9 Tips for Successful Entrepreneurs

IMG_7816My company, Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The odds of startup businesses making it to 30 years is less than 1 percent, so I’m thrilled to have created something out of nothing and have it still be in existence.

That being said, businesses fail all the time. I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. However, I also made some important decisions along the way that put us on the right path. Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. Here are some of the key elements that I think have helped us succeed and grow along the way.

Find your niche. While working as a marketing executive at Philips Lighting, I found that a lot of agencies didn’t take the time to understand my business in order to provide the right strategy and tactics I needed. They just wanted to sell me services that didn’t apply to my business. In 1987, I founded CMA, a full-service, award-winning strategic marketing and integrated communications firm in Central New Jersey. Soon after, we added an associated management division.

Be strategic. If your organization lacks a strategy, you won’t know where the company is headed. Without a goal and a compass to guide you, you could be going full steam ahead in the wrong direction. I’ve always set company goals and then paired them with a strategy for how to achieve them. One of the initiatives I implemented was the introduction of an association management business unit. What I found is that marketing and association management are at opposite ends of the business cycle. When one business ebbs, the other one flows.

Work in your clients’ best interests. People do business with people they like and trust. That’s why my business philosophy is to be a strategic partner with my clients. Coming from the client side, I designed CMA to be an extension of a company’s in-house marketing department. We offer services from public relations to social media to design to digital— all supported by strategic marketing—in one place. We are in it for the long haul and prefer to have long-term relationships with our clients.

Define and embrace your company’s core values.  My management team and I gave a lot of thought when it came to outlining CMA’s core values. First we identified employees who exemplify traits we admire and then came up with the seven core values we live by today— passion, enthusiasm, excellence, professionalism, solution-oriented, accountability and teamwork.

Build an outstanding team. Treat people the way you want to be treated yourself. Encourage your employees to learn and take on new challenges as they grow within the organization. Embrace a management style that treats people professionally and gives them the flexibility and freedom to create their own path within our environment.

Don’t have a backup plan. I started CMA after the 1980 stock market crash had led to a global recession. People told me it was pretty stupid to start the business in the middle of the recession. When you have no other recourse but to move forward, you move forward. Failure isn’t an option, so push ahead and succeed. 

Be financially prudent.  CMA has never been in debt. Companies that haven’t survived recessions often have a lot of debt and have had to downsize or close their doors. We have always been prudent in not spending what we don’t have. We continuously market ourselves and have a very steady business development effort, even during downturns.

As the business grows, loosen the reins. In 2015, CMA welcomed Chief Operating Officer Christian Amato. He is helping to shape our overall business vision, analyze expansion opportunities and deliver growth.The agency needed a strong operating executive to lead day-to-day operations, which allows me to focus on the vision of where we are going and the strategy to get there.

Embrace change. Customers typically prequalify their purchasing decisions online as part of their buying decisions. Marketing has become about driving people to your website and letting them go through that part of the buying decision themselves. When I started my organization, people had bigger budgets, fewer mediums and fewer groups in the workforce so you could focus on fewer things. Now you have more generations that want to receive their messages differently and more mediums.

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA) a full-service, award-winning strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that builds reputation, relationships and return on investment. He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

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How to Set the Company Course for Next Year

By Jeffrey Barnhart

It’s the end of the calendar year, a time to look back and see where your company has been and where it is headed in the future.

Well, sort of. I suggest that business executives plan for the next year before conducting a post-mortem on the current year. I say that because it’s important to keep the momentum of your business going forward, rather than get mired down in the details of what may not have panned out as you expected.

Here’s how I recommend wrapping up one calendar year and moving into the next:

Create a company game plan. My department managers create a budget and a year-long strategic plan before the new year begins. The plan includes the strategic imperatives for each department, along with the name of the person responsible for each project. Each person responsible will then create a detailed outline of tasks, available resources and deadlines. Once everything is compiled, we put it into a binder for each employee and call it our CMA Game Plan. This way, our vision for the company is in black and white and there’s transparency at all levels of the organization as to where we plan to go next year.

Raise the bar. If you achieved your plans this year, then you will just repeat that game plan for next year, right? No. You have probably heard this before, but it is important to improve each and every year. Do not allow yourself to get complacent, that’s how companies fail. Set goals that you think you can achieve, but make them stretch goals. Always look to improve. Encourage employees to up their game and improve their skills. Always assume your team will remain the same over the next year, even though there will undoubtedly be turnover. If and when employees do leave, replace them with employees with more experience to minimize downtime and keep on track to achieve company goals. 

