October 20, 2009


Going from stunned to stunning and back again in a blink of an eye

By Micah McGarry

Before hanging up, my “always supportive” sister declares, “Well, working from home does have its advantages.” In this case, that is similar to saying that having a power outage does help you keep your electricity bill down. But as I venture past a mirror on my way downstairs to my cozy office, safe from prying eyes, I cannot disagree.

While most narratives start innocently enough, mine actually starts with a mysterious loss of underappreciated eyelashes—a visible section almost dead center on my right eye—the morning of a family reunion. While untimely, and rather strange, this crisis turns out to be the least of my worries. In the days, and weeks, that pass after my familial rendezvous, I begin focusing—okay obsessing—over my lack of lashes. I find that this loss of growth is somehow weighing heavy on my lid and causing me much undo stress.

So what’s a girl to do? What any modern girl might do; query Ms. Google. I find, as usual, she has all the answers. I find my knight in winking armor—the latest craze in all the right crowds—eyelash extensions. I continue researching until I find a matchmaker that is able to introduce us, the lashes and I, that is.

Her services come well recommended, if not a bit pricey, but vanity comes at a price. I lay down in a dimly lit physician’s office with a single beam of light blaring on my eyelids for well over an hour as she works her magic, attaching one stunning lash after another. Sitting still is difficult given that I am almost giddy with anticipation. She suggests a dramatic look, as with my coloring and shear mass of hair, she thinks I could pull it off. How right she is!

These lashes turn out to be unbelievable. My eyes look stunning, alluring, sultry, and any other adjective you might come up with that would describe being eye-catching to the opposite sex; the same sex for that matter. I would have never guessed how much difference the length of one's lashes could make. I find that I now have the ability to wear my hair in ANY style and look smashing without an ounce of eye makeup. Audrey Hepburn would be proud and stunned. Waking up in the morning has also turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I look awake and fresh, even adorable. Oh, sweet life!

All is right with the world…for a bit. Not unlike many relationships, things cannot stay perfect forever though. The first major setback starts a few days after falling in love with these blinking bombshells. Several of the extensions have been strategically placed to cover my missing lashes. Unfortunately, the new lashes are heavier than my own and when you attach counterfeit lashes to super short lashes, the result is…well…"drupage." However that is just the beginning of the downfall. The next sign that this was not meant to be; my long, lovely lashes start to interweave, clump, and poke in some type of childish rebellion. I start spending excessive time brushing my lashes only to find that I am making things even worse.

In the end, as with most of my romances, I find myself starting to try to separate myself from these once-loved guests of my eyelids. I can be found in the bathroom blobbing on eye lotion in order to soften the blow AND adhesive on each lash in order to begin the painful task of twisting each simulated strand until it either disengages from the natural lash or pulls out the extension and real lash altogether. I probably do not need to address this reality, but it hurts…a lot! But most separations do, right? By morning after many tears and some twangs of regret, my task is complete. All the extensions have been removed—as well as most of my original lashes. To boot, the natural lashes that are left seem to have been trimmed by the lash supplier introduced in the 13th sentence of my epilogue. How apropos.

So as I sit here mourning my loss with maybe twelve stubs of upper lash left to my name between both eyes, I jot down my thoughts—lessons learned—for when I am feeling weak and thinking about giving it one more try…

1. Long eye lashes are incredible!
2. Fake lashes may not be for me.
3. Sometimes I only see what I want from Ms. Google.
4. Working from home has definite benefits.
5. Oh, and did I mention, long eyelashes are beautiful?

Contact Information:
Michaleen McGarry
P: 602.819.2025
E: Michaleen@gmail.com

March 3, 2009

Zen & the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

A timely guide to preparing your cycle for the pending outdoor season

By Michaleen McGarry

The enveloping spring air lends the mind to drifting. Thoughts of new adventures begin to overwhelm my very essence at the inception of this vernal equinox. Self, cycle, and road are in desperate need of a holiday together. Now. Tend to the task at hand. As William Blake once said, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is - infinite." This wisdom holds true for the spring cleaning of a bicycle as well. If the mechanics of a bike are maintained, the paths of travel are boundless.

