Ah, the year in review! I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Top 10 of a few categories in 2015.

The top 10 business lessons compiled by Fastcompany, top 10 leadership stories by Entrepreneur.com and for visual learners in the public relations and marketing world – a look at the top 10 infographics by Marketingprofs.

In this article from Fastcompany staff, top business lessons from 2015 are shared from a variety of leaders and entrepreneurs. What were they? Calling yourself a freelancer might not be such a good idea, world travel can teach you how to expand your comfort zone and stepping back from the CEO position may actually prove to be the best leadership move.  Other lessons? Alone time works, crisis can help your company and more.

Could you have improved your leadership this year? Entrepreneur.com’s Laura Entis shares top 10 leadership stories worthy of mention and each has a valuable lesson. What’s important to note is that successful entrepreneurship starts with successful leadership and we can all learn to be better communicators and more effective leaders.  Worth reading — 50 Rules to Be a Better Leader, 7 Toxic People to Avoid When Starting a Business, 10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures. All here.

And where would we be without visual stimulation? Marketing Prof’s Editor, Veronica Maria Jarski gives us insights of her company’s top 10 infographics of 2015. Take a look at 12 Secrets of Human Behavior to Use in Your Marketing, The Only 10 Slides You Need in a Pitch and Best Days and Times to Post Content  — and how could we forget the Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Social Media.  These are great infographics to post on the wall (if you like doing that sort of thing).

A year in review by observers, seasoned marketers and entrepreneurs.

All good for your business. All good to keep in mind for the New Year!

  1. Do you know your audience? It’s important to know who you’re pitching and what they want. Don’t sell ice to an Eskimo living in Hawaii unless they own an ice making business! What’s your big vision and does it fit with who’s buying?  Think it through on paper and make sure it works!
  2. Are you passionate about your idea? Passion makes a big difference in presenting a concept and often, enthusiasm is lost if there’s a publicist or hired gun doing the talking. If you’re the presenter, make sure you have positive energy and communicate with a high vibration. It shows not only in the voice, but also in the body. Twinkling eyes are a bonus!
  3. How professional are you? Professionalism is critical not just in writing, but in delivering. For Good Morning America, Tory needs to know without a doubt that the company presenting is totally operational and can deliver great customer service – even if the company is tiny! Talk the talk and believe it yourself!
  4. Are you prepared? Many entrepreneurs want ‘it’ to happen, but aren’t ready and launch discussions prematurely. If you’re overly excited and not ready with all the facts and figures, there’s a chance you may lose an opportunity and be passed over by someone who’s got their ducks in a row. When you speak up – be ready!
  5. Will you leave a positive or negative impression? Often negative impressions are longer lasting than positive ones. Make it a point to practice your pitch not only in front of a mirror, but test it with people who’ll give you honest feedback. If the feedback is similar from all parties – it doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means that you need to tweak your pitch!
  6. Are you crystal clear? When it’s your moment to shine, be crystal clear about who you are and what you’re offering. A confused mind never buys and certainly won’t put you on Good Morning America. Again, clarity comes from practice.  At our last SBANE meeting (Smaller Business Association of New England), we talked about this article from Forbes on public speaking lessons from the world’s greatest Ted Talks. It’s worth reading.
  7. How about your confidence? Competence and confidence go hand in hand. Sometimes, we get nervous when there’s a big opportunity and ask for what we want. Frankly, it’s silly because we KNOW OUR STUFF. You might get lucky and who you pitch may be gentle and work it out of you, but that’s not always the case. Go for it. Be confident or you may lose the opportunity if you’re weak in your presentation.
  8. Are you concise and to the point? Tory told the audience she has three minutes on-air to sell five products. So, a thirty minute lunch for her with a prospective entrepreneur is out of the question. She suggests networking and practicing your elevator pitch for brevity – so others can repeat it in a sentence.

You might not know it, but you pitch on a daily basis. Keep it simple. Practice passionately. And, deliver from your heart.

Twinkling is a bonus, especially this time of year.

I love the phrase, “I’m an expert in training!” I heard it before I went on stage at Blogcamp Boston last weekend and asked to use it. Aren’t we all collaborators in the learning process?

Getting more online visibility and PR  is no different. We teach each other.

Here’s a short list to get more online visibility and a bigger bang for your buck!

