Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

While making the rounds at holiday parties, I’m often tempted to seek free advice. Even though good advice is there for the taking, I restrain myself.

That’s why when I’m talking with a doctor and my knee is aching, I smile and ask the professional if she would like another cookie.

That’s why when I’m one-on-one with a dentist and my teeth aren’t as white and sparkling as my teeth could be, I cover my mouth and pass the egg nog.

That’s why when a car insurance salesperson is right there in front of me and I know my son’s vehicle has a new ding in a fender, I don’t talk rates. I talk turkey and all the trimmings.

Professionals are years in the making. Extensive time and studies go into building their expertise. Professionals work hard. They deserve time-outs. Besides, free advice given in party environments is pretty much worth what you pay for it.

However, I’m still in the giving mood. So this professional is going to volunteer free advice. I’m tossing out some marketing, advertising and communication tips that will keep you and your business healthy throughout the new year.

Here are my top 10 tips for 2011.

Number 10 – Many self-described “people-persons” think “it would be fun” to dabble in public relations, marketing and communication. Check their credentials before relying on them. I enjoy long hot showers and I know the water goes down that hole in the shower floor, but that doesn’t qualify me as a plumber.

Number 9 – Social network marketing is effective in sales and outreach, but it takes some understanding. Used properly, social marketing gets the job done. It’s a good tool. My husband has a garage overflowing with effective tools. The trick is knowing when and how to use each tool to get optimal results. In the wrong hands, social networking can pinch more than fingers.

Number 8 – When asking input from others, listen to the feedback. Discuss, amplify, postulate and don’t forget to say thanks for sharing ideas. Save in-your-face arguments for the home front.

Number 7 – Minimizing strategic marketing/advertising can minimize your bottom line. Effective marketing may not be rocket science, but it can put your business over the moon.

Number 6 – Public relations, targeted marketing and dynamic communication are key to business success. They don’t just happen. Consulting with professionals can be the first step in making them happen for you.

Number 5 – Not all “marketing” firms are the same. Again, check ‘em out. Take a close look at results, testimonials and referrals.

Number 4 – If you want to encourage shopping local, then walk the walk by hiring local marketing pros. They know the community better than any outsider, and there is a great deal of talent available.

Number 3 – Smile. Sharing a smile brightens many a day. If the recipient of your smile isn’t in a receiving mood, you’ll still leave them wondering what you’ve been up to.

Number 2 – Hunkering down has long-term consequences. Delaying marketing and advertising to better times means dropping out of competition. Take a critical look at what’s working for your business and what is not. Review and revise your communication and marketing/advertising plans. Then forge ahead.

Number 1 – Nobody has all the answers. Not our parents, not the politicians not even Oprah. Nobody has all the answers to all the questions and challenges confronting businesses and business owners. So don’t ask me why that man and that woman end up sitting in separate bathtubs on beaches and in mountain meadows.

I don’t know.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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