Goodreads conversations on Facebook

3) Plan a launch party in your town

4) Plan a virtual launch party on Facebook (by creating an event and inviting everyone you know and asking them to invite people you don't know)

5) Create a buzz by offering your book to early readers and asking for reviews and help with promotion

6) Contact someone about doing a blog tour (of course, I would recommend WOW! Women on Writing: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/, but I'm sure there are others)

7) Start writing your press release

8) Ask for help - get a second opinion about your head shot ... your husband may think you look amazing but ask someone who has the guts to say: "I bet you can look better" and definitely find a good photographer at a reasonable price ... no one wants to look awful and you are going to use this for your online presence, on your book cover, on your blog, etc... so it should really be a reflection of you at your best!

9) Register your book hashtag and then start tweeting about it! (not sure how to register? check this out: http://bookhashtags.com/ )

10) Ask people who have been there ... it's really not hard ... "hey Lisa, I remember you did that fun virtual launch party last year - what worked and what didn't? What do you recommend?"

That's my 10 down and dirty tips - it's okay to start building on these as you start your first chapter, or after the box of books has been delivered to your front door. Please don't be shy and remember you have accomplished something awesome - get out there and toot away at your own horn. And remember - I'm proud of you!!!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Being Thoughtful while Saving Time

This is totally NOT a sales pitch. I do happen to be a distributor for SendOut Cards, and I won't even give you a link to my site ... because I don't want you to buy something. I just want you to think about something.

That was my disclaimer - now onto business.

Do you wish you could be the person who sends a thank you for each lunch date? coffee date? to your seamstress for a job well done? to your hairdresser for the fabulous neck massage while your color was doing whatever color does?

I had always wanted to be that thoughtful person, but I didn't think I had time. I would send an email, a text, or make a quick phone call. (That was on the good days) Most days I would simply say to myself "your grandma would be incredibly disappointed - and so would Miss Manners". Now I don't really even know who Miss Manners is, but Anne Landers comes into play somewhere in the mix - but the truth is, I was raised with old-fashioned values. As a child, I wasn't allowed to open my presents, wear my new sweaters, etc... until the thank you note was written, sealed, addressed, and headed off to the post office in the bag of our friendly postal carrier.

Then I grew up ...

I had children ...

Started working ...

I started making excuses and rationalizing. What really happened? I stopped showing my appreciation in the way that I wanted to. My half-assed text may have been sort of acceptable in a better than nothing way but in my own heart and head, it was just a feeble attempt at doing the right thing. Then ... along came SendOut Cards. It's not terribly expensive and I could send cards right from my computer. I could send birthday cards, party invitations, thank you letters, and I could even send my husband a travel mug and an apology letter for my snarky behavior. That was a pretty good solution and I decided to sell the products because that gave me the best deal.

Now ... I have something even better! I have an app - kid you not, they make an app for sending cards. I no sooner left a play date this afternoon (at 1:23 which was already 8 minutes later than I had hoped) and before I got out of the car, I was able to grab my phone and send a thank you card. If my husband is driving somewhere, I can even send a card as we travel down the highway (another disclaimer: do NOT try to send a card while driving ... it's no safer than texting and driving). This entire process allows me to be thoughtful and kind and I can do it when I have a spare minute or two. You could time me, but I swear it takes no more than 90 seconds to touch the app on my phone, choose the type of card, personalize it, and choose the contact from my list.  I am now the mother who helps my children send out thank you cards as soon as the birthday guests walk out the door. I am now the customer who remembers to send a note to the Manager when I receive stellar service. The program also has a calendar feature so I never forget a birthday or anniversary either.


The reason I'm sharing this is that some of my clients have called and said something similar to:

"I had this great meeting this afternoon, and I wanted to send a thank you ... but I'm already half way to the cabin up North and I really just want to get out on the lake fishing. Would you mind picking up a card and sending something for me? I'll text you the address."

