Small Business

3 Business Lessons I Learned From Reality TV

Please note: I am well aware that most of you in the business world may think I am crazy for my next statement.

I love watching reality TV. If I admitted that in the world of business networking, I’d say I would actually be laughed right out of the room. But I do, I love ‘em.

Let me clarify: I haven’t invested any time into watching The Kardashian’s. However, I do pay particular interest to the shows that focus on bringing in ‘the expert’ to help a failing business, particularly, Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. I know they seem over the top, and maybe they are. But once you peel back the ‘fluff,’ the professionals on these shows have insightful lessons I learned from reality TV that you can use to make your business better. There are three key takeaways:
3 Business Lessons I Learned from Reality TV

Every industry should make it a priority to research their target audience, carefully select their business location and then develop their branding.

In Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer always begins every episode by researching the neighborhood and the people in the area (after he goes in and yells at the stupidity of the owner). He always ends the show with a makeover for the bar. The makeover isn’t just one that makes the bar look pretty — it’s actually a complete rebranding. Think about it this way: would you put an upscale 5-star restaurant in the middle of a college campus strip mall? Put your entrepreneur hat on and think about what your customers would want.

A business should hire employees for the skills that they bring to the business  and NOT because they’re friends or family.
In Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsey repeatedly has […]

By |February 11th, 2014|Branding, Small Business|Comments Off on 3 Business Lessons I Learned From Reality TV|

Why Your Business Needs to Blog

“Blog or die.” It’s that simple.
In preparing to write this particular blog, I researched what other content marketing gurus have written about the importance of blogging. A quick Google search turns up dozens of reasons why your business needs to blog: SEO perks, thought leadership, content marketing being “trendy,” trust-building, social sharing, and a ton of other reasons.

The one problem with these overly-thorough “top 10” lists about the importance of blogging is that they’re written from a marketer’s perspective and NOT by a small business owner. If I throw a bunch of marketing jargon at you (SEO, conversion rate, publishing schedule, repurposing content for multiple platforms) without explaining myself, that knowledge is lost on most non-industry professionals. That doesn’t mean you need to brush up on your marketing lingo – you don’t. That’d be like an electrical engineer telling me, a marketing professional, that I should know what ESR stands for (Electrical Series Resistance, FYI). It’s your job to run your business and it’s ours to help you earn more revenue from doing what you do best.
Let me break it down in “normal guy” terms. Your business needs to BLOG because:

What else are you doing to sell or market your business?
Are you spending money on yellow page ads? Radio commercials? Brochures? Networking events? Facebook (and by spending money on Facebook, I mean spending oodles of TIME on Facebook). What do you hope to gain from your investment? Most businesses want to do one of two things:

Generate a sales call
Drive traffic to their website

Chances are these prospects aren’t just going to get a pamphlet and call you up to buy something. They may call to ask questions or setup a consultation, but unless you’re selling […]

What Is Branding? Designing Your Company Brand

Launching and owning a business is hard (Read: Starting a Business Is Hard). The list of items to complete, at times, seem insurmountable; file for a license, secure a domain name, and find funding are just a few items on the list. The one ‘to do’ that is so often missing from the list is to create and design your company brand, also known as your company identity.

Your brand correlates to how you want your company to be perceived by others. When a customer sees your logo, what do you want them to think and/or feel? When they visit your Facebook page, what is one takeaway you want them to have? Your brand is related to everything you do as it pertains to your company.
Your company brand, design, and culture is not just one thing — it’s everything.
No matter the age of your company, it’s never too late to create a brand that will make you proud. These four steps will start you on the right path to branding success.

Figure out who you are – Define your company brand. Your products and/or services have been determined and hopefully you have created a plan on how to deliver the goods. But before you begin selling and promoting your company — even before you begin designing your logo — determine your own corporate identity. This is the basis for everything that follows. Start by asking yourself these questions:

Will your office have a formal, corporate atmosphere or will it be more relaxed? If you will have employees, what is your intended dress code?
Do you want a fun, vibrant feel or one that’s more structured and contained? Think about the difference between the Google and Microsoft brands. Which […]

By |January 14th, 2014|Branding, Marketing, Small Business|Comments Off on What Is Branding? Designing Your Company Brand|

5 Must-Have Marketing Tools for New Businesses

The rules in the game of marketing for a new business are constantly changing. With the advent of every new technology and social media platform, a new opportunity to promote your business emerges. It puts another item on your marketing to-do list. There are a ton of marketing tools for new businesses to consider and it may be difficult to decide what you need to do first and where to invest your marketing dollars. One thing is certain: doing nothing is NOT an option.