  1. Be authentic in who you are and in your brand. Be consistent in your look, feel and marketing messaging. You are your brand wherever you go.
  2. Write a blog, share your expertise and do it often. I write a Robin’s Rainmaker once a week, but also write for PayItForwardRetreats.com, which is very important to me. Getting your name and brand out there for what you know and believe in will help raise your visibility.
  3. Share your content on all social media platforms. Don’t know the latest on Periscope? Don’t have a nervous breakdown about it. Use the tools you know and what works for your target audience. Are you in B2B? Then LinkedIn is a good choice and offers more than you can ever imagine. Does your crowd hang on Facebook? That’s the place to be.  Go where your market is.
  4. Create graphics and get them for free – or for a buck ($1.00) at www.Canva.com.  It doesn’t cost a fortune to be creative and compelling. It’s a must for marketing and PR, and honestly, Canva is easy to use.  Every business can benefit from this cool tool. Sit yourself down and try it.
  5. Reach out to influencers and align with their brands. Did your mother ever tell you, “Birds of a feather flock together?” Same thing here. Get noticed by influencers you admire by connecting with them and commenting on their work. Build relationships online, but in person too. It’s amazing who you can meet on twitter and how you can stay in touch.  A compliment goes a long way.
  6. Be a resource to reporters. OK. Don’t overthink this. If you’re writing about your expertise and reaching out to influencers, and doing it often enough, do you think you’ll go unnoticed? Only if you don’t do this! Use this super cool resource to find reporters in your target industry. If you pass this by, you’ve wasted an enormous tip!
  7. And lastly, Podcast Heaven. Use this cool tool to find podcasts in your industry and pitch yourself as a guest on one, several or tons. Get the recording, ask if you can transcribe it, and create multiple blogs. Don’t forget to use all of your keywords for SEO Juice! Check it out!

Start using these tips and you’re on your way to getting more visibility. Which will you implement today?

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.

Life is sometimes a surprise and when you put yourself out there – to promote a brand or yourself using PR, you really never know what the outcome will be – or where you’ll be seen.  You just have to believe!

Surprise on me/us, when we heard this weekend that my friend Steve and I would be on a billboard in the Boston DMA to promote the Nova Star cruise ferry from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia. How did we get there?  We were featured in a TV commercial last year for the NovaStar promotion and one of our photos was chosen for the ‘fall’ digital billboard campaign.

NovaCruise

Now, we aren’t part of SAG-AFTRA; we’re two entrepreneurs who decided to take part in the commercial shoot on Steve’s birthday while we were celebrating in Kennebunkport. We never knew when this kind of experience would present itself again, so we said YES!

You can stay in your same old/same old over and over again until you are bored to tears with your life.

You can get PR and promte yourself and your business in the same old way, but, you’ll never get different results. So, shake it up!

This is PR and promotion at its best.

It’s fun! It’s unexpected, visual and shareable.

When you take advantage of PR opportunities like this, the path is unknown. If you move forward with intention and positive energy, life will respond in kind, almost pixelating.

We had breakfast with Carly Fiorina this past Sunday and heard The Donald (pumped up and rearing to go) at a party a couple of weeks ago.

Your life and business can be as full as you want it to be, and as BOLD as you choose.

Ditch the fear and get on board.

When you celebrate who you are, then everyone else will get on board too!

Robin

PS – I’m offering a 3 Month PR Intensive to 10 small business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs who want to boost their brand and income. Write me at Robin@RobinSamoraInc.com  if you want to create a PR Roadmap that will take you from where you are now, to where you want to go!

Over Memorial Day, I had a tremendous opportunity to go to Charleston and Savannah. They’re both beautiful cities, each with a style their own.  If I had to choose where to live, it would be a tough decision – but I think Savannah would probably win!

Walking through Savannah, you can’t help but feel the historical energy of the city – and more than a kick of new and funky style.

Businesses are booming here and a steady flow of street traffic and out of town visitors allows marketers to get ‘city-specific’ to attract their target audience.

What better way than car wrapping!

I love this photo because it’s mobile advertising at its best, taking the concept of the tour company’s service one step further by adding an extra detail, a passenger!

SpookyVan

If you think mobile marketing is just having a smart phone compatible website, think again.

It’s scary what you can do when you get creative!

Here’s to this ghostess with the mostess, promoting her brand.

How good are your people skills? Are you friendly, engaging and above all, helpful? I forget how good my people skills are, as it’s just part of my nature – but I know that referrals are a substantial part of my business.  Would you like to increase your referral base even more? I’m hoping that’s a big YES!

