Are You a Delusional Dreamer or a Reasonable Realist?

Today, I want to talk about a “Reasonable Realist” who sets achievable goals versus a “Delusional Dreamer” who never reaches their goals.

reasonable realist, delusional dreamer, dreamy place

But before I get into that, how was your week? I’ve had better – my two-year-old Dell computer died on me yesterday … right in the middle of a big business plan project. But guess what? That didn’t stop me (I did fuss for about an hour :)). But after I got “out of my feelings,” I marched up to Best Buy and am typing this blog on my shiny new Toshiba laptop. Amen!

Well, enough about me and my week … let’s chat about helping you reach your ideal clients.

Now, I’m all about dreaming big – reaching for the stars and all that jazz. But, at some point, you’ve got to drop the Delusional Dreamer hat and become a Reasonable Realist about your place in this big ole’ world. I’d never tell you to stop dreaming because dreams are what make us individually great, but when you’re setting goals, you’ve got to be real with the person who matters most – YOU.

My truth …

For 15 years, I enjoyed a pretty successful career in marketing and business writing, yet I felt unfilled because it wasn’t my dream to be a life-long corporate marketing executive. Instead, I wanted to work on my own terms and help brilliant entrepreneurs just like you feel confident and in control of your businesses by finding the right words to attract the right people.

Being a dreamer pushed me to quit my job and step out on faith. Being a Reasonable Realist is how I have been able to grow both personally and professionally.

Take a look at this revenue growth for BAAB Writing and Marketing Services over the past few years:

revenue growth, delusional dreamer

Business is doing pretty well, I must say. But take a closer look at 2011. I had nearly NO revenue for BAAB Writing and Marketing Services. Then in 2012, things started climbing and in 2013, I’m rolling.

What’s the BIG lesson here?

I couldn’t reach the results of 2012 and 2013 without first starting from the bottom in 2011. And that’s why it’ so important to set realistic goals.

Bite-Size Successes

I call realistic goals “bite-size successes” because they’re small enough to achieve and big enough to be rewarding. They’re also good for keeping you motivated and focused. And the best part is: once you accomplish one, you can immediately move on to the next, and the next … until you’ve reached that “dreamy” place.
Here’s my bite-size goals for 2014:
  • Launch an online “B-Plan Writing Course” to help entrepreneurs start and COMPLETE their business plans.
  • Develop and promote a step-by-step guide on “Sales Copywriting for Small Businesses” to help entrepreneurs sell the benefits of their products/services.
  • Update my website with better offers and an informative, fun video to help small businesses learn how to put their “specialness” in writing.

Your Turn

Whether you’re looking to do something you love, trying to build a business or grow your customer base, it’s important that you back every dream with realistic business goals.Where’s your dreamy place? That one place that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the picture above. 

Think about where you are today and where you want to be.Jot down three bite-size successes for 2014 (these should tie in with the Marketing Skeleton you completed last week). Once you have your list, add in notes on when you plan to reach each goal (remember to be realistic).

Here’s what my list looks like:

  • Develop and promote a step-by-step guide on “Sales Copywriting for Small Businesses” to help entrepreneurs sell the benefits of their products/services. Publish by mid-February.
  • Launch an online “B-Plan Writing Course” to help entrepreneurs start and COMPLETE their business plans. Offer the first online course in mid-March.
  • Update my website with better offers and an introductory video. Complete all updates for 2014 by the second week of March.

Dreaming is wonderful. And identifying bite-size successes will help make your dreams come true.

P.S. If you haven’t started your Marketing Skeleton yet, hop on over and download your copy and get going. Next week, we’ll start the Marketing Blitz Series and share actionable tips on how to cut through the clutter and get your business noticed by your dream clients.

How to Pull Off Superstar Marketing on a Starving Artist Budget

Struggling to cover the cost of your small business marketing plan? We’re all rich when it comes to a few brilliant ideas and Internet marketing.

superstar marketing, small business marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing
Photo courtesy of Superstar (1999)

So you’re a small business owner. Perhaps you’re a startup with nothing in the budget for a glitzy televised ad with a celebrity spokesperson. Thankfully for those in small business marketing, there’s another option.

Internet marketing is budget friendly and produces results, but that’s not to say it’s easy. You’ll need both time and a good idea of what you’re doing. Here are some pointers.

Get Your Shine On

Everyone loves a superstar – they are the stars that shine oh so bright. How can you become an online superstar? We’re so glad you asked.

Regardless of the nature of your merchandise or services, those in need will likely begin their quest with a search engine query. And let’s be blunt: Google, for all intents and purposes, is the only game in town. That means you’ll have to play by their rules. The best way to make this titan happy is to provide valuable, relevant content. (Check out WTF is Content Marketing for some amazing tips.)

