Marketing is a must in today’s fast-paced world. Whether you’re running a corporation, a one-person office, a retail store, even a non-profit organization, a constant focus on marketing is crucial to your operation.
Good marketing makes your enterprise grow. That’s why major corporations have entire departments devoted to marketing.
Yet your marketing strategies have to be continually honed and updated. Marketing does not have to go beyond your town, your county, or your state. But it can go national or even worldwide. Marketing can be limited or limitless in this age of the World Wide Web.
And even if you can’t afford a marketing department or to have one person in your organization handle marketing full time, you can still get your company’s name–plus your products and services–out there.
Here are some marketing techniques you can try. You don’t have to do them all. You might want to do just a few to start. But remember: Marketing is essential to your success. In marketing, no news is bad news. You want the buzz.
BE A NEWSMAKER
Is there something of interest happening your business that the community should know about? Send out a press release about it.
Some topics for press releases
Did you recently:
hire a new employee?
expand a department?
promote an employee?
name an employee of the month?
land an important client?
open a new office?
add a new service?
add a new product line?
start a new promotion?
sponsor a Little League baseball team?
All these things are worthy of a press release, at least to your local weekly newspapers and to the business page of the daily newspaper that covers your area. Local weekly newspapers are usually happy to hear about your news and daily newspapers often have columns that cover these types of local business happenings. These press releases get your name out to the community, let people know your business exists, and work as an inexpensive way of getting some ink.
If you’re doing these things anyway, why not let people know about it?
Photos with a press release always draw people into the story about your business, but even if you can’t send a photo, it’s worth sending a release.
People often ask why a particular business is always in the newspaper. It’s because that business lets the paper know when something newsworthy is happening. It doesn’t have to be big news, just news.
Getting in local newspapers is invaluable. Lots of times the local newspapers will even use your company’s name in the headline. What great free publicity! The more people see your business name around, the more likely they are to turn to your business when they need the products or services you offer. Being seen in local newspapers adds legitimacy to your business name. You can frame the articles and display them in your place of business. It shows that your business is a mover and shaker. Think of your business in the same way an athlete approaches his sport: You want to do anything within the rules to get an edge. Outpublicizing your competitors is within the rules.
GET KNOWN AS AN EXPERT
You’ve worked hard to develop a business. You’ve learned all you could about your business. You know all the ins and outs. Now it’s time for you to display that knowledge, to share it with others. Become known as an expert in your field, so when anything happens in your field, and anybody wants to know about it, you’re the one folks contact.
Let’s say you’re in the security business. When security issues make the news, are the local newspapers or radio or TV news departments contacting you for your insights into what’s going on? They should be.
How it works
If you’re an expert in any field, chances are news organizations are going to want to contact you to get your opinion on what’s happening when news breaks on that subject, either on the local or national scene. News can break in any field, and if reporters or producers want knowledgeable comments on the subject, they should know that you’re the go-to guy or gal. Even if you think you’re running a business that would never be contacted by a news outlet, a story could break that could fit your expertise perfectly.
Say you’re running a baseball card store. Why would the media want to contact you, you might wonder. What if a newspaper, radio or TV station wants to do a story on how steroid use in professional sports is affecting the sale of sports memorabilia like baseball cards? You should be the one they call.
There are more media outlets today than ever before, more stories printed and aired about current topics than ever before. So more experts are needed to fill that space and airtime, answer important questions, shed light on hot topics–everything from child care to addiction, behavioral problems to the latest tech devices, living green to ways of saving money. Think about it: The media needs an expert to turn to in almost every field. Today the public wants to hear from somebody who is an expert in a particular area, not just from a news commentator.
Why are you reading what someone else in your field is saying? Shouldn’t you be the one being interviewed?
So how do these media outlets know to call you?
Because you’ve established yourself as an expert. How? Speak about your business and the latest trends in your field before local organizations, including:
community and civic groups
churches and other houses of worship
schools and PTAs
senior citizens’ groups
business groups like the chamber of commerce
You can speak before these groups on an annual or a semi-annual basis. Most groups are happy to hear from someone who would like to present a free program. Talk about something in your business that is topical, something that people are hearing about in the news. Give them your take on the subject. Let them ask questions, and be ready to answer the tough ones. Show that you have solutions, that you really know your topic, that you really know your business.
Bring some material along that you can hand out to people about the topic you’re discussing. Preferably, distribute something you have written on the topic, with your name, your company’s name, and all your contact information printed on it.
Send out press releases each time you speak. They may not always get in the local newspaper or on TV, but the press release will keep reminding the local media that you are out there talking about this topic. Make sure you include the date, time, place, and topic of your talk, and which group you are addressing. Always include a way for the media to get in touch with you (including by phone and by e-mail). Make sure your press release contains your company name and what your company does. Try to send a press release out after your talk as well, highlighting some of the key points you brought out in your talk.
Write an op-ed
If something major happens in your field of expertise on the local, state, national, or global stage, send out a short op-ed piece to your local news media about the topic and your views on it. See if your local newspaper would be interested in having you write a guest column on the event or trend. If not, you could write a pointed letter to the editor about what happened. Be sure to sign your guest column or letter to the editor with your name, your title, and your company’s name. Your letter to the editor may not always get published, but the editors will see your name and that keeps your name on their minds.