Motivate employees. The company game plan lists employee names and assigns responsibilities within its pages and so it shows employees how they fit into the company’s goals. They feel like part of the team, with goals and objectives. The company game plan is a motivational tool. I find that employees who do not understand their role in the company can become discouraged and that can lead to company turnover. When employees do not see their names within the pages of the game plan, it often inspires productive discussions about where it makes sense for them to support the company’s strategic imperatives.

Determine company profit and reinvestment. There is always a fine line between what company owners want to earn and how much of the profit will be reinvested into the company. Money can be reinvested in the business’ building and grounds, employee raises, offsetting a portion of healthcare premiums, technology upgrades or a myriad of other things. It’s a delicate balance to determine the costs and benefits of each potential project. For example, will the $2,000 new laptop upgrade produce a workload efficiency equal or greater to the cost?

Review the past 12 months. If your company followed a proper budget process, there really should not be any surprises in the numbers. Your department heads not only should have compiled a numerical budget, but also a written narrative outlining the department’s roadmap, assumptions about revenue and expenses and plans to achieve those goals. No budget will hold for a full year, that’s why businesses should use a rolling budget forecast to show your assumptions, but then adjust the forecast as reality changes those numbers. The great thing about running a small company is that your organization can be flexible. Should circumstances change within the economy or within your industry, smaller organizations have the ability to pivot strategies and execute more easily than a large corporation.

Make it happen. I find when everyone has the opportunity to contribute and work together toward a common goal, it makes for better interaction and a better product. What do you think?

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

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How to Incorporate Community Involvement into Your Company

Every business is part of a community—a community of employees, a community of clients and a community within your town, county and state. The question is, how does your business contribute to its greater community? Or is community involvement even necessary? I would argue that not only is community involvement important, it’s critical to your organization’s success.

Community involvement not only strengthens the giving-back culture we have here at CMA, it also sets our organization apart. We lead by example. Our company has a solid foundation in this community and we help others succeed through a variety of efforts.

If you would like to begin your own community involvement, first outline what you hope to achieve. What causes are important to you and what image does your organization want to portray? Would you like to be known for volunteerism, leadership or strategy? Set a goal and construct a tactical plan for achieving it. Plan the results you would like to achieve, and you will likely achieve more than expected.

CMA crew members collecting supplies for a fundraiser.

CMA crew members collecting supplies for a fundraiser.

Here are a few tips:

Partner for a good cause. Be aware of local events, charities and fundraisers. Support causes within the community that employees and customers are passionate about and make a difference.

• Last year we partnered with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s “Adopt a Family” holiday program. A mother and her five children provided their wish lists anonymously and CMA employees who wanted to participate bought items or gift cards for the family. Then we presented the bounty back to the soup kitchen so that the local family could enjoy holidays that might not otherwise have been as festive.

• We have collected school supplies for children in foster care through One Simple Wish’s backpack drive. We have also collected shoes for Soles4Souls, which donates shoes to people living in poverty.

• On a larger scale, we are currently partnering with our client Susan G. Komen of Central and South Jersey, which works to raise money and fight breast cancer. The organization’s largest annual fundraiser, Race for the Cure, was more than $300,000 short of its goal last year. So this year we became a Silver Sponsor of the race and our employees have put together a team to fundraise and walk in the upcoming event.

 

Get creative. Becoming involved need not be a chore, so seek out fun opportunities. For example:

• Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers to socialize with the dogs and cats, so send a small team of employees once a month to hang out with the animals waiting for adoption. Not only is petting animals shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, it’s a way for employees to bond while providing a valuable service to a local organization.

• Put a basket in the lobby and encourage employees and customers to donate non-perishable food items for a holiday food drive.

• Piggyback on another organization’s initiative. We recently collected clothing donations at our office and then donated them to the Rescue Mission of Trenton, helping the Mission break the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of clothes for recycle/donation. The clothing went to the organization’s homeless clients or was sold at the thrift shop with profits going back to the Mission, which provides a safe, clean, warm refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient and the addicted.

