Continually strive to work on your business rather than in your business.”
In 1987, Lonny founded Media Relations Agency, which has served several hundred clients.
Now in his 60s, Lonny Kocina is a visionary who is passionate about marketing. Lonny believes that to be a truly great agency, our professional advice and deliverables must be based on a solid marketing foundation. He has made it his mission to ensure that everyone on his team knows and understands the basic marketing concepts. “This is something that’s often lacking in other agencies,” he says.
Lonny pioneered the concept of his agency’s nationally trademarked Pay Per Interview Publicity® business model which enables clients to purchase publicity by the story. “It’s a familiar concept. If you pay for a pizza, you get a pizza; if pay for a car, you get a car; and with us, if you pay for media coverage, you get media coverage,” he explains. “Clients come to us because they are tired of paying hourly retainers and getting little tangible return.” Media Relations Agency has arranged tens-of-thousands of news stories on behalf of hundreds of clients.
When the Internet was in its infancy, Lonny also had the business foresight to quickly reserve portal web addresses such as publicity.com, mediarelations.com and checkerboard.com, and advised all of their clients to do the same.
In the 30 years since launching Media Relations Agency, Lonny still finds great joy thinking about, talking about, and writing about marketing.
Where did the idea for The CEO’s Guide To Marketing come from?
After founding Media Relations Agency 30 years ago, (we average about 45 employees), I realized two things: most marketers don’t know basic marketing concepts and most businesses don’t follow a sound marketing process. Because of that, companies big and small are losing a lot of money. I wanted to write a book to warn CEOs and also offer an easy-to-implement solution. I believe my book, The CEO’s Guide to Marketing, is 236 pages of the most practical marketing advice you will ever read.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day has changed since starting the Media Relations Agency out of my laundry room in 1987. I worked a lot more hours back then than I do today, but I’ve never been willing to trade my life for money. I just figured I could have a balanced life and be successful too. So, that’s what I did. And I’m glad I was always conscious of a balanced life because now that I’m older I have no regrets.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I use what I call my circle sheets. I write down what I want in the center of a blank page. Then I draw ten circles around it and fill in each circle with something I can do to accomplish my idea. It’s a strange feeling when you realize you can just make stuff up, do a little work, and then you can have it. I’ve heard it described as finding out there’s gold in your junk drawer.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
OK, this may seem a bit odd but I’m so glad people are trending away from black horn-rimmed glasses. It was like a Groucho Marx gag gone viral. Everyone was starting to look like him. Even women.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I work on the business rather than in the business. When you start out, you don’t have that luxury. But the sooner you can make that switch, the sooner you go from being self-employed to having a bigger business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t drink so much. I drank too much when I was younger. Back in the early 70s, they lowered the drinking age to 18. As seniors in high school, we were boozing it up with our teachers after class. Not too smart. When I was about 30, I went for a run and had to turn back because I had a headache from drinking the night before. I decided I’d never drink again and I never have. It’s one of the smartest decisions I ever made I and I wish I would have made it sooner.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’d go back to point one of my book. Many people think they are smart marketers but don’t even know basic marketing concepts. It’s like thinking you are a smart accountant without knowing basic accounting. If you think I’m wrong about this, just ask someone you know who’s in marketing to tell you what the marketing mix is. You can even give them the hint that it’s the 4 P’s of marketing. Most won’t know. It’s like asking your accountant what the 4 basic mathematical operations are and having them stammer, “Let’s see. There’s adding and subtracting, and there’s one where you make more numbers out of other numbers. and then there’s one other one but I can’t remember but I could look it up.” Yikes.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read self-help books. I keep flip cards with 365 positive sayings on my desk. The people I’ve met who think self-help books are corny haven’t been very successful.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We get our money up front. We make exceptions but mostly for really large companies. Because of this, I have no bad debt. One deadbeat who doesn’t pay their bill can wipe out the profit from 10 good clients.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure? You’ve got to be kidding. This question is like asking a baseball player to tell you about one time they struck out and how they overcame it. I’ve had no real big failures but too many small ones to count.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have a website called postandpaint.com. It’s the cleverest darn idea. People can post photos they want turned into a painting (like a pet or a child or a car) and then any artist can paint them and offer it for sale to the person who posted the photo. I had the site up and running for a while. People were posting photos and artists were painting them and selling their work. I probably spent $50,000 on development. But it didn’t catch fast enough and at the time I was getting spread too thin, so I took the site down. I’d like to see it up and running again so I might be willing to give it to someone if they called me.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought about 5 vases at an antique store that averaged about $20 each. I’ve done this for many years. I keep them in the garage. Then I buy flowers when I’m at the grocery store, put them in one of the vases and give them to my wife. She loves it and has a collection of over 100 interesting vases. I think if they were expensive they wouldn’t mean as much, The value is all sentimental.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone but I couldn’t live without Google Drive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Mine, of course, The CEO’s Guide to Marketing. Like I said at the beginning. It’s 236 pages of the most practical marketing advice you will ever read. It will make you the smartest marketer in any room.
What is your favorite quote?
Wherever you set your sights is pretty close to where you will end up.
Most marketers don’t know basic marketing concepts and don’t follow a well-defined process when creating promotions. If they did, they would experience more leads, higher sales and a stronger brand.
Continually strive to work on your business rather than in your business.
Don’t trade your life for money. You can be successful and have balance.