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Bennis Inc.

In Business, Detail Is Everything

There are many qualities that set apart the professional and successful entrepreneur from the rest, but one which stands out in particular is keen attention to detail. You need to know exactly what is happening in the micro if you are to control the macro, and that is one of the earliest lessons that anyone has to learn in business of any kind.

If you feel you have a good eye for detail, you probably find that this influences the way you run your business greatly, and to your benefit. If not, you might need a little help. Let’s take a look a the most important details you should be paying attention to if you want your business to succeed. In doing so, you will find that you can run your business more efficiently and intelligently.

Financial

First, we must focus on the financial implications of paying attention to detail. One of the most important areas of business operations has to be your money. When this area is dysfunctional or failing – everything is. You need to ensure you are paying close attention to every income or expense that comes in or goes out. Invest in professional accounting software, or outsource this tasks to a professional accountant. Whether you choose to personally handle your businesses finances, or allow someone else to, you have to stay involved. This means reviewing and analyzing financial reports on a consistent basis. When you have a tight grip on your business’s finances you’ll find that most other areas of your business function better as a result.

Operational

There are so many aspects of the operations within any business that it is practically impossible to be able to keep track of them all, and have time to focus on anything else! Yet, as a business owner and manager you need to find a way to do so –  and this often means dividing and conquering tasks. Some of your operations might be as small as checking and replacing the casters on the trolleys in the warehouse or ordering more office supplies, or tasks could be as big as tracking how many products you are manufacturing this month. Big or small, every task requires attention and it’s smart to divide this up among you employees. Leveraging the skills of your team allows you to “do it all” without really having to do it all yourself. 

 

Personal

Your employees will always be a hugely important part of your business and you need to make sure that you are not overlooking them among all the other tasks you’re trying to balance. Keeping track of what your employees are doing means that you know what your business is doing, so this is vital. What’s most important is to find a way to manage your employees that is unobtrusive and still empowers them with responsibility and creative freedom. It takes balance, but the time you invest into striking this balance and effectively managing your people is the best investment you can ever make in your business!

Are you a detail-oriented person or do you struggle in this area? What tips and tools have you used to manage all the details of running a business without it consuming all your time? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

The Square Peg & The Round Hole: Working With Creatives Effectively

When you are nurturing specific business relationships, you will inevitably encounter creative-minded people. But sometimes, the creative and the methodical sometimes clash. When you are working with “creatives,” they can open you up to a multitude of possibilities, but at the same time, you still need to nurture these relationships within a productive business framework. This can cause a lot of challenges. So, what are the best ways for you to work with someone that embodies this mindset?

Don’t Stifle Them

Especially at the very outset, creative-minded people need freedom to think outside the box, to come up with new ideas, and to implement them the way they see fit. This can be very jarring, especially when you have other methodical people in the business. But, at the very beginning, when a deadline is far off into the future, letting them have creative freedom to generate ideas. Collaboration and creativity are two of the most important aspects of any company, and when you are trying to make your business congeal, and encourage a productive working mindset, creativity is part and parcel of this. So, if you have one creative member of staff, take inspiration from them!

Pair Them With Appropriate Coworkers

It’s a little bit of the “good cop-bad cop” approach, but if you are concerned that they are letting their flights of fancy get carried away, you can pair them up with coworkers that have a more astute eye for detail. Putting a creative within a more organized infrastructure can help them to thrive. This could be working with your digital marketing partner where they can contribute an idea a minute to ensure the marketing campaign is new and vibrant. Or maybe you place them with your business development team where they can pair their creative “yin” with the methodical “yang.”

Remind Them Of The Bigger Picture

Creatives, in general, can view themselves as individuals, or exempt from certain aspects. There’s enough research to show that narcissists are more creative, but you can’t let this overrun your business. Having constant reminders of the common goal, and the bigger picture is one way to keep people on track, but you also need to learn how to micromanage these people so they give you the results you need. With this approach, you make them feel like they are in control, but you are gently guiding them in the right direction.

When working with creatives, there can be a lot to take on board, not just in terms of the individual’s personality, but also how they work with others. At the end of the day, having a creative on board, especially when the rest of the team are more methodical or focused on details, means a more balanced team. When you are setting up any business structure, having the right amount of creative-minded people, as well as those who are methodical, ensures a thoroughly well-balanced business.

