A Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champion? Wow, Thanks!

cp_2013_smb_influencer_champion[4]Over the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to not only run my own small business, but to work with hundreds of other small business owners, managers and startup founders. I’m fanatical about helping entrepreneurs to reach their career goals by starting, running and growing successful small businesses. Sometimes they grow into very large businesses – and that’s fun, too! But the crux of my career has been focused on helping to establish and promote companies in the early stages of their lifecycles, and I really enjoy those challenges.

That’s why I was so happy to be honored last week when I was named a Small Business Influencer Top 100 Champion and Expert in the 2013 Small Business Influencer Awards – produced by Small Business Trends, an award-winning online publication, serving over 6,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, and SmallBizTechnology.com, a media company that produces online content and live events educating small and mid-sized companies on how to strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses. The awards honor those who are influential to small businesses in North America, through the products, services, knowledge, information or support they provide to the small business market.

I’m flattered to be in this list with some former clients (Brainshark, Constant Contact), companies I admire and use daily (Dropbox, American Express OPENForum, Evernote, Etsy, FedEx, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Plantronics, Vistaprint) and industry folks that I admire such as John Jantsch, Laurie McCabe, Dave Kerpen, Larry Kim and Aliza Sherman. Congratulations to all the other winners and honorable mentions, as well as the nominees. I fully support and cheerlead anyone who works in, and strives to help, small business. You can read about all the champions, here.

I simply wanted to say thank you to those who voted for me, the judges and most certainly my team at PerkettPR. They are not only a huge part of making our national clients successful through smart digital marketing and PR, but they are also an inspiration to me every day to keep my own small business innovative, fun and alive.

You can read additional details here, visit the award site or follow along on Twittter by searching #SMBInfluencer.

 

 

 

Persuasive Picks For Week Of 9/23/13

Social-Media-DoodlesNewsmakers in social marketing tend to be large companies, with big ad spends. Small and midsize companies can sometimes feel as though they’re at a relative disadvantage. MarketingProfs‘ Kerry O’Shea Gorgone speaks with IBM’s Ed Abrams on SMB Social Strategy and Content Marketing who explains the changing landscape, and offers tips for SMBs on social strategy, content marketing, and running a social business.

You have a great product, idea or service. You’ve invested in putting together a solid website. Social media marketing is important, so you have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts – maybe even a Tumblr account too. You know social sharing is a key element of success online, but you want the results of your efforts to improve. Luke Chitwood of TheNextWeb says just follow The 10 commandments of social sharing and driving traffic to your website and you’ll engage with customers and draw traffic like never before.

alltwitter-klout-logoEveryone has influence, and Klout has made it their mission to tell each of us what that is. They accomplish this by using data from your social networks to gauge your Klout Score. And as your score increases, it becomes exponentially harder to increase your Klout. But there are things you can do to proactively boost your score and, more importantly, keep it as high as possible. AllTwitter Co-editor Shea Bennett posts a visual guide to help boost your score – 4 Tips To Increase Your Klout Score [INFOGRAPHIC].

As a small business, you may think it’s impossible to get the word out about what you do. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. Eric V. Holtzclaw, author and founder and CEO of Laddering Works, pens 10 Simple Marketing Tips for Small Businesses on Inc. to help get the word out about your business and watch it grow.

“Influencers Who Inspire” Interview with Marcus Sheridan

WHYphotoOur latest “Influencers Who Inspire” interview is with Marcus Sheridan, President of The Sales Lion – one of the premier inbound and content marketing companies in the world, training businesses large and small how to leverage content to build their digital brand and increase sales drastically. He is also Partner of River Pools and Spas, which is currently the most trafficked swimming pool company on the web and one of the largest fiberglass pool installers in the country. Marcus gives insight on inbound marketing and how it transformed his pool company into a leader in the industry.

If you were not in the field you are in, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

No question, I’d be coaching college football somewhere. I’ve always loved teaching, coaching, and competition, and if I thought football coaching would have allowed me enough time at home with the family, I likely would have gone that route.

