Your business is growing, you’re taking on more clients and the responsibility that goes with it – and you’re swamped.  There’s no question, you need help.

But, you’re so busy, you don’t have time to think about interviewing or training someone new.

Sound familiar?

Luckily, there are ways to build your team without spending too much time away from your business. The key is to find qualified people who work independently and already know about your industry – and what needs to be done.

Ask many of the successful entrepreneurs you know and they’ll tell you. They’ve hired outsourced independent contractors for jobs like a VA (virtual assistant), social media manager, graphic designer, web master, editor, email marketer or PR specialist.

These professionals are business owners themselves and can help you become more productive by taking tasks off your plate so you can your spend time doing what you do best – and earning the most.

About 5 years ago, I hired Lisa, who is my right and left hand. Even though she works virtually and lives in New Mexico, I trust her to always look out for me and remind me of everything I forget. And sometimes, that’s a lot!

If you’re looking for a virtual assistant to help with your business so you can concentrate on your brilliance, read these articles…

In How To Choose A Virtual Assistant, Karyn Greenstreet shares her journey in moving away from a personal assistant and hiring a Virtual Assistant who lives 2,500 miles away.  Her valuable insights and excellent tips are noteworthy.  Remember, there’s a learning curve involved.  They’re not you (that’s why you hired them) and they’re not always in your time zone!

If you aren’t sure what types of tasks a Virtual Assistant can do for you and your business, Entrepreneur Magazine provides a list of 10 Tasks To Outsource To A Virtual Assistant. I am eternally grateful to my first VA who got my daughter out of New Orleans in her freshman year during the scare after Katrina. She kept close contact and guided Lauren off campus and to the airport – with an overnight in Chicago – and calmed me too, along the way.

Before you start the search for your own virtual assistant, check out this article ‘When is a Virtual Assistant not a Virtual Assistant…?!’ by guest blogger Michelle Dale.  She explains the virtual part in virtual assistant – just so we’re all on the same page – and part of the world.

Ready to be less stressed and more productive?

I thought so. Think about a VA.

Let’s face it. We all want attention. Some more than others.

But, if you’re a small business owner or executive on the rise, you want to be sure to get attention — to boost your image, gain credibility and be noticed for the expert you really are.  Here’s how:

7 Easy Ways to Get Attention without Selling Your Soul

  1. Make your email signature count. Whether you send 10 or 200 emails a day, your email signature tells a story – of who you are and how you think of yourself. Do you include multiple forms of contact, Skype information and time zone?  Are you offering your latest free report or a chapter in your newest book? How about logos of top associations you’re affiliated with? Put together your signature and personalize it to your brand and story. Stand out!
  2. Have a favorite reporter or editor in your industry? Why not set up a Google Alert to see what top reporters are up to? Once you get the ‘heads up’, you can decide the next course of action. Send a personal note? Small gift? Or, a Congratulations email?  Better yet – “I just saw this article (add link) and wanted to let you know I think it’s so on point“ (or however you feel). You’ll make an impression!
  3. One size doesn’t fit all. When writing to reporters, make sure your pitch is unique – at least the first paragraph. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but take time to research who you’re pitching and the types of stories they write. Customize each email as best as possible so they don’t look like they’re canned. Even if reporters don’t use your story, a well thought out and targeted pitch often goes in a file to be saved, not the trash.
  4. Spread good news. Been featured in the media? Awesome! Now share the love and use your own social media platforms to tell your audience. Use the same articles or excerpts in newsletters, presentations, notes to prospects, online media kits …and the list goes on. Market yourself as an expert and be a good promoter too!
  5. Be a Guest Blogger. If you like to write, consider being a Guest Blogger for other websites where your opinion counts. Say you’re an image consultant. Your expertise can be valued on a banking or real estate website as well as your own.  And, once is contact is made there are opportunities to connect even deeper. Don’t forget as an author that you’ll need a 50 word byline and bio – and hey, what about adding a link to your free report?
  6. Keep your website up to date. It’s been said we’re 9 months ahead of our website, and some of us lightyears! If you have a word press site, it’s easier to update more often – and by ourselves – with recent awards, testimonials and photos. Make sure your ABOUT page sings your praises. Note to self, include a monthly maintenance check too for those annoying broken links.
  7. Give attention without expecting it in return. I’m amazed at my community of giving professionals, small business owners and entrepreneurs and all their friendship. Giving comes in kind words, referrals, opportunities and forwarded emails, and everything in between. Givers get noticed, and chances are – that one time gift isn’t a random act.

