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Welcome to the WISE newsletter, a program of
The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University
 

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Creative Marketing for Start-ups

When I first started my business, I used to think that if I could just afford a big advertising campaign, all my problems would be solved. People would flock to my store, and we would be an instant success. We were completely undercapitalized, but as funds became available we started experimenting with radio, television and print ads. I was surprised to find out that you can get into any of these mediums fairly inexpensively. I was more surprised to discover that the results were often disappointing – sometimes we didn’t even break even.

Periodically sales reps would try to talk us into another yet another ad campaign. I would politely tell them that we weren’t interested. Their response would invariably be that the problem was that I was advertising with the wrong station or paper, and that if I advertised with theirs that I would have an INCREDIBLE response. In case you were wondering, reps will always tell you that their station or publication is the one you should advertise with. The real truth is that some businesses can do well with traditional advertising, but the key is repetition and consistency. Professionals suggest a 3 month to one year commitment. But how many new businesses can commit thousands of dollars every month in their first year or two? And if you can commit the funds, how much do you need to sell to break even? For company with a minimal budget, it just didn’t seem to make sense. For the first few years of my business, I felt compelled to throw my money away on unsuccessful ad campaigns, though I think I’ve finally broken myself of that habit.

What does work for us is a series of smaller, targeted, less expensive marketing methods. None of these on their own is enough to effectively get our name out, but when used together over a period of time they create critical mass. The comment that we hear over and over is that our name is the one that keeps popping up. This is what you strive for as a business owner.

* PRESS RELEASES – One of the most important basic skills you can learn is how to write an effective press release. Any marketing book will give you examples and guidelines. The flip side is that you need to be doing things that are newsworthy – so you can send out press releases publicizing it!

You can send out press releases on awards you’ve received, promotions, and charitable events you are hosting. You can tie into larger, national issues. For example, for national Bring your Daughter to work day you could publicize what your company is doing to observe the day. Editors are always looking for timely articles. Keep in mind that consumers are pretty savvy to the fact that if you are paying for an ad, you can say anything you want to. Editorial content instantly commands more respect.

Letters to the editor can also be useful. Comment on current events and articles and be sure to include your name and your business name. It’s especially good if the issue directly pertains to your business and you can work in a line about what your business does.

Have you ever thought about writing for your local paper or a trade magazine? It’s not as hard as you think. After the first WISE conference, it occurred to me that the business section of the Post Standard didn’t have a regular column addressing the huge local interest in entrepreneurship. I also knew that when you start a new business you don’t necessarily know where to get advice from. I called the business editor and pitched the idea of having local business owners answer questions that new entrepreneurs might ask. She agreed, and it’s been running for almost 2 years now. It was that simple. I’m always astonished at the number of people who read it and comment on it. Aside from relocating our business, the regular press coverage that we’ve received has brought us more new customers than anything else we’ve done.

* DATA BASES
Maintaining a data base is something any business can do. We keep one with our current customers and one for the people who receive our gifts. Our goal this year is to stay in better touch with both groups. I’m a big fan of postcards – they’re cheap, and they don’t have to be opened. We have used color postcards and plain cardstock and gotten good results from both. A terrific source for color postcards is Modern Postcard – they charge about $100 for 500 cards and they’re even cheaper if you order more. You can visit www.modernpostcard.com for more information.

  • Publicity Kits

You should always have these on hand. A publicity kit is a folder with your company name and logo on it that you can customize depending on who will be receiving it. Your kit can include any or all of the following:
  • Headshot of you

  • Photo of your product

  • List of client references

  • Testimonials

  • Press coverage that you’ve received

  • Press releases


These kits are not sent out to everyone, because it’s a more expensive piece. We identify contacts in companies who are probably already sending client gifts out in one form or another. They are then added into our data base and we’ll follow up with postcards and other promotional materials.


* Sign your Work
If you produce a tangible product, be sure to sign your work. What better way to reach a potential customer? They already have a sample of your work in their hands. Have you ever found a great product and been unable to figure out how to get more? I’m always amazed at how many products are lacking contact information on the packaging. When we send a gift out, we affix a label with our name and number, and the enclosure card has our contact information on the back as well as a business card magnet enclosed. This serves 2 purposes – if the recipient has a question or problem, they can see exactly how to contact us, but we also want to make it easy for them to order from us. One of the pharmaceutical sales reps who orders from us commented that he see our magnets in every Doctor’s office that he calls on. That’s a lot of exposure for about $.20 each.

* LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The single best thing that we’ve done to increase our visibility was to relocate our business. Our first commercial location was in Hanover Square. We initially picked up a lot of downtown clients, but it really started to level off after a year or so. Parking is tough under the best of circumstances, and we endured a 2 year construction project to boot. Even people who knew us and knew where to find us were getting frustrated and not coming in.

Since ours isn’t a traditional retail business, I had mistakenly assumed that our location wasn’t crucial to our success. We started tracking how our customers were ordering and discovered that even clients located a block away were ordering by phone or email. We made the move to Teall Avenue, which is one of the busiest corridors in Syracuse. The increase in sales was almost immediate, and our rent stayed about the same. The lesson? Even your business doesn’t depend on walk-in traffic, you can still benefit by being in a very visible location.

Every business is different, and what works for us may not work for you. You will need to experiment to find the right mix of marketing tactics for your business, but you can avoid a lot of expensive trial and error by concentrating on methods that require time and creativity rather than a fat advertising budget.

Friday, April 15, 2005

WISE in the Daily Orange

WISE also got a big write-up in today's Daily Orange:
:The third conference inspired Syracuse Mayor Matthew Driscoll and Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro to proclaim April 14 as "Women Entrepreneur Community Recognition Day."

The day of recognition was created "in an effort to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in local women, promote networking amongst businesswomen and inspire women to improve the economy and themselves," Driscoll and Pirro said in a written proclamation.

Speakers at the conference included professionals in various types of industries, such as Myra Hart, the co-founder of Staples and Wendy Newmeyer, the founder of Maine Balsam Fir Products, Inc.
Read more...

WISE in the Post-Standard -- The Morning After

Kiwi got a great write up in the context of WISE in the Post-Standard this morning:
Shared Wisdom
At WISE, women entrepreneurs share tales of success
Friday, April 15, 2005
By Tim Knauss
Staff writer

A woman named Kiwi sat on the floor in a small conference room at the Oncenter in Syracuse. She was one of about 90 women who had packed into a room with enough chairs for 50. The topic was "guerrilla marketing," one of 15 workshops offered Thursday during the daylong Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference. When the workshop leaders asked participants to share their creative marketing tricks, hands shot up all over the room. Kiwi, who does not use a last name, told this story: Her business, Kiwi Kollectibles, sells artistic note cards, refrigerator magnets, clothes and other items for kids. At a Maryland jazz festival, she walked around giving away kiwi fruits and green balloons along with some of her magnets. Later, one of the magnets turned up on the TV show "American Idol" when a contestant from Maryland flashed it at the camera. The day after the show aired, Kiwi Kollectibles got 52 orders, she said. Kiwi's was one of many impromptu tales shared Thursday at the WISE conference, which brought together more than 500 women and a handful of men to share ideas, swap business cards and learn from experts. They learned how environmental scientist Deborah Sawyer, of Chicago, started 14 years ago with a $20,000 loan from her mother to launch a hazardous waste management company. Today, Environmental Design International employs 70 people and does a variety of environmental and engineering work. "Success has been the best revenge for all the people out there who said a black chick couldn't have a $10 million engineering firm," she said. They learned how Wendy Newmeyer and her husband left suburban New Jersey in the late 1970s to "live off the land." The couple bought 111 acres of woods in Maine. After several years, Wendy evolved a business making aromatic pillows stuffed with ground-up balsam needles. Newmeyer said Maine Balsam Fir Products has sales of about $250,000 a year. The agenda which included speakers, workshops and time for socializing was designed to give participants a mix of inspiration, how-to information and networking opportunities. This was the third annual WISE conference, and it pulled in the most participants yet, said Craig Watters, acting director of the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, which organizes the event. "Isn't it wonderful to look around and see so many women?" asked Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Syracuse University, in her opening remarks. She said entrepreneurs are "heroines . . . creating a better quality of life for all of us." Keynote speaker Myra Hart, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard University, said 10.6 million private U.S. companies are at least half-owned by women, employing more people than the Fortune 500 companies. The number of women-owned businesses has grown 17 percent since 1997, compared with 9 percent growth in total companies. But companies owned by women average less than half the revenues of companies owned by men, she said. Hart, who helped found Staples Inc. before joining the Harvard faculty, said women entrepreneurs are rapidly improving the statistics. "If I were to come back for the seventh or the eighth (WISE conference), these numbers are going to be really different," she said. Maria Coyne, a senior vice president at KeyBank, said women-owned businesses are growing not only in number but in sophistication. To help fuel that growth, KeyBank recently said it would lend at least $1 billion during the next three years to women-owned businesses.

