September 7, 2020
(updated December 8, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
In this episode of OutBüro Voices featuring LGBTQ professionals, entrepreneurs, and community leaders from around the world, host Dennis Velco chats with Ben Finzel, founder of RENEW PR.
Ben Finzel, is not a typical business startup entrepreneur. He launched RENEW PR, a public relations firm that primarily focuses on #renewable energy, sustainability, environmental, and LGBTQ topics. He is an out gay business owner (LGBTQ entrepreneur) with over two decades of top PR agency experience in Washington, DC. With experience at prestigious firms such as Edelman, FleishmanHillard, and others.
11:00 Delving into launching ReNew PR – transitioning from being an employee to an entrepreneur
13:00 A short clear explanation of your business is key
13:50 A benefit of starting a business after a long a rich career is the professional network of past coworkers, clients, and industry contacts.
15:00 He clarifies ReNew PR’s scope is both specific and broad – energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change, clean transportation, natural resources, air/water/land use all broadly. A great client would be one who offers sustainable products, say that reuses, reduces, or upcycles as one example.
17:45 Honest discussion of transition into being an entrepreneur, the assumptions and adapting
19:20 As a business own leveraging technology tool to make the dreaded yet necessary tasks easier such as invoicing.
20:20 Shifting from big PR agencies to own small business, created new realizations, new opportunities, and new partnerships
21:15 It is not pie. There is enough for everyone.
24:00 Focus and differentiate your business. ReNew PR is a certified LGBTQ Owned Business by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
25:30 Formation of the Change Agencies a network of multicultural owned agencies
27:00 Networking with other LGBTQ communications PR professionals in Washington DC
Connect with Ben Finzel on OutBüro at https://www.outburo.com/profile/benfinzel/
Join Ben on OutBüro, the LGBTQ professional and entrepreneur online community network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, a.lies and our employers who support LGBTQ welcoming workplace equality focused benefits, policies, and business practices. https://www.OutBuro.com
Would you like to be featured like this? Contact the host Dennis Velco. https://www.outburo.com/profile/dennisvelco/
May 21, 2020
(updated May 21, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
The first step to any budding LGBTQ entrepreneur no matter what startup’s business may focus on it is understanding your “why”. It is important to have, acknowledge, and understand your “why.” Why is this important to you? This is vital because if you have your “why” that you believe in you are in a better position. You can push yourself through and over the hurdles that will inevitably arise. Being an entrepreneur is tough, risky, high pressure, challenging, and can often feel lonely. Your “why” becomes your mission, your passion, and your drive.
It likely will shape the products or services you offer. It can become a core part of your marketing. All great marketing is rooted in “why” and leveraging that to tell the story and connect the client/consumer with the brand and its products/services. An authentic “why” can help get others on board in the early stages to support your business venture. It becomes a tool for measuring your own definition of success and helps to keep you focused.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
Your “why” might strike you all a sudden or it may develop over time. It could be that something inspired you from your childhood. Maby you see a problem in the world and aim to be a part of creating a solution. Your “why” may have been inspired in a countless number of ways.
Questions to Ask to Get to the Heart the “Why” of Your Business
Why do I do what I do? Or Why do I want to do this?
What does it mean to me, my family, my life, the community, others?
What is the purpose for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
How can it help me, my family, my life, the community, others?
How can will it make a difference for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
How will it support me, my family, my life, the community, others? In what ways?
How will make me feel fulfilled and happy?
What are there gaps that it might be able to be a part of filling and why does that matter?
“Why” and Your Story
Your “why” can become of your company origin story being the foundation of your mission, driving your vision, and demonstrating your commitment. It can lead customers to identify with it, fall in love, and become brand champions. With businesses and consumers being overwhelmed with social media, emails, text, and more your well-crafted message has the challenge and opportunity to stand out as authentic. If your target audience sees and feels your passion, they are more likely to appreciate it, connect with it and do more than become a client/customer to becoming a valued brand champion sharing it with all they know.
Your “Why” is Not Money
Well, technically it could be money, such as the desire to help LGBTQ people with their personal finances like my buddies at The Dept Free Guys. Their branding has their “why” message clearly throughout. John and David were $50,000 in dept. They made a plan and became debt-free. They want to help others do the same.
A true “why” is not “I want to get rich“. Businesses rarely make profits right away, so the dream of money alone will not be reason enough to see it through. Could your “why” lead to financial gain, comfort, and success as you define it? Sure. Amazing if it does. Naturally, as you build your business plan and start executing on making it a reality you’ll set targets.
On a pure financial front, maybe your “way” is simply so that you can support yourself and your family while being your own boss. That is perfectly fine. There are lots of entrepreneur ventures matched with your skills than can if well executed fulfill that worthy “why”. Maybe a franchise would be a good fit with a business model, suppliers, and marketing pretty much done for you. But if its a mindset of only greed and to hell with anyone or anything else, you will likely live a miserable life doing crap you really don’t enjoy and feel zero personal satisfaction doing it regardless of the money. Money cannot buy true happiness.
Surround Yourself with Support
It is often said, and I wholeheartedly believe, that no matter if you are an entrepreneur or building your professional career, you must surround yourself with likeminded people who support your vision and lift you up even if they don’t totally understand it right now. That support can be in person or even online. Ideally, you will have also have one or more mentors who can guide you as well as hold you accountable to reach the heights of what your “why” can contribute to yourself, the community, and those your serve.
Having your immediate and extended family support can be helpful. As LGBTQ persons sometimes that is not a reality due to homophia and learned biases. But if you are one of the lucky ones that you being LGBTQ does not negatively affect your personal family relationship, they also can support you in your entrepreneur startup vision. This support might be that they just lend an ear when you need to talk or it could be that they are the first finanical investors in your business.