I have been able to complete this task while waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in the lounge at the Dr. office, watching the children play at the park, and at times I've been in the barn with my sleeves rolled up stirring milk replacer for the calves. People ask how I am able to get so much done in a short amount of time. There's really no secret, we all have the same number of hours in a day and minutes in a year. I simply choose to have time on my side. When time is working with me, it can't be working against me, right?

On that note - it's off to finish some editing and do some more reading.

Have a fabulous evening and if you're interested in hearing more, you know where to find me!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Reading a Word Document or .PDF on Your Kindle

Happy Friday from Relax Consulting. The office is closed today, which means my primary function is farmer and mommy, but I wanted to take a moment to write a quick blog that will be helpful to many friends and clients. Today's blog post answers the question:

"How do I read a word document or PDF on my Kindle?"

Obviously, if you don't have a Kindle, this may not apply to you ... BUT ... if you happen to write content that others want to read on their Kindle, you should take a moment to book mark this page or skim over the ideas so you can pass them along.

This topic comes up quite often within my circle of writing friends. They'll want me to edit or review a book, short story, or blog post, and I want to do it in a place that is convenient for me. I can easily download their content onto my Kindle which makes it accessible for me on not only the Kindle, but my Ipad, Ipod, and Iphone as well. Now, I have their document available to me when I'm waiting at the Dr.'s office, sitting by the pool, waiting for my husband to come to bed, or while enjoying my morning coffee. I am no longer tethered to my computer and the best thing is I'm not carrying around stacks of paper, using countless dollars worth of ink, and there seems to be much more room in my purse/bag.

There's the plan and simple history of the post. Now for the solution:

If you have a Kindle account, you need to know your Kindle address (it's device specific) and there are instructions if you follow this link:


and scroll down to the section that looks like this:

now that you know your Kindle address, save it as a contact in your email. Kindle has some precautions in place to make sure that you aren't getting spam sent to your device, so there is also a device setting that only allows content to be received from a trusted source. I found that the easiest way to make this work for me, was to save my own email address(es) as the only approved contact(s).

What this means for my friends and associates is that they cannot send documents directly to my Kindle. They need to first send them to my gmail address: crystaljotto@gmail.com and then it's up to ME to forward them to my Kindle address (which happens to be iamagemcrystal_37@kindle.com). In the simplest terms:

Approved Contact = crystaljotto@gmail.com
Kindle Address = iamagemcrystal_37@kindle.com

By simply emailing a word document or PDF from my personal email to my Kindle email, I can read content on my Kindle device. It's really just that easy once you get used to it. The first time may be a little tricky, because you have to find your device email and set up your approved email, but after the first time, it's pretty simple. Depending upon which Kindle device you are using, you'll have to get comfortable with WHERE on the device the content is downloaded (for example, it may land in a 'cloud' section of the device or a different section for 'my content') ... but you'll find it and the link above is very helpful in answering all of your questions.

Hope this has been helpful - have a great weekend!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spending Too Much Time Managing Your Social Media?

Are you (or someone within your organization) spending too much time managing your social media? There is a tool out there to help you. If you haven't heard of Hoot Suite/ HootSuite, let me quickly explain how you can save time and still engage your audience of consumers and potential consumers. Once I explain, you can go right to their site for more details and to set up your account. If you need more help, let me know. Here's the link to their site: http://hootsuite.com/

Whether you have one social media (ie: Facebook) or several; (ie: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), you can use Hoot Suite to do your updates. The features of Hoot Suite include the ability to sign in once and use the same update on several sites, the ability to post-date your posts or schedule them out in the future, and it's nice to have a single location and just one place to use as a hub for your social media.

Oh yes ... the best part? The basic plan is FREE! Yes, I said FREE!

I have a friend who runs a not for profit program and she has exciting events planned from now until the fall. I believe it's something like 6 events in all. I believe her organization has just a FB page to manage, but if she uses Hoot Suite, she can log in today and post updates for these future events and use the Hoot Suite calendar to choose the future dates. She could schedule a post for next month reminding people to sign up for the golf outing, then post something in July about the tennis tournament and the beach volleyball party, etc... since she would be doing a lot of the set up now, she would free up quite a bit of her time on a daily basis allowing her some quiet time for thinking, planning, or for family and friends.

