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Brelsford’s Dozen Rules – Low-cost and free marketing opportunities

Hi there folks – I am Harry Brelsford, the author of the accliamed SMB Consulting Best Practices book. I am posting up a especially useful passage on free or low-cost ways to market yourself as an SMB technology channel partner and consultant.

BTW – I hold an amazing conference each fall. The 7th Annual SMB Nation conference is Oct 2-4 in Las Vegas!

Free Marketing Opportunities

“Ah, finally!” you say, your favorite part of the chapter: free marketing stuff. I agree. Many inexperienced business people, SMB consultants included, overpay for marketing functions. There is a time and a place for top dollar and top shelf, but it’s unlikely now is that time. Rather, for the SMB consultant on the way up, it’s critical to keep expenses low in order to keep ROI high (more on ROI mathematics in the Minder section of this book). In this section, I spell out a few freebies you can start using tomorrow.

Brelsford’s Dozen: Giveth business cards

Set a goal of giving out 12 of your business cards per quarter (every 90 days) from this point forward, which amounts to one business card per week, a modest and achievable goal. Over time, this becomes a very powerful tool, as you’re name will spread exponentially in your community.


BEST PRACTICE: The above point of “modest and achievable” shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s been said time and time again from the school of life to the hallowed halls of the Harvard MBA program that a successful business person doesn’t do one thing great but does lots of little things well. That is, you don’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon to invent new marketing models to be success­ful. Rather, just give away one of your business cards per week.

Consider some of the group listed in the last section (chamber of commerce, Rotary, etc.) as avenues for you to attend events, participate in meetings, AND give away that weekly business card.

BEST PRACTICE: You can also do what Dorothy did. (No, I don’t mean click your heels and say “There’s no place like home!”) I used to work with a seasoned professional named Dorothy a while back at a national contracting firm called 1-800-NETWORK. At the time, being full of pride, I probably didn’t learn as much from Dorothy as I could have. However, reflecting back and having made amends, I think Dorothy really had a great practice when it came to giving away business cards. Dorothy’s technique was to hand out two business cards at once with the phrase “…one for you and one to pass on to a friend.” Needless to say, it was easy for Dor­othy to meet and exceed her card giveaway quota.

To Dorothy -> you go girl!

Brelsford’s Dozen: Receiveth business cards

Not surprisingly, you now want to endeavor to obtain a dozen business cards per quarter (again, one per week). This is a fundamental SMB consulting marketing activity—and how you build your book of contacts. My premise here is simple enough. In Chapter 7, you’ll learn more about being a rainmaker as I expand on the “building the book” concept.

Brelsford’s Dozen: Attend a dozen marketing events per quarter

Now for one of my favorite activities: eating hotel donuts and drinking coffee at marketing functions. Seriously, your goal is to be an SMB consultant on the fast track. You need to be seen everywhere, much like a rising star in


Hollywood. You’re job here isn’t as difficult as the cast of NBC’s top-rated show Friends, who necessarily need to be seen at the trendiest LA restaurants. Rather, it’s to find some marketing venue to attend each week and “been seen.” A couple of ideas:

• Host a table at a Microsoft Big Day/Business Solutions Seminar in the USA. I followed the Big Day circuit for over a year in the Pacific Northwest and had my table with other technology professionals in the back of the presentation room. The idea here was that local technology professionals could register to host a table for the day and speak to attendees (primarily business people) during the breaks and lunch hour. The table sign-up process is shown in Figure 5-16 and is found from the main Microsoft Business Solutions Seminar Web site (www.msbigday.com) by clicking the Technology Providers link on the left side.

Figure 5-16:

Microsoft’s Big Day/Business Solutions Seminar is a great free marketing method for SMB consultants seeking exposure. You must register for a table to present your brochure and other marketing materials.



BEST PRACTICE: Expanding on the marketing versus sales discus­sion centering around Microsoft Big Day/Business Solutions Semi­nars, I can offer the following. When I hosted a table at these events, I found it to be true marketing. Introductions were made and it was incumbent on me to follow up on the lead I obtained. I never consummated a sales transaction at my table, thus I didn’t view it as strongly as a sales event. Go ahead, host your own table, and make your own judgment. One thing is for sure—the price was right: FREE!

