Read on. My questions and comments are in bold.
Tell us about Spin Sucks. Why call it that instead of something like, you know, the Arment Dietrich blog?
When people ask PR professionals what they do for a living, we almost always get a “oh, so you lie (or spin) for a living” in response. That drives us absolutely insane because, while there are plenty of communications pros who are unethical and do lie/spin, that doesn’t represent the majority of us. So the vision is to change the perception of our industry.
Selfishly, it’s a much better name than Arment Dietrich and easier to scale than a business named after me.
And that blog’s been around since 2006! Wow. What’s the biggest thing that has changed since the beginning?
OMG! Everything! There were only a handful of people blogging back then and no one really understood the branding, marketing, search, and revenue-generating potential of blogging. It has completely changed the way I run Arment Dietrich because it’s our number two driver of new business.
Do you think small businesses that are not in the marketing space should blog?
HECK YES! The web, in general, levels the playing field and it’s pretty amazing to be able to compete with your big brother competitors without the same resources. We’re a small firm and a friend from a large, global agency told me a couple of months ago they see us as our biggest competitor.
But blogging is extremely time-intense so you’re going to replace it with things you’re doing in sales and/or marketing that aren’t working. For instance, cold calling or yellow page advertising.
What social media platform do you personally like best?
That’s like asking me to name my favorite child. I won’t do it!
For small businesses, which platform do you think gets the most results?
Blogging, by far. Hubspot and MarketingProfs did a study that showed if you blog just one time a week, your incoming leads increased by 77 percent. Who doesn’t want 77 percent more qualified leads coming into their business?
The other reason is because it’s something you own. The social networks are great for distribution and brand awareness and credibility, but you want to use them to drive people back to something you own, such as a blog.
What are your favorite online tools – social media, productivity, or anything else?
I really love BusyCal. I’d been looking for a really good online tool that tracks my to-do lists, calendars, journaling, and more. It does it all for me and keeps me extremely focused and productive.
What’s the one thing you hate doing but still force yourself to do every week?
Ohhhhh. Hmmmm. I can’t think of anything I hate doing. There are a lot of things I’ll procrastinate because I know they’re going to take uninterrupted time to accomplish, but nothing I hate doing. That said, I really hate doing the laundry, but I continue to do it week after week.
What do you think is the most important marketing activity a small business should focus on?
The one thing that is going to help them achieve their goals. When we work with clients, we look at three things: Increased revenues, improved margins, and shortened sales cycles. If we’re limited by budget or time, we choose the one thing that is most effective in accomplishing one of those three things. And typically it’s email marketing. Not the spam kind we all hate to get, but the kind that provides value to their customers and prospects. The kind that helps them do their jobs more easily and more efficiently.
AmEx does a great job with this with Open Forum. They provide a ton of content small business owners need to run their organizations more efficiently…and it’s hardly ever about using your credit card.
Small businesses often struggle to make sense of their data… what’s the one metric they should keep an eye on?
I would create landing pages where people go to get more information about you, your company, and your content (Hubspot is a great software to help you do this as you’re starting out). That way you can track who is on the page, what they’re doing, and whether or not they’re converting to a customer.
It’s tempting to look at traffic and pageviews and bounce rates, but those are all ego-driven metrics. Pay attention to the metrics that show you how customers become so.
What sites (apart from Spin Sucks, of course!) do you recommend for small-business marketing advice?
I believe small businesses can be responsive towards their customers and in their marketing in a way big businesses struggle with. What other advantages do you think small businesses have?
In today’s real-time, fast-moving world, small businesses have a huge advantage in that they can react more quickly. They can be nimble and flexible to measure and improve their efforts monthly, if not weekly, where the larger organizations have too much red tape to get through before a decision can be made.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business-owner?
Cash. Last year, when the debt crisis hit, everyone got skittish about spending their money, including our clients. We went four months without receiving a single penny and I thought I was going to have to file for bankruptcy because we couldn’t pay our bills, not because we didn’t have accounts receivables outstanding. It was an extremely painful lesson in saving as much cash as possible.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give a small-business entrepreneur?
I would say it’s the cash thing. We all hear, “Cash is king,” but I don’t suppose you really understand its importance until you don’t have any, but you still have to make payroll. So please, please, please don’t ignore that advice. You might not be as lucky as we were.
I’ll keep that in mind! Thank you so much for answering our questions, Gini.
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