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Roberta Guise advises small business owners and professionals who want to build a profitable stable of customers, save money on ineffective promotions, and through precision marketing, branding, or placements in the media be visible and get known.

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Saturday
Jul102010

Be fresh and crisp. Your reputation is at stake.

I went shopping today for mixed spring greens at a tiny local natural food store. I go there when I want a nice big fresh salad.

The object of my culinary desires was mixed spring greens. The greens are usually so crisp at this store you can virtually hear them brushing up against one another as you scoop them into the bag. But today they were tired and wilted, while some of them had turned black and soggy. I asked a worker whether there were fresh greens in storage.

I’ve asked for fresh salad greens at a big supermarket. There, the produce person willingly brought out a box overflowing with crisp leaves, promptly replacing the existing box with the new one.

At the little store the worker brought out a bag with fresh greens, held it open for me to take what I wanted, then silently took the open bag back into storage, leaving the wilted, soggy salad greens in place.

We’re all susceptible to harboring soggy, wilted areas in our businesses. And that could be costing us sales and repeat business.

Perhaps you have a service firm and pride yourself on results. But you find it hard to respond in a timely manner to client emails or phone calls. I can assure you that if this describes you, your clients are not happy that you keep them waiting for a response. The results of a customer survey I conducted for a client shocked her when I showed her they were crazy for her work, but found her hard to work with because they felt she was never available.

Sometimes the soggy area is more like a bog. My architect husband and I recently interviewed a contractor for a major remodel to our house. We’ve both known this contractor professionally for years – my husband has recommended him for many jobs. He promised an estimate “in two weeks.” Three months later, and he still hasn’t sent us the estimate.

It’s been said that people will tell at least 10 others when they’re unhappy with a business. We’ll never be able to recommend this contractor again, and when our remodeling colleagues ask about him we’ll be obliged to tell them why.

As for the little store that got its salad greens wrong: I’m willing to give them another chance. If they fail me again, they stand to lose thousands of dollars they would have got from me over time, because I’ll be food shopping somewhere else.

What can you do to ensure your services or products stay “fresh” and “crisp?”

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Tuesday
Mar022010

Give your lizard marketing brain a boost

While waiting for a colleague to join me for lunch the other day at a nice Italian restaurant, I chatted with the proprietor about how his business had fared during the recession.

“Imagine that your salary was cut in half,” he lamented. “We used to have lines out the door at lunch time. Now we have empty tables. Business is bad.”

This being the San Francisco Bay Area, hotbed of technology and home to arguably the top three social media sites for small business owners (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter), I asked him what any self-respecting marketer would ask a restaurateur whose business is down 50%: “Have you considered tweeting about your daily lunch specials to people who work and live nearby?”

His response nearly blasted the glass out of the windows, while a few heads turned to see what the commotion was about.

“I hate all that technology stuff,” he barked at me. “We change our menu every day. If people want to know what’s on it, they can go to our Website.”

Before you rush to judgment that this restaurant owner needs to see a shrink (he’s most likely letting fears about technology rule how not to be more visible to a crowd that would welcome hearing from him) — consider that there’s a little bit of him in most of us, even though we hate to admit it.

Overnight, it seems, our marketing efforts revolve around technology. The fundamentals haven’t changed – we need to demonstrate our value and how we make people’s lives better as much if not more than before.

But whereas in the past we talked to people on the phone, sent flyers and brochures in the mail, wrote personal letters on letterhead (which we signed with blue ink), got mentioned in the newspapers and gave presentations to groups hungry for our message, today we can do all this without getting out of our chairs. We’re in control: we can push our message out through podcasts, blogs, vlogs, video, tweets, discussion groups, online networks, Website, ezines, teleseminars, Webinars – the list is endless, mindboggling and growing.

To prevent your brain from spinning out of control from the sheer weight of possibilities, I suggest breaking it all down into just two marketing categories: those activities that’ll bring you visibility over the long term, and activities designed to bring in business fast. One activity from each category is all you need to get seriously in the game.

Using this simple rule, the restaurant owner could start with an ezine for long-term visibility, and send out daily mid-morning tweets to bring the crowds lining up for his sumptuous lunch dishes.

What will your two activities be?

