Effective PR For a Small Business on a Budget – Get Local and Get Online!

If yours is like most small businesses, you can’t afford the luxury of a PR department, much less a dedicated PR agency or even one employee responsible for external communications and PR. However, this business function is critical as the world of communications continues to expand with new applications, demands and opportunities like social media networks. The thought of a concerted PR strategy and execution can be overwhelming for a small business owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There are two primary elements of PR for a small business to engage upon – leveraging online and local offline outlets. The old world of face-to-face will continue to be critical in building your PR strategy and overall business, but let’s face it – the environment has changed, and you simply can’t ignore the power of the Web, particularly social networks. Proactively getting your business out in the community while leveraging the Web will ensure the success of your PR strategy. And, these tactics are not expensive; in fact, many present opportunities for free PR for your small business.

These PR strategy tips are designed for those small businesses that simply don’t have budget allocated toward hiring and retaining a communications expert. If you are a smaller company, hopefully you can take a few tips below to integrate PR into your small business to help build a brand and generate leads. Utilizing informative, valuable PR about your small business gives you the opportunity to influence people and lead them to your destination – your website, your store, your offering. Take advantage of what’s out there! Get online and get local – it’s that simple.

Growing Your PR Strategy

Grow Online

If you don’t have a website, you need to get one immediately. Today, you can get a starter site for free or within your communications packages from your voice and data provider. If it’s in the package, then it’s a no-brainer. If you have a website, then make sure it’s dynamic (video, blogs, and communities) to ensure your target audience comes back and builds a relationship with you and your brand. It’s a requirement in today’s online world; the days of stagnant sites are over. Then, once you have your interactive site, make sure you optimize your website and everything you say about your business online to ensure your potential customers are finding you online when they search. This is a key part of your online PR strategy. Don’t you search Google or Bing to find what you need a pinch? It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it can be an affordable way to create additional PR for your small business — and it’s often found in your communications and IT packages. At the very least, getting a URL allows you to be FOUND online and that’s key. Google now provides maps when visitors are looking for a specific service in a specific area. By simply having an Internet address – you can be found online looking professional with a map to your location and link to your business, which is pretty cool.

The Wild World of Social Media

You have probably heard about “social media” and you may already be taking part. For many, however, the world of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, blogs, vlogs and status updates may be a bit unsettling. Suffice it to say – these are powerful tools to help you carry out your PR strategy, especially when used properly to connect, communicate and yes, to sell.

As a small business, you can’t afford NOT to take part. It’s easy and affordable, so don’t waste anymore time. Of course, you do need to understand how best to engage before you jump in. Here are a few quick ways to start creating more PR for your small business:

1 – Create a Twitter profile and gain followers by “Tweeting” about your business, surrounding businesses and community topics that map back to your business. Build buzz about what you provide – can you Tweet special coupons? Can you give advice? Can you share relevant information to your community? Do you have an event you want to invite local prospects to? Twitter, an emerging PR strategy with an increasing audience, is a great way to quickly (140 characters or less) get a message out and position yourself as a leader. Remember, it’s not all about you; you must talk about the world around you to make an impact. Start off Tweeting about your business, but quickly begin integrating Tweets about your customers, your community, and your industry – and the most important part is to provide some kind of value or benefit in your tweets. Be respectable as well. And if you see someone comment about your business online (good or bad) – respond online for all to see. It’s a great way to show you are committed to your customers. The cost to you? It’s essentially free PR for your small business.

2 – Create free profiles on Linked In and Facebook. All you need for Linked In is a profile of you, and from there, you can create a group where you can share stories, news, and other PR about your small business. People can ping you for questions which positions you as an expert and, you can join interest groups that will help you track what other potential buyers in your community do, say and think. For Facebook, simply select “business” on the homepage to create a business “fan” page. Local residents, family and friends can then become “fans” of your company, which is an easy way to highlight the most recent PR about your small business. All you have to do is commit to posting news, updates, coupons, photos and other interactive content to get people engaged. Remember – provide a benefit – a reason for your “fans” to come back for more.

