Feature Story

Ilise Benun

Co-founder, Marketing Mentor, blogger and author

Q: I understand you’ve spent only three years working for someone other than yourself. What was your first indication that you wanted to start your own business?

Ilise: I wish I could say that I had thought about starting my own business before I did. But the truth is that I was fired from my second job out of school and was so angry (and naïve) that I decided I’d never work for anyone again. Everyone in my family had always been self employed so that’s probably why I imagined I could but it was never a conscious choice until it happened. 20 years later, I thank the man who fired me and could never go back to work for someone else. I’m addicted to the freedom!

Q: You work with many small business owners and have undoubtedly seen many businesses take off, while watching others flounder. What do you see as the distinguishing characteristics of a thriving business or business owner?

Ilise: Without question, there are two distinguishing characteristics: self knowledge and perseverance. To succeed in running a business, you must know your strengths and weaknesses so you can either learn the necessary skills and/or get help to make up for the weaknesses. And you must never give up. That is not to say that you don’t adapt and be flexible in order to find a way to make it work. But if you’re the type that gives up easily, self-employment is not for you.

Q: Many people are intimidated by self-promotion. What kind of advice would you give someone with trepidations about marketing himself or herself?

Ilise: There is really nothing to be afraid of. Most people who are afraid don’t understand what it is because they haven’t done it. Practice, guidance and experience allow the fear to recede and be replaced by competence and success. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn from your mistakes.

Q: What’s the difference between marketing yourself and marketing a product?

Ilise: People often find marketing a product easier than marketing oneself because we tend to have distance and objectivity on a product. If someone doesn’t want it, you are less likely to take it personally. Whereas, if someone chooses someone else instead of you (which is often misperceived as rejection), it’s hard to see that it has nothing to do with you. That inability to get distance on what you’re promoting often prevents people from doing the promotion in the first place.

Q: What do you find are the key barriers for people to become great marketers?

Ilise: Self-imposed limitations. I am the ultimate optimist when it comes to our potential to transform ourselves into whatever we need to become to succeed. But the obstacle to that is our own stories about what is and isn’t possible.

Q: How has the Internet impacted marketing?

Ilise: First of all, the Internet has made marketing so much easier to do and much less expensive than it used to be. I used to spend lots of time and money doing mass mailings that I no longer have to do. Now, I just send an email message to my list and the same result is accomplished for literally no money. Another main effect of the Internet is that it has shortened the time between having a need and finding resources to fulfill that need. This is both positive and negative. It means that you have access to many, many more prospects who wouldn’t have otherwise had any idea that you exist, but the window of opportunity for you to respond to the prospect who has that need is much, much shorter. If you are not responsive and easy to reach, you’ll miss out.

Q: Do you have any resources you’d like to share for women wanting to do a better job of marketing, whether themselves, businesses, or products?


My books, especially “The Art of Self Promotion

Lots of electronic reports and marketing tools in the Marketing Mentor Store

The Start Anytime Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar

And our Marketing Mix blog: http://www.marketingmixblog.com


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