 

Offer internships to local college students. College students always need work experience and businesses can always use extra hands, especially students who are eager to take on new challenges. At CMA, we provide internships to a half dozen college students each fall semester, winter semester and summer break. We regularly have students working in marketing, public relations and social media, human resources, studio design, accounting and association management. We love providing students challenging work as they ponder which direction their careers may take. You never know, a standout student intern may someday become a full-time employee with your organization.

Showcase your employees’ community involvement. Employees are often passionate about giving back in their personal lives and we encourage that passion. Here at CMA, we have employees who participate in a variety of causes and when appropriate, we share photos and news of their activities. It is important to show that sometimes the smallest acts can make a big impact. We encourage team members to not only be great employees, but great neighbors as well.

Whenever we are out in the community, we snap photos to share on social media. Not only do we want to engage with our customers and fans on social media, we want to spread the word about the great nonprofit organizations out there that are making a difference in our communities.

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

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CMA CEO Inducted into Hall of Fame

Jeffrey Barnhart recognized as Distinguished Graduate by Hopewell Valley Central High School

Jeffrey Barnhart, president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, Tana Smith, principal, Hopewell Valley Central High School, and Erin Klebaur, director of marketing services at Creative Marketing Alliance, after he was introduced as a Distinguished Graduate on October 20.

Jeffrey Barnhart, president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, Tana Smith, principal, Hopewell Valley Central High School, and Erin Klebaur, director of marketing services at Creative Marketing Alliance, after he was introduced as a Distinguished Graduate on October 20.

PRINCETON JUNCTION, N.J. – Oct. 21, 2016 – Jeffrey Barnhart, president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), a full-service, award-winning strategic marketing communications firm, was inducted yesterday into the Hopewell Valley Distinguished Graduates Hall of Fame for his outstanding career and many accomplishments.

Barnhart, a member of the Class of 1973, joined 45 other esteemed graduates from Hopewell Valley Central High School into the Hall of Fame.

“I’m very honored to be recognized as a Distinguished Graduate,” said Barnhart, a lifelong-Mercer county resident. “You never realize the impact you have on your community until something like this happens.”

Barnhart was recognized on Oct. 20 at Mountain View Country Club in Ewing.

“I’m living proof that if you want something bad enough, you set your sights on it and don’t let go,” said Barnhart, whose firm will mark 30 years in business next year. “The secret is hard work, but if you love what you do, it is true you will never work a day in your life. It has been said that if you get excited about Friday, you have a job, but if you get excited about Monday, you’re following your passion. I love Mondays.”

Jeffrey Barnhart, president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, is pictured with two seniors from Hopewell Valley Central High School moments before he was introduced to the student body as a Distinguished Graduate on October 20.

Jeffrey Barnhart, president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, is pictured with two seniors from Hopewell Valley Central High School moments before he was introduced to the student body as a Distinguished Graduate on October 20.

“Jeff was chosen based on his experiences and many incredible accomplishments,” said Tana Smith, Hopewell Valley Central High School principal. “He is a great role model for our students and one they can look up to.”

After graduating Hopewell Valley Central High School, Barnhart went to Rider University in Lawrenceville and graduated with a degree in journalism and a marketing minor.

Throughout his more than 40-year career, Barnhart, now a West Windsor resident, has developed and implemented successful marketing campaigns to help numerous companies grow and achieve their strategic imperatives. Prior to founding CMA, his extensive background included the integration of sales and marketing through three mergers at Philips Lighting as the director of marketing communications. While at Philips, Barnhart led the launch of compact fluorescent lamps, one of the first energy-efficient, environmentally beneficial lighting products in the U.S. market.

jeb-hofShortly after founding CMA in 1987, he was instrumental in working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and initiate the Green Lights program to encourage U.S. corporations to install energy-efficient lighting technologies. This was the first program that advocated using new lighting technologies to reduce electricity demand—the precursor to the current Energy Star program.

One of CMA’s first clients was a credit card manufacturer that hired CMA to rebrand the company.

Working with this card manufacturer led Barnhart to launch the International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA) in 1989. He saw there was no association representing credit card manufacturers and personalizers that focused on manufacturing cards, the equipment and the raw material that make up the card.

In addition to collecting more than 325 awards for the work CMA has produced throughout the years, Barnhart was named the first Entrepreneur of the Year by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce in 1993 and CMA was named 2016 Outstanding Small Business of the Year by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce.

