Category Archives: Mentor Spotlight

Want Success During a Recession?

Most “corporations are still choosing to cut costs as a means to improve productivity as opposed to investing in human or technological capital.” – Carl Tannenbaum, LaSalle Bank/ABN Amro

One of the first business casualties in a recession is often the advertising budget.  The instinct is to save money by cutting back on advertising.  Though this strategy might seem to make common sense, recessions are times that call for uncommon business wisdom.  Recessions reward the aggressive advertiser and penalize the timid one.

A recessionary market can provide an opportunity for an industrial business to break from traditional budget-cutting patterns and build a greater share of market through aggressive media advertising.  This according to The Strategic Planning Institute of Cambridge, MA in an analysis of more than 1,000 industrial businesses in the PIMS (Profit Impact of Market Strategy) database.

In fact, the study indicated that businesses that are aggressive media spenders can increase their share of the market more than the average business during market downturns.  Correspondingly, businesses that reduce media expenditures in expansion times suffer the loss of market share.  It was demonstrated that aggressive businesses may be able to accomplish these gains through greater expenditures without reducing short-term profitability.

Businesses that maintain aggressive marketing programs during a recession outperform companies that rely more on cost-cutting measures.  Penton Research Services reports that shortly after the 1990 – 91 recession, Coopers & Lybrand, in conjunction with Business Science International, surveyed CEOs from growth companies about the effect the recession had on their profit growth and the actions they had taken in response.

Better performing businesses were more likely to have taken such actions as selling to new customers, expanding to new markets, and increasing ad spending.  A larger percentage of firms only “somewhat” slowed by the downturn than companies “significantly” slowed indicated that marketing actions were most effective in coping with the recession.  A strong marketing program enables a firm to solidify its customer base, take business way from less aggressive competitors, and position itself for future growth during the recovery.

A survey determined that 3 in 5 growth companies slowed by the recession found aggressive marketing worked better than traditional cost-containment measures to beat the downturn.

  • Among those firms reporting they were ONLY SOMEWHAT slowed by the recession, 63% placed primary focus on marketing; 26% focused on cost containment.
  • In contrast, firms that were SIGNIFICANTLY slowed by the recession were considerably less market-driven as a group: 46% placed primary emphasis on marketing; 45% concentrated first on -cost containment.

These results bear out the effectiveness of an offensive strategy in times of economic uncertainty. Generally, companies looking first to build market share fared better than their counterparts who relied predominately on cost-cutting techniques.

Further, an overwhelming majority of American executives, 86 percent, agree that companies that advertise in a down economy stay more top-of-mind when purchase decisions are being made and create more positive impressions about their commitment to their products and services.  And a whopping 99 percent agree that even in a down economy, it’s important to keep abreast of new products and services, according to a Yankelovich/Harris Interactive Research Report.

 

About the Author
Devon Blaine is experienced in all facets of the communications industry. Formerly an actress, model, and stunt driver, she founded the agency in 1975. Besides designing communications campaigns that help businesses maximize their success, she has long been active in numerous entrepreneurial organizations, thus earning a reputation as “the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.” She has incorporated the knowledge gained from these ventures into the philosophy of The Blaine Group. The agency has an award-winning track record in serving the public relations needs of fast-track emerging-growth companies and major corporations alike.

She was three times president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), a founding board member and a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of (NAWBO) National Association of Women Business Owners. Devon also serves as a mentor for the Stubbs Alderton & Markiles Precelerator, the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center, and the Innovation Incubator at Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

About The Blaine Group, Inc.
The Blaine Group specializes in developing and implementing public relations campaigns and marketing strategies as comprehensive communications campaigns or as stand-alone entities.  The firm represents many authors and fast-track, emerging-growth companies.  It also handles investor relations and financial public relations activities for its publicly-traded clients.  The Blaine Group is located at 8665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite #301, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  The telephone number is 310.360.1499 Visit www.blainegroupinc.com.

Return of the P-Word

p-word profitability profitThe headlines have been rough for growth startups in recent months (insert link about WeWork).

It has been particularly challenging for growth startups and their investors looking to take their company public. For what were once the darlings of the investment, tech and media worlds, suddenly the music has started to slow, if not stopped (see Postmates).

In some ways, we’ve now reached a peak when you have a twitter battle between a prominent investor and a professor on the merits of these companies’ existence and prospects of survival. It turned ugly (or entertaining depending on your seats) when they started to make wagers online to show “skin in the game”.

