I Need Some Advice…And A Line Of Credit

Let’s face it. New business owners have a heck of a lot to learn when they’re first starting out and they often learn very costly lessons. Wouldn’t it be great to have a trusted funding resource with expertise in your industry, which could guide decision-making with sound advice and help you better manage your financial resources?

Back in my handbag design days, I spent a lot of time and money trying to boil the ocean. That’s a big-time business cliché, I know, but it really was applicable. I didn’t know what handbag styles would be a hit so I created a lot of different prototypes just in case, in an attempt to please as many potential customers as possible. Damn, that was a pricey error in judgement. I cast too wide a net and didn’t narrow in on my target demographic. Then, I spent an insane amount of money on PR to reach all those potential customers. Another waste. Bad mistakes turned into colossally huge ones because I became desperate….to make money, to get press, to find customers.

Presenting a new idea - crowdfunding or community funding concept

Presenting a new idea – crowdfunding or community funding concept

It would have been great NOT to max out a bunch of credit cards and work with a funding source that could have provided advice along with a line of credit. I could have owed much less and worked with financial experts in the fashion industry who could have provided valuable insight around the right areas of focus for my fledgling business.

I actually came across a company called Bankers Healthcare Group that does just that…unfortunately for me, they are in the healthcare industry not the fashion industry. But lucky healthcare professionals can take advantage of their knowledge and the specialized financial services they offer, like credit cards designed specifically for their industry, working capital, loan programs and even a StartUp Express program that gives access to a substantial chunk of change in as little as 3 days (no business plan required – although you should know by now how I feel about going into a business without a plan!!!). At the end of the day, it’s just one example of a resource that provides more than just funding…it provides guidance and support.

A roadmap for expansion is critical but it’s hard to know, early on, what components should be included. Once you decide your focus, it’s much easier to correctly allocate funds. I think starting out, small business owners need that guidance from people who’ve made mistakes in expanding their own businesses or have seen mistakes others have made and can provide valuable insight about common pitfalls to avoid.

Figure out your target audience, determine where they “play”, then figure out how to reach them where they are most affected by your message. Learn from people who’ve been successful in the past and take advantage of their failures. There are always pearls of wisdom to be gained. Establish relationships and nurture them, as they are absolutely critical in growing a business. Determine the “what” and “why”, then ask questions and do research to establish the “how.”

Once your roadmap is set, find a lending partner who you can vet your plans with and who can guide your financial decisions. Leverage every source of knowledge available to you and choose the trusted lender that can provide advisement in addition to cash.

Taking It To The Street…Maybe With Some Wine And Cheese

In a world where virtual is no longer the alternate reality, there is still a lot to be said for direct human contact as a driver of prospects and sales.

Let’s face it, we’re all way too dependent on our mobile devices and completely absorbed in email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube…and on and on. But all the action is online, right??

Ummm, research shows that’s not exactly the case anymore.

Successful selling is rooted in relationships…personal relationships established via in-person meetings and informal, lighthearted conversations. So we need to turn our focus to OFFLINE advertising to differentiate us from the competition. Making yourself accessible to potential customers, giving them a chance to find out who you are and what you’re all about – it goes a very long way and may make them more inclined to patronize your business.

Hitting the pavement may be just the ticket to launch your company to the next level. If you were wandering around a bookstore, wouldn’t you think it was cool to run into an author in your favorite genre hosting a meet and greet? Maybe get a chance to pick their brain about their characters, what drives them to write, where they draw inspiration from? Maybe you might buy one of his/her books because you were just so impressed with their warmth and engaging personality. Maybe you read the book, love it and recommend it to a friend. Maybe that friend is Ellen DeGeneres and the author gets picked up for a segment based on your referral and hits the New York Times bestseller list the next week. Just saying, it could happen. And so the story goes…no pun intended. =)

Don’t discount the importance of face-to-face interaction. A handshake and a smile feel so much better than a private Facebook message, don’t they?? Hosting a cocktail party is a great way to get to know prospective clients!

Red and white wine pouring on wood background

Just make sure you don’t kick back too much.  Remember, you’re working not partying on spring break. =)

Couple having fun in disco night club with body tequila party

Put A Little Sex In The Headline

Okay, it may not always work as planned, depending on your audience. But I can tell you it will make your headline click-worthy. It doesn’t have to be graphic either, by the way. Just suggestive. =)

PR is EXPENSIVE so anything you can do on your own to generate buzz will reduce your burn rate. You can pitch editors yourself but if you don’t have a hook, they don’t have a story. The surest way to get a response is to give them the whole setup. If you can’t hook an editor, you won’t have a shot of hooking readers.

Press conference

An attention-grabbing headline is the first step. Think about this blog post. Did you click the link because there was a sexual reference in the title? Don’t be shy, it’s all good. I’ll bet everyone reading this was just as curious as you. If I hadn’t written it, I’d have done the same thing.

Eliminate the mundane. People won’t care. You need to find the angle that will pique their interest and work it into your pitch.

Here’s another little tip. Less is more. Your pitch needs to be short and sweet. Make your point once, quickly, before the editor loses interest otherwise your brilliant story will most assuredly end up in the desktop trash bin.

7 Must-Do Tips For Startups To Generate Good PR – Entrepreneur

Oh yeah, one more thing. Proofread your email and make sure you’re addressing the right editor because it would really suck if you sent your pitch to the wrong person at the wrong publication because that’s your one chance to make a first impression, folks.

Wine and editorial pitches DON’T mix!!!

Who Doesn’t Love SWAG??

I’m a big “Shark Tank” fan. Love the way they refer to themselves as a venture capital firm on steroids. Well, maybe only Mr. Wonderful made that reference…in one episode. But it stuck with me…because it’s kind of true. =)

I love ALL the sharks. I think they each bring their own unique elements to the show and I’ve purchased more than a few products while the entrepreneurs are busy negotiating (read: sweating) the deals of their lifetimes. Quick hint…if you know you’ll be featured on “Shark Tank,” make sure your freaking website can handle the excess capacity! For crying out loud, that’s not the time for your site to crash from being pounded by prospective customers!!!

But I digress…

I came across a video clip of Mark Cuban’s 12 tips for entrepreneurs and while I don’t agree with all of them (specifically #s 10 and 11), most are extremely valuable and should be embraced.

My responses to Mark?

Swag is very much worth the money. Not because I’m a total logo-whore but because I know for a fact there are companies in Silicon Valley making money hand over fist and I’ve got their logo-embroidered golf hanging shirts in my closet.

Plus, LazerShark just secured $2 million in venture funding so…

IMG_1723

And never hire a PR firm? I beg to differ. While they cost a heck of a lot if they’re any good, they have the “ins” with folks who can get your company name out to the masses. Sorry, but nobody gives a crap about the founder of a company whose name hasn’t made it public. But given the right PR boost, the founder can write his/her own ticket.

Don’t worry Mark. I still love you. ❤