Tag Archives: marketing

Small Business Marketing Tools to Get You Free Publicity

As far as small business marketing goes, free publicity is gold. It’s not just that you’re getting your company name to the public without having to pay for it; it’s that the news publicity – whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, or online, weighs more heavily in your prospective customers minds. Even as skepticism reigns, people see information printed by news-type sources (whether in print or online) as being more truthful, more objective, than information that’s paid for by the company (advertising).

But simply sending out a press kit to your local news media won’t guarantee you that free publicity. The cardinal rule you have to follow is that your information must be newsworthy. One of the ways that news media keep their reputation as objective sources of information is that they are – they’re not going to print a thinly-veiled ad for your product or service as a news piece. But if you write a release that accomplishes both goals – offering the news media an interesting, informational story and letting potential customers get to know your product or service – that’s where free publicity really pays off.

To start, you need to develop a press kit as a standard component of your small business marketing materials. Your press kit should include:

Small business marketing press kit component 1: A letter to the editor of the newspaper (or magazine, or internet site) pitching your press release as a story idea. Many components of your press kit can be recycled, but the letter to the editor should change every time to send out a new press release.

Small business marketing press kit component 2: The press release. Your press release is where the journalist will look to find most of the information for her story. In the release, you should describe the news item (the launch of a new product that will revolutionize consumer’s lives, for example). Feel free to quote yourself and others in the press release expounding on the issue (that way the journalist won’t have to contact you or others for quotes when she’s writing the story).

Small business marketing press kit component 3: Your business card. Make it easy for the journalist to contact you.

Small business marketing press kit component 4: Your corporate bio. Journalists often like to add background information into their stories; make it easy by including a corporate bio that offers the important information about your business, including who founded it and when, location, and other interesting tidbits.

Small business marketing press kit component 5: Relevant photos. The keyword here is relevant: include photos of the topic your press release is about. If it’s a new product, offer some interesting photos. If it’s a new day care service, offer some pictures of the employees with the kids. Use photos that will make your story more compelling.

Small business marketing press kit component 6: Testimonials. It can be a great strategy to build quotations from current and past customers right into your press release. But even when you do that, don’t be shy about adding more.

Small business marketing press kit component 7: A data sheet for the relevant product or service. A data sheet with give the details about your product or service (that’s being covered in the press release). Relevant details include pricing, components, materials, size, weight, and part number – if applicable.

You should put all seven small business marketing components of your press kit into a folder – ideally one with your logo on the front to finish off the presentation.

Once you’ve created an appropriate small business marketing press kit, you can think about the kind of media outlets that you want to target. That small business marketing decision should be based on where your customers are – are they online, reading the local daily, or a national newsmagazine? Free publicity won’t mean much if it’s not picked up by your target audience – your prospective customers.

Once you’ve decided the media outlet that you want to target, find out who the managing editor is and send a personalized press kit to her. Or, if the publication is very large, send a personalized press kit to the journalist in charge of your area (for example, the Food journalist if your product is gourmet brownies or the Technology journalist if your product is computer software). You can also send out a press release for mass distribution using one of many online press release wires.


Networking for Your Small Business

Networking is perhaps second only to cold calling in terms of the contention it creates as an effective small business marketing strategy. Some small business marketing experts say that networking is a waste of time; others insist that it’s the only small business marketing tool that’s really vital to success.

The debate probably arises because of differences in what networking is. Staying in touch with past customers, for example, is undoubtedly a highly effective and important small business marketing tool. Regularly attending networking functions may or may not be as effective a small business marketing tool.

So let’s consider those two types of networking separately:

Networking type 1: Staying in touch with past and current customers as well as those who have inquired about your services

This type of networking is probably one of the most important small business marketing tools you have. Past and current customers, as well as those who have inquired about your services make up the ideal small business marketing list: people for whom you have complete contact information and who, you know, are interested in your products or services.

To successfully network with these customers and prospective customers, set up a way to contact them on a regular basis. One way to do that is through a monthly (or quarterly) newsletter in which you offer relevant information (newsletters have the added benefit of positioning you as the expert). Another is to send out promotional offers that will entice those customers to return and do business with you again. Yet another is to send holiday cards (try sending cards on holidays that aren’t traditionally celebrated with cards, such as the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving to really stand out from your competition).

Networking type 2: Attending networking functions with other business owners

Attending networking association functions is no doubt less effective than the first type of networking. Some small business owners consider this second type of small business marketing to be a complete waste of time, while others find that they make contacts that turn in to business customers.

Perhaps the best argument against attending networking association functions as a means of small business marketing is that your network association is made up of other small business owners just like you who are anxious for customers, not looking to make friends with other small business owners.

The flip side of that argument is that networking associations, when run well, offer you a chance to network with other small business owners selling different kinds of products or services from whom you may get referrals or with whom you may start a joint venture.

If network associations are going to help your small business marketing efforts, though, they should meet a few conditions:

1. They should limit members to one business in each market sector, so that you’re not “networking” with your competition

2. They should require each member to meet a leads quota – to ensure that no one is trying to free ride

Whichever type networking fits well within your small business marketing strategy, the key point to remember is that staying at the forefront of your contacts’ minds is critical to getting the referral (or the repeat business, in the case of current and past customers). There are a number of software programs that will help you establish a list of contacts and remind you when it’s time to follow up.