• Join a trade group. Earlier I spoke about the WSTPA trade group I belong to. I consider my monthly meeting to be one of my required marketing meetings. That’s because the WSTPA has a real social element to it where “networking” (the human interaction form, not the multi-layer OSI model approach) is strongly encouraged. Another example shown in Figure 5-17, is the monthly chamber of commerce mixer (typically called “After Hours”). Nearly every chamber hosts such an event and, once you’ve paid your membership, attendance is usually free (or costs little). When you think about it, it really doesn’t cost anything to stand around and talk to the membership, eh? Salute!

Figure 5-17:

As an example, here is the Bainbridge Island Chamber’s announcement for the after hours event and monthly luncheon.



• Make-ups. So what if you miss a weekly marketing venue? What to do? Like the Rotary club, you need to endeavor to do a “make-up” meeting. You’re not relieved of this responsibility. Like taking antibiotics for a health malady, you can double-up after missing.

Microsoft marketing machine

The Microsoft Partner’s Web site provides a wealth of marketing materials at www.microsoft.com and even some special marketing opportunities. In Figure 5-18, you’ll see a recent SBS promotion (the SBS 2000 channel services provider rebate program) where, after passing an SBS assessment examination, you could be listed in the worldwide partner locator tool. These deals come and go with great frequency, so please continue to monitor the Microsoft Partner Web site closely. A specific link to Microsoft marketing materials is members.microsoft.com/partner/salesmarketing/marketingtools/ default.aspx?nav=rn

Figure 5-18:

At no cost to you, by participating in the recent SBS 2000 service channel rebate program and passing the online assessment exam, you were listed for free in the partner locator tool for potential clients to find you.



Another wealth of Microsoft marketing support is the “Go To Market” (GTM) campaign I’ve mentioned several times in this book. A recent four-day GTM Hot Lab offered the following ISA Server resources to attendees, in the form of two discs, on the third day of the event, which was dedicated to security (Figure 5-19).

Figure 5-19:

ISA Server marketing materials (disc-based) given at the GTM campaign. You did not need to pay for these marketing materials, although there was a modest fee to attend the GTM ($50 per day US).




BEST PRACTICE: If you’d like to attend GTMs and benefit from Microsoft’s marketing resources, sign up via the Microsoft Partner site at www.microsoft.com/partner. One vendor that presents the GTM Hands-on Labs, Ascentus from Vancouver, BC, listed these GTM campaigns recently on its Web site at www.asentus. net (Figure 5-20).

Figure 5-20:

More and more GTMs can be expected worldwide over the next several years from Microsoft.




Finally, there is the “must read” Microsoft Partner’s newsletter that is shown in Figure 5-21. You can subscribe to this at the Microsoft site for partners explained earlier in this section. This newsletter is a mother lode of free or nearly free partner benefits. Get it! Read it! Use it!

Figure 5-21:

Microsoft Partner’s newsletter. Notice the first item is a free support offering.




Brelsford’s Mailbox


I am a consultant at a medium-sized IT firm. My company targets big projects from large corporations. I tried to sell them on the idea of a small business “practice” that would concentrate on building and supporting SBS networks. They showed no interest. Lately, I have been contemplating leaving my firm to develop an SBS consultant business. I am a good tech, but I am not a salesman. What specific steps do I take to get started?

Thanks in advance.



Dallas, Texas

# # #

Hi, Ladd!

Thanks for the e-mail and great story. I’d like to emphasize simplicity. In my writings, I speak towards something as simple as giving out your business card this week to a business person. Period. Then next week repeat the same behavior. Likewise, try to receive a business card this week from a business person and then repeat that behavior next week.

The road to SMB consulting success isn’t so much knowing the nuts and bolts of SBS (which I assume you already know), but in marketing yourself. This road is paved with a thousand successfully completed simple marketing tasks, not one enormous breakthrough marketing idea. Far too many people focus on the one killer idea and don’t complete very basic tasks, such as giving and receiving business cards. You get the point.