Is Expansion On The Cards For Your Developing Business?

Starting your business can be the most exciting adventure of your life – the anticipation of what is to come, the ideas you have flowing in your mind, and your commitment to make it happen. However, once you get on a good rhythm and your business is doing well, you will be faced with the question of what is next. Often, small businesses in this situation begin to explore the possibility of expansion, but deciding on where to go and mapping out how to get there can be the biggest obstacle you will ever have to overcome. If you find yourself either currently in this position, or anticipate being there someday, take a look at the key things you should focus on to break through this roadblock.

How do you want to expand?

One of the first things you should consider is how you want to expand. Believe it or not, expanding your business can take many forms, and there are pros and cons to each. You could start with adding to the products and services you provide. Perhaps there are complementary services clients often ask you about but you don’t currently provide. Strategically hire someone who can fill this void or gain the experience to do it yourself.

Alternately, you can look at expanding into different niches where you can establish expertise and open up a whole new stream of potential clients. Or maybe expansion simply means taking the first step of moving from working at home to moving into a separate commercial space. Having a dedicated place where customers can meet you, and you can potentially add employees will making future expansion easier. First coming up with a plan for the way you want to expand will help you make the right  choices to move forward.

Do you have the funds to fulfill your plans?

The next thing to think about is whether or not you have the right amount of funds to make your expansion possible right now. You could use funds and profits from the business and reinvest them. Or perhaps look at https://smallbusinessloans.co/ to help you make a large capital investment in your business faster. It might even be the right time to look at adding an investor to help take your business to the next level. These are just a few of the many options you have to increase your business’s funds for growth.

Taking that leap of faith and having the confidence

Sometimes expansion means that you need to take a leap of faith to make it happen and this can often be the biggest struggle, believe it or not. As a business owner, you take on major risks just about every day and it may have taken all of your courage just to start up in the first place. But you need some of that confidence to also help you move your business forward, otherwise you run the risk of staying in the slow lane. Websites like https://www.wisdomtimes.com/ have some great tips and advice!

What is the future goal?

Finally, what is the ultimate goal you have for your business? Do you know where you want to be in twelve months? Five years?  Ten years? Knowing your specific vision for how you want your business to function will help you take the right steps to expand your business in a direction that is pointed toward meeting your goals.

Are you a small business owner who hopes to expand your business either now or someday in the future? Have you started planning for your expansion? Share some of your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment below!

Why Successful Business Owners need a Background in Marketing

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


 

Why Successful Business Owners need a Background in Marketing

Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing

Being successful in the business world means so much more than simply having a great idea. Though you will not get far if you don’t have a unique or innovative idea, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a business.

Knowing how to market your business is extremely important and can seriously affect how others view your business and the products or services that you provide. Having basic experience or knowledge in the field of marketing before you start your business is a huge asset. This doesn’t need to be a formal degree. It can be a general understanding of marketing fundamentals and an appreciation for the important role they play in growing a successful business.

Business owners who have a background in marketing and who can think like a marketing professional, when needed will have a significant competitive advantage for the following reasons.

Goal Driven – A strong marketing sense will tell you that one of the first things you need to do when starting a business is to have a clear path for where you want to go and have goals that will get you there. If you do this, you will be able to have better control over your business and where you want it to go, rather than going in blind, and not having a plan. Your goals should encompass everything from business development and marketing to human resources and infrastructure.

Vision for the Future – With a marketing mindset, you will be able to create a business that has a vision for the future. There are various ways to ensure the success of your business, but at minimum you must have a long-term marketing strategy in place that will dictate the products and services you provide to your customers, how they’re priced and how they’re promoted.

Knowing the Target Market – Every successful business owner knows how to identify their target market so that they can sell their goods and services to the right people. Identifying your target market will help you when it comes to promoting your business because you will have a highly focused marketing and advertising strategy that will effectively and efficient use your resources.

Depending on what you are selling and who you’re trying to reach, you will market your business in very different ways. For example, if you are running a clothing store that caters to a young, female audience, your social media presence will be highly important. Compare this to a retirement community who needs to reach an older demographic that’s not likely active on social media, and your marketing strategy drastically changes.