I and most industry leaders believe that having a life partner who supports your entrepreneurial interests is vital to your potential success. You are taking a huge risk, will have sleepless nights, likely work long hours, and may have financial ups and downs. If your life-partner doesn’t fully support you, it WILL strain the relationship. As early as appropriate, start the dialog with your life-partner about your ideas. Does that person support you and have as best as possible an understanding of all the risks, challenges, and commitment involved? If so, GREAT! Be sure along your journey that you keep the lines of communication open so they are part of your journey and sense when you need that extra effort from them.
A personal Note
My ex-husband was not very supportive of my entrepreneurial drive. He was more comfortable with the illusion of stability working for someone else, commuting every day to an office, and sitting in a cubicle. We got into many heated discussions over the topic. He had a difficult time understanding that my entrepreneurial drive is at the foundation of who I am. The best years of our relationship were when I did business travel 50-80% but was also miserable due to that. So, for many reasons after 17 years we parted ways and divorced – now 3 years ago. I’ve been single since and hope to eventually stumble upon a life-partner that supports, challenges, balances, and compliments me – and me him.
Friends – Supportive, Negotiate and Edit
This also goes for people you consider friends. As you start and work to grow our business, as mentioned you may be working long and irregular hours. You’ll likely often be stressed out. You may have financial struggles. Are your friends really your friends? Are they there for you as best they can be or are they superficial who will complain when you are no longer as accessible or don’t have the time or funds to join them all the time for activities like you might have before? If you value that person, at the first sign of them being frankly clueless and/or selfish, schedule a time to have an honest conversation. Then time will tell if they are a supportive friend or not. If need be for those that prove to be superficial as quickly and kindly as possible either edit them out completely or move them to the occasional acquaintance category.
It is perfectly fine if a friend doesn’t understand your business or why you work so much. But a good friend will strive to understand that it is important to you and be there when you are able to hit the beach, go out dancing, go on a hike or bike ride, and also lend an ear when you need someone to talk to.
Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur it is a great idea to build a network other entrepreneurs who do get you and what you are going through. They might also be a great resource to bounce ideas off of. They could be a good barter partner for services your business needs and referral source. They can be a great business and community resources. They can become great personal friends. And who knows, if the timing is right a mutual attraction, who knows maybe become a life partner. Who better to understand your and your entrepreneur’s journey than another entrepreneur?
Your “Why” Is Your Strength
When you boil down to your “why” it will give you strength. When you whole-heartedly believe in your message and your mission it’s easy to stop feeling self-conscious and just do it! You, like me, have something more important than your own insecurities to share. Your audience, customers, clients, constituents, employees, members, life-partner, family, friends, and the community, need you to shake away the clutter, identify and live your why and be as awesome, amazing, inspiring, and as kick-ass as you can be. They deserve it. You deserve it. You have the potential to be a great LGBTQ entrepreneur but they’ll never know it if you don’t step up, own it, and grow into your “why’s” potential. Plan don’t get stifled in thinking perfection is needed before starting. Most entrepreneurs, if honest, learn as they grow, and grow as they learn. Your first step is “why”.
October 17, 2018
(updated October 12, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Are you a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer small business owner or non-profit leader? If so, you have to market your business like any other. However, if your business also focuses on the LGBTQ community as your target customers/clients, you have even a little more work to do to reach them. No one wants to waste money and your business needs to be marketed in many ways to create brand awareness and convert passive prospects into an initial customer/client. Afterward, your continued marketing will keep those customers coming back. You likely have competitors all around you and some might have big marketing budgets. So how can you compete to stand out in your market? You have to market smarter and leverage a multi-channel marketing approach.
Start by brainstorming with your business partners, family, friends and community connections to come up with several inexpensive outside-the-box marketing ideas to get your business out front and zipping along with marketing buzz. Listen for repeated and unique ideas. They may suggest local area opportunities marketing opportunities you’ve not considered before.
To help you along your path to a great marketing plan, we’ve consolidated the below marketing ideas for your LGBT owned small business:
1. Create relevant content on your website. As Google itself has stated publicly numerous times. Your website content is KING!! Be sure to keep it focused on your business and industry. Don’t be tempted to use it as a personal interests blog with images of fluffy kittens, unless that’s your business. Publish new content regularly. The more you do it the easier it will become. Do Google search for your industry for ideas of what kinds of content ranks highly. Then read it and rewrite the content in your own words and post away. Fresh and helpful content helps to engage readers, build valuable links, attract leads and convert them to new sales/contracts.
2. Publish articles in trade or local magazines. Your average Joe and Jane believe printed published articles is more valuable than an online blog post. Since everyone searches online though keep a keen focus on #1 above. However, all marketing is good marketing – for the most part. So consider printed materials as another way to reach a wider audience. Contact the publication to introduce yourself and your company. ASK to be interviewed or if you may provide the story yourself. Make it easy as pie for them to pick up your story. Be sure to have several nice digital images of 300 dpi (dots per inch) ready featuring a great headshot of you, photos of your business and products if pertinent. You can even use the camera on your phone. When saving the digital images be sure to name it with your name, company name and a few SEO keywords. Example: “Darrel Dartson – Sit Happens – Dog Obedience Training – Atlanta GA Georgia.jpg”
3. “How-To” Content. A pool company in California had a great idea. They started blogging how to fix it and treat it informational short articles and videos on their company website. For those do-it-yourself, it is a treasure trove of just about any and every problem a homeowner can have with pool equipment and how to get the water sparkling clear again. This may seem like they are giving their knowledge away and would have fewer customers because of it. The absolute opposite happened. This demonstrated that they are not only pool installation and maintenance experts, but it demonstrated that they are kind, courteous and helpful too. After a short while, they became #1 on all internet search engines not only locally, but nationally. Their phone started ringing off the hook and their company grew hundreds of percent annually in no time. It set them vastly apart from their competition. It cost them ZERO money – just their time and willingness to share.
