What we're about

  • The Marketing Mix is the official blog of Marketing Mentor and the community that's sprung up around it.
  • We're devoted to helping small business owners, freelancers and independent professionals grow their businesses into thriving enterprises.
  • Feel free to join in the conversation: leave a comment, send us an email. Or, if you're an MM client, past or present, with the blogging bug and/or great stories to share, let us know—we're always on the lookout for guest bloggers!



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The Mix Master

  • ILISE BENUN is the founder of Marketing Mentor, and has been teaching people to promote themselves and their services since 1988. Author of 4 books and many, many more articles, Ilise has been self-employed for all but three years of her working life.

    More about Ilise here.

The Mix Mistress

  • DEIDRE RIENZO is a copy writer who helps small business owners turn their ideas into words. She partners with web designers to create simple, compelling, and keyword-rich website content for their clients. The Marketing Mentor program is the driving force that has helped Deidre grow her business, and she blogs about her experiences, adventures, and struggles here at the Marketing Mix.

Guest Mixers

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May 27, 2014

Podcast: Dealing with problem clients

 Can difficult clients become great clients? Is there a difference between bad clients and clients behaving badly?

Last week, I joined Jim Blasingame of Small Business Advocate to answer these questions in a conversation about one of CFBC’s most popular sessions, Doug Dolan’s Field Guide to Bad Clients. Listen to our conversation here:  Dd_presentation_image

Part 1 – When good customers behave badly…

Part 2 - Turning difficult customers into customers for life

To learn more about dealing with problem clients, get Doug Dolan’s presentation here and listen to our pre-conference interview.


May 23, 2014

Get sample chapters of these books

In the mood to learn something new today? Check out these great books (that have free sample chapters for download):

  • Way back when, I helped Denise Lee Yohn develop her book proposal, and I’m so happy to see that her book has been published! Denise’s new book, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass), is receiving rave reviews -- and you can now access a free chapter here.

  • Mike Rohde is the master of sketchnotes. He wrote the Sketchnote Handbook, which is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach people how to create sketchnotes – and you can download free sample chapter here

Happy learning!

May 22, 2014

What I learned at CFBC: Eat the chicken…

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

I’m the girl who spends an hour in the cereal aisle reading all the boxes. The one who researches every restaurant instead of just choosing one that looks good. I’m a maximizer—and I’m not proud of it. But it’s a hard habit to break.

In Douglas Davis’ session, Creative Strategy and the Business of Design, he freed me from business maximization when he said, “Eat the chicken, spit out the bones.” This instantly gave me clarity—because up until then, I was astonished and overwhelmed by all the wisdom I’d heard.


I realized the bones (or what’s un-digestible) will be different for everyone. That made me feel so much better, and it’s one of my major takeaways. Take what you need, and leave the rest.

When I remember my goals for my business, it clearly separates chicken from bones. Some tips and ideas shine—others fall to the side. Plus, my chicken might be your bone—and that’s totally cool.

I’ve been calmer than usual after a conference. I’ve been implementing what fits the business I want by following up with new connections, reshaping my offerings, developing a better understanding of my value, and further defining my ideal clients.

I reconfirmed that consistent outreach is key, that our businesses are ever-evolving (and that’s okay!), and that as long as we’re building the businesses we want, based on the clearly defined goals we have, then it’s all good!

Did you attend CFBC? What’s your chicken?

* Chick image, courtesy, Shutterstock. 


May 21, 2014

CFBC 2014: What the Dougs had to say…

Among the incredible speakers at CFBC in Boston were Douglas Davis and Doug Dolan—both of whom are sharing downloads from their sessions:

Creative Strategy and the Business of Design – Douglas Davis
In Douglas Davis’ session, he provided the tools to provide value when design conversations veer off into marketing territory. He also provided a framework for identifying and organizing each project’s essential elements and articulating strategy within your creative presentations. Download Douglas’ PPT presentation

Solving Your Biggest Problem: the Client – Doug Dolan
How do you deal with a problem client? Do you tough it out, look for a workaround, try to educate – or just back away slowly? Doug offered some lessons learned (the hard way) on what’s worth trying…and when to head for the exit. Download Doug’s handout

And if you missed the downloads from my presentations, get them here.