Focus on your machine. What is reverberating back at you? Although not psychic, I can guess that your cycle is in need of a good cleaning, lubrication, and once-over for loose parts. To begin this process, give your bike a nice warm bath with a good liquid detergent. Get all the grease off, using small soft brushes to reach the intricate areas. Gently rinse with a garden hose while trying to avoid bearings. Lightly rub the bike down with a soft, dry towel to circumvent rusting. If you truly feel at one with your bicycle, consider a wax job. The sleek, smooth finish of buffing can be felt and heard as the air rushes by you. In that same vein, don't let unnecessary noise negatively influence the season's first trek. Close your eyes - and listen. For areas in need of a lubricant, use your old friend, WD-40.

Lastly, replace the tires. Yes, replace them. The piece of mind you receive far outweighs the cost. For the penny-pinching biker, I offer this alternative: examine the tire tread for damage and decay. If each tread is injury free, pump up the tires to meet the manufacturer's specifications and think good thoughts.Behold. Now that your bicycle is purified, it is time to consider any possible problems that could be alleviated with preventative maintenance.

  • Check the brakes for sufficient pad thickness, replace if low.

  • Check cables for rust or fraying, replace as needed.

  • Check for loose parts. There shouldn't be any play in the cranks. Tighten the bottom bracket, if needed.

  • Try to turn the handlebar while the front tire is fixed firmly between your knees. If the steering is loose, tighten the bolt that secures it.

It is now time to take pleasure in the fruits of your labor. As you chart your course and start toward the final destination, consider the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

January 3, 2009

Battling the Bulge

An In-the-Trenches Account of Fad Dieting

By Michaleen McGarry

It is 07:00.00 hours as five naïve dieters begin their mêlée with the enemy - fat. Secluded in the mountains outside of San Diego with the addition of a "Fad Diet Queen" neighbor, each has agreed to go on a Miracle Diet, which claims to take off ten pounds in three days. Perfect timing, as it is a three-day weekend. Here are the trials and tribulations of the Battalion Six.

Meet The Troops
I am a mother of three, with the tummy to prove it. I am moderately active, exercising three to four times weekly but have never attempted to diet.

Kate, my sister and active mother of two, considers herself a little less than toned and would like to drop a few pounds but has little willpower.

John, Kate's husband, travels frequently. Although exercising regularly, he is finding it difficult to lose those last 10 pounds and has begun looking down the back alleys of fad diets for a quick fix.

Perry is my teenage daughter. She would like to lose some weight - but considers surfing the net physical activity and is hoping for an easy out.

Meg is Perry's friend. She is active, but not at the weight she would like to be. She is willing to try a short-term diet (if it doesn't interfere with her weekend festivities).

The Neighbor is a mother of two, finding it hard to lose the weight she gained with her second child. She exercises regularly, but the pounds are not dropping fast enough.

Saturday, 07:30.00 :: Dieters: 6
We are drifting towards the kitchen. John, Kate, and I sit down to a breakfast of dry toast, two teaspoons of peanut butter, one-half grapefruit, and all the coffee or tea our stomachs desire. We are biding our time, drinking plenty of water, writing a grocery list, and trying not to think about what we are being deprived of. We go to the local coffee house to buy some java. Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., approximately 24 ounces of extreme caffeine has been ingested into my body. I cannot sit still, am finding it impossible to stay focused, and must admit, want to throw in the towel already!

Upon our return, Kate makes breakfast for the little ones. She is gazing lovingly at each strawberry as she slices the fruit, pining for just one pancake as she serves the stacks, and salivating at the orange juice she is pouring. For a moment, I think she is going to break.

John seems to be doing just fine, although I do notice him squeezing every last drop of grapefruit juice from his half and eyeing toast crust about to be thrown to the dogs. He decides to make a family website to keep busy.

Perry and Meg join the regime. Perry has already faltered by eating some cereal before beginning the diet. It probably messes with the "miracle" chemical interaction, but she doesn't seem bothered. Meg has high hopes, but within an hour, she waves the white flag and begins enjoying her weekend. Looking back on everything, I wish I had seen the wisdom of her ways!

Saturday, 12:30.00 :: Dieters: 4
We have lost two soldiers from the front line. Meg in the first hour and sometime before noon Perry has called it quits. As I look out into the backyard, I see her laughing, smiling, and eating - a beautifully layered sandwich fit for a general. As for the forces still remaining, our rations consist of plain tuna, dry toast, and again all the caffeine buzz we care for.