I hope these tips help you as you build your business and get recognized for who you are.

There are hundreds more I talk about and teach to small business owners just like you!

Have you ever signed a contract with a client and got instant anxiety? Trust your gut feeling, and if it doesn’t feel right – it usually isn’t right.

Even if you’ve signed a contract and know deep down that this business relationship won’t work (after a lot of reflection), there are right ways and wrong ways to sever the ties.

Let’s talk “You’re Fired”!

We start with the basics.

Here are two articles that describe the type of client that might make your skin crawl and you probably already know you should fire. Note to self and you, think of this like a business marriage. If you feel icky every time you see your client, that’s more than a clue.

In 7 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Fire a Client, an article from Entrepreneur.com, we see seven signs that give us the go ahead to take action. Do any of these signs resonate with you? If they do, read on and learn how to say bye bye to that client.

What about customers you want to fire?  In Inc. magazine’s article, 5 Customers You Should Fire, co-founder Steve Cody of Peppercomm gives us the low down on which client types he would fire. I’d have to agree with him all the way. See what you think…

And, believe it or not, there’s a website dedicated to “clients from hell.” In the article here there’s mention of not burning the bridges while you fire a client. The main take away?  Don’t do anything rash, in the spur of the moment, or in the throes of disgust. Planning and delivery are everything. And you never know – you could break up to make up!

If you need one more little push to fire that client that keeps you up at night, you’ll love this. Someone actually wrote the script! Three scripts in fact – so pick the one you think fits best! In 3 Painless Scripts to Free Yourself of Problem Clients you get not one or two, but three scripts.  How much easier can it get?

There you have it!
No more excuses, no more anxiety or sleepless nights.
Just. Do. It.

Fire that client and make space for a better one to come along.
It’s Universal Law.  You know that, right?

Who doesn’t like free publicity?

Free publicity is one of my favorite subjects to talk about because it’s all about PR Power on a Budget. You can get the biggest bang for your buck when you utilize all of the tricks and tools that are available to promote yourself or your business.

I could go on for days about all of your options, but for today – let’s concentrate on 3 Ways to Get Free Publicity to put you on the right path!

First up, read one of my own articles called 7 Reasons to Give a Workshop. Technically, by giving a workshop you aren’t working for free – but there are countless publicity and marketing opportunities you can take advantage of by hosting and promoting your own events. Read the full article here on how events help you get free publicity to promote your brand, raise your expert status and of course – help you get noticed!

Next, let’s look at what promotion vehicles you have in place and how you can use them to your advantage.  If you have a blog and are writing as often as you should be, you have a great way to get free publicity for your own business. Write about your new product launch, where you’re speaking next or your own charity involvement.  Get permission to link to other businesses or influence leaders circles — and make sure to promote your blog articles on social media for that extra punch.

Lastly, I want to point out a tool I use all the time — HARO or Help A Reporter Out.  HARO is a secret weapon I recommend to all of my clients to build their media presence.  In basic terms, you answer queries from hungry journalists and by positioning your responses the right way, you can get quoted and interviewed in a variety of publications, tv, radio and blog sources. If you want to learn about how HARO works and how to use it to your advantage, read this article chockfull of good advice!

I write and speak often about free publicity tools and tricks, so be sure to follow me on Twitter @RobinSamora to learn more!