May 14, 2014

For content marketing, timing trumps topic

This week, I'm in Boston at HOW Live/CFBC. I love the excitement here - the learning, the networking, and that buzz that only happens in-person! It's great to get out of your normal routine and attend a conference for so many reasons--and today, Tiffany Estes of Whole Brain Creative (who is also here at HOW Live) shares what she gained from a content marketing conference she attended.

For content marketing, timing trumps topic

I went to a content marketing conference last year, and one of the best takeaways (literally—it was a book to take home) was Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer. Hungry for more information, I started reading it on the train to the airport before I even left town.

The premise of the book is pretty well summed up by the title, and I’ve deliberately applied this principle to how I approach my e-mail marketing efforts, which has made the process infinitely easier. When I first began doing e-mail marketing (which hasn’t been all that long ago), I was very irregular with the timing of my messages. I blame most of that on the overly critical editor inside my head who shoots down most of the topics I come up with. My own clients struggle with this too. They always ask, “What can we write about that isn’t just a 400-word commercial?”

Jay’s book helped me rethink my approach. Put very simply, it’s about help, not hype. I tried it, and it worked—but not as you might have expected.

Allow me to explain.

While I was at the conference, I met an exhibitor whose company offers a pretty cool tool that I thought some of my clients could really use. It helps businesses get their videos online, customized, and distributed through a variety of channels with ease. While I don’t provide video services AT ALL, I know several of my clients have trouble knowing what to do with their footage after they shoot it. “What format should it be in? Should I host it on my own site or on YouTube? How can I get it on all of my social media feeds? How can I make sure people will see it once it’s uploaded?”

So I focused my next e-mail message on leveraging video for marketing purposes, and included a little plug for the tool I’d discovered, even though there was zero possibility that the content of that newsletter would translate to a billable video project for me (remember, I don’t do video). The goal was not to make a sale, but to help my clients and prospects solve a common problem.

Guess what? Within hours of sending that e-mail, I received a response from one of my clients. She said, “I’m working on a grant application to fund a strategic planning project, and I was wracking my brain to come up with who we could hire to do the strategic plan. Then your e-mail arrived, and I thought, ‘Tiffany would be perfect for this!’” I agreed. I added my qualifications to the grant application, it was approved, and we are now underway developing a strategic plan.

No hype. Just help. And it worked.

May 12, 2014

Are We Fighting Battles or Winning Wars?

This week, I'm in Boston at the Creative Freelancer Business Conference. You might have noticed that we added "business" to the conference's name this year - and we did that to show that this event focuses on the business aspects of your work life - as well as the creative ones.

Today, Claudine Hanani, from The Hanani Group, illustrates how much power small businesses have in this post:

Are We Fighting Battles or Winning Wars?

Most of you reading this will resemble me -- running creative consulting practices that staff fewer than 10 people, and in many cases less than five. This business model nurtures some strong natural advantages such as the capability to be highly adaptable, a liberation from bureaucratic rules, and the freedom to create personalized experiences for clients. In many cases we are working side by side with our clients who have hired “us” more than the “company”. It’s a person to person experience. A corporate behemoth isn’t creating separation and a matrix of rules which are needed when dealing with the masses.

Smaller size means control and control is power. The power to create a highly personalized client experience is your biggest advantage – one that you can use to provide an experience so unique that they fall in love with your brand. A client experience that is fascinating. A project engagement that is memorable. Memorable companies get referred more often, can charge higher rates and engender more ongoing loyalty than their less memorable peers. The savvy consulting leader keeps this in mind and remembers to leverage this weapon.  Hanani

Recently some work with a designer reminded us how often this power isn’t leveraged. We had worked on several projects with him¬ over the period of two years and during that time had nicely told him the several ways he underwhelmed us. His response? More avoidance than anything. We continued on and gave him one additional project. On day 31 after we receive our invoice we get notice that we have a late fee because the terms of the invoice were net 30. While technically it is good business to stay on top of accounts receivable and ask clients to pay their invoices within a reasonable amount of time, the real first question should always be who is this person, what do they mean to my business, and -- since I make all the rules -- how should we handle this situation in light of our larger relationship. Not reacting much to our constructive feedback followed by a preset late fee structured into FreshBooks doesn’t provide much of a customized experience between peers.

Business practices exist for a reason but the greatest freedom in having your own practice is the ability to apply them sensibly. The penalty for charging someone who refers clients to you for paying 37 or even 42 days into an invoice -- especially one who has demonstrated they will shuffle over ongoing work from their stable of clients -- can be added up easily. The late payment ping is worth $18 (the battle) while the loss of goodwill with a service provider who can send continuing projects your way will run in the thousands and essentially costs you the war (the war for clients who love you and refer you).

