Apples & Oranges

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I’ve been fortunate to have been able to get involved in some B2C projects lately–both on the research and writing fronts. The new B2C projects have been mostly in the CPG industry and, interestingly, the target for most of these projects has been the same: mom. Wow, what a very different audience than the payments processing customers for whom I’ve been researching, designing and writing since July 2013 at Vantiv!

I’m always thankful for the great volume of B2B projects I’ve had over the past 2 years of freelancing, but have been eager to expand my skills into the consumer side of things. Writing for consumers is so incredibly different than writing for B2B industries. I really like that image I found for this blog; the old “apples and oranges” adage is certainly applicable here.

Much of the B2B writing I’ve done is more on the technical writing side–like a whole lot of system documentation and instructions at Vantiv. In that kind of writing, getting your point across very clearly and efficiently is most important. In consumer-facing writing these characteristics, of course, continue to be important–but it’s also key that your writing grabs the attention of your audience. For virtually every product or service consumer marketing is trying to sell, the competition is stiff. B2C marketers have literally mere seconds to capture their target audience’s time and attention. With the continual onslaught of information in today’s technological age, consumers’ attention span has grown increasingly short.

This kind of short-form writing has been a new challenge for me–one that I’m excited to tackle and know that I am improving in with each day! I hope to continue to take on a wide variety of projects throughout 2015–and beyond.

Deliciously Dark Dexter

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I’m not a TV watcher; I never have been. These days, we don’t have cable service but just rely on Netflix for the evening entertainment needs around our house. However, one of few series that I consider indispensable viewing is Dexter. The characters are wonderful (particularly Dexter himself), the scenery is lovely and the plot twists are so fun. It’s no surprise that Dexter is one of my all-time favorite TV characters since he fits my standard profile of intelligent, socially-awkward misfit who has trouble connecting with other people.

Sidebar: Other characters on my list of super-favorites include:

  • Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory)
  • Buster Bluth (Arrested Development)
  • Walter Bishop (Fringe)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes (BBC Sherlock)

Okay, okay, Buster is a bit of an oddball, but more about those characters in a later blog post.

Getting Back to Dexter…

Being the major Dexter fan that I am, I’ve been doing some browsing around online to check out fan sites and communities. Doing so has also gotten me really interested in checking out the book series that inspired the TV series. I very rarely make time for fiction reading, but I think this shall be one of those exceptions! Here are some great online Dexter resources I’ve come across lately:

Writing, Editing and Project Managing for WriterGirl

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I’ve recently began writing some blog posts (they’re not live quite yet, though) for WriterGirl, a digital healthcare content company for which I’ve been an associate for almost a year now. It’s been a great experience working with the folks there; I started out as a writer–which I continue to do and enjoy–but have also recently began picking up projects as an editor and a project manager. I love new adventures!

Anyway, I was cruising their blog this morning and came across this recent post by Jessica entitled “5 Lessons Every Marketer Can Learn from Frozen.” It’s a very fun and informative article! I always love a good Disney reference. Be sure to check it out!

Conducting Some Qual…Online!

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I feel like I’ve moved into the 21st century. I recently helped to set up, facilitate and report the results of an online discussion board for the United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC). It was a really fun, educational experience. Coming from academia, transitioning from using a typewriter to a computer to publish one’s thesis is considered a bit of a big deal!

As I blogged about here, back in November I completed a course with Carol Shea (of Olivetree Research) about developing and testing new concepts using online discussion boards. I was excited to actually get to work with Carol on this UWGC project. (Thanks again, Carol, for this great opportunity!) The discussion board went very well; we had many participants who shared insightful comments. As much as I enjoy moderating the actual discussions, carefully reviewing and analyzing the findings to distill new insights for the client is my favorite part of the research process.

I hope to continue to get involved with more research projects this year–especially those of the online variety. It’s evident that this is the direction in which qualitative research is going in the (immediate) future, so I know that I need to polish my online research skills. Email me today (danielle.quales@gmail.com) if your company has a upcoming qualitative research project (B2B or B2C–I do it all!) that needs freelance support!

Planning Our Annual Springtime Getaway

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Each spring, my husband and I take three or four days out of town on a short getaway. We have a usual route we take that involves a couple days in the mountains of northern Georgia (Dahlonega-area), then a leisurely drive up through the Smokies and into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for the last day or so. The weather has been surprisingly temperate for us in early to mid-March at these altitudes, so that’s always nice. We plan this annual trip as something to really look forward to after escaping the depths of winter in Cincinnati.

