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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.

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« October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

14 posts categorized "November 2007"

November 30, 2007

More holiday gift giving ideas

We're getting ready for the holiday season, so this week's Quick Tip from Marketing Mentor offered a few resources we'll be using for client gifts.

Here are others suggested by readers:

  • Roxana Villa's Illuminated Perfume Scented Samples and more.
  • Etsy, a great place to buy (and sell) all things handmade.
  • Pat Forbes suggests the Williams Sonoma Bay leaf wreath and glazed apricots—kid of a healthy, but yummy gift.
  • From Lauri Beamish: "One of the neatest gift ideas I have ever seen, whether it's for business or someone you love is the "Ribbon" program. You purchase a gift album that comes with a gift card. The recipient looks thru the gift album and picks exactly what they would like. Then they can either redeem their gift thru snail-mail or online. They have general albums (by 4 of the $25.00 ones, get 1 FREE) or specialty albums whether you're shopping for a teen, for  a wedding, etc. I thought this was such a great experience after I received one as a gift, I started selling them! Everyone I have ever given one to loves it and it's perfect for those fussy teens that no one can ever shop for. This way you know you're getting them something they like. LOL. Take a look." (EDITOR'S NOTE: Lauri is an affiliate marketer for this service.)
  • Marina Aubert has a great idea with long term effect: "I'm sending out to my best clients a small box containing a "christmas kit for the office". It contains a couple elegant christmas balls, a piece of tinsel and nice snowman pins to hang them to the office walls. I will also add some chocolates and a greeting card."
  • Jezra Kaye suggests Heifer International. "Your prospect or client gets a beautiful card, and your gift money buys ducks or chickens or (if you want to splurge) a sheep or goat or water buffalo that produces food and income for a poor family. Heifer sets up breeding programs in villages, so your gift literally keeps on giving. Win-win-win."
  • Teresa Magnuson of Designwise Digital writes, "I recently sent a handful of my top clients a sheet of personalized stamps from Photostamps.com. I designed each one to include the client's logo and either used holiday colors for borders, added holly berries, or used snowflakes or snowmen in the backgrounds (so as not to take away from their logo.) Then I sent a Thank You note telling them how this was a small reminder of my Creative Marketing, (with of course Smart Design) and mentioned they could use the stamps for their own marketing, or any way they saw fit!"
  • Bill Weber, is a distributor for logomark.com, a great line of imprinted promotional products. Logomark is unique in the logo gift business in that every client gets 24-hour service -- you don't have to be a big million-dollar distributor or place a giant order to get treated well.  At this late date, Logomark will deliver!
  • And Elliot Joel, a client who is currently knee-deep in a huge project, took time to send this: "Whenever possible i try to give something homemade:
    • FOOD (cake, cookies, etc.) i am "known" for my cranberry relish and clients look for it. in fact one client used to hide it in the back of the fridge and wait til her husband went to bed to eat it!)
    • CLOTHING- one year i made scarfs for my clients (by buying great fabric, cutting it out and pinning it and then taking it to a tailor to sew)
    • DESK STUFF- one year i made collages of each client and my relationship (or a favorite event we worked on) and made a mousepad, a mug, a folder i always make the wrapping extra special.....and over the top...sometime i even make the wrapping paper...after all it is showing my creativity, too"
  • And an anonymous emailer suggested a magazine subscription tailored to your client's interests. "Each time a new issue arrives, your client thinks of you." I've done that with Cook's Illustrated for my clients who love to cook.

Any more out there to add?

November 28, 2007

Dog as marketing tool?

Last January, when I adopted my dog, Charlie, I promised myself I wouldn't become one of those dog/business owners that talked all about the dog. But I'm changing my tune because, besides being the cutest, sweetest companion I've ever had, Charlie is also an excellent marketing tool.

Often, at a networking event, I'll casually mention a thought I had while walking my dog that morning, for example, and more often than not, if I'm talking to a dog owner, they instantly ask what kind of dog I have. Before you know it, we're sharing camera-phone photos of our dogs and we've made an instant connection.

It's amazing how enthusiastic people are about their dogs. They (we) want to talk about all the adorable things they do and how lovely they are to have around the home office. (Maybe it's the same with kids. I don't know about that.)

So for now, I'm going to keep showing off Charlie as an excuse to connect with people. I may even follow up by sending some homemade dog treats...

Anyone else connecting over something unusual?