But instead, I turned into a “pool guy” for about 10 years – and over the last two, have transformed again into a “marketing guy.”

The nice thing is, though, that I’m teaching and coaching businesses with this profession, and there’s some competition as well.

Can you explain inbound marketing to our audience?

I think this answer is often too wordy and it confuses people. My simple answer would be this:

The process of great digital teaching and communication to attract audiences (potential customers) to YOU versus throwing yourself at them.

How did you start your Pool and Spa business and how did inbound marketing help grow your company?

We started in 2001 out of the back of a pickup truck. We grew steadily until 2008, and then, almost what seemed like overnight, the banks crashed, real-estate values plummeted, and no one wanted to buy pools. Nor could many even afford them.

We had no money for traditional advertising so we had to choose a different route to take, which is when we learned about the power of inbound marketing and embraced the “teacher’s mentality” by answering every question we’d ever received from a customer on our company website and blog. Within about 6 months, the site’s traffic exploded, as did leads and ultimately, sales.

Inbound marketing literally saved our business and today we’re the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a missionary in Chile? How did that experience help shape you as an individual?

Easily, that was the best experience of my life. It taught me how to teach groups of people in a way so that they could understand unfamiliar principles. Chile was also the place I learned to speak and present to large audiences. Before that time, I was deathly afraid of public speaking. But being forced to do it helped me realize it’s actually one of the great talents God has given me, and I work hard to use it for good.

What do you envision as being the biggest development in marketing in 2013?

This may not sound terribly romantic, but I think the concept of proper content marketing will go mainstream for many businesses in this coming year. Instead of continuing to ignore it, they are now going to be dealing with the inevitable, just as they swallowed the “I have to have a website pill” about 5 years ago.

What is next for you in 2013?

Personally, my biggest quest right now is to come up with many amazing stories of successful inbound and content marketing from businesses in all walks of life. Currently, I’m targeting specific industries and can’t wait to show the world how the principles of great digital teaching and communication are applicable to any industry, regardless of what they do, sell, or think they are.

I’ll also be speaking all over the place because, well, that’s what I’m supposed to do.

“Effective Executives” Series with Beantown Bedding Founders, Kirsten Lambert & Joan Ripple

Here at PerkettPR, we are not only avid Red Sox fans, but many of our employees are proud to call Beantown our “home.”  This week’s interview is with the founders of a  local Massachusetts-based company, Beantown Bedding. Beantown Bedding, LLC was founded in December 2011 by Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert, two mothers of college students. The company is located in Hingham, MA, a suburb of Boston (“Beantown”).

The concept behind Beantown Bedding was to offer a solution to busy college students who had little time to launder their sheets.  Beantown Bedding developed a line of linens made from a fiber called Tencel, derived from Eucalyptus trees, which you can simply toss into a compost bin or trash can when they’re dirty. The sheets are both compostable and biodegradable and available for purchase on their website and at Amazon.com.

We caught up with the founders and asked them more about where the idea came from and what they have planned next.

 

Please tell us a little bit about Beantown Bedding and where the idea came from.

We met when our oldest children began dating in high school.  When they each went off to college, we quickly learned that they, like most college students, just didn’t take time to wash their sheets.  The health and hygiene implications were simply gross.  We wanted to find a way for them to have clean sheets without the hassle of laundering. Essentially, we decided to rethink laundry.  We joked about sending them the rolls of paper sheets found in a doctor’s office.

 

We decided to take the idea seriously and began searching for material that would be both comfortable and disposable in an environmentally responsible manner.  Easier said than done!  We identified the material we liked, organized focus groups with students and mothers, and began to explore sources of supply. Once we had a product, we conducted product testing with students from 22 universities over a two-month period.  The findings indicated we had a winner.

 

When you were researching what type of materials to use in your products, where did you turn for information and how long did the process take?