Understanding the Competition – Having a clear idea of who your competitors are and how they market their businesses can help you figure out the best way to market your own business. If the strategies that they are using are successful, then you may want to emulate some of their ideas.

However, it’s also important to separate yourself from our competition, making sure you stand out and that your business is memorable. For example, retail giants Kmart and Target are very similar and even sell some of the same products, but the way that they market themselves separates them from each other, and in turn, they attract different clientele. If you can execute a marketing strategy that is different from your competitors’, then you may be able to tap into a part of the market that they don’t normally reach and in turn, increase your overall sales.

Brand Power– Knowing your brand is extremely important when it comes to marketing your business. It has a profound impact on how you connect with your target audience and how they perceive the value and quality of your business.

For example, the WholeFoods brand attracts a very different clientele than people who choose to purchase their groceries at Wal-Mart. Both brands are successful and have become household names, however the fact is they have strategically chosen to establish different brands and as a result appeal to different target markets. Think carefully about how you want people to feel about your business and the goods or services you provide. You must carefully craft a consistent brand to reflect this.

How would you rate you marketing knowledge ad know-how? If you could benefit from stronger marketing skills, consider Upskilled – a company that helps you to study at any level in any field to get the qualifications and skills you need to further yourself in your career. You’re given support from people who have industry experience and knowledge, and you can study from the comfort of your own home.

Upskilled has everything on offer from short courses to Bachelor’s degrees that are suitable for all skill-sets. Upskilled offers a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), that is a valuable enhancement for someone who is looking to learn about business and marketing and how they go hand in hand in today’s economy. Upskilled also offers plenty of other short courses with a business or marketing focus, so no matter where you are in your career, you can expand your knowledge.

Join in the conversation! Do you agree that having a background in marketing in beneficial for business owners? What other qualities create successful business owners? Leave a comment below!

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

The Gatekeepers To Your Business Growth

Do you want your small business to stay small? It’s absolutely fine if the answer to that question is yes. Smaller businesses do have their advantages, even in the ultra competitive and technologically driven 21st century. A smaller business is more agile than its unwieldy larger competitors. It can offer its owner greater work life balance and allow them to spend more time focusing on honing the skills they’ve spent a lifetime building and doing what they love most. But if you have growth on your mind and the fire of ambition in your heart, it’s still important to scale your growth strategically so that it doesn’t trip over it’s own feet.

Scaling your business is a lot like playing a video game. As your progress from level to level, you face new challenges as well as some old ones just in greater magnitude. You must upgrade your tools even as your skills naturally evolve. So long as you can keep your head and manage the learning curve, success can be yours. But to master your business growth you’ll need to overcome these gatekeepers first. Think of them as your end-level bosses.

Your competitors

Your competitors are like the generic enemies one faces in a video game. They’re a persistent threat that’s constantly learning and becoming more ferocious in their attacks on your business; poaching your customers, stealing your ideas and striving to over-leap you on those all important search engine rankings. In order to stay one step ahead of them you’ll need to do some learning of your own. Embrace competitor analysis tools whatever the size and scope of your business from Wordtree Amazon Keyword Tool for Amazon marketplace sellers to any of these solutions. Ongoing competitor analysis will enable you to stay one step ahead of the competition by finding out what advantages they may have over you and finding creative ways to close the gap between you.   

Your customers

In order to facilitate lasting growth, you need to perform a tricky balancing act with customers. You need to take steps to retain existing customers and reward their loyalty while also doing everything you can to solicit business from new customers. An elegant way to kill two birds with one stone is by implementing a rewards system similar to Uber’s which rewards customers with free rides if they refer their friends, family or colleagues to the service.  

Your employees

Your employees’ hard work, ideas and outstanding customer service skills can be the factor that takes your business to new heights. But if they aren’t well remunerated for their efforts, given regular training or opportunities for professional growth, the skills and professionalism they bring to the table can atrophy, causing serious bottlenecking for your business’ growth. Nurture them, however, and they won’t let you down.

Yourself

Finally, perhaps the biggest obstacle you’ll need to overcome is yourself. You’ll need to push past complacency, fatigue, creative blocks and distraction on a daily basis. Bringing your A game to work every day is among the biggest challenges that you’ll face as an entrepreneur, but it’s one that will never stop rewarding you when you can overcome it!

