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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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  • 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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« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

17 posts categorized "October 2008"

October 31, 2008

Tips for financial success!

If you are a creative solopreneur or  the owner of a design firm and want to improve your financial growth, don't miss this special live event with Marketing Mentor co-founder Peleg Top.  “Running a profitable design business in challenging times” will be presented together with Mary-Lynn Bellamy-Williams, founder and CEO of FunctionFox.

This presentation will help move the financial state of your business to the next level. Whether you are running a solo business or a small creative firm, this seminar will give you some great tips and fresh ideas about creating more profit from your business.

You will learn:

  • How to understand and implement key metrics and formulas
  • How to determine your billable rates
  • What your firm should be billing based on your staffing
  • The difference between performance-based and value-based compensation
  • How to talk to your clients about money
  • How to get your client to reveal their budget
  • What to say to build trust with your clients and charge the fees you want

Join us for this not to miss event! Admission is FREE with your RSVP | Space is limited to 50 people so act fast as this event will sell out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008
7:00 pm
BlankSpaces, 5405 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles  

To register please visit: http://www.functionfox.com/beprofitable/

October 29, 2008

Guest Post: HARO Creates Buzz for Your Business

I've been a fan of PR genius Peter Shankman's Help a Reporter Out mailing list since I first discovered it this spring, talking it up here, in my own newsletter and in countless emails, conversations and presentations. (In fact, one of the highlights of my recent trip to Seattle was getting to meet the man in person—he's everywhere, is Peter, and just as funny, sharp and generous as his thrice-daily messages would lead you to believe.)

I've used it to raise the profile of Crohn's disease a bit, in an article for MSNBC online. Ilise was recently interviewed for a piece on shyness to run in the NY Post in November. And here, Marketing Mentor client Dara Turransky shares her experience, as well as some tips on how to get the most out of a terrific service.

HARO is an excellent resource for creating some buzz for your business. I used HARO recently to find radio interviews for two of my clients. The pitches worked out great. My clients received much needed exposure, and I looked like a hero to them.

The best part about the service is that it's FREE. All you need to do is sign up for the daily inquiries and HARO is sent to you three times a day. HARO reporters are always looking for experts to interview for articles ranging from the latest Halloween trends to best marketing practices.

Keep in mind these simple tips to get the most out of HARO:

  • Only answer inquiries that match your business objectives.
  • Craft your pitch to match what the reporter is looking for as closely as is humanly possible.
  • Don't SPAM any of the reporters with off-topics.
  • You can forward inquiries to friends, but don't post them on the Web or on any blog.
  • You aren't allowed to harvest the reporters' email addresses in any way. There are severe virtual consequences for anyone who does.
  • You don't need to know a great deal of PR to use the list, just be yourself and professional. If you're so inclined to learn a bit more about PR, then I would read Michael Levine's Guerilla PR 2.0. He writes in an easy-to-read format with great tips and lots of examples on how to write a pitch that delivers results. You will also find most of the actionable items in the chapters can be scaled down for a one or two-person shop.

You can sign up for HARO here and join the other 36,000 subscribers on the list. Information on Michael Levine, his book as well as his PR firm is available here.

Dara Turransky is the Founder and Creative Director of 7 Lucky Dogs, a marketing agency for the pet industry. Learn more about her agency by visiting her website or email her at dara AT 7luckydogs DOT com.

October 28, 2008

Join cartoonist, Lloyd Dangle in San Francisco on Election Night Party

Our very own Lloyd Dangle (), syndicated political cartoonist, illustrator of the infamous "terrified" germs on Airborne packaging (featured earlier this year on The Colbert Report), as well as featured speaker at the Creative Freelancer Conference and longtime Marketing Mentor client, is hosting an Election Night Party (on November 4th) in San Francisco. Get all the details here.

October 27, 2008

Writing articles isn't just for writers

Getting articles published online is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your web site and position yourself as an expert in your field, and especially in your niche.

So if you can't write, hire someone to write for you or let me teach you (through the mentoring program) how to write for online publication (it's not all that complicated). And if you can write, what are you waiting for? Get your articles out there?

Here are recent articles written by a few of our Marketing Mentor clients:

You'll notice that a lot of these articles are posted on one of our favorite business networking sites, Biznik. Where else have you found to post articles? What other article-marketing strategies are working for you?

October 24, 2008

Brand is behavior (and good news for solopreneurs)

You think you know more about marketing your small business than the big guys? PR and marketing guru extraordinaire Jonathan Salem Baskin thinks you're probably right. Baskin's new book, Branding Only Works on Cattle, is all about how the old model of marketing--building up a brand's "image" and selling it like crazy to the teeming masses--is beyond broken: it's irrelevant.

