50 Things I’m Grateful For, Fall 2017 Edition

When I started my business in 2012, I knew that gratitude and helping others would play a large part. Each year, I write down 50 things I’m grateful for as a reminder to not take any blessings for granted, large or small. Show your gratitude by sharing your list (of any size) in the comments or linking to your own blog post.

Yours truly at Kent State Alumni Association's National Day of Service 2015

Preparing garden beds for future vegetables during my alumni association’s National Day of Service in 2015. Do I have a future as a back model?


50 Things I’m Grateful For, Fall 2017 Edition

  • Golden retrievers and four-legged furry friends of all kinds
  • Espresso blend dark roast coffee
  • Quiet (a lack of noise and the book)
  • Soothing sounds of nature
  • A good laugh
  • Firefighters, EMS professionals, police officers and first responders
  • The feeling of crossing the finish line
  • Reading the paper while sipping a latte
  • Our wounded veterans and those who never make it home
  • Cracking open a peanut at the ballgame
  • Fireworks
  • Firetrucks in a parade
  • Fourth of July
  • Sending a card to celebrate, console, thank or say hello
  • Lunch with friendsGetting lost in a good book
  • A Swenson’s Salad Boy burger
  • My family’s health and happiness
  • Live music on a summer night, cold brew in hand
  • Solving a crossword puzzle over coffee
  • The small business journey
  • A sunset over water
  • A handwritten note
  • The sun shining on my face during a trail run
  • That sibling bond
We're celebrating 5 years in business!

CCC turned five in May!

  • CCC’s 5th anniversary
  • A day or night at the ballpark
  • The feel of a felt tip pen on paper
  • Lunch on a patio under blue, clear skies
  • Waving to the train conductor while running through the Summit Metro Parks
  • Enjoying the beauty of nature in the middle of the city
  • Bright ideas and brainstorming sessions
  • The ability to unplug (occasionally)
  • Good advice
  • My night owl nature
  • A beautiful fall day
  • Helping clients achieve success
  • Small wins
  • Contributing to something bigger than myself
  • Accomplishing something I’ve worked hard for
  • A conversation with a longtime friend
  • Hitting the trails
  • Exploring Main Street in Park City, Utah
  • Talking shop with fellow marketing professionals & small business owners
  • Learning

 

  • A place to call home
  • The ability to donate platelets to help others
  • When social media is used for good
  • Writing, writing, writing (and reading)
  • Strong women, in fiction and real life

There’s so much in life to be grateful for. What’s on your list?

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about gratitude, hopes and dreams, your marketing needs or otherwise):

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4 Ways Running Can Help You Run A Business

Are you a runner or is shopping your cardio? 😉

The author finishing a 5k

I started running later in life (i.e. post-school), and I’m so glad I did. Besides being excellent exercise, it’s fun to be a part of such a wonderful community. The running community embraces runners of all capabilities and provides support in the form of running partners, groups and tips from more experienced runners.

A Supportive Community 

A supportive community is one way that running translates to running a business. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re probably working alone. Tapping into the entrepreneurial community can help you grow and manage your business. Whether you frequent a co-working space or join an online community, fellow small business owners can give you advice, help you brainstorm ideas and offer support from someone who understands what you’re experiencing.

Related: Is collaboration the new competition?

Long-Term Plan

Runners tend to have a long-term plan, incorporating when they’re competing in races, rest days and specific things they’re working on (i.e. a stronger kick, running technique). Small business owners need to plan as well, so they can run their business effectively and look for growth opportunities. Looking at your bigger picture helps when making decisions about what opportunities to pursue and which areas to focus on at specific times. Of course the best plans should always be adjustable.

Rest Days / Down Time

As noted above, part of a runner’s long-term plan is incorporating rest days. They’re vital to performing well, in running and business. Small business owners tend to wear a lot of hats, which can make it difficult to unplug. It’s important to your long-term outlook (and health) that you take time for yourself so you can be at your best when focusing on your business. Don’t burn yourself out and short circuit your business before you’re able to achieve your dreams. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Related: How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

Aha Moments 

When I run, I listen to my tunes and try to empty my mind (or think of inspirational movie scenes if I need an extra boost to reach the top of the hill). I’m not thinking about customers, business issues or other important topics. That’s probably why I come up with some of my best ideas or feel confident making a decision I’ve been thinking about after a run. The combination of physical activity, clearing my mind and the euphoria of finishing my run seems to spark creativity and clarify my decision-making process. The next time you’re struggling with a business decision or client project, go for a run. It may spark an ‘aha moment!’