Are you strategic about growing your business? Share some of your own ideas and obstacles by leaving a comment below!

Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


this is the signWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap.

Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to assess whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the effect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it.

This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Last month was the seventh anniversary of a pivotal moment in my career. However, July 15 came and went without celebration or even reflection – but for good reason. July 15, 2011 is the day I officially became the fulltime owner of my firm, Bennis Public Relations. This was the day I took a major leap, without so much as looking back, and have since forged ahead with a drive and dedication unlike anything I had applied to my life leading up to this moment.

Now seven years as my own boss, I realized there are still a lot of people in my life, new acquaintances as well as close connections, that don’t know much about what I do or how I’ve grown to this point. For so long I’ve fully embraced the mindset I learned in college which was “There’s no ego in Public Relations. If you want a byline study journalism.” And while I still believe that to be true, I do think it’s important to stop and reflect on some of the joys this journey has brought me.

Ironically, over the last seven “birthdays” my business has had, it’s been me who has really received the gifts. In sharing what they are, I hope I can inspire a few others to take the path less traveled and to also understand what it means to be a true business owner.

Gift 1: I answer to me.

My schedule is my own. It’s on me to manage my time to get everything done on my task list in a given day. I’m responsible for organizing the matrix that is my Google calendar and making sure nothing slips through the cracks – or it’s on me.

While I thoroughly enjoy having no set work hours, no restrictions on where I have to be at any particular time, and not having to report to a set office with higher-ups to answer to, this also comes with certain tradeoffs. I have to balance project delivery for all current clients with finding time for new business development to keep things growing. I have to determine how I want to price and package my services so that they are competitive but also profitable. It requires a beautiful dance to make it all work – and I’m fortunate that after seven years, it’s a dance I’ve learned to do well.

Best of all, and what really defines being a true entrepreneur and business owner, is having complete control over the services I offer, how they’re priced and packaged and the direction I want to take my business. There is no corporate office that determines this for me – no one pushing out new services or products and telling me what to sell, no one changing prices without me having a say, and no one messing with my profit margins – except me.

Gift 2: I can pivot and grow how and when I desire.

Throughout the last seven years, I’ve extensively grown the scope of services I can offer clients. I’m not limited to one niche, or even one industry really! I can help businesses with anything that falls under the broad umbrella of “external communications,” which is fancy speak for “How we communicate with our audiences.”

Additionally, I’ve identified the services that best answer specific problems within a business and can make educated recommendations to clients based upon what they need, and help them eliminate what they do not. I’m not limited to selling a specific set of services to a niche demographic. If I want to branch into something entirely new, I can – and I have.

Gift 3: I’ve learned – and conquered – the real headaches of business ownership.

I commend anyone who takes an entrepreneurial leap and lands in the role of blazing their own trail. However, I want to be clear there there’s a significant difference between building your own business from the ground up and being a part of a franchise or MLM. At age 23 I used what little savings I had to incorporate my business and structure myself for future success – and protection from over-taxation! I spent hours educating myself on the type of business insurances I need to buy and the potential repercussion of copyright laws and other similar issues that could at any point impact my business – even if by an innocent misstep. I had to put policies and procedures in place to protect myself from people walking off with my intellectual property, making late payments – or no payments at all, and breaking contracts without cause.

I’m grateful to say that by planning for the worst, I have avoided many of the headaches and hardships other business owners often experience along their entrepreneurial journey. In a day and age where everyone wants to call themselves a business owner, CEO or #bossbabe, I wonder how many have had to navigate the real challenges of being a true entrepreneur, versus how many just stepped into the role of a sales rep for another company that really calls the shots in that relationship. There’s a difference, and one I’ll admit I’m a bit sensitive toward because of how much sweat equity and risk goes into the former compared to the latter.

Gift 4: I can forge partnerships at my discretion.

Another gift my business has given to me is the ability to structure partnerships with others businesses that has allowed me to really take things to the next level – and without having to compromise my independence or give up any of my profits.

My current partnerships expand into the industries of Government Relations, Web Design, Advertising, Media and more. It’s quite a beautiful business model. My partner businesses feed me all their clients who need strategic communication services, I complete the work and charge my fees, and they bundle this into their clients’ total packages. We all get what we want out of the deal, and at really fair rates compared to what big agencies have to charge to cover the overhead of in-house staff.

