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Marketing Expert Marilyn Ross

Push the marketing envelope with tactics that will blow the minds of potential clients

Sometimes you just have to take a chance. You own your own business because you took a risk. Taking risks is what being an entrepreneur is all about. You left the status quo or decided to rebel against it to create something uniquely yours. So why shouldn't your marketing strategy reflect the same characteristic?

In Shameless Marketing for Brazen Hussies, marketing expert Marilyn Ross offers a few new ideas about how to make an impact with your marketing plan. Her book offers an abundance of information on such topics as cost-effective marketing tools, how to boldly impress new prospects, and increasing sales. If the title of her book has got you a little intrigued (it definitely caught my eye), read on to find out exactly what it means and how you can apply it to your business.

Entrepreneur.com: The title of your book is unique. Could you explain the meaning of it and how you came up with it?

Marilyn Ross: I was looking for something that would be different and would position the book separately from all the [other marketing] books out there. Shameless marketing is basically about being innovative. Brazen is being bold and some people think of hussy in different terms. The dictionary, in some cases, calls it a woman of ill repute, and in other cases, it's just someone who's bold and really out there, and that's what I'm talking about-unique and bold ideas for marketing that are really kind of uncommon strategies. I want people to celebrate uncommon sense and go about doing things in a different way to help themselves find success. One thing we probably need to clarify is that even though this has a title that's slanted toward women, the strategies work every bit as well for men.

Entrepreneur.com: What are some of these uncommon strategies, and which ones do you think are the most effective?

"I want people to celebrate uncommon sense and go about doing things in a different way to help themselves find success."

Ross: One woman I talk about in the book is a salesperson, and to get people's attention, she goes down to Goodwill and buys old shoes. When she wants to make an appointment and she's having trouble getting through to a decisionmaker, she will send one shoe with a note that says something to the effect of "Now that I have a foot in the door." Most people find this humorous; it breaks the ice and allows her to be successful in reaching the people she needs. That's the kind of thinking we're looking at-doing things a little differently and really getting out there and making a splash, many times without much cash.

There's a lot of things you could do through PR and then recycle that PR. Sometimes it's not just the first bit of exposure you get but how you use that. For example, let's say you send a news release to a newspaper and they run it or they call you because they're going to do a story. Take that story and recycle that to magazines in your field or other newspapers that aren't direct competitors. Use it to send to prospects. Use it with a banker or venture capitalists. Using that publicity, recycling it and getting additional mileage out of it is a creative idea that a lot of people don't do.

Entrepreneur.com: Are there certain marketing techniques that work more for women than men?

Ross: First of all, women have different management and business styles. We are less into hierarchy. We actually take more time in making decisions, and we seek information from a lot of different sources-our employees, other business owners and experts. I think what a woman really has going for her is that she's great at building relationships and nurturing people. We've learned this through the ages with our husbands, our children, our aging parents. If we apply those same kinds of strategies and that same kind of a caring and nurturing attitude toward business, we're going to be much more successful because that's what's going to separate people from the herd in the future.

Entrepreneur.com: What do you think are the most effective marketing tools?

Ross: One of the things that any business should look at doing is probably the one thing that will help any man or woman grow their business-forming strategic partnerships. There are other companies, organizations and individuals out there that already have your customer base. Create a win-win situation so they can help you reach your goals and you can help them reach theirs. This can be done whether it's a neighborhood store that works with other neighborhood stores or Web sites forming strategic alliances with other Web sites.

Entrepreneur.com: Is there any other advice you'd give small-business owners trying to put together an effective marketing plan?

Ross: I have four rules for guaranteeing success for business owners. Number one is to ask for what you want. Many times we are hesitant or we don't really make it very clear to people what it is we want them to do. Number two is to make it easy for people to do what you want them to do, whether that's providing a toll-free number to customers or putting together a list of questions for an interviewer. This applies across the board. Rule number three is to apply the 80/20 rule. This goes back to the fact that 80 percent of your business is going to come from 20 percent of your clients. It's very important to concentrate on them rather than running around trying to find a bunch of new people because you're going to get more business [from your current customers]. That 80/20 rule can be applied in a vast array of ways, whether it's how you use your time or who you choose to focus your time on. The last thing is follow up, follow up, follow up. There are so many opportunities in business that are lost simply because someone gives up too soon. Following up is what's really going to make you powerful.

Think creatively. You don't need a lot of money. You can make up for it with moxie. There are hundreds of examples of how people have been successful. New start-ups often don't have much cash, and it's important to look for ways to achieve your goals without having to spend a lot of money. The other thing I feel is very important is to never stop marketing. A lot of times people get the impression that because things are going really well now, they don't have to spend time or money on marketing. If they take that approach, six months down the line, they'll hit a very slow period. Marketing is a constant. It's something you need to do starting now and forever if you want to be successful.

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