LinkedIn Networking – The Missing Link

Love it or not, LinkedIn has been a standard bolt-on tool to business networking for long enough that it’s now an expectation.

Maybe, like me, you buckled under the expectation of peers, colleagues or clients, and ended up on LinkedIn because it just said too much about you not to be.

Like, ‘Really, you’re not on LinkedIn?!’ accompanied by the sort of facial expression reserved for inspecting fossils and other oddities from antiquity.

I’m enough of a dinosaur to remember the advent of cellular phones.

That was back when the first mobile phone (the ‘transportable’) weighed a ton, cost the earth, and was commonly known as ‘’the brick” for its unlovely looks and hefty weight. I expect you can still find one in a museum somewhere.

As a fledgling Vodafone sales rep it was my job to convince the reticent that they could not do without one. Never mind that lugging one of those things around gave you arms the length of an orangutan’s.

A day now without our mobile feels like a limb is missing and we can barely function.

Can we function without LinkedIn?

Sure. And quite happily.

The last thing a busy person wants is one more digital platform to keep pace with. Who really wants an already bulging to bursting in box pinging with new notifications that someone has checked out our LinkedIn profile, changed their profile pic or has worked at ABC Inc. for exactly 12 months today (should I send flowers, a cake)? Not me!

Yet I’m on LinkedIn. I may have landed on there simply to shut up my eye-rolling business associates and to disprove the theory that I’m a relic from the Land that Time Forgot, but given enough time, even a curmudgeonly crustacean like me, has to ‘fess up and say that it hasn’t been all bad.

OK, so it’s been more than worthwhile, once I’d sussed out the Missing LinkedIn Link. Because once you get a handle on LI it does open doors. No apologies for the pun.

What’s the Missing Link in LinkedIn?

To be fair it’s not missing. But it’s easy to miss amongst all the self-promotional fluff and flannel on there.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, you just have to use it, using good old fashioned networking skills. That’s the missing link to LinkedIn networking and opportunity creation (and not just for yourself).

These networking skills are a lot different to just mouse clicking like and periodically updating your profile brag sheet. Not that you shouldn’t have a great brag sheet. You should!

And you should be supporting your network with likes and comments and contributing with shares and posts of your own. But that’s just maintenance of presence stuff. And if that’s all you want LinkedIn for that’s fine. At least folk can find you if they want to.

I’m a salesperson so I expect a better ROI on my time and I want to be a bit more proactive than simply waiting for someone to fall over me.

I’m also an authentic person and I don’t want to engage anyone, however strong the connection, in any way that’s not authentic. I want to enjoy my connections.

Otherwise, it’s just too boring. LI doesn’t need to be a deep and meaningful experience for me. But it does need to be meaningful to be worthwhile – and that’s where the true value lies within LI.

Never lose an opportunity

Over the years, LI has proved to be a source of some choice opportunities that would not have come my way, had I not had a presence on that platform.

The alternative – not being on LI – would have simply meant that I’d have been unaware and unavailable to those opportunities and introductions. And that’s a key point – I’d have been ignorant of what I’d missed out on.

Ignorance may be bliss, except when it’s costing you an opportunity. A state which results in looking on (green-eyed) at your peers and competitors and thinking “she has all the luck” or “how does he get all the breaks” or “I can’t believe that dufus got that job/contract/client ….”

Are You Missing a Link?

If you’re already on LinkedIn and thinking “Huh, it’s been as much use as a chocolate teapot” in terms of opening doors for you, it’s possibly because you’re not actively using the medium to its full potential.

Maybe you haven’t found the Missing Link to making it work for you.

It’s kind of like having a membership to a club and never using it or turning up to any functions and then deciding it’s useless because you haven’t met anyone.

When Michelle and I started out with Dragon Sisters, we used to run networking workshops.

It was never a surprise to us that successful, competent business people, were just as cowed by the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers, as the less experienced workshop participants.