I'm sure you can figure out how this would look for your business. You wouldn't want to schedule too far in advance or forget about making your posts personal and timely, but this may still be a tool that could free up some of your time for working on other aspects of your life or business.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Take Your FB Page To Level P

Your business has a Facebook page, you have followers, you're actively posting, and you're following the E 'rules' about posting: You are Engaging your audience, You are Entertaining your audience, and you are Educating your audience. You may have even figured out (based on your audience and followers/friends) that Monday is the best day to Engage, Wednesday is the best day to Educate, and Friday is the best day to Entertain. What can you do to take things to the next level and what on earth is the next level?

I like to call the next level 'Level P' and the reason I chose P is because, when you get to the next level, you'll find all sorts of things beginning with that letter:




Whether your page has a single administrator or several administrators/contributors, getting Personal is important. Somewhere in your 'about' section, you should explain who your administrators are. For example: This page has three administrators: Jill is our upbeat office manager who is passionate about art and puppies, she signs her posts <3 Jill. Ben is another administrator and he loves traveling, sailing, and food, he will likely be the one posting photographs of the Ocean, and mouthwatering recipes. Ben uses his initials and a smile when he signs BB :) Crystal is the creator of the page and founder of the business. She is a busy mother and is married to a dairy farmer, she will be posting pictures of cows, fields, and household tips. Crystal just posts with her name. We hope you enjoy our page and we look forward to your comments.

You'll get a Positive reaction once you start getting Personal with your page. People will see that you are passionate about what you do (what you sell, etc...)! People love People and People love People who get Personal with them in a Positive way. Take for example, Festival Foods. When you call the store, the recording says "Hi, this is the Festival Guy" it could easily say "Thank you for Calling Festival Foods" but there's something much more personal and positive about the tone of "Hi, this is the Festival Guy". Try giving a little more personality to your FB page by telling us about your Administrators, and then sign each post with the name of the poster. You'll find more people commenting, sharing, etc... and all of this creates customer loyalty. We all know that a loyal customer is the key to sustaining a small or large business in today's economy.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Benefits of Self Care

Haven't you found in life that situations and relationships are made easier if you have a better understanding of those around you (especially those closest to you)? Of course!

When is the last time that you made a list of the things that are most important to you?

Take a moment and make that list - as you do, you'll gain a better understanding of self as well as be better equipped to deal with others and the stressful situations that become part of every day life.

Sample List:
Family Time
Worship Time
Conversations with Friends and Loved Ones
Looking and Feeling my Best (Health)
Eating Right and Cooking Meals at Home

Realistically, none of us are wearing just one hat in this life. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, business owners and employees, etc... and when we are so busy juggling those many titles and the responsibilities that go with them, we sometimes lose sight of not only our professional goals, but we can lose sight of 'self' too. The further away we stray from what is important at our core, the more difficult day to day activities can become. We need to take time for ourselves and what is important to us. As we give ourselves this gift of time, we will find ourselves better equipped to give others what they need.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Different Sort of Lesson; Don't be a Puker

In life, I've always said there are two ways to learn. You learn from a person or an experience that was pleasurable and you do what you can to recreate that positive experience to improve yourself, your business, your approach, etc...and then there are those individuals and experiences that leave you with such an awful taste in your mouth that you do everything in your power to ensure you are the polar opposite of that person and you do what you can to ensure that experience never happens again. There are plenty of people doing things right, but today I would like to look at a valuable lesson learned from a puker. Yes, I said puker...as in someone who vomits. In this case, someone who vomits or pukes all over their customer or potential customer. If you've never met a puker, you'll need a few key ways to identify them (see below):

*****you are spending time with a puker if you can't wait for your phone to ring because you are looking for a graceful way to exit