In addition to these PR strategy tips, there are local meet-up groups in every community that often originate from the Web, and then meet offline to have a real interactive discussion. Check out Meetup.com in your area to find one.

Confused about this new world of social media? Read Groundswell by two Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book will set you straight and get you excited about the opportunities out there in terms of online PR for your small business.

Grow Local

Much like how consumers like to buy from locally grown farms, small businesses tend to buy from their peers – other small businesses. An effective PR strategy is all about supporting your local communities, and these days, that’s more important than ever. Keeping this in mind, focus on your community by generating PR for your small business at local events. Depending on your business, there are often specialty groups for different types of businesses such as professional service specialty groups. Often these groups gather monthly or quarterly to share best practices and to network. There are certainly general small business groups in your community such as your local Chamber that meet regularly as well. Beyond networking events, you can get ink for your business. Most Chambers have monthly newsletters or emails. Do you have something to say? Could you contribute twice a year with a special promotion to drive people to your business? Take advantage of these opportunities to fuel word-of-mouth marketing through PR for your small business. Hand out business cards, build relationships and follow-up. These opportunities are right outside your door.

Think grassroots.

Shake hands with other small businesses owners, refer each other and grow your business. To improve PR for your small business, think about what events are taking place this weekend where you could set up space, hand out collateral, serve up some hotdogs, and generate solid leads. Is there an art show or “Taste Of” type of event? Don’t take it all on yourself; partner with other local businesses right in your area to split costs and cross-sell to each other’s customers. A hand-shake goes a long way towards an effective PR strategy. Add a coupon and see the results. Most communities have annual events that bring hundreds/thousands of people – target those. In terms of PR for a small business, the best thing you can do is to connect directly to your audience by showing your personality and your value – get out there!

Leverage Local Media.

Another important element of your PR strategy involves local brand development, which means building relationships with local media. Yes, there is still benefit in reaching out to traditional media when it comes to PR for your small business. Take a moment to find out who your local reporters are and introduce yourself. Share with your new media contacts areas of expertise that you would be able to discuss if requested. If you create a relationship with your local media and have something compelling or contrarian to say, chances are they will call you when they need your input. Consider a quick email to your local reporters with an introduction, a quick reference of your expertise and what you could comment on. Being timely and relevant is critical to your PR strategy. Offer a cup of coffee. Those relationships can go a long way when you really want to make noise in the community. It’s important to know that if you want coverage and/or additional PR for your small business – you won’t get it with a cold pitch. You must: 1) – establish a relationship; 2) – have news to share that’s relevant, unique or at least different; and 3) – have a product/or service that is remarkable. These rules ring true for influential bloggers as well. For more on being remarkable, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – a great, quick read that will get you thinking about how to stand out from the rest to grow your business.

Blending Old and New: Building PR for a Small Business

Hopefully these PR strategy tips will help you build a brand for your small business and generate new and recurring business via PR. Communicating to customers and enabling them to communicate back to you is essential in today’s social world of media. However, what remains important today as it did 100 years ago is the face-to-face interaction. Nothing will replace it, so make sure you show your face and personality in the community. Coupling the old with the new will ensure a successful PR strategy for your small business.

How To Succeed At Online Marketing For Small Business With Any Realistic Budget

Are you a small business owner? Do you want to see a lot more customers coming to you in 2011? Certainly, every business owner I’ve met answers these in the affirmative! What’s your plan to grow your business with great new customers?

Clearly, every new customer is a function of new leads in your sales funnel — we know this as conversion. And, every new sales lead is a subset of the number of eager buyers shopping for what you offer who are exposed to your business — we know this as marketing. Admit it, the numbers of people exposed to your business depends on marketing strategy, tactics, advertising, etc. Times change and so has effectiveness of traditional marketing tactics and offline advertising. Whereas, telemarketing, yellow pages, newspaper ads and other previously effective tactics are seriously lame today, online marketing for small business produces more targeted sales leads everyday.