4. Reuse content. As your content grows, consider re-purposing it. Blog posts can be combined into an informative ebook that provides just enough information to educate and present yourself as the expert. It can be an electronic downloadable document, a single video or a series that can be played by the site visitor 365 days a year 24 hours a day. You can even implement a lead capture system on your website that requires basic contact information input in order to download or view this content.
5. Guest blog or cross-blog your content you are working so hard on. As an example when you join OutBüro for free, directly from your personal profile you have the ability to submit articles/blog posts. They become part of the OutBüro blog and gain all the SEO love we’ve worked hard to build and continue to grow weekly. Locate other blogs in your industry and contact the website owner about the potential to guest blog. They can be small or you might land a contributor role at a major website. That will only happen if you reach out and put the ball in motion. Be sure to focus on item 1 first so that the other blog owner/editor can see your great content and how it might fit with their audience to magnify your reach and exposure.
7. Sponsor a local youth or LGBT sports team. Send out a press release or feature article, get your logo on the team uniforms, host event for the team at your business location if you can, or offer free iced water at the games with an information booth if you can. This makes you a valuable community member and builds awareness.
8. Join industry and LGBT professional associations. If the organization has an accreditation, work toward achieving that. It will demonstrate you’re a pro at what you do. Some association also have lead generation programs. Check them out.
9. Join your local and LGBT chambers of commerce. They have many resources available for entrepreneurs from education to networking. Being a member lends credibility to your company, and you can find new partners or clients, or discover opportunities to teach or speak.
10. NETWORK online – Be a good online group member by liking and thoughtfully commenting on what other people post. It still gets your name out there and demonstrates that it’s not “only about you”. Also, Join local or national Facebook groups. Join the OutBüro site for free, then join groups or start a group and moderate it so that others who join it you’ll be seen as the leader and expert. Additionally, join the OutBüro on LinkedIn group with 44,000 global LGBT professionals. Via your LinkedIn group settings, you may hide that group from your LinkedIn profile if you choose while still being able to leverage it.
11. Your LinkedIn personal profile LinkedIn is WAY MORE than a site when you are looking for a job. Sure, that’s a big part, but over the years it has morphed and with Microsoft now owning it continues to morph. As a business owner, your LinkedIn personal profile SHOULD NOT be your resume. Don’t list that you worked at McDonald’s when you were 18. WHO CARES? As LGBTQ business owner your LinkedIn profile should be treated as a business marketing piece. You can list your qualifications if it supports your credibility as a professional in your industry and business. Keep it short and on marketing message with all the SEO keywords.
12. LinkedIn Articles – As you create that wonderful content for your site, you may also cross-post that content as a LinkedIn Article that gets associated with your LinkedIn profile. Be ready with your feature image, article body images if appropriate and most definitely call to action images that have the URL link to your website pages. See my LinkedIn profile as a humble example. While on it, request to connect with me. My 23,000 1st degree connections will then be your 2nd.
13. LinkedIn company page – No matter the size of your company, when adding your company to your personal profile as your current employer, if not found, LinkedIn will ask if you want to create a company listing. Yes – do it. You’ll then be the associate manager of your LinkedIn Company page. Fill in as much marketing information there as you can. In addition to adding your website blog postings as LinkedIn articles as mentioned above, add your website blog postings to LinkedIn Company page. This is as simple as while on your company website blog, copy each blog post’s URL and paste it. Do one per blog post. Why? Exposure and SEO.
We mentioned the LGBT professional and entrepreneur focused OutBüro on LinkedIn group which you should join. There are tons of other industry-based group to consider too. Explore. If needed you can always leave them. Don’t forget that you may also hide any LinkedIn group from your personal LinkedIn profile in the group settings.
14. Be a people person. When you network, follow up with all leads. Remember conversational and ask them questions to get to understand as naturally but as quickly as possible if this lead might have a need for your product/service. You don’t have all day and they don’t have to become your new Yoga partner, but you need to be genuine and not come across as desperately rushing to a sale. For first conversations, you might call with the idea to learn more about them first and foremost. If there is potential, schedule a meeting over coffee. In person, conversations are so much more productive when you have the opportunity but don’t be afraid of the phone, internet or email. They are necessary. No one likes to make cold sales calls. As you do all the other ideas here, your calls will not be cold. You would have met them or interacted with them in some way. Or from your great content they found you and your phone rings away with leads dialing in. No matter what, keep it productive yet warm and friendly.
15. Strive to separate work from personal life issues. This may seem like a huge “duh factor” but I’m constantly amazed how a business owner’s bad day (personal life) or lackluster employees can ruin an interaction experience that otherwise should be amazing. When at work, be focused on it. If you have too put your game face on. Check that bad thought/emotion until after your work day is done. It’s a great idea to have either a close friend or a professional counselor to regularly check in with and help provide guidance in personal matters. How is this about marketing? See #34 above. When you interact with potential and current clients/customers your language, tone, approach, and body language can speak volumes. Don’t lose a client/customer due to personal issues. If that happens too often you’ll be spending more money and time trying to regain them or replace them with new clients/customers. So yes – this is very appropriate for your marketing.
