The Wow! Factor

Hubbard Street, Learning Live and podcasts: Wow!

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the July 06, 2015 Daily Herald

                We need more business-generating Wows.

Newsletters still work. So do phone calls, face-to-face networking, referrals and advertising. But establishing the Wow! factor that vaults your business a notch or two above the competition requires some outside-the-box approaches.

Happily, some nicely successful entrepreneurs are willing to share their Wows.

* “I like to support cultural activities,” says Karen Lennon, president of Chicago-based Wessex 504 Corp. (504 corporations are federally certified non-profit development companies that administer the SBA’s low-rate, low-downpayment Section 504 real estate and equipment loan program for qualifying small businesses. There are eight 504 corporations in Illinois, six with Chicago-area offices.)

Because banks are involved as lenders, bankers are a key Wessex 504 target. That’s why Lennon invites Wessex’ A-list bankers to a June Summer Series performance of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

“Hubbard Street sets us apart,” Lennon explains. “It’s part of my marketing strategy. It’s fun. It’s a little different.” With a relatively short season, Hubbard Street performances are something of a happening: Lennon, a past Hubbard Street chair, includes behind the scenes conversations with the dance company’s director and choreographer as part of the evening’s activities.

The event resonates with the Wessex audience. Although not all attended, more than half the bankers receiving an invite to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago responded. A Wessex 504 event during the School of the Art Institute’s annual holiday sale brought the same type of enthusiastic response.

“We’re a niche,” Lennon says. “We need to be forefront the one time a banker has a need for our services.”

* JD Gershbein is hosting a LinkedIn Learning Lounge Live next month at Studio 226 Media in Highwood. CEO of Owlish Communications, Vernon Hills, Gershbein has built a national reputation as a LinkedIn thought leader and Huffington Post blogger.

The Learning Lounge Live presentation will revolve around an interview with Chad Coe, author, speaker and creator of Mastermind Connections, a people connections organization. The event will be videotaped before a live studio audience.

The evening will include food and beverages, interviews with local entrepreneurs, a reception and lots of time for networking. There’s a cost to attend, but LinkedIn Learning Lounge Live has all the earmarks of a happening.

Next for Gershbein: An Internet TV talk show now in development.

* Business podcasts are coming alive. I’ve been doing them for nearly a year and know both suburban and downstate businesses about to launch. But maybe talk to Brian Basilico: His weekly The Bacon Podcast series generates an impressive 3,000 downloads a month.

The podcast “is a marketing tool that is getting me speaking gigs all over the country,” says Basilico, founder of B2b Interactive Marketing, Aurora.

In addition to the podcast series, which began in November, Basilico’s Bacon concept includes an affiliate marketing program, a series of books, and website and marketing consulting projects.

Three Wows. Now it’s your turn.


© 2015 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at