The chapter in my SMB Consulting Best Practices book, in which your e-mail appears, is loaded with tons of marketing stuff using the old five Ps of marketing lecture. Combined with the other chapters in my book, you’re probably going to suffer from information overload on what your next steps are. But please! Just take one simple step at a time.

All the best to you mate… .harrybbbbb


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J

PPS – my fall show, SMB Nation Fall 2009, is in Las Vegas on October 2-4, 2009.


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SMB technology consulting success factors [SMB consulting Best Practices book]

Hello there….as the markets continue to trade….I continue to post up pages from my SMB Consulting Best Practices book as something of a virtual book reading. Today we look at success factors!



Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host an annual conference in Seattle each october for SBSers and SMB consultants? This year we help launch SBS 2008 and Essential Business Server (EBS) between October 4-6!

SMB Consulting Success Factors

Many of the following observations are my firsthand experiences, confirmed time and time again in the SMB consulting trenches.

Communication skills — Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear the
following: An SMB consultant, largely working alone and out of

view from his business clients, scores a major technical success with Small Business Server. But the SMB consultant fails to communicate this coup to the client, who, being unaware of the new technical capability, neither congratulates the SMB consultant on a job well done nor takes advantage of the new capability. An example of this would be implementing the send fax capability of the Shared Fax Service in SBS. Perhaps the client has enjoyed the receive fax capability for some time but didn’t know that he could easily send faxes from the desktop as well, saving precious time. SMB consult­ants, often armed with abundant technical aptitude, need to constantly tell themselves to be a communicator as well (more on this in future chapters).

·        Technical skills — It’s assumed an SMB consultant has the technical skills to solve technical problems (the old “merchant of the trade” assumption in the Uniform Commercial Code legal treatise); however, such is not always the case. Many people are technically unqualified to work on networking solutions such as SBS. Clients pay for bona fide technical solutions when they retain an SMB consultant and expect you to quickly achieve an acceptable technol­ogy outcome. I’ve seen clients become frustrated at some SMB consultants who are great communicators but can’t make SBS budge. Bottom line, while all the other SMB consulting success factors are important, you still have to produce favorable technical results.

·        Business acumen — Do you know how to work efficiently and effectively? Can you schedule and budget your time? Do you show up on time for your appointments? I have witnessed brilliant SMB consultants who have been very poor business people. And by poor business people, I mean both incompetent and unprofitable.

·        Business-development activities — You are the master of your craft and are doing everything right technically. People think you’re a great SMB guru, but you have little or no business activity. Why? Because you aren’t gaining new accounts. After spending a couple years in the profession, many SMB consultants come to realize how much selling they must do. A successful SMB consultant is always developing business.

·        Ability to deal with confusion and chaos — SMB consultants are subject to rapidly shifting small business technology solutions from Microsoft, not to mention rapidly shifting client priorities. Many of the best SMB consultants thrive in this volatile professional environ­ment. As SMB consultants like to say with pride: “Every day is different in my job!”

·        Successful track record — A key indicator of a successful SMB consulting career can be found in your professional track record. Many star performers who hold in-house positions as competent network administrators make great SMB consultants. Past perfor­mance is usually the best predictor of the future outcomes concern­ing achievement in professional services.

·        Countless variables — If any of us knew the true predictors of what makes a successful SMB consultant, we’d bottle such a formula. And before we knew it, Bill Gates would be shining our shoes. The point is that your unique gifts may make you a successful SMB consultant where others have tried and failed. Because you’re providing profes­sional services, there is a huge human element here that isn’t easy to quantify, cannot be taught, and to which no one holds the patent.

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Forward! [SMB Consulting Best Practices excerpt]

Hi friends – I am having waayyyy toooo much fun this later summer out here on Bainridge! I will not start posting up a few pages a day from my SMB Consulting Best Practices book. So let me start at the beginning with the FOREWARD from Michael Vizard.

All goodness all the time….more tomorrow….



Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host an annual conference in Seattle each october for SBSers and SMB consultants? This year we help launch SBS 2008 and Essential Business Server (EBS) between October 4-6!