*****you know absolutely everything about them, their business, and/or their product and they have likely forgotten your name and they haven't asked a single thing about you

*****they have trouble making eye contact and you aren't sure if they are having a conversation with you or the imaginary person on the wall behind you (even worse if there is a mirror behind you)

*****they use more words than the average person but they don't seem to say anything - the more you listen, the less you know

I'm not sure there's any hope for a puker. They are completely self-absorbed and wouldn't recognize feedback if you threw it at them at 90mph...so the best thing to do is avoid the puker. If you find yourself involved with one, make some mental notes about what NOT to do in your own life and business. If you think you're becoming a puker, take a quick inventory of what you know about the person or people you are talking to. Remember that people like talking about themselves. If you want to be engaged and engaging, a conversation needs to play out like a tennis match with questions and answers and a back and forth movement/flow. Ask for feedback from time to time as well. I have a dear friend who worries that she has a tendency to be self absorbed (I don't see it, but she fears it) and she will ask me if she's showing signs of puker-ness ... asking a trusted friend for this feedback can only help you grow.

Next time you see me, we can enjoy a glass of wine and I'll tell you what prompted this post - in the meantime, enjoy and I hope it brings you value!


Monday, February 4, 2013

What Small Business Needs to Know About Blogging

You own a small business and you've heard about social media, blogging, having a website, and it's all making sense as a plan to promote your business by engaging customers and potential customers. Except...this blogging thing sounds a lot like homework or a book report...and you've either set up your blog and haven't been posting, or you haven't even been inspired to create the blog. Today's post may not change your mind, but it may give you a bit of direction when you're ready to post on a regular basis. Hopefully if we break it down, it won't seem as overwhelming:

1.) Personalize Your Posts
Your business blog is a great place to post reviews about your business, but it is also a great place to post your feedback for others. Have you read a book you've enjoyed? Had a great customer service experience? Met someone who inspired you? Another business that has mentored you? Been to a fabulous presentation about ____________? All of these would make great content for your blog. If you run a tractor repair business and the dairy expo is coming in a few weeks, you might want to write a blog about the hardworking students who put together a display about the history of tractors. Make it personal, make it fun, and don't be too terribly worried about typos. You're writing a blog, not a book ... and mistakes mean you're human. Being human makes you more approachable (some might disagree about this, but if you spend tons of time choosing the perfect word, the perfect topic, having it spell checked, etc... it's no surprise you aren't posting often - it's becoming too much work - don't take the fun out of your blog)!

2.) You Know Best
Don't write about something you don't know about. Just because something is trendy doesn't mean you should write about it. I haven't worn high heels in years, so if I were to write about the latest trendy high heels, my post would suck...you'd see right through me and know that I don't know my arse from a hole in the ground. If you know about something, write about it. Your posts don't always have to be about your business - the key is they should provide value. If it's close to the holidays and the hot topic of conversation is cookies and bars or the best punch recipe, go ahead and post it to your blog. If it flops, your audience has let you know this isn't something that appeals to them...but you just may find that you get more hits on the human interest posts as opposed to the sales related posts.

3). Write About Challenges
If you had an experience with a customer or project that was challenging, write about it...in a tactful way of course...but you no doubt took that problematic exchange to improve something about your business. Tell people about it. Examples in the restaurant industry have been used for years to build customer loyalty. The customer had a bad experience, the manager offered a suitable solution, the customer is more loyal than they were before the negative experience. Voila'!

