Entrepreneurs and small businesses rejoice! The Ohio Small Business Development Center is hosting their annual Ohio Growth Summit this May 24 and by the looks of the speakers on deck, this event is going to be a great event for entrepreneurs.
This year’s keynote speaker is Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and author of SpinSucks. Aside from being a top blogger in the PR and marketing industries, she has received numerous awards from sites such as Social Media Examiner, Junta 42, and Ad Age and just released her first book which she co-wrote with Geoff Livingston: Marketing in the Round (OGS attendees receive a free copy).
Because she is a woman with moxie and sharing great insight with the Columbus business community, we wanted to get to know Gini just a little bit better:
Moxie: Since we’re all about the entrepreneurial spirit around here, what is the best advice you ever received about developing as a business owner:
Gini: A few years ago, my Vistage Chair told me I had to do more than listen to my gut…he told me to obey it. And he was right. Every time my gut tells me to do something and I don’t listen, I regret it.
Her Moxie Mix: What app can you not live without?
Uh. Angry Birds. Actually, my Kindle app. I read a TON and travel a ton so it makes my life easier…I don’t have to carry multiple books on one trip.
Moxie: Failure is a great teacher. What was your “best” failure and what did you learn about your business and yourself.
Gini: Gosh! I’d have to say the last few years were a great lesson. I thought I was going to have to shut the business down last year because we finally hit the perfect storm. In 2008, the bank called our line. In 2009 we lost more than half our clients and I had to layoff half my staff. In 2010, we kept trucking but we didn’t make any money. Last year, as we were trying to dig ourselves out of red ink, the debt ceiling crisis happened and all of our clients went from 30 to 90 day payment terms overnight…and some without any communication about it. Because of that, we have three months with zero cash coming in.
The only reason I was able to make payroll was because of my speaking engagements, but I went months without paying vendors. It was really scary and I had resigned myself to the fact that Arment Dietrich was finally going to close because of the economy. But then the cash came in, we closed more business, we changed how we bill clients, and we rebounded. So the best lesson I learned is: Never, EVER, let the bank account have less than three months cash reserves in it.
Her Moxie Mix: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
“It’s not in that you fail but in how you get up when you do.” - Confucius
Moxie: Wow. That’s an incredible come back story and important advice! You’re such a well known blogger in the industry, why you think it’s so important to create your own content? How do you strike the right balance between creation and curation?
Gini: Content is really about creating an expertise for yourself and your business online. So, when you create content, you’re doing it in a way that demonstrates how you think, how you approach working with customers, and where you’re an expert. The content you curate supports your thinking in a way that heightens your thought leadership. For example, I tweet 12 times a day (not including conversations). Of those 12 times, my blog post is tweeted four times, our guest blog post is tweeted three times, and other content that supports the way we think is tweeted five times. So you have a nice balance between the two.
Her Moxie Mix: What are you reading right now?
I’m embarrassed to say it’s 50 Shades of Grey. I had to see what all the fuss was about…and I’m kind of shocked at the terrible writing and, well, the plot. But, of course, I keep reading it.
Moxie: Do you have two tried and true tips for small businesses that struggle to find time to create content and manage their day-to-day business? When is it time to hire a pro?
Gini: Yes! Get your butt out of bed an hour earlier and write your content while the house is quiet and no one is in the office. It’s like brushing your teeth or exercising – you don’t leave the house without doing it. That’s what works for me. I have some friends who prefer to write all of their content for the week on Sunday morning before church. And other friends who schedule an hour into their days. But, being a small business owner, I know what can come up during the day that interferes with my scheduled time. So I just do it very first thing…sometimes even before I brush my teeth.
When it’s time to hire a pro really depends. If it begins to take you more than an hour a day, between research, writing, optimizing, promoting, and commenting then it’s time to hire some help.
Moxie: On to social media. How can businesses find their target market in the “Wild West” of SM?
Gini: There are lots of ways to do this, but one of the things we always tell clients is don’t just get on the social networks. Be really strategic about where you “play.” The easiest (and free) way to do that is with Google Alerts. If you set up alerts for your name, your company name, the industry, your key clients, your top competitors, and products or services in your industry, you’ll receive an email that gives you links across the web that mention your search terms. But the really great thing about the alerts is the email splits them up by platform – web, blogs, discussion forums, Twitter, Google+, comments, etc. So let’s say you receive your alerts and every day there are tweets that mention your
search terms. It’s probably a good idea to get started on Twitter.
Another way you can do this is ask your current customers where they participate online and where they’d like to see you hanging out.
Moxie: Great ideas! That really does give businessesdirection on where to start. So besides your own site, who do you trust in matters of social media and marketing?
Gini: You mean there are other social media and marketing sites?!?
I’d recommend the following:
- Geoff Livingston (he’s also my Marketing in the Round co-author)
- Danny Brown
- Jugnoo (which is also a client, but they have a fantastic resource for using the social web for small businesses so I’m not solely biased)
- Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert
- Mitch Joel’s Twist Image
- Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Agent
- I also would subscribe to SmartBrief newsletters, Digiday Advertising, and Communications Pros
Moxie: Having all the best resources is important, but how can businesses develop and keep their brand voice through social media?
Gini: It’s not easy to do! There are some days when I wonder if it’s all worth it. Those are the days I open our analytics that show where we’re getting business and I’m reminded it IS worth it. But you want to crawl, then walk, then run, and then fly. It’s taken me five years to develop and keep our brand voice so it doesn’t happen overnight. Crawling means you want to monitor, listen, assess the conversations, and figure where to participate. Walking means you participate in the conversations and you produce content. Running means you leverage employees (or hire an outside pro), you engage the network every day, and you respond to comments in real-time. And then flying means you’re finally at the enterprise level point where things begin to work on their own as you grow and add new technologies.
Moxie: We’re really excited to see you May 24th for Ohio Growth Summit. What can the attendees expect to take away from your talk this year that will benefit the growth of their business?
Gini: We’re going to talk about using the web to grow your business. I mentioned above how terrible the past four years have been for us. Because business was down, I used that time to learn new skills, create new products and services, launch a commerce site AND write a book. It’s all foundation setting that is finally coming to fruition this year. So we’ll talk about how you can do the same and watch your business double in size.
Get your tickets now before the event sell out! And save a few bucks by using our OGS discount code. Enter MOXIE20 in the promotional code area and save 20% off registration! See you there!
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