It just didn’t come naturally to go in cold and to engage, interact meaningfully and to come away with a value-adding experience from in-person networking events or functions which presented networking opportunities (in our book anywhere anytime is an opportunity to connect and network).

On line and offline the same networking principles apply, and that includes using the LI opportunity effectively. Putting in the missing link in how you use LI means you never lose an opportunity. But to do that you need to make sure you have a profile that makes you shine!

The Bigger Picture

Don’t be vain about who you invite to, or accept at, your LinkedIn table. Remember that helping out youngsters and start-ups can be rewarding in many ways.

Focussing only on a certain level of professional connection out of a sense of self-promotional reflective kudos can be counterproductive, as can the obsession with the number of connections you have.

Michelle and I have always believed in paying forward. We were lucky that seasoned professionals helped us when we were green, young and didn’t know what we didn’t know.

My LinkedIn connections include bright young things who have worked for me. Anytime I can give them a leg up I will.

Funnily enough, I sometimes get offers from companies reference checking my past employees and even the odd synergistic new connection from those managers and directors.

One day these bright young things will be directors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders themselves. That’s the bigger picture. Exciting, isn’t it?

Have fun networking!

Yvonne Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

HOW TO MAKE GREAT VIDEO CLIPS YOURSELF

Have you noticed a huge trend to use video as a way to engage with your audience?

Of course you have! Okay, maybe you haven’t, but take a moment to check and you’ll soon spot a trend.

As an oldie and as an avid reader, I have to say that, as a rule, I much prefer to read rather than watch something on video. Okay, there are a few exceptions and Game of Thrones is one of them!

Whilst I’m always game to try something new, I guess one thing that has been holding me back is the poor quality of many of the videos I’ve seen. By this, I mean the dreadful lighting, sound and even the speaker’s mannerisms or voice.

However, with the advent of Facebook Live, I decided that I need to get with the times because as a smarketer how could I be advising people to use all these wonderful new tools when I did not practice what I was preaching?

Perfection = ProcrastinationI always like to walk the walk before I presume to talk the talk.  Bearing in mind that we always need to start somewhere and that nothing is ever perfect, I jumped on Facebook Live.

If you visit our Facebook page, you’ll see my very first effort – complete with glitches.

I was also recently interviewed by a client, Dee Waterson from Ignite Yourself, who was starting a feature spot on Women in Business. Dee asked me to be her first interviewee.  Up until this point, all public video I have been involved with has been with professionals behind the camera. Clearly, this was a sign for me to start understanding what it takes to make a half decent video clip all by myself.

You don’t have to be an expert at everything, but you do need to find your own expert. If you aim to offer a reasonable quality product that you expect people to pay attention to, as opposed to being distracted by minor annoyances that are actually quite fixable, you definitely need some expert advice.

As is often the way, life puts the right person in your path at just the right moment.

Ludwig Linnekogel is a cinematographer with a very generous spirit. He shares my philosophy of paying it forward and has some great tips and advice to share that will help you master the task of making your own video clips.

Ludwig has kindly agreed to create a selection of tips and ideas for me to share.  They are designed to be consumed in small chunks, and  readily actionable. Before long we’ll all be experts!

As Ludwig says “Everyone started somewhere with their first video. None were great from the get go. The more you practice the more “you” using video will become.

Enjoy!

Michelle

PS Make sure you check back regularly so you never miss a tip.

 

Thank You …

Thank you. Two little words.

Two very powerful words.

When you contract a service, it’s usually in exchange for a fee. This kind of makes a thank you unnecessary and it is not usually expected. Of course, it is good manners to say a verbal thank you and that’s pretty standard.

But some take it a step further. They make it more personal.

They send a card, (or sometimes a gift). It’s always a double delight and a surprise to receive personal thank you notes.

Think about this…..it’s a rarity these days to receive snail or hand delivered mail. Even on our birthdays we tend to get good wishes via Facebook – not that I’m knocking it. It’s nice to be remembered by friends far and wide, but it’s just not the same as receiving a card in the mail.

