Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk has nearly 20 years of marketing experience working with a diverse range of industries and clients, including professional services firms, entertainment, fitness products, non-profits, banking and many more. Most recently, she spent the last two and a half years as the marketing director for a mid-sized accounting firm in Atlanta. In that time, she not only gained valuable experience, but connected with some of the most talented marketing and creative professionals around – resources that she now brings to her clients as owner of BBR Marketing. Her goal is to get to know her clients and their goals so well that she becomes a part of their team. Her creative thinking and distinctive approach allows her to bring unique ideas to her clients that differentiate them from their competition and give them the tools they need to reach their audiences. You can learn more about BBR Marketing at www.bbrmarketing.com.
What are you working on right now?
I’m so excited to see my small company growing as my first anniversary approaches. I love helping my clients increase awareness, create a marketing plan and strategy, and then implement those plans with the tactics that make the most sense for their company and industry. What’s even better is seeing the results of those efforts. And I really do have some of the best clients, too. Most of them are small- to mid-sized professional services firms, along with some solopreneurs, with a common goal — a desire to see their companies grow. It’s very fulfilling to be a part of that process.
3 Trends that excite you?
1. The adoption of social media: Not everyone is going to have a Twitter account, but social media does seem to be finally making it to the ever conservative professional services industry. I’m having older partners and staff approach me about it, and I’m able to teach them the advantages of using these tools, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. It’s exciting to watch.
2. More optimism about the economy: No one thinks the recession is over, but most people seem to be more optimistic about the future and ready to come out of the doldrums of the last two years. And while I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the heyday of unlimited spending — nor do I think we should — more companies do seem willing to invest in both human and marketing resources to help their businesses grow. It will be a slow process, with hiccups along the way, but I’m happy to see some calculated optimism.
3. A spirit of collaboration and willingness to make connections: A few months ago I met with a gentleman who was very well connected in my industry, just to learn more about his business and what he does. As usual in these sorts of meetings, I asked what type of people were a good contact for him. He was quick to say that he doesn’t pass along any of his contacts unless there is something in it for him, since his network is his capital. And while I see his point, I completely disagree with it. I’m also pleased to report that I find his opinion to be in the minority. Most people I meet are more than willing to make introductions if the connection makes sense, and I’m always doing the same. I think it’s a karma thing. I’m happy to introduce you to someone in my network, and I know when the time is right, you’ll do the same for me. It may take a while, and I take the chance that it may be one-sided, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take. And in the last year, I’ve benefited from this philosophy in ways too numerous to count.
How do you bring ideas to life?
For me, it’s working with great clients that brings ideas to life. I like nothing more than sitting down with a client to learn about their business, their goals and then determine the best plan of attack to help them reach those goals. There is never one plan that fits all, but by collaborating together we are usually able to come up with a solution that meets their budget and expectations, and that’s an exciting moment.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Oh, I’ve made so many it’s hard to count. I think my biggest one was allowing fear to guide my steps. In the past, I’ve stayed in positions that were not a good fit for my skills, personality and goals simply because I was afraid that the alternative would be worse. Last year, I threw caution to the wind and started my own company and haven’t looked back. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve done, and I face difficult issues and decisions all the time, but there is nothing more freeing than setting and meeting a goal for yourself. I encourage everyone to eliminate fear from your decision process, and you’ll be happy you did.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
Book: “Tuned In” by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott was enlightening to me. The idea of connecting with your buyers on a very deep level and watching success follow is one that really resonates with me. And I’ve seen it work, too.
Tool: While it sounds trite, I think the Internet is the most amazing tool available on any level. You can find nearly anything you need online, and it’s hard to imagine life without it anymore.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Pick a niche and stick to it. The temptation for anyone just starting out is to take any business that comes your way and try to be everything for everyone. This makes your marketing efforts incredibly difficult and you end up not being an expert at anything. I focused my company on marketing services for professional service providers (CPAs, attorneys, engineers, consultants, etc.). I’ve stepped outside of that realm a couple of times, but in those cases, I’ve hired outside help to do most of the work. That way I can truly focus on my niche and create a reputation and brand within that smaller audience.
How did you go about building your business?
Network, network, network. I set a goal from day one that I would have at least three networking meetings each week, and I’ve met it. I can’t even begin to count the number of “business” lunches and coffees I’ve had in the last year, but there hasn’t been one week where I haven’t had at least three prospect meetings. Even if the person you are meeting with doesn’t turn out to have business, and many won’t, they know people, who know people, etc. I’m on fifth and sixth generation meetings now, and it is truly paying off.
I’ve also been vigilant about using public relations to increase exposure for my business. When I discover a topic that I think would be interesting to my target audience, I write an article about it. I then post that article to my blog, include it in my newsletter, put it on LinkedIn and Twitter, and then, most importantly, submit it to some very targeted publications (online mostly) that may be interested in sharing it with their readers. It can’t be “sales-y,” and must be well written, but I’ve had great success with this tactic, and recommend it to others as well. (See http://bit.ly/clyJSx, http://bit.ly/bNR3c4 and http://bit.ly/dsR8Lv.)
How has starting a business affected your personal life?
First of all, I have the most supportive husband in the world, and could not have done this without him. Since my company is so young, I find it’s very hard to step away from work, especially since I work out of my home most of the time. Finding the balance between business and personal time is the biggest challenge I’ve faced. But I’m working to find that elusive balance, so I am not the proverbial “all work and no play” business owner. I do a better job some weeks than others, and know it will get easier with time, but it’s still a challenge most of the time.
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