New to how this works? Let’s take a look:

Start with Why Every Business Needs a Referral System by Marc Wayshak for the Huffington Post. One of the points Marc makes is “Referrals beget referrals: When you make a sale from a referral, that new client is going to be more inclined to refer you to others in his network as well. Think of it this way: You’re creating an army of unpaid salespeople who recommend you to other potential prospects.”

In Five Formalized Referrals Systems to Grow Your Sales, David Finkel makes this point for Inc Magazine. “The bottom line is for you to make sure asking for referrals is a systematized, automatic part of your business.” I’m sure we all could use this strategy even more, to build a strong prospect pipeline.

Then in The B2B Referral Sales System – The Magical Outbound Growth Engine Most Startups Never Use! we find a referral sales script as well as a referral intro-email template. Is this something you could use? Again, let me hear a big YES!

In the end, if you have great customer service skills and deliver an excellent service or product, referrals will start coming your way. However, helping them along will speed up the growth of your business and will speed up your success.

I’m a speed demon for success, you?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel in many circles – with students who are launching their careers, professionals on the path to success, and CEO’s who run multi-million dollar companies. The brightest of the bunch have characteristics of the “rich and famous” and exude confidence, abundance and a can do attitude in life. More of a why not, than why.

When winners promote themselves, they become who they want to be and step into that role looking ahead, never behind. After all, opportunities are in today’s world, not yesterday’s.

The rich and famous, and those on their way up, share these promotion secrets:    

  • They Act the Part. It takes time, planning and a boatload of confidence acting as if on the path to success. Forward thinking and inspired action to meet your goals trumps the sad sack, sit at home blues. Show up as the person you want to be, everywhere you go. And remember, you’re not an imposter, you’re a creator.
  • The Rich and Famous Attract a Great Support Team. You can’t be totally successful on your own, at least not for the long haul, without some help. It takes the dedication of a team to support you financially, physically and emotionally. And let’s add planning, communication, promotion and marketing to the mix. It takes time and focus to build and maintain a brand and a few thousand thank you’s along the way. Gratitude is more than an attitude.
  • They’re Willing to Give it Their All. A CEO once told me that he woke up at 5am every day to drive 90 miles so he could be the first one in the office. After the company went public, he heard from a co-worker, how lucky he was. “I worked while they slept,” was his comment. “I guess I was lucky I got up early.”  No one can stop you if you know what you want and are willing to work for it.

Act the Part, Play your Role and say Thank You – from your stage, or any stage in life.

 

How many conferences do you attend each year? It can be a lot of money for you (or your boss) to fork over. Yet, they are so worth it! Conferences don’t just provide continuing education for your industry, they also provide priceless and countless networking opportunities.

The BEST way to get the most out of your money and time is to prepare well ahead – so you can plan the networking and follow up process to your BEST advantage.

21 Tips For Meeting People That Will Rock Your Next Conference is packed with excellent ideas and tips on what to do before you get to the conference. Tips like ‘bring business cards’ are a no-brainer, but also ‘check out the gym’, ‘be a mindful fan, not a nuisance’ and of course, ‘tweet that you’ll be there to meet other attendees’. I highly recommend this read to be best prepared. I’ve written an article on this subject myself and you can read it here.

While you’re at the conference, there are several must know’s that will come in handy – especially if this is your first really big conference. I like the featured article because it gives you five good tips that you’ll want to implement.‘If you’re going to spend money and sacrifice a valuable chunk of time that could be spent taking action, then it had better be worthwhile.’ Take a few minutes to read 5 Tips for Making the Most of a Conference.

Once you’re home from the conference – or on the way home – trust me, you aren’t done! The real networking and relationships come after you’ve met. They continue online and across multiple platforms. Here’s Nataly Kogan’s take on it: 10 Tips to Maximize Networking After a Conference.  She gives several do’s and don’ts on how to continue those conversations and give tips on how to make those relationships blossom.

I’d love to know where you are headed this year and what your most valuable tip is to someone who is a first time attendee.

Every month we’re featuring a guest blogger who writes on a topic I think you’d be interested in as a small business owner, entrepreneur or professional who wants to increase their company’s recognition, awareness level or leadership position – and maximize their marketing and PR dollars for promotional ROI.

Today’s blog article is from my client, Robert Rebholz, Co-founder of www.WeSellVisibility.com and industry insider who sells promotional products with ‘zing’ for not that much ‘ca-ching’.

