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The Mix Master

  • 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.

The Mix Mistress

  • 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.

Guest Mixers

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46 posts categorized "Interviews"

October 23, 2013

How’s your communication with clients?

Recently I joined Jim Blasingame of Small Business Advocate to discuss the topic of client communication, how we can improve it, and how to handle challenges along the way. Listen to the interviews here:

Part 1: Improve customer communication with self-analysis

Part 2: Common communication problems with customers

And if you often find yourself in sticky situations with clients, here are suggestions on how to handle some common ones.

April 02, 2013

Podcast: Independent Writer Reinvents Herself = Business Picks Up

Since 1984, Leila Zogby has been an independent writer of corporate marketing communications. But when she came to Marketing Mentor in December 2012, she had lost an anchor client and was having a hard time getting new clients. “I needed to change my losing game.”

We did the free ½ hour coaching session (which I offer to anyone I think I can help), and from there decided to do two 1-hour consultations. The result: “You broke the logjam,” said Leila, in our recent interview/podcast about how she took what we discussed. The truth is: she broke the logjam herself. “The process of having to dig into my files and look objectively at the factors influencing my business – the clarity that came from that broke the logjam.” (Listen here.)

Here’s an excerpt:

“The recession really hit people hard, everything has changed and we need to reinvent ourselves. People who are generalists tend to be the ones struggling the most in this economy. That was me! I prided myself on being a generalist and able to tackle anything. But it’s a different world. Which doesn’t mean you don’t do a variety of things. But in your sales approach you have to highlight a particular aspect of your service.

“I realized that I had great strength in long form writing, which, interestingly enough, is coming back into the mix as people are developing content rich strategies. Working with you allowed me to see clearly the advantage I had.

“So now I have changed the way I talk about what I do when I’m prospecting and it’s working fabulously. Now people’s eyes light up and they realize what I’m talking about, both in networking and making calls to prospects. They really respond to it and understand what I can do for them.”

Listen to the podcast to hear her new “elevator pitch,” the metaphor she came up with (it’s related to food!) and the story she tells.

For Leila, it took 2 sessions and she was off and running. It’s different for everyone. But if you’re in the weeds and need some clarity, try the free half hour. Sign up here.

March 11, 2013

Podcast: How to Develop Your Content Strategy

The better understanding you have of who you are, how you work, who hires you and why, the more likely you will be able to do effective content marketing.

At this year’s Creative Freelancer Conference, Mark O’Brien, CEO of Newfangled, will be conducting a post-Conference workshop on Monday, June 24 called: You Don’t Know What You Know: Developing Your Content Strategy. And at the end of his 3 hour, extremely hands-on workshop (designed for all types of freelancers and small firm owners), you will leave with your content strategy in hand! (Mark is also presenting on Day 2 of CFC, “The Conversion-Focused Web Site,” a great primer for the workshop, since your web site is the “home” for your content.) Details here.

In our recent podcast/interview, Mark said that content marketing:

Is the currency of the modern marketing platform. Essentially it means creating educational content that is focused on the overlap between your expertise and your prospect’s pain points. It’s the fuel for attracting, informing and engaging prospects, no matter where they are in the buying cycle.

When I asked Mark what challenges creative pros have with content marketing, he said:

  • Lack of positioning. It requires discipline, focus and yes, risk taking. Plus, it’s a discovery process.
  • Burn out. It’s essential not to over-commit to all sorts of blogging and social media. Otherwise you’ll quickly burn out.
  • Determining the right platforms, publishing frequency and points of engagement on your site.

Don’t let these challenges, or lack or direction, stop you from pursuing this effective form of marketing. Register for CFC, and sign up for Mark’s workshop, Developing Your Content Strategy. Details here.

This Friday, March 15 is the early bird deadline for CFC: June 22-24 in San Francisco. Get $100 off (CFC only) if you combine promo code "ILISE" + Early Bird rate. Register here now.

January 16, 2013

Freelancer Reaches 5 Year Goal in 6 Months!

