Items Needed In Every Marketers' (Actually Every Business') Toolbox

Items Needed In Every Marketers' (Actually Every Business') Toolbox

I wish I could say that I had thought of the idea myself, but I didn't. Just like the saying goes, Success Has Many Fathers, While Failure Is An Orphan, the same came be said of author of a really good idea as well. So I won't claim to be the father of the idea that I have been practicing for several years. That father (or mother in this case) would be my wife, Nicole. And Nicole, ironically, got the idea from her mother. Now, who my Mother-in-Law got it from, I have no idea. So what exactly is this ground-breaking idea? Well it is the idea of writing (and I do mean handwriting) a simple thank-you note and sending it to a person through the US Postal Service, otherwise known as snail mail.

Doing this, is something that I learned from watching my wife do consistently throughout the 24 years we've been married. Whether it was someone who had done something nice for her, gave her a gift of some kind, hosted us for dinner, you name it, whoever that person was, they were going to get a handwritten thank card or note in the mail. I have actually been on the receiving end of these notes from my own Mother-In-Law. It's never anything big ever, just simple note cards over the years that have said something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for the wonderful whatever, it's absolutely beautiful or I love it! - Love Mom.”

But when this simple gesture is practiced in business it takes things to a completely new level in business. And I enjoy going to that level. Because as we all know, the practice of even saying thank you is becoming a bit rare. And in business, thanks-you's are typically delivered  by either someone actually saying the words or by sending a thank-you email. Both of which are fine. However I actually enjoy sending handwritten thank-you's and have seen how well they have been received, and also have enjoyed receiving benefits from having done so. On several occasions after having sent a handwritten thank you, I have received an invitation from the recipient requesting a one-on-one meeting, or have received an unexpected introduction or referral from that person with a glowing recommendation. I don't send these thanks-you's for those purposes. I genuinely feel that there is a lack of human touch and interaction across all areas of life, but especially in business, and sending handwritten communications is my way of trying to keep the human touch and connection alive. As a side benefit however, doing so has helped me create a vast network of people who feel they really know me, feel strongly about me, and are willing to do (and have done) amazing things to help me.

As Marketers though, think about how transformative that kind of unexpected touch and interaction could be for your business if you were to practice that kind of communication with your customers and clients. Imagine how your customers, clients and/or prospects would feel if they received from you a handwritten and addressed thank-you in the mail that simply said: So-n-So, Thanks for coming to our event, it was great seeing you! – or So-n-So,Thanks for stopping by our booth, really enjoyed chatting with you! Sure, it would take some time to do something like that, but think of how well that note would be received...think about how well you and your company would be per-ceived. It might make a lot sense to think about. If so, perhaps as you think about the tools you need to develop stronger and more effective marketing efforts, you may want to consider adding a pack of note cards or thank-you cards and some postage stamps to that list.


3 Big Ideas For Your Next Project

3 Big Ideas For Your Next Project

JULY 20, 2018

Entrepreneur are entrepreneurs because we're constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to change the world. That's what makes us successful. Here are a few things to consider when you're contemplating that next big idea.

1 | Don't do it

This is counter-intuitive because you are hardwired to believe you can succeed at anything you put your mind to. But sometimes the smarter choice is not to take the risk or at least wait for a better time to execute. There are many things to consider before starting a new project. Just because an idea sounds good in theory, does not mean it will work out in practice.

2 | Okay, do it, but only like this

Knowing that is it too hard to walk away, you need to make sure you are truly ready to take on this next idea. You must be mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally prepared to follow this opportunity. So before you take the leap, do your research. Make sure you've really looked into whether or not this is is a viable idea and if you are the one to do it.

3 | You did it anyway, didn't you?

Ask yourself this, did you even read #2? My guess is, like most entrepreneurs, you got distracted by the shiny penny and you've already set things in motion to make it happen. Though that is what makes you successful, let's think about all the things you tried to do and if they really make sense. Learn from your mistakes quickly and don't be afraid to try a different approach.


Marketing Vs. Advertising

Marketing Vs. Advertising

JUNE 1, 2018

Although used interchangeably, there is in fact a difference between Marketing and Advertising...we wont even get into the difference between these two disciplines and Branding, Communications and Public Relations - we'll save that for another post.

The reason these disciplines are confused or interchanged is because in practice they are designed to do essentially the same thing. So let's look at the definitions. First, I'll give you the formal definitions:

Marketing: is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (The American Marketing Association)

Advertising: The placement of announcements and persuasive messages in time or space purchased in any of the mass media by business firms, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and individuals who seek to inform and/ or persuade members of a particular target market or audience about their products, services, organizations, or ideas. (The American Marketing Association)

Now, let me break it down for you and tell you what the deal is in some plain 'ol fashioned real words:

Marketing is all the things that you do to let people know about your product, service or solution to make them want to get it into their hands. Advertising is simply one of those “things” that you do, to make that actually happen.