“The biggest lesson I learned during my time at Hopewell Valley High School is don’t be afraid to fail,” Barnhart said. “I’ve made more mistakes than anybody else in my company; I’ve also made more right decisions. The secret is to learn from your mistakes and never repeat them. Without the opportunity to fail, you will never succeed. It’s like taking the training wheels off of the bicycle.”

For more information about Creative Marketing Alliance, visit GoToCMA.com.

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About Creative Marketing Alliance

Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA) is a full-service, strategic marketing communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). CMA builds brands from a client-side, value-based perspective. It successfully launches and manages integrated marketing programs using Marketecture™, a strategic analysis process that helps clients understand how their company can be best positioned. Based in Princeton Junction, N.J., for more than 29 years, CMA provides innovative solutions in the areas of traditional design, interactive design, publications, public relations and social media with an in-house studio for advertising and creative design. For more information, please visit GoToCMA.com, call 609-297-2235 or email us at info@cmasolutions.com.

 

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Yes, Budgets Matter.

Every fall, the word begins to crop up with increasing frequency in work conversations. Budgets. Budgeting. If you are like a lot of people, you may cringe at the mere mention. After all, this is a business, let’s get to the real work, not these endless sheets of paper crammed with numbers, right?

Nope. If that’s what you think, I’m here to help. Want to know a secret? Budgets are living documents and will serve as the backbone of your business. The budget will show you where the company has been, where it is now and where it is headed. Without a budget, you might as well be adrift at sea. You will not be able to anticipate problems, correct a mistake mid-course or chart a course for business growth. Your budget is your business plan. It’s the blueprint to where your company has been over time and where it is going in the future.

Budget Concept

And yet people are still afraid of budgets. My theory is that people don’t fear budgets, they fear accountability. People are afraid of being measured and that is exactly what budgets do— they measure performance. When you create a budget, you estimate what is going to happen and as the budget year progresses you see what actually happens. People should not fear the budgeting process if they have a solid business strategy and methodology to support the numbers. A budget allows managers to make assumptions about their businesses and then validates those assumptions.

October is the ideal time to begin your next year’s budgeting process. When I request budgets from my department heads here at CMA, I don’t just want an Excel spreadsheet filled with numbers. I also require a written narrative and that is typically more important than the numbers. I want to know where each department head sees his or her business unit headed during the next 12 months. What assumptions will they make about revenue and expenses? If they anticipate an increase in expenses, there should be a corresponding expectation of additional revenue and a plan of how they plan to achieve that goal. When a budget is complete, it will serve as a blueprint for your business activities during each of the next four quarters. And the budget creates accountability as everyone works to achieve the agreed upon goals.

To be clear, budgets don’t always go according to plan. In fact, budgets are more art than science. Your company’s health insurance costs might be steeper than anticipated. An employee’s computer might unexpectedly need to be replaced. These things happen. Just remember that budgets are not meant to be created and then ignored for the next year. You should always have a rolling budget forecast showing where you think your budget is going based on certain assumptions. If reality changes those numbers — and it will — you should adjust your rolling budget forecast. I expect my department heads to follow, manage and adjust their budgets accordingly throughout the year.

If you are about to embark on your first business budgeting process, gather as much information as you can. To help you get started, here are some of the basics you will need to know:

  • The Budget Formula. Sales – Total Cost = Profit
  • Sales and Revenue. Use last year’s actual sales as a base, but if this is your first year, research other businesses in the same field to get a sense of what numbers to use. Be cognizant of things that may affect sales— the economic forecast or the loss of a big customer.
  • Costs and Expenses. There will be three categories of costs: fixed, variable and semi-variable. Fixed costs will stay the same regardless of your sales throughout the year. You will probably know your fixed costs in advance. They include items like rent, leases and insurance premiums. Variable costs will rise and fall depending on your sales volume and include items like raw materials, inventory and shipping. The final category, semi-variable costs, are those that may change as your business volumes rise and fall. Semi-variable costs include salaries, advertising and telecommunications.
  • Profits. Anticipate a profit margin that is in line with other businesses in your industry. Once you calculate sales and expenses, you’ll need to see if that leaves you with a profit margin that is in line with your expectations. If you come up short, consider ways to increase sales or decrease expenses. Having an accurate estimate of profits will help you make long-range plans, be it hiring additional employees, buying new equipment or moving to a larger location.