This year, we are taking a different (although still mountainous) route because we have a bit less time and at a later time. We are going to first go to Boone, North Carolina, where I completed my first master’s degree. My husband has never been there, so I plan to show him around town and check out the many outlying touristy areas. We are also going to meet up with one of my best friends from my year-and-a-half living there, Mollie, and her husband. I am really excited to reunite with her, since we haven’t seen each other since December of 2009! Leaving Boone, we are going to travel back across the Blue Ridge to Gatlinburg for the last day of our trip. So, at least that part of our annual getaway remains the same.

This winter has been brutal, to say the least. Even more so than usual, we’ve really needed something to which to look forward and to lift our spirits on these stretches of gray, snow-filled days. I will welcome springtime with open arms. My husband and I are literally counting down the days until our annual mountain getaway!

Blogging…Professionally!

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I got my first regular, professional blogging gig last week. As popular of a digital content type that it is, the vast majority of the writing I’ve done professionally so far has been static website content–mostly marketing-type content, but also quite a bit of technical writing. I’m a long-winded academic at heart, so taking on a longer-form project is always fun for me! I’ll be blogging regularly for Redstitch, a small digital agency with which I’ve worked for almost 2 years now. I’ll start with their in-house blog, then we hope to expand our blog offerings to their clients, so I have even more blog-writing projects soon.

Working in tandem with the new inbound marketing guru at Redstitch, the first blog series I developed is a series on marketing personas. This was a great topic with which to start–it’s super critical in today’s market and I have a ton of experience researching, developing and executing content based on targeted personas. Blogs are great because there’s often research involved (my favorite) and they’re a regular, ongoing gig. It will be fun to develop a tone for the Redstitch blog over time and–hopefully–a devoted readership! (Note: the blog isn’t live quite yet, but it should be fairly soon.)

Any tips for me as I begin blogging on digital marketing topics?

Ready or Not…

February

Here comes February. It’s almost the worst month of the year for me. The holidays are pretty much a distant memory and the novelty of the new year has worn off. Now, it’s just…winter. Which means days and days of gray skies here in Cincinnati. It’s not unusual for us to not see the sun for over a week sometimes. It’s pretty rough. Coupled with this gray darkness is the fact that I always struggle with healthy eating the most in February, which seems to set (or doom) the tone for the next few months. Between the near-constant desire to hibernate and lack of physical activity, it’s always an uphill battle to stay mentally and physically healthy in February.

There are some bright spots in February. All of the Valentine’s Day decorations and miscellany in stores this time of year is fun and cheery. Pink anything is always a good choice, from how I see things. I also married someone with a February birthday, so that’s something for which to plan and look forward.

This February, I plan to keep very busy with my business (already swamped with more projects rolling in!) and spending time with my husband and fur-kids. Spring is just around the corner, right?

Keeping Company While Working from Home

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Working from home is great, particularly in the winter. I love not having to leave my warm house and drive in my frigid truck many miles to an office building somewhere. Even though I’m very much an “early bird” and still wake up most mornings before 6:30 to begin work (and sometimes to even hop on phone calls with fellow early-riser clients!), it’s great that my only foray to the outside world is a 30-second walk with my dog, Cosmo, who’s easily lured back into the cozy house with the promise of his breakfast kibble.

It’s great to not have to worry about packing meals and snacks each evening for the next day, as I always did when I worked on-site most days. It’s nice to have the flexibility to be able to throw in a load of laundry or run up to the bank to deposit a check at lunchtime–or even before or after to beat the lunchtime rush of those who work in an office and aren’t blessed with such a flexible schedule as I am.

Despite all these advantages to working from home, these are my three favorite reasons I get to stay home most days.

Cosmo (shih tzu) and Ezra (orange tabby)

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Ishmael (orange tabby), Age 12 weeks

sleeping Ish2

My husband and I adopted Cosmo, our large (24 lb.) shih tzu, first in September 2011, from the shelter where we were living in Bloomington, Indiana. He was about 1-1/2 years old; his shelter name was “Chewie,” as in Chewbacca because his fur was such a long, tangled mess. My husband and I have said, time and time again, that was the best $75 we ever spent. We mean it–especially at a time when $75 was a lot more money to us and our tight student budget.