So in short, this particular “thing”, Advertising, is really just a component of Marketing. It's pretty easy to think of other things or components of Marketing, especially those that align very closely with Advertising, like Social Media, Mobile Marketing, and Content Marketing to name a few. But there are many other components as well, that don't come to mind as readily as Marketing, but they certainly are. A few examples of these “things” or components of Marketing would be:

  • Sponsorships (think branded names & logos on Nascars, at events, etc.)
  • Naming Rights (think of any sports arena, or here locally – The Bank of America Chicago Marathon)
  • Exhibiting at Tradeshows
  • Even brands that have signed deals to be the official uniform or shoe provider for professional or NCAA D-One sports is a component or type of Marketing (think of the explosion, traction and adoption of the Under Armour brand in the consumer market, in comparison to the amount of actual brand “advertising” you have probably seen)

It is a certainty that Marketing and Advertising will continue to be used interchangeably, and it won't be the end of the world by any stretch knowing that that will be the case. But it will be worth knowing and noting the difference, especially if you are fighting the good fight with Company Leadership to maintain, increase, or definitely avoid reductions in your marketing budget.

If Leadership is saying that the spend in Marketing is too much or doesn't need to be increased, but she or he is thinking of Marketing only in terms of Advertising and is not considering these many other initiatives that fall under the umbrella of Marketing, that could be a problem.

Now however, you will be able to go in armed with an easy-to-explain definition of the difference between Marketing and Advertising, and be able to make a very strong case for your budget. Hopefully it's an increase, and hopefully you will consider working with the Black Rhino Marketing Group to help make the most of that budget and get the maximum return on your marketing efforts.


Our Relationship with Failure

When I started my first business, I set out to give other large dog owners the things I realized I had a tough time finding- large enough toys and beds, plus places I could stay with my pups- hotels and even finding urban rental properties. Great idea- right?! Slowly it sunk in that people only need to rent a new apartment once a year at the most, and most people aren’t traveling with their big dogs as much as I had expected. So, I did what any good entrepreneur would do, and I pivoted. I started focusing on what my customers were telling me they wanted more of- durable toys, and other items large enough for their dogs- and therefore difficult to find. I realized that subscription boxes were a new thing- and so I launched my own- it worked- until it didn’t and I ran out of my personal funding to support it. Turns out that around the same time I started my business Bark Box had entered the scene- and with all their financial support – they easily grabbed up all the market share and I just couldn’t compete.

My business failed. But I didn’t. I learned many valuable lessons about how to manage cash flow, how to listen better to my customers and how to adjust my offerings. All these things have led to making me a successful entrepreneur in another business.  But that’s not to say I still don’t fail all the time. That’s what being a successful business owner means: failure.

The trick is managing your relationship with Failure.

What happens when you Fail?

  1. | It makes your goals seem less attainable

  2. | It distorts your perception of your own ability

  3. | Your Self-doubt increases dramatically

  4. | You begin to fear the feeling of failure

I’d love to tell you that there is some magical way to trick your brain into not feeling those things when you fail- but there isn’t. You will feel those things every time. But you can focus on realizing you have these feelings, and start to work towards shifting your relationship with failure by understanding that failure is where the growth, adaptation and learning happens- and those are the things you need to be successful.

Will Smith recently spoke on this topic and how having a positive association with failure is what can lead you to your ultimate success. I can’t help but agree. Listening to this helps inspire me to shift my focus when I am feeling like I’m helpless in my attempts at moving forward. I recommend that all entrepreneurs listen to this every time they fail!

And, remember, everyone fails. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs have failed before getting to where they are now. Don’t believe me?

10 Entrepreneurs Who Failed Big before being successful


Things We Hear About Marketing

Things We Hear About Marketing

FEBRUARY 16, 2018|IN BUSINESS, ENTREPRENEUR, MARKETING|BY LAURIE CARVER

I’ve been working with small to mid-sized, privately-owned businesses for over 20 years. Over and over, this is what I hear the owners say: “Why do I need marketing?” and “I can’t afford marketing.”

Believe me, I can empathize with that, because I was a small-business owner for 10 years and I know how tight money can be. You have to keep careful control of your expenditures and invest wisely…put your money where it’s going to do the most good. Investing in product, people, rent and facilities tend to be top of the list, right?