Don’t Ignore Online Marketing For Small Business

Most small business owners ignore online marketing, because they don’t understand how the Internet has dramatically changed consumers. Furthermore, many unwary businesses have been duped into costly schemes to fool Google and other search engines. Have you been duped into believing that #1 on Google first page or a million website visitors in a month are ends in themselves? How do they add to your bottom line? Here’s a clue: work both of them into a business plan, pass it on to your banker and ask for a business loan. Point is, show your banker a plan to get more targeted sales leads calling you on the phone and then they’ll talk money. Google itself and random website visitors do absolutely nothing to grow your business.

Fortunately for you, this Internet thingy has totally changed the way we consume! No longer flipping through yellow pages or browsing the Sunday Trib classifieds, eager buyers shopping for what you offer are on the Internet right this second searching for you. Every time they search they receive a search results page. If you’re not on that page, they will buy from somebody else. Online marketing for small business has one goal: everywhere they search they find you there.

Affordable Online Marketing For Small Business

Fact is, effectively marketing your business is now possible with any realistic budget:

  • Email marketing has long been the favorite of Internet marketers, perhaps because it’s the online equivalent to direct marketing. Done right, instead of intruding in the Inbox, you ask and they grant you permission to nurture them and keep them informed with current and relevant information. Keeping permission marketing foremost in your mind, think of events, specials and successes that you’d appreciate knowing about your favorite vendors. Your customers and prospects will appreciate the same about you.
  • Online articles are another great way to increase awareness of you, your business and, especially, those special things you do that benefit your customers. Do you remember fondly thumbing through a magazine, reading interesting articles and clipping some articles so you can refer back to them later? The Internet is several magnitudes greater than any paper magazine. This very minute somebody is reading an article about your product and service and today she’ll bookmark it and maybe tell her friends about it. Have you ever tried to find a article in a magazine you threw out a long time ago? That won’t happen online, because it’s always available to be found, 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Social media is all about family, friends and vacation pictures — right? No. It, too, can be tremendously effective in putting your business in front of eager buyers. Facebook membership alone is the third largest country in the world: China, India, Facebook, USA… In 2010 it’s been reported that the largest growing Facebook demographic is middle aged women. Again, keep in mind how online marketing for small business is primarily about developing relationships with your marketplace. What better way to start a conversation with a new prospect than at a huge party? Facebook, for example, is a neverending party of friends, family and coworkers, and they’re all talking about what’s on their minds. Strike a positive chord with just one, and they’ll tell somebody about you, and on and on.

Follow Online Marketing For Small Business To Success

Online marketing is about branding. The more people recognize your personal name, your business name and your place in the community, the more likely that one of them converts into a customer. Notice how we haven’t mentioned traditional advertising agencies and TV commercial production crews — the prohibitive prices of traditional marketing simply are not necessary online. It’s more about leaving thousands and thousands of bread crumbs from your business throughout the Internet. Whenever some eager buyer happens on one crumb while shopping for what you offer, Hansel and Gretel will follow the trail to your door. Like all marketing, the only goal of online marketing for small business is to create customers.

How To Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media

Are you a small business owner looking for ways to grow your business? Are you looking to attract more leads to your business, or have heard about Social Media Marketing, and now want to try it?

As a small business owner you face many challenges – limited capital, minimal support staff and having too much to do in what seems like very little time. So, how do you grow your small business without heavy investment in marketing and advertising? Answer – through the use of technology. Web 2.0 provides you with various tools and techniques that help you to generate leads and increase the exposure of your home-based business. Social media is one such tool. Here’s all you need to know as a small business owner to begin increasing revenues using social media.

What is Social Media?
Social Media is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, GooglePlus, and MySpace.

What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is using the above mentioned platforms to reach a new audience of consumers and create product brand awareness. By spreading word of a product from user to user, Social Media Marketing strives to gain greater legitimacy for a message because it is shared between trusted “friends.”

