When you put your house up for sale, you wouldn’t just show it without cleaning it, without fixing up any little problems and thinking about who it’s going to appeal to. It’s exactly the same for your business. Jill Brennan is a mentor and a marketing consultant who is also the founder of Harbren Marketing and has generated thousands of leads and sales for businesses in very competitive niches.
Jill says businesses just want more sales, but they aren’t thinking about how they are different and what they could offer that was so different that people would sit up and take notice. They get so confused and get overwhelmed by marketing because there are so many options available now. Jill talks about her book, Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business, and shares some takeaways from her expertise and background.
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Smarter Marketing with Jill Brennan
I have a treat for you. Jill Brennan is the marketing consultant for small businesses that think differently. She’s a mentor, she’s the founder of Harbren Marketing, and she’s been in the small business trenches for around twenty years. During that time she has worked in, with, and for small companies, so she has seen it from all angles. She has generated thousands of leads and sales for businesses in very competitive niches. I’m excited about her book. It’s called Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business. Jill, welcome to Heartrepreneur Radio.
Terri, it’s great to be here.
I resonated and said I want to have you on the show, because when I heard small businesses that think differently, I thought that is what people need. How did you decide that that would be your niche and your specialty?
It evolved from dealing with businesses. I found that the ones that I could help the most where those that didn’t want to outsource all their marketing to a third party, they actually wanted to grow their own marketing expertise in house. It was driven by my customers.
What’s interesting to me is because you’ve worked in with and for small companies, what are the distinctions that you can make like, “When I was working in business, I noticed this. When I was working with, I noticed this, when I was working for, I noticed this?“
I started out working with small businesses around twenty years ago when I was helping local Australian companies to export to Japan. One of the things that I noticed then was that businesses wanted more sales, but they weren’t actually thinking about how they were different, what were they going to offer that was so different that people would sit up and take notice that they would actually go, “It’s worth the effort to export or import your products from Australia to Japan.” That was probably one of the things that struck me in the beginning.
When I was setting up my own business, probably the biggest mistake that I made was not actually understanding who my target market was and what problems I solved for them. You come up with a great idea for a product or a business and you’re so excited without actually digging into who is this for and what do they actually want. Is it what I’m proposing or is it maybe something different? That was probably the biggest one. Now what I see is that businesses just get very overwhelmed by marketing. They find it so confusing because there are so many choices available. It’s not like it used to be, where we had one main channel. There are so many options and people get very confused by that and overwhelmed.All the ways to build awareness are great, but then you have to take what you’re actually building awareness of. Click To Tweet
I see people constantly in confusion about which marketing should I do, which things work, and then it does lead to overwhelm and sometimes that even leads to inaction. What would you say to any small business owner that’s here with us as one of the things that you’d like for them to take as a takeaway from your expertise and your background?
A lot of people focus on how to build awareness and primarily fixate on social media. Social media can be great, but it’s only one of the many tools available. Email marketing can be very effective. That’s another option for building awareness, but all those ways to build awareness are great, but then you have to take, “What am I actually building awareness of? What’s the strategy? Who are you targeting? Why are you in business? What is your biggest picture, your bigger message, and what do you want to be known for? What’s your branding is not about your logo, but actually what do you want people to be saying about your business when they’re talking about it to other people and then there’s collateral, how do you actually explain your product or your expertise?”
That could be through your websites, through articles, through brochures, and then reporting how you actually tracking it. There are other key elements that are as important, but a lot of people do focus on that awareness raising, which obviously that’s important too. If you think about it, if you are putting your house up for sale, you wouldn’t show it without cleaning it, without fixing up any little problems, and without thinking about who is it going to appeal to. It’s exactly the same for your business.
I think a lot of business owners are focusing on this awareness. “Here I am, pay attention to me. Here I am,” and then some of them even spend a ton of money on branding. We don’t need a fancy logo in order to do business. We need to understand who we are, how we’re different, what we do for and to the market, and who we’re selling to? You brought in the lateral and the tracking. I’m curious, I don’t have a copy of your book yet and I want a copy, the main principles that you cover in Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business.
