Smart Marketing Basics


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Small Business category.

Growing Your Small Business with Public Relations

When I counsel small businesses on how to start marketing themselves, I make sure they build a plan around public relations.  Writing and issuing press releases that announce each of your business accomplishments is critical to building your brand, creating sales leads, and ultimately growing your business. 

Developing your own press release program does not have to be overwhelming or costly.  You can start out small, by writing your own releases, and focusing on three key types of news:

  1. New Product or Service Offering – Something new your company is offering for the first time.
  2. Customer Win or Success Announcement – A new deal, competitive win, or customer case study.
  3. Special Award or Recognition – An award, company ranking or other honor.

Each new product or service you offer, every new customer you win, and any award or special recognition you receive provides an opportunity to issue a press release.  You need a steady stream of news to ensure that you can keep your brand top of mind with your prospects and customers.

New Products/Services
Every new product or service you offer should have its own press release.  Having a robust roster of press releases on your website shows that your business is healthy and active, and  provides validation that you continually invest in your product portfolio.  Customers will be more inclined to work with organizations are constantly brining new value to the marketplace.  Even as you enhance or refresh your existing product line, take advantage of the opportunity to write a press release about it.

Customer Wins
Promoting customer wins, partnerships or other business successes are critical to building momentum for your organization, because they create credibility within your marketplace, and help you to establish a proven track record.   Having reference-able customers is also a must when it comes to smart marketing basics!  Additionally, you can use a press release to announce how existing customers have received value, or ROI from using your solution.  For example,  “ACME Company Reduces Shipping Costs by 50% Using [My Company’s Product]”.  Another strategy is to complete a customer case providing an indepth profile, and then issue a press release promoting the case study on your website.

Awards
Award programs can be a great way to garner exposure and free publicity for your organization, particularly if you have customers doing good things with your solutions, and are willing to talk about it. Don’t wait for awards or special recognition to come along, rather, research industry groups and publications within your key markets or local community to identify potential award opportunities.  Then, put together a calendar of submission deadlines and proactively submit ballots or applications. A well-written press release promoting your special honor can be used by your sales teams, emailed out to your prospect lists, and forwarded to local media outlets. 

Each these three essential press release announcements should follow good press release writing fundamentals, including consistent messaging relevant to your target audience, having a brief solution overview, and a call-to-action so that readers can take the next step.  As a small business marketer or owner, you know your business best, and it’s worth it to invest some time each month to highlight your news.  Be proactive by developing a calendar of potential press releases you can publish each month, or each quarter, to help keep you on track.

Writing press releases can seem challenging at first, especially if you are not sure how to create a good message.  There are several low-cost and no-cost templates and tools available on the Internet, and from press release distribution services that can get help you get started.

If you would like more help on writing press releases, consider the Press Release Primer tutorial guide available for puchase on our Marketing Plans and Templates webpage.  The Press Release Primer includes press release templates and writing tips for each of the 3 key releases recommended above:  A new product/service; a customer win; and an award or special recognition.

The Press Release Primer, a guide to writing press releases for your small business

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Small Business PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Small business marketers often make two common mistakes when it comes public relations.  The first one is not doing enough to promote or publicize your daily business wins and successes, and the second is not preparing for a press interview after you have issued some news.  Let’s talk about mistake number one first. 

Mistake #1 – Lack of regular public relations

Investing in some public relations activities is a smart marketing basic that all small businesses should engage in.  This can simply involve making a point to tell your story, and sharing your successes and accomplishments with the outside world by issuing press releases.  This doesn’t have to cost a lot.  By posting news announcements to your website on a regular basis, and giving these same press releases to your sales team to send out to their customers and prospects, you can quickly build credibility for your small business and generate a lot of interest in your products and services.

By simply planning a calendar of press release topics, and sticking to it, you can generate a steady stream of news.  Your news doesn’t have to be ‘earth shattering’.  Yes, you might feel you are competing against uber-big headlines, like Facebook finally planning to go IPO, but what you really need to focus on is news that shows the world how you are providing value to your customers, and solving key issues in your industry.

