Daily Archives: May 21, 2015

WISE women: Joining together for support, friendship, advice on the road to business success

BY TERRI FINCH HAMILTON
PHOTOS: TJ HAMILTON

TJH6214Branding expert Connie Sweet has some business advice for you, woman to woman.

Steer clear of those business card companies that offer pre-made designs anyone can choose.

“You don’t want the same business card someone else is using,” Sweet says. “You could attend an event and discover three people have the same business card design as you do — a yoga instructor, a hair stylist and a dog groomer.

“If you don’t recognize the importance of your business image, how can I feel confident you will provide the individualized service I would appreciate?”

That’s one kind of insider tip you’ll find at a gathering of WISE women.

TJH6257-226x300Sweet co-founded WISE — Women in Successful Enterprises — in 2009 with friend and fellow business owner Floriza Genautis.

Both are successful entrepreneurs with impressive resumes. They decided to round up some other successful women to see if they could bolster each other.

“There are a lot of organizations that serve start-up companies and offer classes, but once you get past that start-up phase, you no longer get that level of help or collaboration,” Sweet says.

WISE is designed for women who already have their business feet wet — but who want to continue to succeed and grow. It’s a “bridge organization,” Sweet says, that helps women business owners gain certification, corporate connections, government contracts and networking.

The group has worked with the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and introduces members to the Women’s Business Enterprise Council, an initiative of CEED that provides opportunities for nationally recognized certification of businesses that are at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

Women who own businesses have interests and needs that not all women share, Sweet says. “Women’s conversations often center around families and children,” Sweet says. “But for business owners, a good portion of our lives is about our businesses. When we meet people at PTA meetings, we’re often just not on the same page.”

WISE offers an opportunity for women in business to connect with each other.

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“We can gain a lot of information from each other,” Sweet says. “We share resources, share tips. We gain so much from each other. That’s a powerful thing for women who often feel they’re out at sea, on their own.”

Maureen Fitzgerald Penn felt that way when she left her job as marketing and development director for Catholic Charities West Michigan in Muskegon to start her business, Penn & Ink Communications, in 2008.

“I thought, ‘How do I begin this? I’m hanging up my shingle but I don’t have any contacts in Grand Rapids,’” Penn says.

Joining WISE changed all that. Penn met other women business owners, made friends and acquired a few clients.

Now, years later, the group is still valuable, she says.

“Once you’ve been in business a few years, you need to grow,” Penn says. “You have to step out of your comfort zone and approach larger companies with bigger needs. WISE has helped me break down the barriers so I can do that.”

Penn is on the group’s advisory board — they call themselves “advocates” — and helps plan each year’s events.

“We decide on the speakers and events based on our own reality,” she says. “What are the issues we’re facing? What questions do we have? Then we find speakers to address those needs.”

Events set for this year:

  •  “Common Negotiation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” Speaker Penny Rosema, a professional buyer, shares negotiation tips March 12.
  •  “How to Get in with Community Media.” A panel of media experts shares tips at a gathering at the mlive hub May 7.
  •  “Building Success from Scratch,” a presentation by award-winning chef and restaurant owner Jenna Arcidiacono from Amore Trattoria Italiana Aug. 20.

Each year WISE also hosts an event designed to give back to the community.

This year they support the American Diabetes Association at a Nov. 5 event.

“We’re reminding other business women that a social conscience should be part of your business,” Penn says.

While there is a cost to attend WISE events (and non-members are welcome, too) it costs nothing to belong to WISE.

“We formed this group just as the Michigan economy was flailing,” Sweet says. “We decided we weren’t going to saddle people with an annual membership fee.”

Sweet and cofounder Genautis met through another organization, Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs.

Sweet is founder of Connection Group, Inc. in Lansing. She creates distinctive brands that connect with her client’s philosophy and business strategy.

Her resume of graphic design jobs includes time at ad agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, publishing houses and governmental offices.

Genautis is the principal founder of Management Business Solutions, a professional staffing firm specializing in placing candidates in the areas of accounting, finance, human resource, information technology, sales and marketing and engineering.

The tips and resources WISE members share are valuable, Sweet says, but the laughter is pretty great, too.

“What I’ve gained most is friendships,” Sweet says. “This is an open, diverse and welcoming group. And I want women to know that having a successful business is within reach for all of us.”

For more about WISE, including upcoming events, visit wiseconnections.org.


Article by: Stellafly

May 2015

Google Has Done it Again… small businesses need mobile friendly websites – STAT!

If you haven’t heard already you may be one of the few left on the planet who doesn’t live and breathe all that is the internet. What is being referred to as  “mobilegeddon” (don’t you love tech-nerds?) or, Google’s mobile website algorithm change has launched. Small businesses need mobile friendly websites now more than ever. What the change means to small businesses who do not have mobile friendly websites is that your company website will not come up in mobile Google searches or if it does, it will come up so far down it might as well not come up at all. Read more…


On the Blog:

Connect With Your Inner Marketer

Ready for growth? Slow down for a moment and think about what your company does best:

  • What are customers asking for?
  • What do they appreciate most?
  • Who are they?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What’s hot right now in your industry?
  • Can you pitch to media?