Running translates well to running a business on several fronts. Runners can draw inspiration and insight from their hobby while they tackle the tough task of running a business. Not a runner? It’s never too late to lace ’em up and hit the pavement or trails. Couch to 5k can help you get started, or find a running community to join. You’ll find the same support, camaraderie and inspiration as you find in your entrepreneurial or small business community.

Happy running (a business)!

Just a (small biz owner &) runner from Akron,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, running, your marketing needs or otherwise):

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5 Years In: Life as a Small Business Owner

Something crazy happened this week: CCC celebrated its 5th anniversary. In the midst of client projects and deadlines, I almost missed it — which is so appropriate. It was just another day in what has become my life as a small business owner.

We're celebrating 5 years in business!

When I started this journey, I never thought I’d get here. Sure, I made plans and thought about where I — and my business — would be in five years, but to be honest, none of it was real. There was too much treading water just trying to stay afloat.

Looking back, I’ve learned a few things and will continue to do so every day. That’s part of the process, one that I enjoy.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years as a small business owner:

  • This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and my greatest accomplishment (to date). Finishing my first half-marathon is a close second, but the daily grind of starting and building my own business has permanently changed me. It’s challenged me beyond my wildest dreams, and shown me what I’m capable of. You can read and plan all you want (and you should), but until you jump in, it’s hard to imagine.

An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

  • You have to learn to say no. Your time is your most valuable commodity, especially because you probably won’t have the money to hire help when you start out. It’s not about missing opportunities or being afraid to take chances; it’s about taking control of your time and your business. Saying yes to everything and everyone will leave you burnt out and likely out of business.

The Power of Saying ‘No’

  • Enjoy the everyday moments. Take time to sip a latte on a patio on a beautiful spring day while brainstorming a blog post or contemplating future business decisions. It may be tough for you to take time off from your business for a long time, so enjoy these moments that relieve stress and sustain you for another day.

Celebrate the Magic in Everyday Moments

  • Be honest — with your clients, prospects and yourself. It may be uncomfortable, but it will benefit all involved in the long run. As difficult as some situations may be, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you’re not best suited to help a prospect, refer him to another company. If you’re continually running into issues with a client, have an honest (yet professional) conversation. It will either spur changes or an end to the relationship, which may be for the best. Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships cannot be built on lies and half-truths — in business or in life.

A Look Back: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

  • Stay true to why you started your business. It can be difficult to remember your vision as you get bogged down in day-to-day activity, start to grow or deal with a catastrophe. Whether you create a vision board or have an image burned into your mind, keep it front and center. Remembering why you started the business can help you make decisions and decide which opportunities to pursue.

It’s been fun looking back on the last five years this week, which have been an incredible journey. Right now, there’s more work to do, but maybe I’ll be able to sip a latte on a patio this weekend to celebrate this special milestone in CCC’s story.

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Starting chapter six,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Yes, Small Business Owners, There is a Holiday Season

It’s our favorite time of year at CCC. The holidays bring so much joy and cheer — fun festivities, beautiful decorations and spending time with family and friends. How do you take part while still running your business?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... Are you in the holiday spirit?

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.”

Choose your favorite parts

You can’t do everything, so you have to choose. Which parts of the holidays do you enjoy most? Festive activities? Attend local shows and community events. Decorating in style? Spend time making your home shine. Buying the perfect gifts for loved ones? Dedicate your time to shopping for those you hold dear. Whatever areas you choose, be present. Don’t be worrying about your business or what you’re not doing while enjoying your favorite parts of the holiday season.

For example, I decided not to decorate this year. I’m not a Scrooge; I wanted to focus on taking advantage of all of the fun activities this time of year — ice skating, craft/art shows, tree lightings, parades, etc. — and shopping/baking for others, which I love to do. There’s no wrong answer here. Just make a decision and run with it!

How to Guiltlessly Take Time Off to Enjoy the Best Holiday Season Ever

Be smart about running your business 

Yes, you need to continue to run your business during the holidays, but scale back when possible. Commit to specific projects or tasks and focus on completing them within specified time periods. Don’t try to double your growth or take on herculean tasks — especially at this time of year. It’s OK to focus on outside interests and not obsess about your business once in awhile. You may even find that it will make you a better business owner, boss and person.

I’ve been busy this week finishing tasks and meeting deadlines in addition to handling a normal workload. However, I haven’t started new projects or worried about tackling to-dos that can easily be moved to next week, so I can enjoy the wonders of the season.

