Last week I had the privilege to speak at the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Funding Professionals Annual Conference about Marketing Secrets of Donor Centered Fundraising. The session was packed with the top fundraising professionals in St. Louis from the Development Team of the Missouri Botanical Garden to Managers of the St. Louis Science Center to Professionals at Teach for America and so many others.

In the session, I told them that there were three main areas that they need to focus on for the most effective donor centered fundraising: target audience, their organizational brands, and themselves! That’s right, to do more effective work for their organizations, they need to do more bring more of themselves to their work.

I shared how being true to a brand resulted in an 18% growth in funds raised, a 233% increase in new donors, and a 534% in ROI. I also talked about the critical role storytelling plays in marketing. We reviewed the development of the “Your Story is Our Story” campaign that I led with my marketing team at Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Check it out here!

Sharing the power of storytelling, how to apply the classic branding best practices to the not-for-profit world, and connecting with hundreds of St. Louis’ fundraising professionals was an amazing way to spend the day. If you have the opportunity to go next year, I highly recommend it! Hope to see you there next year!


I was talking with someone about their job search. They were trying to figure out whether to blanket the market with their resume (applying to every remotely relevant job posting with the generic cover letter in the hopes of finding someone—anyone—to give them a job) or focus their energy, time, research and networking efforts on a few “dream job” postings.

Then I went to a client meeting where we were talking about developing a plan to market to professionals in a particular industry. The question that arose was whether they should scatter their efforts across the entire industry or focus on one particular subset of that industry.

In both cases, my answer is: focus!

The old adage “niche to get rich” completely applies in both cases.

In marketing, if you choose one area to highlight, you can create a richer message that will be more compelling to your target audience. It may be a more tightly defined audience, but the message has the opportunity to resonate in a more powerful memorable way.

My answer to both clients is to establish yourself in one market and then build on and expand from there. The job seeker ended up having more success when she focused on a few choice job postings and in due time landed a “primo” job for which she was well-suited.

For the small business, the focus on one small sub-segment of their desired expansion market allows them to establish a foothold in that segment and then expand from there. This streamlines communications, maximizes limited budgets, and prevents wasted, scattered (and ultimately exhausting) effort on the part of the sales team that has limited time for new business development.

So if you’re struggling with where to spend your precious, limited time, don’t hesitate: go deep. My advice is to focus on the tightly defined target in order to see the fastest results possible.

Do you agree? What has been your success? Is it better to go broad or go deep?


This is one of my favorite family photos, and it represents what I’ll be celebrating this Father’s Day. It shows my husband and our youngest daughter after she fell down while waiting for the bus to take her to kindergarten. John was clearly in the middle of taking out the trash, but he stopped what he was doing and totally focused on her. What I see in this picture is patience, love, tolerance and delight from John and trust, relief, comfort and confidence that Daddy will indeed “make it all better.”

When something bad happens in your life, you need someone willing to sit down on the ground with you and tell you that it will be alright. We all need someone to talk through your challenges and make you realize that you can conquer your fears. Even to this day, I call my parents when something bad happens to me. My dad is always a calming voice of reason, providing much-needed perspective and offering advice on how to move forward.

Who does this for you and your life? Is it your spouse? A best friend? A business coach? Maybe it’s your dad.

The beautiful thing about this is that as a parent, it’s easy to see that whatever she’s crying about is actually nothing serious to worry about.

Now think about whatever’s worrying you.

I’m not saying that your worries aren’t real or that your challenges don’t matter. But I am saying that usually, if we could talk it out with someone and look at the situation from a different perspective, we might see that it really will be “all better” in the end.

I hope you have wonderful people in your life to help make you feel better, people that you can lean on and call on when you’re having a bad day.

Happy Father’s Day to my father, my husband and to all those fathers who are willing to stop what they are doing, sit down on the ground and tell their kids that it will be alright.


How does your personal brand convey during interviews? On the eve of many college graduations, I thought I would offer recent college graduates some free interview advice.

I have found that, in general, truth is always more unbelievable than fiction. I have been on all sides of the hiring process–as hiring manager, voting member of the team, and interviewee. I’m always astonished at the crazy things people do and say in interviews. The following is a list of DON’Ts that actually happened, outrageous behaviors I have personally witnessed in interviews.