To live free, make an impact, enjoy your work, and make a profit. Those are the primary life goals of most any SMB consultant you are likely to meet. The trick is that an SMB consultant can’t get too hung up on any one of those four issues, because the secret to happiness is to balance those often conflicting needs, rather than letting any one of them dominate at the expense of the other three.

Of course, this is all much easier said than done, so it takes an extraordinary individual to be a successful SMB consultant. Unlike their mercurial customers, the SMB entrepreneur needs to combine patience with business insight to help guide their customers through a labyrinth of technology choices that can easily aggravate a class of customers who are keenly aware “time is money.”

The simple truth is the SMB owner is the most challenging customer in the IT industry because, more often than not, their business can flourish or expire thanks to the right or wrong technology decision. Alas, nothing in this industry is ever as straightforward as it seems, so a nervous SMB owner who is typically worried about making payroll can easily be led astray. And once that happens, a torrent of frustration and recrimination is quickly unleashed squarely on the head of the SMB consultant.

All too frequently this leads to the tarring of all SMB consultants in the same way a few bad lawyers or journalists can cast aspersions on an entire profession. Of course, there are times when the misstep of a consultant does lead to some debacle, but the root cause of that disaster is usually ignorance rather than malfeasance. All told, the vast majority of SMB consultants are a credit to the industry.

Whether an SMB consultant created their practice as a deliberate act to advance their careers or as an unintended consequence derived from events beyond their control, everybody needs a helping hand. So we at CRN applaud the publishing of a book that seeks to increase the number of savvy SMB consultants in the world, which will reduce the number of failed IT projects and consulting practices while simultaneously increasing the value proposition of technology itself.

It’s important to remember that the technology industry as a whole would not exist as we know it today if it were not for the SMB consultants serving as its evangelists for countless products. More often than not, it is the SMB market leading the way in terms of bringing new technology innovations to market.

That becomes even more apparent when you consider the challenges of the SMB owner. With fewer resources and people, the SMB owner frequently needs to compete for business against larger rivals by being more adroit. And in the absence of larger rivals, there’s always the need to be more efficient, because the cardinal rule of business is “Revenue drives growth.”

The only way to achieve those twin goals is to reduce the steps it takes to execute a business process and increase revenue per employee. And the quickest way to do that is to maximize a technological edge before any one else does.

Of course, most SMB owners are not technological gurus. So they turn to trusted SMB consultants to get them through the all-too-often daunting tasks associated with investing in technology. For the industry as whole, this means the SMB consultant is the primary way the word gets out about which products work and which don’t. Without the guidance of the SMB consultant, billions of dollars spent on technology marketing would fall on the deaf ears of SMB owners too busy to appreciate the lasting impact any given technology can have on their business.

So here’s a salute to the SMB consultant. For the most part, they make a good living and enjoy being masters of their own domain. But more often than not, they are typically underappreciated and undervalued by vendors who are more focused on the name on the check than the actual person who got them the deal.

We can only hope that with the publishing of more books such as this one, it will become easier for a larger number of people to form their own SMB consulting practices. Lest we forget, it is the SMB consultant who truly forms the bulwark of this industry and, as such, we are invested in their success.

Yours very truly,

Michael Vizard,

Editor In Chief, CRN

Michael Vizard joined CMP Mediaπs CRN, the newsweekly for builders of technology solutions, as editor in chief in August 2002. In this role, Mr. Vizard is responsible for the strategic vision of the newsweekly, ensuring editorial coverage goals are met by evolving the reporting and editorial beats to accommodate readers’ information needs.

Mr. Vizard has more than 15 years of computer technology and publishing experience. In 2001 and 2002, Mr. Vizard was voted one of the Top 30 Most Influential Technology Journalists by Technology Marketing. He was also named one of the Top 15 media influencers in the trade press category. Prior to joining CRN, Mr. Vizard spent seven years as editor in chief of Info World Media Group, where he was responsible for managing strategic editorial partnerships, the day-to-day management of Info World’s editorial department, and leading the content of InfoWorld Online.

Prior to joining InfoWorld, Mr. Vizard had been an editor at PC Week, Computerworld, Digital Review, and ebn.

Mr. Vizard holds a degree in journalism from Boston University.

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