No, this post isn’t a takedown of VCs, WeWork, or any other VC-backed growth company.

What is rising from these debates is something more subtle and important – a discussion about how businesses are grown and their pathway to profitability or the “P-word”. (Sorry, I know many were expecting me to say pricing, but we’ll get to that)

Let’s go over how we got here and what to consider when thinking about the profitability question for your business.

To read the full article visit the HelloAdvisr blog.

EDWARD LEE
Founder & CEO
HelloAdvisr

Ed Lee is a pricing and go-to-market specialist and trusted adviser to leading companies and brands. He is the founder of HelloAdvisr, a Los Angeles-based growth consultancy helping companies and leadership teams build and implement profit growth strategies.

Ed specializes in international and national marketing and pricing strategies, discount optimization, and salesforce management across retail/ecommerce, marketplace and platform businesses. Previously, Ed held leadership roles with LG Electronics and Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global management consulting firm and world’s leading expert in pricing.

Ed is regularly invited to speak on pricing strategy at leading universities and institutions including the University of Southern California (USC), UC San Diego and General Assembly as well as startup/tech organizations such as LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and Wayra (London, UK). Ed received an MBA from Oxford University, MSc from the London School of Economics and a BA from the UC, San Diego.

Does Your Company Need a Crisis Plan?

You have worked hard to build a thriving business… then the unthinkable happens… your company is thrust into the limelight… nationally and negatively! Do you have a crisis plan?

“It could never happen to me,” had been your mantra thus far.  As a result, you are totally unprepared… no crisis plan exists, you don’t even know who to call for help.

Perhaps:

  • A child choked on a promotional item you provided to a customer.
  • Someone was raped in the parking lot at your event.
  • Pets are dying, allegedly from an ingredient your company provided to pet food manufacturers.
  • The FTC Commissioner has called a press conference for January 4 to announce a multi-million dollar settlement against your company which makes a top-selling weight loss product.
  • A toxic spill in your facility rose over the berms (higher than legally mandated) and spilled into the city streets.
  • Your small, publicly-traded company is prominently featured in a negative industry round-up article on the front page of Barron’s.  As a result, your stock drops from $40 to $14 that day!
  • Your company’s letterhead is superimposed on screen… as the lead story on the evening news… “Bribery Scandal at City Hall.”

What Keeps You Awake at Night?

  • Will your customers desert you?
  • Will their customers sue you?
  • Should you attend your major industry trade show in two weeks?
  • You are out of the country on business.  Your managers attempted to manage the situation without you… 24 hours later you are told about it.  Do you cut your trip short and return home?
  • Will your company survive this crisis?
  • Are your personal assets at risk?  Have you protected them adequately?

You fly home, rush to the office after a few hours of sleep… without showering or “dressing” for work.  The FDA has asked for a product recall and press release.  How do you manage all of the calls that are coming in?  The media has staked out your facility.  How do you get out of the office without a microphone and camera being thrust in your face?  What if they follow you home at the end of the day?  Are you at risk legally?

“As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to anticipate and prepare for landmines that can undermine growth.  A crisis can strike the most successful companies unexpectedly and often requires urgent action, particularly when dealing with the media.  The more successful your company is, the bigger you are as a target.  Thus, the more important it is to prepare in advance,” explained Steve Cheng, CEO of Window Rock Enterprises.

Legal Concerns in Crisis Management (Contributed by Mark Burton, JD, CSBA, CMEA)

Most of us believe that if we do everything in a competent and ethical manner, we won’t face the legal challenges that companies like Enron and Worldcom had to deal with.  We know that we are good corporate citizens and take care of our clients and treat our employees in the best possible manner.  We are safe, right?  WRONG.

Your first response may be, “Why should I worry, I will win the case.”  In many of these circumstances, even if you prevail, you may end up spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees that you will never recoup and have your business’ name smeared in the media.

What are some of these legal issues?

Product Liability:  Product liability stands for the proposition that someone used a product that you were involved with at some level and because something was wrong with that product they got hurt in some manner.  Under this theory everyone involved in the manufacturing and distribution of the product can be sued to compensate the injured party.  That means that even if all you did was provide a piece of the total product or brokered the transfer of the product or imported/exported the item, you may be named as a defendant.

Professional Negligence: A law suit under the theory of professional negligence asserts that you as a professional, be it a Certified Public Accountant, architect, life insurance agent, etc. has done something or not done something that has harmed the plaintiff and that as a professional you should have known better.  Needless to say, professionals live by their reputation.  Even if you win the case, you may very well have lost the war.