Once you have the data you need, go ahead and create both your budget and your written backup explaining your assumptions and plans for the next 12 months. Remember that your numbers are meant to support your business plan. For example, if you believe your department is understaffed, there should be revenue growth to support your claim.

Most importantly, do not be afraid of budgets. Sure, they can be daunting at first and time-consuming, but creating a budget is essential. If you don’t know the hard data of where your business has been, it will be virtually impossible to map out a useful, strategic plan of where your business is headed. A budget will keep you on track and help you achieve your goals.

Onward!

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service marketing communications firm that helps organizations build reputation, relationships and revenue. He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

 

 

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The Benefits of a Pet-Friendly Workplace

Most mornings at CMA begin with the soft jingling of identification tags as Babe, a nearly 10-year-old Yorkie-mix rescue dog, follows her owner Dave down the hall to the office kitchen for a glass of water.

IMG_7434

Dave, Babe’s owner, helps her unwrap her gift from Santa Paws. Dogs are such a part of the culture at CMA that they are more likely to get a gift during our Secret Santa exchange than their owner!

“Good Morning Dave, Good Morning Babe,” is a familiar refrain as members of the CMA crew begin their workday.

Whether it’s Babe on the hunt for her morning tummy scratch or one of my three dogs making the office rounds to say hello, dogs are a regular part of our culture here at CMA. We have been a dog-friendly workplace since I founded the firm in 1987. I’m a dog lover. But my love of dogs was not the main reason why I chose to allow them in the office. There were bigger reasons at play and ones that I encourage you to consider for your own workplace.

A Pet-Friendly Office Boosts Productivity: I always say that happy employees are productive employees. Sure, those who bring dogs to work will typically get up from their desks several times a day to take their dog outside, but shhh!, that’s a plus in my book. Research from sports scientist Jack Groppel shows benefits to those who get up from their desks at regular intervals.

“Interspersing short movements and exercises throughout the workday can boost employee energy, engagement and efficiency,” wrote Alison Griswold in Forbes, describing Groppel’s research.

Clio helps her owner Nicole answer emails.

Clio helps her owner Nicole answer emails.

“Whether it’s stretching periodically in your cubicle or walking to a coworker’s desk rather than sending that intra-office email, small actions can go a long way toward improving both individual and company performance.”

It is often true that a break, even a quick walk around the parking lot, can help relax the brain and spark creative ideas for a project. So employees who take their dogs outside periodically may be more energetic and productive.

Dexter and Cali love being at the office.

Dexter and Cali love being at the office.

A Pet-Friendly Office Boosts Morale: People love their pets. Pampered canines get baths, regular grooming, daily walks, top-quality pet food, comfortable beds and a plethora of tummy scratching. It’s no coincidence that dogs have earned the moniker “man’s best friend.” All dogs really want is to be by their owner’s side throughout the day. When you let employees bring their dogs to work, you are telling them they are allowed to bring their best friend to work and that is a real treat. We leave it up to employees’ judgement as to whether or not their particular pet will be a good fit in the office. But as long as they behave well, dogs are simply part of life here at CMA.

Babe sleeps on a chair next to her owner’s desk in our design studio, curled up in her pink blanket and within easy access to her water bowl. Clio, a Lhaso Apso with her hair pulled into a stylish Bam Bam ponytail, generally sticks close to her cushy, fleece blanket and BarkBox, but occasionally escapes and jumps into a willing employee’s lap for a much-needed cuddle session.

Lulu looks forlorn as she waits for her next treat. Every dog knows the treat trail in the office and makes their rounds.

Lulu looks forlorn as she waits for her next treat. Every dog knows the treat trail in the office and makes their rounds.

A Pet-Friendly Office Improves Work-Life Balance: It can be a challenge to leave a dog home all day. Employees who work full-time will worry about their pets during the day. They may use their lunch break to run home or have a friend or family member stop by to take the dog for a walk. But a company that welcomes dogs into the office eliminates that stress. Employees do not worry when their dog is asleep next to the desk or sleeping under the conference table during a meeting.

A Pet-Friendly Office Helps Reduce Stress:  Who doesn’t love giving a friendly dog a scratch behind the ears? It feels good to interact with dogs. But the reason we gravitate towards dogs and feel good afterwards may be rooted in science. According to AnimalSmart.org, playing with or petting an animal “can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.” Studies have shown that when people are in the presence of a dog during stress tests or physical exams, they actually show lower heart rates and blood pressure, AnimalSmart reports.