It was on Dec 20, 2012 -- almost exactly 6 months since CFC 2012 and almost exactly 6 months until CFC 2013 (June 22-24, 2013) – that package designer, Jenn David Connolly of Jenn David Design, told me she had already surpassed the 5 year goal she had set for herself and her firm when we met at CFC 6 months ago.

At the time, she was working from home and had a team of freelancers she pulled in when necessary but was doing most everything herself. Today she and her team of 4 (a project manager, 2 designers and a part time freelancer) are working from a larger studio environment. And she’s looking to grow from there. Congrats are in order!

If you attended CFC 2012, you might remember Jenn from the 5-minute talk she did called “It’s not for the money, honey.” Well, this year it just might be for the money.

By then, she had already been running her business as a solopreneur for 10 years. There had been growing pains between years 5-8 as she was unsure if she wanted to stay solo and small. Finally she decided to grow. “I wanted a small studio with a couple employees. I thought that vision was 5 years off. Then I went to CFC and made the decision to do it now because I was frustrated with the work flow. I was feeling overwhelmed all the time. The quality of the work was starting to suffer and if I didn’t take action, I knew it would get worse.”

Her stated goal last June: “I wanted to grow beyond just me….” But she wasn’t sure how. That’s why she went to CFC. “Attending CFC was really the jumping off point for all this. Everything I learned there I soaked in like a sponge, from speakers and from attendees.”

Listen to the podcast to find out exactly what she learned and how she took the leap of faith to grow.


December 17, 2012

Top Tools for Web Design from HOW Interactive Design Conference

If Tiffany Estes of Whole Brain Creative is going to become a better interactive designer, her mindset needs to change. That’s one of the things she realized at this year’s HOW Interactive Design Conference and she talks about how exactly in part 1 of our recent podcast/interview.

She had attended HIDC the year before and learned a ton but also found it a bit overwhelming. This year, she knew better where to focus her attention. She was especially on the lookout for tools to make web design easier, more efficient and more conducive to collaborating with clients.

She got what she was looking for. One of the best takeaways came in Matthew Richmond’s presentation, Tools of the Trade, which had a “boatload” of links for creative design tools, wireframing/prototyping tools (protoshare.com and http://styletil.es/), responsive templating and site building (http://html5boilerplate.com/ and http://foundation.zurb.com/ and http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/)

Find the rest of the links here: http://choppingblock.com/presentations/tools-of-the-trade/#slide1 and http://choppingblock.com/presentations/tools-of-the-trade/browse/?id=1

In part 2 of our podcast/interview, she also talks about how she figured out which markets to focus on in her business and recaps more highlights, including:

- The difference between web apps and native apps
- What to include in a competitive analysis for a client
- Whether it makes sense to post pricing for your services on your web site

November 26, 2012

Monday’s Marketing Task: Research

In the latest podcast/interview with freelance writer and journalist, Bryn Mooth (of writes4food.com), we talked about the things on her marketing to do list that she outright ignores, namely reaching out to 2 new prospects per week.

It’s such a simple thing. “Why ignore it?” I asked.

Turns out it’s too vague. “I know I’m supposed to reach out to someone but who?”

We came up with the perfect solution: start the week with research as the marketing task so that when it’s time to actually reach out to someone, you already know who. You don’t have to spend the time trolling the Internet for prospects.

“Building in research time as a marketing task may feel like screwing around but that’s how you find the info you need.”

In fact, that’s exactly what the NEW “Creative Professional’s 2013 Marketing Plan + eCalendar” has scheduled for Mondays. And it gives you one task – and one task only – to do every day, so it doesn’t overwhelm you or your calendar!

We’ve done all the thinking for you. More details about what’s in it here.

May 16, 2012

Growing A Small Business: Hire an Employee or Subcontractors?

If you need some inspiration, the new-to-freelance Jeff Tara, from Brand Vue Design, is back with his upbeat attitude. Jeff has been in business only 4 months so far. He’s been reaching out to companies he’s wanted to work with -- and his efforts have been warmly received and are evolving into actual business!

Guess what else? Jeff already has more work than he can handle, is already subcontracting, and is actually considering his first hire.