Res Ipsa Loquatar:   Res Ipsa isn’t a cause of action by itself, as product liability and professional negligence are, but rather it’s a specific theory under negligence that takes away one of your protections.  Generally, in a negligence law suit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that you did a bad thing.  But here, the burden of proof is switched over to you, the defendant.  Res Ipsa Loquitur literally means “the thing speaks for itself.”  It is used in those circumstances where something happens that is so incredible it appears as though you MUST be responsible.

And What About Your Personal Assets? 

“For many small and mid market companies bank loans and lines of credit are secured by personal guarantees, usually on personal real estate. In such cases your personal assets are at risk in the event you have a flood of expenses hit the business all at one time. And as pointed out above, that can happen even if you win any legal action that you may face,” noted Gene Siciliano, the CFO for Rent who advises numerous mid-market companies.

“Consider the need to suddenly put together a crisis management team that is not up to speed and not guided by a well crafted crisis plan. The time they must spend goes up, the fees go up, the retainers go up, and you run short of cash. Your business loan payments don’t get made – the choice could be loan payments or payroll, and the lender learns you are facing serious legal issues,” he continued.

“His job is not to judge your likelihood of prevailing; rather, his job is to protect his company’s money. You may find credit lines shut off and payment demands made that could result in the lender placing a lien on the collateral – your home. While it may all work out in the end, your relationship with your lender will never be the same. And the added stress in the meantime?” Gene concluded.

Is This the Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened to Your Business?

While it may definitely feel as though this is the worst day of your business life, it may well be the beginning of the best.

This is not a Pollyanna statement but the voice of experience speaking.  Presuming that yours is a mid-market company, it will now be perceived as larger and more important due to all of the media attention.  No one believes small companies make headlines.

The key is to properly manage that attention and to ensure that your company is treated fairly by the press.

This is best done by preparing in advance.  It is important for all companies today to have a crisis plan and to have interviewed and know those who will serve on their crisis team, should such an event ever occur.  Contact data on all members of that team 24/7 should not only be on file but also readily available.

“Preparing a crisis plan can be as simple as establishing a relationship with a crisis management firm so you know who to call when crisis strikes.  It’s like having a fire escape plan for your building.  You don’t imagine you’ll ever need it, but it’s good knowing you’re prepared just in case,” noted Cheng.

It is also an opportunity to become a major “voice” in your industry.  We have had clients lead an industry trade show panel on crisis management.  It is an opportunity to do good and get positive attention by putting on a seminar on “Product Safety” or “What to Do in the Case of a Product Recall.”

You may also be approached by Fortune 100 customers you’ve not sold to before.  Why?  You are now viewed as a real player in the industry.

We’ve also had industry analysts begin to follow a small public company, due to the Barron’s mention.  They would never have made it on the analyst’s radar screen otherwise.

“Ascertain that your business is properly insured, work with a business attorney to confirm that you have taken all appropriate steps to avoid legal liability and have a crisis management plan in place that is ready to swing into action should something threaten your reputation,” asserted Burton.

You decide… does your company need a crisis plan?

About the Author
Devon Blaine is experienced in all facets of the communications industry. Formerly an actress, model, and stunt driver, she founded the agency in 1975. Besides designing communications campaigns that help businesses maximize their success, she has long been active in numerous entrepreneurial organizations, thus earning a reputation as “the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.” She has incorporated the knowledge gained from these ventures into the philosophy of The Blaine Group. The agency has an award-winning track record in serving the public relations needs of fast-track emerging-growth companies and major corporations alike.

She was three times president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), a founding board member and a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of (NAWBO) National Association of Women Business Owners. Devon also serves as a mentor for the Stubbs Alderton & Markiles Precelerator, the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center, and the Innovation Incubator at Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

About The Blaine Group, Inc.
The Blaine Group specializes in developing and implementing public relations campaigns and marketing strategies as comprehensive communications campaigns or as stand-alone entities.  The firm represents many authors and fast-track, emerging-growth companies.  It also handles investor relations and financial public relations activities for its publicly-traded clients.  The Blaine Group is located at 8665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite #301, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  The telephone number is 310.360.1499 Visit www.blainegroupinc.com.

Are Expensive Toys Making Your Salespeople Successful?