November 26, 2007

Call me Scrooge...

One of the things I dislike about the holiday season that has just started is that, as we approach the end of December, in most areas of business (excluding retail, of course, and anything that has a year-end deadline) things get slower and slower until they come to an eventual halt during that week between Christmas and New Years -- at least in this part of the world, that's my experience.

And it's not so much the actual slowness that I object to as much as the vacation attitude that pervades this 6-week period.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I Scrooge reincarnate?

November 21, 2007

Working holidays

Yes, it's a great, big, holiday weekend coming up. And for sure, I'll spend a chunk of it eating, relaxing, and playing with the new dog (click here for the total cuteness!)

But I will also spend a good portion of the next four days playing with business stuff. And yes, I said "play"—for me, these quiet times when everyone's out of town and the phones stop ringing are the best time to dive into some of the more "optional" but no-less-fun (and possible more fun) projects like...

  • reorganizing digital files
  • catching up with a lot of the to-read stuff I have bookmarked locally and on del.icio.us
  • making some overdue changes on my websites and blogs
  • "non-essential" marketing reading (e.g. that stack of Fast Companys, HOW magazines, etc., that have been piling up)
  • crossing off pesky, smaller items from my to-do lists

I know The BF has some holiday weekend work-type stuff planned, too (the Great E-Bay Sale, for one). Does anyone else have any nerdy stuff planned, or are you all going to watch football and snooze on the sofa between snacks?

However you decide to spend it, have a great (and safe, if you're traveling) Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2007

How to put your prospects at ease

Last week, when I went to Boston to give a talk for BostonCHI "How to Say Things Your Clients Don't Want to Hear," I sent my dog, Charlie, to stay with Kimberly, a dogsitter I'd never met before. She came highly recommended from another dog owner, so of course that made me comfortable. But still, not having met this person or seen where Charlie would be staying, I was a little nervous.

Charlie_at_6_mos But from the first conversation, Kimberly put me right at ease. You know how? She gave me lots of details. When she returned my initial call, she spent a good 15 minutes explaining all about her services: what the dogs do at her house, where they play, who would be there, when and what they would eat, when and where they would sleep (on the couches, apparently). And the more she talked, the more relaxed I felt about leaving Charlie in her hands.

The whole experience made me think about clients who have trouble talking about their work and claim to "not know what to say." What they often don't realize is how this affects their prospects. So if you get tongue tied with a prospect, remember that, at the beginning especially, they just want to be put at ease. And giving them information will help to do that. It almost doesn't matter what gets said; what's important is your openness and willingness to give a lot of details.

So don't hold back; tell them everything you can about working with you. And see what happens.

November 16, 2007

Maybe specializing isn’t for everyone

At MYOB, I facilitated an after dinner discussion to brainstorm "positioning" because I could see people struggling with how to apply the idea to their own situation. To many, it made sense in an abstract way to specialize in one narrow market and become "king" of it, but when they looked at their own client rosters, they just couldn’t decide who to “sacrifice” (a word used by Tim Williams in his opening night talk).

While I do believe that specializing has many benefits -- including the potential to command higher fees and the ability to market to a broader geographic area due to less competition -- sometimes I think it may not be for everyone.

What do you think? In which situations or under which circumstances is it not always appropriate? And what does one have to do to compensate?

November 15, 2007

Ilise's book in the NY Times

In yesterday's issue of the NY Times online, columnist Marci Alboher (the "Hey Marci!" we posted about back in August) has a roundup of new, must-read books for the business person interested in relationships and communication. Ilise's last book made the cut:

Stop Pushing Me Around!: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy, and Less Assertive” by Ilise Benun” (Career Press: 2007) by Ilise Benun

Who Should Read It
The subtitle addresses “the timid, shy, and less assertive,” but the book also speaks to managing shy and introverted types, so extroverts may learn a few things.

Why I’m Recommending It
I hear from a lot of shy and introverted people seeking advice on getting ahead in their careers, and every time I write about this issue, readers write in asking for more.

Read the whole article here (free registration may be required).

November 14, 2007

One good reason to talk to your seat mate

In response to a recent article I wrote called "How to Quick-Start Networking Conversations" for RainToday.com, I got an email message from Dr. Sarah Layton, CMC of the Corporate Strategy Institute, Inc. She wanted to share this incredible networking story. So I thought I'd pass it along, in the spirit of "you just never know."