If your specialty is cupcakes, for example, write a thoughtful and entertaining blog on the subject, complete with appropriate keywords. And once the sentry that is the search engine lets you past the online gate, potential customers who share your passion for pastries will feel similarly rewarded with your musings on sugary confections.

Ideally, your content will position you as an authority in your field and be worthwhile enough a read to keep people coming back. Be sure to update your posts frequently.

Give the People What They Want

If you’ve played your cards right, at this point you should have amassed a gaggle of loyal followers. Don’t stop there – you’ve piqued the interest of folks who are virtually lining up at your door. Now make it worth their time by offering them coupons or exclusive member discounts that encourage them to close the sale.

They surely wouldn’t mind getting such a thing in return for providing their email addresses; you can then use these to send out further offers and ads to bring in repeat business.

Stay in the Mix

So you’re sharing valuable content and have built a sizable community of fans. Good job, but you’re not done yet. You’d be remiss not to take advantage of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and various others.

In keeping with our baked goods analogy, absolute cupcake junkies will very likely congregate on a Facebook group devoted to the topic. You’ll need to be seen here. And of course, the best part of the social media experience for marketers is its viral nature.

If one person with a sweet tooth “likes” your establishment, you can be sure others on the network will follow suit. Post links to your blog entries here as well, in hopes of getting shared and offer the same sort of exclusive discounts to your fans as those on your email list.

Stay Hungry

I see it all of the time – as soon as a starving artist gets that big check, he goes out and buys a steak dinner and stops “being hungry.” You’ve got to keep that same passion and continue to grind and work hard. Take advantage of the opportunity to market your small business on the Internet and stay hungry.

It’s called the “World Wide Web” for a reason – it’s a gigantic virtual planet of information unto itself. There are millions of ways to make use of it in your small business marketing endeavor. But unless you don’t mind being branded a spammer, Google pariah, or even worse, it’s best to stick to the points above.

What’s the Word: Satisfying the appetites of search engines provides you with the avenue to fulfill the needs of future customers, which in turns gets your foot in the door with their social networking peers. Keep it up, and people might wind up Googling you with the keywords “cupcake millionaire.”

What are some other low-cost ways you have been marketing your small business?

Are Business Cards Actually Hurting Your Small Business Marketing Efforts?

Even with digital media, SEO, tweeting and websites, marketing with business cards is still one of the most powerful and effective ways to spread the word about your products and services, especially for small business owners.

It’s funny how business works. Small business owners are typically highly scrutinized and need to have all their ducks in a row to make a good impression. On the other hand, large companies can goof up – like Chipotle staging a fake social media hack – and it’s all good. I can’t change the world, but I can help you survive it … one helluva business card at a time.

Business cards are marketing 101 for most small business owners. Some choose DIY, while others spring for pricey printers … but we all know we need them. So the question becomes, “are you putting the right stuff on your business card to effectively market your small business?”

You see we don’t expect business cards to sell for us, but they should at least say SOMETHING GOOD when we’re not around. What does your card say about you?

  • Paper-thin cards created with card stock from Office Max say that while you recognize the need for business cards, you don’t or can’t want to invest the time and money to make them stand out.
  • One-sided business cards say you have the basics covered, but didn’t take time to take full advantage of this marketing tool.
  • Alas, high-quality business cards (sturdy, color and well designed) say that you know and care about your company’s brand.

Even as a marketing professional, I’ve committed all three crimes.

business cards for small business
Business card design by

So, yes I stand up. I am a marketer and my business cards used to suck.

But I’m much wiser now and am happy to pass on my 5 tips for business card success.

1. Add your photo/memorable product image.

How many times have you gone to a networking event, come home with a card and totally forgot what the person looked like or what they were even offering? I do it often. So I thought, if I’m forgetting faces, other people are too.

Fix: Slap your face right on the card so that when they look at it, they’ll remember you. This is especially helpful if you travel in close knit groups where you’re likely to see the contact again. Don’t want to have your face plastered on cards, opt for a memorable product image. A picture of a fresh hairdo works for a hairstylist. How about a photo of a baker’s most tantalizing treat?

2. Tell what you do.

So you’d think with a name, “BAAB Writing and Marketing Services,” no one would ever ask what I do. But they do … and often. So to fix that, I clearly spell out my core services and added a short tagline. I also dropped the president title. While it sounds good, it really holds no meaning in a room full of entrepreneurs … who also call themselves “president.”

3. Use the back of the card.

I was so embarrassed when I’d share my business card and people would flip it over and see that it was blank. What a waste! But you live and learn. Now the back of my card promotes my free marketing tips. Next phase: we’ll add a client testimonial back there.

4. Don’t get too creative.

Creativity is great when it comes to business cards because you want to stand out. But you don’t want to be so creative that you card ends up in a filing cabinet because it’s too big to fit in a wallet or business card holder. Steer clear of oversized business cards. While they sound good, the recipient really doesn’t know what to do with it, except file it away. Next phase: we are looking into multi-use business cards – maybe it’s a keychain or an in case of emergency key tag.