Time to set limits: Business owners suffer tech overload

Set boundaries and let others know about them

Are you working limited hours throughout the season or on specific days? Let clients and prospective customers know up front, and work with them to plan accordingly. You may be surprised that others want to enjoy the season too and understand that you’re closing up shop to attend your kids’ concert or preserve your family’s tradition of a special day out together. Remember to update your Facebook page, website or other domains where you list hours of availability.

As a small business owner, you may feel the need to check in, which I understand. You can do that without spending the day glued to your phone or working away in another room while everyone else enjoys the festivities. Don’t spend this magical season watching everyone else reconnect, recharge and have a good time. You’ll enter the new year with a case of the holiday blues instead of relaxed, rested and ready to go.

How do you balance your business and life during the holiday season?
What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Enjoy the magic and wonder of the holiday season!

Happy Hanukkah * Merry Christmas * Happy Boxing Day * Happy Kwanzaa

CCC’s Head Elf,
Jaime

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Small Business Planning: Look Back to Move Forward

The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on one’s life and business. While we’re all anxious to start off the New Year on the right foot, don’t skip a vital part of the business planning process. Take time to look back before you look ahead.

Small business planning is crucial to survival and growth.

Take time to reflect on your business. Where is it heading and where has it been?

Take Time to Reflect

Reflect on your accomplishments during the past year. Did you grow your revenue? Add new customers? Turn sporadic customers into loyal clients? Hit key milestones? Reach your goals?

Look back at things that didn’t go as planned. Did you lose a major client? Have a customer dispute payment? Run into a nightmare project? Spend too much time on non-revenue activities?

Measure the progress of your goals. First of all, did you set goals? Did you reach them in the allotted time frame? What helped you achieve them or hindered your progress? Upon further review, you may need to alter your goals or set more appropriate goals in the first place.

Related Reading: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Look Ahead to 2017

Where do you want your business to go? Did you have success with a new product or service this year that you’d like to feature? Do you want to focus on delighting your current clients to deepen those relationships and grow with them? Are you looking to bring on new customers and expand your business? Is a merger or acquisition in your sights?

In order to achieve your business dreams, you need to create a road map. This is where setting SMART goals comes into play.

Your goals should be:
Specific
Measurable
Agreed Upon
Realistic
Time-Based

Inc. Magazine has a worthy read on how to set business goals if you’d like to learn more about this topic. As Herm Edwards famously said, “a goal without a plan is a wish.” He may have been a football coach at the time, but his thought process applies to business and life just as much as sports.

Keep in mind that goals aren’t permanent once they’re set. It’s helpful to review them regularly and adjust accordingly. Agility is a tool for small businesses to use to their advantage, so don’t feel locked in to current goals if your situation changes. Take time every week to focus on your business’s big picture and plan your road map, rerouting if necessary. It can be a breath of fresh air to step back from the daily grind to look at where you’re heading and where you’ve been.

Your Take

Do you set SMART goals for your business?

How often do you focus on planning for your business?

How do you encourage yourself to keep your business planning sessions?

We wish all small businesses a wonderful holiday season! Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

CCC’s Chief Planner,
Jaime

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5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

We’re big readers here at CCC. As Mr. King reminds us below, that’s a good thing because we’re writers, and we like to be well-versed at our craft. Reading is important even if you don’t write though. Business professionals and owners everywhere can benefit from knowledge and experience shared in a good book.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”  -Stephen King

business books on a bookshelf

A selection of business reads by UNCG Research via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/2eE8A47

So let’s have a book swap! Below we’ve shared 5 books that have helped us in business (in no particular order), and we’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Studies show that introverts are one-third to half of the U.S. population, and this book tells you how to embrace their personality and management style to improve your corporate culture and team. Introvert or not, every business professional needs to read this book.
  2. Death to All Sacred Cows — The most common negative review we’ve seen about this book is that its content is old news. Then why do so many businesses large and small still adhere to sacred cows for no reason? Beliefs such as, “The customer’s always right” can put you out of business. Read this book before that happens to you.
  3. David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants — Let’s be honest; any book by Malcolm Gladwell is a good choice, but we loved this one. David And Goliath shows how perceived underdogs may not be underdogs at all. This is a great read for small business owners everywhere who are wondering how to compete against bigger and better-funded opponents.
  4. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The business world is constantly changing, and Seth Godin shows you how to be a linchpin. This book will help guide your career in corporate America or on your own, making you indispensable to bosses, organizations, business partners and clients. (Similar to Gladwell, any Godin book is a good and worthwhile read.)
  5. It’s Not About the Coffee — “We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” Howard Behar talks about taking a people-centric approach and treating employees, business partners and clients as people — not revenue sources, assets or labor costs. It’s crazy how many businesses don’t understand this concept, and the results you’ll achieve once you do.