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Friday
Feb052010

Being visible is for the birds – literally

Birds get plenty of attention once a year around Christmas, when up to sixty thousand of their biggest fans spread out across the country to count as many birds as they can, note the species they’ve seen, and record where they were found.

These data are fed into a national database where scientists track species status, status being a marker that indicates bird population health and health of the environment.

Recently, I advised my client Golden Gate Audubon on getting the word out about their Christmas Bird Count. The not-so-obvious question was the objective of the press release – what did they want to get out of media placements?

It may seem obvious, but my client had to think about it: did they want to get people to sign up for the bird count, or were they looking for the media to report on the event after the fact in order to give the organization more visibility? Each outcome would require a slightly different approach to writing and structuring the release.

My client decided that they wanted after-the-fact “stories,” because they had reached the maximum number of registered bird counters even before the press release was written.

They were delighted with the results: The local CBS TV station aired a segment the evening after the count; the San Francisco Chronicle, The Examiner and KGO-TV’s Website ran stories featuring the bird count the day after.

Thinking about the goal or objective of your press release is a disciplined approach to getting publicity. If you think carefully about what you want media placements to achieve for your business before writing your release, your publicity efforts will be much more targeted and effective.

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Friday
Jan222010

Give ‘em a piece of your mind and be extremely visible with public speaking in 2010

While chatting with a consultant recently about her 2010 marketing plans, I suggested that she get aggressive about public speaking. “Oh, no, I don’t want to do that,” she said emphatically.

Not wanting to put yourself in front of audiences who would benefit from what you have to say as an expert in your field, where you’d strengthen your brand and grow your credibility, is like pulling a leg out from under the metaphorical stool of small business marketing.

I’ve always advised clients and colleagues that to get really well known you need to be extremely visible. The three best ways to be visible, where your prospects can experience how you think and follow your advice, are to write, speak, and network.

While writing and networking opportunities have exploded because of such social media as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, public speaking is still (mostly) a land-based, physical activity that you have to show up for, and thank goodness for that!

Speaking lets people experience you in a way that no other marketing activity allows for.

You can use theatrical techniques such as dramatization and slapstick to convey tricky concepts. Stories you tell about situations specific to your expertise come alive and burst with personality when you enact them for an audience.

With practice and careful preparation, you can move audiences to laughter or even to tears, all the while imparting ideas that help make people better off because they learned from your spoken words.

So my advice to you is to make 2010 the year that you add public speaking into your small business marketing toolkit. If you’re already speaking, look at what you can do to improve.

Join speaking organizations like Toastmasters, and take advantage of their exceptional educational opportunities. Or visit your local chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA) to see good speakers in action.

And aim to speak as frequently as possible, because the speaking “muscle,” like your body’s other muscles, needs to be exercised regularly to get and to stay strong.

(This post was inspired by the “Public Speaking and the New Year” blog carnival hosted by Angela DeFinis.)

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Thursday
Jan072010

Name that year!

So we’re a few days into the New Year and there’s no consensus on how to say what year we’re in.

Are you saying “twenty ten”? Or are you calling it “two thousand ten”?

Back in my English elementary school days, we had to learn important dates by heart. My class could recite in unison that William the Conqueror reigned from ten-eighty six to ten-eighty seven, and that his son William II (or William Rufus for his red hair), ruled from ten-eighty seven to eleven hundred.

We didn’t say “one thousand eighty six,” nor did we say “one thousand one hundred.”

During the last century (weren’t we just there?), we called the years “nineteen eighty nine,” and “nineteen ninety seven,” not “one thousand nine hundred and eighty nine,” and “one thousand nine hundred and ninety seven.”

But we called the last ten years “two thousand one, two thousand two,” etc. Did we collectively blow it and make a ten-year grammatical boo-boo?

Jeff Rubin, founder of National Punctuation Day, says there are no rules on how to say it. “No one has the authority, so pick a style and stick to it,” he says. He continues, “Two thousand ten sounds like a classier way to say it – it’s a bigger number. I can picture an aristocrat in New York, on Park Avenue or in her suite at the Waldorf Astoria, looking down at you through her bifocals, telling you ‘two thousand ten!’ Twenty ten is easier to say, but two thousand ten sounds nicer.”

Defying Rubin’s dictum that no one has the authority to tell us how to say it, a self-appointed expert has let loose his opinion on the question.

What do you think we should call it? Cast your vote in the Make a Comment area below.

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com