4.) Don't Sell Through Your Blog
I don't like to be 'sold' anything. I like to be an engaged consumer. If you attack me the moment I walk into your boutique, I won't buy anything and I won't be back. If you notice me looking at something and you engage me in a conversation, I'm likely to buy the object. No one likes the hard sell. Talk to me about things that interest me and I'll end up buying from you when I need whatever it is that you offer. There's a great pastry business out of state called Georgetown Cupcakes. I haven't purchased anything there, but I love their funny facebook posts. I follow them because they engage me - and someday, I am going to have a reason to order a dozen cupcakes and I'll give them my business...if every one of their posts had been about "buy our cupcakes" or "our cupcakes are the best - get 5% off and order today", I would stop following them and would never order those dozen cupcakes there (by the way:  http://www.georgetowncupcake.com/ if you're interested)

That's it - 4 reminders/tips/steps - call it what you like. Hopefully they'll give you some direction and make your goal of posting ___ times each week a little more attainable. My goal is 3 times each week - sometimes I have lots to say, sometimes not much at all ... either way, just get out there and engage your customers and potential customers so when the time is right they turn to you with their business.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Struggling With KeyWords?

Do you struggle with choosing key words to boost your business? Search Engine Optimizing, Marketing, SEO Optimization, you call it what you want, but the long and short is this: You've heard that key words, blog labels, and ad words are important for reaching a larger audience. Leave it to Google to provide a tool that can simplify keywords. I thought about keeping this amazing tool a secret, and then realized that's just not my style, so here you go: https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__c=1000000000&__u=1000000000&ideaRequestType=KEYWORD_IDEAS

Once you've clicked on the link, the help on the left of the screen can explain this tool better than I can. What I can advise is the following:

Choose words and phrases that are "low" in the competition category

Choose words and phrases with between 50,000 and 150,000 global monthly searches

By keeping these parameters in mind, you'll ensure that you'll be found (less than 50,000 global monthly searches and you won't be on the 'map' and more than 150,000 the competition will be so great that you'll become a 'needle in a large haystack'). Give it a try and see if you can increase traffic to your blog and your website and increase business. Take it one step further and use your keywords at the beginning of a sentence or the end of an article/sentence/paragraph!

This is also a tool I plan to use when writing for Ezine as well - and best news yet? It's FREE - now that's a price we can afford no matter how small or large our business is!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Is A Blog Tour Manager?

What Is A Blog Tour Manager?

I've been eluding to some interesting changes at Relax Consulting - one of those changes is a hat that I (Crystal) will be wearing in 2013 and beyond. I am taking on some freelance work with WOW Women on Writing. I will be working with WOW in the capacity of a Blog Tour Manager. I thought I would do a post about this, primarily to help me wrap my head around what I will be doing - I need to explain this to others, and since I will not be active in this role for a few weeks yet, research is key in preparing and explaining.

Let's start with the first question my mother will ask: "What's WOW?"

WOW! is a global magazine, designed to support women's creativity, energy, blood, sweat and tears, throughout all stages of the writing process. Wow! is committed to excellence in every way, in their work ethic in the products and services they provide, and in their relationships with readers, contributors, freelancers, interviewees, advertisers, and subscribers. WOW! is a resource for writers; offering classes, links to author sites, free newsletters, quarterly contests, teleseminars, and great support at all levels.

Now we know what WOW! is - what is a Blog Tour Manager? (I've read the job description and I'm not exactly sure I can do the position justice with an elevator pitch, but I'm going to try - here goes:)

A Blog Tour Manager is an extremely motivated self starter who has their own blog and blogs regularly. Someone who uses Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and who enjoys reading (and can read quickly) and writing book reviews. Someone who is comfortable with sales, enjoys interviewing authors for blog posts, and someone who works at home and is available via email. A WOW! Blog Tour Manager works with authors booking blog tours, staying organized, interviewing the author, and ultimately launching the author's work!

I feel that the position of Blog Tour Manager will fit nicely with my work at Relax Consulting as well as the duties that fall under my other titles of mother, wife, diary farm owner, and musician. I am super excited for this opportunity and didn't want anyone thinking that Relax Consulting was closing. This should be something that will enhance what Relax has to offer by refining my writing and marketing skills.

Your continued prayers and support are appreciated as I embark on a new leg of this amazing journey called LIFE!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

When Quitting Isn't Bad...