I recently received two beautiful notes. Both very different to each other, but each precious and special.

There’s a lovely little frisson of anticipation in slitting open the envelope. Bubbles of anticipation are floating to the surface as the card/note slides out,  rounded off with a little heart skip and a smile while reading the notes.

Thank you notes

Both these clients (who remain unnamed for the sake of confidentiality) are winners, but have been struggling with their businesses recently.

It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them.  Working in business for yourself can be lonely. It can become quite overwhelming trying to gain crystal clear clarity on how and where your business needs to be adjusted for success. Providing support, teaching the skills needed and then seeing things start to turn around is something that both Yvonne and I love doing.

We’re paid, and we’re also getting a thank you card – how fabulous is that?

It makes the world of difference. It inspires us to take things a step further and always strive to be improving our services; this includes the bonuses and adding to our Resources4Results so we can share more to pay it forward which is my Dragon Discipline #5.

SO here’s my hot tip – saying thank you, either with a personal note or in some other unique way helps your business to stand out from the crowd. Try it.

Michelle

PS Love you to share how you choose to say thank you, feel free to post a comment below. Always great to share ideas.

 




Free yourself up with a Freelancer

Working for yourself is great.

It’s wonderful not to have a boss and just have yourself to answer to. It also means that you need to be really organised, as you alone are responsible for your income. The buck stops with you.

It can be really tough and there are a myriad of tasks to take care of – this can be quite a shock when first starting out in the world of self employment. As someone who is self-employed, time is money.

Effective use of your time is imperative to your success.

Meeting The Challenge

I know first hand the challenges involved and what a juggling act it can be.

I also know that the best way thrive in challenging circumstances is to surround yourself with experts.

In fact, it’s the only way to thrive and grow your business.

Use people who are good at doing the tasks you can’t handle, that you don’t like or that are simply too time consuming to be taking up your precious time which is better spent on other areas of your business

By this I mean things like creating graphics, doing your bookkeeping, monitoring social media, blog posts, editing, proofreading, marketing and a raft  of other tasks right through to having a virtual assistant – it really does depend what your profession is as to what those tasks might be.

Sure, you need to know what is going on and you can’t just hand stuff over willy nilly.

You need to be confident you’ve got someone decent working for you. There are plenty of sub-standard contractors out there! A glossy website and a slick sales pitch should never be what you base your decision on.

In the case of my business, I make sure everything that goes out to a client under the Dragon Sisters banner has my sign off.

But I don’t physically do all the tasks myself – I simply don’t have the time.

However,  I know how to do most things, or at least have a very good idea of what is possible, but making it all happen is outsourced to those more skilled in that area. They’re faster than I can ever be, and my time is better spent creating content, consulting and providing guidance or training in the field where  I am an expert.

Benefits of Outsourcing

As a business strategist, I frequently see clients who are so bogged down in the day to day running of their business that they have failed to take a helicopter perspective.

They are drowning in a deluge of the mundane. It’s like being bogged in mud, and  literally dragging themselves through the mire of tasks that are choking the life out of them.

They are so overwhelmed with keeping their business operations going from day to day, that they fail to lift their heads, making it almost impossible for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless you are able to come up for air and take a helicopter perspective of your business, you’ll never be able to really grow your business.

You’ll just be on a treadmill going nowhere fast.

An obvious solution is to get some help: outsource!

How to successfully outsource?

Word of mouth is a great way to go. There is nothing like a personal recommendation from someone you trust.

A word of caution here, there are several business network groups where individuals recommend other members within their own group. I’ve been caught taking a recommendation without realising what was going on. It was not a brilliant experience.

So my advice now is – make sure you clarify whether they are linked via a network group, and if they are, specifically ask “has this person done work for you?”

 If it’s a task that can be done remotely, platforms for freelancer services are becoming more widespread. They seem to be popping up everywhere!

