Smart Marketing Basics


Writing Press Releases to Promote Your Small Business

Getting started marketing your small to medium-sized business can quickly become overwhelming.  Whether you are an entrepreneur or business principal, or an internal marketing manager, there are many tactical approaches to consider.  Recognize that the discipline of marketing is broad and deep, and best practices can vary based on your vertical market, and whether you sell B2B (a business that sells to other businesses, who in turn sell to another end-user) or B2C (a business selling directly to consumers).  After 20+ years as a marketing professional, I do recommend a couple of smart marketing basics, one of which is Public Relations and writing press releases to promote your successes and accomplishments.

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.
Please share your comments on how press releases, as well as other marketing efforts you have tried, have helped you to market your small business.
 
 
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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


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!


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!
 

Pitching Your Small Business for Speaking Events

When it comes to small business marketing, pitching your company for speaking opportunities should be a no-brainer. Speaking at local business or community events, or seeking out presenter slots at industry trade shows or association meetings is a great way to get exposure for your company’s expertise, as well as generate some potential sales leads. For more insight on this topic, check out my previous blog post, Small Business Marketing Should Include Speaking at Events.

When it comes to topics, the one tip I always recommend to small business marketers is: submit a speaking abstract that pitches a project or customer case study that you have done.  Customer stories and project profiles are way more compelling to event committees than offering up a sales or product pitch because industry events and associations love to hear about what their member companies are doing.  It is a relatively low-cost investment to hire a writer to interview yourself, or your customers, and then complete a 2-4 page write up on a successful project you have completed, or how a customer has used your product to solve a specific business problem.  Speaker selection committees respond more favorably to these types of submissions.

Another example of compelling content would be to do a brief survey of your customers that identifies the top industry issues that they face, and what value they get from your “type” of solutions.  Presenting market research or survey findings puts you in a better position to be selected as a speaker, because you will be perceived as an industry expert that is providing more “educational” content.

Of course, once you have been accepted as a speaker, it is imperative that you promote your speaking engagement using a press release! Speaking at an industry or business event creates a perfect opportunity to brand yourself among prospective customers. Issuing a press release on your presentation creates awareness among show attendees that you will be there, and can drive additional traffic to hear what you have to say. Issuing a press release on your speaking engagement promotes you as a thought leader to prospects, and provides recent and relevant content to post on your website, helping you to improve your search engine rankings.

If writing press releases seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. There are several good templates available that can help you through it step by step, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have access to a PR agency or consultant. You know your business best, and with a bit of help, you can craft a concise and compelling message about your business. Event press releases should be short and to the point, and focus on promoting you as a speaker, the event you are speaking at, and the specific time and location of your presentation.

For more help on how to write an event press release, check out the Press Release Tutor templates, available from http://www.SMBmarketer.com. The Press Release Tutor provides online, interactive templates that can walk you thorugh creating a professional press release in 5 easy steps.


Customer Testimonials Are Key To Small Business Marketing

Often times, small business marketers can feel the pinch of a tight marketing budget.  If you are one of these individuals, don’t despair – there are ways to leverage your everyday business activities and successes that can really help.  The customers your organization deals with on a daily basis represent a ‘smart marketing play’ to any business.  Why?  Because they help you to build credibility and trust with potential prospects. 

@SMB_Marketer recently tweeted about a great article on this topic, called “How to Effectively Use Testimonials,”  by Neil Patel on his blog, QuickSprout.  View the tweet and article link at:

http://twitter.com/SMB_Marketer/status/2522712585015296

The article talks about the value of customer testimonials, as well as tips on how to create them, including using testimonials from organizations that are relevant to your target market, incorporating specific product benefits, and using them in ways that support a specific claim that you make.  One of the best ways to get customer testimonials is to issue press releases on your customer wins. 

Remember, your work should not stop after the deal comes in.  Promoting customer wins are critical to building momentum for your organization, because they create credibility within your marketplace, and help you to establish a proven track record. Small business marketers will agree that having reference-able customers is must.The goal of SMBmarketer.com is to provide smart marketing templates to small business owners and managers to help them get started.  If you are looking for easy, step-by-step templates for writing press releases, consider the Press Release Tutor™, an interactive template that takes answers to basic questions about your business, and turns them into well-written press releases, instantly!