Editors will put your name and contact information on file, and when they want to do a story on the topic, they will have a reporter contact you. When a big story breaks, there usually isn’t time to start looking for experts. So reporters are going to go to the experts they know, people they’re familiar with. Any time you do get quoted, that’s free publicity for you. It puts your name out in the public, ahead of your competitors. You’re not only viewed as being in a particular business, but as someone who really knows your field. It’s the all-important credibility factor.
If the news media goes to you for your opinion, then when people in the community need that expertise, they’re going to turn to you as well.
Keep in mind that the media can tell if you really know your stuff. So stay on top of all the trends, have the latest information at your fingertips, be on top of your game at all times.
If you’re an expert and your views are out there for the public to see, that will translate into additional business. It’s not being a publicity hound, it’s just good marketing and good marketing is a sound business practice. Prospective customers and clients can’t avail themselves of your talents and expertise if they don’t know you exist.
SEEK OUT FREE LISTINGS
There are more free listings for businesses and services than ever before. Are you taking advantage of all these free listings? You should be.
A free listing is free publicity. It’s worth taking the time to research the free listings in your area and make sure your business is listed. Free listings are available in the brochures, newsletters, and websites of non-profit organizations and government agencies, on municipal websites, and in business directories.
Where to find these listings
Websites promoting a particular town or county often include listings of services and links to the websites of companies offering those services, especially if your company offers a free service of some kind, like a home energy survey.
Websites of non-profit organizations like animal rescue groups might be looking to include the names of companies in the immediate area that work with animals, such as obedience schools, doggie day care centers, kennels, and groomers. Neighborhood watch programs are happy to include links to area locksmiths, security services, and emergency clinics.
Sometimes local weekly newspapers or pennysavers will run free listings of businesses or services offered in a particular area.
Realtors and town clerks publish newcomer’s guides that are given out free to people who move into the community, and area services are listed in these guides. The guides help newcomers get acquainted with the area. These are good places to be listed, and editors of these guides are usually looking for information they can include in these publications. It’s a way of getting your business name out to people as soon as they move into the area.
If you provide a service to a targeted group, sometimes these groups have a tool they use to communicate with their membership. Do you have a business or provide a service of particular interest to senior citizens? The local senior citizens’ group might have a newsletter that contains a list of these businesses or service providers. Have a business or provide a service that new moms might be interested in? Many communities have groups for new moms; some hospitals sponsor these groups as well. They, too, might have a newsletter or do mailings or e-mailings to let members know about a business or service in their area that caters to them.
Once again, it may take some research to find these groups, but the time you spend will be well worth it, when you see new customers streaming through the door.
These free listings often go to a targeted audience, a mailing list or group of people you otherwise couldn’t get to. May not even know about. If the listings are contained in a brochure or newsletter, it’s printed at no cost to you. If the brochure or newsletter is mailed out, the mailing doesn’t cost you anything. If it’s e-mailed, it’s sent to e-mail addresses you probably don’t have, wouldn’t have a way of getting, and it probably will be opened by the recipients because it’s coming from a person or an organization they know and trust. Providing this information to these lists is actually doing something to help the community or the organization you’re providing it to. It’s a completely win-win situation.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR BUSINESS CARDS
You do business in lots of places. You get to know many people. Will they help you promote your business if you help promote theirs?
Have a special business card printed up that not only has the essentials, like your business name, address, phone number, website, and e-mail address, but also lists the services you offer and the type of products you carry. Use both sides of the card if you have to. Carry a lot of these cards with you. Always keep a supply in your car. Then leave the cards wherever you do business, especially in places where there’s a lot of foot traffic.
Where to put these cards
Think of all the places where you do business every day and see if you can display your cards there.
The local coffee shop.
The newspaper store.
Restaurants you patronize.
Your hair salon or barber shop.
The local pizza parlor.
Your doctor’s office.
The liquor store.
Your veterinarian’s office.
The dry cleaners.
The local hardware store.
Any business where you have a special working relationship might let you display your business cards, and you can offer to display their cards in return. The possibilities are limitless.
Don’t forget to print up this same kind of business card for your employees, and ask them to put them out wherever they can. Increased business benefits the whole company.
Exchanging business cards is a simple, inexpensive and effective way of getting the word out about your business. Not only are you gaining free additional exposure, but these other businesses are, too. You both can get new business by spreading the word among an array of different customers, people who you might not come in contact with any other way.
In addition, you are providing another service to your customers by letting them know about a business in the area that they may need. People are always looking for referrals, and this is a great way to help them out.
This allows you to network with other businesses as well as networking with potential customers. It’s basically a form of word of mouth advertising.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
These are some surefire ways of marketing your business. Sound like a lot of work? It really isn’t.
Once you set up a solid marketing program, after a while it will take on a life of its own. Sure, you’ll have to tweak it every now and then. But once you get into the swing of sending out press releases, knowing who to contact in the media, making sure the media knows how to contact you, identifying promising speaking opportunities, having your written material ready to hand out, and knowing where to put out your business cards, your marketing campaign will become a fully functioning component of your business that will probably take a minimal amount of your time but will have a major impact on your client base.
Look at all the work you’re putting into establishing your business. Isn’t it worth the effort to market it as well? Your business is your product. Marketing is how you sell it.