Which Social Media Channels are most popular?
Studies show that Facebook & Twitter are most popular social media channels followed closely by YouTube and LinkedIn, GooglePlus.

Why should Social Media Marketing Interest me?
If you think this kind of Marketing is not for you, think again. These platforms offer a large bundle of benefits to small business owners. Here are some reasons why you should consider using Social Media for your business.

Exposure: As a small business owner you rely largely on network marketing to channel leads to your business – which, in turn relies on your interaction with people. This is the core notion of what Social Media is! But Social Media offers virtually unlimited opportunities to interact with people – millions of them! With this interesting form of marketing, your business is no longer limited to local leads; you will find leads coming in from a diversified geographic market!

Zero-cost: While other marketing media would be expensive, this type of marketing is relatively free, or requires negligible monetary investment. It’s a great low-cost way to get your message across.

Improved web presence: Being on popular social media platforms strengthens your web presence. The more people talk about you on Facebook or Twitter, the greater are the chances of your business being found on relevant web searches such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

Direct contact with prospects: These platforms put you in touch with your customers directly. You can have one-on-one contact with them, know what they really want.

Go viral: Such marketing offers you the opportunity to go viral with your marketing. Think about this. You put up a video about your business on YouTube. 10 people like it, and five of them share it with their friends, who in-turn share it with 20 more people. This is known as “viral marketing,” and it can be a very effective method to increase your lead generation.

What is a Social Media “game plan” and why should you have one?
A social media game plan is a process consisting of a few simple steps that can help you achieve your social media marketing objectives. The social media arena is large and you can get lost in it if you don’t play by the rules. There’s a lot of competition and you have to have a clear plan if you want to stand out of the crowd and get noticed.

Your ideal Social Media game plan
A typical game plan for your business should consist of these four steps

  • Build your network
  • Propagate your presence
  • Stay connected
  • Monitor

Step 1 – build your network: The first step is to search for and add those users to your network whom you think fall into your target audience segment. When placing a request to add users to your network, it is always better to accompany such requests with a personalized message. You can also look for and join groups that pertain to your line of business. For example, if you are a business selling Health drinks and other health-related products, you could join groups where topics such as nutrition, diet or health are discussed. Such groups provide you audience for the products you have to offer. However, when in a group, do remember to ADD VALUE. Answer questions that you are equipped to answer, actively participate in discussions, be subtle and don’t aggressively “push” your products.

Step 2-propagate: The next step is to announce your Social Media presence. You can do this by adding links to your social media pages on your website, e-mail signature line or newsletter, if you have one. You are out there with your business-announce it!

Step 3-stay connected:The third step is to stay connected with your fans and group members. Social media marketing initiative is easy to start, but requires effort to maintain. And like many networking efforts, results are usually not immediate. Acquire permission from group members and others on your network to send e-mails. You can then e-mail relevant content to people on your network. The key here is to send RELEVANT, VALUE ADDING content-not an advertisement of your products/services. If you are a health-drink selling company who is also a part of the diet and nutrition group, you can send links such as ’10 Best Anti-Oxidant Rich Fruits’ and then perhaps add an image and some information about your product, encouraging people to get in touch with you if they’re interested. This approach will be better-received than just sending the prospects an e-mail flyer totally dedicated to your product.

Dos and Don’ts
While social networking is all about human interaction and cannot be strait-jacketed, here are some tips that will come in handy.

What you should do?
Add value to your contacts: Always add value to your contacts. Always! Provide them useful information, tips and other interesting facts that they can use. For example, Jane, a home-based business owner sells health drinks and weight loss products. So, it makes sense for her to provide her audience with interesting articles on the topic of weight loss.

Be consistent in your online participation: It is not a one-time effort. It is about building a relationship… and relationships take time. Be consistent in your social media communication. Have an interesting tweet/post/update at least every day. In some few cases, multiple postings a day are even better-but don’t forget rule#1-add value. Your posts shouldn’t sound like pointless ramblings or advertisements of your product/service.