When Quitting Isn't Bad
By, Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

There are plenty of people ready to tell you that quitters lose and losers quit. Let's look at quitting in a little different way. I'll expound on it in a few moments, but the following quote by Osayi Osar-Emokpae from "Impossible Is Stupid" sums up where I'm going today:

"Quitting is not giving up, it's choosing to focus your attention on something more important. Quitting is not losing confidence, it's realizing that there are more valuable ways you can spend your time. Quitting is not making excuses, it's learning to be more productive, efficient and effective instead. Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength."

The headline of a June 16th 2012 article in the New York Daily News read: Stress Levels Soar in America by up to 30% in 30 years.  Our friends and neighbors are working 50-60 hours each week (not including drive time to and from the office or additional time with volunteer activities) and divorce rates are climbing. Some of us have too much on our plate. Our calendars are filled with things to do. We aren't finished with one meeting and we are checking our smart phones in anticipation of the next meeting. If we are honest with ourselves, we aren't truly engaged during most of those activities. During luncheon presentations, we are checking the emails from our office, answering texts from teenage children wondering about transportation arrangements for evening sports events, and taking a mental inventory of what's in the cupboard to throw together for dinner. Add in the stress about finding time to get to the gym, worship time, and the ever elusive time to call and catch up with a friend and what do we have?


That's a depressing statement - so don't stop reading here ... I dislike a problem without a solution, so stick with me a bit longer and I'll offer a solution.

Look at your calendar. If you are using a smart phone, just humor me and print out your calendar for the month. Take a look at one month (not a holiday month please). Write down the different things you see on the calendar - put them into a list:

Process Payroll
Pay Taxes
Volunteer Meeting for ______________
Lunch with the ________________ Group
Send out reminder email to the ______________ Group about upcoming meeting
Work at ___________________

Take this list and assign a number value to each item. Give the things you love a 10. The items marked 10 are the things you "can't not do" meaning you truly enjoy them or the value they bring far outweighs the things you may dislike about them. For example, processing payroll for our business isn't 'fun' necessarily, but it sure beats paying someone else to do it. The money savings makes the 15 minute job time well spent. If the volunteer meeting for the _________________ association is becoming a total drag and you groan at the thought, give that a 1 or a 3. If lunch with the _______________ Group leaves you feeling refreshed, creative, and excited - give it a 10.

Do you have your list with a number value beside each?

10 - Process Payroll
10 - Pay Taxes
5 - Volunteer Meeting for _______________
3 - Lunch with the ______________ Group
2 - Send out reminder email to the _____________ Group about upcoming meeting
10 - Work at ___________________

Looking at this list again, I can see that the Volunteer Meeting for __________________, Lunch with the ___________ Group, and Sending out reminder emails for ____________ Group are activities that no longer serve me. Whatever joy I took in those groups/organizations in the past, has expired. It may be painful, but if I want to de-stress, I need to allow myself time for thinking, relaxing, and being creative. 

Now it's time to take action. I've taken an inventory and I know what I need to do - I am going to remind myself that quitting isn't bad, it's something I need to do so I can take things to the next level in other areas of my life. I will have more time to do things that give me strength!

Enjoy your new found strength!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't Let Your Email Manage You

We are supposed to manage our email accounts, not the other way around. That was sure profound, right? Not at all ... but do you ever have those days when it feels like your email is managing you instead? I've learned a few tricks and tips over the years that may help you get back in the driver's seat of your email-mobile

1) Touch It Once - if you aren't going to do anything with it today, get rid of it. The thought "maybe I'll need that" should not apply to emails. If you don't think you need it, you likely don't. Go with your instincts and don't be afraid to discard what doesn't apply to you. Saving it to a new folder doesn't make it any more important.

2) Pick Up The Phone - you know that thing on your desk? Yup - that's a phone ... and people are still able to talk on them. Even your smart phone - I'm sure you know that you can text on it and read emails - but did you know that you can also talk on it? Sarcasm aside, just pick up the phone if the email requires a brief response. It allows you to build relationships, respond quickly, and it saves additional emails in your inbox. (if you don't pick up the phone, see the below example of what might happen)

From: Liysa
To: Me


Good morning! Do you think you could come to the meeting early this afternoon? I need someone to set up beverages and get the projector ready. I don't have time and I'm hoping you can help. Let me know.


