Melanie Neal spent her corporate career doing some pretty amazing marketing for various companies. Entrepreneurship always tugged on her heart, but it wasn’t until a difficult boss came into the picture when she decided to take the leap and build her own marketing consulting business.
Where did the idea come from and what made you decide to leave the corporate world? Since she was 13, she had an idea she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Climbing the corporate ladder was no longer satisfying, and she felt it was time she may want to start doing her own thing.
When and why did you take the plunge? She had started to look for another job, and after she realized she had no desire to really work for these companies, she decided it might be time to make that leap. Her background in marketing was really varied, so she felt the experience helped her build a strong base for her business.
Did you keep a bridge job or just take the leap? She jumped off the cliff. Although, she did look for a part-time job before quitting. The part-time job wasn’t happening fast enough, but the stars did align for her to quit her job. Instead of taking her annual birthday trip, she stayed home and built a website for her company. She gave her two weeks after returning from that vacation.
What was her first step? Building a website. She used the tools to create a website quickly and easily. She then built her social media presence.
What has been your biggest obstacle? She’s great with people, and she many times wins business. However, it’s been harder for her to sell and prospect. She has come to the realization that no matter how busy she is, she needs to be out prospecting.
What changes have you had to make from your original course? Before she made the leap, she had met with about 4 or 5 peers who had already taken the leap, so she had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However, one big piece of advice they gave her was to learn to use her to use her time wisely. She found herself meeting with people and spending several hours with them, only to have them end up deciding to take what she had suggested and try it themselves. So she had to learn to manage her time properly and charge for time.
What did you do from the start to really set your value of yourself? She would take on projects at the beginning, like audits, etc to offer people advice on what they could change. Although she was usually doing that for free, she utilized those into references. As she became more successful, she did have to change her strategy to do a phone call screen first, instead of driving first for face to face. This helped screen out people who may need something that she can’t offer. It has cut down on a lot of time to discover something that could have been found out over a 10-minute phone call.
What has been a big marketing win? She was introduced to a former contestant and winner on Shark Tank who wanted to launch a speaking career. Never having done that before, she took him n, and created an event for him. The event was very successful, and not only helped her client, but it ended up turning into awareness for her brand. After seeing her name from that event, people looked at her as an expert and reached out to her for marketing help. She was able to leverage those online promotions, etc for the event. She continues to work with the gentle man on Shark Tank, plus she got added business.
What’s one thing you wish you would have known before getting into business? Thanks to the peer interviews she conducted before quitting, she knew a lot about what to expect. A small customer can eat up 80% of your time, and your large client can eat up 20%. However, she still needs to be more diligent about prospecting even when she’s busy and understanding about seasonal clients.
What’s one piece of advice you would give someone wanting to take the leap? It’s always best if you build your company on the side. Although it’s hard because finding the energy to work the second job can be difficult. However, work to find those clients while you have a bridge job.
After a year of now doing this on your own, do you still have a passion for marketing? She loves being on her own because she can make big changes that make huge impacts on small businesses without anyone else stepping in and making changes.
What’s the one thing in your business that you can’t live without? The mobile apps for the social platforms. Then she can do that on her mobile phone if she’s traveling. Facebook page manager, etc.
What are the social media tools that are crucial for your business? Right now for her customers, it’s mainly Facebook.
Any last pieces of advice or words of wisdom? Entrepreneurship it’s not for everyone. If you don’t have the stomach to weather the ups and downs of a steady paycheck. However, on the other side can be very rewarding for those who want control of their own schedule.
More about Melanie: Founder and Marketing Strategist at Zella Ruby Media, Melanie helps businesses grow. By providing strategic consulting, a multitude of marketing products and services, she helps clients acquire and retain customers. Prior to starting her own business she spent over ten years managing successful marketing programs for B2Bs, B2Cs & Non-profits. She has worked with numerous brands to develop engaging interactive marketing campaigns including: Mountain Dew, ePrize, Machinima, Xbox, AVP, NBA, Sony, Ubisoft, Activision, Global Gaming League, Nintendo, NFL, Electronic Arts, Def Jam, 2K Sports, Rockstar Games, Lucas Arts, NBA Europe & Major League Gaming. Melanie has an MBA in Marketing from The University of Dallas. Connect with Melanie on one of her social profiles below!
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