5 Ways to Effectively Use Pinterest to Boost Your Presence

The big five of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram) control the internet’s flow of information, photos, and friendships. Whether your business is present on them or not, these billion dollar companies won’t be leaving the internet anytime soon.

And that means, for you as a small business, being present socially online. Today we’re going to talk about Pinterest, the social website for sharing images. We’ll focus on five best practices to promote your business and presence and a couple not so great ideas. New to Pinterest or a veteran user (bride, planner, caterer or otherwise!), these tips should boost your sociability.

1. Pin often/pin regularly – Pinterest is all about community, pinning images you love from your own site and from other sites. Pinners that post on a regular basis, and often, are seen the most in the newsfeed (the Pinterest homepage when you’re logged in). There’s no hard and fast rule, but 15-20 pins per day, scheduled throughout the day do best. To ensure you’re not glued to the Pinterest page all day, you can use scheduling tools like Ahalogy, Viraltag, and Tailwind.

2. Create a portfolio board – Whether you’re a wedding planner or florist or photographer, always have one board dedicated *only* to your work. That board, let’s call it “Amy’s Wedding Cakes”, should be in the top row of your boards. This way, your board is always visible when a user visits your profile page. In addition, it’s an easy way for anyone to see your talent and know who you are.
Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 11.25.46 AM

3. Pin from credible sources – When pinning or repining, always pin from credible sources. That means pinning from online magazines, fellow wedding professional sites, known wedding bloggers. If you repin, make sure you check the source of the pin and click on it. The worst pins are the ones that direct you to one site, only to direct you again to another site. You want quality pins, quality sources.

4. Create & take part in group boards – Weddings is one of the categories on Pinterest that has few group boards. For food, DIY, crafts, you can find thousands of group boards, but for weddings, a mere few hundred. A group board is any board where you invite others to pin to the board. If you created the board, you’re the board owner and can invite/kick out anyone, delete pins, or delete the board. As a group pinner, you can add pins to the board, and invite others to join (though most pinners frown upon this).

One of our group boards, just for our vendors:
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A few things to know about group boards:
- Group boards can bring out the best in pins, but also the worst. Make sure you have guidelines for your pinners to follow, and don’t be afraid to delete a pin or two if it’s not related to your board. At the same time, you’ll have to relinquish some control and trust that pinners pin quality stuff.
- Group boards grow quickly in terms of pins and followers. The more pinners in your group board, the more followers you will get (the group board appears on all the pinners profile pages).
- Keep your group board to under 15 pinners to maintain quality and a theme.

5. Have trend-inspired boards – Regardless of your niche in the industry, you should always have a few trend inspired boards. These boards can be about anything, from flowers to foods to destinations. A few examples, “Geometric Wedding Trends”, “Pantone Color of the Year – Marsala“, “Latest in Little Bites to Eat”.

Besides the best practices above, there are a few no-nos on Pinterest.
1. Don’t repin photos and add in your own url/company name to the description - This is increasingly common and frustrating for the community. You pin a wedding cake. Someone repins the image and adds into the description their own company name and website URL. It’s shady and bad for the community.

2. Don’t message magazines/blogs and beg them to repin your images – With the Messages feature, you can send a pin to another user in the network. While this is a great option to privately send your friend an image, it’s also easy to beg for repins. We receive dozens of requests from wedding companies asking us to repin their pin. In all instances, they never tell us about themselves – it’s the equivalent of sending generic press releases to journalists. If you really want to get in touch with another user, then type them a personable message.

I hope these tips help you boost your social media presence and your business with clients in the future. Like all social networks, Pinterest is about developing relationships, not forcing sales. Happy pinning!

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Stop being busy, start creating cash: Clear advice to double or triple your hourly rates (even when you don’t charge hourly)

It’s an absolute epidemic. Ask anyone how they are these days and the response inevitably comes back as “Busy, just really, busy.” Busy doing what, I’d love to know since so many of us are not where we want to be financially.

But mowing and blowing and flitting around non-stop does not a productive person make. In fact, allow me to personally attest to the fact that having a fabulous looking “busy” business on the outside does not always translate to making a profit. In fact, if you know anyone who is chronically busy, day in and day out, no matter the season and always behind and overwhelmed, it’s a sure sign that they’re clueless in the productivity department. Unless you’re the single mother of triplets running a Fortune 50 company, you’re not THAT busy.

As a reformed busy addict myself, I know all too well the high that comes from stating how booked you and your business are and proving to everyone else that you’re just so in-demand. But when it comes to determining a concrete measure that we’re all familiar with, things get a little more elusive.