Gift 5: I don’t have to solicit family or friends to “join” my business.

If you’re a true business owner, not just a sales rep for a larger corporation, your business model should not heavily rely on soliciting family and friends to purchase your services/products or join your business.

When you’re just getting started it may be appropriate or helpful to ask personal contacts to keep you in mind or help spread the word about your business, but that’s not a real business owner’s long-term method for marketing. The growth and development of my business is a lot more strategic than shooting out a bunch of social media posts about “how lucky I am to be my own boss – and it’s a huge missed opportunity if you don’t jump aboard my ship.” Rather, I become a member of networking groups, align myself with industry associations and join boards as a way to gain influence and to get my name out there.

I’m happy to mentor people who come to me for entrepreneurial advice, but I never feel the need to force someone on this journey with me. And because I don’t get a “kickback” for someone starting their own business, my encouragement to a fellow entrepreneur comes with no personal agenda.

Gift 6: I’ve enjoyed 7 years of passive growth.

More to the point of not liking having to hard sell my services, I’m grateful to have not spent a dime on direct marketing or advertising. I simply treat clients well, deliver quality service and most importantly am responsive. Consistency is the best marketing tool you will ever have!

All of my clients have come from word of mouth recommendations and referrals. What I’ve found is this produces highly vetted, highly motivated clients who are ready to get started. This also produces loyal clients. I’m proud to say that my very first client still has me on a monthly retainer.

Passive growth has by no means made me complacent. It’s made me smart. I know that I gain the highest quality leads when I invest in relationships, so that’s where I focus my efforts.

Gift 7: There is no one else that can provide exactly what I do.

Forging friendships with other businesses that could be seen as my “competition” has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These relationships have turned into some of my most lucrative partnerships and source of residual leads. Why would “competition” send me business, you might ask? Because when I put the time into getting to know some of these fellow communication professionals, I quickly learned that we serve very different markets and possess very different strengths.

Furthermore, there’s more than enough business to go around! So much so that I’m grateful to know some other people who can fill in the gaps in a pinch when I have a client who needs something that I don’t have the bandwidth to take on. In my experience, this goodwill has always come back full circle.

And one to grow on…

There’s a quote I stumbled upon early in my entrepreneurial journey, attributed to Frank Ocean that says, “Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.” This puts into words how I’ve always felt about promoting my professional accomplishments. I don’t need to bang my own gong. In fact, I’ve found that many of those who do – such as what likely inundates your newsfeed on social media – are those who are trying to compensate for insecurities about the true success of their business – or whose business model demands it out of necessity.

To that end, I’ve also discovered many people, even those closest to me, don’t fully grasp how far I’ve driven my business in seven years, because I work hard in silence. So to my first baby, the one that made me an entrepreneur, I wanted to give you a little moment to shine and say thank you for the highs and the lows, the risk and reward, and the challenges that turned in triumph. I’m grateful for this journey and to have the experience to truly own my own business!

6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

If you work in the field of public relations, advertising, even marketing, it’s inevitable that you will need to interact (i.e. get along) with the media to some degree. In fact, it’s absolutely to your advantage to forge real relationships – you know, the kind where you know a little bit about each other and try to help each other out, rather than just use one another.

But this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are just beginning your career. The most critical thing you should remember is that members of the media are people, too. They’re not out to “get you” and hearing “no thanks” surely won’t kill you. So why not play nice and get something of mutual value out of it? Here are my six top tips for growing a meaningful relationship with media contacts.

  1. Become a (genuine) fan.

I’m not referring to Twitter (though following media contacts on social media isn’t the worst place to start). Rather, I’m talking about learning what beats each reporter regularly covers. Read their work, make note of topics that could relate to one or more of your clients, and most importantly give credit where credit is due. Recently a reporter used a press release I sent him to heavily and favorably cover one of my client’s issues. He included quotes I provided in the release, and he also sought out quotes from local individuals to fully flesh out the article. I truly appreciated his thoroughness. So I wrote him an email. I thanked him for using pieces of our press release and applauded him for seeking out additional quotes beyond a single source. He was flattered. As a result of this small step toward building a relationship, I feel like I can now reach out to him directly to pitch my next story.