We have the inherent power to rewrite the rules every time we have a client and the ability to create memorable brand experiences we can be proud of and that our companies can benefit from in the long run – don’t let them slip by.

May 09, 2014

31 blog topic ideas for May

Not having an idea for your blog or newsletter is not an excuse—thanks to Sara Lancaster’s 31 ideas. Our favorites are:

7 - Take five minutes to write down the things that pain your customers and delight your customers. Now brainstorm blog post topics that address those pains and delights.

13 - Find an industry article you agree with and enjoyed reading. Write a complimentary post talking about it.

14 - Have you tried Vine? Spend half of a day making short videos around the office or at an event. See what kind of traction you get and then discuss on the blog.

20 - Make a process map of the customer experience so they can see step-by-step what to expect when working with you. I like LucidChart.com.

23 - Make it a two-minute tip Tuesday! What nugget of useful advice can you share in a paragraph or two.

Read all of Sara’s ideas here and start writing!

May 07, 2014

CFBC is a week from today!

The Creative Freelancer Business Conference is a week away in Boston (May 14-16), and my excitement is mounting. It’s going to be the best CFBC yet:

  • the speakers are incredible (listen to their podcasts
  • CFBC attendees get free admittance to Friday’s general sessions
  • we have speed coaching and headshots on site
  • there are 68 people signed up for the freelancer showcase! 
  • Don’t forget my favorite part of the whole event, net-walking—where we’ll walk along the Charles River and chat with fellow freelancers. 

Other attendees are getting exited too: Deidre invites all newbies, and Tom reminds you to remember these.

It’s not too late to sign up. Use my promo code, ILISE14, to save $50. Sign up here, and I’ll see you there!


May 05, 2014

Canada, here I come!

I’m looking forward to my upcoming speaking events in Alberta, Canada. If you’re in the area, please attend.

Creatives’ Cupboard, May 8th, Calgary

If you’ll be in Calgary on May 8th, this intimate Creatives’ Cupboard workshop, The ONLY 5 Marketing Tools You Need, is not to be missed! Not only will you learn how to move your business forward, you will also leave ahead of the game with work completed. Each participant will receive a custom myNote publication and a myDay planner, both designed and created by www.crystalink.ca, a $50.00 value.

Pica Conference, May 7-10, Edmonton

At the Pica Conference, I’ll be giving a slimmed-down version of The ONLY 5 Marketing Tools You Need, as well as a 3-hour interactive proposal workshop where we will be analyzing a sample proposal from the Designer’s Proposal Bundle, Volume 2. Watch this video.

If you can’t make the workshop, but are interested in the Proposal Bundles, you can get The Designer’s Proposal Bundle Volume 2, or The Designer’s Proposal Bundle Volume 1, for $10 off with the code: SAVE10.

Will I see you there?

May 02, 2014

Boston-yes. Karaoke-no.

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

Oh my goodness—CFBC is 10 days away! I’m looking forward to these great sessions, meeting new people, and reconnecting with creatives I’ve met at past conferences.

If you’re considering attending—please do it. My first time attending simply blew my mind—I was instantly part of a community! That feeling alone made a drastic and tremendous difference in my business and my life. It gave me the confidence to keep going. And now it’s 6 years later. So if it’s your first time, come find me. I will take you by the arm and introduce you to everyone I know.

March + April update
It’s good to know where we are and where we’re headed (to CFBC!), so I started tracking and sharing my progress in January and February. I hope you’re tracking along with me! Here’s my recap for March and April, combined.

• Total projects: 15
• Projects completed sitting outside at Starbucks (glorious sunshine!): 2
• Days spent back in corporate land: 3
• Un-newsletter sent: 1 (Oops. Is March over already?)
• Karaoke songs performed: 2 (It’s official-I’m no Janis Joplin.)
• New clients who found me online: 1
• New clients referred to me: 4
• Dollars over monthly goal: 3000 (Yay! I’ve made up for Jan. and Feb. Phew.)
• Trains booked to Boston for CFBC: 1 round-trip ticket!

Will I see you at CFBC, May 14-16? If you haven’t signed up yet, use Ilise’s promo code (ILISE14) for $50 off. Learn more about the speakers and their sessions in the speaker podcast series.


The Tagline Series