In order to level the playing field and come up with a key metric, let’s use an hourly rate. Note: I fully realize that not everyone charges hourly. In fact, I can hear the protestations already: I charge a flat fee! (Or just substitute the other options: percentage/markup/hybrid. Better yet, I sell products, no one charges hourly when you own a manufacturing company or a retail chain.) While you might not charge hourly on a pre-printed invoice, effectively, we’re all getting paid hourly based on how much time it takes us to produce, sell or complete something. Whether that “something” is a donut, a manuscript or a month long consulting assignment you’ve got the components: revenue, expenses and your time.

I’ve coached countless entrepreneurs on doubling or tripling their hourly rates, regardless of how they actually charge for their products or services, and the system boils down to the following key steps:

1. Determine Your Hourly Rate. The real one. Not the one on your rate card, but the hourly amount you earn after deducting all of the little expenses and your unaccounted-for time spent servicing your customers. (Hint: You can get it in two ways, both providing equally enlightening information.)

Here is the simplest:

Your REAL hourly rate is a formula based on how much:

Revenue you take in every year (R) - minus your costs (C):

Traditional expenses like:

  • COGS
  • Overhead

Non-traditional costs of keeping your job:

  • Gas to get to and from work,
  • Nanny you had to hire so you can keep the job,
  • Dry cleaning bills to keep you super starchy, etc. (Add up all of the C’s)

Then divide the total costs by the number of hours you work, including your commute! (H).

The formula: (R-C)/H = Your Hourly Rate

2. Set Your Goal Rate. How much you want to make hourly (whether or not you charge hourly!) for it to be worthwhile to make 7,000 cupcakes a day, 365 days a year? Would you gag if you were making less than $20/hour? $30? $70?

3. Establish Your Walk Away Point. Let’s face it, we all want to make $1 million an hour, but if it’s January, your slowest month, you might take a little less than you would during the peak season. If your goal rate is $50/hour, but the alternative is couch time watching re-runs, you might secretly take $30/hour.

4. Brainstorm Ways to Raise Your Prices Without Raising Your Prices. I borrowed this little idea from the airline industry and their baggage fees. In order to book a flight in the old days, you had to call each of the airlines and get their fares. Then you picked the lowest one, assuming the times were around the same.

When sites like Expedia came along, the game changed. But did United say, no problem, we’ll go from $747 to fly to Dallas and drop our fares to what Blue Sky Air is charging? Not so fast. Everyone kind of fell into line, but they made up the lost revenue with baggage fees, extra charges to change your tickets, etc. This tip is all about semantics and figuring out where you’re leaving money on the table.

5. Get a Lot More Efficient. I know, you’re already a machine, but we all have a long way to go in the productivity department. The most valuable tip I can possibly share that will never go out of style, is tracking your time. I don’t care if you track it on a napkin or the latest app — write it all down.

Give me one week of data on how someone spends their time and I can nail the health of their business. Need more sales? Look at your time log and allocate more of it to picking up the phone and drilling down on activities that bring in the most revenue at the highest profit margins. You can get an ROI on your time just as easily as you can on your money — IF you measure it.

6. Cut Your Expenses. All of them. Your cost of goods sold as well as your overhead. No, you are not living as leanly as an organic chicken. Get out your scissors and find some more Benjamin’s. I fully realize that this is not especially fun, but it is one of the best habits you can possibly get into.

Remember, I was the girl who closed a deal and headed to Neiman Marcus before the deposit had even cleared, so my idea of a good time was not exactly whipping out the p&l and slicing and dicing. But if this over-shopped wonder can fall in love with a good hack, you can too. Literally you can turn it into a game, but you’ve got to be looking at your expenses every time you open the mail and at LEAST twice a month.

I am constantly amazed at how that trite “Measure it and it will improve” quote is so right on. As soon as I scratch the surface and pick up the phone to see if I’ve got the most up to date xyz plan, I start to save money. It’s crazy.

When you’re trying to trim your budget, question every single expense, starting with the biggest ones. I thought I had a pretty good handle on my payroll and staff time until I had everyone actually start clocking in and out for events, on the spot. Paying someone for being on the schedule from 11am – 5pm who actually WORKED from 11:10am – 4:40pm really adds up.

The Net/Net: Accept the fact that once you dig into this whole concept of determining your hourly rate, setting your goal rate and then coming up with unique ways to fix it, the process will probably become second nature. The added bonus is in the confidence department. I love knowing how long it took to type an invoice or load a catering truck, because I’ve TYPED AND LOADED.

Literally, sit next to your bookkeeper/data entry person/fill in the blank and educate yourself on their processes. You’ll be amazed at the gold you dig up hiding barely below the surface.