John is still doing well. He isn't complaining. I think his silence is for the morale of the unit. Kate and I are not so team-oriented. We have already started our descent into the philosophical depths of dieting…would Plato have tortured his body in this way, the inhumanity of it all, what is perfection, and related topics. No one really wants to hear this right now. Kate has started asking me if we should just stop and try again in a few days. Although I want to, I resist. After all, I need to continue this experiment for the sake of…what I am not sure. Lack of rations hinders clear thinking!

Kate and I take the three small ones to a birthday party. I am pumped so full of caffeine, I may just explode. There is a table full of delectable novelties, each one calling my name. The grapes are whispering sweet nothings in my ear, as I feed them to my daughter. Kate is making the rounds, but stops by to say that she has seen the fruited fork awfully close to my mouth. I deny the accusation, but know deep down inside, I want that fruit. Actually, I want to be covered in fruit, with whipped cream, in a mosaic tile design as I - curses, my daydream has been interrupted! The Neighbor introduces herself…we discuss the diet. She seems calmer than I, but she is also more serious about wanting to lose weight. As a clown entertains the children, I realize that I must make my escape now - before the cake - the cake with whipped cream frosting…

My caffeine high has said its goodbyes and I have freed myself from the "birthday party from dieter's hell" only to realize I am working on an incredibly painful headache and have the energy of a sloth. As it turns out, this weekend is going downhill faster than a sloth on a toboggan. Who thought of dieting this weekend, anyway? Oh, me. With no one to blame, I have come to this conclusion: Dieting sucks!

Saturday, 15:00.00 :: Dieters: 4 - barely
Kate is back from the festivities. We both assumed that if we could make it through the party, we were home free. You know what they say about assuming! Earlier, while buying presents for the party, we bought a carton of Little Debbie® Swiss Cakes out of sheer rebellion, not realizing this box would be our demise or savior - depending on your point of view. We debate breaking open the box one last time. I am not clear on the details of the next fifteen minutes, but all I do know is that by 15:15.00, Kate and I have finished the entire box of Swiss Cakes and two large glasses of milk. Yes, we are broken, but quite giddy and rather satisfied with our revolt.

Saturday, 15:30.00 :: Dieters: 2
John is impressively steadfast. That is, of course, until we get to him. Our mission - make him eat! It takes a good half-hour before he cracks. But once he does, Kate is on the scene creating a makeshift version of strawberry shortcake (pound cake, strawberry ice cream, and whipped cream). John takes one bite and knows he has made the right decision. He is even appreciative of our covert operation to break him. With each bite, I see a coolness come over him. We have a healthy, satisfying dinner, and enjoy the evening. No remorse.

Sunday :: Dieters: 1
Well we're now down to one unwavering dieter: The Neighbor. How ironic; the only person left standing, did it alone. So much for the group support method! We do not hear from The Neighbor, but she is in our thoughts.

Monday :: Dieters: 1
The Neighbor has done it. Not only has she survived the weekend, but she has seemingly defeated the enemy by losing five pounds. We have not lost any weight, but we have not gained any either. Call us the Switzerland of weight loss.

Tuesday & Beyond - Back to Reality
My thoughts: fad dieting is simply the wrong way to lose weight. Yes, The Neighbor lost five pounds, but it's only Wednesday and she has already regained two and a half of them. If you really want to do battle with the bulge, change your lifestyle, exercise a little more, and analyze your current eating habits. In the real world, the benefits of healthy living far outweigh the temporary weight loss you will obtain from any Miracle Diet.

November 1, 2005

Leading the Way

Leading the Way
To Better Email Campaigns

By Michaleen McGarry
Published in Club Solutions Magazine / November 2005

You created an eye-catching, motivating online marketing campaign aimed at increasing visitors to your site, and ultimately increasing leads for your sales team. You spent hours with the art work, tweaked the fonts, photos and copy until it was perfect. You bought the best, most targeted email list from a trusted source. And then, at the last minute, you slapped up an online lead form on your website. Sound familiar? If it does, you may also find a poor response rate to your email campaign familiar, as well.