  1. DON’T Show up late. The candidate was in the final round of interviews–with the CEO of the organization!!! She showed up 25 minutes late and didn’t really apologize or explain herself! What was she thinking?
  2. When asked “what is your dream job?” DON’T describe something totally different than the job or career for which you are applying. I understand explanations about how this position you’re interviewing for might be a steppingstone to your perfect job, but I had a VP/COO candidate for a nonprofit organization who told me his ideal job was to be a Broadway producer. Dead serious. Wanted to be in the theater. I don’t even know what to say about that.
  3. DON’T answer the question, “why are you interested in this position?” with “because the money is really good.” While that may very well be true, no one likes a moneygrubbing job whore.
  4. DON’T admit to being dumb as a stump. I believe the exact words the person used were “I barely graduated. It was a miracle they gave me a diploma!” In general, stupidity is not a desirable personal branding trait. This falls under the category of TMI (Too Much Information) and happens with staggering regularity.
  5. DON’T describe how you always wanted to work for [insert wrong company name here]. Do your research. At the very least, look up the website of the organization’s name and remember it!
  6. DON’T lie about what you did or about where you worked. Background checks, people! You have to know that somehow, you’re going to be found out!
  7. When someone explains that a drug test will be needed when applying for this job, DON’T ask, “what kinds of drugs do you test for?” Big red flag.
  8. DON’T hit on the person doing the interview. Just to be clear, you need a job, not a date! Enough said.
  9. DON’T lean in conspiratorially and make racially-charged remarks about people of another faith or ethnicity. The remarks this person made were so offensive, I can’t even repeat them here.
  10. DON’T admit that you’ve been on “literally hundreds of job interviews and no one will hire me.” This does not instill confidence in the interviewer about hiring you, and it will not boost your personal brand.

I’d love to hear your horror stories of bad interview behavior. Help me build a list of crazy things you’ve experienced during job interviews too! Tell me what dreadful/hilarious/unspeakable things people have done or said on a job interview with you.

Thanks in advance for adding to the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you have to tell me!


We all have them: pet projects that we started that are just sitting there, undone. Usually, it’s a project that started as something without we just “try.” But then, we found that it was fun and important and bigger than we originally anticipated. So we work on it, and we find nuances and have creative ideas about it how to enhance it and add to it and make it better and refine it… So it never gets done.

It becomes so big and important that it never gets finished.

And then life gets in the way. Other distractions keep us from finishing the project… So it sits in the drawer taunting us, reminding thus of the greatness that could be but isn’t… And because it reminds us of failures, of things we haven’t done, we start to focus on that, on the “undone-ness” of it.

And so the feelings we feel for the project change. Added to the initial excitement and joy and fulfillment we feel, we add sadness, discouragement and defeat.

And then we don’t want to work on it anymore.

But the solution to the problem is action. Because that project still could be great, if only we would pick it up again and throw some energy its way. Once we start up again, we will see the fun and the joy and the greatness that is there, just waiting to be realized. By just doing a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more, that project could grow to be amazing… and done!


Written by Rahna Barthelmess for Southworth Blog

It’s just a little bit of paper… just two inches high by three inches wide, just an unassuming piece of paper with a name and a phone number on it….so why is it so important?

Because it’s your business card! Oftentimes, it is one of the first impressions that is made about you and/or your company, and you will want it to be a good one!

Business cards come in many shapes and sizes, printed out on perforated paper at home or professionally designed and printed. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing this, you can even get them printed free, as long as you are willing to carry advertising for the printer on the back side of the card!

Just as letterhead printed on premium business papers will say something about your company, your business card can serve as a strong brand indicator. Take some time to make sure it says something about YOU or YOUR COMPANY.

When you are designing your business card, there are MANY decisions to be made. What size is it going to be? Is it one-color or four? Printed on one side or two? What type of paper do you want to use—thick or thin? White or ecru? Speckled or plain? 100% cotton paper or some other material? Raised type or embossed or plain ink? Oversized or standard? Vertical or horizontal?

Your business card has the opportunity to be a little mini marketing piece. It may start out with a logo, name and number, but should go so much farther! I’ve seen business cards as a “book,” business cards with questions, business cards with QR codes or urls for higher engagement. When I was a Senior Brand Manager at LEGO, my business cards had a variety of mini figures on the back. You never knew which one someone was going to get when you handed over the card. That idea conveyed the fun, creativity and never-ending possibilities that epitomize what LEGO is all about (and by extension, the people that support that brand. When I was the Brand Manager for Miracle-Gro, my business card was shaped like the iconic yellow and green box of plant food. This made such a strong branding statement to all of my current and future business partners.