Wroxton patiently waits for his owners meeting to wrap up.

Wroxton patiently waits for his owners meeting to wrap up.

At CMA it is not unusual to be at a meeting in a conference room and look around at Scott, Jennifer, Erin…and wait…there’s Wroxton, the St. Berdoodle puppy sprawled out sound asleep on the floor. You can’t help but smile.

A Pet-Friendly Office Helps Employee Communication: People get caught up in their own work; it happens. The great thing about dogs is they often force us to take a break, relax and interact. One of our office dogs, Jet, has a habit of stealing other dog’s toys. As Jet’s owner makes the rounds to return toys, it naturally sparks conversation between dog owners, who laugh and commiserate over dog behavior. Sometimes those coworkers do not work together on a daily basis, but getting to know each other apart from the work improves communication and trust.

Being a pet-friendly office is part of what CMA is all about. It has helped define our culture. We work long and hard for our clients. Dogs help us keep our sense of humor, spark creativity and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

CMA CEO Jeff Barnhart and his three dogs and fish in his office.

CMA CEO Jeff Barnhart and his three dogs and fish in his office.

If you are on the fence about welcoming dogs into your office, I encourage you to take the leap and try it!

And to all our dogs — Babe, Clio, Bode, Sophie, Abby, Lulu, Dexter, Cali, Jet and Wroxton, thanks for being part of CMA!

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service marketing communications firm that helps organizations build reputation, relationships and revenue. He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

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How to Reel in Top Media Coverage

When it comes to getting media placements for your company, it’s not blind luck — just as you need bait for fishing, you need a media strategy in business. As a CEO for nearly three decades, I’ve learned the most effective ways to get (free) media placements and how to leverage key points of a brand’s story.

When I talk about free media coverage, I’m referring to the art of getting the attention of a reporter or editor so that your company either receives mention in an originally reported article or that the news you submit is included in an upcoming edition. This may seem like an impossible feat and you do need to earn it. Reporters are not generally inclined to mention a company simply because you ask nicely. What is effective, however, is to think like a reporter.

newspaper

There are thousands of businesses vying for free or earned coverage, so you need to consider your bait. Think about what makes your news different or special. Take an objective look at the message you’re trying to put out there. Try to highlight what’s new or unusual. Differentiate yourself.

How you write the press release is as important as the content when it comes to getting media attention. The ‘who, what, when, where and why’ should all be explained in the first two sentences. Don’t forget the critically important question, “Who cares?” Why is this news important and why should someone bother reading it? Failure to answer all six of these questions will significantly increase the chance of your release ending up in the trash.

Think about the audience you want to reach. Are you looking to attract Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States? Or is your target east coast businesses with annual revenues of $50-$100 million? Every company will have a different target audience. Now consider which media outlets will reach your target market — think about newspapers, magazines, online publications, TV and radio. Once you have your list, research each publication in which you want placement. What topics do the reporters cover? Do they focus on geographic newsbeats or are they subject matter experts?

Also consider the type of news you want to share. If you want to announce a new hire or a promotion, local and hyperlocal media outlets will probably be your best bet. If you’re an organization with a staff expert on a subject that’s become a topic of national debate, that news has the potential to lure a much wider audience. Remember to consider trade publications that focus on the markets you’re trying to reach.

We’ve all heard about the cutbacks in the news business, but this can actually work to your advantage. Fewer reporters mean those who remain are stretched thin and usually grateful for news that is pertinent to their particular beat. If you’re a pharmaceutical company, for example, your news is more likely to appeal to health and business reporters than be picked up by a political reporter.

Build your media list with an eye to detail. You may want to create a few different lists and write different versions of each press release to appeal to different reporters. Tailoring your pitch will only increase your chances of media pickup.

I like to think of media outlets as partners. Reporters and editors strive to publish news that their readers want. For Creative Marketing Alliance, we try to share news that will catch their attention — pitches that showcase our market expertise, talented employees and charitable works.

Our recent big news was the announcement that CMA was named Outstanding Small Business of the Year 2016 by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce. We were thrilled with the news and have shared it far and wide — even here.

So go ahead, you can’t catch anything unless you have a lure in the water!