There are three basic press release types that apply to most small businesses:  1) announcing a new product or service, 2) announcing a new customer win, and 3) announcing a special event your organization is hosting or participating in.  Your event could be a local chamber of commerce event you are sponsoring, a tradeshow you are speaking at, or an online training event that you are offering.  If you develop a simple press release calendar around these three type of news annoucements, and plan to issue one per month, you can drive a lot of interest in your business, as well as improve your search rankings on your website because your content is fresh and updated regularly. 

For more insights on these three press release types, check out this previous blog post on Three Press Releases to Grow Your Small Business.

Mistake #2 – Not preparing for a press interview

Once you issue some news and generate interest from a reporter, say from an industry trade publication writer or a local business journalist, be sure to prepare for the interview.  Have your press release available with your key messages highlighted so you ensure that you reinforce those during your meeting.  Be sure you to ask up front how much time the journalist has to speak with you so that you use time wisely.  Be prepared to focus on only 1-2 things if your meeting needs to be cut short. 

Research previous articles that the reporter has written so that you can be familiar with her work, her writing style, and the topics that she covers the most.  And lastly, be prepared for the last question she will usually ask, which is “Is there anything else that you would like to add?”  This is a good opportunity to remind the journalist of how you are different from other competitive offerings or providers.

MarketingSherpa.com is a great resource for marketing research, and features quite a few blogs as well.  Daniel Burnstein wrote a great post on the topic of 5 interview mistakes that drive journalists crazy, so be sure to check out his tips at this link:

http://sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com/pr-fame-communications/avoid-pr-interview-mistakes/comment-page-1/#comment-75926

Subscribe to the Smart Marketing Basics blog for more tips on public relations, writing press releases, and small business marketing topics.


Crafting the Perfect Company Boilerplate Description for Your Press Releases

Small business marketers often struggle to find the perfect words to describe their organization, mostly because they lack a proven recipe for putting one together.  Even the best product strategists tend to focus on developing a ‘catchy tagline’ or ‘pithy elevator pitch’ as their approach. However, this strategy often times falls short because you wind up with a meaningless phrase, instead of a clear, concise and compelling description of the specific value your company provides, and to whom.  

Using press releases to market your business is a smart marketing basic for any small business, and the key to writing effective press releases is to start with a solid message.  Your company boilerplate plays a key role in your message, and should always be the last paragraph of any press release you create.  By including your company boilerplate in every press release you issue, you ensure that you are communicating a clear, concise and compelling message about your organization.

To create a company boilerplate description, small business marketers need to ask themselves a few basic questions to identify who they are, what type of company are do they have, and what type of solutions to they provide and to whom.  The answers to these questions provide the inputs into creating a concise, compelling story about your firm.  

TEMPLATE:  Drafting up a company boilerpatle description does not have to be a daunting activity.  Below is a quick and easy template to follow.  Take a few minutes to think about how you would complete each field in brackets […], as it would apply to your small business:

[Company name] is [company type] specializing in [keyword phrase] for [target industry or customer]. Rather than using [alternative product/service], [Company name] enables [specific role, or end user] to [specific user benefit] without [a negative repercussion, such as adding staff, incurring extra costs]. Since [year founded], [Company name] has helped more than [total number of customers] successfully [key business value]. To learn more, please visit: [company website].

INGREDIENTS: A good boilerplate description features these key ingredients:

[company type] – what type of company are you, a technology provider, a law firm, a non-profit, etc.
[keyword phrase] – how might people search on Google for your type of company? What common terms would they use ( i.e. accounting software, family legal services, food banks).
[target industry or customer group] – who will benefit from your service, for example, law firms, or the construction companies.
[specific role/end user] – specific staff titles or roles within an organization that will use your product or service, such as an attorney or paralegal, a operations manager.
[negative repercussion] – a common objection or misperception a prospective customer might have about your offering, such as it is too hard to learn something new, or too costly.
[key business value] – what problem do you solve, or value do you provide?  Think of a short phrase that starts with a verb, such as ‘reduce costs in managing legal documents’, etc.

