Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Calling All Baby Boomers: It’s Time to Embrace Inbound Marketing

March 5, 2013

Despite our cultural obsession with baby geniuses—college students who launch tech companies right out of their dormitories—the fact is that baby boomers are now behind a large proportion of startups, and are becoming more entrepreneurial than ever before.Baby Boomer Marketing

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the self-employment rate for adults over 54 is 16.4 percent, and research by the Kauffman Foundation suggests that entrepreneurship among this group will continue to surge. Some boomers are launching startups to bolster their retirement nest eggs. Others simply don’t want to retire yet—they are passionate about what they do and want to leverage their years of experience to grow their own enterprises.

To successfully market their ideas, baby boomer entrepreneurs will need to look beyond the traditional marketing strategies they grew up with, such as print and broadcast advertising, direct mail and telemarketing. These methods can still work to generate business, but from a consumer’s perspective, they represent unwanted interruptions, and often are not tailored to the individual’s unique needs. And from a business perspective, these strategies usually require a significant investment.

In recent years, the Internet has enabled an alternative approach, in which a business creates content to attract visitors to its website and collect information from the visitors that will allow the company to tailor its marketing to various types of people to convert visitors into customers. This approach is referred to as inbound marketing. If you’re not a marketing guru, this may be a new concept, but don’t let the jargon scare you. Inbound marketing isn’t complicated: if you have a website, then you’ve already started the journey. Here are the 3 stages of inbound marketing.

1.      Get Found

The first step of inbound marketing is attracting visitors to your site. Here are some proven ways to do it:

Search Engine Optimization SEO:   Many customers start the buying process at a search engine, so your site should be listed as prominently as possible. At a minimum, you should regularly analyze and edit your content to make sure you’re using appropriate keywords.

Blogging:  The best way to attract new visitors to your site is by publishing a blog that provides relevant and credible information. Companies that blog get 55% more leads than those that don’t.

Social Media:  When people go online, they’re interacting with friends and sharing content on social media. These sites provide a great opportunity to expand visibility of your company and drive more visitors to your site.

Content Marketing: In addition to publishing a blog, think about creating other content, such as white papers, webinars and videos that provide valuable information to attract visitors.

2.      Convert Your Visitors

As you start attracting visitors to your website, your goal obviously will be to convert them into paying customers. Here are a few ideas:

Calls to Action: When you develop new content for your site, you’ll need to create a call to action that encourages the visitors to act (e.g. “Download the Whitepaper”). Other possible calls to action could be “Request a Consultation” or “Get Product Sample.” The offer you’re making must fulfill the needs of your visitors for the call to action to work.

Landing Pages:  When website visitors click on a call to action, they should be sent to a landing page. This is where prospects submit information about themselves, which will help you determine whether they are a good sales lead or not..

Email Marketing: You will get many leads that aren’t immediately converted into customers. One effective way to nurture a longer-term relationship with these people  is through a series of emails providing content targeted to their interests.

3.      Analyze

You should measure outcomes at every stage of your marketing strategy to figure out ways to make it more efficient and determine the return on your time and investment In addition to looking at common metrics, such as number of unique visitors, page visits and click-through, you should also monitor:

Conversion Rates: The percentage of people who convert from visitors to leads or from leads to customers.

Benchmarks: Benchmarks are data used to measure your marketing performance against peers. For example, conversion rate benchmarks allow you to see how your own conversion rates compare to those of similar companies.

Content Performance: You want to see how well each type of content you produce is attracting people to your website so you can get better and better at providing content that works for you.

Jacob Seal

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Unconventional Ways to Get PR Work Experience

March 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, while going over applications for our summer internship program, I wrote a post with tips for landing an internship in PR. Shortly after it went live, I got a call from veteran journalist Jack O’Dwyer, who’s covered the PR industry for over 40 years. He said that while he enjoyed my post, the market for internships at traditional PR firms is so competitive, students and recent grads may need to think outside the box to gain real world experience. He suggested that they go door to door to local businesses and offer their services for little or no compensation. “Do anything they need including sweeping the floor and washing the windows. Do what the regular employees won’t. Bring them news of new products or what the competition is doing. Show them how to create a website if they don’t have one,” he said.