It’s a bit like promoting a grand opening celebration for your club, but failing to staff it correctly. It lacks follow-through. And that’s why more than 75% of prospects who actually want more information from your email campaign, click to find out more, but leave without ever completing your prospect lead form. That’s right; more than 75% take one look at your online lead form and bail as fast as they can.

For starters, you might want to consider these quick fixes:

  • Get rid of every question that you don’t desperately need right away. If you plan on calling your prospects, don’t ask for an address. You know you don’t need a fax, so why do you ask for it?
  • Add a reassuring line of copy immediately next to the box asking for the email address, explaining that you won’t abuse the email address. AND THEN DON’T. Don’t rely on the privacy link at the very bottom of the originating web page to be reassuring.
  • Include information regarding your campaign special. Just because you described the offer on the marketing piece they clicked from, doesn’t mean they remember. They need to see it again.

Let’s delve a bit deeper to understand how your lead form can help or hinder your email marketing campaign.

Simply put, most of us really don't like filling out forms, especially not while we are online. Most forms are daunting and complicated and require users to make more effort than they want to. It doesn't matter if we're talking about an online survey, a lead-generation form, or a sign-up form; all require crucial but tedious elements, and all must motivate users to complete the task.

Forms face a “Veruca Salt” audience: Internet surfers want things NOW—instantaneously. If end-users feel something will take too much time, they won't complete it. And because there is undoubtedly a health club down the street or a few clicks away on the internet, the end-user can easily find out information about some other club rather easily. And what is worse is that you gave them the idea to look at a health club in the area through your email campaign!

Potential members to your facility will scan the page of your lead form, and decide whether or not it is going to take a long time to fill out. Peripherally, their eyes will scan that scrollbar and tell them if the page is potentially long. What can hurt the page is the perception of the time it will take to complete. If you look at the account sign-up on BestBuy.com, it does a nice job of making you feel like this form will not be overwhelming. But if you look at the account sign-up page on HomeDepot.com, you might unfairly decide it is too arduous to fill out. Both forms actually ask for a similar amount of information, but are laid out differently. And that layout can affect the results of your email campaign efforts. Let’s face it, first impressions count.

If your lead form has multiple pages, be sure to specify how many pages or steps there are. If someone fills out the first and second page of your form and sees no end in sight, the odds of them leaving your site increase significantly.

If your lead form requires the end-user to do something, be obvious. For example, if the end-user needs to click “SAVE” to continue and receive your 7-day trial offer—let them know. This is not the time for cute and creative; it is the time for a blunt call to action.

If your lead form is long, cut it down. It is just not worth your time or money to create an email campaign, purchase an email list, and send it out—only to end with a lead form that is too long, and results in a poor response rate.

September 1, 2005

Website Dos & Don’ts

By Michaleen McGarry

Published in Club Solutions Magazine / September 2005

This article concentrates on the things you should do when designing a website to add to the experience of the visitor and make your site easier for him or her to use. This is important because each visitor to your site is a potential customer and the more they enjoy their visit to your site the more likely they are to buy from it. As with the don'ts of webdesign I have put these do's of webdesign in a point by point format so they can be easily read.

Do tell your visitors what your site is about on the main page. This saves them time if they're not interested in what your site offers and gives you the chance to use some keywords when describing your site.

Do optimize every page for the search engines by including keyword rich titles, keyword rich meta tags, a keyword rich introduction to each page and by using heading tags around your most important keywords wherever possible.

Do have a constant style and navigation system on your website. If your style and navigation is not constant then visitors will find it difficult to know if they're still on your website and may just leave.

Do have an email address or at least a "Contact us" link on every page. Make it easy for people to contact you, if they've to search for an email address they'll become frustrated and probably leave altogether.

Do link home on every page. Not all users will enter your site via the home page, many will come through other pages via the search engines and when they get there they will be stuck unless you direct them back to the home page.

Do make navigation as easy a possible, every page should be accessible via two links from the home page and no more than three from any other page. This enables people to find what they want quickly.

Do use alt text to provide people with images turned off an idea of what your images are, also some search engines index keywords inside the alt tag so including alt text may actually help your rankings.

Do define height and width in all tables and graphics as this aids download time. Nobody wants to wait an eternity for a page to load so this is a must.

Do use space to break up long pages of text as long paragraphs look unprofessional and are hard to read. If something's hard to read people just won't bother reading it.