Most of them do pretty much the same thing.

There are lots of benefits to freelancing and hiring a freelancer. In my book, the two biggest benefits are:

  •  It’s cost effective
  • You gain access to a really deep pool of talented freelancers

These two benefits make good business sense, especially for solopreneurs and small-to-medium size businesses who do not often have big budgets and cash flow available.

The ever increasing number of individuals choosing to freelance means you get an excellent job done at a fraction of the cost of hiring an on-site staff member.

Being a freelancer has so many benefits including the ability to work remotely.

The challenge is how do you choose the right platform and the right freelancer?

There are lots of horror stories out there. But on the flip side, some great relationships are happening too. I’ve been in the global freelance world for 2 years now, both as a freelancer and as someone hiring services.

For the most part my experiences are positive – of course there have been a couple of demanding clients that I would rather not have had – but, hey, it keeps life interesting and there’s nothing like a challenge to keep me on top of my game.

 My 5 top tips for ensuring you’re picking a great freelancer:

Make sure you’re using a respected and trusted platform – I’ll be including a section on the freelance platforms I’ve used further on in this blog.

  • Check out the freelancer’s profile and pay close attention to the feedback from previous clients. It’s always best to start with a small trial project and see how well they perform. Or if you’re the freelancer, start with a small job to test if this is the right client for you.
  • Be clear about your job specifications, e.g, give clear and concise instructions, be sure to explain what you expect as a finished product and your deadline. Similarly, as a freelancer, be upfront about how you work, timelines and expectations.
  • If you’re using a freelancer in a third world economy, you’ll usually do better using at the higher end of the market. So if the average is $4.00 an hour, when you pay $8 – $10 an hour you’ll usually get a top class freelancer. Similarly, if you’re working with freelancers in countries with strong economies, those who charge $50 and upward are generally better performers than those at the bottom end of the scale.
  • Consider conducting Skype/phone interviews, ask the right questions and you’ll get a quality freelancer for your job. The same goes for when contacting a client, speaking to them gives a much better insight about how you can expect them to treat you.

Of course, there are always exceptions to all the above.

For instance, a new freelancer to a platform will often start at a low rate simply to build a reputation. Sometimes, it’s worth having a conversation to determine if they might indeed be the golden nugget you’re seeking. Trust your instinct!

Freelance Platforms

These seem to be popping up everywhere, but here’s a quick run down the platforms that I have personally used. Each has a slightly different approach, pricing plans, payment options, posting, applying to jobs, and talent sourcing.

Fiverr

As the name suggests, this is a marketplace for goods & services starting at $5. Fiverr is a tremendous resource for small jobs. You’ll be surprised at the variety & depth of $5-services. It’s a myriad of services ranging from blogs to graphics and everything in between!

The website has loads of loyal users, from buyers to sellers, so it’s a very healthy community.

Registration at Fiverr is free. However, you can’t do anything unless you register. Once registered, you’ll have access to an amazing micro-job market.

UpWork

This is my favourite site. UpWork is very user-friendly, and posting a job is easy and free. The sheer number of freelancers offering various services, ranging from customer service reps, graphic designers, project managers and software developers right through to ghost writers and virtual assistants, can be quite daunting.

However, the rating system and feedback from other clients is extremely helpful. When hiring you’ll be presented with the highest ranking contractors for the job you’re posting.

UpWork also has its own testing system so you can check out the scores of various freelancers and offers the choice of fixed price or hourly jobs that come complete with the option of using a time tracker that takes screenshots every 10 minutes.

UpWork has an excellent system that manages all billing hours. You can check your contractor’s work via screenshots, time tracking, and real time chat – another of the reasons I love this platform!

Freelancer

Freelancer is based in Australia and has been around since 2004. It’s a good place to find web developers, software engineers, writers, and marketing professionals for project based work.

Freelancer’s platform is easy to use for both employers and contractors, and both are required to sign up to be able to use the services.

