090: Better clients with bigger budgets with Ilise Benun

Ilise has been on the show before, and I had the opportunity to catch up with her at the HOW Design Live conference to see what she is up to these days.

Ilise runs Marketing Mentor, a company focused on helping creative clients get better clients with bigger budgets.

In this episode with Ilise, we dive into her story, how she got started, some of the biggest mistakes she’s seen creatives make, and some of the best growth tactics she’s seen as well.

Ilise shares a ton of great insights in this episode, and I absolutely love having her on.

What is Marketing Mentor?

As I mentioned above, Ilise’s company is focused on teaching and advising creatives how to market themselves. She does that in many ways, but the core of her business is 1 on 1 mentoring.

A lot of times, people can’t do everything it takes to promote themselves all at once. They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone to keep them focused. And, they need someone who can give them the right information right when they need it.

In talking with Ilise, the sharing of pertinent information is why 1 on 1 mentoring is the most effective method that she has seen for working with creatives.

People can read blog posts, listen to podcasts, and take in a ton of great information, but if they don’t have the specific information they need at the right moment, that information can be wasted.

As a mentor, she is able to evaluate her client’s needs and give them the information that will help them most at that time.

How did you become the Marketing Mentor?

When Ilise started her journey, she was a really bad networker and a really bad employee. She got fired from a job early in her career, and she decided she wasn’t going to work for anyone ever again.

She set out on her own and had to learn by making mistakes. Since she hadn’t spent much time in an agency or company, she didn’t have the opportunity to learn from what everyone else was doing.

She began to get involved with creatives and found that they all at something at the bottom of their piles that they weren’t getting to. This thing was self promotion, and she consistently saw it as a problem.

Ilise noticed that the clutter and disorganization of these creatives was the obstacle that they were putting in their own way.

You have to be very organized to do your marketing in an effective way.

Over time, she has evolved her business to the needs of the market. She didn’t go into it saying, “I’m only going to go do this one thing.” She looked to see what she could help with. She continually changed her services to narrow down her audience to see who needed the most help and who was responding most to her message.

What does it look like working with creatives?

Staying focused on one thing for an extended period of time can be difficult for someone with a very creative mind, so I was curious to know how Ilise went about helping her clients in this way.

Her clients bring her in to guide them. So, when they get distracted and want to jump around on tasks, she simply has to tell them no.

Creatives, just like anyone else, needs the self discipline to commit to something for a certain time or until a certain result is achieved. If you don’t have this, you need to get it from somewhere outside yourself.

Because her clients trust her to be that outside source to keep them disciplined, they usually respond very well to her turning down spontaneous changes in direction.

Tactics for better clients

Since Ilise’s main focus is on getting better clients with bigger budgets, I was interested in some of the tactics she has seen success with for her clients.

Email newsletter

The first tactic she mentioned was an email newsletter.

The idea behind this is that it is not just a newsletter you are putting out, it is that you are putting a message in front of the people who want to see you. You get to stay on their radar, and even though you may not hear from them for a very very long time, you are gaining mental real estate that builds trust through repetition.

It is because of this that they will come to you in their moment of need.

People are often afraid to do this, because they think they are harassing people. But, you can offer it as a way to keep in touch. Ilise will send an initial email when she adds someone to her list that lets the recipient know that they have been added and to let her know if they don’t want her to follow up.

Creating content

I’ve talked about it a ton on blogs and podcasts, but creating content where you can include other people is huge for building a network and landing new clients.

Ilise mentioned both blogging and podcasting as great tools. In fact, the relationship that I have built with Ilise through both blogging and podcasting is the reason I was able to be a speaker at the HOW Design Live conference.

Relationships are everything in business, and these forms of content can help you build trust with others. If you use your content to build these relationships and then stay in touch over time, you can often be top of mind when someone is in need of your service.

Personalized, custom outreach

There are a lot of times when people need to win clients quickly, and the time it takes to build and develop relationships through creating content or through a newsletter is just too long.

When you need to win new clients quickly, personalized, custom outreach can be a great tactic.

The thing with outbound is that it is a numbers game, but you have the opportunity to reach someone in need.

To do this though, you have to know exactly who your target market is, and you must be focused.

Ilise mentioned personalized, custom outreach, because basic email or cold calling campaigns often lack the strong impression that is needed. When you are reaching out cold, there is no trust in the relationship. You have to go about building this relationship in a way that you can overcome this obstacle quickly.

Knowing where to be and what to share

Another important step to winning new clients is by being in the right places.

Once you are clear on where your ideal clients are, you need to figure out where they go when they are in their moment of need. Is there a forum where they post questions? Are they in an association? Do they communicate in specific LinkedIn or Facebook groups? Do they attend specific conferences? These are all important questions to ask when finding where to invest your time.

You want to present your ideas in a forum where your prospects will see you and come to you. Once you’re there, position yourself as an expert, and stay in touch with them over time.

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