"as needed" is now Business Odyssey

Why a "plain vanilla" newsletter

Marketing feature: Back to Basics - Marketing Infrastructure

Entrepreneurship feature: Are You Ready?

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If you are wondering who the heck Business Odyssey is, here is the answer - we used to be "as needed." We adopted the new name about a year ago and have now completed phasing it in. The name "as needed" will no longer be used.

The name change reflects a more focused effort in meeting the needs of both veteran and novice entrepreneurs. While we continue to offer marketing support services, we have added increased emphasis on training and strategic, business and marketing planning functions.

For more detailed information about our services, visit our web page at


Deciding to start an e-mail newsletter is easy. Figuring out exactly how to accomplish the task is a little more difficult. One of the most important things to consider is technological limitations - both yours and your subscribers'.

You can choose to have a service produce the newsletter for you and let them worry about these details. Or, you can keep the format simple and do-it-yourself which is what we have done.

This "plain vanilla" format has several advantages. All e-mail systems can accommodate this simple text format. It transmits and downloads quickly. Text-only newsletters can take up much less space on subscribers' hard drives and are easily copied and pasted into files where they will be used.

More sophisticated formatting, graphics and colors are possible with HTML. However, some e-mail systems will rearrange the formatting or even convert the document into a garbled mass of code. With other formats such as PDF, the reader needs the correct software - although that is usually free and easily downloaded.

A side note: Most reputable e-mailers who use HTML also will provide an option for receiving messages in plain text. You might want to look for this option because spammers sending only in the HTML format often insert script in the program which can verify that your e-mail address is valid. Your address is then added to their list and can be sold to others generating still more junk e-mail.


Many years ago, I chose the field of marketing largely because it looked like fun. I find the work very satisfying because it can be alternatively creative and analytical. In this series of articles, I am going to address the part of marketing that nobody wants to discuss - the boring part. In more than 12 years of working with smaller businesses, I have learned that a lot of time, energy and money is wasted because there is no marketing "infrastructure" in place. A company might have great brochures, a sophisticated logo, an advertising budget to be envied. Yet, sales do not reach expectations.

In reality, these businesses are probably generating more than enough leads but are not fully utilizing them to close the sale. And, it could be that YOU have more than enough leads if you knew how to get the most out of them.

The key is to have a system or infrastructure. In order to build an effective marketing infrastructure, you need to know how the selling process works. First, let's start with several points which seem to surprise many people.

SURPRISE #1. Every contact is a potential sale, even the ones who say "NO." People say "no" for many reasons. Timing might be bad. They have a headache. Money is short this month. They have other things on their mind. And so on. Contacting them at a later date might yield different results. And, the prospect is a little "warmer" because they already know about you.

SURPRISE #2. Everyone who you know, knows someone who needs your product or service. Everyone - even your Great Aunt Tilly. Even if you market an exotic industrial technology product. The thing is that your Great Aunt Tilly probably does not know that she knows someone who could use that product. You need to be telling EVERYONE you know about your product or service.

SURPRISE #3. The easiest sale to make, is to someone you already know: clients, customers, friends, business associates, clubs, churches, etc. People usually prefer to do business with someone they already know. With family, friends, fellow club members, etc., a relationship is already there. This is your "warm" market.

Which brings us to the subject of the next installment in this series: Relationship Building vs. the Sales Pitch. Watch for it in the next edition of the Chronicle.


Some of our readers are just starting out in their own businesses while others are old hands. No matter what your experience level, everyone needs to do a periodic self- assessment and keep their skills up-to-date. If you have been in business for a few years and have not examined your own strengths and weaknesses in a while, this might be a good time to do that. If you are starting a new business, the self-assessment is an important first step. A good starting point is to compare your skills to the skills that are needed to run a business. As a business owner you will need to understand finance, marketing, purchasing, contract negotiation, hiring, employee management, and much more. Fortunately, most of us have at least a few of the skills needed to get started. No one needs all of them to be successful. The trick is in being brutally honest about what you are able to do yourself, where you need additional training, and where you need to hire expert help.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine your basic skill and interest levels for some very routine business chores.

FINANCE: Are you good at budgeting, paying bills on time and doing your own tax return? Is it easy for you to balance your checkbook each month?

OPERATIONS: Are you good at organizing and planning family events, delegating tasks to other family members and clearly (patiently) explaining how something should be done?

MARKETING: Are you good at utilizing library and on-line sources for gathering information? Can you see things from someone else's point of view even if it's different from your own? Are you comfortable starting conversations with strangers?

If you are good at these things and enjoy doing them, then you can learn how to apply them to a business. If you are not comfortable with any of them, then you need to decide if you have the desire and interest to learn or if you would be better off hiring or partnering with someone who knows that aspect of the business.

Many resources are available to help you do an in-depth evaluation and to educate yourself about operating a business. Visit and go to our Web Links and Resources & Tools pages for a start. Reviews of several books which we have found especially useful can be found there as well as links to internet business resources.

If you are in the Greater Cleveland area, you can sign up for one of the Business Odyssey classes at either Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights or at Lakewood High School in Lakewood. Go to the Training & Seminar Calendar for class descriptions and registration information.


We'd love to hear from you! If you have questions, comments or issues that you would like to see featured in Chronicle articles, please send an e-mail to