Smart Marketing Basics


Advertising Tips for Small Business Marketers

The practice of advertising can seem overwhelming to small business marketers, viewed by most as appropriate only for large corporations with big ad budgets.  Actually, when used properly and in a targeted fashion, advertising can be a powerful tool in the small business marketer’s tool box.  Advertising is designed to build awareness for a particular product or service, and is a cost-effective way to get a consistent message communicated out to a large group of people.  The first step, before pursuing any type of advertising investment, is to define the marketing objectives for your company, and then determine whether advertising is a good fit or not.

A key marketing objective for any small business to promote their thought leadership, or business expertise.  Many small businesses overlook marketing what they do on a daily basis, when in fact, sharing some of their knowledge in a webinar event, or speaking at an industry trade show, can be a great way to showcase the value they provide.  This can be done by hosting and promoting an educational-themed event where company executives or subject matter experts share their industry perspectives.  Another idea is to share a company’s best practices, or customer research findings. 

It does not cost much money to hire a local graphic designer and copy writer to craft a simple, professional ad layout around your “business expertise” content.  Advertising your expertise works well, because readers will respond positively to offers of educational value because, especially when researching new solutions.  Featured ads in targeted publications and websites can be very effective in branding your company as a thought-leader.  Running fractional ads in local business sections of newspapers, or in industry association newsletters, can provide any small business marketer with a lot traction among prospective customers.   

As part of your advertising strategy, be sure to include a compelling “call-to-action” or next step that your prospects can take to get more information.  For example, a link to a recorded event, or an offer for a free white paper, or case study on a topic important to your customers.  Again, targeting print ads in vertical industry magazines or conference programs, or local business journals, as well as online banner ads in those same venues, can be an economical way to get started in advertising.  Just remember to stay focused, and avoid the mass media outlets that reach a broad user profile, such as TV or radio, because those can be very expensive and not very targeted to your audience.

For more information on smart marketing basics, download my free article, Ten Marketing Basics for Your Small Business, located on the SMBmarketer.com website.


10 Tips for Small Businesses Marketers – Keep Press Releases Top of Mind

Hello Small Business Marketers and Entrepreneurs! 

I came across a quick read article from Entrepreneur magazine with features some good basic “to do’s” for any small business trying to navigate through these tough times.  Be sure to check it out at:

A 10-Step Double-Dip Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/220205

I particularly endorse and recommend Tip #6, Ramp Up Your Marketing.  While other companies might be hunkering down during times of economic uncertainty, you stand to gain a lot by keeping marketing top of mind.  This doesn’t have to be expensive.  I always counsel the small businesses that I speak to that investing regularly in public relations, specifically writing and issuing your own press releases, can pay huge dividends. 

By promoting your daily business activities, including new products and services, special offers, new customer wins, training events, or open houses, you will be able to successfully build your brand and drive traffic to your website.  It’s important to stay active, while your competition sits on the sidelines!

If you would like more information on marketing your small business using press releases, check out this previous blog post, “Three Press Releases to Grown Your Small Business”, http://wp.me/pOYsX-5s


Helping Small Businesses Write Press Releases Quickly and Easily

I was asked recently to contribute to a business column on the one tip I could give to small businesses that struggle with creating press releases, and thought I would share that insight here in the Smart Marketing Basic blog.

I have been writing press releases for B2B companies for more than 20 years, and the best tip I have for writing press releases is to create a standard template that you can use over and over again.  Once you develop a successful recipe or format based on good writing fundamentals, you can crank out press releases pretty quickly.

Your template should include:
1) A boilerplate company message that is used consistently in every release
2) 1-2 Keyword phrases that you feature in every headline
3) A standard quote structure for developing customer or company executive quotes
4) A call-to-action that tells your readers where to get information
5) Contact information so readers know who to call for questions and interviews.

Strive to create specific templates for your most common releases, such as new products, customer wins, and events or seminars.  By always starting with your template, you can quickly create professional press releases that can effectively and inexpensively promote your small business.