Full disclosure: Jonathan and I go way, way back; we've known each other since we were in high school, back in Chicago (although I could not find photo documentation of such...thank GOD). But frankly, that means less special treatment on the part of the interviewer, not more; I think you'll enjoy the results!

* * * * *

CW: You've got a pretty game-changing thesis about marketing in your book. Before we get to the meat of it--that brand is behavior (which I admit, I didn't "get" just by looking at it)--can you talk a bit about what branding used to be, and what started to change that?

Jsbaskin JSB: Sure. The human mind has always been a 'black box' of swirling, changing thoughts and opinions. There was a brief time in the mid-20th Century when mass media could hope to influence it, if not sometimes manipulate what consumers might aspire to do. But those days are long gone, thanks to the Internet, mobile media, do-it-yourself culture, and the birth of successive generations who've been inured to the claims of marketing. If brands were 'shorthand,' people now can access the complete versions of things, with annotation, additional content, and reviews. And then add to them.

Yet people still make choices, and they attach meaning to what they do.  So what's the best model for getting your commercial interests into that equation? It's not the old approach to branding, which doesn't work anymore (and is the reason why trust in corporations is at an all-time low, people aren't loyal anymore, and even some premium products are finding that the only branding attribute that truly matters is low price).

CW: So the solution is...?

JSB:
I say the way to address this reality is to redefine your brand as behavior.

CW: Ah! Or "duh." Can you break that down for us a bit? Into some practical, actionable things?

JSB: Definitely. Brand-as-behavior is all about action and results, not fluffy, unquantifiable stuff.

So brand as behavior can manifest itself as...

  • ...a tactic (how you communicate and illustrate what you believe is best done with actual actions, not just declarations)
  • ...a strategy (by focusing on behaviors, you can understand your customers or consumers by what they do, when they do it, what causes it, and thus better understand and forecast your branding efforts)
  • ...an ultimate goal (sales is the only real behavior that matters, isn't it?)

So giving folks information, or crafting "brand experiences," is only a small portion of this new definition of brands.  It's far bigger than marketing, and far more substantial than a creative campaign. It opens up a lot of resources within a company, not to mention mind power, to come up with newer and more effective ways to get and keep people buying your stuff.

And it provides a simple, obvious litmus test for every expenditure: if it prompts an action, it's worth considering; if all it does is propagate something "out there" that is important to people's thoughts about your brand, think again.

There's no "there" there.  Behavior is what matters. 

CW: How does that work lower down on the marketing food chain? What actions or processes should a solopreneur or small business owner be focusing her marketing efforts around?

JSB: Interestingly, small businesses are naturals for this approach; they do it almost unconsciously, or at least by necessity.  I like to refer to it as "one room marketing," where every member of the company sits around the same table and participates in every decision, irrespective of 'silo' or 'area of expertise' (for solopreneurs, that's easy).  What results is 1) a focus on getting things done, 2) an awareness that unless it not only 'touches' a customer/consumer, but moves her or him closer to purchase, it probably isn't affordable, and 3) an ability to change based on the behavioral reality of the business or the marketplace.

The challenge is to resist the siren call of 'branding' that might redirect some of that focus and money to nonsense ideas like 'building brand equity.'  Small businesses know that brands exist in real-time, and that they have little to do with image...and lots to do with products, services, and relationships.  Lead generation is all about awareness, but to call it 'branding' is a reach. 

CW: So I'm actually being a responsible design consultant when I tell some potential clients they don't need a professionally designed identity or website yet?

JSB: Totally. In a behavioral model, the 'identity' is a culmination of a deep understanding of behaviors (extant and desired, plus a causal map of real actions to move people along to purchase and re-purchase).

A website is a tactic, although a gloriously cool one. I'm sure you've had clients who expected a newly-designed web site would somehow tell, convince, inspire, and sustain a new relationship with customers...and it never works that way, SEO notwithstanding. Really ugly design on top of entirely beautiful behavioral strategy can still work (Amazon, or Google search for that matter). Great design is all the better, but it's not a first step or substitute for smart business strategy.

CW: Can you elaborate a bit on some potential sales closing processes, or even post-sale processes, that might help boost numbers long-term?

Branding Only Works on Cattle cover JSB: Lead generation and sales conversion are really interesting subjects when it comes to the role of branding. Once you start with the proposition that your customers have no relationship with 'your brand,' per se, it starts you on a very useful path.

