Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Recap of the NY XPO for Business

One of the things I admire about multi-millionaires like Donny Deutsch, the advertising tycoon turned TV personality, is that they may have pot loads of money in the bank (he sold his advertising company for close to $300 million bucks) but yet they still go to work every day. As host of The Big Idea on CNBC, Donny helps others make millions too. It's "must see TV" for budding Mogulettes.

Donny was keynote speaker at the NY XPO for Business luncheon at the Jacob Javits Center this week and he stood in front of a dining room the size of a football field to give the audience a few golden nuggets of wisdom in his own charming, irreverent way.

One of the first things he said was make failure your friend, which I loved to hear because I have such fear of not doing things perfectly with my business. The biggest growth, he added, comes when we fail - we grow from the stupid things we do - it's a mathematical certainty. If you're afraid to fail you can't be great. You have to know that your product or service may bomb...but if it does, so what? He likened it to dating - if you get shot down once you go on to the next. (This month's Entrepreneur Magazine has two stories on finding success after failure: click here for more)

More of Donny's tips:
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are. Many entrepreneurs hire people that maybe have 5% of their own qualities. He suggests finding partners and giving them a portion of your business - as long as you keep 51% of it. Small business owners usually hang on tight to their companies - we need to let go!

About success he says do what you love. If you're passionate about what you do then it's not work. If you're not passionate about your work, then find something else!

Do it differently - if your product or service isn't unique, you can't win.

Put your money where your mouth is - show customers that you believe in yourself. People love underdogs.

Show your employees you care for them, for their success. If you root for them they'll root for you!

And finally, hate is good. You need an enemy. When you pitch to a client, tell them how you hate their competitors!

When he finished his speech I made a b-line to the front of the room to get a chance to introduce myself. Dressed in blue jeans and a sweater, Donny looked like the average (but really cute!) guy next door as he graciously listened to a long line of fans wanting to shake his hand. I literally had about 15 seconds to tell him who I was and what I did in a compelling way, and I think I did an o-k good job but there's definitely room for improvement. That's when I wished I had rehearsed Laura Allen's 15secondpitch a little more.

Laura was also at the conference (check out her batch of pictures here) giving a talk on how you can use her pitching methodology not only to introduce yourself but also when you develop your web copy. The same principles apply there as well: don't give them a laundry list - be short and to the point!

On my way out I bumped into an old colleague from my days at CNNfn, Pat Kiernan. He was making a special appearance for NY1, our local cable all-news station, where he is a familiar face every morning, delivering the morning news in his signature deadpan way. It was a thrill to see him and catch up on what some of our co-workers are doing since CNN's financial network shut down 3 years ago. (That's me next to Pat, and behind us, no - you're not seeing double - it's his life sized replica!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Laura Allen and the 15 Second Pitch

Inspiration for a business can come from very unusual places. For Laura Allen (that's her below on the right) , co-founder of "The 15secondpitch", it came from a friend looking to meet date-worthy women. She turned her knack for connecting people into a profession. How'd she do it? Read on!

During the dot-com boom Laura worked at, which somehow managed to survive the bust and was acquired by Experian in 2004. She'd been the first hire there so she was given a lot of freedom at the company, but eventually she got bored with the corporate structure and the rules, so in 2000 she left. Just as Laura was figuring out what to do next with her life, 9/11 happened. The internet industry was devastated, leaving behind a trail of laid-off techies. Looking for ideas on what to do next, Laura and her partner, Jim, who is a database programmer, attended a networking event in Los Angeles. It was there that they met their friend David, a good looking, single, MBA grad and fellow job seeker, who asked Laura to give him a hand meeting cute, single women at the conference. He found he got a much better response when Laura introduced him, and Laura had a ball "pitching" him to the ladies.

Jim, on the other hand, was not having much luck at networking and was thinking there had to be a better way to make connections, and when the two exchanged stories, they stumbled upon the idea for a 15-second pitch.

When they got back home they immediately checked the domain name, and finding it still available, they registered it that night.

Another problem with networking events is that you end up with a bunch of business cards, and afterwards you can't remember who most of those people are. So, they thought, why not create a card that contains a pitch which explains what their company is about? They went to work to turn the idea into a business, and spent the first two years building a website where people could create 15secondpitch cards.

Then in 2003 they decided Laura would teach a workshop on how to create a 15secondpitch. A friend in New York let her use her conference room, and she advertised her 2-hour course on a forum she found in Fast Company called "Company of Friends", that reached a few thousand people just in NY and NJ.