At first, the whole conversation made me very uncomfortable. He was essentially saying that people with little to no PR experience should start freelancing. It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Interns make mistakes – it’s a part of the learning process, and a traditional internship is a safe, supervised environment where this can happen (usually) without dire consequences. I couldn’t see how any good could come of letting inexperienced 20-somethings run amuck with a company’s public image.

Over the next two weeks we reviewed over 300 applicants and finally hired one. The process made me reconsider Jack’s advice from the perspective of any one of the many qualified candidates we didn’t hire. If you haven’t had much luck finding a traditional internship, you really don’t have much to lose. You don’t have a professional reputation at stake, and you most likely won’t be signing any major clients. As long as you’re careful and only offer services you’re relatively equipped to handle, it just may be what gets your career started.

Andrea Marilyn GarciaJust ask Andrea Marilyn Garcia. Before becoming an Account Executive at Jaffe Communications, she gave herself a head start, making industry connections early on. “While at school I had an art blog for a journalism class and was looking for fresh new media content,” she said. “I realized that if you have a camera, anyone will want to speak with you. I would go to events and take video and interview people. Before I knew it, I was working with PR and marketing people at institutions and events.”

Christina Dela CruzChristina Dela Cruz, now an Assistant Account Executive at a PR firm in Atlanta, got her start with a virtual internship. “I graduated from college right when the economy took a nose dive in 2009, so I found it extremely challenging to find relevant internships in my area. I decided to take up ‘virtual interning’ as a means to gain experience,” she said. “I was able to intern for a small content marketing and digital PR consultant company based out of Virginia (I am located in Atlanta) via email and Skype.”

Nick Patrikis 3Nick Patrikis, a senior at Ithaca College, took a long shot, answering an ad on Craigslist for a VP of Marketing position at a record label startup. Though he didn’t get that job, the head of the company replied and agreed to meet with him. They talked basic marketing strategy and Nicholas left the meeting with his first assignment: developing a new logo for the record label.

The takeaway? Think beyond traditional internships. There are so many small businesses that haven’t even considered PR – each one is a potential client. The owner of my favorite taco truck once offered to pay me in tacos if I’d manage his Twitter account (sadly, I had to decline because I was moving). Though traditional internships may seem like a safer way to get started, in many ways, they may not be as edifying as branching out on your own. Many firms won’t let interns take on important tasks out of fear, precisely because they do have a professional reputation to consider and client accounts on the line. Mistakes will be made, regardless where you work, but fear of failure should never deter you from taking risks.

Diana Kim

Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”

kennedy

This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

Jacob Seal

347 Days Left for Entrepreneurs’ 2013 Business Resolutions

January 18, 2013

Making New Year’s resolutions is a tradition that has increased in popularity (in the United States, at least) over the years. According to Wikipedia, about 25 percent of American adults set New Year’s resolutions during the Great Depression. That number had increased to 40 percent by the turn of the millennium.  The tradition has a very old history. The ancient Babylonians promised their gods at the beginning of each year that they would pay their debts and retuThere's still time to  make 2013 business resolutions.rn whatever they had borrowed, and, similarly, the Romans made promises to the god Janus (for whom January is named).

There’s still time to make 2013 business resolutions.

Setting goals helps most people to make changes in behavior and move ahead. This is as true in business as it is in our personal lives. I try to set New Year’s resolutions for Bridge Global Strategies every year.  My business goal for 2013 is to invest both time and budget on new sales and marketing techniques to stimulate faster growth (and my personal goal is to lose 20 pounds!).

I asked a few entrepreneurs to share their New Year’s resolutions for their companies with the readers of Bridgebuzz. Ron Dizy, president and CEO of Toronto-based green technology company Enbala, said his resolution was to “start each day thinking about the best way to have the biggest impact on the most important part of our business.” I asked him what he considered the most important part of his business (Enbala operates a Smart Grid platform that helps shift power use on the grid by controlling the industrial equipment of large electricity users, paying the users to participate – a less expensive alternative to expensive electric grid power storage.)  Ron answered, “That changes through the year, depending on what is most pressing. It might be load (client) engagement, it might be utility business development, it might be regulatory affairs, it might be a personnel issue. I guess the point of my resolution is to think about what thing or action would have the biggest impact on the business … And do that TODAY!”