If you would like more information on press release templates, simply Google “how to write a press release” and many search options will come up with free to low-cost templates. You can also check out our available templates on http://www.SMBmarketer.com, by going to: http://www.SMBmarketer.com/marketing-plans-and-templates


How Technology VARs and Resellers Can Benefit from PR

I attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this summer, an annual event that convenes thousands of technology partners under one “convention center” roof.  It is quite a gathering of technology entrepreneurs and small business owners who are committed to building their business by learning more about the latest in Microsoft products and services.

While building out your technology solution strategy is a key component for any technology VAR or reseller organization, it is also important to consider other marketing investments that are essential to growing your business.  I have worked with many VAR organizations throughout my 20+ year career as a technology marketing professional, and a key area for investment that often gets overlooked is publicizing your own business. 

Investing in public relations and other marketing activities are keys to any successful organization.  Often times, business principals can become quickly overwhelmed by the deep discipline of marketing, and put off getting started.  It doesn’t have to be this way — by committing to a few smart marketing plays, a reseller organization can quickly get started.  Issuing regular press releases on your business wins and successes is a ‘ no-brainer’ tactic that doesn’t require a lot of time and dollars up front. 

I often coach small businesses to create a calendar on a quarterly basis that can highlight some news items to target, and then commit to creating press releases for each one.  For example, announcing a new service offering, a new customer win, or an upcoming training or webinar event you are hosting, are all opportunities to generate publicity for your organization.   You can use press releases to highlight the wonderful things your company does daily as part of its regular operations!  The goal to creating a steady stream of news is to keep your brand and company top of mind with your prospective customers, so that when they are ready to buy, they naturally think of you. 

The press release has really evolved over time, from being only a tool sent only to journalists and media outlets, to become a great way to create recent and relevant content about your business.  Creating and posting press releases helps your website content stay fresh and can improve your search engine rankings as a result.  Additionally, press releases are a great tool to provide your sales team with, to send out to their prospecting and customer lists.  They can also be great conversation starters during cold calling or business development campaigns.  Lastly, press releases can be sent to your customers and other external partners and stakeholders to show how you continue to innovate in your industry.

Writing your own professional press releases doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor.  There are several templates (both free and low-cost) that are available to walk you through this process, step-by-step.  If you simply Google “how to write press releases”, several resource options will come up for your consideration. 

If you would like more information on press release templates for small business marketing, you can check out these links on our website for more information:

Small Business Marketing Advice, free article downloads and blog from SMBmarketer.com
Marketing Plans and Templates, low-cost downloadable templates from SMBmarketer.com

Please feel free to post your small business marketing experiences and comments!  Thanks for reading.


Press Release Distribution Strategies for Small Business

Investing in writing press releases to market your small business is an important investment that can yield high rewards, for low dollars.  Once you have created your press release, it is important to develop an appropriate distribution strategy for sharing your news with key stakeholders for your business.   Press releases can be posted on your website, emailed out to customers, and used by your sales team to cold call prospects. 

Where possible, you should also send your press releases to appropriate news media so that you can gain media exposure for your business and start building relationships with the reporters and journalists that follow your market space.  If you are just getting started with your journalist outreach, you should investigate using a newswire service, such as BusinessWire, Marketwire or PR Newswire. 

Yes, in our current environment of social media communication tools, newswires might seem out of date, but they do play a critical role, and provide significant value when if comes to helping you with your search rankings.  I came across a good article/blog post that provides more insight into newswire services, called The Changing Role of  PR Newswires, from GlobalPRblog.  Be sure to check it out.

For more tips on how to distribute press releases, download the Press Release Distribution Checklist, on the Marketing Plans and Templates page of SMBmarketer.com.  The Press Release Distribution Checklist is a low-cost, easy-to-follow marketing planning tool that walks you through what to do next after drafting your press release, including appropriate reviews and approvals, and a 10-step press release distribution strategy.

 

 


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


How Press Releases and Case Studies Create Leads for your Small Business

I was a guest contributor in an article on lead generation tips for small businesses.  Along with other small business marketing experts, I contributed a tip to create a very nice article, and quick read, with some good nuggets any small business marketer would appreciate.  Be sure to check out the complete article, Lead Generation for Small Business: Experts Weigh In.