EXAMPLE:  Imagine a fictitious technology solutions company, named Dander-Mufflin that provides software to the legal industry.  Their products help law firms to manage and track the thousands of legal documents for each of its clients. They have been around since 2000, and have a proven track record of clients.  Using the template above, their company boilerplate would look something like this:

Dander-Mufflin is a technology solutions provider specializing in document management software for law firms and corporate legal departments. Rather than using manual, paper-based filing systems, Dander-Mufflin enables attorneys and paralegals to quickly categorize and locate legal documents without increasing client billing costs or adding administrative headcount.  Since 2000, Dander-Mufflin has helped more than 50 legal firms successfully reduce document storage costs by 50%. To learn more, please visit: http://www.dander-mufflin.com.

Try following this template to create your own boilerplate, and feel free to comment on how it worked for you in our comments section.  Remember, having a clear and concise description trumps a fancy slogan anytime!  It’s more important  that your reader take away from your press release a clear understanding of who you are and what you do. 

MORE TIPS & TEMPLATES:
For more templates and tips on creating professional press releases, check out the Press Release Primer – a small business guide to writing professional press releases.  This 23-page guide details how to build your own release, describes how to create your company boilerplate description, and provides 3 different press release templates for announcing: 1) a new product or service; 2) a new customer win; and 3) an award or special recognition.


What is Hot with Small Business Marketers – Our Top Posts

With the 3rd quarter of the 2011 calendar year recently wrapped up, SMBmarketer.com decided to look back over the last three months to see which blog posts resonated the most with small business marketers.  Site statistics are a great way to monitor the marketplace to identify current marketing trends, and to better understand which issues are top of mind for small business marketers.  

Here are the top 5 posts by views, followed by a quick summary of each post:

1. Press Releases – How to Convince Your Colleagues to Use Press Release Marketing – While writing press releases to promote your small business is a “no brainer” strategy to many professional marketers, they often times have to influence their corporate peers to support this activity.

2. Press Release Distribution Strategies for Small Business – Some quick thoughts on the importance of developing an appropriate distribution strategy for sharing your news with key stakeholders for your business. 

3. Pitching Your Small Business for Speaking Events – Speaking at local business or community events, or seeking out presenter slots is a great way to get exposure for your company’s expertise, as well as generate some potential sales leads.

4. 10 Tips for Small Business Marketers – A quick-read article from Entrepreneur magazine that features some “to do’s” for any small business trying to navigate through these tough times.

5. Email Messaging Templates for Small Business Marketers – Email marketing provides a cost-effective approach to targeting your markets, either by industry, organization type, specific user profile, or by geography.

It is amazing that many of these tops post are older, some dating back to last year, which goes to show that some topics are consistently important to our readers- a helpful gauge as to what we should cover on a regular basis.  Our Smart Marketing Basics blog will make a point to track this hot list each quarter.  Please feel free to comment if you don’t see your hot marketing issue represented here, and we will try to address it in a new post in Q4.


Three Press Releases to Grow Your Small Business

When I counsel small businesses on how to start marketing themselves, I make sure they build a plan around public relations.  Writing and issuing press releases that announce each of your business accomplishments is critical to building your brand, creating sales leads, and ultimately growing your business. 

Developing your own press release program does not have to be overwhelming or costly.  You can start out small, by writing your own releases, and focusing on three key types of news:

  1. New Product or Service Offering – Something new your company is offering for the first time.
  2. Customer Win or Success Announcement – A new deal, competitive win, or customer case study.
  3. Special Award or Recognition – An award, company ranking or other honor.

Each new product or service you offer, every new customer you win, and any award or special recognition you receive provides an opportunity to issue a press release.  You need a steady stream of news to ensure that you can keep your brand top of mind with your prospects and customers.

New Products/Services
Every new product or service you offer should have its own press release.  Having a robust roster of press releases on your website shows that your business is healthy and active, and  provides validation that you continually invest in your product portfolio.  Customers will be more inclined to work with organizations are constantly brining new value to the marketplace.  Even as you enhance or refresh your existing product line, take advantage of the opportunity to write a press release about it.

Customer Wins
Promoting customer wins, partnerships or other business successes are critical to building momentum for your organization, because they create credibility within your marketplace, and help you to establish a proven track record.   Having reference-able customers is also a must when it comes to smart marketing basics!  Additionally, you can use a press release to announce how existing customers have received value, or ROI from using your solution.  For example,  “ACME Company Reduces Shipping Costs by 50% Using [My Company’s Product]”.  Another strategy is to complete a customer case providing an indepth profile, and then issue a press release promoting the case study on your website.

