Calling Sacramento Start-Ups

Hacker Lab Powered by Sierra College LogoThe “Start-up Hustle Incubator” is coming to the Sacramento region from Oct. 1 to Nov. 12, 2015.

Apply now if you have a concept for a business and want to hustle for six weeks to turn your dream into a going concern.

Hacker Lab in partnership with Sierra College in Rocklin will help teams join a community of entrepreneurs and get incredible support to accelerate their success.

Winners will receive prizes to support the business launch.

Go to and apply by the Sept. 24, 2015 deadline.

Participants will ‘hack’ their start-up by hustling to test ideas and build a business model in six weeks. Teams can have one to five members, all of whom should plan on committing 15 hours per week to the new venture during the competition. It can be any kind of business but applicants should be ready to demonstrate how their ideas benefit society.

Teams will benefit from start-up resources to guide them, including mentorship, community connections, education and a proven start-up process. The winner will pitch the start-up to investors and win legal, financial, accounting and marketing services.

The group is seeking mentors to provide advice during the six week hustle. The City of Rocklin and Golden Sierra Job Training Agency are also sponsors of the event.

To learn how you can apply, or be a sponsor and mentor, go to or email: startuphustle@hackerlab.orgFind out more:

Save money on marketing

Thomas Jefferson was one of our most innovative presidents. On a recent tour on Monticello, I was able learn more about his constant tinkering and inventing to make his home more comfortable, save time and money, and produce more at harvest time. His home is featured on the back of the nickel. Since my clients are always interested in saving money, I thought you’d be interested in some cost saving ideas related to producing marketing materials. It might put more nickels in your pocket.

Monticello - Nickel saving marketing ideasBefore you embark on a marketing project, consider how you can save money by finding many purposes for your efforts. When customers are looking for ways to save money on marketing, we take action by finding multiple uses for the messages, materials and graphic images.

For example, one of my clients creates graphic email messages to go out from the association promoting members’ services. To help members with their budgets and as an added value of membership, the association shares the graphic art file through a private portal. That way, those who are part of the group can modify the eblast by adding their own logo and information. Some of the members use the text from the message and customize it to more prominently promote their own firms when sending it out to their own contact lists. This saves members the cost of writing and designing the message.

To take the project a step further, the association then turns the email into a pdf flyer that can be inserted into mailings or used as an attachment on individual emails. The flyer graphics are similar to the eblast; this cohesive look reinforces the brand. This is another cost saving measure as it does not take the designer very much time to use similar graphics on the flyer.

When you are implementing your communication tactics, you should think about ways your efforts can be repurposed for multiple uses to save money on your marketing budget. You can make very nickel count.

If you interview a client you may be able to get:

  • Testimonials to use on brochures or tradeshow displays
  • Content for a blog post
  • Information for an article in your newsletter
  • An announcement in a press release

If you take photos at an event, you can use them:

  • In social media posts
  • On your website
  • In ads or billboards

If you produce postcards, use them to:

  • Mail out to your contact list
  • Hand out at a tradeshow
  • Package in a gift basket with promotional items

Planning ahead and thinking creatively can help you get the most out of your marketing budget and leave more nickels jingling in your pocket.

Hacker Lab – It’s good for business

Hacker Lab Electronics area in Rocklin

Sierra College has collaborated with Sacramento’s Hacker Lab to open a maker and co-working space in Rocklin, CA. The new Placer County site offers an array of tools, technology courses, start-up resources and a community of people excited about collaborating, sharing their expertise and inspiring innovation.

I had the opportunity to join the community and would recommend that you check it out. Whether working on one of the many tables or having a meeting, it makes a convenient off-site office. While I was working on a project, I could see others on their laptops, using the laser cutter and working in the electronics lab.

Hacker Lab is committed to education and introducing the joys of technology to the next generation. Hundreds of kids have participated in youth hackathons. The children are so excited to be learning to program, solder and create with other tools. I watched a small boy stand in front of the 3D printer mesmerized for nearly half an hour. Hopefully these young people will be the future Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) workforce.

In the evening, you might see a group of people learning to use the industrial sewing machines or cutting out fabric on a huge table. Evidently one of the machines can sew through leather easily. Although I haven’t had a chance to try it myself, I am looking forward to taking a class and learning to use this equipment. The way Hacker Lab works, members take classes that include the safe operation of the equipment and then get a notation on their membership badge that allows them 24/7 access to a specific lab.

The Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) secured equipment for Hacker Lab that includes 3D printers for rapid prototyping, the laser cutter and CNC router. The entrepreneurial maker community is attractive to local companies, according to Carol Pepper-Kittredge, CACT Director, Sierra College. “Businesses are making prototypes, entrepreneurs are building their businesses and community members are gaining new skills,” said Pepper-Kittredge. “Businesses can suggest meet-ups and offer to teach classes. Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College is also a great place to connect and arrange internships.” Interested employers can contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge at (916) 660-7801 or cpepper-kittredge(at)

Learn more about Hacker by going to the Sierra College page on the website:, watch for open houses and other Meet-ups, and check out upcoming events on the calendar –


What should you include in your brochure?