As a sales coach and sales trainer, my job is to review companies’ technology tools and sales teams to improve what is not working, while teaching them to function at a higher level of efficiency. And while technology has improved efficiencies, many companies have been too reliant on their tools – at the great expense of their salespeople.

The three most common “head trash” issues I see when coaching sales teams include:

  1. Salespeople who are uncomfortable talking about money: This comes from a belief that it is improper or too personal to bring up the subject of money.
  2. Salespeople who are too emotionally involved in the sales process: With their self-worth tied to success and failure, they rely on their prospects and clients to fill their emotional needs.
  3. Salespeople who believe they are either “better than” their prospects, or not good enough. These underlying beliefs carry through into the sales process and affect their ability to qualify and close prospects.

If you have a question about your sales team’s effectiveness, we are always available to answer questions and more than happy to refer you to the right kind of training for your culture and goals.

To read the full article, visit here.

Carrie Pobre

Carrie Lauby is an LA-based sales expert with over 25 years growing B2B2C SaaS companies in digital marketing and streaming media. Carrie and her team deliver customized solutions looking at all levels of the sales funnel including outside teams, inside SDR’s, client retention and online lead conversion. She is a regular speaker on sales and customer service with engagements that include EO, The Channel Company, AA-ISP and ASTA Global Convention.

Sandler Training is the largest sales consulting organization with over 250 training centers worldwide. Sandler utilizes distinctive, non-traditional sales and management methodologies, supported by continual reinforcement through ongoing training and individual coaching sessions. Sandler representatives work with all sizes of companies from startups to larger corporations which include LinkedIn, AT&T, Oracle, Accenture, American Express, Prudential and Salesforce.

If you have a question, a concern or a challenge relating to your sales, customer service, or revenue growth, please reach out to Carrie Lauby at BOOST Performance Sandler Training Los Angeles: Boostperformance@sandler.com.

Understanding the Relationship Between Marketing and Sales

We hear it all the time. We meet with a prospective client and we ask our most important question, “What are your marketing goals?” to which she responds, “Sales.”

Increasing sales is a great goal, but it isn’t a marketing goal. Marketing brings bodies to the store, but it can’t guarantee a purchase. To be frank, any marketing agency that promises an increase in sales is making false promises.

In recent years, the trend has been to synergize marketing and sales, to bring the two departments closer together. And it’s a good idea. They’re meant for one another, but the marriage between the two has caused confusion about their critical differences.

The differences between sales and marketing

 

To illustrate the point, let’s look at a timeless institution: the lemonade stand. You can’t sell lemonade if no one knows to come to your yard. And you definitely shouldn’t tell people to come to your yard if you have a poor product or service pitch. You can’t have sales without marketing, and you shouldn’t have marketing without a product or service to sell.

Although the metaphor gives you a general idea, the differences between the two strategies are a little more nuanced than that. You also have to take into account the type of relationship you have with your audience, time spent per customer, communication channels and how to handle your audience’s needs.

Audience Relationship

 

Sales is transactional. Marketing is relational. In sales, you provide a product or service and a customer provides compensation. Two dollars gets you one cup of lemonade. Sure, there’s also an exchange in marketing (you provide a value proposition and a customer provides their attention) but it’s more about the relationship. The sale is professional, and the marketing is friendly. The sale satisfies self-interest, and the marketing satisfies mutual interest. You get to know the customer through research, social media management, email marketing, etc., and the customer provides valuable data. Ideally, that data answers the tough questions, such as, “Who is our target?” and, “How and when do they want to hear about us?”

If you’re trying to sell lemonade in a neighborhood of tea aficionados, you won’t be very successful. And if you aren’t aware that your customers prefer low sugar, you may have to process a lot of refund requests for super-sweet lemonade. The answers from your marketing efforts then inform future decisions about how to get to know the customer even better. It’s a symbiosis.

Time Spent

 

Sales is short term. Marketing is long term. A sales team sets its sights on the short term, completing a series of one-off transactions with customers who are ready to take action. That doesn’t mean it’s easy—it simply means it isn’t as time-intensive. Marketing is a long game. Over time, a marketing team has to generate awareness, interest and, ultimately, loyalty. How long does it take? An SDL survey found that it takes two years for a brand to truly capture a customer’s trust. This means it could theoretically take up to two years’ of marketing efforts to convert a consumer to a customer. Building a relationship takes time. There are a lot of lemonades out there, so why would consumers choose you right out the gate?