From: Me
To: Liysa


Sure - glad to help. What time? Just water, or water and coffee too? Do I need to bring my laptop, or will yours be there?

Let me know.


From: Liysa
To: Me


I really should have given you more information - sorry. I think water and coffee is a great idea. You'll have to pop by my office and pick up my laptop if you wouldn't mind. Does that work?


From: Me
To: Liysa


No problem - I'd be happy to stop by your office. What time works for you?


From: Liysa
To: Me


I think 2pm should be fine and give you plenty of time. See you then. Thanks again!


From: Me
To: Liysa


You're welcome - see you then!


Six emails later ... we each have the information we need. Had I picked up the phone after receiving the first email, we could have spent two minutes or less on the phone and quickly exchanged the information as well as a few pleasantries. Additional emails waste time and disrupt productivity.

3) Purge Anything Old - Do you have emails from several months ago cluttering up your inbox? Set yourself a limit - and then stick with it. For me, my mantra is "if it's over 60 days old, pitch it". I go into my inbox and purge anything over 60 days old. This allows me to keep my inbox(es) tidy and clean and I don't feel overwhelmed.

4) Walk Away From Your Smart Phone - Nothing terrible is going to happen if you leave your smart phone on the kitchen table while you spend time folding laundry. I'm sure there are exceptions if you have a terminally ill relative, or if you are a heart surgeon ... but the rest of us deserve a break sometimes. When we are reading bedtime stories to our children, we shouldn't be checking our emails, taking client calls, or catching up on our daily dose of social media. It's okay to disconnect. Set some boundaries for yourself. Our inbox can be flooded with coupons, offers, and non emergent emails. If we are afraid to put down our phones, important life moments can be disrupted for no good reason (ie: in the middle of a romantic dinner, I hear and email come in, so I check my phone ... it's a Kohl's coupon ... I just sent my husband the message that the latest sale on designer shoes is more important than he is? f a i l ...)

As you start to put some of these tips and tricks into practice, you'll find that it's easier to click 'delete' and it won't be as overwhelming when you log into your email account each day. I have several email accounts - some are personal, some professional, some connected to my blog and others connected to my website. If I allowed those email accounts to manage me, the only place they'd drive me is certifiably nuts! I'm in the driver's seat ... and my emails can wait ... I have a life to live!

Happy Travels!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scholarship and Awards Opportunity in Manitowoc

The Manitowoc Chapter of Women in Management Announces that applications are available for:

Professional Woman of the Year

MANITOWOC, Wis.—Manitowoc Chapter of Women In Management, Inc. announces that application and nomination forms for WIMI’s Manitowoc Chapter Professional Woman of the Year Award and College Scholarship are now available. Forms can be downloaded from the WIMI website: (
www.wimiwi.org) or can be obtained via e-mail request: manitowocwimi@gmail.com
The Professional Woman of the Year Award recognizes a professional woman who has made significant contributions to her company, employees and community. The award recipient will receive a complimentary one-year membership to the Manitowoc Chapter of WIMI.

The WIMI scholarship will be awarded to a female college student aspiring to a post-secondary professional, managerial, or entrepreneurial career. Applicants must have completed at least their first year of college with the intention of obtaining a degree. Preference will be given to applicants attending college in Manitowoc County, but those who reside in Manitowoc County, or who have graduated from a Manitowoc County High School will also be considered. Financial need, academic performance, community and extracurricular involvement will be considered. The top applicants may be asked to participate in an interview to determine the scholarship winner.

Applicants to the award and the scholarship are due April 1st 2013. Recipients will be recognized at the May 14th 2013 chapter meeting held at the Holiday Inn (4601 Calumet St. Manitowoc) starting at 11:30am.

