Smart Marketing Basics


Press Release Templates for your Small Business Promotional Campaign

Despite a tough economic climate, it is important that small business marketers continue to invest in promotional activities to create constant demand for their offerings. It is a proven fact that those companies that continue to market themselves while competitors fall to the wayside, do better once the economy recovers.

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. Running a contest is also a great way to bring some fun and excitement to your brand. You can ask your customers to name your next product, or provide a new product idea, or submit a case study.

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.

In the press release example below, we use the fictitious technology software company Dander-Mufflin, to create a press release promoting a free software training class to customers that purchase a new software license within 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 within a concentrated period of time.

See the image below for what this press release might look like.

 The Press Release headline clearly articulates the offer (a free training class) and the specific audience (law firms challenged with records management costs) that the promotion is targeted to. By mentioning the 30-day window in the subhead, you create a sense of urgency with your readers to act right away. Using quotes from company spokespersons also helps to reiterate key points. In this case, company executive, Scott Michael, highlights the retail value of Dander-Mufflin’s free class, which makes the promotional offer more compelling.

There are many free and low-cost press release templates available online 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, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to put your press release messaging together, making it easy for you to follow along.

Remember that marketing your small business must be a continual investment to be effective, and press releases are an easy and affordable part of your ongoing small business marketing plan. For more information on small business marketing, check out our free Smart Marketing Playbook article series.


Engagement Marketing – Nurturing Prospective Customers Over Time

I recently received an inquiry regarding participation or engagement marketing and what this category of marketing means to small businesses. So I thought I would devote a few words on this topic in a quick blog post. Please feel free to share your insights as well, by posting a comment.

In its simplest sense, engagement marketing means “lead nurture” and involves providing a steady stream of outreach or communications to prospective customers in order to build a relationship with them over time.

Think of it this way. Marketers pay to acquire leads by executing on a variety of campaigns and programs, such as email blasts, banner ads, opt-in forms on your website, etc.  However, only some of those prospects will convert into customers right away. That does not mean that those that don’t should be discarded or disqualified, rather they should be nurtured.

Offering up a steady stream of news announcements, or thought leadership content (e.g. customer case studies, products tips and tricks, or best practices articles) can help your organization to build a relationship of trust, and keep these prospective customers “engaged” over time, until they become ready to buy.

Automated email or drip email campaigns are a good way to execute on engagement marketing programs. You can easily segment your list of prospects by action – those that respond to your campaign should go into your sales pipeline for follow up, and those that don’t can go into your automated drip campaign. Set a schedule (say once per month) to send out a brief email offering up some valuable content, such as the examples mentioned above, and you will begin build up a longer-term database of prospects. This in-house database will become a valuable strategic asset to your business because it provides you with a low-cost outreach tool for marketing, and allows you to continue to build your brand in a positive way.

Let us know about your experiences in engagement marketing, and what has worked for your small business, as well as what hasn’t!


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.
 
 

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.


Quick Competitive Exercises That Will Keep Your Small Business Brand in Shape

Keeping up with the latest competitive maneuvers in your marketplace is important to keeping your small business at the top of its game.  Traditional tools, such as using a SWOT analysis, to assess your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, can be very helpful in identifying course-corrections or strategy-shifts that you need to act upon.  However, the level of effort required can be time-consuming, relegating this activity to the bottom of the small business manager’s “to-do” list.

While a deep dive analysis can be important to your business health, you can quickly monitor what’s going on in your industry by simply using your browser.  At a minimum, you can quickly check the pulse of your market by doing some searches that could identify companies that could potentially impact your business down the road. 

On a regular basis, say once or twice a month, do a Google search on your main search keyword phrases, and then see who is coming up.  

  • Are your search rankings changing? 
  • Are there new players coming up that you haven’t seen before? 
  • Has a key player slipped on the page one results of Google? 

Let’s say that your organization is a technology company providing document management software to the legal industry.  You might have one of your main keyword phrases be “legal records software” or something similar.  Even though you may have optimized your site for this keyword phrase, and use it in your press releases, web page content, etc., it’s important to monitor the ever-changing competitive landscape. 

Additionally, it’s important to do a search on your company name and product names, and see if anyone of your competitors is doing “paid search” campaigns, such as pay-per-click advertising, on your own branded terms.  And lastly, don’t forget Twitter, the social media micro-blogging service that provides a real-time tracking engine for hot topics.  Twitter Search provides another easy and free tool, where you can input your keyword phrases and branded terms to see what is going out there in the social universe.  You can easily learn more about:

  • Who is being tweeted about and why? 
  • What articles are being published about my competitors? 
  • What do people have to say about my brand?

By using these easy competitive analysis exercises, you can avoid competitive surprises and keep your small business brand in tip, top shape!

For more smart marketing plays for your small business, download our free Smart Marketing Playbook article series.


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.


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 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.


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