16. Subscribe to marketing blogs and video series. Find some that are very informative and subscribe. When those first emails come in, tag them so that when you have time you can easily find them and review them to continue to keep ideas, tips and trick rolling in from the experts. Just as your good content should be, scan the title and first paragraph to see if the article is something you want to spend time on. If not, get back to work. If so, either spend the time now or flag it to review when you’ve allocated time to self-education which should be about an hour a week. This could be over morning coffee, a cold one a night or over the weekend. Expanding your small business marketing and all small business operations knowledge doesn’t have to eat into your productive work day. But it’s so valuable to your personal and professional growth as a business owner.
17. Keep your inbox clean. If your inbox is cluttered with lots of unread, categorized, unprocessed or not deleted message you run the high risk of missing opportunities to grow your business. You’ll miss communications or reply super late and look unprofessional. If you have several inboxes as I do, have them all aggregated into a single mail reader. I use Gmail. Each is categorized so that I can quickly see it’s source. I use tags and the star to keep it organized. I also delete emails I don’t need and I unsubscribe from list often (once to twice a month) if I get no value or I cannot perceive value for my own audience from the content streaming into my inbox. My email time is over my morning coffee and near the end of my day. I don’t live glued to my inbox. Neither should you. You have other marketing activities to get accomplished.
18. Seek out or be a business/marketing mentor. You are great at what you do, but as a small business owner, you have to do EVERYTHING and do it amazingly well else your business may not survive. If you do something very well, consider being a mentor to another. Either way, you’ll both learn something and form a great business and friendly relationship to support and promote each other’s businesses. On your www.OutBuro.com profile, you may indicate if you’d like to be a mentor or mentee. See if other organizations you are a member of have Mentor/Mentee programs to be a part of.
19. Donate product or services to a local charity if they have an auction fundraiser. Be it art, disability, veterans or LGBT focus. Find the local charities that you feel passionate about and get involved. It’s a great way to network and gives back to your community. If you can afford it sponsor the event at some level that gets your information on the event material and co-market the event sharing it online and in person widely.
20. Speak at seminars and host your own workshops. You’ll get publicity from marketing the event and from the event itself. Besides, you’ll look more professional in your customers’ eyes. A natural medicine center in Central Florida I’m very familiar with uses this tactic with fantastic results. Every month they host an informational seminar at their offices. They ask every prospective client to bring a family member so they can learn what it’s all about. Further, they ask every current client to invite a family member, friends, and co-workers who might have interest. Every month they pack in 20-40 people and of those typically gain 8-12 new clients. To top that off, they take their show on the road participating in local health and fitness events, fitness centers, nursing homes, churches and more. It’s an effort that pays off nicely for them.
21. Enter business award competitions. If you win, you get a badge on your website and a lot more sales. Even if you don’t win, you can still get lots of publicity if you place high enough and broadcast your participation. Your local and LGBT chambers of commerce may have some. Also look into local publications and website. Research what it takes to get on the nomination list. If you can do it yourself, note the time window and add it to your calendar. If someone else, like a client/customer, must nominate you, don’t be bashful. Ask your best client/customer to do it and follow up. Heck, ask a few to nominate you.
22. Create your own business award competition. If there isn’t a competition in your area and/or industry if there’s no way you can compete in one, hosting your own unique competition creates buzz as other businesses scramble to win your award. They will share they will invite all their customers/client to vote for them sending them to YOUR WEBSITE. How awesome is that? Being the award creator positions you and your company as the local leader.
23. Host/participate free events. Reporters are always looking for a good story. Give them what they want and get some free publicity by hosting a free event. You’ll get more attendees if there’s food or freebies involved. This could be separate from your educational seminars. If you aren’t up for hosting an event, evaluate all the events that go on in your area where you might participate with a booth or sponsorship of the event.
24. Build a referral network. Referrals and word of mouth are the most powerful advertising, so build relationships with professionals and other businesses you would happily refer your customers to and who can send referrals your way, as well.
25. Make partnerships for co-promotion. Several related but non-competing businesses working together on a promotion can afford bigger ad space, better prizes, and other advertising expenses. For example, a carpet cleaning service that co-markets with a pet training and daycare company. Those carpets could be dirty from pets, right? Or maybe a wedding planning company and catering/cake decoration business. Think about, when a client/customer seeks out my services/products are there other non-competing business where their products/service might also be a natural potential need/desire by the target audience. Give it a try.
26. Send handwritten holiday, birthday, or thank you cards to past and current clients, valued partners, vendors in your referral network, connections who have helped you–everyone you can think of. This is a low-cost and in today’s everything digital world, it will stand out as unique and thoughtful.
27. Open as many communication channels as appropriate, including but not limited to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, OutBüro, Instagram, a toll-free phone number, live chat on your website, email, and related forums and blog comments.
28. Be where your competition is and is not.Research your competitors. If you’re a roofing company you may feel like that obligatory home delivered coupon pack is your only open. NO, it is not. Quality and value are the clients you seek, not the coupon junkies – right? Do your homework and seek out all the potential places to get the word out. Take a note from many of the ideas here that your competitors are not doing. If you want to do local direct to home mail advertising, find the vehicle for that that contains none of your competitors. Get more leads as the only major player with your products/services. If printed consider the content side of that publication. Can you provide a quarter article about your industry that is not only touting your company but actually informative? Think about that pool company mentioned above. If you are helpful, informative and provide your information you’ll build the awareness that you are the go-to company in your area.
29. Be everywhere. Having a blog, YouTube channel, and podcast on iTunes in addition to social media makes you more well known and credible and helps improve your own website search engine optimization. Expand beyond your website to get more traffic and leads. This is called “off page content”.
