Like most kids on the hunt for some extra cash, Jennifer Baszile began her entrepreneurial career working as a babysitter. Later she moved on to fast food restaurants and after high school snagged an internship with a corporate business before moving on to college and becoming an academic.
“I’ve had this entrepreneurial passion since I was a little kid,” says the author of “The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir.” “For example, when I was 8 I opened my own bank account, and I had this little game where I would pick stocks in the newspaper and I would track them.”
Her babysitting career offered a captive customer base, and finding an outlet for her entrepreneurial spirit was easy for Baszile. But times change, and as her career path went from babysitter to young businesswoman to academic and finally to author and career speaker, Baszile has had to adapt in order to find the right market.
Baszile will present “Five Fatal Online Marketing Myths that can Kill Profits and Sales in Any Business” at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on the On Wednesday, May 19, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Cost: $40. Visit www.princetonchamber.org.
The first African-American woman hired by Yale University’s history department, Baszile will share her experiences as a life-long entrepreneur and how she has had to adapt to a world in which the Internet makes selling your product simultaneously easier and more difficult.
“Most business owners, very understandably, are so focused on delivering great products and great services that they don’t understand how their presence on the web can generate lead-generation and sales,” she says. “Because they are so preoccupied with delivering great product and great value they don’t understand how the Internet works.”
Baszile says having a fancy website that doesn’t deliver results is common, and business owners need to find practical strategies that enable them to assess their online presence. Success, she says, comes through branding and then targeting that brand to specific customers throughout the web.
From Surfing to Selling. Each day, thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs wake up, fire up the laptop, and hit the Internet for the latest headlines, scores, weather, and stock updates. After that maybe it’s a quick peek at their E-mail, then a cup of coffee, a shower, and off to work.
But the Internet can be so much more than a virtual newspaper. It can be a tool to reach customers across the globe, customers who are looking for exact product or service you provide. The trick is knowing how to make the most of an online presence and taking advantage of existing social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. While many businesses can be found on these sites, many entrepreneurs don’t know how to make the best use of social media, and setting up a Facebook page and adding fans and friends simply isn’t enough.
“The biggest thing that I would like people to know is that no matter what kind of business they are in, the Internet is relevant,” she says. “Whether they are in a business that serves other businesses or one that sells services or products, the Internet has a huge role to play in their marketing.”
A New Way to Sell. Baszile says entrepreneurs need to grow beyond traditional media to advertise, and dedicating as much time to online marketing as they do to traditional marketing is important for success. Whether it’s books or services, furniture or food, finding ways to promote a business can be a boon not just for entrepreneurs, but for those around them.
“There is such a need for business owners to really understand the Internet,” she says. “It’s a conversation we need to have. It may enable an owner to hire one more person, which will allow one more person to support a family and in this economy that’s a great thing.”
But for many business owners, word of mouth and a few newspaper ads are where it ends, mostly because dedicating the time needed to get the word out is a low priority.
Open that toolbox. Whether it’s building a business or a bookshelf, having the right tools and knowing how to use them are keys to any level of success and the Internet is the Swiss Army Knife for just about any small business owner.
In order to find that captive customer base, Baszile recommends advertising on social networking sites that target users with specific interests. Many of these ads will enable you to track your customers as well, allowing business owners to sell anything from widgets to comic books.
Baszile is a third-generation entrepreneur. Her father was a metals distributor for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and her grandfather owned property and several businesses in the Detroit area.
At first, Baszile thought she would be taking a different path. After earning a bachelor’s in history from Columbia University and a master’s in history from Princeton, she went on to be the first African American woman to teach the subject at Yale.
“I decided to leave academe behind to pursue my passion as a writer, then, as a result of my writing, realized that I had this passion and a real skill in marketing that I had applied first for myself, then for my clients,” she says.
Baszile attended the “hard knocks” school of Internet marketing, learning how to reach customers and market her book on her own through trial and error. “I actually became a marketing strategist because I was an author who misunderstood the writing and publishing process,” she says. “I went into this and thought that writing the book would be the hardest part of the process, but once I wrote the book I realized that the more challenging part was marketing.”
Baszile found that the traditional means of marketing the book were not really going to work for he. “I got great radio coverage, I was reviewed in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the L.A. Times, but the old media was only one piece of the equation of how to really connect with the audience,” she says.
Her experiences as a child, an academic, and a business owner are what inform the woman she is today.
“As a child of an entrepreneur, it’s my life experience,” she says. “I have a lot of empathy for people figuring out how they are going to cover the payroll because that’s a conversation we had. I know that conversation and I know that challenge and that’s part of the reason I have a passion for marketing and working with business owners.”