Although websites are now the most common way to describe what your company does for your customers, there is still a place for brochures in your bouquet of marketing tactics.

Produce an attractive brochure for your business and you can use it in the following ways:

  • Hand them out at tradeshows
  • Leave it behind after a sales call
  • Send the brochure as an introduction
  • Include it with follow-up materials

Brochures attract business the way blossoms attract bees

Working in the Sacramento region, people frequently ask me what information should be included in a brochure. It is much more than just a pretty blossom that shows off what your company does. An effective brochure may plant the seed of a long term business relationship that will generate profits for many years to come.

An effective brochure should make it easy for a prospective customer to learn what you do best to help your clients. In addition to giving your organization credibility, it should spur the reader to action, confident that your company is ideally suited to meet their needs. Just a beautiful flower begs you to lean over to sample the scent, your brochure should entice people to learn more about the benefits of doing business with you.

Some of the key components of a brochure include:

  1. An attention grabbing headline, enticing the reader to open the brochure and learn more
  2. Your logo on the front and back
  3. Your website and contact information, usually on the back
  4. An introductory statement that summarizes your primary way of serving your customers
  5. At least three benefits that your clients enjoy as a result of working with your firm
  6. Testimonials from satisfied customers demonstrating the results your company achieved for them
  7. More detailed summary of your main services
  8. Subheads that give the reader an idea what the detailed section will include
  9. Photos or graphics that help the reader understand what you do
  10. Data, facts or other results to support your marketing claims and to induce readers to take action
  11. White space makes it easier for prospects to digest your message because it provides a visual break and prevents you from putting in so much text in that reader becomes fatigued

At Marketing Action, Inc. we are often asked to write a brochure as a first project. It is a great way to get started working with a marketing consultant. The exercise of thinking from a customer’s perspective, identifying unique benefits and explaining what the company does often becomes the cornerstone of future marketing tactics.

Additionally, when you are busy running a business, you have so much knowledge, that it is difficult to boil it down to a few key points in a brochure. That is where the marketing consultant can help hone down masses of content into a few key benefit statements.

Use a professional designer to create the graphics and layout for your brochure. The visual appeal is just as important as the words you use to describe your business.

Quality paper and printing are the last steps in creating a brochure that represents your business. A professional graphic designer is essential to providing high resolution artwork that meets the printers’ specifications. Ensure that the final product is a brochure that you can be proud to hand out by working with professionals who are experienced in producing exceptional brochures.

In nature, beautiful flowers attract bees so that the species can be propagated. In marketing, an attractive brochure can be a credible introduction that may bloom into a long-term profitable business partnership. (The flower photo was taken in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California.)

Photos Step up Marketing Impact

Iguana stepping forward - photos for marketing tips

Move your marketing forward by taking the extra step of adding photos.

Now more than ever before it is important to take photos to enhance your promotion efforts. As a consultant, I am frequently asked, “What are some of the low cost ways to improve a company’s marketing efforts?” Both snap shots taken from your phone and professional photographs have a role in increasing the impact of your communication efforts.

Your Twitter and Facebook posts will be more interesting if you include a photo. Approximately 65% of your viewers are visual learners so photos enhance their experience when looking at your materials. Adding an image makes your efforts a lot more eye-catching than text alone. When you are limited to a few words, the picture can also help tell your story.

For social media and blog posts, a photo taken with your phone is a fast and easy way to capture what is happening. After taking a few photos while attending an event, you can send them on-the-spot to your social media accounts. The photo not only captures attention, it may persuade people go a step further and click on a link to read more.

You should invest in hiring a professional photographer to collect visually appealing, high resolution photos that you can use as the main banners on your website and in your brochures. Quality photography is a must when images are enlarged on tradeshow displays and billboards. If you arrange to have photos taken, your images will be unique and reflect your branding.

If you don’t have the budget for a professional photographer, there are many low cost options to access stock images that you can purchase as you need them or pay a monthly fee to download images regularly for your materials. Be sure that you are getting royalty free images. Avoid the temptation to use images that you find online because you do not have permission to use them.

When you use photos in your blog posts and on your website, remember to rename the photos to better explain what the photo features rather than the number automatically supplied by your camera. You can also add alternative text or Alt Txt to your photo that is a more detailed description. This makes it easier for people with disabilities identify the image and can also help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Carry your camera with you or use the camera on your phone to capture interesting images that you may use in the future to boost the effectiveness of your marketing action.

Drought on ideas for writing blog posts?

Are you experiencing a drought of blog topic ideas?

Are you experiencing a drought of blog topic ideas?

Has your creativity run low on blog topics? Start the New Year with a list of ideas that you can use in the future when you are seeking something to write about. Taking action now to improve your marketing in 2014 by developing subjects for writing your blog.