BONUS: Things a Little Bird Told Me — Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, takes readers along on his unpredictable journey and shares smart business lessons along the way. He focuses on the power of creativity and how to harness it to achieve success.

As we were compiling this list, we kept coming up with additional suggestions. As bookworms, it’s difficult to limit any reading list to five recommendations! We’re sure we missed some, but that’s the beauty of reading lists — they’re constantly evolving.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  -Stephen King

What books have helped you in business or in life?

Have you read a children’s or YA book that’s relevant in your adult life?

What’s your favorite literature genre?

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

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Does Your Small Business Have a Contingency Plan?

In preparation of the 2016 election, I recently attended my second year of Precinct Election Official (PEO) training by the local Board of Elections (BOE). In addition to keeping up with new developments, it’s helpful to review the massive amounts of information prior to each election.

What are the massive amounts of information? In addition to job duties and how machines work — contingency plans. The BOE has contingency plans for nearly any situation. Does your small business have contingency plans?

Does your small business have a contingency plan?

Why does your small business need a contingency plan?

  • You lose your largest client. Will you be able to stay afloat while you work to bring in new customers? Or is your business spread out enough to absorb such a hit?
  • Your niche market runs dry. Some markets are more volatile than others, but this could happen to nearly any industry or vertical market. (For example, look at how hard the Great Recession hit the construction industry.) It’s always a good idea to diversify your clientele enough to withstand market fluctuations.
  • You experience a medical emergency or illness. Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals. (NASE) Will your small business be able to run without you? For how long? Do you have an exit plan?
  • Your area is hit with a natural disaster or extended power outage. Would you be able to continue to serve your clients? Is your business included in your emergency preparedness kit/plans?
  • You see an unexpected opportunity in the marketplace. How quickly can you add a product or service? Perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in demand for one of your key products or services. Can you switch your focus while still staying true to your brand? Agility is a valuable asset in the small business world.

Related Reading: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

You need to be prepared to handle unexpected obstacles in your business, from marketplace changes to health issues. While none of us can be prepared for everything, having a contingency plan for your small business will ensure a smoother ride when you encounter a future roadblock — or  a black hole.

Your Turn

What other situations should your small business be prepared for?

Have you switched the focus of your small business or changed businesses?

What other advice would you give to small business owners regarding contingency plans?

Still a scout at heart,
Jaime

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What Makes a Successful Public Speaker? These 3 Key Points

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a networking luncheon hosted by my alma mater’s alumni association. While I always look forward to meeting fellow Flashes, I was particularly interested in hearing our city’s mayor speak.

Kent State University Alumni Association Akron Networking Luncheon

Yours truly (second from left) enjoying the Akron Networking Luncheon with fellow Golden Flashes. (Photo used with permission: http://bit.ly/2dxyTIs)

Mayor Horrigan was as good as I thought he would be, which made me think about what makes public speakers successful.

Start with Common Ground — The mayor was a Kent State alumni like the attendees, so he started off reliving his time at the university. As he was talking about a pivotal moment early in his college career, I found myself thinking back to my time at the school and the impact it has had on my life. By starting with what you have in common, you begin to develop a deeper connection with your audience.

Have a Conversation — While the person in front of the room is doing most, if not all, of the speaking, that doesn’t mean you have to be formal or talk down to your audience. Use language your listeners are familiar with, avoiding unnecessary jargon or technical terms. Interact with your audience as much as you can, given the environment, and leave enough time for a Q and A session. Oftentimes that is the most memorable part of the event due to the diversity of voices and ideas included.

Step Away from the PowerPoint — I’m a big fan of visual aids when appropriate, but the PowerPoint may be the most abused aid, or crutch, of all time. The next time you’re speaking to a group, forgo the PowerPoint and let your creativity take over. Use a giant notepad or wall size Post-It Notes to convey key points. Share a short video or photos to embed a special message or moment into your audience’s minds. Some of the best talks I’ve given and attended had no visual aids at all.

As I was kicking around this article in my head, I came across a fantastic article from Forbes on the same subject. It’s worth a read, Adele fan or not!

Public Speaking Spotlight

What tips would you recommend to a public speaker?

Do you take your audience into consideration when speaking or do you have a ‘signature style?’

What is the best talk that you’ve given and attended? Feel free to link to videos or transcripts in the comments!

Speaking on public speaking,
Jaime

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4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

On Sunday, my company, Clearly Conveyed Communications, celebrated its 4th anniversary. Along with some gray hairs and a sense of accomplishment, I’ve learned numerous lessons along the way.

CCC turns 4!

4 Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur:

Starting and growing a business is a thrilling roller coaster ride. If you love roller coasters (like I do), you’re probably thinking that sounds great. Keep in mind though that you’re riding 24/7, and there are no stops — for bad days, client disasters or even life (which doesn’t stop while you’re trying to start a business). If you like consistency and scheduled days, then don’t start a business. The most even-keeled entrepreneur has experienced many “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments.

I’ve developed a new definition — and appreciation — of living lean. Most entrepreneurs and startups are not raking in venture capital money and operating on million dollar budgets. They’re trying to build something for the future and scrape by in the present. You have to scrimp, save, shop smartly and still make hard choices. There’s nothing romantic about trying to figure out how you’ll pay your mortgage (or rent) next month, but you have to find a way until you can grow.

You’re not doing business until you get paid. Looking for new business, maintaining your professional network and taking care of clients is all part of owning a business, but it’s important to not focus too much on activity. You’re not doing business until you can bill and collect payment. Otherwise, you’re doing charity work, which is commendable, but it won’t pay your mortgage.

Your time is valuable; learn to spend it well. Every entrepreneur and startup owner needs more hours in a day, so you’ll learn to value your time quickly. You have to balance how much time something will take versus the (realistic) potential reward. Every opportunity or client won’t be a good fit. As painful as it can be to walk away, wasting time on a situation that you know won’t work is even worse. Use your time wisely so that you’ll be able to spend quality time with friends and family, sleep and exercise — all necessities in the long run.

No matter what happens, remember this:

Starting and growing a business is an amazing accomplishment. You took a huge risk to create your own future and build something for yourself. It may be hard for people around you to understand what you’re doing, let alone why, but you have to keep your goal in mind. Always remember why you started your business and what you want out of it. That will help you keep going during those “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments, although close friends, hobbies and happy hour will help too.

There are so many lessons I could have mentioned, because starting a business will teach you something new every day. Some days you won’t be in the mood to learn, but try to pick up as much as you can. The experience will come in handy in the future, wherever your crazy, amazing roller coaster ride stops.

What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur or small business owner?

Did starting a business create an unexpected opportunity for you?

Feeling the rush,
Jaime

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Movin’ on Up: Small Businesses Go to the Big Game

It all started with a groundbreaking company that just wanted to encourage more interest amongst girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Who could predict that Goldieblox would become the first small business to advertise during the Super Bowl?

GoldieBlox has changed the game.

GoldieBlox became the first small business to advertise in the Super Bowl in 2014.
Screenshot courtesy of Goldieblox.com.

In 2014, Intuit ran a contest to award one small business the opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to advertise during the big game. GoldieBlox won the contest, won the Super Bowl audience over with a great ad and has been growing rapidly ever since.

Breaking Through Gender Stereotypes: Are We Making Progress?

This year, it’s Death Wish Coffee Company‘s turn. The self-proclaimed Home of the World’s Strongest Coffee has an incredible opportunity to reach millions around the world in 30 seconds. As big fans of good coffee and fellow small businesses, we hope Death Wish Coffee Company becomes a household name after OWN IT airs during Super Bowl 50.

Death Wish Coffee Co is the 2016 winner of Intuit's Small Business, Big Game contest!

Death Wish Coffee Company is hoping to make a big splash in the big game with OWN IT.
Screenshot courtesy of Intuit’s SmallBusinessBigGame.com.

With small businesses starting to make appearances during the big game, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that one is making the trip on its own. Alternative lender Social Finance, also known as SoFi, is dropping some serious cash — 20% of its annual budget — to introduce itself to the world.

Here’s the catch: like most startups, SoFi’s ideal customer is a specific niche market —  qualified millennials who want to refinance student loans as personal loans. The company began to expand its offerings to mortgages and some consumer loans last year and expected these areas to overtake refinanced student loans as its largest areas of business by the end of 2015.

Still, is it worth it? Will SoFi’s 30-second spot reach enough members of its target audience (either directly or indirectly) to achieve its goals? While SoFi has a much larger budget than most startups and small businesses, the company is still taking a huge gamble to introduce itself to the world. Plus, the financial sector hasn’t been a major player in Super Bowl advertising of late. Will SoFi win big or lose it all to one ad?

If you had the budget to advertise in the Super Bowl, would you? Would it be the best use of $5+ million dollars for your company? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know your decision in the comments below!

p.s. What are your Super Bowl 50 predictions — winning team and advertiser?

Super Bowl dreamin’,
Jaime

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