The event was free and about 15-20 people showed up. They each told their story and one guy shared that he'd been trying to get in touch with a VP of Coca-Cola for the past two years. Then another guy said his uncle worked there, and that he'd connect him. That's when Laura saw the power of what she calls the "third party pitch."

Heather is another of Laura's "third party pitch" success stories. She was a reporter who had perfected her "I'm a journalist" pitch, but there was only one problem - she no longer wanted to be a reporter. Her dream was to become a wedding planner. Laura advised her to keep her day job and start moonlighting on the side. They created a wedding planner pitch that same day, which she later shared with her husband. He in turn started telling his colleagues about her, and one of them had just gotten engaged, so he asked Heather to plan his wedding. Three weeks after creating the 15-second pitch Heather landed her first job through a "third party pitch"!

The other thing that worked for Heather was creating an image when describing her services. She went from saying "I'm a reporter but I want to be a wedding planner", to "I have an eye for detail so I'm starting a wedding planning business." Painting a picture in people's minds helps them understand what you do, especially with tech jobs - it's easier for people to buy into an idea if you make your pitch descriptive, giving examples, telling stories, making it rich with details.

Anyway, back to the workshops. In 2005 Laura decided to start charging for her seminars, but she needed money for marketing, so she went back into the corporate world, saving the money coming in from her day job and from teaching the seminars at night. After about a year she got laid off, with 2 weeks severance pay, plus unemployment benefits. Laura was thrilled. With the money she had put away she started marketing her monthly workshop, and shifted her business model more towards corporate clients like Merrill Lynch and non-profits like Cine Women.

The website has now gone through three major revisions, and they added a pitch wizard a year ago to automate the process of printing the pitch cards. Laura just re-launched her blog last week to focus on how to put together a killer 15secondpitch, and how to use it after you create it. In January they'll be unveiling their latest product (you heard it here first!), an e-learning platform that allows people to sign up for classes and follow at their own pace. Users will be able to create a 15secondpitch plus other related content using a tool that's partly automated and partly customized by Laura.

The 15secondpitch is used by lawyers, VC's , real estate brokers, freelancers - it's especially good for freelancers because their existence hinges on how well they can pitch, and they need to be constantly pitching new business. Marketing consultants, career coaches, college grads, financial planners - they can all benefit from it.

Here are 4 things Laura says an effective 15secondpitch should include:

  1. Who you are - Tell then your name AND the name of your company!

  2. What you do - avoid the "kitchen sink" pitch - don't tell your entire career history - focus on one thing and be specific. She's suggests preparing a separate pitch for everything you do.

  3. Why you're the best at what you do.

  4. A call to action - the crown jewel.
Ready to give it a try? Visit to compose your perfect pitch!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Facebook Basics

This week I finally forced myself to sit down and learn how to use Facebook. For months I've been receiving emails from my friends asking me to join their list, and I had accumulated about 36 contacts but had no idea what to do with them. So after putting it off for forever, I finally to bite the bullet.

Why am I so interested? Well I spend a lot of time networking and making contacts, so anything that lets me do this more efficiently I'll definitely be interested in. What I found is that Facebook is like networking but on steroids.

So the first thing to do when you open an account is to invite your friends, which is easy - you can import your email addresses from whatever email provider you use – they’ll receive an invitation, and once they accept they'll be on your list. Another option is to click on "Find Friends", and enter your email address and password, then you'll get a list of all the contacts you have in Outlook or Yahoo and you can simply checkmark the ones you'd like to invite.

To check on your progress you can click on the "friends" tab and you'll instantly see how many people are connected to you. When you click on your friend's profile – presto! Instant access to all their friends. You'll see where they went to school, where they’re working, where they used to work… etc.

Say you’re looking to target a specific company for business; you can look through all your friend’s and family’s contacts to see if there’s anyone connected to that company, or industry. If you want to get in touch with your friend’s friends, you can ask for an introduction or directly request to be their friend.

Facebook has something called a poke which you can send - and they're intentionally vague on its definition of this so that you can make it whatever you want it to be. Or you can send them a message. By default anyone can message anyone, but depending on your preferences you can adjust your privacy settings so that only your friends can see your profile, or only your family, or both, or you can leave it open to the Facebook universe.

On the main section of your personal page you'll find a news feed – and no, it's not world news - it's actually a constantly updating list of updates on your friends' activities on Facebook. So if they've added pictures, or joined a group, or added a new friend, it'll show up. On the right hand side you'll see birthdays, notifications, upcoming events or friend requests.

