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The Initials P.R. were Helpful When Patti Rowlson Launched PR Consulting Services, a Publicity and Marketing Consulting Business

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The Initials P.R. were Helpful When Patti Rowlson Launched PR Consulting Services, a Publicity and Marketing Consulting BusinessPR Consulting Services (people love that my initials are actually PR) provides affordable marketing support for startups and existing businesses that do not have the resources to hire additional employees. I work one-on-one with owners and managers to develop marketing plans, write content for websites & social media, work on publicity and provide business development coaching….all from my home office in rural Whatcom County (NW Washington State, just 8 miles from the Canadian border).

Industries I work with include healthcare, legal, construction and building design, landscaping, accommodations and more; its diverse and interesting work for sure. People tell me my business is unique because I don’t just tell clients what they need to be doing to market their business; I actually make their lives easier by implementing and managing tasks to ensure follow through and consistency. Because of the support offered, clients and peers call me their ‘get it done’ person.

My shoestring business was launched in September 2009, during challenging economic times. Companies across the nation were letting employees go, or closing their doors altogether; some thought I was a bit crazy to take a leap into business ownership, but I had an idea, a plan, and convenient initials that developed into a business name that made sense.

Observing a Need

The idea to start my own consulting business began to flicker in 2008 when I observed great local businesses that were stuck using the same marketing methods year-after-year. It seemed they just didn’t know what else to try, and didn’t have the time or desire to research options. Some I talked with even said their efforts were no longer producing results but they just didn’t know what else to do.

I also saw companies that had not needed to do any marketing in the past because customers just came to their door by word of mouth, but with the economy sliding into a recession these folks were finding it harder and harder to compete for customers without consistent marketing efforts, personal networking and an on-line presence…all items that were outside their comfort zone.

Businesses were responding to the decline in revenues by scaling back their work force. Owners found themselves working ‘in’ the business as well as ‘on’ the business by taking over tasks they had not done for quite some time like accounting, payroll, and sales.

Everyone understood something needed to be done with marketing but just didn’t have the time or experience to make confident decisions…and money was tight so they didn’t want to make costly mistakes.

A Plan is Developed

My plan was to offer professional, affordable marketing services on an as-needed basis. No long-term contracts, no retainers…just a go-to person when there was a need for things like developing a marketing plan, writing and submitting publicity, updating website content, freshening up brochures and business cards or planning promotional events.

This plan was well received and my business has grown. At launch there were just two clients to work with, now I have developed a pool of more than 20 businesses who can contact PR Consulting for support. Some choose to schedule consistent blocks of time each month or set a monthly budget for marketing services; some only call when they have specific needs. I love being able to offer flexibility to suit the needs of my clients!

Evolving on Demand and Expansion

The Initials P.R. were Helpful When Patti Rowlson Launched PR Consulting Services, a Publicity and Marketing Consulting Business

Patti Rowlson

As PR Consulting evolved during the first 21 months I worked hard to accommodate the needs of each and every client. The services initially offered mushroomed from basic publicity and marketing tasks to project management, company branding and graphic design work…all because clients would say “while you are here can you help us with this?” Having a diverse background, and strong desire to learn something new every day, helped me say yes more than I had to say no.

18 months after launch, PR Consulting had grown enough that I was able to bring in a part-time office assistant to help with non-client related tasks like billing, accounts receivable and general office tasks. Fortunately for me our college-aged daughter, Kelsey, is pursuing a degree in journalism and communications. As a journalist, editor and advertising sales rep for her college newspaper, Kelsey is developing skills that will, in time, benefit PR Consulting clients.

Startup Expenses

Like most shoestring businesses, PR Consulting’s startup expenses were minimal – just a new computer, phone and work station for my dedicated home office. I put together an affordable website (http://pattirowlsonconsulting.com/default.aspx) using Microsoft Office Live’s website template system, designed and ordered business cards and joined a local chamber of commerce to make sure there would be opportunities for professional, face-to-face networking. Startup costs were less than $1800 so I was quickly operating in the black and have been ever since.

Tips and Sources for Free Support

Here are some of my favorite tips for startups and established businesses:

  • Identify your target audience. The first step in marketing is to identify your target audience, and then identify the best ways to reach them. If your ideal customers are professional women over age 40 then placing an ad in the Little Nickel will not be as effective as personal networking through your local chamber of commerce. It is much easier to decide whether an ad opportunity will work for you if you can simply ask yourself “will this reach my target customer?”
  • Have a plan. Once you’ve identified your target market, create a plan for reaching them. This may include using unique advertising methods, developing a referral system or revising website content so it appeals to the target…having a plan will help you stay focused, ensure efforts are consistent, and not be tempted by all the marketing/advertising options that will be suggested to you.
  • You must have a website. I believe a company website should still be the first item in any marketing toolbox. All other marketing efforts (print materials, social media, networking) should drive people to your website where they can learn about your services or buy your products. Websites do not have to be expensive. PR Consulting has helped startups and established businesses affordably launch new websites, complete with content, for around $500.
  • Don’t be afraid of social media. I encourage clients to start by picking one method and doing it really well. If you love to write, set up a blog. Already a fan of Facebook and use it daily? Create a Facebook page for your business. Do you market directly to business professionals? Sign up for a free profile on Linked In…and use it. Here’s a link to tips just for those getting started with Linked In:

http://pattirowlsonconsulting.com/Documents/Linked%20In%20Tips%202011.pdf

  • Treat everyone you come in contact with kindly. Whether it’s receptionists working the phone lines, high level CEO’s, or the barista making your morning espresso. You never know where or how you’ll meet the people who will impact your business.
  • Invest $7-$10 in a professional name tag and wear it to networking events. Make sure the font sizes are large enough to be read from 4 feet away. Keep a tag in your vehicle, portfolio, or handbag so it won’t be forgotten. Think of how sharp you’ll look and feel without a ‘Hello My Name Is’ sticker on your shirt!
  • Business cards…have them, use them, and don’t run out. More information is shared on business cards these days including cell phone numbers, social media icons, and website addresses. Take advantage of two-sided printing if you need additional space…do not simply shrink font sizes and try to squeeze everything on one side. Use good quality paper…13 pt. or higher. Keep stashes of 8 business cards in multiple locations so you don’t get caught off guard (purse, wallet, glove box, presentation folder, laptop bag, coat pocket).
  • Join a networking group, such as a local chamber of commerce, where networking is encouraged and supported. An active chamber provides multiple opportunities for members to mix and mingle with other business professionals. Remember: memberships in industry-related associations are not the same as networking groups…those groups are valuable for providing educational opportunities and peer socialization but in the end you are probably spending time with competitors, not potential clients/customers.
  • Use positive networking to do nice things for others, without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Simple acts of kindness are noticed, appreciated, and rewarded.
  • Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. New business owners have a lot to learn. Build relationships with a few peers and mentors who you can bounce ideas off of or troubleshoot issues that may come up.
  • Consider your level of time and desire. My philosophy is that nearly any task can be handled by people if they have the time and desire…with enough time and desire you can learn to do anything! If those two items are limited its best to partner with someone who can help so you stay focused on tasks you enjoy.

To support and educate clients and other small business owner/operators, I write a marketing blog that is focused on sharing affordable marketing tips (http://pattirowlson.com/) and local continuing education opportunities. It is a place they can watch for new tips, trends and opportunities without being inundated by too much information. PR Consulting Services also shares information on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pattirowlsonconsulting and Linked In (www.linkedin.com/in/pattirowlson).

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