As a busy entrepreneur and bon vivant, I know about scheduling and prioritizing in all aspects of my life and business. I’ve learned how to shave valuable time through trial and error so I can concentrate on what’s important to me.

Marketing is no different. There are definite ways to save time – valuable time, while marketing.

Plan – Create a business plan and a marketing plan! Your marketing plan should be based on your marketing budget and include traditional marketing as well as online marketing line items.  Without a plan, you plan to fail. Without a plan, you can’t outsource (see below). Use these 5 steps to create a marketing plan.

Outsource – As a small business owner, it’s not always feasible to hire a full-time marketing manager. Often, we rely on our own ‘wits’ to do what seems like endless tasks — from social media to blogging to graphic design to web management. But, if these tasks take too much time, it’s time to reevaluate. How do you know it’s time? Read this article from Forbes; ‘7 signs it’s time to outsource your marketing’. You’ll find your options to outsource marketing are plentiful.

You can outsource:

  • Marketing tasks to a virtual assistant (who may save your life too  — xo )
  • Management of social media distribution
  • Graphic and web design
  • Additional training for your staff
  • Research and platform building to an intern

Tools – There are plenty of tools that will help you streamline your marketing. If you aren’t sure what I mean with ‘tools’, read this article ‘Top 5 Small Business Marketing Tools’. I’m sure several on the list you may be familiar with.  If you don’t have the time or want to learn about them, hire someone who’s an expert.  The point is, save yourself time!

Are you are ready to save time and get direction on what you should be doing with your small business marketing and PR? Let me show you the way!

Ostersund, Sweden -August 3, 2014:  Linkedin website under a magI’m sure every small business owner, consultant and market savvy professional wants to get noticed as an expert or leader in their field.

It doesn’t just happen overnight, as we all know. It’s more like a “drip process.” Day by day, week by week.  You post, tweet, network and do your best to show up at the right place at the right time to connect with your target audience – or a qualified lead.

That’s all fine and good, and everything listed above does work.  But, I’d like to take a quantum leap with you to help promote your business and build your expert status.

Want to leap with me on LinkedIn?

9 Tried and True Ways to Build Your Expert Status on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is for the most part, tremendously underutilized for small business marketing. Rules are determined by the platform, but there’s so much wiggle room to promote your brand and stand out as an expert if you understand the ins and outs of the site and practice simple strategies.

Here are 9 Marketing Tips you can use today:

  1. Write your profile with heavy keywords so LinkedIn’s advanced search can pick you up, pronto.
  2. Vary status updates with articles, infographics, quotes, video, podcasts and your own comments by showing you’re an expert who shares valuable content. Use the 80/20 rule – and be respected as someone who is not always self-promoting.
  3. Link relevant articles you’ve written to targeted landing pages where potential customers can sign up for your freebies, get on your email list and hear what you’re up to, so they can buy.
  4. Use the publications area of your profile to promote your newsletter, blog or tips and (again) give readers a link to sign up on your landing page – where you’ll tell them exactly why they should sign up.
  5. Publish a longer article you’ve written at least twice a month and repost others mindfully. Use pictures and graphics to get attention and at the bottom of those articles, include links to other content you’ve written in similar categories.
  6. Reply to people who are checking YOU out on LinkedIn with a well-crafted note leading them to your landing page (again) to sign up. Use a macro key for easy copying.
  7. Include a similar message to people who want to be connected with you. Follow the same procedure.
  8. Join up to 40 groups on LinkedIn where you’ll find your ideal clients or professional colleagues.  Be active in at least 5 groups. Comment as an expert would and be helpful. Don’t sell. The advantage with groups is that most often, you can send emails within the group and cut the red tape. Mine for gold.
  9. OK, Here’s one. And Shhhhhhh. Snoop anonymously by changing your privacy setting to — anonymous — and see what groups your competitors, customers and clients are in.  Take your time and browse around.  Just remember to change your setting back to public, Dick Tracy, when you’re done.