Awards
Award programs can be a great way to garner exposure and free publicity for your organization, particularly if you have customers doing good things with your solutions, and are willing to talk about it. Don’t wait for awards or special recognition to come along, rather, research industry groups and publications within your key markets or local community to identify potential award opportunities.  Then, put together a calendar of submission deadlines and proactively submit ballots or applications. A well-written press release promoting your special honor can be used by your sales teams, emailed out to your prospect lists, and forwarded to local media outlets. 

Each these three essential press release announcements should follow good press release writing fundamentals, including consistent messaging relevant to your target audience, having a brief solution overview, and a call-to-action so that readers can take the next step.  As a small business marketer or owner, you know your business best, and it’s worth it to invest some time each month to highlight your news.  Be proactive by developing a calendar of potential press releases you can publish each month, or each quarter, to help keep you on track.

Writing press releases can seem challenging at first, especially if you are not sure how to create a good message.  There are several low-cost and no-cost templates and tools available on the Internet, and from press release distribution services that can get help you get started.

If you would like more help on writing press releases, consider the new Press Release Primer tutorial guide available for puchase on our Marketing Plans and Templates webpage.  The latest template from SMBmarketer.com, the Press Release Primer includes press release templates and writing tips for each of the 3 key releases recommended above:  A new product/service; a customer win; and an award or special recognition.

The Press Release Primer, a guide to writing press releases for your small business


Writing Press Releases to Market Your Small Business

Throughout my career as a technology marketing professional, I have spent a lot of time counseling small businesses on effective marketing, and helping them to justify investments in marketing.  Often times, they have tried a tactic or two, without understanding what their overall strategy should be, or how different types of campaigns are designed to bring different types of results.

As a small business owner or marketer, it is key to invest in marketing to promote your product or service.  This does not have to be an overwhelming or costly endeavor, and there are many smart marketing plays that are proven for small business.  You can start by downloading our free “Smart Marketing Playbook” article, Using Press Releases to Promote Your Small Business

Writing press releases to promote each of your business successes is a easy, actionable strategy that can fits any marketing budget.  What results can you expect you ask?  Issuing press releases regularly helps to keep your company top of mind with prospective customers; it builds awareness for what you do, and the value you provide; and it is a “smart marketing play” that can get your company known.

The press release has also evolved, from a simple news announcement sent only to journalists and media outlets, into a powerful marketing tool for organizations of all sizes.  With the Internet and social media venues as prominent communication vehicles for both business and consumer audiences, readers can come across your news in several places, and can take multiple actions after viewing your announcement.  For example:

  1. Press releases can be indexed by Yahoo and Google, and shown in search engine results. 
  2. Press releases can be posted to your company website and optimized with your keyword phrases to improve your search rankings. 
  3. Press releases can be re-tweeted by readers to their followers on Twitter, who share the same interests. 
  4. Press releases can be used by your sales teams as conversation starters on cold calls. 
  5. Press releases can be pushed out to mobile phones, through RSS feeds, and redistributed to news syndication and aggregator sites.
Small business owners and marketers should invest some time each month or each quarter to identify a pipeline of potential news announcements, such as a new customer win, product launch, case study release, speaking or training event, or even a special promotion or community program. 
 
While there are many things to you can talk about, creating the right messaging is essential to a well-written announcement.  You know your business best, but creating a clear and compelling message can be challenging, especially for “non-marketing” professionals.
 
The answer to this dilemma is to find some easy to use press release templates – there are many available, so be sure to do some research to find some tools that are right for your you.   At SMBmarketer.com, we provide a variety of templates to help small business marketers to get started marketing fast.  If you need more help or resources in this regard, you can:
  1. Check out our marketing templates downloads page
  2. Access our Press Release Tutor interactive templates, and
  3. Subscribe to the Smart Marketing Basics blog for continual marketing tips and help.
I invite readers of this post to also share their comments on how press releases have helped them to market their small business.
 
Thanks for reading!
 