Right now, Marley Majcher, author, TV contributor and big boss at The Party Goddess! is probably knee-deep in glitter sipping martinis with Pierce Brosnan (literally)… But you take her free quiz to find out just how productive you are right now at http://theprofitgoddess.com/tses/.

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How to nab the clients YOU want to work with

Through my party planning company The Party Goddess! I’ve worked with Britney Spears, Sofia Vergara, Gwyneth Paltrow, Pierce Brosnan, and a list that grows by the day. Celebrity clients are a great way to leave your competition in the dust no matter HOW saturated your market is — it’s the easiest way ever to get paid a lot more for what you do. But it’s not just about landing the celeb — it’s about leveraging them.

You should care about celebrities, even if you don’t care about celebrities. Why? (Hint: it’s a 5 letter word and starts with “M”). M-O-N-E-Y. And not just theirs, everyone else’s who will now pay you a premium because of your association.

Two things sell: Sex and celebrities. Period. Therefore, you can sell your soul, or just get some celebrities clients. Here’s how I got mine:

1. I determined my “why.” I can’t emphasize enough how crucial this first point is. Do you want celebrities so you can lead an exciting life, hobnobbing with the rich and famous? Or do you want celebrity clients to get attention for your brand?

2. I quantified the end goal. If you want celebrities to help your brand stand out, that’s great, but how much cash, time and product (even at your cost, products still take money to produce) are you willing to budget and what kind of ROI are you expecting.

3. I got clear on how I would quantify success. I have a certain “quota” of A-listers that I want to work with each year because historically each celeb translates into a certain number of national magazine mentions. Those mentions in publications that my target audience reads translates into a certain number of hits on my blog, which translates to a certain number of inquiries, which translates to a certain percentage of closed deals. Get my drift?

4. I identified my targets. Who did I want to plan a rockstar-fabulous event for and why? If your ideal customers are Kardashian-following, clothes-loving, latest-restaurant type foodie hounds, it won’t do you a ton of good to land yourself a country Western singer that Tinseltown isn’t super enamored with. It will be a waste of your resources and can even turn your audience off.

5. I got their attention – with gift certificates. Beautiful, personalized, and for a significant dollar amount. Celebrities are used to getting everything for free. Just like in every other aspect of your business, even your “gift” must rise above the rest.

How & why to leave your competition in the dust

Here is the premise from which I operate:

Celebrities = Press

Press = Notice

Notice cuts through the noise

Noise keeps you chasing clients & your prices low

Notice = Expert

Expert = More $

The marketplace these days is so cluttered, crowded and noisy that it’s taking a lot more than just a great product to get people to take a second look at your business. We’ve all heard a lot lately about “becoming an expert.” The bottom line is, if your target audience identifies you as the leader of your pack, the one who really is the go to resource in your industry, you can command higher prices. That’s just how perception works, right or wrong. Therefore, demonstrate you’ve got the street creds and your customers will vote with their feet, right into your back pocket.

How to identify your own top 5-10 celebrities:

Don’t live in the 90210? No problem. Your optimal “celebrity” doesn’t have to be an actual celebrity. Think of an influential person in your area — the mayor, a well-known family or a media person. Well known people in a local area are seen as “celebrities” so brainstorm your list. Create a plan. And then just freaking go after them with a specific roadmap.

Once you have your celebrities, it’s all about leveraging them! It’s not enough to just “get” the celebrity client of your town. That’s akin to a tree falling in the forest: If no one saw it, did it really actually fall? Notable events are the same. Your target audience must be made aware, and made aware, and made aware that this is the kind of clientele you have, that that sets you above the rest, makes you good at what you do and therefore, super desirable as their number one vendor of choice (which just happens to mean you can justifiably charge more.)

In order to leverage your hard won celebrity cadre, secure these three things (or at least the first two.)

Key #1: They are your client – They must sign off saying that Marley Majcher, The Party Goddess! gets to include Pierce Brosnan (yes, he really is that good looking AND nice) on her client list.

Key #2: Photo – A picture speaks a thousand words. Enough said. Get the shot.

Key #3: Testimonial! – IF you can, get a testimonial. It doesn’t have to be long or formal, heck, it can even be a Tweet, but TRY and get something. 80 characters and a smiley face from George Clooney is as good as cash.

Now go and tell the world! Use your three keys above to tout your success. In the beginning it will feel awkward, but you must do it, or all of your hard work will be for naught. Blasting it through social media, ezines, press releases, and of course, your website press page, blog and client roster are just a few examples of getting the biggest bang for the buck.