Once you have the answers determine which channels will be best to  broadcast your message and reach your target audience. Online, print, conferences, tv, radio, social media, blogs, e-newsletters? Do you have media contacts?  Is your service or product available in a small geographical area, do you sell throughout your state or internationally?. Read more…


Monthly Spotlight

Local Small Business Website 

After trying over 60 jury trials in his nearly 38 years practicing law as a partner in top firms in Lansing, Michigan, Mark Hoover has launched a new practice. Hoover opens his new law practice June 1, 2015 in which he will emphasize civil mediation for legal disputes throughout Michigan.

Connection Group provided design consultation service, custom logo design, and responsive website design. Mixing a classic font with a clean, balanced layout for Hoover’s logo combines contemporary and classic styling that helps to define his visual brand and is appropriate to the traditional formality of the law industry. Mark Hoover’s new website hoovermediation.com implements a responsive WordPress theme. The website offers information and instant credibility for prospective law firms who will be referring mediation cases. The wordpress CMS website offers easy expansion and can grow as Hoover’s practice grows.

Connect with Your Inner Marketer – Learn to Pitch to Media

Action Beats Intention

Ready for growth? Slow down for a moment and think about what your company does best:

  • What are customers asking for?
  • What do they appreciate most?
  • Who are they?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What’s hot right now in your industry?
  • Can you pitch to media?

Once you have the answers determine which channels will be best to  broadcast your message and reach your target audience. Online, print, conferences, tv, radio, social media, blogs, e-newsletters? Do you have media contacts?  Is your service or product available in a small geographical area, do you sell throughout your state or internationally?

As much as we’d like to offer a step by step marketing formula for you to follow, all business marketing solutions are different. From retail stores, e-commerce shops, member based nonprofits, trade associations, healthcare, higher education, or service companies, each has a unique selling proposition. A thorough understanding of your business and your market is critical to discern the best  approach and components for a successful PR, advertising or marketing campaign to bring positive results. If you can take the time to connect with your inner marketer you will have the answers you need to put a plan in place customized for you.r business.

What is your company doing currently and what has worked in the past? Although internet marketing. social media, email marketing, and cable tv has changed the marketing  and PR landscape, traditional media such as tv and radio can still be effective for many industries. Combining traditional and non-traditional marketing channels with advertising and PR, can help you reach multiple markets all the while keeping your brand messaging consistent.

Regardless of your budget and your goals adopting integrative marketing practices is the best approach for small business marketing campaigns. By coordinating different promotional methods that reinforce each other, your marketing objectives can be achieved. For instance, create a targeted email to your contacts and design a website landing page with a strong call to action. Or volunteer to speak at a local event and reach out to media for local radio or tv interviews to increase exposure for the event and your brand.

How do you choose the media channels for your campaign?

One of the best ways to begin, besides working with a marketing firm, is to know where your customers get their information. Another way is to take stock of what your competition is doing. Where are they advertising? Do they have an outside sales force? Are they selling to customers in a unique way? For instance are they offering package purchases or free items, extending credit, etc.? Are they getting interviews in media? Are they filling the radio airways with radio spots? Even if they have a higher budget for marketing and advertising you can adopt some of the marketing methods they utilize to reach your customer just on a lower scale.

Are you a member of a trade association or do you subscribe to industry publications? These are also great resources for learning what similar companies are doing successfully. Keeping current with your industry news can also offer newsworthy tips to pitch to media for free PR.

Another helpful way to choose your approach is to answer the question:  Do you have more time or more money in this stage of your business? If you have more time than money PR may be your best option. If you have a good story to pitch to media and it gets picked up the return can be tremendous.

Not sure how to pitch media? Or are you nervous about being in front of the camera? Check out our favorite media coach, Michigan’s own media goddess Shawne Duperon at ShawneTV.com.  Shawne speaks to groups and offers media mastery bootcamps where you can learn what to do and what not to do when pitching to media. She has cds and programs with Michigan media contacts, on camera tips,  and even tips for make up application for tv spots. Follow Shawne on Twitter or sign up for her email announcements that contain seasonal pitch ideas for a variety of industries.

What is the message you want to pitch?

Determine your marketing goals and determine the next steps to  reach them:

  • If you want to increase sales, do you need to increase your customer pool?
  • Have you added new products or services that could benefit your current customers?
  • If you want to increase brand awareness, what topics are hot right now that relate to your industry? Can you pitch  to media?
  • Are there trade shows, expos or networking events your company can attend or sponsor?
  • What other marketing channels/methods can you integrate for a greater return?
  • Historically what sales and marketing efforts have worked best? (advertising, brochures, etc.)
  • What is your competition doing?

Marketing and media options:

Advertising:

TV, Radio, Magazines, Internet Advertising (Google Adwords, Yahoo, Facebook, Niche Websites/forums, etc.) Billboards, Newspaper and Directory advertising, etc.

Marketing:

Internet marketing, Social Media Marketing, Print Marketing, Direct Mail, Network Marketing, Marketing Research, Market Analysis, Specialty Promotions, etc.

Public Relations (PR):

Press Releases, Writing & Media Distribution, Interview Opportunities, Publicity Campaigns, Consulting and Strategic Planning, Product/Service Launches, Press Kit Creation, Event Publicity and Promotion, Event and Trade show Management, etc

Sometimes you have to dive deep for the answers to all of the questions above but they are always there. If you are having a hard time tapping your inner marketer, take a good customer to lunch and ask them the questions you need to know. Contact us it you need help creating your marketing plans or cleaning up your corporate brand visuals.

Stay connected and pitch to media!