My Favorite Marketing “Tweets” for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

It is not hard to argue the importance of marketing to the success of any business. For entrepreneurs and small business marketers, the challenge seems to lie in simply getting started. The discipline of marketing is vast, encompassing many practice areas where most marketing professionals focus on mastering only a few specific skill areas.

After spending 20+ years in the marketing arena, my experience has shown that startups and small businesses need actionable, easy ways to get started marketing, and they need to do it fast.  They can’t usually afford in the beginning to invest in a lot of staff, agencies or consultants, and so having some easy templates and strategies to get them going is key. If the initial steps seem too complicated, they simply won’t do it.  Think easy, actionable tips – or in this case, tweetable tips!

If you subscribe to my blog, Smart Marketing Basics, or follow me on Twitter @SMB_marketer, you can see that I write on this topic often.  Below I feature some of my favorite ‘tweets’ that highlight two “must do” marketing tips for small businesses simply trying to get started with marketing:

1) Use PR to promote Your Business
This is easier than most people think, and is a low cost of entry investment.  Even if you are not doing a big PR blitz around a new product launch, creating press releases give you a sales tool for cold calling, helps with drive better search results to your website, and gives you content you can email to prospect lists.  You should regularly write press releases on what your business is up to.  One idea is to seek out local business and industry events where you can speak on a topic related to your business.  Here are some of my favorite tweets on this topic:

Small Business Marketing Should Include Speaking at Events: http://t.co/rGtjxjJ

Tips for small business on how to write winning press releases: http://t.co/3bsxyoj

2) Good Marketing Starts with a Solid Message
Most small companies don’t invest in this activity, and so initial marketing results meet with poor performance because their messages are not clear, concise and compelling to readers. There are cheap, easy templates available from many sites to help get you started (including ours, www.SMBmarketer.com). Here is a favorite tweet on this topic:

Smart Marketing Starts with a Solid Message: http://t.co/ZpyamxZ

I hope these tweeted tips give you the marketing inspiration you need to get going!  Don’t get overwhelmed by all the marketing possibilities out there.  Rather, focus on doing a couple of things first, and then build from there.  Once you are ready to add more to your marketing mix, check out our free article, Ten Marketing Basics for Your Small Business on our website.

Article: Ten Marketing Basics for your Small Business

Article: Ten Marketing Basics for your Small Business


Email Marketing Best Practices for Your Small Business

As a 20+ year marketing veteran, and founder of the website SMBmarketer.com, (templates and tips to get small businesses marketing fast), I often get requests for email marketing tips on how small businesses owners and marketers can avoid their outbound emails being considered as “spam” by propsects they reach out to. 

The two main things I ask them to focus on are: 1) developing and managing a quality list, and 2)  creating compelling messages and content that resonates with their list recipients. 

List development
It is important to seek out list sources that let you filter against a variety of demographics and job titles, so you can reach someone who is as close to your target customer as possible.  Generic lists to an untargeted mass audience will lead to a high number of spam blocking and unsubscribe requests.  The more targeted you get, and the better your open rates and click through metrics will be. 

Focus on quality contacts, versus quantity.  A bigger list isn’t always better.  Requiring your targets to “opt-in” to your list, versus you spamming them without permission, will lead to a better email responses.  For example, having  a form on your website, or including an offer in your outbound emails, that ask them to sign up to receive your content, leads to a better quality list.  Additionally, asking your list contacts to re-opt in on a regular basis, say annually, guarantees that you keep your list clean and healthy. 

Lastly, be sure to use a legitimate email service provider, whether its Constant Contact, MyEmma, or proven marketing automation vendor, that can provide you with master unsubscribe capabilities – this is a must-do to keeping your email reputation clean!

Content and Message
Another key factor to avoiding high levels of unsubscribes, is to be sure you provide relevant and compelling content to your email recipients.  This does not have to be an expensive or daunting undertaking.  At SMBmarketer.com, we advocate marketing your thought leadership by developing case studies, customer win announcements, and providing other business insights, such as a top ten list of tips around a certain topic (these could focus on the basic services that your company offers). 