Every business should have a full set of marketing tools in their “marketing toolkit.” As you know, toolkits hold the supplies needed to complete a specific job. As a new business owner, your job is to launch your business. Although there are some tools that always remain in the marketing toolkit, what you do and where you focus your energy depends on the stage of the business.
Here are the 5 must-have marketing tools for your new business:

Effective company logo

It’s common for a new business owner to get overwhelmed and fail to take time to develop an effective logo. This logo will be the first item your potential customers will see, whether it be on a business card, a website or a flyer. Your logo is the most important marketing tool for your new business. Make sure it is one you are proud to display and will be proud to display for years to come. Changing a logo every couple of years is not only time consuming but a detriment to your business. Take measures to ensure that your logo is professional and effectively portrays your company brand. You want everyone who sees your logo to immediately know two things:

1) That you […]

By |January 7th, 2014|Marketing, Small Business|Comments Off on 5 Must-Have Marketing Tools for New Businesses|

How Much Does Social Media Marketing Cost?

You’ve done your research, talked to your customers and finally made the choice – your business needs to hop on the social media marketing train this year. After all, over 1/4 of the world’s population are active on social media – why not try to win some new customers?

At first, you think you know all about Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn/________ and believe social media marketing is going to be a fun, easy gravy train of new sales leads. I mean, you’ve been using it for years to upload photos and talk with your friends, so how hard can it be using social media for business? You decide your first step is to create a page for your business. After filling out all the contact info and uploading some pics, you realize that no one’s going to see your content unless people “like” your page. Now you’re asking yourself:

How do I get people to “like” my page?
How do I create a cover photo/profile image to make my page look AWESOME?
How often should I be posting, and what should I say?
Should I try to sell stuff directly on my page?
Should I share posts from others?
Do I need a blog?
What happens when a customer clicks on a link to my website?

After about a month of random posts, you start to feel overwhelmed and think that spending your time on social media marketing has been a waste. Besides, you have 150 other things that need to get done in your business, so you let your newly created social profile go on the back-burner and lose faith in the alluring promise of what social media marketing was supposed to be.

Truth is, it takes time – a LOT of it – to properly […]

By |December 10th, 2013|Marketing, Small Business, Social Media|Comments Off on How Much Does Social Media Marketing Cost?|
  • How To Survive a Business Lunch iima productions
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    How To Survive a Business Lunch: 3 Simple Tips to Close More Clients

How To Survive a Business Lunch: 3 Simple Tips to Close More Clients

The business lunch is alive and well in the business world. For a small business owner, scheduling a business lunch is like hitting the proverbial ‘jackpot’. People are busy, and business owners and/or executives are even busier. They value their time and guard it in the same manner as they do their money. Remember, time is money. So, if you are successful in scheduling a business lunch with the intent to get closer to closing that deal, go into it as you would a big game. Prepare and strategize. Most importantly remember, there is a technique to achieving a successful business lunch.

Here are 3 simple tips to help you get started on the right foot:

Never order pasta

I know, it’s so good and after all you are paying for it. So, why not order what you want? It’s important to remember, one of your goals is to leave the potential client with a positive image of you. And sorry, that just can’t happen with spaghetti dangling out of your mouth. And leave the penne pasta alone as well. Don’t risk the embarrassing stain on your shirt. Be safe, order the salad.
Always order appetizers

The point of this lunch is to get around to selling yourself and your business and the clock is ticking. Once the main course arrives, your time to sell is over. So buy yourself more time and order an appetizer. Make it a point to get your sales pitch in before the main course arrives. That way, when it comes, you can sit back and enjoy (kind of).
Talk about them first
As a wise copywriter once said, “They don’t care about you – they care about them.” This wisdom applies to business lunches as well […]

By |November 22nd, 2013|Small Business|Comments Off on How To Survive a Business Lunch: 3 Simple Tips to Close More Clients|

4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Company’s Website

Imagine you’re in the market for a new set of tires. You perform a Google search for “affordable tires Jeep Wrangler.” As you browse through Google’s search results, you click on a vendor you think has what you need (at an amazing discount, no doubt). Upon arriving on their site, you spend the next five minutes of your life trying to figure out if they even sell tires for your make and model of car, only to realize they don’t. After much frustration and wasted time, you leave their site and head back to Google for a fresh search – disappointed and no closer to reaching your initial goal.

We’ve all been there. Business websites can be a pain to navigate. They waste time, they leave a negative impression about the brand, and they aren’t helping that business reach their revenue goals. So think for a minute – when a visitor lands on YOUR company’s site, are THEY finding what they’re looking for?

Read through the following four questions, review the examples and really ask yourself whether your website is performing as well as it could be.

1. What is the primary GOAL of your website?
Lead generation? Brand awareness? Direct online sales or online fundraising? To provide news, information and entertainment to site visitors? If you’re unclear about what your site is there to do, chances are your site visitors are, too. Make a decision on what you want from your website. Many B2B companies rely on inbound leads, so they’d want to focus on optimizing their site for a lead generation strategy. Direct B2C businesses might want to sell their products online, in which case they need to ensure that they’re providing visitors with an […]

By |November 16th, 2013|Design, Marketing, Small Business|Comments Off on 4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Company’s Website|
  • iima productions welcomes Lorraine Wolfe to the team
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    iima Welcomes New Marketing Director, Lorraine Wolfe, To The Team

iima Welcomes New Marketing Director, Lorraine Wolfe, To The Team

iima productions, inc. is happy to announce Lorraine Wolfe as iima’s newest employee!