Fixed-price jobs are paid when the task is completed. Hourly jobs are tracked in a similar manner to Upwork.

Guru

I have not used this site myself, but I hear that it’s very good if you need a freelancer based particularly in the US.

According to Guru, they have over 1.5 million registered freelance professionals (or gurus, as they call them). You can hire technical, writing, marketing, and many more professionals.

There are no hourly tasks at Guru, only fixed-rate jobs paid in escrow, then released to the contractor upon completion of the task, eliminating a buyout option if ever the employer is not happy with the output. It is crucial then, on the part of the employer to very picky during the hiring process.

Do you outsource tasks?

I’d love to hear your feedback and your favourite platforms.

Michelle

PS – if you liked this and want more tips from me, sign up for my mailing list here


Isn’t hindsight a fabulous and frustrating thing?

It’s fabulous when you can look back, satisfied with the choices you made, and frustrating when dissatisfied enough to think, ‘If I knew then what I know now … I wouldn’t have done that/I would have done this’, or whatever it is that you would change if you could.

Which you can’t unless you have a Tardis. And you don’t. See, a bit frustrating sometimes!

The biggest frustration is when there was a great opportunity – there for the taking – had you only known …

Which usually only becomes apparent when someone, other than you, beats you to the punch. In the words of Homer Simpson, this can be a ‘Doh!’ moment.

Yet there are those people in life, and in business, who never seem to slip up in this way. Not that we’re jealous (no green-eyed monsters here), but have thoughts like these ever bounced across your brain? ‘I should be so lucky!’ or ‘That guy has all the luck!’ or ‘How does she do it?!’

Is it luck, or do they know something you don’t?

What’s noticeable about these types of people is that they’re consistent. They rarely bobble up and down like a ping pong ball in a wave machine. There’s something that anchors them, keeps them on course, on point.

They have a specific mindset. We call it a Smarketing Mindset.

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.ConfuciusWe coined the term ‘smarketing’, because, in business, you have to have a consistent approach to everything, a specific mindset. If you don’t, you’ll find that the results you get peak and trough (like the ping pong ball), and your performance averages out at, well – average.

By your approach to everything, we mean just that: Everything you do and say. Every decision you make. Everything you think.

And before you think, ‘this Dragon Sisters lot sound like a brain-washing cult,’ one of the key things in developing a Smarketing Mindset, is honing your own, unique voice, to cut through the white noise of sameness.

Smarketing is simply a mindset that you can develop to constantly and consistently create and maximise opportunities – even the ones you may not have noticed (remember those are the ones we lost to that person with a charmed life?)

Some people are born Smarketers (OK there was an element of luck with them there). Most people become Smarketers by learning a system which gives them the same advantages: being one of those sorts who rarely miss an opportunity and, importantly, know how to create opportunity.

Smarketing is about strategy – not the sort you write down for your boss or your bank manager – the sort you live by until it becomes second nature.

It’s your personal formula of communication and promotion. It personalizes your sales, your marketing, your business. It sets you, and your business, apart from the rest.

If you want to make your own luck – it’s time to get smarketing!

Michelle & Yvonne

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

Networking – The Pain of No Gain

Recently I was invited to meet a new networking group.   The first person I met told me, ‘I don’t speak to customers,’ with a please-go-away glint in his eye.   His female associate said, ‘that’s right, he’s great at website design, but he doesn’t like talking to customers.’

It made me wonder why she hadn’t left him safely chained up in his virtual world, far, far away from the real-life people; with real-life egos to offend.   I wanted to tell him to relax; there was no danger of me becoming one of his customers.

What was his associate thinking?  Bringing him to a networking event was like inviting the Terminator to a peace rally – at best pointless; at worst, potentially deadly – the lifeless bodies of dead opportunities strewn around him.

By an almost spooky coincidence, I came across another website designer (on social media), who took our introduction as an opportunity – to immediately shoot holes in one of my websites.   Well, at least he recognised the opportunity.  Not that he had it for long.