Carol-Davis Grossman, managing partner of New Jersey- based events company The Charles Group , said that she and her partner, Susan Dunkelman have several resolutions for 2013: “Expand our client base by better leveraging our reputation with our existing clients; increase our company’s online presence; and focus our business development efforts on target markets we identified last year.”

Gary Palermo, managing director of Palazzo Investment Bankers, a  boutique investment bank focused on marketing, interactive, digital, information and new media companies, explained that his business resolutions involved separating business from family life. “My goal is to work even harder than the past year, while spending more time with my family. Sound impossible? Maybe … but while I continue dedicating time to business growth and clients (my other family) as a singular focus throughout my work day, when I’m with my family, I want to spend the time to actually remain focused on staying engaged with them. The idea is to not cross the time, event or moment with work-related thoughts while with my family. Work-life balance? Yes, indeed! I am aiming high this year!”

For C. Filipe Medeiros, founder and CTO of online company Ancientfaces.com,  the  most important resolution for 2013 for his company is becoming increasingly focused on identifying and solving the problems of the site’s users. “When you have a site with as much data and as many users as AncientFaces, nailing that down can be a huge challenge,” Filipe said.

Benton Morgan, co-founder and managing partner of Jet Partners, says his resolution is, “To always innovate. Never get comfortable with my normal routine. Find a way to make daily tasks more efficient. The easy way is not a option!”

Most people agree that stating a goal publicly makes it more likely that you’ll reach it. I know this is true for dieting. I believe it’s true for business goals as well. So, dear readers, please feel free to proclaim your New Year’s resolutions here. It’s not too late – we have 347 days left this year!

Lucy Siegel

Learn more about Bridge Global Strategies’ services for startups here: http://slidesha.re/XkGbit

Recent Online Finds to Share with You

July 19, 2012

First, an apology to the fans of this blog who have been pining for a fresh blog post and haven’t gotten one for three months ( or maybe nobody’s noticed?). The good news: Bridge Global Strategies has been growing and has seen a sudden surge in new clients. The bad news: we’re all working like crazy to get everything done, and we had to put the blog on the back burner for a little while.

Infographic from the Grasshopper.com blog

I thought I’d get back into the groove with a blog post on some recent online sites and groups I’ve stumbled across that you might be interested in if you’re in the world of marketing, media and/or communications.

The first is a LinkedIn group called “Find a journalist – around the world.” Its purpose is to help find journalists anyplace in the world. For example, if an American magazine is doing a story on healthcare in India, the editors can use “Find a Journalist” to look for a freelancer in India they could hire to do the story.  Journalists from around the world can offer their services to media that are looking for freelance writers or columnists. There are over 11,000 members of the group. Here’s the link to the group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Find-journalist-around-world-1814419/about.

The next one is also related to international journalism. It’s a place journalists can go to look for sources all over the world for their stories. Like “Find a Journalist,” it started as a LinkedIn group. There’s still a LinkedIn group, called “Media Diplomat,” but the activity is moved to a new website: http://www.mediadiplomat.com .  The LinkedIn group has over 7,000 members, most of whom are from the following countries: the U.S., the U.K., Canada and China.

Hubii is a site that just launched this year and provides an easy way to look at international media by location. The site provides a clickable map. If you click on London, instantly a choice of London-based media pops up and you can click on any of them to get an assortment of articles from the media outlet’s website.  Or, alternatively, if you want to get an international sample of coverage on a particular issue, you can enter a keyword into the Hubii search engine and you’ll be given headlines from around the world related to that key word. For example, I searched for LIBOR and found 269 articles from around the world about the banking manipulation of the LIBOR rate, ranging from the Barcelona New to the Belfast Telegraph to The Australian, and including a wide range of American media. You can filter the news results by type of media outlet and/or by language.  Very cool and convenient.

Collectors Quest is a site for collectors of just about everything and anything. It’s not a new site, but it’s been redesigned and relaunched, and it now provides a collectables marketplace side-by-side with information about the collectibles and an opportunity to share what you find with others via social media. The company has just announced a marketing partnership with media company A+E Networks to feature content from A+E’s popular “Pawn Wars” and “American Pickers” TV shows on the site and give viewers a chance to search for items similar to those on these shows. In the name of complete disclosure, I am not an impartial observer here – Collectors Quest is one of our clients. I mention this site because of the interesting marketing partnership as well as the attraction of the site itself.