It goes without saying that having a professional and up to date photo is key to your personal and professional brand.  Please don’t upload a photo of yourself with a cut off arm around your shoulder or a plant sticking out of your head.

Being an expert is an earned right.

Use these marketing and PR strategies to gain credibility, increase your leadership position and get noticed as an expert in your field.

And, build your email list, for free.

If you’re in sales, marketing or a public speaker interested in maximizing their brand and image, think about hiring a stylist.

Your initial reaction may be similar to my first thoughts. “That’s way out of my league and too expensive.”

The truth is, a talented stylist is worth their weight in gold – especially if you want to look and feel your best and command the room with confidence and style.

If (and when) you hire a stylist, be willing to be vulnerable and open to suggestions. Your wardrobe advisor and image consultant has been trained, not just in the fashion sense, but in what flatters your body type. What you see as faults, have been seen thousands of times by other stylists and studied.

And yes, there are solutions.Beautiful young stylist near rack with hangers

Your flaws can be minimized and your most attractive features accentuated with a stylist’s recommendations and guidelines.

Here are 5 Reasons to Hire a Stylist: 

  1. After you’re over the initial, OMG, I can’t believe I’m hiring a stylist, you’ll realize that a stylist is a spot coach — just like I’m a spot coach for PR, small business marketing and free publicity. A stylist helps their clients look their best and improve their image with wardrobe essentials. You are your brand wherever you go. So, look fantastic!
  2. A stylist looks at you with different eyes than you look at yourself.  A trained professional sees your assets, not the negative parts of yourself you want to blink away. Stylists have your image, lifestyle and brand in mind for how you want to show up. They have a strategy in mind and a plan. Follow it to get noticed.
  3. Love the fact that your stylist is connected.  They’ll hook you up with their A-list of resources, tailors and beauty folk. They’ll share their favorite store contacts and will call ahead to make sure you’re treated like a VIP. Guys, listen up. This includes you too. The secrets of stylists could save you thousands of dollars and time that you don’t have.
  4. Shopping can be as easy as you like. It’s possible that you’ll fall in love with your UPS or Fed Ex driver every day when they show up with new outfits. Feel weird about all the attention? Love yourself more and more as you look in the mirror and experiment with new styles. Imagine yourself in front of your audience with only two thoughts; how great you look and how much they want to buy from you. (Think positive, right)?
  5. A paid speaker or professional should look like the price they’re charging. Say you’re charging $2500 for a workshop. Shouldn’t your outfit reflect your expertise and the richness of your work? Heck, yeah. Step into your power and awesomeness!  Upgrade your look to be consistent with your talent, skill and offer.

I’m a fan of virtual styling and like to look at clothes on line because it’s relaxing.  Others like meeting their stylists at their favorite stores, or wherever they’re told to go. Every person and situation is unique.

If you invest in your education and mentoring, why not invest in your wardrobe and image.

Tie everything together for maximum impact.

After all, it’s your PR and marketing brand we’re talking about.

I always like to see what small business owners are doing to create a buzz and promote their services. The more unique, the more I remember – and hopefully that’s the case with attracting your target audience. The #1 objective is to stand out and get noticed. If you get a buying reaction that sticks, you’ve hit a home run!

Taglines aren’t a necessity for every business, but they can help to explain your product or service, or give a valuable reminder of why your prospects should pick YOU!

Here are 5 tips for creating memorable taglines:

  1. Make your tagline clear. Don’t confuse your customers with off-subject phrases which aren’t in sync with your product or brand. Complement your company name, url and what you’re selling.
  2. Describe who you are or what you do. Words are a tool to use to communicate, but you’ve only got a few seconds here. Make your tagline simple so everyone can understand. You’ve got some freedom if you want to describe a feature, benefit or make a strong claim.
  3. Paint a picture of your services. Your tagline can create a vision in your customer’s eye. What is it that you’d like them to know about buying your products and services? You don’t have to be literal in creating a vision. And, you don’t have to be bland!
  4. Create a feeling or hit one of the five senses. Is there a certain button you can push to create a sense of urgency or make you the ‘go to’ provider? You don’t always have to be serious, fun is allowed.  Test your tagline on your circle of influence, even if it’s at your kitchen table!
  5. Write copy that resonates with your customers and your brand. You don’t have to imitate anyone. Just be you. Does your tagline tell your story?  Does it say who you are? How does it make you feel?