30. Local, local, local. To be found by people on Google, Bing and Yahoo searching for your types of products/services those search engines must clearly understand WHERE YOU ARE. Note that business citations are not beneficial to businesses where everything you do is online only. It’s all about helping users/customers find LOCAL businesses near them. You should have business citations on as many business related sites as possible. Think about the last time you popped out your phone, clicked Google Maps and searched for pizza or Greek food. That Google Maps listing is a business citation. Powerful heavily used potential here.
But don’t stop at Google Maps. Google Places and Bing are absolutely free for local businesses, while Yahoo Localwork is a paid service allowing to list your business in 50 directories (Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest, etc.). Once you’re listed, start taking advantage of local search results, and don’t forget to ask your customers to leave reviews on your page. I do NOT recommend Yext. STAY AWAY or pay forever. If you stop paying for their service they literally remove all your listings everywhere it was placed by them – once you use them you are trapped or will have to start all over with another service.
So why not start with a company like BrightLocalwho I have personally used before and like. When they hand enter your information to business listing sites, that’s it. You have access to an online progress report and can click directly to your listings to see them live. Later, you may use them to update the information if it changes but if not, those listing remain active forever without ever incurring any additional fees. Sweet. Right? Think of all those backlinks and local indicator love.
31. Claim your online business listings. Search your business name. When you find a listing of it, copy and paste that URL into a spreadsheet to keep track of it. There are hundreds of websites out there that contain your business information. Claim your business online and enjoy better rankings in Google, greater visibility, and more traffic. You may add your business to the OutBüro Company directory too.
32. Setup an affiliate program. You get more sales and brand ambassadors for less. This is great if your business is online. There are online affiliate systems that are hosted off your site and depending on what you use for your website there are plugins for the major players including WordPress. Affiliate systems aren’t for your customers. It is for bloggers / online marketer to write content about your product/service on their owned websites and then drive that traffic to yours with a web token that gets passed and your affiliate system tracks the site visitor and credits the referral with a set % of the sale if a purchase if made. For local, check out the idea above about referrals with other professionals and business owners.
33. Create a customer loyalty program to encourage future purchases and referrals. It may seem a little old school if using a punch card. But do whatever you can. You may not have the budget for a cool app like Starbucks, but that works. I know, I write a lot of my articles while sitting there. 🙂
There are online customer loyalty systems. If your point of sale (POS) system does not have one built in, consider upgrading/changing your POS to a system that has one built in or that integrates with a good 3rd party customer loyalty program. Do your online research to find options.
34. Use bumper stickers and window decals – Create a monthly live video streaming contest. In addition to putting them on company vehicles and customer/clients’ cars theme the m for free to employees, partners, stakeholders and investors, charities you donate to, and other contacts to display. Pass them out like candy any and everywhere you go.
Maybe host Facebook live events in where you announce you’ll be at a certain location or area while streaming live the first person to arrive with your company sticker on their car wins something. Be creative. Do it regularly – say monthly. Make it fun and inexpensive. Think about the social media shares something like that can create.
35. Ask for testimonials and reviews. This includes online reviews on websites like Yelp, Google and others. Be sure the client/customer is happy and ask them to do it before they leave. Make recommendations on LinkedIn and ask for them too. Create a testimonials page on your website and use the best reviews in as many promotions as makes sense.
36. Answer questions on forums and answer sites such as Quora. Help out people with free advice on topics related to your products and services. Create your profile with your business info, not your personal. Add your company website URL. This will be one more SEO love juice item. Keep your comment 100% professional. Just be sure to not get sucked into spending too much time on this. Don’t get baited into political or religious questions or anti-LGBT stuff unless you are very comfortable with that being associated with your business.
37. Create customer case studies. Ask your happy customers to share their experience of using your product or service. Treat it like an interview. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask someone else to interview them and you and write the document. Maybe it could be a story featuring your company on OutBüro. Search case studies guides for ideas if keeping it pure to the concept. These stories add credibility to your company and help you get more customers.
38. Ask your customers for referrals. You cannot be shy. Simply ask – and you’ll receive. It might go like this, “So Jack you have mentioned a few times that you are very happy with our products/services. We are so happy to have a customer/client like you. Can you think of two to three other companies/people you know who might also like to have our products/services that we can say you suggested them to us?” Sit there with your pen and paper or tablet in hand ready to write/type. That action and asking for 2-3 will compel him to cough up those contacts for you to follow up with.
39. Post your company offers on a coupon and deal sites. People love special offers and discounts. Getting a great product at an excellent price is what everybody wants. But be very careful to not be the perceived as the cheap discount king. When stuff is priced too low it can actually make the person feel that your product/service is cheap, your service will suck and if they have any problems they’ll be lucky if you answer your phone. OCCASIONAL specials are OK. But if there’s a “Sale” sign hanging in your window 365 days a year, you know the types of customers that attracts. Enough said.
40. Offer free consultations. Free consultations are a great way to showcase your expertise and get more clients. Basically, it’s a short 30-minute or less needs assessment and sales demonstration. Keep it simple. If you don’t make the sale there, collect their contact information and put them in your customer relationship management system to follow up with them appropriately.
41. Optimize your website for mobile. Google considers it in search rankings and more and more people search the web on their phones and tablets. Sites that are not mobile ready get clicked away from super fast. Just think of your own phone internet browsing for proof.
42. Add SSL to your website. SSL is Security Socket Layer. It is an encryption that ensures all the interactions your visitor has with your website is encrypted and secure. Google is taking SSL into account when presenting searchers with results. If your competitor has SSL and you don’t, you’ll be penalized. If you have it and they don’t, you’ll crush them. We’re adding SSL to OutBüro too – if not already implemented when reading this, it’s in the works.