Using all or most of the above when designing your website will surely enhance a persons visit making them more inclined to buy from you.

Your website is the life and soul of your Internet presence, if your website appears and acts unprofessional your company will seem unprofessional and people won't feel confident buying from you.

With that said webdesign is a complex issue and I could discuss it for days with you but for this article and for the moment anyway I'll concentrate on sharing the things you shouldn't do when it comes to designing your site as ultimately bad webdesign affects people more than good webdesign. These don'ts of webdesign are in point by point format.

Don't use frames. Frames are a thing of the past and are out of fashion, they mostly confuse visitors and they basically destroy your chances of getting good search engine traffic, not to mention the problems associated with bookmarking and printing pages that use frames.
Don't limit access to your site by requiring visitors to already have or download a certain plug-in, this is the same as increasing download time and most people won't bother to wait for the download, they'll just visit your competition instead.

Don't have scrolling pages which require the visitor to scroll sideways to see the whole page. This is so annoying to most visitors that they'll leave straight away. This happens when you design your site at a certain resolution and someone visits with a resolution lower than that. Design for a resolution of 640x480 if you want to be sure that your pages avoid having scroll bars. You're pretty safe however designing and maximizing your pages for an 800x600 resolution because most people nowadays surf in that resolution.

Don't annoy your visitors with blinking text, pages full of banners, continuous background music that slows down everything, pop-up windows, text that's hard to read because it's a similar color to the background etc. If you do annoy them you can bet they won't return.
Don't use under construction pages, you're only wasting peoples time if you direct them to a page that's not ready so never link to pages unless they're finished.

Don't make visitors wait, if people have to wait for a page to download because it's bogged down with too much graphics and other media they'll just leave.

Avoiding the above don'ts of web design will at least give you a chance of retaining visitors and maybe even have a few of them return.

August 1, 2005

Basic Building Blocks of a Successful Web-Based

By: Michaleen McGarry

Published in Club Solutions / August 2005

The foundation of your Web-based marketing strategy sets your online price point, maps out your online position, and determines how you promote your club on the Web. But, it is always important to realize that cyberspace is just another means through which you can market your health club.

In no way does online marketing replace the existing advertising channels you are currently using and that you have found to be successful. Nor is Webbased marketing an optional extra to your existing business strategy. Rather, marketing your business on the Web must be part of a tightly coupled actionoriented marketing and advertising plan - one that leverages the individual benefits of off-line branding concepts with interactive media.

Deciding to get a website and utilize online tools to market your health club should not be taken lightly - and finding the right Web company to work with is even more important. Before you even decide on either, you should decide what it is that you want to get out of your online marketing initiatives. There are a variety of benefits, which the Web can provide to you and your company:

• Detailed information regarding your fitness facility
• Access to segments of populations previously inaccessible
• Reduction in printing and associated distribution costs
• Projection of a favorable corporate image
• Local exposure for your health club
• Member involvement through member intranet
• Interaction with members while building a database of client information.

A sound Web-based marketing strategy effectively transfers more efficient communication to the potential or current member while facilitating the sales process by providing mutual benefits to both parties in terms of improved lead and customer satisfaction and increased likelihood of member loyalty to your club.

While there are a few direct costs involved with "setting up shop" online, they are recouped rather quickly with qualified leads that are easily converted, and up-sell opportunities to current members. In addition:

• Direct interaction with potential members may mean the "cost of sale" may cost less to convert, and
• Ongoing interaction with current members may reduce postage, and onstaff resources currently eating away at your budget.

A Web presence that does not attract customers is relatively worthless. In addition to putting your website address on all of your offline marketing efforts, you need to utilize online interactive capabilities such as:

• Reciprocal links with other local businesses
• Email marketing to potential members
• Free search engine submissions to major indexes and directories. Your website itself must facilitate user interaction. The "must haves" for your website include:
• Virtual tour of your facility with engaging images
• Ability for members and potential members to leave feedback
• Prominently displayed trial offers and member specials
• Easily accessible account information.