Consider closing sales: in the traditional brand model, price is somewhat external to the brand proposition...it's the valuation of the benefits, many of which are associative or intangible, that accompany the brand 'promise.' In reality, of course, price is actually what a lot of people care about most, and it usually stands out as one of the only apples-to-apples points that would-be purchasers can compare between choices. Further, in the old model (I'm thinking of the tactic of direct marketing specifically), the idea is that you name a price and hope that it will, with the brand vaguely in the background somehow, prompt a sale.  

I think that's tantamount to asking somebody to marry you the moment you meet them.

CW: Not a very compelling scenario. So as small business owners, how do we rewrite that scenario?

JSB: Closing sales means giving purchasers real, compelling, substantive reasons to buy, and to buy 'now' vs. 'later.' 

If you define your brand as a set of behaviors -- those that you take for your customers, and those which your efforts enable by them -- your branding can be made far more relevant to registering actual sales. You've skipped all of the imagery and ephemera that links your product or service to some abstraction, or claimed things that you hope somehow, someway, sometime your purchasers will remember, care about, and apply to their decision-making. Behaviors are your tools to truly differentiate what you sell, and allow you to integrate price far earlier into your sales close conversation. 

CW: Which translates into action how, exactly?

JSB: Skip 'buying the vague brand promise' and focus on communicating...no, demonstrating...the actual brand value of a relationship with your business, as defined by doing real things that have real value.

I have done a lot of work recently on the idea of 'customer loyalty,' and how it's so fleeting in this day and age. If we see re-purchase/post-sale processes as a set of behaviors, and not the domain for creative content or other intangibles, we are again handed the tools to make long-term relationships with customers meaningful and somewhat sustainable. Think about how many post-sale 'relationships' with businesses default to nothing more than 1) more cross-selling nonsense sent to the customer, 2) thinly-veiled sales promotion campaigns, always trying to upsell good customers, and/or 3) qualitative surveys, frequent purchaser points, or other activities that make the quid-pro quo of selling terribly obvious.

CW: Whereas...?

JSB: A behavioral model would allow you to define your post-purchase relationship in terms of actual things you do for your customers...you could almost quantify these activities and market them up-front as reasons to buy from you. Personal service. Quick issue resolution. Random discounts. Whatever.

CW: You worked for some really big, fancy organizations—Edelman, Grey, Limited Brands—before hanging out your own shingle. What would you say are the most important things to have in place before making the leap to working for yourself?

JSB: Be crazy. Lol...well, actually, be crazy about what you love to do. I'm convinced that going out on your own is dependent on your love for, and the reward you get from, doing whatever it is you want to do. Know it. Believe it, don't just aspire to some ideal future or lifestyle. So talking about having 'passion' is not enough; you really need to have an intimate, real understanding of what makes you tick, and be at peace at the prospect that you could do your own thing, not make a ton of money, and still be very, very happy because of the mere fact that you're doing it.

After that, you need to be very realistic about that money situation. My brand is behavior paradigm suggests that you can't afford to contemplate what would-be clients or customers "should do," or what you intend to tell or "educate" them to do. Understand what they do, pure and simple, and figure out the way(s) your product or service will fit into those behaviors. I've had a lot of start-up clients who were shocked that people didn't grasp (or buy) their newly enhanced whateveritwas they sold. Your marketing will need to communicate not why people should be your customers or clients, but why there's absolutely no good reason why they SHOULDN'T be. SO your plan should be material and obvious, not aspirational.

CW: Fantastic advice, and all too easily ignored in the throes of launch fever. Any parting words of wisdom?

JSB: My last bit of advice would be to remain flexible. If there was one thing I underestimated when I decided to go solo, it was the amount of surprise, if not outright chaos, that would become a regular aspect of my life. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like that, you shouldn't try to be your own boss. On the other hand, the flip-side of that chaos is that you still have control over how you respond to it (or anticipate the next surprise), and it's a very empowering feeling.

* * * * *

Jonathan Salem Baskin, "chief heretic" at Baskin Associates, Inc., has provided branding and marketing consulting to clients across four continents, specializing in translating business strategies into programs that involved more than words and images. You can read more of his fascinating (and insanely well-written) takes on marketing at his blog, Dim Bulb. A practitioner of all he preaches, he also has a business website and actual MUSIC VIDEOS he created as part of the promotion for Branding Only Works on Cattle.

October 22, 2008

Excellent ideas from my market

Last Friday I took the train up to Boston for the day to give a brown bag lunchtime talk at Sun Microsystems for a couple of their affinity groups: Asian-American Diversity Network and Women@Sun.

