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  • ILISE BENUN is the founder of Marketing Mentor, and has been teaching people to promote themselves and their services since 1988. Author of 4 books and many, many more articles, Ilise has been self-employed for all but three years of her working life.

    More about Ilise here.

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  • DEIDRE RIENZO is a copy writer who helps small business owners turn their ideas into words. She partners with web designers to create simple, compelling, and keyword-rich website content for their clients. The Marketing Mentor program is the driving force that has helped Deidre grow her business, and she blogs about her experiences, adventures, and struggles here at the Marketing Mix.

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17 posts categorized "August 2007"

August 31, 2007

All about lists, #3: Lists as (productive) playtime

This is the third in a series about lists: tools for making them, ways of making more useful—even using them as creative tools. Posted as inspiration strikes and time permits.

Long weekend coming up and to me, that means one thing: uninterrupted putter time!

I'll be attacking many non-urgent to-do items on various contextual lists, but I also plan to allow myself a few creative list-making opportunities.

Yes, I make lists the way some people do crosswords or sudoku—to keep my brain sharp. I mean, I do crosswords, too, but I confess to feeling guilty at only working my brain; I like working my brain and having something to show for it afterwards besides a filled out puzzle and (somewhat guilt-tinged) sense of accomplishment. Lists help keep my brain sharp and can, when plotted properly, provide a valuable public service.

Some Lists of Lists You Might Think of Tackling

These are helpful for everyone, and give your brain a fun, gentle stretch. For those who like to get double-duty out of stuff, they also make excellent blog posts!

  • favorite movies for a rainy day
  • favorite movies for Saturday
  • favorite "go-to" movies (IMDb is great for tracking these: here's mine
  • best experts on... (I wrote one on advice columnists)
  • to 10 tips on whatever it is you know about (I did one on newsletters)
  • top 100 books of all time
  • top time-saving tips you've learned in your life
  • five things you'd go back and tell your 20-year-old self
  • five things you'd tell someone starting out in your industry right now
  • best ways to use 5...10...15 (etc) minutes
  • top 10 blogs that people MUST read
  • etc.

The above lists do shed some insight onto your own psyche, which can be fun (and, yes, useful!) from a self-development standpoint. The potential lists below work that even harder. You can choose to externalize them or not. I provide links to my own lists that I've made public; people seem to find them entertaining at the least, occasionally illuminating at their best:

How about you—are you a closet/compulsive listmaker? What kinds of lists do you write to help keep your mind sharp and the world informed?

Let us know in the comments!

August 30, 2007

Do It Yourself SEO

As small business owners, we're expected to wear many hats. But some are easier to wear than others. I have some idea of what makes good marketing sense or how to write a newsletter; when it comes to more technical things outside my purview, I'm a little leery of jumping in. I have visions of the electronic version of me working on my home electrical or plumbing system—general mayhem, followed by calling in the experts.

But this Monday's Wall St. Journal has a great article on how to optimize your site for search (brrr...SEO...) that sounds almost...not hard.

If you're looking for a little side project this Labor Day weekend, maybe you should check it out and get your (DIY) nerd on.

August 29, 2007

How'dja get that!?: Eileen Sutton on the Long Game

Another in our occasional series about how people got great gigs. Eileen Sutton, principal of EF Sutton Creative, describes the means to a very spectacular end. Sometimes, it's less about what you do than what you've been doing all along...

The project was a 6-panel capabilities brochure and several sell sheets for a global financial company. The fee was substantial and I was glad.

How did I get it?

It all started years ago when I joined a professional organization in the financial field. After a year or two, I started doing pro bono work for this organization's yearly events. The president of the organization, Jackson B., was naturally well connected in financial services. He knew me, I knew him, but I wasn't sure I was even on his radar.

When Dave S, the marketing VP for this global financial company, called me for the job -- ostensibly out of the blue -- I was excited to be considered for an ambitious assignment direct-to-client, especially because I wanted to be writing more in this particular financial arena.

When I first met Dave he didn't need to look at my samples. We talked for several hours, and I think he could see I was able to deliver. I had worked for several other companies like Dave's, so he had a natural faith in my ability. Dave also knew one of my clients.

In the final moments of the interview, he happened to mention that he and Jackson were friends, and that Jackson had referred me. I had no idea.