Robert uses his talent for writing and takes advantage of that in his branding to keep in touch with customers, tell a story and make it entertaining.  You definitely want to check out his ‘Pick of the Week’, especially if you buy promo products and hate the SOSO (same old same old) — or any mistakes!

The ABC’s of Buying Promotional Products – by Robert Rebholz  

Promotional products, (also called swag, giveaways, tchotchkes, bling, premiums,) can be a very effective and cost efficient way to advertise and promote your business. And here’s why:

  • 80% of consumers own between 1 and 10 promotional products
  • 60% keep them for up to 2 years
  • 53% use a promotional product at least once a week or more often
  • 88% of people who have received a promo item recalled the advertiser for up to 12 months after receiving the item
  • 62% of these people recalled the advertiser’s message

Studies show only 71% of people can recall an ad they saw in a newspaper or magazine from the week before!

Here’s the point I want you to take away:  this stuff works, people hang onto it, and they use it.

A promotional item does not have to be expensive to be effective. It does need to be useful. Useful items are retained, and that’s what you want as an advertiser.

But, what’s useful? Well, that depends on where you want to be remembered.

Do you want to be remembered in the office? Then think about items like notebooks, sticky pads, pens, desk accessories, wall calendars.

Do you want to be remembered in the home? Then you would consider things like kitchen utensils, magnetic memo boards for the fridge, tote bags, coasters, BBQ tools.

Interested in items that can work anywhere? Think about cell phone chargers, USB drives, water bottles, umbrellas, caps and T-shirts. (Note) Notebooks and sticky notes work everywhere.

Think about who you are going to give this stuff to and what they would find useful.

Alright, you’ve thought about all of the above. You’ve decided you can use promotional products to advertise your business. Here’s what you need to know about buying these items:

  • All items will have a minimum purchase quantity. On less expensive items that minimum might be 100 to 250 pieces. Sometimes you can buy less than the minimum but you’ll be surcharged.
  • All items will have a maximum imprint area. That’s the largest available area for imprinting your logo. The point is — don’t try to print everything about your company on the side of a pen. It won’t work.

It’s also good to know about industry terms and what they mean:

Artwork (that’s what the industry calls your logo or whatever design you’re going to put on your promo item), needs to be in the proper format. The universal format for promo items is what’s called “vector art.” It’s too complicated to go into it here but vector art is a high resolution file that won’t distort and will print clearly. Jpeg, tiff and giff files won’t work. If your logo isn’t in “vector art,” spend the money to get it created in this format.

Colors There are “spot” colors (think of one or two distinct colors on a T-shirt design), and there is “full color process” (think of a refrigerator magnet that looks like a full color photo). When you see the catalog price for an item it includes the first color. Every color you add is going to cost extra.

Set up is the charge to prepare your artwork for whatever process is being used to imprint your item.

Time One of the problems with technology is that we’ve all become accustomed to instant everything.

The problem is that this is a manufacturing process and it takes time. Most products will take somewhere between 7 to 10 business days to produce. Add to that the shipping time. Many of the industry suppliers are located in California and that’s 5 days by ground to the East coast or less, depending on where your business is located. Allow yourself a good 2 to 3 weeks to have your order produced and shipped.

Proof  A proof is a virtual representation of what your design is going to look like on your product. Always insist on a proof and always go over it with a fine toothed comb. The last thing you want is for your 1,000 pens to arrive with a typo!

What can go wrong?  Everything!

The two areas where a project can go wrong are artwork and time. Have your logo (in several  versions) in the proper format before you start your order. Give yourself enough time to deal with any glitches that might come up.

And now, a quick word or two about pricing.

You can get pretty much any promotional product through an on-line distributor. Their prices are often lower than what a local distributor might be able to show you. They work on huge volumes and small margins. If you know exactly what you want and don’t need any help, this might be the way to go. If you need advice and guidance you should go with a local distributor. As someone famous once said, “you get what you pay for.”

You now know:

  • Promotional products work as a way to advertise and brand your company.
  • Pick something that’ s useful to your target audience
  • Have your logo (in several acceptable to you versions) prepared in the proper format well before you begin the ordering.
  • Give yourself enough time

If you stick to these guidelines you will have a successful promotional product campaign.

Thanks to Robert for sharing this mini course on premiums and promotional products. With over 30 years’ experience as a marketer and helping businesses ‘getting noticed’, you’ll always get solid advice and be in good hands!