You can also put up a "wall", which is where people can randomly leave comments…if it’s your birthday your friends can leave you a little note, or if you’re sick they can leave a 'get well soon' message…or, for businesses, you could ask people to leave a testimonial for a product or service you’ve provided. (There’s also a super wall and a fun wall, which allow for added functionalities.)

If you're a small business, freelancer or solo practitioner you'll want to check out their classified section, called “marketplace”, where you can post your services or browse through "for sale" items. On a recent visit I found ads for a jazz piano teacher and a ride to Yankee stadium.

You can post an event or browse events - and check out what events your friends post or are attending.

You can post a Facebook Flyer announcing something special going on with your business. They start at $5 to display your Flyer 2,500 times and go up as you increase the run times. It will appear in your homepage but you can also post it on specific networks.

There's also a tool to create polls, and you can target Facebook users based on gender, age, school, location, or profile keyword. This is especially useful if you need to compile market data/research on a product or service.

You can join groups, or create one if you don’t find what you’re looking for (stay tuned for the Mogulette Facebook group, coming soon!). Members can add videos or pictures to the home page, and easily interact with the whole group through the group discussion forums, where you can ask the group questions and have ongoing dialogues.

For book lovers there's the virtual bookshelf where you can let people know what books you’re reading and find out their favorites.

There’s still a lot more that I need to look into, but at least this will get us started…

Here's some related articles I found on using Facebook:

12 Ways to Use Facebook Professionally

How to Use Facebook to Promote Your Business or Blog

How to Use Facebook Without Losing Your Job

How To Use Facebook Flyers To Get Amazing Free Demographic Information

How are you using Facebook? Please let us know!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Successful Female Entrepreneur Tells Her Story

How can a company with no business plan, no offices, and no track record become a multi-million dollar business? That's exactly what I asked Rosalind Resnick, who took her company, NetCreations, from a two-person home based startup in 1995 to a public company generating $58 million in sales. She recently addressed a group of internet entrepreneurs at an iBreakfast meeting I attended. After listening to the program director, Alan Brody, give a short introduction about her, I knew I needed to find out more, so I asked her for an interview. She graciously accepted, and I've posted the details below.

Where did you get the idea to start an email marketing company?

NetCreations started out as a Web design firm in 1995. Pretty quickly, we began to see that our clients needed more than just cool Web sites – they needed a way to get people there. We pioneered opt-in email marketing as a way to connect marketers with the consumers and business people who wanted more information about their products and services but didn’t want to waste time surfing the Web trying to find them.

Did you have a business plan?

No. We didn’t have a formal business plan until our company went public.

How much money did you start out with, and where did it come from?

We started with $1,000. My partner and I contributed the capital.

What did you use the money for?

The money was just to open our bank account. My partner was a Web designer and programmer who worked at our local ISP [internet service provider] so he had the technical skills that we needed. I was a journalist who had just written a book about doing business on the Internet so I did the sales and p.r. and brought in the clients.

What happened after that? How did the company get sooo successful in such a short time? Did you ever imagine it would grow as much as it did?

Our big break came when a circulation manager from Ziff-Davis tested our lists in the fall of 1996 and got a response far better than anything he’d ever achieved through postal mail or telemarketing. Once we realized that we were in the direct marketing business and that companies like Ziff-Davis needed to be able to mail to millions of names in thousands of different categories, we started putting together a partner network of high-traffic Web sites to build our database.

What were the most crucial factors that helped your company achieve success?

Building a partner network of Web sites that sent email addresses to our database and partnering with list brokers, ad agencies and resellers to market our lists to Fortune 1000 clients

What mistakes do you see startups making the most?

Failure to plan. While some companies fail because they lack capital, many more startups go under because their founders lack management experience or because their business models don’t add up.

What advice do you give your startup clients?

Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you’ll be all right.

It's interesting to see how by building a partner network you can grow your company faster and larger than just by yourself. That's definitely something that Mogulettes-in-the-making need to think about: who can refer clients to me that isn't in direct competition with me? Pet care providers can team up with pet stores, life coaches with career counselors, children's entertainers with babysitters, I could go on and on.

Rosalind is now using the valuable knowledge she gained from her experience to help small businesses become successful through her company, Axxess Business Consulting. She's also one the experts "on call" at, where she and a handful of others answer questions related to startups. And as if that weren't enough, on top of that she writes a blog, Vest Pocket Consultant, with more information on small business. Thanks Rosalind!