The moral of the story: you never know who your brand ambassadors are out there, and I was glad that my pro bono work paid off. Naturally I am sending Jackson a gift to express my deep gratitude for the referral.

Got a great story—with or without life-changing lesson—of your own? Let us know!

August 27, 2007

Sometimes Marketing is Saying "Thank You"

A couple weeks ago I received a card at my PO Box from Kate Gaffin of Beautiful Futures, a reader of Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor. I don't know Kate personally, but she took the time to write to me to thank me for my efforts. As a small token, she included a Starbucks card inside. I don't know about you, but this is not the type of mail I get every day.

So I responded to Kate to thank her for thanking me. That's when I found out she hadn't exactly handwritten that card to me. You see, she's using that new service, www.sendoutcards.com which other readers and commenters have written us about before. It seems to be catching on.

Here's what Kate wrote back to me:

I'm so glad you liked the card and I hope you had a nice Starbucks treat.

I actually sent similar cards to six other folks who have also provided such great resources to me (and thousands of others) over the years.  I was really touched by their responses and it reminded me that we just don't show appreciation enough anymore.  When we do, it's so nice to know that we might have put a smile on someone's face.

In the last month, I began sending out cards to my steady customers...just to say thanks for thinking of my company when they needed a gift for a little one in their lives. I got back dozens of emails telling me that no other company had ever thanked them for being a customer. Many orders came in as a result.

What a great marketing tool personalized cards are!  And using the system I did to send yours, it's all automated and I can send a card with just a couple of clicks in a font created from my own handwriting.  It then gets printed, stuffed, stamped and mailed for me.  And it all happens with just a couple of clicks whether sending to one person or 1,000.  This is really amazing stuff in a time of technology overkill...simplicity and personalization really makes one stand out.

Check it out here.

August 24, 2007

All about lists, #2: Taxonomy is everything

This is the second in a series about lists: tools for making them, ways of making more useful—even using them as creative tools. Check back tomorrow now and then for more list goodness.

In her (excellent) post about Ta-Da lists yesterday Monday, Ilise touched on the basics of what make lists such a valuable business/life tool. You can use them to quickly capture information, to organize your thoughts, even as Monkey Brain Reward—few things are more rewarding than checking stuff off a list.

She also shared her list of lists, which I found fascinating. I have many similar lists:

  • running lists of stuff I need to discuss with Ilise, my Toastmasters board, etc.
  • running lists of changes I want to make to my website, communicatrix-dot-com
  • a "bucket" list I use to unload all the flotsam that accumulates in my noggin, which I occasionally go through and sort/prune

The thing is, I have way too many lists to list, the way Ilise does. At least, not without risk of embarrassment at exposing my OCD tendencies. (If you don't believe me, click here for a screenshot—and be aware that I edited the list of lists for public consumption.)

Because I'm a compulsive listmaker, taxonomy—labeling everything in some kind of sensical way—has become crucial. And one of the best ways to structure the naming of your lists is to use context as the defining principle, as David Allen describes in his organizational program, Getting Things Done (or GTD, for short). A major part of the GTD system is learning how to carve up the things you need to do in terms of context to make them most convenient to attack.

So a GTD-er would have her to-do lists sorted by where or when she might do them; David Allen suggests sticking an "@" sign in front of the contextual lists, to keep them all grouped together neatly. So a typical list of to-do lists for someone who travels a lot might be:

  • @calls
  • @office
  • @home
  • @computer
  • @errands—home
  • @errands—anywhere

The beauty of the system is that it can be sliced and diced in any way that works for you, and tweaked as you go along to better reflect how (and where) you spend you time.

If you're new to GTD, Merlin Mann has a great primer on his blog 43folders.com here.

If you're curious about contexts specifically, Merlin has an excellent post on them here.

How do you carve up your lists?

August 22, 2007

Should you be blogging

Here's a very realistic article by Sarah Needleman from the special section on Small Business in Monday's (8/20/07) Wall Street Journal. It outlines all the different ways people are actually using blogs to market a business and it emphasizes the real time commitment required to make it work, helping you answer the question, “Should I be blogging?”

(BTW, in the Marketing Mentor Store we have a download that offers a lot more nuts 'n bolts on the process, featuring an interview with our own Blog Mistress, The Communicatrix, Colleen Wainwright. Check it out.)