Looking Back on WISE

Yesterday was amazing. Over 500 people came to the OnCenter to work on starting or growing their businesses. Our directory grew by leaps and bounds. And there are lots of women ready to start using our forums for everything from finding the products the need for their businesses to seeking and giving advice on marketing their firms to customers. Thank you for coming!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Blogging from the WISE Symposium

We're in our morning breakout sessions right before lunch. Symposium attendees are super-friendly and, even better, super-enthusiastic. The directory is growing, and word is getting out about our forums! Stay tuned.

Live from the WISE Symposium

We're coming at you live from the WISE Symposium, where over 500 women have converged on the OnCenter in downtown Syracuse. Your humble host is sitting at the computer kiosk in the atrium, where I get a first look at people coming down the stairs, and help them register for our women-owned business directory and our discussion forums.

There's a cheery, unrushed attitude -- the organizers, while busy, aren't panicking about anything -- and everybody's all a-smiles. We've gotten underway with Myra Hart, our keynote speaker, and we've seen people from all sorts of news outlets. We'll have to keep an eye on the noon and evening news programs, and watch the Post-Standard tomorrow!

More after lunch.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

WISE in the Post-Standard -- Again!

Julie Briggs, Tracy Higginbotham and Ann Marie Stonecipher spoke to the Syracuse Post-Standard this morning about attending conferences as a boost to entrepreneurship, and Julie gave WISE a shout-out:
One of my favorite professional development conferences is taking place Thursday at the Oncenter. The third annual WISE (Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) Conference is presented by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University.

It's a day packed full of practical business advice, networking and inspirational speakers. It's also a great place to connect with other useful business resources.

In conjunction with the conference, it has launched a business directory and an interactive forum on its Web site. On the forum, you can post questions. You can get more information at www.som.syr.edu/eee/WISE/.
You can still receive the advance registration discount if you register for WISE today. Click here to register.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

One More Day for Advance Registrations

There's only one more day to register for the WISE Symposium with an advance discount. Those registering today or tomorrow will pay $40, those walking into the symposium on Thursday not having registered will pay $50. Full-time students pay $10.

The WISE Symposium brings together entrepreneurs and academics to discuss advancing women in entrepreneurial activities. The day is not only valuable for the information -- you can see the agenda here -- you will also have the opportunity to network with hundreds of people.

Still not convinced? You'll also learn about working with WISE, and if you're in Syracuse's South Side, the South Side Entrepreneurial Connect Project, as well as about participating in the WISE forums. You can register here.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

One More Week to Register for WISE

The WISE Symposium takes place Thursday, April 14 at the OnCenter in downtown Syracuse, N.Y. Bringing together hundreds of women entrepreneurs, the symposium offers you the chance to network with and learn from some of the best minds in the area. Registration costs are $40 in advance, $50 at the door, and $10 for full-time students. For advance registration by credit or debit card, click here. If you have questions, contact Shelly Taylor.

Friday, April 01, 2005

WISE in the Post-Standard

Today's Syracuse Post-Standard has a piece on WISE on the cover of the business section. You can read it here: WISE Works to Make 'Serious' Connections. Here's an excerpt:
"WISE itself has moved from a one-day conference to an initiative, one of our initiatives. The idea is that we now work to grow and support a women's entrepreneurial community. That's the new big change for us," [Falcone Center Interim Director Craig] Watters said.

The ultimate goal of the online forum is not only to enhance communications but to spur business relationships, said Michael Morris, who chairs the department of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at SU's Whitman School of Management.

"What we'd ultimately like to see is that women entrepreneurs not only can help each other, and ask questions, that sort of thing, but that they might source from one another, buy and sell to each other, do cooperative marketing things," Morris said. "It's really meant to start to connect them in serious business ways."

Don't forget to register for the symposium today!