Busy Today, but Planning for Tomorrow

Here's how one entrepreneur realized that current projects were restricting her ability to recruit fresh clients, and what she did to remedy the situation

When it comes to marketing, Corporate America bandies about big words and backs them up with bigger bucks. Meanwhile, small-business owners implement major marketing efforts on minute budgets. In this occasional look at marketing strategies, Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein details a small outfit's marketing strategy and runs those efforts by Chicago marketing executive Meg Goodman.

The Company: Chicago-based Noto Bene Consulting, an outfit that helps organizations manage high-profile events.

The Entrepreneur: Monica Metzler, president

Background: After earning degrees from Northwestern University, Sanford Institute for Policy Sciences, and Duke University, and working for one of Chicago's top law firms, Monica Metzler wanted more. She left the comfort of her law practice for the entrepreneurial life, founding Noto Bene Consulting.

The Challenge: Metzler's career as a lawyer required her to look out for her clients' interests. She knew the skills developed at the bar could be easily transferred to her new profession representing the interests of corporations and nonprofits planning one-of-a-kind, high-profile events. As her business grew, she led the three-year development and implementation of Northwestern University's 150th anniversary celebration, the launch of Miami University's $1 billion fund-raising drive, and also oversaw site logistics for the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

However, Metzler found that immersion in planning such demanding projects made it was almost impossible to market her business. For many entrepreneurs, it's an all-too-familiar dilemma: How can you keep current clients happy while also reaching out to new business? A related challenge Metzler faced was whether she should time her marketing message to reach companies at the very moment they were brainstorming events and most open to her services? Alternatively, should she aim for a high overall profile as the consultant of choice in her industry?.

The Solution: Metzler developed a plan to implement small marketing projects while simultaneously working on larger events and using the time between big jobs to enhance her visibility and profile.

First, she developed a variety of conference seminars that she has presented at events attended by her targeted prospects. Next, she plans to provide the seminar material through her Web site in exchange for a recipient's contact information. She also writes articles for trade publications, is developing testimonials from clients, plans to partner with specific vendors on marketing outreach, and is planning an e-mail newsletter for customers and prospects.

The Result: Noto Bene is quickly becoming known for innovative event solutions and has been highlighted in prominent trade publications. Metzler's outfit is well on the way to establishing its place atop the list of potential bidders that companies and organizations look to when they have major events that need organizing, promoting, and staging.

The Expert Comments: Although she boasts extremely impressive credentials, both in terms of education and professional achievements, Metzler started her company with a simple passion for her work, notes Meg Goodman, a founding partner of Performance Consulting Group.

"However, she quickly recognized the challenges of trying to market a company that is, essentially, herself -- and balancing the income-producing work with prospecting. Monica understood that it is almost impossible to be in the exact right place at the exact right time -- so the next best thing is to be constantly visible and in the right place when the right time comes along," Goodman says. "I believe she has found a strong short-term balance to that challenge."

As with so many entrepreneurs, Metzler's successes could give birth to a fresh set of challenges, Goodman warns. "How will she handle multiple projects and prospect at the same time? This is where developing both strong business and marketing plans will serve her well. The effort spent on these two demanding yet essential documents will provide peace of mind and give her control over the future of Noto Bene."

Goodman says she is optimistic that Metzler will find the time and fortitude to do the required strategic planning. "Noto Bene translates as 'observing, marking well, or thoroughly,'" Goodman notes. "I have a feeling she will be doing just that."

Editor's note: If your marketing drive has put some runs on the board, here's your chance let us know all about it. Send an e-mail to Karen E. Klein, and tell us what you're doing. We will choose the most interesting submissions, interview the business owners, and have marketing expert Meg Goodman comment.

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