Indeed, nearly every business owner I’ve ever worked with has all of those in their budget and in their business plan; but very few have allocated monies toward marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them include $25,000-$100,000 in buildout expenses, yet provide nothing for marketing. Or the same in inventory…yet nothing for marketing.

This is so short-sighted. Ultimately costly. And sad. Because it’s one of the contributing factors to the 80% failure rate in small businesses.

Why spend so much precious money yet not invest in a way to get the word out about your business? Do you think “If I build it they will come?” Sorry, wishful thinking.

I think most people say “Why do I need it?” and “I can’t afford it” because marketing is simply out of their wheelhouse—out of their area of expertise and comfort. They’ve started a business because they’re good at something. But the single greatest mistaken belief (see “The E-Myth”) is that being really good at what you do or create is enough. It simply isn’t. You need to determine what you’re NOT good at…and get the help from professionals who ARE good at it.

Enter marketing.

What’s wonderful about the world today is that there are so many ways to market, which also makes it confusing and dizzying. You need the help of a professional to wade through all of those options to determine what media is going to be best for you, let alone the message that will be most relevant and persuasive.

Marketing is about understanding your market, your competition, how your business/product fits within that environment, and what makes it different or better. It’s about discovering why someone would spend money on your service or product vs someone else’s, and how they’re going to find out about you, let alone find you. It’s about figuring out who you should be marketing to, and where. It’s about how to make the most of the investment you’ve made in your business, let alone your marketing budget. It’s a lot to figure out.

The other thing I often see is that the owner is myopic about their business. In other words, they have mistaken, naive or undeveloped perceptions of just who and what they are.

A marketing expert represents fresh, unbiased eyes--the value of which simply cannot be overestimated. We’ll see things you don’t. I promise you. We’ll see opportunities you may not, problems, issues and challenges you may not. We’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t or couldn’t have. Or we’ll be able to help you execute the ideas you do have.

The other thing I hear is: “I can do it myself” (be honest, are you saying this now?).

To that, refer back to the previous paragraphs and really truly ask yourself if that’s true. Because the best path to failure is to start with a bad impression or one that is simply “less than” who you are. To hiccup your way into the market. It’s impossible, or at least incredibly expensive, to undo a negative image you can inadvertently create.

I leave you with this final food for thought: the things people say about you and your product/business will make or break you. So get professional help with marketing. Put it in your budget. Ask yourself what the cost of failure will be. Ask yourself what a new client is worth. Then please say “Ok, I’ll reach out for marketing.”


10,000-Hours & Success

10,000-Hours & Success

Some time ago I, like much of the business world, read the well-known book, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. All of Gladwell’s works have something that sticks with me for a very long time- regarding Outliners, that is the second chapter: The 10,000-Hour Rule.
When this first came out, this concept of 10,000 hours to achieve success floated through the entrepreneur and business community slowly, but meaningfully. We all read it, we all acknowledged it as a reasonable theory- but what’s more- we started to examine ourselves to see if we actually have what it takes to succeed, and we started to question if our talent and opportunity was enough or if we needed something more.
The 10,000-hour rule, put simply is that to be successful there is a direct correlation to how hard you work to how successful you will be. The book uses several real life, documented examples of how people spent at least 10,000 hours practicing their craft to end up at the top of their field, while those who fall short of 10,000 hours never catch up.
We all already know this, hard work = success. The hard part to accept is that now there is an actual hour count to apply to it. If I spend 10,000 hours writing business plans, I will be an expert. If I spend 10,000 hours playing my violin I will be I brilliant musician. If I spend 10,000 hours writing this blog will I be any closer to success? Is that all it takes? Does that mean I can be successful from watching 10,000 hours of Netflix?
No. Watching Netflix isn’t a career choice, nor a plan to success. It does take more than that. (Unfortunately)
Talent, opportunity and hard work are the three legs of the stool. You need all three. Sometimes we encounter entrepreneurs who forget hard work is the number one thing they should be focused on. They get caught up in the fact that they have some talent in a particular area, and that they have been given an opportunity to make a successful business out of it- but they don’t want to do the work.
The reality is, you can’t rely on your employees, influencer connections, or even your marketing team to make it happen. You have to get down and dirty and do the work, put the hours in to make your dream a success. You need to start with a solid business plan, and a good understanding of what your role is in your business. No one is an island and can do everything all the time, so you must figure out where your strengths lie and delegate to others in the areas you don’t excel. Even so, no one should ever work harder on your business than you.
I’m still working on my 10,000 hours- how about you?