Communication Channels

 

Sales is one-to-one. Marketing is one-to-many. Marketing is becoming more and more personalized, especially in start-ups and small businesses, but it’s still ultimately a one-to-many effort. Take a look at the marketing funnel. Marketers cast a wide net to generate awareness. As a lemonade entrepreneur, you’d put up posters in the neighborhood and sample your lemonade at community events. Of those who become aware of the brand, 1-2% will develop interest. From there, 1-2% of those consumers develop desire, and then another 1-2% of those consumers take action. Marketing communicates to the many in order to generate individual leads. It’s then up to the sales team to convert the leads to loyal customers in one-on-one interactions.

Audience Needs

 

Sales satisfies needs. Marketing identifies and nurtures needs. Salespeople interact with each customer to provide the lemonade, whereas marketers tell the right person that she’s thirsty—and that their company has the tastiest solution. It’s a marketer’s duty to discover the correct audiences and then to find out what they want, when they want it and how. Then the marketer executes messaging across multiple channels that answers the consumer’s questions and nurtures their need for their product or service. Basically, a marketer brings in the parched masses so a salesperson can quench their thirst.

How to choose your marketing goals

 

Sales can be a result of effective marketing, but the two aren’t married. Each has its own job and goal. Marketers can bring thirsty customers to the lemonade stand, but it’s up to the sales team to facilitate the transaction. All the marketing in the world won’t bring your business success if there are irredeemable issues with the sales process—or with your lemonade.

Besides, lead generation isn’t even the only possible marketing goal. Goals vary by business and can include building brand awareness, increasing brand engagement, establishing thought leadership or expanding into new markets. There are plenty of great answers to the question, “What are your marketing goals?” but “sales” isn’t one of them.

Once you understand the relationship between sales and marketing, you can set SMART goals for each one and create greater synergy between the two.

————————-

Laurel MintzLAUREL MINTZ

Founder & CEO
Elevate My Brand
laurel@elevatemybrand.comLinkedIn|Twitter|Website

*Digital marketing, marketing strategy, business development, social media marketing

With a background and education in business and law from Rutgers University, and a passion for food, wine and lifestyle brands, Laurel’s expertise in marketing has been built and solidified through her work with prestigious restaurateurs and major brands across the nation.

Laurel established her influence as a creative marketing expert in the city of Brotherly Love. She was responsible for the production and promotion of high-profile, buzz-generating special events for Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia’s only restaurant with five stars from Mobil and a three-star Michelin rated restaurant. She developed Public House Restaurant Group’s flagship restaurant and managed the execution of their national marketing campaign strategy.

Upon returning to her native Los Angeles, Laurel took on the role of Executive Vice President and In-House Counsel for Bassett, and subsequently began consulting for beauty, food, beverage and consumer brands. Inspired by the success she found bringing her fresh approach to marketing to a wider group of clients, she founded Elevate My Brand in 2009. She now sits on the board of directors for the American Heart Association, the Fender Music Foundation, One With The Water, Ten X, and the British American Business Counsel. Laurel is also on the Social Committee for the Network of Executive Women, a Recipient of the Los Angeles Business Journal Women Making A Difference Award 2014, Keynote speaker for the Women and Business Enterprise Conference 2014, and runs her own exclusive networking group, ”The Taste Salon.” She is regularly featured in Inc. Magazine, where she has her own column, “On Brand.”

Laurel lives in Los Angeles, California, where she steers our digital marketing and event planning efforts.

How a Company Not Using PR Consultants Can Best Handle Its Own Public Relations

Public RelationsIn strategizing effective communications, what you say is as important as what you don’t say. The message must be strategically planned to achieve the purpose you desire, to target the markets you want to saturate. What you communicate is the most important. Your approach is more valuable than your contacts in achieving positive results.

Once you have made a commitment to an ongoing public relations campaign, compile a list of all the techniques available and avenues open to your type of business. Then prioritize them. They may include:

  1. Active participation in trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, or other business organizations;
  2. Exhibition at conventions and trade shows;
  3. Speaking engagements;
  4. Sponsorship of major events or planning your own;
  5. Press conferences and press previews;
  6. Placement of by-lined articles in key publications;
  7. Preparation of new product and/or personnel releases for trade publications;
  8. Capitalizing on a trend or newsworthy occurrence (or creating one) to target major business or general-interest magazines as well as major metropolitan daily and local weekly suburban newspapers, and radio and television news and talk shows;
  9. Submitting PSAs to radio and television to garner “free” air time;
  10. Design and implementation of a financial and investor relations program;
  11. Development of a direct mail campaign and other collateral (brochures, etc.) materials;
  12. Having and maintaining a website;
  13. Social media campaign; and
  14. Government relations, i.e. lobbying.