Here’s an example of a tagline and mobile ad I saw in South Carolina. I liked it for a few reasons. The graphic was very clear and the tagline clever.

Tagline photo

 

If I lived in the area and saw this van on the road, I would definitely want to go to this restaurant for a BBQ!

Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. We overlook the obvious and make things hard on ourselves. We reinvent the wheel. Fly across the country to make new business contacts. Why don’t we harvest the fruit in our own backyard?

This week’s Rainmaker is about making local connections.

Even if your business isn’t tied to your current location – which is awesome in its own right – there may be uncovered treasure in your local market to tap into. I’m referring to local scholars and professors, consultants, executives and business owners within an hour from where you live.

Connecting with these professionals may gain you access to an entirely new level of connections. So, how do you go about meeting these local treasures?

First, I recommend you join Meetup.com and find local networking groups and events. By using the search function, you can look up professional events and groups in your geographical area. By joining a specific group, you can also check out the online profiles of current members and even connect with them online before attending a live event. That way, you have a friend in waiting when you’re ready to explore!

Next, check out EventBrite.com and search for your location. You’ll find business events, workshops, large conferences as well as fun activities like local 5K running events. It’s a great tool to keep tabs on what’s going on in your neighborhood or other areas or communities that you’re interested in. Unlike Meetup, EventBrite lets you connect with event coordinators only, not other participants.

Two other great sources for local networking events and opportunities are local colleges and universities.  You can extend that as well to include your local Chamber of Commerce, professional organizations with business workshops and one of my favorites, listings in your city’s Business Journal – a goldmine of information, leads and opportunities.

Lastly, networking at Costco is a ‘secret weapon’ for those of us in-the-know. Many local Costcos offer a free, monthly networking opportunity in their warehouse with breakfast included. It’s a great place to meet other likeminded local small business owners – even if it’s just for a coffee.

What do you do with these connections? My #1 recommendation is to follow up on LinkedIn once you’ve met in person to continue the conversations online, or make a date for coffee.

A small coffee shop works best for me, with a choice of bold brew. You?

As a Brand Ambassador and Promotions Expert who works with big and small brands, the question “what does branding really mean?” comes up often. Being on-brand, online branding, off line branding, brand awareness. One thing I’m very aware of is the money spent to see that it’s done right!

Brand it right or brand it wrong, being focused and on target with your messaging is important and key to establishing a look and feel — as well as a social identity for your product or service, and the revenue that it will generate.

This week, I’d like to share a few branding articles I hope you’ll find interesting;

First up, let’s look at 3 ways brands are marketing nostalgia in the age of throwback Thursday from Entrepreneur.com. “As millennials become increasingly important as customers, brands have started heaping on the nostalgia to woo them over.” If your target audience includes millennials, or any other older generation, take a look at this article on how to ‘reel them in’ using nostalgia!  (Remember Reading Rainbow?)

Next I’d like to share a video which is actually a Google Hangout On Air about ‘Branding for Small Businesses’. In this video, Lauren Zirilli, Vistaprint’s Director of Global Brand Strategy, talks about how small business can build their own brand. See what you think!

In Content Lessons From Three Brands That Kept Their Brand Promise (and Three That Didn’t) by Marketing Profs, we learn  that “content marketing has the power to help companies articulate and communicate the brand promise—which goes beyond a corporate mission statement. Marketers can craft content that shows what they really stand for.” One of the three brands highlighted is Subway, with their lifestyle campaign, ‘Eat Fresh.’

How is your brand standing out online and is your brand message consistent with your marketing message?