The Fast and the Furious: How To Avoid Running On Fumes When You Are A High-octane Individual

The Fast and the Furious: How To Avoid Running On Fumes When You Are A High-octane Individual

Entrepreneurs are made of many types, the artists, the visionaries and the doers. And while we may have distinct personality differences, we also tend towards similarities in the way we approach our business lives. Often, we are fueling our passion with above average motivation and we feel the adrenaline rush of risk taking. This high-octane lifestyle may be the key to our success, and we feel powerful in the moment, but it can lead to dangerous results as we approach burn out.

There are some things to consider as you navigate your entrepreneurial journey:

The Need for Speed

Entrepreneurs always want everything they envision for their business as quickly as possible. We are working ourselves to the limits trying to speed up the steps to our success. If we are looking for funding, we want funding to happen RIGHT NOW. If we have launched and we are trying to sell a new product, we want to sell our goal IMMEDIATELY. We work with others to help us reach our goals, and we are constantly pushing for things to speed up. This is because we can see the road ahead and we know where we are going- we just want to reach it faster!

The problem is that this need for speed causes a few problems. It creates unrealistic expectations for ourselves, our goals and the people we work with- which creates a toxic environment for everyone. It also means you are moving so quickly that you could be missing real opportunities for a better or different road to success, or you are missing warning signs about your business that could be catastrophic later.

Slow down. Find partners to work with who can help you regulate your speed towards your goals and find real, tangible, small steps to get there. This is often difficult to accept, but we all know the story about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.

Running on Empty

Another classic scenario entrepreneurs face is overlooking their own personal needs above the needs of the business. We are so focused on reaching our goals, growing quickly and that “next big thing” that we forget to take care of ourselves. This becomes a problem when you reach the point of sleepless nights, and hidden self-doubt and anxiety.

Take care of yourself and take a mental inventory of your health. It is very common that those running businesses suffer from nearly debilitating self-doubt, and various anxiety disorders. You are not alone. There is a very real phycological connection to your ability to drive your business forward in hyper speed, while running on empty personally.  Inc. Magazine published a poignant article on this topic, and every entrepreneur I know has found that they are able to identify with some of this.

Don’t get caught in the trap. Make sure you take care of yourself first.

 Build your Pit Crew

The best way to avoid completely overdoing it is to build a highly skilled, trusted team you can lean on. Yes, employees are included in this, and yes, they are hard to find, but they aren’t the only options. Find trusted advisors you can confide in and find professionals who are highly skilled in the areas that are your deficits. Build your crew specific to your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Despite your high-octane personality and drive, you cannot do it all alone. And that’s ok.

Take a moment and breathe, slow down and take stock of your personal health. I know you won’t slow down forever, but even just a moment here and there can have a significant impact on helping you avoid burn out.


So, What If You're A Not-trepreneur...?

So, What If You're A Not-trepreneur...?

The number of blogs, books, articles and Youtube videos that exist that indicate the characteristics and traits a person should have in order to be a successful entrepreneur, is exhaustive.

Entrepreneur.com recently had a post titled 50 Habits That Prove You Were Born To Be An Entrepreneur.”  The article begins as follows:

“Most aspiring entrepreneurs feel it in their bones -- they were born to be an entrepreneur, to the point where nothing else in life could satisfy them. They’re dissatisfied as employees, followers or consumers. They want to create, build and grow their own enterprises, and they’re filled with the passion of their own ingenuity.”

The article goes on to list what the author sees as being those 50 habits, a few of which I've listed below.

  • You frequently start new passion projects. Every week, a new idea is transformed into a hobby.
  • You can’t sit still. You’re always itching to come up with something, and do something great.
  • You’re always coming up with ideas. Good or bad, the flow of ideas never stops.
  • You don’t give up easily. You face tough challenges but keep going.
  • You talk to everyone you meet. Strangers aren’t intimidating to you.
  • You have a high threshold for risk. You don’t take blind risks, but you don’t stay complacent either.
  • You’re hyper competitive. You can’t even play a board game without flipping that switch.

But let me be perfectly clear here, I find no fault at all with the author's viewpoint or the habits he indicates a person would exhibit who was born to be an entrepreneur - I don't disagree.

I just simply have a question that is completely separate from that thinking. And my question is this: what if you desire to start a business, but you do not have many of these habits, or if they do not come to you naturally? What if you have not known since the age of 12 that you wanted to have your own business? What if you did not plan to start a business or run one, but find yourself doing exactly that due life circumstances or out of necessity? What if you have passion for your business, but that passion does not come before time with your family, with yourself...or sleep?

In short – what if you are a Not-trepreneur?

I believe not-trepreneurs abound. I'm one of them. I had never planned to start the business that I previously owned, but did so out of sheer necessity. And ended up being successful and loving it! However for me, many of Traits-Of-An-Entrepreneur boxes were left unchecked.