5. Don’t write in your contact information.

If you need to write in your new number, website address or email, buy new cards. Please stop this practice as it portrays you as cheap and a cheap business owner will not use the necessary resources and time to provide superior service. If you happen to be in between cards, get the other person’s card or email address and offer to connect via email. You can also get the person’s address and send a nice note and fabulous new business card.

What’s the Word: Business cards pack a powerful punch when marketing small businesses, but you can blow it with poorly designed cards. Just a few tweaks can have you recouping money spent on quality cards.

3 Brilliant Marketing Lessons from Jay Z

My article, “3 ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ Marketing Lessons from Jay Z,” was published Friday, July 19 in YFS Magazine (Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed), a highly popular digital magazine for startups, small business news and entrepreneurial culture.

Music mogul Shawn Carter aka Jay Z announced the release of his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, in a three-minute Samsung commercial during game 5 of the NBA Finals. The ad showed Jay Z collaborating with Hip-Hop’s most successful producers Rick Rubin, Pharell Williams, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland about how to reinvent your empire for today’s digital world, yet stay true to who you are.

Jay Z, marketing lessons, Magna Carta Holy Grail
Music mogul and business man Jay Z; Source: US Magazine

Running a prime-time TV commercial is nothing too exciting for the rich and famous. But look at the bigger marketing moves he made. Jay Z’s album wasn’t set for release until July 4th, but prior to the launch he had already sold a million copies. How?

One genius marketing move: According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung purchased 1 million copies of his album at $5 each, so he made $5 million dollars for an album that hadn’t even been released yet.

“Jay Z’s partnership with Samsung for his new album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” is another sign of how musicians are finding new ways to push, sell and promote their music, and how the multiplatinum performer — who famously rapped “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” — continues to leverage his enduring popularity into a successful brand.”

3 Marketing Lessons Learned from Jay Z

Jay Z changed the music marketing game with this one deal. While small business owners may not have millions of dollars lying around, we can all learn a little something – three smart marketing lessons to be exact – from Jay Z.

Click here to read the full article published by YFS Magazine.

What’s the Word: Small business owners don’t need to be rich and famous to cash in on innovation. You can make smart marketing moves whether you have a couple of dollars or a couple million dollars. 

LL Cool J weighed in on Jay Z’s deal with Samsung and he didn’t see it as such a “brilliant” move. Would you call Jay Z a brilliant marketing genius for this move or did he try to manipulate the music industry?

Small Business Marketing: 3 Old School Strategies that Still Work

Cleveland’s old school rap concert really got us thinking about the effectiveness of traditional small business marketing strategies.

Old school rappers LL Cool J, Ice Cube, De La Soul and Public Enemy rocked the mic in a SOLD OUT concert in Cleveland. What does a rap concert have to do with small business marketing?

old school marketing, small business marketing
Cleveland’s old school rap concert really got us thinking about the effectiveness of traditional small business marketing strategies. Well, first it shows us that “old” doesn’t mean washed up and outdated.

The Internet is buzzing with talk about social media, video blogging, content marketing and other online marketing strategies. But you don’t hear much about the old school marketing ideas that continue to help transform small businesses into global giants.

Developing and executing online marketing strategies can be time consuming, which is why many small business owners throw up their hands and say, “to hell with it.”

Don’t fret if you don’t have time to post on Facebook, share tweets and blog. Go old school!

The key is not how you market your business; it’s whether your efforts expand your client base. Let’s look at 3 simple old school small business marketing strategies we know still work.

1. Join your local chamber of commerce
Participating in your local chamber of commerce can give your small business a big publicity boost and connect you with other professionals, some of whom will undoubtedly need your products and services.

What are some cons of joining chambers? Many small business owners squawk at the idea of membership fees (typically a few hundred bucks a year). We say compare the cost of business promotions and advertising on your own to determine if the price is worth the benefit.

2. Reach out to your local urban league
Urban leagues are full of gems for small business owners. Not only can you get free education on how to run a business, write a business plan and much more, but by attending the classes, you’ll connect with other business owners.

We work with the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and have provided services for countless small business owners. So we know firsthand that this strategy works.

3. Call old employers
Have a service or product that your previous employers could use? Call them and share information about your business and how you could offer assistance. Yes, picking up the phone and talking to prospects still works.

If your product or service is truly valuable to your old employer, these should be easy sales because they already know your character and work ethic (hopefully you were an amazing employee).

What’s the Word: Old school small business marketing strategies is where it all started. I used to sing a song with the Girls Scouts, “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” The same goes with old versus new marketing strategies. The best way to promote your brand is through a combination of old and new marketing ideas that strike the right chord with your target audience.