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CMA Recognized With Joint Legislative Proclamation

Award-Winning Marketing Communications Firm Recognized for Nearly 30 Years of Service Dedicated to Helping Businesses Grow and Succeed

Jeffrey Barnhart, CMA CEO and president, whose firm was recognized for its history of helping businesses grow with branding, marketing and public relations, with the proclamation at the New Jersey Statehouse.

Jeffrey Barnhart, CMA CEO and president, whose firm was recognized for its history of helping businesses grow with branding, marketing and public relations, with the proclamation at the New Jersey Statehouse.

PRINCETON JUNCTION, N.J.—August 5, 2016— The New Jersey Senate and Assembly has recognized Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), a full-service, award-winning strategic marketing communications firm, with a joint proclamation for being named Outstanding Small Business of the Year by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce.

“I am thrilled to receive this proclamation,” said Jeffrey Barnhart, CMA CEO and president, whose firm was recognized for its history of helping businesses grow with branding, marketing and public relations. “When I began CMA nearly 30 years ago, I could not have imagined how the business has grown since then. It is truly humbling that we are being recognized by the state in addition to the Chamber for all the work the team has accomplished throughout the years.”

Located in Princeton Junction, CMA has been a leading strategic marketing and integrated communications partner to mid-Atlantic, national and global organizations focused on business growth. The company’s strategic marketing expertise and creative solutions for clients in a wide range of industries are held to a single standard — results.

“This special award and recognition from our lawmakers is an honor shared by the entire team at CMA,” Barnhart said. “It celebrates the hard work achieved during the last 29 years in New Jersey for our clients across the state, region, nation and world.”

Barnhart, of West Windsor, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing strategic programs to help numerous companies grow and achieve their strategic imperatives. His rich background includes the integration of sales and marketing through three mergers at Philips Lighting, and the launch of compact fluorescent lamps, one of the first energy-efficient, environmentally-beneficial lighting products in the U.S. market. He was also instrumental in launching the first program that advocated using new lighting technologies to reduce electricity demand—the precursor to the current Energy Star program.

To learn more about CMA, visit http://gotocma.com/cma-outstanding/.

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About Creative Marketing Alliance

Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA) is a full-service, strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). CMA builds brands from a client-side, value-based perspective. It successfully launches and manages integrated marketing programs using Marketecture™, a strategic analysis process that helps clients understand how their company can be best positioned. Based in Princeton Junction, N.J., for more than 29 years, CMA provides innovative solutions in the areas of traditional design, interactive design, publications, public relations and social media with an in-house studio for advertising and creative design. For more information, please visit GoToCMA.com, call 609-297-2235 or email us at info@cmasolutions.com.

 

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Keeping Score: Leverage Business Metrics

Your team practices for weeks. On the day of the big game, the offensive line holds off the opposition while your quarterback throws a perfect pass. The team drives the ball down the field into the end zone and you breathe a sigh of relief. At halftime, you congratulate the team and begin thinking about next week’s game.

No, wait. That’s not how football works. There’s no congratulations at halftime. Instead, the coach evaluates what’s working, what’s not, and whether the strategy and game plays need to be reevaluated.

The same is true for business. You’ve probably heard the adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Think about it. At any given moment do you know precisely how your company is performing? I’m not talking about general, “Oh sure, things are great” responses. What I’m describing are the 5-15 key business metrics, provided to management on a regular basis, that tell you at a quick glance where your company stands. These numbers are different from your profit and loss statement; in fact, these numbers will predict your profit and loss statement.

If you don’t collect these types of numbers yet, don’t worry. It’s a fairly simple process to create them. The key is to collect the right metrics. According to Gino Wickman, author of the book “Traction,” there’s a trick for knowing what information you need. Imagine that you’re on a desert island. You need to keep your company successful and profitable, but you can’t be on-site. The only communication you have is a set of specific numbers provided to you each week. What are the key metrics that would allow you to immediately understand the state of your company?

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You’ll also need to determine who has responsibility over each metric collected. This doesn’t mean who will provide you the numbers, but the member of your management team who is ultimately responsible for them.

Once you have your metrics in hand and know who is responsible for them, collect the data weekly for several months and see if these are the correct numbers for your use. Feel free to change and adjust however you feel is necessary, but make sure that by the end of those three months you are confident that the data you’re collecting is the information that will help you make informed decisions about your business.

