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by Liz Duffrin
Melissa Lagowski, founder and CEO of Big Buzz Idea Group, was surprised at the invitation to be a guest blogger for ACN not long after attending her first meeting. One consultant she met later read the blog posts on her website and recommended her to the ACN marketing committee.
“I would never have thought to submit my articles to ACN for sharing,” said Lagowski, whose group provides nonprofits with day-to-day operational support and event planning. “The way the ACN the marketing team kept inviting me to share content was meaningful for me. I felt the organization was doing something to support me, and I needed to be part of the community.”
Lidia Varesco Racoma, a member of the marketing committee and now its chair, was thrilled not only with Lagowski’s blog posts but with the chance to reconnect with her. Years earlier they’d consulted on the same project but had fallen out of touch.
Once ACN reunited them, Lagowski soon found a need for Racoma’s talents. The Chicago chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners needed to rethink its communications plan. Lagowski, the chapter’s executive director, recommended Racoma, a graphic designer and marketing and branding strategist and founder of Lidia Varesco Design, for the job: “I knew she had a fresh perspective and a process that would be extremely useful.”
Racoma analyzed the characteristics of the association’s members and divided them into three types—new entrepreneurs, small but established ones, and those grossing $1 million or more each year. For each type of member, Racoma created a profile in a graphic format that was fictional but representative of the group and included a name, avatar, background, pain points, and values.
Those profiles helped the association better tailor its programming and messaging to the needs of its different audiences, said Lagowski. “It became instrumental in our planning and gave us a solid foundation for marketing that the organization didn’t have previously.”
Now the two are working on an RFP for a large communications project with ACN member Kelli Moore, principal at Ando Advisors. While Big Buzz Idea Group could have assumed a larger share of the project, Lagowski believes that the diversity of talent that Racoma and Moore bring will make their RFP more competitive and ultimately “give the nonprofit a higher return on its investment.”
Both said they’re eager to find more ACN collaborators. “I’ve always been seeking partners so that I can participate in larger RFPs or projects,” said Racoma, who joined ACN in 2016. Through her work on the marketing committee, and by serving on the ACN board as vice president of marketing and communications, she’s become familiar with the work of consultants who are potential partners and also colleagues she can refer to clients in good faith. “So ACN has been really awesome in that sense,” she said. “Lately, I’ve been referring people like crazy.”
Racoma and Lagowski advocate building relationships through ACN events and volunteer opportunities as a way to grow your business. “We are all serving the same target market and the fact that we all do different things lends itself to collaboration,” said Lagowski. “And the opportunity to form collaborations is incredible. It helps you build your bench so that you can bring a whole team, a whole solution to a client.”
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