How do people find your business? You can have a great company with fabulous products or services, but unless you are extremely lucky, every business owner still needs to put some work into regular and ongoing promotion to attract customers. Promotion, which includes public relations, advertising and marketing, will attract new customers and minimise quiet periods ensuring that your business thrives.
Today, there are many different avenues open to entrepreneurs looking to get the word out about what their business offers. From traditional print media to the internet, there is enormous scope to use public relations to get journalists to provide independent coverage of what is going on in your business. Email, the internet and SMS messaging have opened up a whole new range of ways to market your business beyond flyers and direct mail.
What is more, many of these methods can be affordable, even to small businesses and sole traders. The main thing you need to do is create some time. As long as you are prepared to commit a few hours to make a plan, then follow up every day, it is easy to use simple and affordable promotion techniques on a regular basis to watch your business grow.
Making a plan
Planning how you will promote your business is an essential part of a healthy enterprise. Try to work out a plan for the year ahead. This will help you continue with promotional activities at both busy and quiet times, which is vital if you want the keep up your business profile.
Start by writing down all the different promotional activities you can think of. Include ideas that have worked well in the past, and things you see working for competitors. Look on small business sites on the internet for more inspiration. Talk to people at networking events, face to face or online, and ask what works for them.
Then, using a spreadsheet or year planner, note down which activities you will do when. Make sure you have a spread of activities throughout the year. Look at where you have gaps and see if you can come up with an event or have a special offer so that you have things to promote all year round. Try to make one phone call or send a few emails every day. Continuous effort is far more effective than big bursts of promotion without any follow up.
As part of your plan have a regular programme of press releases. It may take several releases before you catch a journalist’s eye, or you may strike it lucky and send in just the right sort of story first time. If you are unsure what makes a good press release, read the sort of publication you’d like to feature in, and see what stories they cover.
How often you send out press releases should be based on how often you have genuine news. If you bring out a new range each season, it is simple to plan in a press release each quarter, plus a further release each time you have a sale.
It is important to note down which sectors of the media will be interested in your news, and don’t forget to include different angles for trade and consumer press. You may be able to devise different press releases on the same subject for different audiences. For example, if you had a new range of boots, there would be potential for a press release about the styles available in children’s sizes to parenting media, and a different release for outdoors pursuits magazines. A third release could emphasise the fashion angle for women’s magazines.
Something that might not interest the national media may interest your local paper. Develop a relationship with the reporter who covers your local area, and keep them informed about the latest developments at your business. Stories about new staff, increased employment opportunities, or when employees gain qualifications may make the business pages.
Include advertising in your promotional activities. Think about how much money you have to spend on advertising throughout the year. Many small business owners invest all they have in one or two adverts, and get little response. Potential customers may need to see your business
offering up to seven times before they are moved to make a purchase. Advertising will usually contribute to raising your company profile in the long term, but may not always show an immediate rise in sales.
To make advertising work for you, plan it carefully. Cost up the price of a series of adverts or adverts in a range of complementary publications. Find out about series discounts, and also consider waiting until the last minute for discounted rates. Most importantly, remember advertising alone may not be enough. Look at how you can back up your adverts with PR, editorial coverage, competitions or offers targeting the same audience.
There are lots more ways to make use of the internet. Have you got a website? A simple site with details of what you offer and how to get in touch, works as a constant advertisement for your business. And if you are prepared to invest your time or some money in an online shopping cart you can offer your products to a far wider audience. Think beyond print advertising too. Have you looked at pay per click adverts on the internet? You can limit your budget to a small amount each day and just pay when people click on your advert and visit your website. Consider writing articles or offering top tips in your area of expertise for other websites too. Becoming an expert in a certain area that ties in with your business can give people confidence to buy. Join relevant forums too, but remember to read their rules about promoting your business. You may be able to mention it if it is relevant to a question asked by another member.
Remember to spend a few minutes promoting your business every day, and add new ideas to your plan as you have them. You will soon see the difference this makes to your business.