The purpose of this exercise is simple. You don’t want to wait until the end of each quarter or year to make adjustments to your strategy. Just like you need to know the score of the football game at half-time in order to make adjustments to your strategy for the second half, you need to know your business’ key metrics, be it payroll, revenue, proposals, closed business and the like. If the weekly metrics show your company is on course, by all means proceed. But if you need a course correction, these metrics will help you be proactive and make changes before you veer completely off course.

Now that you have the numbers you need to manage your business, give each of your employees a number. Make the metric applicable to their jobs, of course, but give them a metric to which they should be accountable. If an employee makes widgets, tell them the number of widgets they should produce each week. If an employee does business development, spell out the sales number you expect to see each week or each quarter. You may be asking yourself, why do I need to give everyone a metric?

There are multiple reasons. Numbers provide clarity. Instead of hearing, “I’ve had some great networking meetings,” wouldn’t you prefer to hear, “I’ve given five qualified leads to my business development leader?” Numbers create employee accountability, and hopefully, competition to elevate one another. If each member of your sales team is expected to close $X of business each quarter, but some team members are falling short, a goal number can motivate a team to pull together to achieve the goal. And when metrics aren’t being achieved as expected, the numbers can alert members of your management team of a needed change in strategy.

As a CEO, you need to be able to check the pulse of your business at any given moment. Since you may not be involved in the day-to-day operations, you need a way to get pertinent and timely information. After all, you don’t want to learn that sales are down by 50 percent six months after they began declining. While it may take a little work upfront, think about the key numbers you need to know on a weekly basis and who will ultimately be accountable for those metrics. As the numbers arrive weekly, you should be able to tell at a quick glance if the business is moving in the right direction or if there are problems that jump out at you.

It’s easier to adjust your strategy when things have just begun to veer off course than to attempt a comeback when you’re down six touchdowns. Right, coach?

 

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How to Keep Your Employees Motivated This Summer

It’s getting to be that time again. The temperature is rising, the sun is shining and vacation plans are looming. We all look forward to summer. But, as the owner of a company, it tends to encompass some challenges. How do you keep your employees motivated when all they want to do is spend time somewhere else?

According to a study of 600 white-collar workers, Captivate Networks found that summer has a negative impact on the workplace.

“People report productivity goes down (20 percent), attendance dips (19 percent), project turnaround times increase (13 percent) and they are more distracted (45 percent),” according to the report.

At CMA, we try to incorporate summer fun into the workday. During the months of May, June, July and August, we have biweekly outdoor company picnics involving a grill, several picnic tables and a pile of hot dogs and burgers. Employees pitch in, potluck style, by bringing appetizers, side dishes and desserts. For an hour, we simply enjoy each other’s company, without talk of deadlines, clients or reports. Our biweekly company picnics have proven to also be opportunities for team building and increasing staff relations. For example, once we asked employees to submit their baby pictures and then tried to identify each person by their photo. Another time we had everyone submit a little-known fact about themselves and took turns guessing which fact belonged to each employee.

We have a committee of employees that regularly plan fun outings for the entire staff. Sometimes it’s an egg hunt for Easter, once in a while it’s a happy hour after work hours, and other times it’s as simple as community driven volunteer opportunities. These are moments where all levels of staff can get away from desks, paperwork and phone calls.

If it’s a beautiful day outside and employees have internal meetings planned, the company advocates for attendees to move their meeting outside at the picnic tables to enjoy the beautiful weather. However, while everyone wants to have meetings on a sunny 70-degree day, no one wants to do so in black slacks and long sleeve shirts. This led to us instituting a summer dress code where employees are allowed to wear shorts in the office on Fridays.

Now, here’s my strongest piece of advice: when your employees are on their scheduled vacation, make them BE on vacation. That means strongly encouraging them not to check email, voicemail, or be in touch with clients. Coworkers pitch in to make sure the vacationing employee doesn’t feel like he or she needs to work. Managers and leadership use careful consideration in contacting the vacationing employee with requests or questions, except in case of emergency. Let your employees unplug fully and they’ll be able to immerse themselves in time off and come back to work fully refreshed.

Summer is inevitable and employees are bound to want to be out of the office. With some small adjustments, you can keep your employees motivated through every season. It boils down to understanding people’s basic needs and what drives their seasonal happiness, whether it’s holiday cheer or Vitamin D.

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