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ByteStart’s Start-Up Guide – Part 15 – Marketing & PR for your small business

October 11, 2011

In an ideal world, everyone who runs a small business would spend at least one day a week actively marketing or selling. Perhaps that’s why this is one of the areas you’re most likely to delegate to someone else.

It’s not just about time management. There is an art to selling your wares, marketing your company and generally making sure only good things (and plenty of them) are said about it.

Whether you believe this side of being in business is your forte or not, read on and make sure you know what’s involved first.

Marketing

Anything you do that positions your business to prospective buyers and helps to generate sales leads is marketing. Even sponsoring a local Scout troop to do a litter pick is a form of marketing, because it may one day influence someone to buy from your business.

The key to all marketing is to test and measure. You should consider trying every marketing channel you can think of, but only as a test and very carefully measured.

Different types of marketing work for different businesses. The only way to find out within your industry is to try them. Put some budget aside that you are happy to lose during research, and consider investing in a professional marketing tracking system such as ACT (although spreadsheets will work just a well).

Many businesses skip the tracking side, but this is vital. With a small business you can’t afford to pick which marketing works by gut feel alone. You must be scientific about it. This also makes it easier to say no to directory sales people when they call you each year trying to take thousands of pounds off you!

As a general rule, at any one time your business should be investing in up to ten different types of marketing. Pick from: advertising, directories, online advertising, website, networking, newsletters, emails, direct mail, telesales, corporate gifts, blogs, audio CDs, DVDs, and affiliate marketing.

Public relations (PR)

One of the most popular types of marketing is public relations. It has become an essential in the modern, media-centric society we live in, whether you’re an A-list celebrity, a sporting star, or just a humble small business owner.

Put simply, PR is the relationship your business has with the general public, typically played out in the media or on the internet. Like any long-standing relationship, it needs constant nurturing.

Before you even think about PR, ask yourself this question: “Is my product/service ready for public consumption?” There’s no point in setting out to promote your product until you can answer a resounding “Yes” to this question. If the demand is created and the product is not available, your strategy will fall apart. And your customers may go and see your competitors in the meantime.

For any PR drive to be successful, you must understand the motivations, desires and needs of your target audience. Consider things like which publications do they read, or what radio station they listen to. And then think about what stories those media outlets will be most interested in.

The main way to communicate with the media is with a press release. This is document or email that suggests a story to journalists. When writing one, make sure it has a catchy headline, and always date the top of the release so your contact is in no doubt that this news is “hot off the press”. Finish the release with background information about your company, contact details, and, if necessary, an explanation of anything you would consider technical for a layman.

When compiling a media list of contacts, you need to do your homework. Look at newspapers, magazines and websites, and TV and radio stations. Get to know their house style and areas of interest. If you adopt these, you are more likely to get coverage from them. Equally, try to understand the roles of the people you are contacting. A gadget reviewer is not going to want to discuss a new website you have launched aimed at gardeners.

It’s always worthwhile to develop a relationship with journalists in your local media. Find out the names of those reporters who cover topics relevant to your cause. Give them a ring and introduce yourself. Then, when your business moves up a notch, moves premises, wins an award or creates a new product, you’ll know just who to call.

And remember: unless you specifically ask for an off the record conversation with a journalist, expect them to be making notes on everything you say. That way, you won’t feel the need to break the other golden rule of dealing with journalists: never ask them to see the story first. It’s a sure fire way to get their back up and they are not obliged to do so.

On a similar note, don’t keep pestering them asking when it will be appearing in the paper. It’s rarely up to the journalist, so they will have little or no control over this. Lastly, always ask a journalist when their deadline is. And then respect it.

These rules apply equally to any relevant specialist and trade press. They can be a more effective port of call for your publicity drive than a local rag. Get a story in there and it’s a surefire way of letting your competitors (and customers) know you mean business.

You can access dozens of guides to marketing and PR in our sales section.

On to ByteStart’s Start-Up Guide – Part 16 – How to generate sales for your new business

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