43. Create a giveaway. Please, be creative. You want to give away something cool your customers want and need rather than something you don’t need. I always need a good quality coffee travel mug and personally love the adult sippy cups with a lid and straw – I actually like them so much that I purchased a box of 12. I knock over water and iced tea glasses all the time. They save me from cleaning up a spill. Think of giving away a set of 6 in early spring – just in time for summer pool parties and barbecues which can lead to conversations about your company. “Cocktail please.”
44. Print your company logo on hats and T-shirts. Your loyal customers will be happy to wear them and will become free brand promoters. Yeah. Old school but folks love them. I have a friend that seems to not own a single unbranded t-shirt. Me not so much. But, if you contact me to do a story about your business to be on OutBüro’s blog and send me one of your company t-shirts, then I’ll have a connection with you and likely also wear it. Remember, this is one thing in a multi-channel marketing approach.
45. Exceed your customer expectations. Reputation is everything these days. By exceeding your customer expectations and walking that extra mile – you’ll drive more business.
46. Translate your website to multiple languages. If your business sales products/service online, then why limit yourself to English only speaking potential clients/customers? The world is a big place. Go get ‘em.
47. Celebrate your company birthday with customers and the media. Use the opportunity to deliver a special message to your clients. Create a press release to distribute and post it on OutBüro.com for free via your profile article submission or leverage our low-cost LGBT press release service to SEO optimize it, post and feature it via our social media channels to give it a bit more SEO love and distribution kick.
47. Say “Happy Birthday” to your clients. Have a discount or a special offer ready to give as a gift. It works!
48. Use voice mail and an autoresponder to let your customers know about your special offers. It’s a great way to get your message across during closed hours. It won’t cost you a penny!
49. Survey your customers for great ideas. Talking to your customers is the easiest way to understand what they need and what they value the most. Can you capture more of your client/customer if you tweaked your offering? Don’t know if you don’t ask
50. Share product samples with as many people as you can. You will attract the right customers who are right for your business.
51. Add Schema.org markup to your website key data. Google can show much more than your website URL in search results. Reviews, ratings, exact address – all of it can show up in search engine results if your website HTML is marked properly. More data in search results = more clicks and traffic.
52. Set up a pay per click (PPC) campaign. In most cases, you can get a free $50 voucher from Bing or Google. If competition is not fierce – you’ll be driving more sales soon.
53. Create infographics for your website. Do you have some data that could be represented graphically? If not start thinking of what kind of data via a survey, you could collect to then create an infographic. Think about how that information could be used in local or national media, online, in print, and on TV even. If you are a professional dog walker, could you take a survey of local dog owners about the health and happiness of dogs and owners? A local news station could give you free coverage for interesting info with a local slant. Search the internet for ideas and think about how you could make it local or spin it. But collect your own data or cite the source while creating the graphic.
54. Join Help a Reporter Out. HARO is a free way to get media coverage. Register as an expert source on HARO and whenever a journalist needs a quality source for an article – you’ll get an email twice a day listing all the article ideas reporters need expert input by. If you see one that is in your area of knowledge you reply and who knows, you could be cited or featured in a major publication.
What creative marketing ideas for LGBT small business have you implemented and worked? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Send us your news tip regarding LGBT employees. Are you aware of a LGBT owned business or community non-profit we should inform our readers about? Contact us with an LGBT owned business lead or news tip.
October 1, 2018
(updated October 12, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Every business needs exposure and that’s no different for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer business owners, startups and non-profit organizations. You can send your press release out via a wire service and hope for the best. In addition to that approach, you should seek out every media outlet possible and create direct relationships to help get your new announcement published. One such site focusing on LGBTQ business owners and non-profits news is OutBüro – The LGBTQ Employer Reviews/Ratings, Job Portal, and Professional & Entrepreneur Networking Community. For more information on self-publishing your press release for free or being interviewed and featured by OutBüro check out the article titled “LGBT Business and Non-Profit Leaders: Create Buzz and SEO Love”.
Benefits of a Press Releases
Organizations of all sizes use press releases to:
To attempt to gain media coverage. This would be when your company releases a new product or feature.
To improve search engine optimization. Content about your company out on the web people can find you with your company and industry keywords will make your press release shareable. The backlinks provide SEO uplift to your own site. That ensures your release will be searchable and found online and can create buzz with target audiences you want to reach expanding your own direct efforts.
To build your company brand recognition and reputation. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The more your brand is visible the more it will stick in the minds of your target audience. Maybe you are launching your business, or expanding your services. Maybe you completed a great client project or won an award. There are so many reasons to make a press release announcements.
To have a proactive voice. When things go wrong, it’s often beneficial to break the story yourself first.
It is a fairly low-cost way to market your company/organization. A well-written press release can help gain public attention through news coverage.
To build solid relationships. Journalists and influencers are always looking to make connections with companies and organizations as sources of news. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. A good press release will capture their attention and have them eager to share the story with their audience.
You need to answer why the reader should care and why this is news in the first couple of sentences.
The first line of the release should answer concisely the who is it about and who is your target audience if you can and why it is pertinent to them.
As an LGBTQ business owner, your business may focus on the LGBTQ community or not. If everyone is a potential client/customer then consider multiple press releases targeting different audiences. LGBTQ people like to patron LGBTQ owned businesses, so having LGBTQ language in your press release helps that community find and identify with your company/organization.
What it is about? What is new? Has the company/organization reached a milestone or hosting an education event? Ensure you cover where including an address, city, region county, global or online that helps Google serve up local news.
If it is an event or a promotion state when it is or the time frame of the action just as “completed a client project in June,” or “Labor Day weekend special.”