Pay attention to what’s being discussed: If you have joined a forum or a group, actively participate in relevant discussions. Use your specific, professional knowledge to help others. Contribute to add depth and dimension to a discussion.

Conversation is the key: As mentioned before, social media marketing thrives on relationships. To build a strong relationship with your prospects, you need to engage in a conversation with them. Maintain a 2-way communication between you and your audience. Take genuine interest in what they have to say and follow up on comments or observations that are made.

Thoroughly know the subject you are talking about: Position yourself as an expert on these platforms. But be sure that you know what you’re talking about. Research if you aren’t sure of something. Mistakes on these platforms spread quickly and damage the reputation of your business.

Personalize your interaction: It’s advisable to personalize your interaction with your audience. Inquire about an event or occasion posted on a Wall, such as a recent trip, or “like” their vacation pictures on Facebook.

Portray your individuality: The biggest advantage small business owners have over large corporations is the fact that they are much smaller and haven’t lost that real-person feel. Let your audience know the person behind the business. Make sure your interactions include a personal side!

Respond to your customers’ grievances ASAP: Did you know that 88% of customers say unanswered complaints on social media sites deter them from doing repeat business? And deleting customer complaints is even worse! So make sure you resolve your customer’s complaints on social media platforms immediately. Even if you can’t resolve them, at least respond so that they know they’re being heard. Acknowledge everything.

Mention your Social Media presence: Advertise your profiles. Always provide links to your social media profile in your website, blog, e-mails and even print materials. For websites and blogs, it’s best to add Facebook and twitter widgets which provide a live feed of what’s happening on your Facebook/twitter page, right there on your website or blog. Provide incentives or value adding information such as whitepapers or articles in order to encourage people to follow you on social media sites!

Monitor & moderate: Monitor your social media presence. Find out where your name’s coming up online and in what context it has been used. A Google alert is the simplest way to do this, though there are many free tools available online to monitor your web presence. Also stay in-control of your social media pages. Read what others are putting up on your page and respond promptly.

Syndicate your Social Media content: Content creation takes time. So why not make the most of the content you have? Post your content on all popular social media sites and don’t hesitate to re-use them. Turn a blog post into a link and put it on Facebook. Convert it into a video and add to YouTube and Facebook or turn it into a presentation and put it up on SlideShare. The aim is to get maximum exposure for your content.

What you should not do?

DON’T overtly push your products/services: Social media is a platform

where you build relationships, to create value. It’s NOT an advertising venue. Your audience

will shun you if all you talk about is the stuff you sell. Think about it, would you talk to your family

and friends about the products you sell all the time? Of course not! Then don’t treat your

social media audience any differently.

DON’T spam your contacts with pointless updates: OK, so now you added two new products to your line-up. While it’s great to share the news, don’t spam your contacts with ads. Put up a link to the new range of products; monitor who is interested and share information on a need-to-know basis.

DON’T have grammar and spelling errors in your posts: You are a small business out to create an impression. Don’t spoil it through spelling and grammatical errors. Use spelling/grammar checking tools, but never rely solely on them. Proofread your posts before putting them up online. If spelling or grammar is not your strong suit, have someone else proofread your work before it goes out

DON’T fail to respond to requests for help in your area of expertise: If you are a part of a group or forum, seize every opportunity to display your expertise. Don’t be a wallflower-actively participate in discussions.

DON’T let your profile get stale: Make sure your profile is frequently updated and that you offer something new. One mistake many small business owners make is creating social media profiles and then forgetting about them. Your social media efforts have to be on-going to bear results.

DON’T get distracted: There’s a lot of distraction available online-especially on social media channels that can make you lose track of your productive hours online. Games, quizzes, forums and live-chats-while these can be interesting tools to attract prospect interest, focus on your goals. Otherwise you’ll find yourself investing too much time and energy into activities that offer no returns to your business.