Any questions can be directed to Teresa Satori, Awards and Partnership Chair: 920.684.1891 or via email: manitowocwimi@gmail.com

Women in Management, Inc. is not a fund-raising organization. Our objectives are to promote growth and self-development of women through
educational programming, offer support and guidance, and provide women with the opportunity to exchange information, experiences, and ideas.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Facebook Pages - Doing it Right

If you're anything like me, you want to have a Facebook page that is successful. Not because you are hungry for popularity or you want to 'sell something' to every 'friend' per say - but because social media is an important part of company branding and image. I recently read a fabulous article about companies that are doing Facebook and doing it well:


The list includes:
Bare Escentuals
Brendan's Irish Pub
Burt's Bees
Candles Off Main
Community Coffee
Fresh Brothers
Johnny Cupcakes
Mabel's Labels
Old Spice
Red Mango
Stella & Dot
Steve Spangler Science
Tiny Prints

Don't reinvent the wheel - if you are looking for your Facebook page to be successful, read through what's working for these companies and see what you can put to work for you. Thanks Inc.com for another great article filled with value and insight! Hopefully you'll see Relax Consulting on this list - but in the meantime, I'm sure you'll agree that these 20 companies deserve the spotlight!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Speak Out Against Bullying and Abuse

Speak Out Against Bullying and Abuse
by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

What would you do if your child came home and told you that someone in their class was being abused or bullied? I bake my worries away, and the first thing I would want to do is pop another chocolate chip in my mouth to give myself some time to think about what to say. The most important thing to do is listen, so whether you pop another chip, or pour yourself a cup of coffee, you should encourage your child to tell you as much about the situation as possible. Once you have the facts as your child knows them, you can make an educated decision about what the next step should be.
I’ll be honest with you, when my daughter came home telling me about one of the smaller boys in her class who was being bullied, my gut reaction was:
·         At least it’s not my kid
·         At least my kid knows it’s not right to treat people like that
·         I hate to get involved, doesn’t sound like this is my fight – maybe I can change the subject
I chatted with friends (some with children and some without) and ultimately ended up at the door of my Pastor. My argument sounded something like this:
“I understand that it would be the right thing to talk to a teacher or guidance counselor, but the next thing you know the bully will be picking on my kid. I don’t want to do what’s right for everyone, I want to do what’s right for MY family. I can’t save the world like I thought I could ten years ago. What’s so wrong with taking the easy road?”
My Pastor reminded me about recent news stories about shootings in schools and pointed out that I have a responsibility as a Christian to do what is for the greater good of my community. He didn’t say that today’s bully would become tomorrow’s murderer – but that’s where my mind went. If I allowed this bully to pick on the little boy, I would be sending a message to the bully that it was okay and to my daughter that it was okay to treat people this way. After some additional talking and some prayer (not to mention sleepless nights), I decided it was time to sit down with my children to talk about bullying and abuse.
Before sitting them down, I figured I better have a pretty good handle on what bullying and abuse is – so I looked it up and here’s the official scoop (thanks Wikipedia):

Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of racereligiongendersexuality, or ability.[2][3] If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target".
Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying,[4] while some U.S. states have laws against it.[5] Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotionalverbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.
Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more "lieutenants" who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse.[6] Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of racism.
Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods.

Now that I have all this great information, I am rehearsing what I can say and different scenarios to open up the discussion. The first thing I came up with was a graphic:

I am sharing this graphic through social media to hear how others have dealt with the topic in their families. The following steps seem crucial in combating the problem:
·         Listen Objectively
·         Work With Teachers and Those in Authority
·         Talk to Your Children About Speaking Up
o    and
§  The Importance of Being a Voice for Others
·         Keep Talking and Listening (don’t assume the problem went away)
·         Use All Resources Available to You
o    Ie:

Not saying that we do everything right at our house, but as Pastor reminded me – you can never go wrong when you tell the truth and do the right thing. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worthwhile in the end.
Don’t be afraid to speak out!