  1. Take advantage of networking opportunities.

If you’re on the lookout for them, you will find that there are some very valuable networking opportunities to be had with members of the media. As a member of the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society (PPRS), I attended a recent meeting that was a “speed dating” mixer with just about every local media outlet represented. I was sure not to miss this event! As a result, I got great advice, lots of business cards and a handful of valuable invitations to “Pitch me anything you can think of!” I’ve already taken advantage of this for some of my clients. I can’t stress enough that meaningful media relationships, especially ones you can make face-to-face, will make your job easier, save you from the unknown and make you look like a rock star to your clients.

  1. Don’t hide your motives.

When you introduce yourself to a member of the media as a public relations professional, it’s pretty hard to hide your motives. After all, we are paid for our earned media placement and the gatekeepers to this are members of the media. Rather than being coy, I have found that being direct, honest and humble goes a lot further. I try to find a way to make light of the conversation, but also cut right to the chase. The media is hungry for quality content, and we have incentive to provide exactly that! Don’t hide your motives. Let the media know what you want, and they can then tell you what they need.

  1. Provide quality, ready-to-publish content.

Being friendly and professional with the media will help you make initial contact and get their attention, but what you do once they’re listening is the most important part of forming a lasting relationship. You must deliver quality, ready-to-publish content – or at least accurate and useful news tips that they can turn into their own story. If you prove to be anything but a reliable source, don’t wonder why members of the media stop answering your phone calls and emails. Proof and fact check your content, be responsive and go the extra mile to make yourself a valuable resource.

  1. Be proactive with your pitch.

When trying to get publicity for your clients, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking on your door. It reasonably won’t. Another piece of growing media relationships is to be proactive with your pitch. Reach out to them early and often. Sell them on the value of your idea. Help connect the dots so they can see how your story relates to their readership and their reporting style.

  1. Ask how you can help.

Most important, be genuinely interested in learning how you can help a reporter out. Ask them what topics or beats they’re covering right now and what some upcoming topics might be. You may be in position to lend some expertise, or to hook them up with a contact who can. Build a relationship based on trust and reliability. The more your media contacts know they can turn to you as a “connector” to help piece a story together, the more opportunities you’ll have to plug clients into these key opportunities.

Do you have another point to add that has helped you grow your relationship with media contacts? Share your advice by leaving a comment below!

Clever Small Business Strategies That Will Keep The Profits Rolling In

While there are often many other factors by which you can judge the success of a small business, it is usually how profitable it is that is the ultimate test. With that in mind, check out these simple, yet proven strategies that can help you boost your business’s profits.

Increase Leads

One way that you can help to keep the profits rolling in is to increase the number of viable leads your business receives. The idea behind this being that people will come to you with the potential of buying a product and your sales team will convert a certain number of these to actual sales.

Of course, the primary way to do this is by investing in marketing, often via online methods. In particular, creating a website that offers a funnel system can help you not only attract more leads but also convert them too.

Such a system will, however, need to be designed into your website and this can be expensive. Luckily, it’s possible to borrow money for this purpose from lenders like the ones that are mentioned in these kabbage reviews online. Therefore allowing you to build the best possible site to increase your profits, even if you don’t have the capital immediately available.

Renegotiate Suppliers

Next, you can make your business more profitable by reducing your overhead expenses. This is something you can do by renegotiating your position with your suppliers. After all, if it costs you less to create your product or service, you will be making more on each sale.

Of course, it’s always best to approach this sort of negotiation in a reasonable way, laying out undeniable facts, such as examples of other providers that are offering resources cheaper, or by reminding them how long you have been a valued customer. All of these things can help you drive down your expenses, therefore increasing your profits.

Cut Nonessential Costs

There are other costs you can cut to increase profits, as well. In particular, look to reduce the amount you pay out for things like rent and utilities, and even the cost of office supplies, as all of these can make a difference to your bottom line.

It may even be more economical to rent things like office equipment and furniture instead of buying it outright, especially if it’s not something you’re certain you want to commit to owning for a long period of time. This also gives you ultimately flexibility to expand and contract your resources as often as needed.

Improve Your Customer Service

In this internet age, information is one of the most crucial things to your business. In fact, your success or failure may depend on whether information about your business online is positive or negative. Luckily, it’s not impossible to increase your business’s positive mentions, and reviews What it takes is a sound strategy and a commitment to seeing it through, consistently, in order to grow your business’s positive presence online.