Grasshopper, which offers a virtual phone system that allows entrepreneurs to run their businesses from their cell phones while appearing more established, has a blog with useful information for entrepreneurs. One of the recent blog posts features “8 Infographics to Boost Entrepreneurial Superpowers.”  Some of the most compelling infographics are “Best Infographic to Access the Newest Funding Sources,” “Can Crowdfunding Save the U.S. Economy?” and “Best Infographic to Choose the Right Apps.”

Lucy Siegel

Get Lucy Siegel’s book at Amazon, free download from July 19th-21st!  “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture”

Six Reasons Flexibility Helps Start-ups

March 20, 2012

Flexibility

Lord knows, start-ups have plenty of disadvantages (never enough money, limited staff to do all that needs to be done and low visibility compared to established competitors, to name just a few). However, there’s no point in looking at a half-empty cup when there is, after all, still half a cup left. Start-ups have some important advantages over Goliath competitors, many of which involve the ability to be more flexible. Small companies love to talk about flexibility as an asset they have over larger competitors but seldom explain why it’s an asset. Here are some of the advantages of flexibility:

1. It’s easy for start-ups to change direction. Making a big change can be done quickly and far more efficiently than in a large company. Think of turning around a small motor boat compared to an ocean liner.

2. As small businesses, it’s easier for start-ups to respond to employees’ needs by allowing less rigid work rules. If someone wants to work at home one or two days a week or come in a couple of hours early and leave a couple of hours early, there aren’t layers of bureaucracy and paperwork to go through to make this possible.

3. The founder of a start-up doesn’t have to live by anyone else’s rules. Start-ups begins with no rules and no well-established business structure, and can make up their own rules and business structure.

4. Let’s say you have a revolutionary idea, and if your company is successful, you’ll change your industry forever. Chances are that someone in a big company somewhere has had the same idea, but big companies can’t be as flexible about making revolutionary changes. They have a lot more to lose than you do: market share, customer trust, brand recognition, public preconceptions about what they stand for. Meanwhile, you’re starting from scratch and can create something revolutionary without worrying about what you’ll lose in the process.

5. The communications and management infrastructure at start-ups are much more informal and allow more flexibility to individual employees to make themselves heard and have an influence on the overall company. There’s nothing more empowering to employees than the knowledge that what they do really counts, and that their ideas and input will be listened to by senior people (who may be sitting in the same room they are) and can have a big influence the success of the company.

6. The definition of success is up to the entrepreneur. It is not predefined as generating shareholder profit. Founders of start-ups can set their own goals. There is flexibility that comes from not having to worry about short-term shareholder benefits. Some civic-minded start-up founders place heavy emphasis on the goal of helping their communities. Some founders are determined to stay small enough to allow themselves the satisfaction of doing hands-on work with clients.

Lucy Siegel

Seven Small Business Owners’ Resolutions for 2012

January 1, 2012

New Year’s resolutions are easily made and just as easily broken. According to a Wikipedia entry on the topic, a recent study showed that 78% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them.

Research done by psychologist and author Professor Richard Wiseman showed that those who succeed have certain characteristics in common:

  • They are specific with their goal setting, not general. For example, instead of “lose weight,” a goal people can more easily reach is to lose a pound a week by cutting out complex carbs and exercising three times a week.
  • Successful resolution makers tell others about their resolutions.

My personal resolutions are just like everyone else’s – lose weight, exercise more, save more money. I also resolve to make my resolutions more specific this year, in an attempt to be one of the 22 percent who succeed in meeting their goals. But business resolutions are less predictable. I know, because I asked a wide range of other small business owners what their business resolutions are for the new year. I’ll get to mine, but first I’ll share some from other small business owners’:

1. Eric Brody, President, Trajectory (a branding and marketing company in Morristown,N.J., working across health, wellbeing and beauty):

Eric’s resolution is to more strongly focus. “To focus our passion, people, products, process, procedures to better deliver results in the industry verticals in which we provide the most experience and expertise to our clients.”

2. Elayne Kling, owner, ZP Auto (auto repair shop) and ZP Vintage Stuff (vintage fashion & home accessories ), Williamsburg, Brooklyn , N.Y.:  

Elayne comments that, after a move to a new location in 2011, she resolves to improve her company’s online presence. “I’ve also expanded to include a completely different business, so I’ll be working hard on tying the two together online with social media, blogging and coupon promotions.”