Christine Kalafus, entrepreneur and owner of Stitch Drapery , labored long and hard on the development of her business card. Because she designs and installs custom window treatments, it was critical to convey the premium nature of the brand experience she was providing to her clients. She chose square rich, thick paper and specified embossed inks to properly convey her brand. When she hands out her square business card, it’s a completely tactile experience that subtly begins to let her potential customers know what a rich and lovely experience they will have by working with her.

So what does your brand stand for and how can that be expressed through your business card? Take the time to review your brand characteristics and figure out what impression or action you want to create when someone is holding it in their hands. It could be that you want to elicit a smile or make them pick up the phone to call you. Then figure out how that gets expressed graphically and visually.

Then, the next time you are exchanging business cards with someone, the experience will be elevated so far beyond the mundane passing of cookie-cutter cards. You’ll spark rich conversations, convey something about your brand, and feel great about this mini-brochure that makes a strong brand statement for you and your company.



web-1608427__340As I have been helping companies develop intelligent digital marketing plans, I have had to keep up with many different marketing disciplines, and one that I have gotten to know more about recently is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Although I always knew it was a serious discipline, I never really understood it fully. I had a vague notion that if you identified your keywords and put those as meta-tags and meta-descriptions throughout the various pages of your website, this would be good enough. It might take a while, but eventually, Google would find you and add you to the list of others who do what you do. Boy, was that naïve thinking!

There’s a lot more to it than that. SEO can be a full-time discipline and by activating the expertise and prowess of these professionals, a website can jump from complete obscurity to Google page 1 in a matter of months for as little as $199/month! It’s still a little bit magical to me, but there is a science to it. By systematically placing articles and directory notifications throughout the worldwide web, any website can rise quickly in their ranking. The tricky part is, though, that if you put yourself out there in too many places too quickly, the search engines may declare you a “spammer” (thus negating all your hard work). This is called Black Hat SEO and is to be avoided.

I have worked over the past six months with my digital partner, Starboard Digital, to help create digital marketing plans and execute SEO programs THAT WORK! The team of experts activates an organic SEO campaign that helps clients achieve phenomenal results. How does a website go from 3,000 hits per month to 11,000 hits per month in just 3 months without spending tens of thousands of dollars a month? By carefully reviewing the possible keywords, evaluating online search patterns, picking the right keywords, and executing an ongoing on-site and off-site SEO plan, web-wide, that optimizes the site by leveraging the algorithms used by today’s top search engines.

There are other methods for building traffic to your site, but nothing has the long-lasting impact that organic SEO can provide. An Organic SEO Campaign involves the following steps:

  • Review the client’s online goals and digital plan, paying close attention to details on what describes the ideal client(s). This will help guide your SEO team to find the right keywords for your site.
  • Research relevant keywords – priority is given to find those terms relevant to the ideal client, identified target market and SEO goals that will convert website visitors into leads.
  • Review the site’s existing content with regards to researched keywords and perform on-site SEO optimization including title tags, meta-tags and descriptions.
  • Manage the potential recommendations of additional SEO’d website content and social media content that will creative positive visitor experiences online, support SEO goals, and create more opportunity for lead generation.
  • Implement off-site SEO efforts including Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics setup and configuration, directory submissions, article marketing, social marketing, on-going link building, competitor analysis, and website traffic reporting.
  • Monitor/Measure SEO Results. Choosing the right success metrics and setting goals is one of the most important pieces of any search engine marketing campaign. An SEO campaign is measurable, and adjustments are made based on how the site is performing.

Want to dramatically build traffic to your website? Give us a call; we can help you develop a smart SEO plan that fits in with your overall digital strategy and builds traffic to your site.


auditorium-572776__340I have several speaking engagements over the next ten days and would love to see you there.

Turbo-Charge Your Brand at the CT Expo
June 9th 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

The Connecticut Expo is HUGE, a tremendous learning and networking opportunity for you and your whole team to learn new skills, meet other businesses, grow your business and prosper in the coming year! The 2011 CT Business Expo will offer free educational seminars hosted by industry elite speakers and trainers in sales, marketing, technology and management. All of the educational seminars will be held in custom built classrooms on the show floor – providing convenience for attendees and maximum foot traffic for exhibitors. Admission is free and the duration of each seminar is 45 minutes.