August 21, 2007

Real-life branding snapshot: Marci Alboher

I met Marci Alboher a couple years back. She was in the audience at a talk I gave about self promotion.

I was talking about email addresses, saying that they should be relevant and convey information.

Marci raised her hand and asked if I thought "heymarci@whatever.com" was effective from a self promotional point of view, because that's how everyone seemed to address her.

Well, she has since continued the Hey, Marci branding process.

Now she's got The Hey Marci Blog

And all her email addresses are heymarci@whatever.com, including the NY Times, where she has a new online column called "Shifting Careers" that seems to be a lot about self promotion.

Check out Monday's column on Introverts (free registration required).

Marci also has a book out, One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success (Warner Business: 2007), which I know a lot of us can relate to. More info about that here.

August 20, 2007

All about lists, #1: Get rid of those sticky notes

This is the first in a series about lists: tools for making them, ways of making more useful—even using them as creative tools. Check back tomorrow for more list goodness.

I don't know about you, but the only way I can get anything done is by making lists. Otherwise, I'd lose track of all the ideas that flit through my brain.

Sticky notes are okay, but very unwieldy (that is, I can't wield them.) If I don't move them around constantly and re-write them, I am quickly buried under a horrible shade of yellow.

But recently, someone (I can't remember who) turned me on to Ta-da Lists, another elegantly simple Web-based tool from the guys over at 37 Signals (innovators of Backpack and Basecamp and other project management tools).

Ta-Da Lists is basically one big bucket for all the lists you want to keep -- both professional and personal -- all in one place.

I keep mine open all day and just keep checking to make sure I'm on  task.

  • I can add to a list as a thought flits through my brain without stopping what I'm doing.
  • I can edit and reorder the lists ad nauseum, as my priorities shift.
  • I can share my lists with a colleague.
  • I can send myself a copy of a list via email if I want it in my inbox. 

Plus, I can check things off as I complete them, which is incredibly satisfying -- better than chocolate.

And best of all, it’s free.

For a peek under the hood of my business, here is my list of lists:

  • Today (for all the things I'm supposed to finish today, whichever day that happens to be. Must be updated daily.)
  • Prospects to follow up on (because if I don't keep track of those who take advantage of my free consultation, they may forget that Marketing Mentor is on their To Do list)
  • People to meet with (so I don't lose track of everyone who says, "Hey, we should have coffee.")
  • Discuss with PT (Peleg Top, my business partner, because we have tons of great new ideas that could easily get lost)
  • Discuss with Alan (Alan Seiden, my IT guy so I don't forget those little things I want him to fix)
  • MM Store products (because we want to keep growing the offerings in the www.Marketing-Mentor-Store.com)
  • MM Blog ideas (because this is the only way to get in the habit of blogging regularly)
  • Changes to MM web sites (for all those details people point out to me that I want to remember when we do the next revamp)
  • Big picture projects (so I don't lose sight of my long term goals)

And here's a list of lists suggested for inspiration by the guys over at 37signals.

What kinds of things would you like to make lists of, if keeping track of the lists were no problem at all?

Continue reading "All about lists, #1: Get rid of those sticky notes" »

August 17, 2007

Mixmasters Elsewhere, Part Three: When the response is no response

The last heads-up in this little series is a post filled with excellent, practical tips on dealing with unresponsive clients—the ones who've actually requested services, then waver or disappear.

Ilise wrote it for Graphic Define's online magazine, but the information works well for any small business person who's running up against a wall with unreplied-to emails, calls, etc.

August 15, 2007

Mixmasters Elsewhere, Part Two: Notes on Design

Ilise has been guest-posting at an interesting blog for designers called "Notes on Design."

It's design-centric, in that their readership is pretty much all designers. But a lot of what Ilise writes about for designers applies to other small businesses, especially those of a creative bent.

Her most recent post, for example, is about following up via phone instead of email. She makes some excellent points for those of us who (let's face it) probably were drawn partly to our field of endeavor because it seemed to limit the amount of outside contact we needed to have.

Ilise also got me into writing for Notes on Design. I like it because it forces me to think of one particular audience and what they might find useful from my repository of weird and random knowledge. In fact, my latest post is all about The One Thing Rule—how getting more specific can help you get more out of everything.

Which makes me think—what one thing would you share from your own vast repository of knowledge that's helped you the most in your business?


The Tagline Series