Are you looking for advice about how to market your business on the cheap? Looking for green business advice? Shel Horowitz, writer and entrepreneur, shares his business tips with you.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I currently have two businesses, Accurate Writing & More and FrugalMarketing.com. I am a marketing and book publishing consultant/copywriter. I focus on Green and ethical low-cost/no-cost marketing strategies and tactics. I'm also speaking, writing, and publishing on these topics.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
In the late 1970s after graduating college, I made at least two attempts to start a writing business. I was also looking for journalism jobs. I did work for a year and a half as a community organizer, but couldn't find work in my field. So I started my little typing service and also freelanced for various newspapers. I very quickly added resume writing services, which from 1985-95 was the bulk of my work, and then gradually moved first toward copywriting things like press releases and book cover copy (which I still do), and gradually toward the more strategic, long-term side of marketing. In 2004, I began to consult with unpublished writers on how to become published authors, and that's an important side of my business now.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
As quickly as possible, begin developing strategic alliances with others who reach your key markets already—something I discuss in detail in my just-released eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson). Do the best quality work you can. Keep expenses down. Ask happy customers to spread your name around. Get involved with social media.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
After 28 years, I'm still home-based. I work in short bursts from 6 or 6:30 a.m. through 10 or 11 p.m. I take a hike with my dog every day (and my wife, when she's around), and that time can vary across several hours. I spend good family time in the evenings and then go back to work after dinner. I have access to my music collection and my library. For me, it works very well. I'm also blessed to live in a gorgeous spot. Looking out my window at my neighbors' farm and the mountain behind it always gives me a lift.
Wow, it sounds like Hadley Massachusetts is a nice place and a perfect place to inspire you to operate a green business. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
The wonderful thing about Green business, as I point out over and over again in Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, is that it has both marketing and operational benefits/cost savings. As an example, a few years ago, I bought a duplexing (two-sided) laser printer. I needed a new printer anyway, and this was price compatible with other models. About 80 percent of what I print is 2-sided, so that means I'm saving about 40 percent of my paper cost (recycled paper at $50/case, so that's significant). I think it took about fifteen months to recapture the cost of the printer out of paper savings. Green business has a much easier time with marketing, goes for a less price-sensitive demographic, can more easily gain free publicity, etc. etc. etc. I've gotten lots of publicity for our green initiatives, and except for the solar electric and hot water systems we installed, most of these cost little or nothing.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Lower your marketing costs to near-zero by forming alliances, using social media effectively, getting publicity, etc. Since I'm right in the middle of the launch for Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, let me give a few examples from that campaign:
- I Created a charity partnership with Green America; we are donating a portion of the proceeds, and they are doing two e-mails to their 94,000 members
- I've built interest via Twitter, Facebook, Yahoogroups, etc. for months before the book was out; developed a page of Tweets others can pass along
- Together with the book launch, I'm also launching a membership program that provides a generous commission to affiliates—who then have incentive to promote the book
- Sent out media releases to 400 reporters who have used me as a story source in the past few years
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
I have a Virtual Assistant who has worked for me for more than ten years. She runs all my websites, manages e-mail lists, performs some research, and is coordinating all the technical aspects of the book launch and affiliate program. She typically puts in 10-15 hours per month. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've gone form 2 websites when I hired her to about 14 currently.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
I wouldn't have a business without it. I've been using social media actively since 1995 (in the form of e-ail discussion lists). The vast majority of my clients and speaking gigs come directly or indirectly from social media. I'm still active on a few e-mail lists (though I've cut back), as well as on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GroupSites, and some activity on Ning and Plaxo.
Thank you, Shel. Green business ideas and social marketing are two subjects entrepreneurs are always searching for on Gaebler.com. You've helped immensely.