For example, if you are a small business providing accounting services, you could create a “top ten list for year-end tax planning” email message and provide relevant action items, and a call-to-action to get more insight through a free consultation. 

Content development seems to be a big obstacle for small businesses to undertaking, but it can easily be done (we offer templates to help with this).  All a small business has to do is look at their daily business activities for ideas. 

Hope this helps, and I would welcome your comments and insights.  For more help on creating compelling messages for email marketing, check out our low cost templates available for download by going to:

https://www.smbmarketer.com/marketing-plans-and-templates/
Email Marketing Templates for Small Businesses

New PR Tools Are Effective for Small Business Marketers

It’s easy to understand why small business marketers can feel overwhelmed when it comes to marketing their firm.  A lack of marketing knowledge, time and budget can all be valid reasons.  However, the value of marketing and specifically public relations has been proven over and over again.  The good news is that there are now more options tailored to small businesses that want to start marketing their companies, without investing a lot of time and money up front.

Here is a great article, published on OPEN Forum, that talks about two public relations platforms that are both affordable and easily accessible to small businesses.  the article by Alexander Hotz talks about two websites, HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Out, and NewsBasis.  Check out the full article at: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/are-press-platforms-worth-it-for-small-businesses-alexander-hotz?cid=em-smartbrief.  I subscribe to HARO, which provides daily emails of reporters requests for topics and experts interviews.  It’s pretty easy to scan through the requests and identify a relevant topic that you can reply to.  Check them out, and feel free to provide comments with your experiences or tips.

Engaging in public relations for your small business does not have to be a huge endeavor.  With some helpful marketing templates and tips, you can quickly get on your way to issuing press releases regularly about your small business.  It’s important to create a simple calendar, or list of news you would like to publish and also to commit to a target, or a number of announcements to issue each quarter.  For example, start out by targeting two announcement per quarter, and then work your way up to 1-2 per month. 

Remember, having fresh and relevant content on your website is a key search engine optimization strategy.  Additionally, if you published your releases over the wire, or on news directories, your website will also benefit from the inbound links that are created.  You can also optimize your press releases for search by including keyword phrases that are relevant to your business, as links within the body/text of your press release.  For more marketing tips on how to use press releases to market your small business, check out our free article downloads at: http://www.smbmarketer.com/featured-articles/

A good public relations strategy begins with a solid message.  See my previous blog post on this subject, https://smartmarketingbasics.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/smart-marketing-starts-with-a-solid-message/.

At SMBmarketer.com, our mission is to provide easy, actionable tools and marketing advice to help get you started.  For a minimal investment, you can get some fast tips on creating a basic marketing plan, as well as templates to help you create your message and content.  The Press Release Tutor is our featured template – this interactive tool that takes your answers to basic questions about your business, and turns them into a professionally written press release.  With the Press Release Tutor, small business marketers can create a press release in five easy steps:

1) Select an announcement template (new product, event, promotion, etc).
2) Develop your company message using our questionnaire.
3) Create a boilerplate description.
4) Complete and edit your template.
5) Preview your draft and download your press release.

You can learn more about our templates by going to: http://www.smbmarketer.com/

The Press Release Tutor

Small business marketers can create professionally releases in five easy steps


Writing Winning Press Releases

I wanted to share this great post from the American Express OPENForum site, which features lots of great small business tips and how to articles on marketing. Author Shira Levine wrote a post titled, “How to Write a Winning Press Release: The Step-by-Step Guide.”  To read it, go to this link, http://bit.ly/anwV1S.

It talks about good basics for press release writing, such as creating compelling headlines, using keywords throughout your release, and having a good introductory paragraph that summarizes your announcement.

At SMBmarketer.com, we whole-heartedly endorse these tips, and have built our Press Release Tutor™ online interactive template that incorporates these tenets. But you know the saying, easier said than done. That is why we created an interactive template that walks you step-by-step through the process of creating a release.  Reading an article is one thing, but retaining it completely and applying it to practice is another.

In 5 easy steps, the Press Release Tutor lets you create a compelling and consistent message, select from several different announcement types, and then automatically creates a draft for your review and final edits. We would love your feedback on the Press Release Tutor tool; you can check it out at:https://www.smbmarketer.com/press-release-tutor-templates/


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