If you're meeting Jack Wolf, for goodness sake don't hand him a plain white rectangle for a business card. For Wolf-marketing guru for a wide variety of local, national and international clients, from the government of Hong Kong to the Junior League of Sarasota-every single thing an employee or business owner touches is part of the branding and marketing process. And a cookie-cutter white business card just won't cut it in today's competitive environment, he says, pointing out the striking ones he helped clients develop.

His own card is mauve, and folds out.

"Now more ever, one must get above the noise," says Wolf.

Wolf, senior partner of Bradenton-based Lifelong Learning Partners, has spent nearly three decades studying and teaching how to learn, create and lead. With an MBA in marketing and a doctorate in administration/management-and a prodigious energy-the articulate Wolf moved here from Philadelphia eight years ago. With an assistant and a network of specialists, Wolf conducts seminars and lectures on topics such as workforce learning, creativity and performance improvement for clients as large as US Airways, HBO, Time Warner, Starbucks and General Electric.

There may be few players that size in the Sarasota/Manatee business community, but don't be lulled into thinking that even if you're not big enough to have a marketing department, you don't need to address marketing issues. Wolf tailors services and "off-the-shelf materials" for local automobile dealerships, boutiques, law offices and small businesses such as designer Anne Folsom Smith's firm and The Players Theatre.

Says Wolf, "It doesn't matter what you do-cut grass, manage a bank- every employee at every company has only one job: the accumulation and retention of customers. Period."

And to do that, you have to sell yourself. That's Wolf's passion, taking clients into a state of "I don't know" so they sit back and really think about who they are, what they are selling, and to whom. "Me-too" companies, ones that offer a product or service replicated by a number of others (such as a grocery store) are the hardest to individualize, he says. Wolf encourages his clients to narrow down their focus audience and look beyond the obvious tools, such as the ubiquitous brochure. He suggests creating Web sites, packets of information targeted and tailored to each focus audience, and attending networking events.

"It's a wonderful way for small businesses to meet others," says Wolf. "Start making presentations to as many people who will have you."

He suggests that clients think of a "seven-second commercial" for themselves. "If you were to meet someone in an elevator, what would you say to have someone, when they reach the next floor, say, 'That's interesting, tell me more?'" he says.

Making a good impression starts from the top, from the example the business owner sets for his employees. "Branding yourself is as important as branding your business," says Wolf. "Marketing can be the company you keep, so make sure your employees and service contractors represent the prestige and interests of your business as a professional." To create a winning image, hire right and keep employees motivated and proud so they answer the phone with a smile and are positive about their business, even outside of work. "Make sure your people are well cared for," Wolf says. "What your employees say about you affects your brand."

Even after making a sale, it's important to continue marketing so first-time customers become repeat customers, says Wolf, who recommends five to seven contacts through the year with existing client base, through newsletters, holiday gifts or birthday cards. He's written a guide of powerful presentation techniques-he's shopping another book to publishers and has a third in the works-and includes quick tips for success and communication on a rolling "tip screen" on his Web site, www.jackwolflearning.com.

The decision to become successful requires self-esteem, says Wolf. An entrepreneur must begin the marketing process from within, and then if they need to, seek help to grow.

"If you continue to do more of what you're doing, you're going to continue to have more of what you have," says Wolf.

Lifelong Learning Partners is located at 4301 32nd St. W., Suite C-14 in Bradenton. You can reach Wolf at (941) 758-1800 or by email at wolfman73@aol.com.

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