Keep all of these avenues in mind as you contemplate and prioritize the possibilities. And, to borrow a phrase from one motivational speaker, “plan your work, then work your plan.”

Now that you’ve determined what you are going to do, who is going to do it?

Some of the most effective early-stage public relations campaigns I’m aware of have been handled by the president’s assistant or secretary. He or she is someone who knows the company, its customers and goals and has regular access to you. And, if that person is also articulate and writes well, it is logical for some public relations activities to be added to his or her job description. In fact, this may be the only way a new business can afford a public relations effort early on. However, it is important to realize that with limited staff available only part time for communications tasks, the targeted outlets and the anticipated outcome must be minimized. Implementing a public relations campaign requires an extraordinary amount of time. Gear your expectations accordingly. And, in a situation such as the above, prioritization is particularly critical. Then too, assuming your assistant or secretary has no professional public relations background, he or she will need to acquire some media “savvy.” This includes:

  1. Developing a broad-based knowledge of business hot topics;
  2. Framing a story in terms of the trend it represents;
  3. Understanding both the targeted outlet and your market;
  4. Knowing how to pitch the piece in several different ways;
  5. Offering exclusives;
    6. Being aware of conflicts;
  6. Persevering, even after several rejections, while accepting “no” gracefully;
  7. Providing other story resources;
  8. Following AP style and double-checking facts, phone numbers, etc;
  9. Knowing what is and what is not generally accepted practice;
  10. Following through on commitments in a timely fashion; and
  11. Establishing a reputation for credibility and honesty and much more.

The next step is to add an experienced full-time public relations staff person or persons, retain an outside agency, or both.

A number of factors should be considered in the equation. Here are several possible scenarios:

  1. If trade publications are the only media important to you, one professional who has specialized in your industry and knows the editors are your best bet. Then too, his or her specialized knowledge will be useful in writing brochures, collateral material, and other content, etc.
  2. If penetrating one marketplace is critical to your success, whether it be the hospitality industry, the entrepreneur, etc. who has the proven expertise to do the job? This could be an individual or an agency.
  3. If a mix of trade and general-interest publications plus financial public relations and investor relations is required, is there any singular person who can provide the diverse support you need? And, if so, can you afford him or her?

About the Author
Devon Blaine is experienced in all facets of the communications industry. Formerly an actress, model, and stunt driver, she founded the agency in 1975. Besides designing communications campaigns that help businesses maximize their success, she has long been active in numerous entrepreneurial organizations, thus earning a reputation as “the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.” She has incorporated the knowledge gained from these ventures into the philosophy of The Blaine Group. The agency has an award-winning track record in serving the public relations needs of fast-track emerging-growth companies and major corporations alike.

She was three times president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), a founding board member and a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of (NAWBO) National Association of Women Business Owners. Devon also serves as a mentor for the Stubbs Alderton & Markiles Precelerator, the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center, and the Innovation Incubator at Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

About The Blaine Group, Inc.
The Blaine Group specializes in developing and implementing public relations campaigns and marketing strategies as comprehensive communications campaigns or as stand-alone entities.  The firm represents many authors and fast-track, emerging-growth companies.  It also handles investor relations and financial public relations activities for its publicly-traded clients.  The Blaine Group is located at 8665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite #301, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  The telephone number is 310.360.1499 Visit www.blainegroupinc.com.

Fundamentals of a Winning Business Model

At the core of every successful company is a strong business model.

Your business model is the blueprint for how your business will make money (or not). But for many companies starting out, not enough time or effort is put into identifying the right business model for their business.

This can turn out to be a very costly mistake.

In a study by CB Insights on the top reasons why startups fail, a top ten reason (coming in at #7) is going to market with a product without a business model.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Designing the right business model for your company, product and goals are very much in your control. From our experience working with fast-growing startups to global corporations, we cover core elements to building a successful business model.

To read the full article on HelloAdvisr, visit here.

EDWARD LEE
Founder & CEO
HelloAdvisr

Ed Lee is a pricing and go-to-market specialist and trusted adviser to leading companies and brands. He is the founder of HelloAdvisr, a Los Angeles-based growth consultancy helping companies and leadership teams build and implement profit growth strategies.