  • Answer questions that you hear from co-workers or clients.
  • Describe an ethical dilemma.
  • Explain how to do something.
  • Introduce a new tool or technology that relates to your work.
  • Offer a lesson you might share with a co-worker.
  • Pick a story online, provide a link and make comments related to your interests.
  • Promote an industry or professional association event.
  • Relate an incident that you saw when you were out shopping to your subject matter expertise.
  • Tell a funny story with a workplace moral.
  • Use a photo to illustrate a business idea.
  • Write about overcoming a challenge.

Good luck filling up with fresh ideas to take Marketing Action in the New Year.

Travelers — Write that blog or book

Expert travel writers and photographers (Craig Johnson, Janet  Fullwood & Ingrid Lundquist) offered guidance at The Book-In-Hand workshop.

Expert travel writers and photographers (Craig Johnson, Janet Fullwood & Ingrid Lundquist) offered guidance at The Book-In-Hand workshop.

Do you want to share your world travel experiences? Were there comic events on your recent trip that would make entertaining stories? Are you looking for a way to meld your passion for travel and writing?

I recently had the privilege of attending a travel writers’ workshop hosted by The Book-In-Hand Roadshow.

Award-winning book professionals shared their advice on how to get started as an adventure-sharing author.  Janet Fullwood, former Sacramento Bee travel editor and travel photographer; Craig Johnson, photographer and print-on-demand photo bookmaker; and Ingrid Lundquist, award-winning author and street photographer, all provided insight and encouragement to hopeful travel writers.

To get motivated, they suggested reading other travel blogs, taking a class in photography or joining a writers group. The speakers described a focused approach to describing places and recording experiences in a way that would intrigue others.  As a result, I gained ideas on how I might become much more intentional than a casual vacation storyteller or snap shot taker to produce material beyond my usual marketing commentary.

Glenn Karwoski gives Innovation Tips to Marketers

Stretch your imagination - what are all the things this might be?

Stretch your imagination – what are all the things this might be?

Yesterday, the Sacramento Chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted “The Culture of Innovation: How to Develop the Next Great Ideas” with speaker Glenn Karwoski, The Business of Ideas.

According to Karwoski, the key elements to innovation are to see things differently and to think differently. He suggested that cross functional teams of intrinsically motivated people are critical to innovation. As well as involving people in-house from various disciplines, he recommended looking at the problem from the customers’ perspective as essential to innovation.

Read more on Karwoski’s suggestions to spur fresh ideas at your company at Twin Cities Business – Innovations.

Thinking of Sweet Mountain Mandarins

DSC02386When I saw the first Placer Mountain Mandarin signs going up, my first thought was I can’t wait to taste this local fruit again.

My second thought was that this is Farm to Fork in action, with no fork necessary to enjoy this candy-like fruit. The Placer County Mountain Mandarin Growers Association has done a wonderful job uniting farms to brand the mandarins unique to Placer County.

My third thought was admiration that the group has done research to differentiate the local crop from competitors. According to the nutrition section of the Mountain Mandarin website:

“Made famous in a 2008 study by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Placer County Owari Satsuma mandarins offer high concentrations of the phytochemical synephrine. According to the study, synephrine concentrations in Placer County mandarins were up to six times higher than values previously determined for orange juices. The study concluded that ten ounces of mandarin juice contains as much synephrine as one over-the-counter decongestant pill.”

This all led up to seeing an offer to win free tickets to the 20th Mountain Mandarin Festival being held Nov. 22-24, 2013 in Auburn, CA. I look forward to using the tickets I won, tasting the delicious fruit, seeing Placer County farmers and experiencing a locally grown marketing effort. Thank you to the mandarin farmers and promoters who put Placer County on the map as the place to get the best mandarins.

Ideas for Marketing Your Business in 2014

DSC02097Start Now

If you start making plans in January 2014, it may be spring before your marketing campaign roles out. So just as the leaves are changing color, like these in Northern California near Sacramento, start making plans for the changes needed in your 2014 strategy and marketing action plan.

Set Goals

Review the first 10 months of the year, and compare results to the 2013 goal. Then set new goals for 2014.

Take Photos

Photos are more important than ever for online as well as print. Arrange to get photos taken now. If your service or products are used outdoors, you can still catch some flowers or fall color to make an attractive background. Use a professional photographer. Be sure the images are high resolution and that you have full rights to the photos.

Gather Testimonials

Identify clients who have recently worked with your company, give them a call and ask a few questions about their experience. Write down what they say in their own words. Email it back to them, requesting corrections and clarification. Ask for permission to use their comments and names in marketing materials. These can be used to help your staff understand how your company is perceived as well as can be used on websites, brochures and other materials.

Arrange Contracts

Talk to firms that can help you meet your marketing goals, and evaluate how well each might fit your needs. Once you make a selection, set your contract to start January 1, 2014.

Enjoy the Holidays

You’ll be able to enjoy the holidays knowing that you have done the preparation to get your 2014 marketing ideas underway at the very start of the year.