Lastly but not least cover the how. How does or did this benefit the client or community? How to get in contact with you and so forth.
Every press release should fit on an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper
Contact Information is best at the top. Include the appropriate contact name, phone number, and email address.
Pick Your Keywords – Ask yourself what are the main topics covered by your press release? Think about how the average person who may not understand your business or industry think about it. What search terms might they use?
Are Your Press Releases Getting Ignored?
If journalists or media outlet are ignoring your press releases there’s a good chance it’s because you have not answered the above basics or have it scattered throughout your press release making them hunt for it. Make it easy and follow the basics. Additionally, seek out media site such as OutBüro where you can post your press release yourself – and for free. OutBüro wants your LGBTQ owned business news and announcements that are office environment safe. Be sure to check out our article titled “LGBT Business and Non-Profit Leaders: Create Buzz and SEO Love”.
Videos have been hot on the internet and continue to be preferred form of information consumption. With a little preparation, you can make quick and easy short videos even right from your smartphone to share on your site, around the web, and in your press releases. Videos are shared more often on social media.
Adding an extra image or even a video is worth it. According to PR Newswire research adding an extra image(s) and/or video can increase your press release visibility by 552 percent.
Common Mistakes in a Press Release
Press releases are meant to increase media outreach, improve brand awareness and share important company/organization news. None of those goals can be achieved if your press release has common marketing mistakes.
Try to avoid:
Using boring headlines. Keep it short and make every word work for you.
Forgetting a call to action. Direct the reader to you a specific page on your website for example.
Not Including images and video that bring the press release to life – if possible use original images to reduce stock image burn out.
The best length of a press release is about 300-400 words. That’s only three or four short paragraphs coupled with a few quotes. To get started, jot down a 3-4 section outline of the story and then write one or two sentences for each. Bullet points are your friend – they make your story easier to skim and make important points stand out.
Good quotes to elevate your copy. Depending on the publication, the quote might be the only portion that gets picked up, printed or cited. This means it needs to be clear, on message and essential. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making your quotes stand out:
Don’t use words just for fluff. Be strategic and use buzzwords that will have a deeper meaning of what you are trying to say.
Don’t use industry jargon. Use language that sounds conversational to professionals and brands.
Each quote in the release should have a message supporting your brand and have a little WOW factor to entice the reader to learn more.
Use Data to Improve your Press Release
Having hard statistics and data to build trust between your company/organization and customers/clients.
Look for patterns in customer reviews: What are your customers saying about your company/organization and how can you use those reviews for your story?
Data gives your press release substance.
Did you know that 42 percent of all statistics are completely full of crap because people never cite sources? See what we did there? Many PRs do that as well, only they don’t mean to. Journalists read your baffling statistics and immediately search for the source. Without them, you have no credibility. Without that, you have no story… 100 percent of the time.
Go Beyond Large Wire Services
Don’t call it a day after you’ve sent out your release over the wire. Reach out to a few of the journalists or influencers, such as OutBüro, you’ve identified and built a relationship. If you can schedule a call with them to learn more about their target audience and share how your news fits their audience. Follow up with them occasionally even when you don’t have a press release to send. Be authentic and if there’s not a match, be honest. Every media outlet has their niche focus. Then ensure your press release is geared toward that media outlet and its audience. GayStarNew, Queerty, and OutBüro have some overlapping similarities yet are very different from one another.
December 22, 2017
(updated October 12, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
You can’t go far in business without customers. Make sure you know who yours are, and what they want. Use these tips to help learn more about your target market.
What does it mean to define a target market?
From the moment you came up with your business idea, you probably had a specific customer in mind. When you tweak your service or product, you do it with them in mind. When you write your promos, you highlight the features that will interest them most – and use language that they get.
This is a great way to think. It gives focus to everything you do. But you’re probably making a lot of assumptions about what your target customers really want, and how much they want it. When you define your target market, you’re doing a little research to make sure you’re not misleading yourself about who’s going to spend money with you.
When to do it
It’s a good idea to define your target market before launching your business. The exercise will help you test a lot of assumptions before you sink too much money into the wrong things. It’s a lot less expensive to change direction at this early stage.
But even if you’ve been in business for years, it’s helpful to keep defining your target market to stay in touch with who your customers are.
What will you know at the end?
Defining a target market can give you three important pieces of information.
1. Is there a market?
Dig around and see if there’s enough demand to sustain your business. Are people (or businesses) buying your category of product? What portion of that market is gettable for you?
2. Who’s in the market?
Once you’ve confirmed there are customers out there, start to get more focused. Who are those people?
What’s their age? Do they have certain types of jobs? Where are they most likely to work or live? Do they have common interests? Are they more likely to be men or women? Do they have a lot of money, or are they on a budget? These are the demographics of your target customer.
Start by going after a specific cross-section of the market. That way you can get to know your target customers even better.
3. How do they think?
Once you’ve identified who your target customers are, you can start to find out what makes them tick.
What do they care about? Use this information to promote the product benefits that are most relevant to them. Where and how do they shop? Try to get your products into those places (and make sure you’re online if that’s how they like to buy). Where do they get information? Run your ads, promos and PR in these places. Who do they take advice from? See if you can enlist those key opinion leaders to give you some profile.
Where to get information about your target market
The internet is a good place to start looking for demographic data. Search for statistics on your target customers. You should be able to find credible research that’s been done by governments, trade and industry groups, universities, marketing institutions or even other companies who serve that same market (check out their annual reports).
Once you’ve got some of this basic information, go talk to your target customers. Nothing beats getting their input, either one-on-one, through focus groups, or by sending surveys.
