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.

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!

PR, Promotions and Publicity aren’t a one size fit all strategy to get you noticed.  And, that’s a good thing.  Variety is the spice of life! In creating a PR roadmap, you want to customize the outreach experience and connect the dots from where a client is now – to where they want to go to be seen, heard and remembered. So the road less traveled is not the journey of choice!

For a handful of our Fortune 500 corporate clients, Partner Promotions is the go-to source for Brand Ambassador work in Boston. Companies like Comcast and CBS hire our marketing teams to promote their brands and actively engage with prospects and customers — to showcase new services, demonstrate products and turn loyal followers into raving fans.

After 15 years of hiring Brand Ambassadors, I’ve concluded that for me, hiring is primarily intuition based. Is the Brand Ambassador believable or not? Do I trust him/her? Would I give them the keys to my car? Eye contact is important too, or lack thereof, and I can’t discount appearance.  If my gut tells me to move forward, I almost always do, followed by a reference check (gut usually wins).

So, how does an eager and responsible college student or professional of any age — who wants to make extra cash get into the Brand Ambassador business?

Here’s An Insider’s Look – How to Get a Brand Ambassador Job at Any Age  

  1. Google Brand Ambassador companies in your area and check Facebook Groups or Craig’s List for event/gig postings; Better yet, make a connection with other Brand Ambassadors and get WOM (word of mouth) referrals.  They’re worth their weight in gold.
  2. Apply online with a headshot and resume. If you don’t have a headshot, use an attractive and recent photo of yourself — with no arms or plants sticking out of your head. Please don’t be half naked unless you’re looking for a swimsuit model job. No experience? Highlight your sales, marketing and customer service skills.
  3. Score an interview by writing a clear, concise and friendly email. Use proper English and provide contact information. This is not the time to be lazy or sloppy in your writing or coy in your contact details. Impressions count to those reading your email and hundreds of others. Trust me. Delete is an easy key to reach.
  4. Meet in person ASAP.  Be early, well dressed and groomed. Bonus points for confirming your appointment by email and text. Remember to mention a personal referral if you have one and highlight that connection. You really could earn thousands of dollars from this one meeting.  Make it count!
  5. You are unique so accentuate the positive. Have an awesome smile? Flaunt it! But, you’re not on stage giving a one person show. Be mindful that if you’re hired, you’re representing not only the client who considers you a reflection of their brand — but the Brand Ambassador company too. It’s OK to stand out, but not like a sore thumb.
  6. Highlight your experience and own it. Why would a company want to pay you double minimum wage or more?  Not sure? Make a list. You’re outgoing, friendly, worked in sales and marketing, love people, sold credit card upgrades – plus you’re flexible. State the facts, show your resume, hold eye contact and be genuine. You can be sincere and still own your power.
  7. Don’t force a square peg in a round hole.  If there’s not a connection with the hiring manager or if you don’t like the brand, let it go. There are better opportunities out there. Follow your gut to see if the fit is right. If integrity is one of your core values, honor it. You’ll be a lousy Brand Ambassador if you’re not all in.
  8. When you’re hired, give thanks. Thank your hiring manager with an email. Read the study guides or marketing materials more than once. Follow directions. Check in frequently to show you’re interested, but not needy. Get more experience, rinse and repeat.
  9. Build a referral network so you can take a team with you. Want to make life easier for a hiring manager? Bring an established team with you to your next assignment. You’ll save your boss time and aggravation, plus be a shining star. There’s also negotiating power here as a manager, which is paid at a higher rate.
  10. Keep business business and personal personal. Don’t overlap the two. News travels fast and not always to the right places.

Side note: My kids, their friends, friends of friends, strangers and people from every walk of life have helped with the many clients and Brand Ambassador positions we’ve had over the last 20 years and counting. PR, Promotions and marketing isn’t just for entrepreneurs and small business owners – it’s for anyone with a message to share.

Share a message in your voice. That’s what makes it authentic.

Brand Ambassadors, whether paid or unpaid, have a critical role that’s often overlooked and sometimes regarded as a line item first to cut, budget time.

The truth is, the best Brand Ambassadors mirror your voice and attitude in the marketplace. They take a company’s concept, stats and goals and create, then deliver, a message that feels authentic. Their job is to connect with your target audience and influence them in a positive way.

Busy managers and executives with aggressive goals sometimes forget that the Brand Ambassadors who carry your flag are people too.  Unconsciously, they can change their marketing tone if you forget to treat them as part of your team, barely pay attention or put inexperienced managers — who don’t understand group dynamics or the value of outsourced staff — as first command.

Brand Ambassadors who showcase your products and services are valued allies in your PR and marketing efforts.  Maximize their output and high energy when you work together.

Here are 3 Ways to Motivate Your Brand Ambassadors   

  1. Acknowledge that a Brand Ambassador has an important role, just as important as a sales or marketing team member.  They’ll wear your brand, give a face to your company and hopefully convey heart and soul as well.  Show them the respect that they deserve as they interact with your prospects, clients and colleagues.  There’s an incredible upside to being valued as part of a team.
  2. Appreciate Brand Ambassadors as front line reps and show them love, even if it’s in small ways; invite them to company meetings, trainings and give them VIP access and parking if available when they’re working a high profile event. If tickets are plentiful at a certain venue, consider offering them as a thank you. Often, complimentary tickets get discarded, and it’s heartbreaking for some to see the waste. As in life, the gesture of sharing goes a long way and generosity is seldom forgotten.
  3. Allow Brand Ambassadors the flexibility to deliver your message, in their voice.  Every Brand Ambassador, like every person, has their own unique style, tone and timing  —  and the ways that people listen can be as varied. Be open to different communication styles to reach a wide and multi-cultural marketplace and honor their freedom to express themselves within the guidelines of the brand. With the high-tech world that we live in, there’s never been a better time to reach out and touch someone.