Even spookier:   I am actually in the market for a new website!

Now I’m not bashing web guys or girls.   I have the greatest respect for web wizards.   Especially since when I started out in business, digital space was what you had between your fingers, and the web was what Spiderman had between his.

Things have changed a lot in that time.   Moreover, some things haven’t.   Like the need to attract customers to your business and the ability to recognise them!

Clearly, these two gentlemen were interested in this. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been putting themselves in the physical, or online, networking space.  It’s a pity then that having taken that step, it didn’t work out for them because they had no idea how to maximise the opportunity presented.

It’s easy to look on and cringe, or chortle, at those two scenarios.   You and I can smugly reassure ourselves that, of course, we would never so obviously muck up the chance of interesting a hot prospect in our business.

The truth is, all of us, at some point, have missed an opportunity and are very likely oblivious to the fact.   The pain of no gain can show up much later, after the fact.   The more times we prod that pain point with the pointy stick of lost opportunity, the more it hurts – our business.

Image courtesty of 1shots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of 1shots at FReeDigitalPhotos.net

Being on the point (sorry, pun phobics) with identifying an opportunity, in any environment, is a habit honing exercise, enhanced by practice and experience.  And it takes skill to translate an opportunity to an outcome.  A win-win outcome.

Not being on point, can be a business breaker.   Crack out the Panadol!

Michelle and I have worked together for over a decade now.   Sure, we’re sisters.

However, the reason I work with her is that Michelle is one of the best business strategists I know, and I have been privileged to know some amazing ones.

One discipline Michelle insists on (she can be a bit bossy), is that we dedicate a proportion of our time each week, to talking about creating and maximising opportunities – for our business, our clients, and our Dragon Sisters collaborators.

Michelle has a little list of what I call her Dragon Disciplines relating to opportunities.

DD #3 resonates here:   “Your expert may not be the right person to develop all opportunities”.     

If you’d like a copy of her list of Dragon Disciplines, drop me a note, and I’ll send you a copy.

Yvonne



Yvonne ToeringYvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

 

The 4 Top Reasons Referrals Are Essential To Your Business

Referrals are a great source of business and despite the deluge of social media advertising some traditional methods still very much have a place in today’s business world.

4 Reasons referrals are essential

  1. Customer acquisition costs are a bare minimum.

Your happy customers are doing the marketing for you. Of course, this only happens if you give good service and are attentive to your customers’ needs. This means going above and beyond what is expected.

Satisfied customers are more than likely to bring in more customers to your business.

  1. Customer retention rate is higher.

If people are happy with your services, they are most likely to keep doing business with you. It is important to maintain contact and listen to customer feedback.

  1. The market place is generally crowded. This makes getting your message to stand out from the crowd difficult.
  1. Conversion rates are higher. A prospect introduced to your business by someone they trust is far more likely to convert into a new client/customer.

Knowing when and how to spot a potential referral opportunity is a good way to kick-start your referral system into gear. When a happy, satisfied customer comes along and gives good feedback, grab the opportunity to ask the customer to spread the good about your business.

Conducting after-sale interactions lets your customers know they are valued and not everything ends immediately after the sale/job is done.

How Referrals Work

When was the last time you went to a restaurant because a friend kept on raving how great the food or the service was?

I bet it was pretty recently. In fact, just today, I went to brunch at a new place because a couple of friends recommended it.

Have you ever asked a family member/friend to recommend a reliable plumber/electrician to take care of your dripping taps or broken fans?

I do this on a regular basis because good tradies are hard to find! Similarly, doctors, dentists, web designers, accountants and a myriad of other professionals.

If you’re like me, then you probably like to give your business to, and place your trust in, someone that comes recommended by somebody you know and trust.

If you haven’t got a system in place, it’s not too late to start! When you keep your eyes open it’s surprising at how easy it really is.

I’d love you to share your feedback on how you handle referrals and what systems you are using.

Michelle

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Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.