It’s divided into three parts, and it’s taking all the knowledge that I’ve gained over the last twenty years and breaking it down into actionable steps. There are three parts to the book. The first part is all about how you can build your own marketing plan. I talked about how you can actually find your big picture, how you can develop your business identity, get to know your customers, and turn your identity into that collateral that I mentioned, and what are the marketing platform so that you can pick and mix what’s going to work for you and trying to do it in language that’s much more easy to understand.
It’s very practical. At the end of every chapter, there are action points of how you can actually implement what’s being covered on. The second part is all about how you can put that plan to work. If you need to get help, what help is available and what are the pros and cons of each, including what questions you might ask of someone because often asking the right questions can be the key to your work. The third part is some tools and resources to help you along the way. You’re trying to make it practical for people.
What do you think is the biggest problem that small business owners have, Jill?
There are three problems that I see. Often it’s low sales growth. They may have sales, but perhaps it slowed down. They often have quite a haphazard approach to planning. That’s one of the challenges for entrepreneurs, wanting to focus on the next shiny new thing. Then I would say not developing their own marketing expertise. When you get to a certain point, you need to be developing your own marketing in-house. To me, marketing is about looking for clues and joining the dots together. If you don’t have your own marketing, then a lot of that can be missed because you know your business better than anyone else. It really needs to be brought in-house as quickly as you can.
We’re definitely on the same page there. I do believe that the best person to market your business is you and the best person to do sales for your business is you. I like your phraseology, looking for clues and joining the dots. That can be very effective as people take ownership for their marketing and their sales. I have a question. I’m not letting you off the interview without asking this question. In your intro, I talked about the fact that you’ve developed thousands of leads and sales for businesses in very competitive niches. Can you give us an example of maybe a niche and maybe a little bit of a case study up on what you do and how you do it?The best person to market your business is you and the best person to do sales for your business is you. Click To Tweet
One of my current clients puts on conferences to software developers. It’s a very targeted business. We’ve worked with them for a number of years now. When I started working with them, the business owner was very frustrated that people liked what they do, people that came along but they weren’t attracting new people. We fine-tuned their message. Often business owners think it’s obvious when you’re outside the business, when you’re in your small business bubble, it’s all obvious. I refined their message. I helped with the branding, strengthening and bringing in some credibility by getting testimonials from people that had attended and then using that in marketing, developing their email marketing. Also developing the collateral so that better explaining what they’re all about. Often, they had a lot of the elements there, but it wasn’t being organized in a way that resonated with their market and made their market wants to share it with other people, making it easier to do that.
This is a service that I feel small business owners need and the kind of help that you’re providing is so essential. I’m going to be getting your book, Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business. That’s available on Amazon, right?
Yes, that’s correct.
How can our listeners get in touch with you if they want to either have their business think differently or they already do and they want some marketing help?
It’s through the website which is Harbren.com. You can actually get two free chapters of the book. I also have some other resources, a kickstart kit, which goes through the top mistakes that businesses making and how to get help as well as marketing assessment so you can see how your business stacks up in terms of planning, implementation, and expertise.
You bring such a great perspective and you have such great background and experience. I totally enjoyed our interview. Jill, I want to thank you. I’d love to keep connected. I’m excited about who you are and what you do in the world.
Thanks so much, Terri. It’s lovely talking to you.
About Jill Brennan
Founded in 2003 by Jill Brennan, Harbren Marketing has traditionally provided marketing consulting services to small businesses. Over the years Jill has worked with many small business owners that are overwhelmed by the complexity of marketing their products or services and frustrated by their reliance on ‘marketing types’ that sell them what they have rather than what the business needs. Jill realized there was a gap in the market for marketing specialists to provide coaching and training to empower small businesses to develop their own internal marketing resources that suit their business.
Harbren Marketing takes a hands-on, practical approach to helping small businesses develop marketing expertise and systems that are repeatable and scalable. This enables your own internal marketing smarts to expand to meet your needs without losing any valuable knowledge and experience gained along the way.
After returning from a stint overseas, Jill setup her own business to sell products online. While her first product was not successful, she gained valuable (and expensive!) insights into what worked and what didn’t. She was then able to use that experience to run successful marketing campaigns for a range of companies in the US, UK, Europe and Australia.
The companies Harbren Marketing works with are often stuck in a turnover rut and want to connect with a bigger audience so they can make more money and enrich lives with their clever solutions.