Brand Ambassadors touch one person at a time in ways that social media can’t.

Make every touch point count, from the top down.

Like this article?

Check out others I’ve written about promotions —  3 Key Traits of an Elite Brand Ambassador; The Power of PRiorities, PRofit and PRomotion3 Promotion Secrets of the Rich and Famous

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.

As my clients have expanded into greater speaking roles, so have I, and it’s an exciting process to learn and share tips and processes to make a more dynamic presentation.

It’s a given that you have a message to deliver that’s powerful and targeted to your audience. But I’d like to make a few key suggestions to help you go from good to great – so you can deliver a talk that has impact.

These marketing tips can be used for a keynote speech, like the one I’m delivering for #GoBrandYourself week at Fresno State, but also in talks that aren’t designated to kick off an event or end a conference.

Speaking to a group can influence an audience to take action, up-level your branding and create a PR trail that you can’t get engaging one on one.

3 Keys to a Better Keynote (or speech):

  • Do you have a list of questions to ask the organizer or the person that’s hiring you? Get clear on  who your audience really is, what their challenges are and how you’ll share solutions. Questions can be as simple as, “who’s the greatest success story in the room,” or (yikes) “will someone try to undermine me (ie, is there a trouble maker in the room that I need to be aware of)?” There are about 30 questions on my pre-event questionnaire and knowing the answers to most of these in advance of your stage debut will help you – beyond words.  Trust me. Take the time to do your homework.
  • Have you asked if you’ll have your own dedicated A/V technician or are you running solo? From experience, don’t go solo if you have a choice! Ask who your A/V technician will be and an hour before your presentation meet him/her. Bring your presentation on your laptop or other device, plus have it on a flash drive as a safety factor. Also, consider tipping your A/V person $10 before you begin. Tipping doesn’t always work to ensure better service, but in my world it does.  I like to have someone in my corner who has my back (and mic) before I go on stage.  You?
  • If you’re mic’d/miked , be aware that your microphone is always on, until you shut it off. I’ve heard horror stories of toilets flushing and conversations which should have been private while someone was miked.  To ask — will you be using a hand held microphone which is a little more difficult if it’s a long speech, or a lavalier? Ladies, FYI, if you’re using a lavalier, make sure you’re comfortable with your under layers (or jacket off) while you’re getting ‘hooked up’.  No wink intended.

There are multiple platforms for you to share your message.  Speaking is just one avenue, compounded by social media and other targeted marketing.

What’s most important is that you share your brilliance, in any way you can.

Find your target audience, speak from your heart and rock it!

Here’s to your success,

Branding today doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  In fact, one of my greatest pleasures is teaching clients how to promote themselves using low-cost and often free tips, tricks and tools for high impact publicity and social media exposure.

One critically important element of branding is your avatar or photo – the consistent image you’ll use on all of your social media platforms. Your avatar is a representation of who you are on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, You Tube and anywhere online where you post comments or questions.

A few comments on Avatars:

  • An avatar is a very small photo or representation of you. Not sure how to create one? Check out  www.Gravatar.com.
  • Unless you’re a big company (think Coca-Cola, Zappos) don’t use a logo. Use a photo of yourself that doesn’t include a plant sticking out of your head, someone’s arm cut off around your shoulder, or with your favorite can of brew.
  • Remember that you are your brand wherever you go. Please make your image professional, consistent with your reputation and where you’re going in your career.
  • Photos last a lifetime on the internet and they’re dragged up often unexpectedly and to your surprise.
  • You may think it’s funny (today) to post a ‘joke of a photo or picture’ as your avatar, but unless you think you’re a joke, think twice. Not only are you your brand wherever you go, that’s how you’ll be remembered on line – like it or not.
  • Avatars help people be recognized. More than a handful of times I’ve been noticed in a crowd based on the photo (avatar) someone recognized online and offline promoting my brand.

And oh, did I mention, your avatar should  look like you? Not 20 years ago, or 50 pounds ago. An avatar represents you, in real life.

Your best self.

Love your best self,it’s the only one you’ve got!

From my avatar to yours, all the best!

Happy February, friends! Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, it’s still the month of love and relationships — so let’s keep that theme for this week’s Rainmaker.

In business relationships, much like personal relationships, communication is a key component to growth and success. How are you communicating with your prospects, your team and your clients?

First up, I recommend this read, ‘Three meetings you need to schedule right now’ by Jonah Engler via Everything PR. By following his advice and scheduling a few important meetings, he promises we’ll grow our business. Who will you be meeting with this week?

Next up is actionable advice from Cathy Miller, ‘Business Communication Shouts Action’. This is the first in a year-long journey through the alphabet. I’m looking forward to reading the next few letters. “C” for yourself!

Lastly, ‘How to write better emails and make them work for you’ by Alex Strike for B2Community highlights the importance of academic vs. business writing, words to kill and clarity in your message.  How many times have you read an email that could be shortened to a few sentences? Or, you were left wondering, huh?

How are your communication skills? Could you use a refresher?

Let’s chat!