For easy reference, here is the tip I contributed:

“Two key tactics I found to be successful are to use PR and to develop case studies. In fact, using these two tactics together creates a powerful combination. Issue press releases on a regular basis, whether it’s once a month, or once a week, that highlight your business accomplishments, including winning a new customer, hitting a revenue or growth milestone, offering a free webinar or seminar. These are great opportunities to keep your brand top of mind in your market place. They also provide sales tools for your sales teams to use for prospecting, etc. Creating case studies is a great way to highlight your expertise and show how your customers are benefitting from your solution.”

It is important that small and medium-size businesses regularly plan, write and issue press releases.  This is a low-cost tactic that will get you a lot of bang for your marketing buck.  Highlighting your successful customers is also key, because it can pay dividends on an ongoing basis.  Your customer sales cycle doesn’t end with the completion of a successful project or sale, rather, you want to ask the customer for a case study that highlights their original business challenge or pain, how they went about selecting your solution, and the value or benefits they now enjoy as a result. 

Creating a customer case study is a low-cost investment.  You simply need to ask for it.  You will be surprised at how your customers will want to highlight their success with your product, because it gives them good exposure as well.  Your customer will come off looking like a superstar when you publicize how they solved a particular business problem with your solution.  It is a win-win situation. 

The process is not complex, rather develop some questions in advance, and then schedule a phone interview to go through them with your customer.  Or email them the questions, and have them email back their responses if scheduling a phone interview is difficult.  You can take the raw data and create a draft, or hire a writer at an hourly rate to create a draft for you.  Once your case study is complete, feature it on your website, give it to your sales team, and issue a press release announcing that it is available!

Writing press releases to highlight your business and customer successes is a no brainer for small business marketers.  If you struggle with how to write a professional release, there are several tools (both free and low-cost) that are available that can make the process easy!  For more information on this, check our marketing templates page, and our Press Release Tutor templates page for help.

Using Press Releases and Case Studies to Generate Leads

Using Press Releases and Case Studies to Generate Leads


How Social Media Can Improve Small Business Marketing

Need a few tips on how social media can improve entrepreneurship?  Well, I can point you to 98 of them! 

I recently contributed to another article put together by Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, which collected quick tips from several small business marketing experts to create an article titled, “How Social Media Can Improve Entrepreneurship“.  Be sure to check out this article; my contributed tip is #60 out of the 98 total (read tip below).

#60.  Combine Blogging and Twitter for a Double-Whammy
Entrepreneurs must market their expertise, and a great way to do this is with a blog.  Blogs get found by search engines, driving traffice to your site.  each post can easily be broadcast via Twitter earning you more followers and business leads.

Remember, a “must-do” small business marketing strategy is to leverage your own content and industry expertise to build awareness for what you do, and the value  you can provide.  Tactical examples include creating customer case studies, hosting educational webinars, and speaking at industry events (see my previous blog post about this).  Each of these events is worthy of writing and issuing a press release.

Writing press releases doesn’t have to difficult or costly, as there are many good templates available to help you get started.  What is important is to get the message right – your press release must be written in a professional manner to be clear, concise and compelling.  For more help on the topic of press release templates, check out my previous blog post, Five Fast Tips, and check out our templates available at SMBmarketer.com.


Five Fast Tips for Writing Press Releases

In today’s world of fast, instant communication, the effective writing of press releases seems to becoming a lost art!  The new communication tools found in social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, certainly encourage more sharing of information, but  they don’t necessarily encourage thoughtful message strategy before your start writing your latest tweet or post. 

Whenever I  work with small businesses, they easily acknowledge that they should be using press releases to market their small business (see my previous post on this topic), but it is hard for them to get started.  Without an easy-to-follow blueprint or press release template, as well as simple inertia, and then competing demands of running their business, small business marketers can find it hard to make fast progress. 

Here are 5 fast and easy tips for any business manager or entrepreneur that is trying to get started:

1) Templates:  Don’t reinvent the wheel, or try to become a PR expert overnight.  The trick is to find some basic templates that will walk you step-by-step through the press release writing process.  If a small business marketer can get 80% of the way there in drafting a release, they will be successful.  There are lots of free and low-cost templates, both available that can help any marketer get started.  Simply do a google search on “sample press release” or “press release templates” and lots of resources will come up. 

