Personal branding consultant, Rahna Barthelmess, is the author of “Your Branding Edge: How Personal Branding Can Turbocharge Your Career” and President of the digital agency, Beacon Marketing. She loves helping entrepreneurs and business professionals from all different areas build their confidence and learn how to leverage their personal brand for more business success.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
The first 20 years of my career were spent in large corporate marketing departments that had ad agencies and PR firms and tons of resources to support the marketing efforts. I found that there were a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses that couldn’t afford to have the 20-person marketing department, so I started my business to help those who wanted the “six-figure thinking without the six-figure price tag.”
Tell us about your business.
Beacon Marketing is a branding agency that provides strategic guidance for the most cost-effective marketing efforts that express their true brand identity and works to generate awareness and sales. Typically, we focus on digital efforts because the return on investment is tremendous. We help people with tried-and-true branding activities, like logo design and website development, but we also work to make sure that their digital activities are building traffic back to that website, generating leads and adding sales to their bottom line. As a digital agency, our work includes:
- Brand Identity Development (both corporate and personal branding)
- SEO (search engine optimization) activities
- Email newsletters/email campaigns
- Digital Public Relations for exposure off-site
- Digital Content Development (to offer on the company’s website)
- Social Media activities
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We don’t really do promotions as such, but I’m always happy to do a free consultation with someone to see if there might be a good fit between what they need and what we can provide.
The best accomplishments come from seeing our clients’ goals achieved. We have a client whose organic traffic increased 337% over a 9 month period who has reached 62% of their annual sales goals only 4.5 months into 2017 and another client whose business increased millions of dollars (more than 62% over a 3-year period). We measure client goals in a very tangible and numeric way. Increases in traffic month to month and year to year, increases in Google rankings, more engagement with marketing vehicles such as website content downloads, newsletter articles or blog articles read, and interaction on social media. Of course, the ultimate goal is sales increases. You can see some of our digital marketing agency case studies on our website.
Where is your business based?
My business is based out of St. Louis right now, but since most of what I do is on the Internet, I’m not bound by geographic limitations. I have clients that are not in St. Louis, and I simply travel to their location whenever needed for large meetings in order to meet with members of the team or to do annual planning.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I’m a big believer in the kinds of activities that that I do for my clients, so after the website was up and running, one of the first things I did was send out an email announcing to my contacts that Beacon Marketing was open for business. I gave them 3 tangible actions they could take to help launch their business and asked them if they knew of anybody that might need the kinds of services I was offering. Within 15 minutes, I had a response, and that’s how I got my first client. Lesson learned: email newsletters work.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I would say personal branding, email marketing, and blogging have been very effective for my business. When I first started Beacon Marketing, I was asked to help with some personal branding efforts, and that’s when I really learned about personal branding. I was intrigued by the concept that the same strategic marketing thought process that I would have done for LEGO® or Miracle-Gro® Plant Food could be done for people.
That was really compelling to me and shaped how I built my business. I blogged right from the start in a very personal way, just sharing my thoughts about marketing activity that I saw or challenges that my clients were having. I also did a lot of speaking engagements, which helped me become known within the business community where I lived at the time. I learned a lot about networking that has served me well over time.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
For any entrepreneur, I think it’s easy to get distracted with the “shiny penny” of the day, and so it’s been important to focus my efforts and really stay true to who I am and what I have to offer.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I’ve worked hard to stay up to speed with marketing techniques that are ever-changing, but I also have hired experts in particular areas to help with certain aspects. While I have a strong understanding of search engine optimization, I still have a specialist who helps with keyword analysis and doing a lot of the technical aspects of that work. I’ve learned to hire coders or public relations specialists to streamline efforts in the many different areas of digital marketing that need to be marshaled on the client’s behalf.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I love working with people even when there are challenges. I think it’s fun to work through those challenges with other people. Also, I keep reminding myself of Dory the fish’s advice, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” Persistence can usually defeat any difficulty!
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Because of my background with personal branding, I understand the perspective that a lot of entrepreneurs and business executives bring to their job. I respect and understand that this is very personal work. These are people who care passionately about growing their business and reaching their goals and so I take that to heart.
I also think it’s unusual for someone with my background to focus on small businesses. I understand the challenges that small businesses have, but I have background in such a broad range of marketing activities, that I’m able to leverage on my clients’ behalf. I have a unique perspective that is both very corporate and numbers-oriented (to get the results that they want) but also mindful that people’s work is their passion.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Focus on doing the right activities, and the results will inevitably follow.
I’m struck by how, even with a lot of the new technological advances and tools that are available, the tried-and-true strategies still prevail. When you look at how the Google algorithm rewards businesses with higher Google rankings, you’ll see that those who provide consistent, relevant content on their websites get rewarded. Trying to have an overnight hit is just not the way that most businesses grow. Consistency and making sure that you’re doing a little bit every day toward your goals does get rewarded. The clients we work with understand that the options we are giving them are not “get rich quick” fixes but rather solid foundational activities that present their brand in the most positive light possible and are built for long-term success.
When they start, oftentimes they have an old website that hasn’t been updated since 2005 and visually is not very compelling or contemporary. As we work through what should be included in their website and how it should be structured, they start to see the possibilities. As we develop that, we make sure that we include search engine optimization activities to set up everything we do. That’s an important ongoing need, and I help my clients structure things in such a way to support those activities. They may feel like they’re not making a lot of progress, but a year later, they turn around and look back at where they’ve come and how their traffic has double or tripled, and newsletter engagement is high or the number of keywords that their ranking for has gone up steadily every month. That’s when they can see how their persistence paid off.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
“Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” Dory the fish.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
We offer a marketing automation platform that monitors activity for our clients’ websites so that they can see specifically who is coming to their website, what pages are most popular, how long they’re spending on each webpage, what content is most engaging to them and how they are coming to the website. All of that is tied to the outgoing email communication and social media postings so that we can see what’s working best.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Kathy McAfee has just come out with the third addition of “Networking Ahead for Business”, which is a tremendous book about the power of networking. As I believe networking is a fantastic personal branding tool and business building, sales generating tool, I would highly recommend this book.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
In the digital world, you are constantly learning and I am a voracious learner. I’m always asking myself, “What else would take my clients’ business to the next level and how can we improve on the results that they’re getting?” I want to make sure that the value that I’m bringing to them today is more than the value that I brought to them yesterday.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Right now, I am focused on heeding the advice that I already know to be true and that is, “Be consistent.” If I’m not seeing immediate results, how can I redouble my efforts and course correct to make sure they do get those goals? Typically when we are able to answer that question, we overachieve. For example, website traffic doesn’t go up in a very linear fashion (meaning that you’re not always going to have the 5% or 10% or 40% growth that you did last month – although that is the goal). My clients can see increases of anywhere from 5% to 50% increase in any given month, but then they may experience one month where traffic is fairly flat. When that happens, my team and I meet and talk about whether there’s anything we can do to change that. Usually the next month we see massive increase – 40% or something like that.
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