Cosmo’s shelter photo

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After moving back to Cincinnati, Cosmo and I then “found” the tiny ten-week-old ginger kitty who was to become our Ezra in my mom’s garden crying in July 2012. It’s important to note that we didn’t seek out a kitten, and didn’t formerly think of ourselves as “cat people” in the least. My mom had cats when I was growing up, but I mostly ignored them, except when they chewed the fingers off all of my Barbie dolls. So in the case of Ezra, my husband declared that we would only be keeping the kitten if Cosmo wasn’t upset by him. As the most laid back dog ever who gets along with and loves everyone, that was not a problem. The unlikely fuzzy pair soon bonded, and the rest is history. Ezra irrevocably turned us all–Cosmo included–into cat people! Orange tabbies are particularly special to us.

Ezra, Age 10 weeks

baby-Ezra

After purchasing our first home in April 2014, my husband and I started seriously considering adopting a second cat. We knew that it must be a kitten to be able to adjust to living with an older, dominant cat, it must be an orange tabby and it preferably should be a “he.” In the first days of May, I began scouring PetFinder.com and the local shelters and rescue agencies for male orange kittens. I was quickly informed that it was early in “kitten season.” I realized that made sense considering our vet approximated Ezra’s birthday to be May 5th, cinco de Mayo. I came to grips with the fact that we may have to wait another 6-8 weeks to find just the right little guy to come home with us.

As is tradition when I get something in my mind that I must have, I didn’t give up. On the second day of searching online and making phone calls, we located a kitten that fit the bill. He was located at the Boone County Animal Shelter in Burlington, Kentucky, about a 40-minute drive from our house. I called the shelter to ensure he was still available for adoption. The shelter employee informed me that this little guy (his shelter name was “Andrew”) was still available, but that his fellow ginger littermate brother was already reserved. Kittens are scooped up quickly in pre-kitten season, it seemed. And I know we aren’t the only people with a special affinity for the orange dudes.

We made the drive to Burlington and were led back to the kitten room. I scooped him up and knew he was ours! We paid the $90 adoption fee and the staff put him into a little cardboard kitten carrier complete with a homemade fleece blanket as a going-home present.

Ishmael, Age 7 weeks

baby-Ishmael

Well, the introduction of Ishmael to Ezra was nowhere near as smooth as Ezra to Cosmo. In fact, we had no idea the ordeal we were getting ourselves into. Ezra was mad. Jon and I did a lot of research online and with friends who have experience in the delicate art of cat introduction. We kept the kitty boys completed separated for about the first week. During this time, Ishmael bonded with Cosmo very well. Ishmael really loves his dog brother so much, it’s difficult to express! We are pretty sure it’s the fact that Cosmo has never been mean to him and he has always felt very safe with him, whereas this has not been the case with his fellow feline.

We then began introducing the cats and letting Ishmael have full run of the house when someone was home and during the day. After Ishmael was a few months old had put on some weight and Ezra seemed to be adjusting to the fact that he would be sharing his kingdom with a pip squeak, Ishmael had full run of the house all the time.

Ezra, Age 2.5 (foreground), and Ishmael, Age 10 months

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Cosmo with his gifts for daddy’s birthday, Age 2 (2012)

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All three boys relaxing together (December 2014)

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Yes, my husband and I are admittedly crazy pet parents, but we wouldn’t trade that for anything!

Business Trips Continue to Be a Fun Novelty

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This week I had the pleasure of traveling out of town to visit a client and present at their office. I can count the number of business trips I’ve taken in my professional life on one hand, so it’s still a bit of a novelty for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout my life, but traveling for business is still a bit of a new adventure. It’s always nice meeting clients and business partners face-to-face, often after weeks or months of interaction. Having that personal connection with the client certainly adds another positive dimension to the professional relationship.

This week I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida to visit the offices of an eye care division of Johnson & Johnson for which I’ve been doing a research project. The project has been very exciting to work on, and sharing an overview of the in-progress research with the stakeholders will be very helpful as we work through the end of this project, in order to ensure what we deliver is exactly what the folks at J&J need to make a difference in their business and in serving their customers. It was a long two days of travel–with more time spent in airplanes and airports than anywhere else, really–but receiving some very helpful, frank feedback from the client makes it all worth it. I’m excited to be back home in Cincinnati and ready to dig into the last part of this rewarding consumer research project!

What are some of your favorite business trips? Any exotic destinations that you had time to explore?