Example of targeted marketing
Let’s assume you have a video production company offering engagement, wedding, and new baby videos. On a really basic level, your potential customers are all couples who are engaged and/or pregnant. Resist the temptation to stop there. You don’t have a big enough budget to market to them all.
Try targeting a subgroup like unmarried double-income couples, aged 25 to 35, who live within two hours of your studio. They should have money to spend on recording upcoming life events, and they’re nearby so you can easily meet with them.
This is also a group you can get to know. Find out what local 25-35 year olds care about. Where do they shop? Where do they get their information? Who do they take a lead from? Maybe there’s an Instagram account they follow closely – so see if you can get a credited photo posted there, for example.
Defining your target market is just the start
You don’t need to get too carried away with this type of research in the startup phase of your business. You’re just aiming to confirm there’s a market there, and to learn a little about who they are. It’ll slow you down if you do a heap of research now.
As you get underway, however, you’ll want to keep learning more about your target customers. The more you know them, the better you can serve them – and the smarter (and more cost-effective) your marketing can be.
December 22, 2017
(updated October 12, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Email marketing is often a great way for a business to get high returns. We gathered ten tips for successful email marketing.
Keep your content interesting and fresh, and always relevant. You will build an engaged audience of loyal customers that way.
The top 10 must-have tips for email marketing
Part I of this guide focused on small business marketing on a budget and the tools to do this. There are many different ways of marketing to your customers, ranging from direct mail to telephone calls, online banners to radio ads, Facebook to Twitter. But businesses often see high returns from email marketing.
People regularly check their email and spend a lot of time in front of it. Sending email is cheap, too, but how do you get your message across effectively?
Build relationships with your readers Not all of your readers are the same. Some may be lifelong customers, while others will be new to your business, so segmenting your email lists is very important. Have a goal in mind when you send an email, whether it’s attracting new customers to your store, driving traffic to your website or simply raising awareness. That goal should dictate how you craft your message. Take your time to think this through, so your customers feel connected to you.
Start small Don’t send your first email newsletter to your entire mailing list. Start small, with perhaps a few dozen or a few hundred recipients. Then watch the response. If it’s good, send it to more people. If it’s not, tweak and test out a new version.
Make it easy to opt-in and opt-out Email marketing is permission-based. That means customers have indicated (through a sign-up form on a website or a number of other ways) that they want to receive emails from you. But they might change their mind. As important as it as to make it easy for people to receive your emails, you must also make it easy for them to opt-out or unsubscribe. Be sure to follow their wishes, or risk being labeled a spammer.
Personalize your emails If half your customers are middle-aged women then there’s no point sending them emails offering cheap soccer cleats. Or is there? If their children play sports at school, they could be just the customers you’re looking for. This is why business information is so important. Never make assumptions. Use the data to find out what you need to know, then send the right offers to the right customers.
Use good content to keep your readers engaged Think of the recipients of your emails as more than customers. Think of them as readers too. Give them a narrative, a story about the products you’re selling. Help them to engage with your products, to find a way to weave them into their own lives. Your emails should not just be used as a sales vehicle but also as an opportunity to foster relationships. Be sure to include helpful hints and best practices that will bring value to your readers. Keep your content interesting and fresh, and always relevant. You will build an engaged audience of loyal customers this way.
Strike a balance with the length It’s important to find the sweet spot in terms of the length of your emails. You need to figure out what’s going to be most effective for the majority of people on your list. Keep in mind that a lot of emails are read on mobile devices, so you’re working with less real estate. On the other hand, an email can be too short. If there isn’t sufficient content to grab your readers’ interest, they’ll move on to the next email. It’s all about testing out different options to find a balance that works for you and your readers.
Get the tone right There’s a fine line between marketing emails that add value and are welcomed by the recipient, and ‘spam’ or junk mail which will be deleted immediately. Don’t go over the top with exclamation marks and wild claims. Try to use a friendly, authoritative but not arrogant tone. Your goal is to get the customer on your side and keep them there.
Offer something of value There’s nothing wrong with simply listing your products and their prices. That’s useful information for people who are already looking to buy. But you can go further, to convert those who are undecided. Offer discounts for people ordering in response to your email. Two-for-one deals, discounts on multiple purchases, free shipping for orders over a certain value – there are plenty of ways to add value and get your customers to spend more.
Track email responses With the right software, email marketing lets you track the response of your campaigns, by embedding unique links into each message. Some of the response metrics might include:
Who opened your email.
Which links in the email were clicked.
Who forwarded your email to others.
Who shared your email on social media.
Which emails led to sales, online reviews, event registrations and other destinations.
This will provide insight into the type of information your audience is most interested in, and will give you a benchmark to improve upon every time you hit ‘Send’.
Don’t spam! Sending out email ‘blasts’ of generic, over-the-top sales text is a waste of time – for you and for your customers. You’ll lose existing subscribers faster than you can sign up new ones. Effective email marketing takes time, thought, and consideration. You must be focused on building relationships.
Email communication is a good way to hone your marketing skills. Once you’ve mastered it, you can move on to other outlets, such as social media and mobile marketing. Although the platforms might be different, many of the skills and tactics required are the same.
Understand what your customers want
The two main goals of marketing are to get repeat business and to win new customers. Even small businesses can do this successfully, with the right attitude and the right software. The key is to understand what your customers want, and then tell them that you can provide it.
Once you get used to analyzing and using business information for marketing purposes, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. “Insight” is the right word for this business knowledge, because without it you are blind to the behavior and needs of your customers.
The best combination of cloud software and marketing strategy will give you hyper-targeted marketing campaigns that hit your customers at the right time, in the right place and with the right information or offer. Marketing for your small business has never been more effective.