Your website needs to offer comprehensive information regarding your club without going overboard. While the website can help bring qualified leads in the door, it is still your sales staff that will ultimately sell the membership. It is important to understand the ways in which you can facilitate this:

• Display welcoming images on your Web pages
• Offer information that helps the individual feel comfortable with your club
• Add personal touches such as testimonials, staff bios, and thoughts from the staff
• Do not expect a Web-surfer to act on their own accord; include a call-to-action while avoiding a demand-to-action.

The way in which your club communicates with potential members and current clientele can be enhanced by the use of your website and your entire Web strategy. It can also be over-used. Mapping out your entire marketing strategy on a calendar that includes all of your online efforts infused with your print and off-line ad campaigns will prove helpful in ensuring a well thought-out plan that does not go so far that it turns potential members off. When you build a successful online marketing strategy, not only will you augment your sales and prospecting, but you will also free up time to deal with what is really important - your members and their health.

July 1, 2005

Shine In the Summertime

By Michaleen McGarry

Published in Club Solutions Magazine / July 2005

The dog days of summer may be upon us, but that is no reason to slow down on your marketing efforts. In fact it is the perfect time to reexamine your fall marketing plan, and if you’re lucky even bring in a few new clients now! Ask yourself the following:

  • How much can we afford to spend in advertising, even if it doesn’t immediately bring in more funds?

  • Why would anyone choose to do business with us? What need do we fill? And do we convey that in our advertising?

  • What is the best use of our ad dollars?

While you are mulling over these questions, consider infusing one or several of the following marketing ideas into your plan.

Direct Mail
Once you have decided on marketing message, it is time to get the word out. You have two options when it comes to direct marketing. If you have the marketing dollars to support it, you can enlist the help of an ad agency and produce a beautiful campaign including postcards, door hangers, and ads for local newspapers and magazines. If not, consider using a direct marketing house that focuses on this industry such as Get Members. Such companies offer a cost-effective, almost effortless option with palatable results. Either way, you must first decide on a focused campaign that allows you to stand out from the crowd.

Search Engine Advertising
Advertising your club on major search engines such as Google and Yahoo! can further increase the exposure of your club to new clients. And you can actually target this advertising more than you might think allowing you to bring continuity to your overall advertising message. And if you are currently asking how potential members have found you, you already know that the Internet has become one of—if not—the most popular medium among consumers who are interested in joining health clubs!

Joint Promotions
While you are relaxing some summer evening, take some time to look outside the box. Jot down several non-competing businesses in the area that you consider to be successful. Ask yourself, “How can we partner on a unique promotion that will benefit all parties.” This proven strategy produces dramatic results—for very little expense. It can also solidify your place within the community.

Niche Markets
Summertime is no time to rest on your laurels. Take the opportunity to research emerging trends and niche markets. Between trade publications, member surveys, and the Internet, you have the opportunity to cross the threshold of Autumn armed with the knowledge to set yourself apart from your competition. But don’t stop there; develop customized versions of your advertising appealing to the prospects in each niche. Offer specific solutions to their unique needs and you'll uncover new groups of customers eager to buy from you. And if you spot a new trend within your community before your competitors—and take action—you will most likely become the market leader in your area.

Opt-In Email Marketing
Depending on your locality, your members may be out in the great outdoors or retreating from the heat at home. Either way, you can still reach out to them with a gentle reminder to stay in shape or bring a friend to your refreshing pool. You might even want to organize a member appreciation event that allows your members to enjoy your facility with friends and family. Whatever you decide to convey, sending email blasts to current and potential members in your area who have chosen to receive fitness oriented emails from you is a great way to drum up business now as well as the coming months. The key is to engage your audience without annoying them. As a rule of thumb, do not email market to your members more often then every 20 days, or you will find your opt-out list growing faster than your member base.

Adventurous Ideas
If you can’t beat them, join them. If you members aren’t coming in the club right now, maybe you should consider taking your club to them. Simply organize a few summer outings to popular spots in your state. Sign up members and potential members for group activities with a healthy edge. Each adventure allows participants to enjoy healthy activities with like-minded individuals. The buzz you create around these mini adventures is the perfect plan to end the summer doldrums and increase activity in the club.

While many of your members and potential members may be on vacation this summer, your marketing efforts need not be. Summertime is a great time of year to revisit your marketing plan and experiment with creative new ideas. The end result will be a summer sprinkled with new members and a cornucopia of new memberships by Thanksgiving.