SCORE's Top Marketing & Public Relations Tips
Make some noise--and find new customers--with these hot tips.
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5 Tips on Establishing a Presence in Your Community
- Create an advisory board representative of your customers (even if they're kids) and publicize it. Listen to the board's ideas.
- Publish a newsletter about your business for customers and potential customers. Send it via regular mail or e-mail and post it on your web page.
- Make your values clear. One couple promotes their commitment to family--sometimes closing their store early to attend soccer games when their children or employees' children are competing.
- Make donations that represent your business. If you have a garden supply business, for example, contribute seeds and simple tools for a community garden.
- Serve as a volunteer in your community and encourage your employees to follow suit. Let them contribute some hours on company time.
- Identify who your customers and other stakeholders are and what they want from you. Through interviews or questionnaires, have them help you evaluate your image.
- Pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your current image. What misconceptions or negative perceptions need to be corrected?
- Devise a strategy. It could include changing your company's name and logo, changing your product mix, or even dropping some customers and courting others.
- Get expert help. Image makeovers usually call for professionals who can help you devise and implement a new concept.
- Follow up to make sure the makeover is doing its job. Are sales up? Are you attracting the customers you want?
- Be consistent in your ad message and style including business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, signs and banners.
- Newspapers, radio and TV stations are helpful in producing the advertising that you'll be running with them.
- While word-of-mouth advertising has been around a long time, it usually falls short of being able to attract the number of customers needed to be successful in business.
- Promote benefits rather than features. A benefit is the emotional satisfaction your product or service provides, or a tangible performance characteristic.
- Know your competitors. Knowing everything about your competitors is just as important as knowing everything about your own business.
- Determine specific goals and the time frame in which you want to achieve them. Communicate the goals to your employees.
- Decide what tools can best help you meet your goals and how they'll be used. These can include the internet, newsletters, direct mail, special events, trade shows, advertising, and more.
- Come up with a budget that reflects your goals.
- Delegate responsibility for implementing each segment of the plan.
- Monitor the results and make adjustments as necessary.
- Make sure they're newsworthy. Good topics include the announcement of a major new client, a celebrity appearance at your store, and community service performed by your company.
- Create news and put out a press release about it. Speak at a seminar, for example, or provide expert comment on developing news events.
- Get your releases to the right people. Find out who at your radio and TV stations and newspaper will be the most interested in your news.
- Capture editors' attention by putting the news in the first paragraph. Then add the necessary details.
- Make your releases look crisp and professional--that means no smudgy type. Include the name and phone number of a contact person, and answer media queries promptly.
- Think of a business sign as a form of communication. You want it to get your message across.
- Be sure it's large enough to read. Consider the speed of local traffic and the time in which it must be read.
- Make it short and simple.
- Provide ample lighting so it can be read at night.
- Change it from time to time to renew potential customers' interest.
- Be clear on what you want from a public relations effort. Some things a PR firm can do for you are to get you positive exposure in the media, create and conduct special events, and help you build and maintain a solid reputation.
- Be realistic about what a PR firm can't do. It can't whitewash an unethical business or cover up fraud or other illegal activities.
- Interview a number of firms. Get their ideas on how they can help you and seriously consider those with the best ideas.
- If you're looking for only local publicity, hire a local firm. But if you want a national program, your PR firm can be anywhere.
- Once you've hired a company, keep your account executive fully informed about your business. Treat him or her as part of your strategic team.
- Advertising is expensive, so know why you're advertising and what you want to accomplish. Evaluate your advertising carefully and measure its effectiveness.
- Develop appropriate sales promotion tools such as flyers, brochures and signs. Carefully review each item for its effectiveness and evaluate what these tools say about your business.
- Signage should be a major part of your marketing strategy. Signs are a vital part of small businesses and can be the most efficient, effective and consistent device for generating revenue.
- Every small business should be listed under the appropriate heading in the Yellow Pages, but not every business needs to buy expensive display ads. Be judicious.
- Get involved in your community. Join the chamber of commerce, business organizations, service clubs, and charities. Network yourself and keep your antennae up.
5 Tips for Low-Cost Marketing
- Make yourself stand out. Nancy Michaels, owner of a marketing communications firm in Concord, MA, sends greetings and gifts at odd holidays, like Chinese New Year and the Fourth of July, instead of at Christmas and Hanukkah.
- Create a memorable title for yourself. The business cards of one husband-and-wife team refer to them as "Dad" and "Mom" because their furniture store is named after their children.
- Write educational articles for trade journals, newspapers, and other publications that reach your audience. They'll get your name before the public and add to your credibility.
- Don't underestimate the market value of your name. By using their names over and over to promote their talents, Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart have turned small businesses into enormous enterprises.
- Make sure the name of your company is legible. Some logos use such fancy lettering that the company name is unreadable.
- Ask your customers for suggestions. Provide cards for them to fill out (with name and address) and leave in a fish bowl.
- Analyze the rich information you already have--such as invoices, customer credit applications, and salespeople's reports. See what these items tell you about sales and customers.
- Use your trade associations. Read their studies and journals or call them when you need information.
- Ask the government. Agencies ranging from the U.S. Bureau of the Census to local economic development offices can provide a wealth of market information.
- Create an advisory board and seek members' observations and opinions regularly.
5 Tips on Using PR to Your Advantage
- Public relations should be an important part of your marketing effort. Use it to promote special events such as grand openings, and to build the image of your business in the public eye.
- Get involved in your community. Join the chamber of commerce, business organizations, service clubs and charities. Network yourself and keep your antennae up.
- Gain third-party credibility by sending the media news releases. Limit copy to one page, if possible, and send releases to local and regional media when you have an important story to tell.
- Maintain relations with the markets you serve. By following the trends and news that affects your market, you'll become the "town expert." The public and the media will come to you for your opinion or to learn about marketplace trends.
- Sponsor a radio or TV public service announcement (PSA) for a local charity. This will give you name recognition and show community support.
Brought to you by SCORE , "Counselors to America's Small Business."
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