 3. William A. Regen, Partner, Regen, Benz & McKenzie, CPA’s P.C. (an accounting firm in New York City):

Bill says he will focus on communication with clients: “I always find that the most important part of my business is communicating with clients, making sure they I respond to them timely and effectively.”

4. Douglas Simon, President & CEO, D S Simon Productions (a video production company headquartered in New York City, with offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago):

“My resolution is to travel more in support of my regional offices,” Doug says. “I recognize the challenge of running a separate office in a different location and that it is easy to become separated from the headquarters operation. By traveling more, it will dramatically increase growth opportunities for the company and for those I employ in those key positions. Building the strength of our DC, LA and Chicago offices are a major goal of the company. Increasing my travel will help us be successful.”

5. Lee Weinstein, President, Weinstein PR (a Portland, Oregon-based boutique PR agency):

“My resolution is to give our business a hard scrub,” Lee says. “I’ll be looking at what we need to stop and start doing, what our weaknesses are, and how we can take our work up to the next level. I particularly want to examine where I spent my time as CEO in 2011, and how I need to work differently going forward to be of maximum value to the business and our associates.”

 6. Andrea Westmeyer, President, RMi (RMi provides marketing measurement and optimization services for the pharmaceutical industry. The firm is headquartered in Des Moines, and also has offices in New York City and Los Angeles.)

“One of my resolutions: think creatively about where competition may be lurking,” Andrea says, “and then ask myself if they are a potential partner rather than foe.”

 7. My own business resolution for Bridge Global Strategies is to keep my vision for the company in front of me at all times, and be more vigilant in assessing all of our activities to make sure our time is spent in ways that further that vision. There’s always pressure to spend time on things that may seem admirable and worthwhile, but don’t help us progress. I want to be very careful to stay on course.

Since the research shows you’re more likely to be successful with your New Year’s resolutions if you share them with others, I invite you to share them with us here. (Come on, spill your guts – it will help you take the first step!)

Lucy Siegel

Inc. 500’s Social Media Growth Bigger than Fortune 500’s

November 21, 2011

In a provocative article on Entrepreneur magazine’s blog this week, columnist Mikal Belicove, a social media specialist, reported there is now research showing that big companies are less social media conscious than small companies. Why are big companies less social media conscious? And, on the flip side of this question, what motivates smaller companies to use social media more aggressively?

The research data came from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s’ Center for Marketing Research. The Center’s study, ““The 2011 Fortune 500 and Social Media Adoption: Have America’s Largest Companies Reached a Social Media Plateau?”, was based on data from the 2011 Fortune 500 list of companies, the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private small companies, and also the largest charities and institutions of higher education.

The researchers looked for blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter followers at all of the institutions. The companies were deemed to have blogs if they had “a public-facing corporate blog from the primary corporation with posts in the past 12 months.” The research repeated similar studies done annually since 2008. The researchers concluded that the use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook has grown very little in the past year at these large companies. Moreover, the Fortune 500 companies came in last among all the groups in adopting social media every year for the past four years.

In his blog post, Belicove suggests that big companies are risk-averse because they want to protect their top market positions, and are deliberately slowing down their adoption of social media because they believe they have more to lose than to gain from encouraging consumer/customer participation.

Why are smaller companies using social media more than big ones? Neither the researchers nor Belicove answered this question. My guess: the absence of big corporate bureaucracies and legal departments gives the marketing people at small companies more flexibility. Of course, small companies also have less money for marketing than big ones. Social media costs less than advertising and many other forms of communications (although it is not free, as many seem to think – the people costs involved in social media program development and maintenance are considerable).

The results of this study are heartening for small businesses. Small companies are able to be more flexible and nimble than big ones, and those attributes may well be giving them an edge in the use of social media for public relations.

There was a comment on Belicove’s blog post that big companies may be slowing down on their use of social media because it doesn’t produce sales results. This isn’t true, however, since the use of social media to find and attract prospective clients is one of its most important business applications, in my opinion. The ability for a company to obtain data on customer preferences and to build closer relationships with customers is a huge sales advantage.