A few bonus tips. Remember The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Protect your “celebrity” clients like you would protect your children. Assume nothing. If you gift them with your services, be clear and upfront about what’s involved so that everyone is straight going in. The LAST thing you want to do is get a celebrity and then sell them out. The world of famous people, whether it’s Hollywood, or the local group of reporters in a small town is usually a tight group and people talk. Your reputation for keeping your mouth shut is VITAL. I can’t stress this enough. Exchanging your services for their photo, name as your client and testimonial (if you can get it), should be clearly spelled out. You wouldn’t appreciate someone abusing your trust, so don’t abuse theirs, even if they deserve it. And a lot of them do. Take your informal count of their martini consumption to the grave.

People do business with people who they know, like and trust. TRUST. Develop the relationship and that celebrity, and many others will be yours for the taking. You can still leverage the relationship by mentioning details of your upcoming event (or past event) without naming names or giving specific dollar amounts. Don’t risk your newly acquired elevated status with an overconfident remark to the press about someone being cheap or anything less than fabulous.

Now go draft up those gift certificates and shout your results from the rooftop.

Right now, Marley Majcher, author, TV contributor and big boss at The Party Goddess! is probably knee-deep in glitter sipping martinis with Pierce Brosnan (literally)… But you take her free quiz to find out just how productive you are right now at http://theprofitgoddess.com/TheSpecialEvent

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Florist Toolkit: Essentials for Event Set-up

Special event florists know they need to arrive at an event ready to hit the ground running, prepared to transform the space with amazing floral designs in a relatively short amount of time. Over the last few years of working with floral designers (from the wholesale side), I’ve heard lots of great advice on setting up for events including: transportation tips, how to make sure your designs are stable, and how to make last-minute touch-ups on arrangements without needing extra flowers.

Jackie's Flowers photo by Bret Cole Photography

Jackie Perez, owner of Jackie’s Flowers, puts the finishing touches on a styled shoot on location in Bodega Bay. Featuring: California Vintage Rentals, photo: Bret Cole Photography

To learn more tips for successful event installs, I asked several California-based floral designers about their must-haves for their on-location toolkits. I received a variety of responses, including what to bring along to make clean-up faster, and handy uses for florists’ favorite adhesive. Here’s what they had to say:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Six ways to get serious with your small business and stop treating it like a hobby

It often starts like this: “You’re so amazing at [fill in the blank] planning parties, Julia, you really should go into business.” And I cringe every time a newly minted entrepreneur tells me their story. Why? Because, it takes so much more than a great idea or amazing pastry skills to make a profit. And that is the difference between a hobby and a business: Profit. Yes, it takes talent, passion and a lot of other things. But one of the most important is the commitment to a plan.

Following is my quick and dirty system for going from Betty, the neighbor down the street who can help you with your daughter’s birthday party, to Betty, the go to girl if you want to knock it out of the park for your super spawn.

1.  Make a plan and write it down. You MUST address the key components of a business plan before you go from hobbyist to the real deal. What makes you better, stronger or faster than everyone else in the marketplace and why are your future customers desperate to have you solve their problems or mix their martinis? You cannot merely be great at baking cakes. No matter what the neighbors say, they’re not enough to sustain you when it’s time to whip out the credit card.

2.  Show me the money. What is your pricing strategy, your upfront costs and your overhead? Have you really drilled down on ALL of your Cost of Goods Sold, even the ones that seem inconsequential like that 10 cent label on the bottom of your magic lotion? It’s not enough to hope your sales will exceed your forecasts and you’ll get to somehow take a salary.

3. Create a time tracking system. From. Day. 1. Get used to it. You can always make more money, you can never get back lost time. How you spend your time will directly correlate to the success of your venture.

4. Get the ROI for your time, just like your money. You wouldn’t give your stock broker $10,000 without some sort of expected ROI, yet we don’t approach our time with nearly the same ferocity. Then we wonder why we can’t get everything done. Say adios to long lunches with friends of friends of cousins who just want to “pick your brain”, your core activities must all contribute to the bottom line.

5. Assemble a support system. My old business professor calls it a “Kitchen Cabinet” since a Board of Directors sounds a little formal for your spare bedroom scrapbooking company. But rest assured, entrepreneurship can be lonely. Save yourself a lot of sleepless nights and assemble a group of the smartest people you can think of, especially in key areas where you’re weak.

6. Tweak your model. Know going in that things aren’t going to go exactly as planned, but that doesn’t mean the planning was faulty or fruitless. Expect to react to the market and be nimble, lean and decisive.

Right now, Marley Majcher, author, TV contributor and big boss at The Party Goddess! is probably knee-deep in glitter sipping martinis with Pierce Brosnan (literally)… But you take her free quiz to find out just how productive you are right now at http://theprofitgoddess.com/TheSpecialEvent

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