2) Newsy, Meaty Headlines:  Be sure you feature the news of your announcement in your headline.  Your headline must identify with the reader fast, and provide a “so what” factor, or explain why this is news.  Your headline should be short and sweet, and convince the reader to continue on.

3) Sticky Introduction:  Make sure your 1st paragraph is a short, to the point summary of your news, in 50 words or less.  Your first paragraph should succinctly state exactly what you are announcing (don’t pussy-foot around, or you will lose readers’ interest).   Follow it up with who should care about this (your target audience) and why should they care (your value proposition), and how this will improve your readers’ lives (the business problem that you are solving for them). 

4) Call to Action:  Rather than try to tell the entire story, your press release should provide just enough information to get the reader interested, and then offer a “next step”.  This is called the call-to-action.  You should feature the call to action early on in the release, and later on as a wrap up.  Remember, tell your readers what they should do next.  For example, “ACME Corporation announces a new version of its Office Manager software that helps office managers and payroll specialists to track and manage time cards online, saving them time over paper-based payroll time cards.  Sign up for our free demonstration webinar by going to […insert your URL here..].”

5) Customer or Industry Quotes:  Give your news credibility by including customer quotes or thoughts from an industry analyst.  Readers shouldn’t just take your word for it, so back up your value statements and claims by getting a customer to comment on how appealing your product or service is, or by getting a subject matter expert from your industry to validate that the problem you are solving is an important one.

These are just a few tips to help you get started writing press releases.  More free small business marketing insights are available in our educational Smart Marketing Playbook article series at SMBmarketer.com. 

BTW, SMBmarketer.com offers the Press Release Tutor templates, which provide an interactive method that asks basic questions about your business, then takes your answers, and turns them into professional releases instantly.  You define your company messaging, and the Press Release Tutor walks you through how to create a press release in 5 easy steps. You can check it out at SMBmarketer.com.


Boost Your Small Business Brand with a Promotion or Community Program

I was recently asked by Toilet Paper Enterpreneur to contribute to a collaborative blog article that sought to collect a variety of quick tips on how to give your brand a boost.  Here’s the quick tip that I submitted:

Run A Promotion Or Fun ContestIf you want to bring some fun and excitement to your brand fast, then run a creative promotion or host a contest. You can ask your customers to name your next product, or provide a new product idea, or submit a case study. Result = loyal customers!

You can see the complete list of tips, 86 in total, by going to the complete blog post lcoated at:  http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/branding/tips-for-branding-your-business.  My tip is number 79.

Launching a special promotion or community program is a great way to market your small business, and an excellent opportunity to issue a press release.  Whether you are a small business offering a special promotion, or a local public agency announcing a new community assistance program, announcing this news will drive customers or end users to respond to your offer.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a fancy promotion with advertising slicks and expensive give-aways.  Rather, focus on offering up your business expertise or a trial service offering.  Not only will a promotional program boost your company’s brand, but it can drive sales as well. 

Any special promotion or community program press release should talk to who the promotion is targeted to and the value that your promotion provides.  Your press release should also include specific details such as eligibility requirements if any, and timeframe for the offer.  Always conclude your release by highlighting a compelling call-to-action, or “the next step” that your readers should take after reading your news announcement.

There are many low-cost press release templates available that can help you to easily write a professional release to announce your promotional program.  The Press Release Tutor online template series, from SMBmarketer.com, features 5 different types of press releases, including the “Special Promotion Press Release Template”.  The Press Release Tutor templates reference example press release content for each type of release, to make it easy for you to follow along.

For example, Dander-Mufflin, our fictitious technology software company used in the Press Release Tutor templates, could use a press release to promote a free software training class to customers that purchase a new software license in the next 30 days.  This is a good example of how a company can leverage an existing offering to create a compelling promotion that drives sales.  See the image below for what this press release might look like.

Hope these tips help you in your quest to market your small business!


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