  • No fear of failure; not checked. I feared and experienced failure several times in my business. But instead of trying not to have a fear of failure, I accepted that both failure and the fear of it would be a part of my experience. And that if I was honest with myself and who I truly am, that fearing failure was completely natural. Where it really was going to matter was going to be in my ability to dig deep, stand up to it and overcome it. That's what not-trepreneurs do.
  • Unrelenting passion for my business; unchecked. Again, let me be perfectly clear here. I was extremely passionate about my business but not to the extent, in the total scheme of things, that I would place it above the things that I treasure most - my wife, our 3 kids, and spending time with all of them...and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night!

I did not wake up each morning raring to go, completely stoked by the potentials that day would bring. Some mornings I dreaded being a business owner. I didn't want to “try calling that guy again.” I didn't feel like opening email and learning that the meeting I had finally nailed for the 3rd time “would have to be rescheduled again for 2 weeks”. And there were some mornings I was not at all excited about the prospect of driving nearly an hour to yet another networking event, eating a dry bagel and “telling people about my business.” I but I did all of these things repeatedly, and I did them very well.

You see, again, this is what not-trepreneurs do. They have the ability to continuously dig down deep inside and pull amazing things out of themselves. Things that come more easily and naturally for born entrepreneurs. But because not-trepreneurs have this unique ability (unique strength actually) to successfully do that which does not come naturally, they are just as likely to be successful in owning and running amazing transformative businesses as anyone. And at The Black Rhino Marketing Group, we  are happy help those businesses grow.

So whether you are an Entrepreneur or a Not-trepreneur, we would love to speak with you to learn more about you, your business and your business goals, and discuss the myriad ways we can help you achieve them. So shoot us an email or gives us a call.


Blood, Sweat and Tears

Blood, Sweat and Tears

No…this is not about the rock group, even though I loved them. It’s about entrepreneurs and all the blood, sweat and tears they put into dreams that fail 80% of the time.

If you are an entrepreneur, you’ll get this. If you’re thinking about being one, you should read this.

I’ve been one (actually more than one) since I was 29 years old. That was…oh…let’s just say…a long time ago. In fact, you might call me a “serial entrepreneur”. I also have many friends who are entrepreneurs; and I’ve worked with a whole bunch of entrepreneurs. So I know a lot about them.

Entrepreneurs are a very special breed. Risk takers (almost always). Leaders (not always). Smart (usually). Talented (often). Ambitious (undoubtedly). A little crazy (ahem). Control-freaks (perhaps). Tired. Energized. Work addicts. Determined. Independent. You get the picture.

Or they just don’t want to work for someone else.

But here’s the thing: they ARE working for someone else: their customers, their clients, their employees if they have them, their families if they have one. And here’s the other thing: no one, and I mean NO ONE has all of those good qualities I mentioned above.  Even if you’re smart and talented, there is no way you know or are good at everything you need in order to be successful running your own business.

So let’s say you are really smart or talented. Or both. That gets you to thinking “Hey, I could go out there and do this on my own and do it as good as or better than the people I’m working for.” Or “Hey this is an absolutely brilliant idea for a product—it can’t help but be a success—I’m gonna make millions—I can do this, what’s so tough?”.

Am I right?

And that’s just the kind of thinking that can get you into trouble. Has gotten lots of entrepreneurs into trouble. Got me into trouble for sure. But maybe you’re smarter than most.  If you are, you’ve challenged the “on your own” aspect of being an entrepreneur. I don’t necessarily mean bringing in a partner, but I do mean bringing in someone—partner, employee, consultant—who can help you see the things you can’t see and perhaps help you with those things. Or put you in touch with the people who can help you with those things you just don’t understand or know.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know. And that is ultimately the downfall of most entrepreneurs.

Take me for instance: I know creative, I know marketing, I know ideas, I had an incredible capacity for work and grit like you wouldn’t believe. But I didn’t know the financial side of running a business. I didn’t understand the cycles of one of the businesses I started. So I got into trouble pretty quickly and never really recovered. And it eventually cost me a very dear dream. Granted, the economy played a big role, but had I not gotten into trouble from the get-go, I probably could have weathered it.

I could go on and on, but the lesson behind this is that if you’re going to put it all on the line for a new business of your own, get out there and talk to others who’ve done something like it. Find out what they wish they’d known. Find out the tough stuff—the stuff you just don’t want to face or think about because you’re so enamored with your idea. There are lots of people and organizations who are willing to help—often for free. And then there are the pros who you can pay to help you with the stuff you just can’t do well enough to make your business a success. Hire them. It’s worth it if you can save a lot of that blood, sweat and tears.