Ed specializes in international and national marketing and pricing strategies, discount optimization, and salesforce management across retail/ecommerce, marketplace and platform businesses. Previously, Ed held leadership roles with LG Electronics and Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global management consulting firm and world’s leading expert in pricing.

Ed is regularly invited to speak on pricing strategy at leading universities and institutions including the University of Southern California (USC), UC San Diego and General Assembly as well as startup/tech organizations such as LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and Wayra (London, UK). Ed received an MBA from Oxford University, MSc from the London School of Economics and a BA from the UC, San Diego.

Three Ways to Know When Your Team Needs Sales Training

There are three common situations I run into that prompt businesses to look into sales training. Sometimes they may have tried to solve any one of these, for years, before having an awakening that professional training could be a solution.

1. Everyone is not using the same system.
2. Your company is not meeting its revenue goals.
3. You are having a lot of turnover.

If any of these challenges sound familiar, then sales training may be a solution for you. Using a proven sales system can have a dramatic effect on your company’s future, its revenue stream, and the overall cohesiveness and longevity of your sales team.

To read the full article, visit here.

Carrie Pobre

Carrie Lauby is an LA-based sales expert with over 25 years growing B2B2C SaaS companies in digital marketing and streaming media. Carrie and her team deliver customized solutions looking at all levels of the sales funnel including outside teams, inside SDR’s, client retention and online lead conversion. She is a regular speaker on sales and customer service with engagements that include EO, The Channel Company, AA-ISP and ASTA Global Convention.

Sandler Training is the largest sales consulting organization with over 250 training centers worldwide. Sandler utilizes distinctive, non-traditional sales and management methodologies, supported by continual reinforcement through ongoing training and individual coaching sessions. Sandler representatives work with all sizes of companies from startups to larger corporations which include LinkedIn, AT&T, Oracle, Accenture, American Express, Prudential and Salesforce.

If you have a question, a concern or a challenge relating to your sales, customer service, or revenue growth, please reach out to Carrie Lauby at BOOST Performance Sandler Training Los Angeles: Boostperformance@sandler.com.

 

How To Do Your Own PR: For Entrepreneurial Companies

How many of you watch television news daily? Listen to news radio as you commute? Read your local daily newspaper? Or the Wall Street Journal?

Have you ever wondered how the stories on people and companies got there? About 75 percent are planted by public relations people. That’s public relations at work, getting companies such as yours exposure by strategically designing what you have to talk about in either a newsworthy or public service fashion. In fact, at The Blaine Group, we often say that nearly everyone can become famous overnight.

Keep this in mind as you contemplate and prioritize the possibilities. And, to borrow a phrase from one motivational speaker, “plan your work, then work your plan.”

Now that you’ve determined what you are going to do, who is going to do it?

Some of the most effective early-stage public relations campaigns have been handled by the president’s assistant. He or she is someone who knows the company, its customers and goals and has regular access to you. And, if that person is also articulate and writes well, it is logical for some public relations activities to be added to his or her job description. In fact, this may be the only way a new business can afford a public relations effort early on. However, it is important to realize that with limited staff available only part-time for communications tasks, the targeted outlets and anticipated outcome must be minimized.

Implementing a public relations campaign requires an extraordinary amount of time. Gear your expectations accordingly. And, in a situation such as the above, prioritization is particularly critical.

Then too, assuming the president’s assistant has no professional public relations background, he or she will need to acquire some media “savvy.” This includes:

  • Developing a broad-based knowledge of business hot topics;
  • Framing a story in terms of the trend it represents;
  • Understanding both the targeted outlet and your market;
  • Knowing how to pitch the piece in several different ways;
  • Offering exclusives;
  • Being aware of conflicts;
  • Persevering, even after several rejections, while accepting “no” gracefully;
  • Following AP style and double-checking facts, phone numbers, etc.;
  • Knowing what is and what is not generally accepted practice;
  • Following through on commitments in a timely fashion; and
  • Establishing a reputation for credibility and honesty.

When your company has expanded and its communications needs are greater than those that can be handled by the president’s assistant on a part-time basis, the next step is to add an experienced full-time public relations staff person or persons, retain an outside agency, or both.

A number of factors should be considered in the equation. Here are several possible scenarios.

  1. If trade publications are the only media important to your company, one professional who has specialized in your industry and knows the editors are your best bet. Then too, his or her specialized knowledge will be useful in writing brochures, collateral materials, and copy, etc.
  2. If penetrating one marketplace is critical to your success, whether it be the hospitality industry, financial services, car dealerships, retail stores, etc., who has the proven expertise to do the job? This could be an individual or an agency.
  3. If a mix of trade and general-interest publications plus financial public relations and investor relations is required, is there any singular person who can provide the diverse support you need? And, if so, can you afford him or her?