Joining the Western Springs-based agency’s team after connecting with Shirell Mollo, president and founder of iima productions, through the Downers Grove Chamber of Commerce, Lorraine will take on responsibilities as the company’s Marketing Director and Graphic Designer.

Lorraine graduated from Bradley University Magna Cum Laude in 2004 with a double major in Advertising and Multimedia with a minor in Graphic Design. Right after college, she worked as a Graphic Artist designing display advertising and marketing collateral for her employer’s clients.

After moving back to Chicago, she co-founded a marketing and business consulting firm and worked with local clients for several years before she joined the marketing team at a credit card processing company as their in-house Marketing Coordinator. She worked to help build their brand by creating and implementing a mix of graphic design, marketing and PR initiatives that resulted in major media coverage and a consistently growing inbound lead funnel.

Lorraine brings a fresh, strategic perspective to the iima team along with a host of proven marketing experience including branding, publicity, SEO, website design & development, online marketing, social media, advertising design, and copywriting.

“We are thrilled to have Lorraine join our team. Her drive, skillset, positive attitude and talent will be assets to both the iima brand as well as an invaluable resource to our clients,” states Mollo.

“I’m most excited about helping iima reach that next level. It is my goal to help provide informed creative and strategic direction to our current customer base while helping the iima brand connect with more local business owners. I want to see us growing right alongside our customers,” says Wolfe.

Contact iima productions, inc. or call 708-505-4105 […]

By |October 14th, 2013|Marketing, Small Business|Comments Off on iima Welcomes New Marketing Director, Lorraine Wolfe, To The Team|
  •, How to grow your business with customer service
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    It’s Not About You! How Helping Your Customers Will Grow Your Business.

It’s Not About You! How Helping Your Customers Will Grow Your Business.

So, you thought enjoying landscaping was all the criteria you needed to start a lawn and snow service? Wrong. Sorry to disappoint but knowledge in your field is only the tip of the iceberg. No matter your chosen field, when running a business there are various abilities you have to learn and do outside of your chosen field. Little did you know that you would spend most days doing everything but landscaping. You sure as heck didn’t realize you needed to understand marketing (and if you did then kudos to you). So, I am going to share a very secret ‘go to’ marketing trick. Ready? Remember this statement, “It’s not about you. It’s about your customers.”

I know, I know. You thought it all came down to growing your business and growing your clientele. Sorry, to burst your bubble. It’s actually about your clients. I find myself sitting in meetings time and time again with clients or potential clients who continuously fail to grasp this fundamental truth. As a business owner, your whole reason for existing is to help your customers achieve their goals. For example, if you’re the landscaper mentioned above, your goal is to not only cut your customers grass but to do it in a timely manner while providing top-notch customer service. And if you really want to be the business that earns the reward of repeat business from said client, as well as garner referrals, you can even take things a step further. You can go above and beyond; maybe you provide tips on how to maintain their lawn throughout the season or take time to answer their lawn care questions on Facebook.

If you are constantly thinking about how to help […]

By |September 25th, 2013|Marketing, Small Business|Comments Off on It’s Not About You! How Helping Your Customers Will Grow Your Business.|
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    Starting a Business is Hard Plus 4 Other Items Start-Ups Should Do That You’d Think Were Obvious

Starting a Business is Hard Plus 4 Other Items Start-Ups Should Do That You’d Think Were Obvious

I remember when my son was two days old. As I walked a crying baby at 2:30 in the morning, the thought hit me like a splash of water, “This baby thing is hard.” Well that seems just as obvious as when I thought, “Starting a business is hard.” about six months into it the launch phase. Please believe me when I say that I’m in no way putting myself on a pedestal. This list includes items that I have thought or maybe failed to do at one point or another. Take this opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

Starting a Business is Hard. I’m not implying that anyone would start a business and actually think it was going to be a breeze but every business owner has moment when they realize it’s much harder than anticipated. As you work your 80 hours a week for about 12 hours of pay, the absolute truth hits you. When you start your business go into it with your eyes open from the start. You will work harder than you ever did before and get paid less (initially) so save have a nice financial base and support system. You won’t make it if you don’t.
Running a business and marketing go hand in hand. Let’s start with the obvious. You see it time and time again; professionals start a business without giving one thought to how they are going to market it. Most often they take the, “If you build they will come” approach. I’m sorry to inform you, that is only a movie. In the real world you have to market. The moment you know you are starting a business, tell everyone. And I mean EVERYONE! Friends, family, […]

By |September 10th, 2013|Small Business, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Starting a Business is Hard Plus 4 Other Items Start-Ups Should Do That You’d Think Were Obvious|