This was not a gig I pursued. It came directly from my market. One of the readers of my tips responded to one of them with a request to speak. I don't even know how he got on my list (he couldn't remember either) but it didn't matter. He'd been receiving my tips for a while and felt the material was relevant to him and his colleagues: an audience I didn't even know existed.

So I tailored my "Networking Nuts 'n Bolts" for his group of IT professionals. It was a 90-minute session and I didn't even get through all the ideas, they were so engaged in the hands-on workshop and the actual networking. So I may "need" to go back and give a half day or full day session.

This is what's possible. But that's not all.

After the event, I was approached by a woman in the audience who asked how my mentoring works. She wondered if I could work with her on her networking skills. "I could make it part of my professional development plan for next year."

Yes, what a great idea. Another one I would not have thought of. Helping employees as part of their professional development.

I love it when ideas for new services and new markets come from the market itself. That's what I mean when I say, "everything flows from the market."

Has anything like that happened to you lately?

October 21, 2008

How business-like is your business portrait?

As much as I like using photos of me with my dog, Charlie, they're not really appropriate for business.

We all know that with so much online networking -- LinkedIn, Facebook and more coming -- a good professional portrait is a must-have marketing tool these days.  Is yours showing you in the best light?

If not, check out photographer, Michael Robinson's Business Portrait Day in New York City on October 28.

Check out the details here.

October 20, 2008

Marketing Mentor in Toronto 10/30

If you're a designer near Toronto....

I'll be in Toronto the week of October 27 speaking at DesignThinkers, the annual conference hosted by the RGD Ontario (see the video clip of the last talk I gave for them here on our site.

After the event, I'll be staying an extra day to give our half day Marketing and Pricing for Designers on Thursday, Oct 30, 9 AM - Noon.

We'll keep the group small so I can do a very hands-on workshop that is appropriate for both new business owners and those who have been in business for a while but haven't yet focused on the business aspects of running a business -- that is, marketing and pricing.

Click here for details about what I'll be covering and more.

October 17, 2008

Marketing is not about you

Last week I was invited to sit on a panel at the AIGA Orange County big self -promotion expo. My colleagues on the panel included Steve Morris, Petrula Verontikis, Mick Hodgson and John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing at Adobe. He represented the client side.

At one point one of the attendees asked John, “What do you look for when you receive a marketing piece and what do you usually get?”

John shared with us that most of the design firms that contact him take a lot of time talking about themselves—their accomplishments. Very few actually talk about how they can help him with his needs.

“I don’t really care what you have accomplished for other clients or what awards you’ve won," he explained. "I want to know that you care about what it is I need and that you do exceptional work.”

Do your marketing materials focus on yourself or your client? Are you sending a message that says “I care about what you need help with and here is how I can help you?” Something to think about.

October 16, 2008

An ebook about the value of tribes, by a triiibe who knows

Three months ago, marketing guru Seth Godin posted one item on his blog about a private, online group he was setting up on Ning.

The idea was to create a real-life experiment/lab to play with his ideas about community, or tribe, in the weeks leading up to the launch of his latest book, Tribes.

I was one of the people who made it into the triiibe, and was fairly active in the first month, meeting a number of interesting people it probably would have taken me a lot longer to meet in real life (most of us were only a degree or two or three apart--it's a small, small Internet world.)

My favorite of these new acquaintances, Mark Hayward, is an entrepreneur who chucked "regular" life to go open an island resort with his wife. He was in the throes of putting together a nifty nonprofit with Leo Babuta of Zen Habits and author-adventurer Dan Clements when triiibes came about, and was able to solicit a lot of help from the triiibe around his design, his marketing plan, his promotion--all kinds of many-minds stuff.

(Coincidentally--or maybe not--Mark just wrote an interesting post on the value of expanding your network during difficult times. He lists a number of people he's met via the Internet, myself included, whom he's started following to help him get over the social media learning curve. I found it extremely interesting that the links he shared were all from Twitter--another knife in the heart of the myth that it's nothing but a time suck.)

One of the projects Seth fostered in triiibes was an ebook about...tribes! It contains dozens of case studies, one by yours truly on the famed Group Theatre (see p. 220), and it's free!

Download the free Tribes Case Studies PDF ebook here.

Pretty interesting range of tribes in the book. Between that experiment and my month's working sabbatical in Seattle, meeting local members of Biznik, I'm getting full immersion in community.

What tribes are you a part of? How are they helping you day-to-day? And how are they helping you in these weird economic times?

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