However, writing press releases to promote your new customer wins can be challenging when you are not sure how to create the right message.  But dont’ let that stop you – there are easy, actionable press release templates available that can walk small business marketers step by step through the process of crafting a solid message, that is clear, concise and compelling.  Not only can press releases be posted to your website, sent to journalists and media outlets, but they are a great conversation starter for your sales teams to send to existing accounts and new prospects.  See below for more information on getting started writing press releases.


Small Business Marketing Should Include Speaking at Events

Small business marketing encompasses a variety of campaign tactics, but one that often gets overlooked by small business owners and marketers is speaking or presenting at local events or industry shows.  Don’t panic – this doesn’t mean you have to get on the major speaking circuit and travel cross-country like Dr. Phil.  Rather it can be as simple as reaching out to local business chambers of commerce, rotary clubs and industry associations to present a case study, or share a best practice.

SMBmarketer just tweeted a link to a great article from Inc. magazine called “10 Tips to giving an important speech” that talks about the value of speaking to your business, and some simple methods you can incorporate to become a better speaker.  You can view it on our SMB_Marketer twitter profile, or by going directly to the specific tweet.

When you participate in an event on behalf of your small business, whether as a sponsor, or as a speaker, be sure to promote your participation.  Using press releases to announce your trade show event, is a smart marketing basic that should not be overlooked.  If you are speaking at a conference, or even just participating  on a panel discussion with other speakers, it is important to get the word out in advance to your database of prospects, your customers, and to show attendees.

Often times the local new media and industry journalists will cover these events, and sending them your press release only helps to call attention to your session, as well as establish your name in their minds as prospective interviewee for a follow up news story.  Your sales team can you also use your press release to stimulate interest in your company, and to drive potential meeting appointments while at the show.

Writing press releases that promote your trade shows and speaking events are a great opportunity to create news for your small business.  Writing press releases can be challenging when you are not sure how to create the right message.  If you are a small business owner trying to get started marketing your business, be sure to subscribe to our blog and download our free “Smart Marketing Playbook” article series. Our blog discusses simple strategies to help small business owners grow their business, while our featured articles provide more insight into the ten smart marketing plays that can help make your business successful.


Using Awards to Market Your Small Business

SMBmarketer.com just received – a Small Business Standard of Excellence Award from the Web Marketing Association.  The 2010 WebAwards is the standards-defining competition that sets industry benchmarks for the best web sites.  Industry expert judges scrutinized more than 2,000 website entrants based on seven criteria, including design, content, and ease of use.  Complete award details are available on the 2010 WebAward website.

While I am honored that the 2010 WebAwards recognized our new website as an effective way for small businesses to quickly create professional press releases using low-cost templates, it also presents me with an educational opportunity to write about in this blog, Smart Marketing Basics.

Remember, issuing press releases is a great way to build awareness for your small business. Smart marketers invest in developing a pipeline of potential announcements, to ensure they are putting out a steady stream of news throughout the year.  Researching and applying for awards specific to your industry or product application, is a great way to get your company known.

Awards are also a great way to get validation on your offering. For SMBmarketer.com, the 2010 WebAward provides independent validation that small businesses can benefit from easy to use, low cost tools to jumpstart their marketing efforts. Outside experts put our site to the test and commented that we “had a great site that was fast, informative and interactive.”

Awards and industry recognition are a great way to supplement your own marketing efforts, and give you credibility among potential customers.  A good way to find appropriate award programs is to research the industry events that your customers attend, as well as local business associations within your community.   Be sure to also check with magazines or publications that follow your industry.  You can also analyze the web sites of your competitors or related companies to see what recognitions they might have garnered.

Award applications often involved long lead times, so invest some time early on to determine application deadlines and to plan around any other requirements.  To learn more about small business marketing using press releases, download our free article, Using Press Releases to Market Your Business at http://www.smbmarketer.com/featured-articles/.


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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