Ten years ago this past May, I sat next to a lovely lady on a Delta flight from Orlando to NYC. I struck up a conversation by helping her get settled in her seat and asking if she was traveling for business or pleasure. She was then off and running telling me about her business, the oldest direct mail company in NYC.  In the course of the conversation, she learned that, while I had been to NYC many times, I had never "done NY" because I was working on my doctorate and running my business. To make a very long story tolerable, here are just the major events.

1. She invited me to spend a weekend with her so she could show me NYC. She wanted to send me an airline ticket. We tousled briefly about that and I told her to send a check for the amount of the ticket to a college on which I serve as a Trustee, Florida Southern College. She sent a check for $10,000.

2. She hired me on retainer that Sept and I served until we successfully sold her company to the next generation of partners on 9/12. Yes, I was on a plane on final approach into LaGuardia at 9:00 in the morning on 9/11. What a week that was, but we did have the closing.

3. Fast forwarding a number of years, this past Friday, there was a huge celebration at Florida Southern for the ground breaking of the Humanities building she built for the college. Yes, she serves with me on the Board of Trustees of that college.

4. I serve on the board of directors of her sold company, where she is still the Chair.

She won't mind my telling the story because the ground breaking has been picked up by all the major media outlets. Florida Southern College is the largest single exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world and gets a lot of attention.

When my colleagues tell me they like to hunker down in their seats and bury their heads in reading material or a DVD and not talk to anyone, I say, "Fine," secretly smiling that it leaves more people with whom I can connect.

I've been traveling a lot lately and have noticed that, especially with personal TV screens on the back of every seat, most people don't even say hello to their seat mates anymore. Have you noticed that too?

November 12, 2007

5 ways to use Twitter beyond plain, old, public IM

After a few false starts trying to figure it out, I've been using Twitter fairly regularly now for about two months and change.

Yes, it can be a frivolous timesuck, just like lots of other social media. But I think if used judiciously and applied creatively, it's a pretty amazing tool, especially now that it's become so popular (read: broad reach).

Here are 5 ways that either I personally like to use Twitter or have found others using it creatively and well.

1. Point people to great, newsworthy stuff

Folks like Jason Kottke build their entire blogs on culling great URLs and sharing them with their readers. For people like me who write more essay (personal blog) or how-to type posts, Twitter serves as an excellent, secondary links blog.

The writersstrike Twitter is doing a great job of this, posting links to funny/interesting/timely coverage of the current Writers' Guild of America (WGA) strike. (Writers' Strike Twitter)

2. Extend your brand

I'm not sure if famous artist Jenny Holzer's intent was to do this. But words are her vehicle anyway, and so Twitter serves to reinforce this. I'm guessing she's just a great artist who found a cool new medium and went for it. But her pithy and provocative observations also serve as a great introduction to her work. (Jenny Holzer's Twitter)

3. Create community

New media guy and uber-connector Chris Brogan has such a large following and such interesting Twitters that there's a separate "channel" just to track the responses to his Twitters. I've found some interesting conversations and people via both streams (Chris Brogan's Twitter; I'll post the other when I find it.)

4. Make 'em laugh

I'll admit it: I subscribe to certain Twitterers b/c they make coffee come out of my nose. There is always value in being entertaining. Plus, given all the stress people are dealing with today, it's a public service. (Merlin Mann's Twitter; Wally Torta's Twitter.)

5. Teach yourself to write short

I wrote about this in my most recent newsletter, but it bears repeating: for those of us with a tendency to blather, Twitter's 140-character maximum per entry is a great exercise in honing your thoughts.


For more ways of using social media as tools for improving your communications skills, email me and I'll forward a copy of the November issue. Or just sign up for a subscription (c'mon...you know you wanna!) and it will be sent to you automagically.

BONUS: Excellent 5-er post about Using Twitter for Good up at lifehack.org written by (you guessed it) Chris Brogan. He's bad! He's nationwide!

So...what ways do you use Twitter? Or don't you?

November 09, 2007

Are you a local generalist or a national specialist?

Another point made by Tim Williams at MYOB last weekend was that you have a choice between being a “local generalist” or a “national specialist.”

If you are a generalist, it’s likely you’ll do most of your work locally, because why would someone from Kalamazoo come to work with you? But if you are a specialist, you are in a position to attract those clients from Kalamazoo because they can only get what you provide from you.

So which would you rather be?


The Tagline Series