The better part of a year was spent researching the market, fabrics, and supply options. Initially, our secondary research focused on sustainable textiles through sources such as fiber and fabric manufacturers, trade organizations and publications,  trade shows and published white papers and articles.  Our first fabric choice didn’t perform well in the qualitative research stage, so we continued the search until we discovered a fiber called TENCEL®, which offered the properties we wanted… softness, strength, and compostability. Lenzing, the manufacturer of TENCEL®, was instrumental in helping us establish our supply chain and has been tremendously supportive as we’ve grown. In fact, they recently hosted us as part of their Innovation Platform at the Home Textiles Sourcing Expo in New York City.

 

How did your previous education or career prepare you to be a business owner?

While we both have degrees and backgrounds in business, we feel it’s the versatile skills we learned as mothers and volunteer leaders in our communities which best prepared us for our entrepreneurial duties.  Like all entrepreneurs, we wear many hats and must be resourceful. Joan’s Management and Human Resources background nicely complement Kirsten’s marketing and research experience. For everything else, we either learn quickly, consult with experts, or cover the gaps with outsourcing.

 

One extremely valuable resource was the team of graduate students from Stanford University who worked on our business as a class project this past spring.  After presenting our pitch at a competition for startup companies at Stanford last April, we were selected by one of the teams. It was one of many tremendous opportunities we’ve had in bringing bedsox to market.

 

You are passionate about the environment and sustainability especially with your product offerings. What else are you passionate about?

Yes, sustainability is a central theme in our messaging and we’re delighted to have just received USDA certification as 100% Biobased®.   That said, we really love college kids!  Their energy, enthusiasm, work ethic, and desire to make a difference in the world is inspiring.  Our own college kids are the basis for our story, but we’ve worked closely with many others as we’ve researched and gotten to know our primary target market.

 

Our dogs are also an integral part of our story. Since our earliest conversations about the concept, the local dog park has been the venue for many of our strategy sessions. We each have yellow Labrador Retrievers – Fenway and Sunshine, who receive an undue amount of attention since we sent our youngest children off to college. (For the record, the younger kids also dated!)

 

What is next for Beantown Bedding in 2013?

College kids aren’t the only time-starved consumers who can enjoy the convenience of laundry-free linens. We will soon roll out additional sizes of sheet sets to serve markets such as overnight camps, vacation homes and travel.   Though the retail launch was only weeks ago, via our ecommerce site (www.BeantownBedding.com) and Amazon, our wholesale business took off before we received our first inventory.   Universities nationwide began purchasing bedsox this summer for their overnight conferences and events.  As a result, our next steps are to generate awareness for bedsox in both the retail and business sectors.  Fortunately, Beantown Bedding has received quite a bit of media attention in recent weeks to convince consumers to rethink laundry.

 

Persuasive Picks for the week of 09/12/11

IBM - MidMarket4 Social Media Lessons SMBs Can Learn From IBM
This SmallBizTrends.com post from Lisa Barone shares four great takeaways for SMBs that came out of a recent interview she conducted with Ed Abrams, IBM’s Vice President of Marketing for Midmarket Business.

Social Media and Content Marketing: A One-Night Stand?
Lee Odden from the TopRank Online Marketing blog guest posts on Clickz.com with this look into why B2B marketers should consider mapping out a social content plan instead of creating and publishing individual, non-cohesive content-based campaigns.

Putting Content in Context
MarketingProf‘s Ann Handley expands on the power of content after an inspiring trip to the recent (and first-ever) Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. She also includes a great video that opened the event and really puts “content into context.

Re-evaluate b2b social strategy to reach tech buyers
BtoBOnline.com‘s 

Andy’s Answers: How Mattel used social media to build excitement around Hot Wheels’ record-breaking stunt
Toy giant Mattel has been putting a loy of money into social this year and their recent “Fearless at the 500” campaign drew quite a bit of attention both online and off. Andy Sernovitz from Smartblogs.com highlights some of the big ideas behind the campaign. Mattel’s Betsy Burkett and Gretchen de Castellane can be seen recapping the case study here as well: