Written by Trudy Filante
During her 13 years in sales and marketing at American Express, Jan Albanese worked with merchants in retail, manufacturing, restaurants, lodging, and more. Her goal was to identify what she could do to make her clients’ businesses more profitable, and identify which AMEX resources could help grow their businesses. Working as a SCORE mentor for the past nine months, Jan has set similar goals for her SCORE clients, which often boils down to building a sound sales strategy and using marketing to drive sales.
Jan describes her style as very hands-on. When working on a grant proposal with a client she goes “line by line, word by word” to help her client find the most impactful words. When reviewing a client’s post on Facebook or Instagram, she begins by asking them what the post is trying to achieve, and whether the post succeeds in giving the buyer a “call to action”.
According to Jan, a common mistake clients make is moving too fast. As a result, they bypass the critical first steps of identifying their value proposition, planning cash flow, and analyzing the competition. Clients can get overwhelmed, she explains because they mentally leapfrog and think about writing sales pieces and developing marketing programs before nailing down the basics of their Business Plan. She sees her role as one of providing direction and helping clients through those foundational first steps. She assures her clients that there will be a time down the road to find co-mentors to help with other issues such as legal, government funding, or website architecture.
When working recently with a client who started a jewelry business, Jan asked her to think about where she should be selling, what her cost of goods would be, and what her profit margin would be. Although the client wanted to start by selling on Etsy, Jan encouraged her to start at a farmer’s market, a more cost-efficient step that would also give her client an opportunity to try out different jewelry styles while getting direct feedback from customers.
I asked Jan about the impact of COVID-19 on her clients. She said that while some were hurt financially, COVID has actually opened up new opportunities for others. More time at home has given people the mental space to think about pursuing a start-up. Jan has a current client who is a nurse by day but loves soaps and skincare, and she is now turning her passion into a small business. Another client who is an interior designer is creating a virtual interior design business; eliminating the need to do in-home consultations makes the work safer, saves travel time, and opens up limitless geographic possibilities. Jan fleshed out the concept with her client, stressing the importance of creating a well-defined website that offers multiple service packages for customers.
Although Jan will be moving shortly to another part of the country, the good news for SCORE Westchester is that she plans to continue her work as a mentor once she is settled. Jan will bring her entrepreneurial energy, marketing savvy, and multi-industry knowledge to a whole new population of business-owners-to-be!