Owner Of UK Small Business Shares The Secrets Of His Recent Success

Most people don’t like to admit this, but the last few years in business had been an uphill struggle for me, that was until I discovered some very simple secrets to successful marketing, which has helped me to increase my Turnover and Profits by 35% in the last 12 months.

I would like to share these simple secrets with other UK small business owners for free.

Having spent thousands of pounds over the last year obtaining the latest marketing information and 100’s of hours searching internet pages from around the world here are a couple of my TOP TIPS to Increase Your Turnover and Grow Your Profits.

LEAD GENERATION ADVERTISING

One of the best forms of advertising we have found is lead generation advertising.

What is lead generation advertising? – Instead of the traditional way of advertising, where you are trying to sell a specific product or service and the focus of the advert is just to get a sale, lead generation advertising is different. Rather than to sell your product or service, the purpose of lead generation advertising is to do just that – generate leads.

A lead is a sales term for someone who is a prospective buyer ie. someone who is interested in your product or service. It is a lot easier to generate leads than to get an immediate sale, which is increasingly difficult these days because everyone is under a constant barrage of advertising.

The best way of lead generation advertising is to offer anyone who maybe interested in your product or service something of interest to them for free in return for their contact details.

An example of a typical lead generation advert, that you may have seen, is from Centre Parcs who promote their resorts with TV advertising. The purpose of their adverts is to get you to request a free DVD. The reason for this is simply to get the contact details of anyone who is interested in a holiday ie. you have to give them your postal address for them to send it to you. They are not saying “book this holiday now”, they are saying “we’ve got something for you for free”. They are doing this because they know that after measuring and testing, proportionally they will get significantly more people to request the DVD and subsequently become customers than they would get people to book a holiday straight away.

Lead generation advertising is great because it gets people to express their interest at no risk to them. It is very unlikely your competitors are offering anything free to potential customers. If you do this it will give you a great advantage over your competition.

All you need to do is come up with something relevant to your business that your potential customers would find interesting. This could be a free report eg. if you are an electrician you could write a report – ’10 top tips to ensure your home is safe’ or if you are an estate agent ’10 top tips to make your home more saleable’ etc.

Other free items could be:-

  • a sample of your product
  • a free DVD or CD
  • a free survey or advice.

There are many things of interest you could give away for free and there are no rules to this, it just needs to be of interest to your potential customers.

Areas where lead generation advertising could be used are:-

  • Yellow Pages / Directories
  • Newspapers and Magazines
  • Websites
  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Radio or TV
  • Signage
  • Direct Mail

Give lead generation a try, I guarantee it will seriously increase the amount of potential new customers that contact your business.

WORD OF MOUTH RECOMMENDATIONS

One of the easiest ways of getting new customers into your business is through your existing happy customers by way of word of mouth recommendations/referrals. This is also one of the cheapest ways of marketing your business as it costs practically nothing.

Referrals tend to attract better customers who will stay with you for longer.

If you can build a referral system into your business this will help you to maximise the amount of referrals you receive.

Firstly you need to make your customers aware that word of mouth referral is how you grow your business. You can do this just by mentioning it in your frequent communications to your customers by email, mail out or simply in a telephone conversation, and you will find that your referrals will increase. Just by dropping in to your communications that you are busy with work from recommendations would educate your customers to the fact that it is important to recommend you to anyone they think could use your services.

The second, more direct and most effective way to seriously increase the amount of referrals you receive is simply to ask for them.

Speak to your customers – ask them “Are you happy with our work?”, say to them “I need your help, would you be willing to recommend us to anyone who could benefit from our services?” “Would you be willing to give them a leaflet or business card” or “Could you give me their contact details and I will contact them direct”. This could be done by phone, email or by direct mail – if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Be pro-active – If you are already receiving referrals without asking for them imagine how many you would receive if you asked all your existing customers!

So, before you spend thousands of pounds on wasted advertising – give something for free and go get some referrals!

I am convinced that if you implement these easy marketing tips you will see a considerable increase in new customers into your business and most important of all, an increase in your profits.