Making An Impression
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Self-promotion can be difficult for many entrepreneurs who just want to get their products and services out in the marketplace and start doing business. Success or failure, however, may not depend solely on the quality of the product or service in question but on the number of people who actually know about it.
Marjorie Brody, CEO of Brody Communications Ltd., an international business communications firm in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, offers some pointers on what entrepreneurs should and shouldn't do when it comes to marketing themselves:
- DO network. One way to create visibility is by doing presentations or joining associations for industries related to what you're doing.
- DO design quality marketing materials. Your letterhead, brochures, business cards and Web site reflect you and your business. Make sure your marketing materials reflect the quality of what you're offering.
- DO establish yourself as an authority. Give speeches about your particular industry, write about trends, and try to publicize your own name and product as much as possible. (See "Fast Pitch," page 95, for more on public speaking.)
- DON'T promise more than you can deliver.
- DON'T sell inadequate merchandise that doesn't live up to expectations.
- DON'T promote in a way that's seen as "braggadocious." It's one thing to promote in a way that's benefit-driven for the buyer, but just talking about yourself is boring to other people.
Above all, Brody stresses flexibility as the key to marketing yourself. She says, "[You] want to stay as cutting-edge [and diverse] as possible."
Tie One On
Bob Baumann, 39
Company: Around Your Neck Inc.
What they do: Men's image consulting and clothing sales
Home base: Dallas
Start-up costs: $8,000
1998 sales: $1.5 million
1999 projections: $1.9 million
Bob Baumann won't sell you the shirt off his back, but he'll sell you one just like it. Also for sale: his tie, shoes, belt and pants. Baumann draws the line at his boxers, though. That, he says, would just be embarrassing.
Welcome to the universe of professional image consulting and the domain of Bob Baumann, who was once so driven to get a great tie at a great price that he stumbled upon a business opportunity.
It began in 1989, when Baumann, then a successful salesman, bought himself a $75 tie on his lunch hour. "I thought, `This is crazy. A piece of silk this size cost $75?' I knew it didn't cost that much to make," says Baumann. He made a few phone calls and discovered that the same tie wholesaled for $18. He tried to buy a minimum order of five dozen on the spot, but without a resale number, he was foiled.
Months later, when Baumann decided it was time to quit his sales job in favor of something more interesting, he remembered the markup on those ties and wondered if he could sell them. Not in a store, of course. Not conventionally. Here he was, a master salesman. How could he leverage that talent without incurring the cost of a retail location?
The answer was to go directly to the customer. Baumann's first gig was a "tie show" in a conference room, where he sold 65 ties in a little more than an hour. "Back in the early '90s, neckwear sales were through the roof," says Baumann. "Times were tough, and people could afford to buy three new ties when they couldn't afford three new suits."
As times changed--and Baumann's ambition grew--he added suits, jackets, shirts, pants and accessories. He plans to open eight more Around Your Neck franchises and increase sales in the Dallas area by 25 percent this year--even as business attire becomes more casual. Says Baumann, "We're addressing that trend as well."
Excerpted from Young Millionaires (Entrepreneur Media Inc.), available at bookstores.
Around Your Neck Inc., (972) 490-9797, fax: (972) 490-9798
Brody Communication Ltd., (800) 726-7936, http://www.brodycommunications.com