In today’s interview, we talked about how to hire employees…

I told Jeff:

It’s not an automatic given that when you need help, you hire someone full time.  Often, what makes the most sense to start is giving people subcontracted/freelance jobs to see if they’re a good fit … from there, perhaps you move to part time. If that works well, then you think about maybe bringing someone on full time … But another way many creative professionals are growing now is by putting together virtual teams based on the project. 

On the topic of when to hire employees, things are less exact. I don’t think it’s based necessarily on a certain amount of money in the bank, or a certain number of clients on the roster. As a matter of fact, I have seen people wait too long to take that next step because they weren’t sure when to take it. Sometimes you have to make the leap of faith. Surrounding yourself with a virtual team can be the least risky approach.

Listen to this 14-minute interview here.

Are you a virtual agency? How has it worked for you? 

Have you hired employees? When did you know the time was right? 

For more on this topic, don’t miss Luke Mysse’s session at the Creative Freelancer Conference, Options for Growth (June 21-22 in Boston)! And when you sign up, be sure to use “CMM12” promo code for an extra $50 off. 

May 09, 2012

Should you do a newsletter?

In our latest interview, foodie/writer, Bryn Mooth, and I talked about newsletters.

For people who aren’t in the habit of creating “content,” the idea of putting out a newsletter can seem overwhelming. But I was amazed to hear Bryn wonder if she has enough content to produce a regular newsletter—she’s a content machine!

But there’s good news… it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In our interview, I talked her down a bit…here’s a bit of a highlight:

How frequently should you send it out?

Monthly is the most frequent a newsletter should be. Bi-monthly or quarterly is fine too. Don’t over-commit yourself at first or you will never get any momentum going.

Where does the material come from?

In my opinion, your material should come from your market. It comes from out there – not in our heads. The clearer you get about who you’re talking to, the better your content will be and the more people will respond to it, which in turn will give you more ideas -- until the point where, trust me, you have way too much content…

For more about this, listen to our 16-minute interview here.

I also discussed this exact topic with Jim Blasingame of the Small Business Advocate yesterday. Listen to that here: http://www.smallbusinessadvocate.com/small-business-interviews/ilise-benun-12923

If you need help starting a newsletter, my next Basic Marketing Group starts May 14th.

April 25, 2012

Blog, Newsletter or Both?

Food, wellness and creativity journalist and copywriter, Bryn Mooth has a robust blog (which is also her web site), but as she approaches her one-year freelance anniversary, she’s wondering whether or not to start a newsletter, too. Here’s why.

“I hadn’t started a newsletter because I have a pretty robust website with a blog where I write something 3-4 days a week.  That was my focus in terms of developing content. But I’m coming to discover that the blog, which is where I share recipes and inspiration, is actually for my mom (and people like her) but not really for my clients and prospects. In fact, I’m finding that my contacts in graphic design and advertising don’t even know that I can do work for them.”

So Bryn has realized that the blog is for a different audience – people find it because they’re searching for recipes. “I don’t think it reaches out to prospects for my copywriting business.” She needs a way to demonstrate her thinking … whereas the blog demonstrates her writing.

What should she do? How can she also demonstrate her thinking—in a way that will appeal to her clients? Are you speaking to two different audiences too? 

In our 16-minute interview we discussed various options, plus many other things about how her business is growing. Listen to it here.


April 18, 2012

The secret to winning proposals: Regurgitation

In 2011, Rogue Element, a Chicago-based design firm that specializes in higher education and sustainability, won 67% of the proposals they submitted.

Why do they win so many jobs? Principal and owner, Allison Manley, says their clients tell them exactly why they are chosen and half the time, they say it’s the proposal itself that sold them. “They tell us it’s clear and concise and they could understand what we were going to provide for the budget we quoted,” says Manley.

Manley’s secret to being clear and concise? Regurgitation.

“Sometimes clients just want to make sure you understand them. Regurgitation is really helpful. If you repeat back to the client what they’ve said they want – ‘This organization wants the following things….’ they see that and think, “They get us.” Even if you’re just repeating back their own words.

Want to see exactly what Rogue Element’s clients consider “clear and concise”? Find it in the Designer’s Proposal Bundle.

Listen to our 15-minute interview here.


The Tagline Series