A few months ago I attended a dynamic presentation on networking, put on free of charge by local business coach Sue Clement. She was able to explain to me once and for all the difference between marketing and sales, and the point at which you should stop marketing yourself and start selling (not as early in the sales cycle process as most people think).
But for Colleen Smith, who took me to Sue’s seminar, and for me, there was a certain element of frustration. Basically, using a baseball metaphor, Sue explained that your marketing efforts begin at home base and continue till you’re at – or past – second base, and the sales cycle is concluded with payment received (run actually batted in and the player’s passed third and returned to home plate again). What was dismaying for both Colleen and me was the fact that the business territory we occupy is that small square of home plate where everything begins and ends. And yet we weren’t talking about the composition of that home base at all, or the skill, money, and effort required to get that corporate presence established in virtual, visual, and concrete marketing collateral terms.
Along with branding experts, web designers, and graphic designers, the public relations and corporate communications businesses are built on helping people develop, express and communicate their brands to various stakeholders. Later, as companies become more established, preserving the corporate reputations they’ve established and protecting their brands become more important.
But you can’t leave out that first step. While those who work as graphic designers, web designers, and in marketing communications may joke about their own lack of attention to their branding and marketing efforts and repeatedly state that it’s a case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes, it’s a huge mistake and it implies you don’t really take yourself – or your business – very seriously.
With the help of my business coach, Fiona Walsh, I’ve worked over the last six to eight weeks to remedy that problem. Luckily I’m deadline-oriented, and even before we’d agreed on the November 12 date for the first iteration of the Social Media for Luddites seminar, I knew I had to get to work on my bare minimum of marketing collateral tools. I wasn’t prepared to speak to even a small group of business people without the things I considered essential: a logo, business cards, a web site, a corporate email address, and a branded PowerPoint template.
I decided to work with graphic designer Laura Comuzzi of Desktop Design Works to develop my logo, design my business cards and get the PowerPoint happening. I’ve yet to meet Laura in person, but we have spoken enough over the phone and had established a good working relationship in the course of working on a mutual client project earlier this year. I knew she was one of those rare graphic designers who was equally strong on the typographic and graphic element front. And I’m delighted with what she’s produced for me (just wait till you see the PowerPoint!).
For the web site, I knew I wanted a branded blog rather than a built-from-scratch web site. I also knew that I didn’t have a lot of time to pull this together, and that I wanted to spend my own time developing content for the site – and for the seminar I was scheduled to deliver in less than two weeks time – rather than in endless meetings in which I was grilled on desired architecture and fancy features like flash. So when I discovered that Miss 604, Rebecca Bollwitt, and her husband John Bollwitt, had their own consulting company, I decided to work with them. I had seen John’s podcasting presentation at this year’s local blogging conference, and I knew he was a techie with whom to be reckoned. As for Rebecca, well, why wouldn’t I reach out to the woman who’s been ranked one of Vancouver’s Top 10 bloggers two years in a row now and someone who’s helping organize the next WordCamp?
I’m delighted with the results. I got exactly what I wanted and needed. The web site is a work-in-progress, which is as it should be. As I become more familiar with the WordPress platform I’ll want to make some changes. But in the meantime, I’m thrilled with my new corporate ‘starter home.’
And I urge those of you who want your businesses to be taken seriously to set aside the time and money required to get into the market yourselves. You won’t ever regret being prepared. Not to mention the fact that the compliments you’ll get on your marketing collateral pieces will warm your heart (even though you know most of the talent was hired rather than indigenous). Thank you Laura, Fiona, Sue, Colleen, Rebecca, and John.