The more expansive and sophisticated your communications activities become, the more you’ll benefit from the combined expertise of a number of professionals. Then too, it is at this stage that the campaign truly needs to be managed. Will you feel confident assigning that responsibility to an agency that is off­site, to people you see only periodically? Or, would you prefer to have a solid generalist on staff, someone with whom you can meet whenever you choose, to oversee the agency’s effort? One is not necessarily better than the other. It is truly a matter of personal style and preference.

Should you decide to retain an agency, here are some questions to ask:

  1. Have you ever worked on an account in this field before? (There is both pro and con on this.)
  2. Is our account conflictual with any other account in the agency?
  3. Please provide references we can check.
  4. Who are your clients?
  5. With whom in the agency will we be working? (Sometimes the person who makes the presentation is not the person who will service your account. You must have a rapport with your contact.)
  6. How will you position our product/service?

In accessing the company, look for open and honest answers. Look for distinguished clients, a successful track record, strong creative concepts, a talented staff, energy, enthusiasm, flexibility, and ambition.

Also look at how the agency plans to correlate your public relations and advertising activities. When they are cohesively planned and utilize the same theme, they cross-index and cross-­collateralize and provide maximum visibility for minimal expenditure.

As far as budget appropriation is concerned, agencies work in several ways: an hourly fee, a per-project fee, or a monthly retainer. Ask for a quotation and get several estimates. Plan to spend more on a new product/service launch than on an established one. Do appropriate an amount annually for public relations; stealing from another budget does not serve any area of the company well.

About the Author
Devon Blaine is experienced in all facets of the communications industry. Formerly an actress, model, and stunt driver, she founded the agency in 1975. Besides designing communications campaigns that help businesses maximize their success, she has long been active in numerous entrepreneurial organizations, thus earning a reputation as “the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.” She has incorporated the knowledge gained from these ventures into the philosophy of The Blaine Group. The agency has an award-winning track record in serving the public relations needs of fast-track emerging-growth companies and major corporations alike.

She was three times president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), a founding board member and a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of (NAWBO) National Association of Women Business Owners. Devon also serves as a mentor for the Stubbs Alderton & Markiles Precelerator, the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center, and the Innovation Incubator at Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

About The Blaine Group, Inc.
The Blaine Group specializes in developing and implementing public relations campaigns and marketing strategies as comprehensive communications campaigns or as stand-alone entities.  The firm represents many authors and fast-track, emerging-growth companies.  It also handles investor relations and financial public relations activities for its publicly-traded clients.  The Blaine Group is located at 8665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite #301, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  The telephone number is 310.360.1499 Visit www.blainegroupinc.com.

 

Preccelerator Mentor Spotlight: Santhosh Devati

santhosh devatiSANTHOSH DEVATI
Founder
Anamika Ventures

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Santhosh Devati is a dreamer, problem-solver, serial entrepreneur and a proven leader in the technology industry for past 20+ years. In his professional journey thus far, he has advised and created Business/Data Analytics/Technology Solutions for national brands such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, Allergan and many more. In recent years, he has mentored 200+ business owners, startup, entrepreneurs and professionals to succeed in their pursuit.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about being a meaningful catalyst in helping individuals to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship and in realizing their dreams.

What one piece of advice would you give to an early stage startup regarding your area of expertise?

Research, Research, Research!

Defining a target market and focusing on the market opportunity is foundational to moving forward in business. Go in knowing that it will take research, tapping into hard data, and crunching numbers. Seek out experts and potential consumers in order to get to the heart of who your target market is and where there is the most opportunity.

One reason research is so important for entrepreneurs is that you might have an incredible business plan with great marketing and sales strategies, financial forecasts, and operational targets, but without defining the actual market opportunity within your target market, you are wading into unknown territory. That’s dangerous because it means your product or service might not be needed or even wanted.

Do yourself a favor and avoid the black hole of the unknown.

Lest you risk falling into yet another entrepreneurial abyss, take time to identify and communicate what sets you and your service apart from competitors.

What do you like best about mentoring at the Preccelerator?

Access to quality individuals who are driven, willing to learn and passionate to make an impact positively in the marketplace/community. More importantly, VIBE at the Preccelerator.