Branding Your Business Without Breaking the Bank,
Business and Entrepreneurs Workshop sponsored by CTREIA
June 13th, 6:30 pm-9 pm

Make 2011 YOUR year to create business success. Whether you are just starting a business, or have been an entrepreneur for years, you will get tons of value from attending this event. Bring your business cards, and your associates – there will be ample time for networking and for getting the stuff-behind-the-stuff to be successful in business in TODAY’s Economy. We’ll talk about leading edge marketing activities that can take your business to the next level of profitability

Be sure to register in advance online for this one to get a huge discount (in advance, $24, at the door, $49).

Turbo-Charge Your Communications at the ALPFA meeting June 16th
At the ING offices in Windsor, CT 5:30 pm – 7 pm

ALPFA is the leading national association to develop Latino executives and students in the areas of business, finance, accounting and related fields. We will be talking about how to communicate more clearly, to enhance your personal brand standing and turbo-charge your career.

I hope to see you at one (or more) of these events!


One plus one really does equal three!

For over three years, I have taught Branding, Positioning and Marketing at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. I have met all types of entrepreneurs at every stage of business development—those who want to start/have started/want to sell their entrepreneurial idea to someone. Being an entrepreneur is great—there’s a sense of freshness and innovation that comes from building something new….but it can also be quite lonely. You have to carry the energy of the company/product/service all by yourself. As a Business Advisor for The Entrepreneurial Center, I have also provided one-on-one coaching to entrepreneurs, so I have seen first-hand how business owners benefit from having expert advice for the growth of their business.

That’s why I’m so excited about a new program The Entrepreneurial Center is providing, the Women’s Business Roundtable, a monthly program that allows entrepreneurs to discuss the strategy and tactics for growing their businesses. This program is also designed to provide women entrepreneurs on-going access to experts in finance, legal matters, marketing, cash flow management, sales techniques, and every other aspect of business that women entrepreneurs must juggle. Every month, there will be an opportunity to revisit the critical areas of your business, including branding best practices, cash flow management, developing sales strategies and addressing legal issues that arise in your business.

If you are a woman who lives in Connecticut and you’d like to stop struggling in your business and tap into expert resources that you might not have been able to afford on your own, you should come to the free Entrepreneurial Center Open House on March 9th. Here are some of the benefits of coming to the Open House on March 9th:

  • Find out more about how you can get involved in the Women’s Business Roundtable
  • Get a free professional photograph (headshot) that you can use on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites
  • Provide feedback to the Entrepreneurial Center about programs and advice you need to grow your business
  • Network with other like-minded entrepreneurial women to create business opportunities for all!

I hope to see you there.

If you’re not a Connecticut Business woman, you should seek out those who can help you develop your ideas and grow your business. Here are some ideas for ways to get some expert help:

  • Check out the activities of your local SBA (Small Business Administration) office. There are tons of low/no-cost programs that can give your business an injection of inspiration or information that might be just what you need!
  • Call us! We at Beacon Marketing have inspired countless other businesses to better marketing success and would be happy to help your venture grow
  • Gather your own group of networking contacts to brainstorm about each other’s businesses

As Mark Victor Hansen says, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” Gather your team and watch your business prosper!

Save the date of March 9th
from 4:30-6:30 pm.
To sign up, 
please click here
or call 860-768-5681 for more information!



Dear Lord, we thank Thee for this day,
In Which So Much Love Has been Expressed.
We Thank Thee For Thy Protection and Guidance
And For The Privilege Of Gaining
A Greater Understanding of Good.

That is the prayer that we said at my house all my life. This Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for the “greater understanding of good” I get to experience in my professional life. I’m grateful for:

  • Every client I am allowed to help to develop a marketing plan, better understand their target audience or strengthen their brand positioning
  • Each of the coaching clients I am able to help and the team I work with as a Business Advisor for the SBA Women’s Business Center
  • Everyone who asks me to come inspire and motivate their group
  • All those who sit in the audience seeking their Signature for Success and learn about how to more authentically express their personal brand
  • All the phenomenal partners I get to work with
  • Everyone involved in the Turbo-Charge Your Career book project
  • Everyone whose lives are touched by Send Out Cards
  • All the students in my classes at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center
  • Mentors, friends and family who have provided inspiration, ideas, and encouragement throughout this past year
  • Being able to share the Send Out Cards opportunity with my family and friends

I am grateful for YOU. Thank you for being a part of my professional life.

It is a joy to serve you, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to work with you!

I wish you a bountiful holiday season. May 2011 be your best year yet!