In addition, the advent of the internet and social media in particular has changed the sales process for most companies by enabling a switch from “outbound marketing” to “inbound marketing.” Hubspot, on its excellent “Inbound Internet Marketing Blog,” defines outbound marketing as pushing the marketing message out, via trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and advertising. These methods are less effective than they used to be because prospective customers are inundated with marketing messages and have found ways to shut them off or screen them out.  With inbound marketing, in contrast, says Hubspot’s CEO and Founder, Brian Halligan, “you help yourself ‘get found’ by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.”

Inbound marketing provides warm leads and eliminates the need for cold calling. I don’t know about you, but anything that cuts down on cold calling is fine with me!

Being an Entrepreneur: Five Things I Love, Five I Hate

June 27, 2011

Some months back, I wrote a blog post about why I enjoy working with entrepreneurs.  I myself am a serial entrepreneur and I get a real charge about working with others who have the same mind-set. Most of the time I love having my own company. On my best days, I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for owning a small company and being my own boss.  However, there are other days when being an entrepreneur really sucks, and an executive spot in a big company sounds mighty attractive. Here are five things I love about being an entrepreneur, and five that I hate:

  • The obvious number one benefit is freedom to do what I want. If there’s a potential client I really want to work with, even if the fee level is lower than our normal fees, it’s up to me.  No big agency accounting department or CFO can tell me not to do it. By the same token, if a particular client is so difficult to work with that it makes everyone miserable, I can also decide, “Im mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (a quote from the old movie, Network, that those of you who were alive in the ’70s will remember).  I’ve made both of these decisions at times.
  • Every success is more exciting because our small team knows that WE , and we alone, made it happen.
  • I set the rules and if I want to, I can break them. 
  • I don’t have to waste time or energy on office politics.
  • I’m working for my own benefit, not for the benefit of an amorphous group of shareholders.
  • I’m no longer dealing with the big company bureaucracy that used to try my patience and sanity.

Now for the debit side of the entrepreneurship balance sheet, and some tips on how to overcome them:

  • My income can fluctuate a lot. When business is good, I can pay myself pretty well. But during hard times, cash flow difficulties and client cutbacks have a direct effect on my pocketbook. I come last on the list of payments to be made, below employees, rent, utilities and other necessities. The ways I have been able to deal with this are to plan ahead very carefully on both my own and the company’s expenses, and to be tough about getting paid on time. I also bill before a month of work starts, and not after it’s over.
  • I traded company bureaucracy for government bureaucracy (such as the IRS and the NY State Labor Department). I also have a never-ending line-up of administrative tasks that I have to handle as the owner of the company. I’ve dealt with this by outsourcing as much of it as I can afford to specialists, and asking the staff to help with some tasks.
  • One person who doesn’t contribute appropriately to the team has a huge effect on a small staff. At a larger company, sometimes incompetent people manage to last a lot longer than they should because they can hide behind co-workers. There’s no place to hide on the small staff of an entrepreneurial company. There are two ways to handle this: hire very carefully, check references and give potential employees rigorous tests to determine if they have what it takes. And, when I realize that I made a mistake, I try to correct it as quickly as possible.
  • It’s lonely at the top. This is a cliche, but cliches usually have a basis in fact. The best way I’ve found to overcome this feeling is to be in close touch with other PR industry entrepreneurs. I helped found a network of small public relations companies, PR Boutiques International. If I want advice, I go to the other company heads in the group and ask their opinions. In addition, I belong to Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, which also helps fill this need.
  • Long work hours are a fact of life for an entrepreneur. What I do to compensate is enjoy my time off and not think about work every waking moment when I’m out of the office. I also prefer to take work home and do it there rather that stay in the office until all hours. At least I can work in my pajamas and slippers.
  • It can take a long time to build credibility. Larger, older companies have spent years and lots of money to do this. For the first few years, an entrepreneurial venture has to prove that it’s just as capable as bigger companies and that it’s not going to disappear.  What got us over the credibility phase was doing lots of PR for the company and  stressing the deep experience and capabilities that most of the staff members offer.  Our message was (and is) that we offer experienced, capable professionals who actually do client work.
    Those of you who are fellow entrepreneurs can certainly add to this list. What do you love, and what do you hate?

Lucy Siegel


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