To do this, answer all customer queries quickly, across all platforms including phone, email, website contact form and social media. Demonstrate to your customers (and anyone reading comments or reviews about your business) that you care about their satisfaction level and will take action to resolve their concerns. When you do this consistently, you will soon see your business’s positive online presence grow.

Are you a small business looking to grow your profits on a shoestring marketing budget? Tell us which one of these strategies you have found to be most effective for bringing in new business. Or what other strategies would you like to add to this list?

Leave a comment below!

The Number One Solution to All Communication Problems

The Number One Solution to All Communication Problems

At the root of all communication problems, there is essentially one thing that goes wrong that snowballs into every scenario you may have encountered. Whether you’re trying to communicate with a toddler or a CEO, someone of a different culture or someone of a different political viewpoint, effective communication hinges upon one thing.

And that is for parties to listen to and understand one another.

Throughout your life you may have heard people in authority say to you, “You don’t have to like me, but you have to respect me.” While I can see why a parent, teacher or boss might want to say this, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. As adults, there will be people we must interact with or who have authority over us that we don’t like. For any number of reasons they may irritate us or rub us the wrong way. Beyond merely showing respect to this person, we must foremost be sure we have taken every effort to listen to and understand them when they communicate with us.

It’s true. We won’t like everyone we meet in life, nor do we have to. But if you want to be an effective communicator who gets more of what you want, you must, must, must learn to listen – attentively, openly and willingly.

Not quite sold on this idea yet? Think back to the last communication problem you’ve dealt with. This may have been at home, or the office or with a friend. In hindsight, how did a lack of listening to one another play into the problem? I’m willing to guess a great deal. A lack of listening leads to a whole host of problems including misaligned expectations, unnecessary conflict, hurt feelings and frustration.

Not listening to one another the first time around usually leads to a lot more time spent trying to work through the miscommunication and repair the relationship. Simply put, investing in fully listening to one another in the very beginning of the conversation, and asking for clarity as often as needed, will save you from a lot of wasted time, headaches and strained relationships in the future.

I imagine I have your attention now. Great! But what does it really look like to be an effective listener? And how can you identify and address someone who may not be listening to you? Those are great questions that I intend to answer in the four points to follow.

  1. Treat listening like your job.

Listening is a critical skill for achieving success in every part of your life. Why then do we phone it in sometimes? I urge you to take listening seriously; treat it like you job. Challenge yourself to be able to repeat back, accurately, what the other person is saying to you. Take notes if you must. Recap what’s being said and put it into words. Which brings me to…

  1. Repeat back what you’re hearing.

In mediation, we learn to use the “I feel…” statements. This carries over into all forms of effective communication. When you’re having a critical discussion, instead of “I feel…” you should say “What I’m hearing you say is…” Then repeat back in your own words what you feel the other person is expressing. When they hear it repeated back they have the opportunity to confirm that is indeed accurate, or re-communicate a message that may have been lost in translation. Think of it like “proof-reading” each other’s thoughts before you hit “publish” and make decisions based upon this understanding.

  1. Ask to hear what they think you’re saying in their own words.

In return, you should ask the other people (or people) to express back to you, in their own words, what they feel you are saying to them. Again, you will have the opportunity to re-communicate or clarify something that might be getting misconstrued. Though the reaffirming what you’re hearing someone else say is an added step to the process, it is one that will save you an extreme about of time and frustration over your lifespan.

  1. Diffuse and table a conversation if you feel there are distractions.

While you may feel you are being an attentive and open listener in the conversation, you might pick up on some cues that this is not being returned by the other person. If you notice they seem distracted either by the environment, their thoughts or their emotions, it’s worth putting a pause on the conversation and coming back to it in a day or so when everyone can be fully present. Be sure to schedule a time and don’t let too many hours or days pass before re-addressing the conversation and putting it to bed. Most importantly, end the conversation on respectful terms and with the understanding that your intent is to re-enter the conversation when everyone has collected their thoughts (and their cool).

Do you agree that all effective communication is built on the foundation of listening and understanding one another? What other key components do you feel contribute to effective communication?

Start a conversation by leaving a comment below!