So far this four part series has covered what it takes to get that start up business from the idea stage through to funding. Now we are to cover the final aspect of the series, the marketing and advertising of your idea in its tangible form.
- The Idea – It’s Not Rocket Science (unless it is)
- Plan Your Work, Work Your Plans
- Did I Mention Money, Honey?
- The Word is Like Butter – Spread It
The more butter you spread, the better the pancake breakfast. So it goes with the promotion of your new enterprise. Spread the word in as many ways as possible. Several methods are useful, and range in cost from $0 to many dollars*. Here’s the short list:
►Publicity ►Strategic Alliances
►Public Relations ►Special Events/Grand Openings*
►Networking ►Expert Testimony
►Coop Marketing* ►Article Marketing
►Advertising* ►Web Marketing*
►Couponing/Discounting* ►Guerilla Marketing
Let’s begin with the tactics that don’t cost any money, or very little money to get started, and move on to the more expensive tactics.
Publicity is that elusive marketing tactic that which most entrepreneurs do a poor job, much like public relations. They are closely related, and should be considered brother and sister to each other. The cost of Publicity is free, or at most, the cost of phone calls, press kit mailings, follow up mailings and the like. Business column writers, broadcast media and radio hosts will cover your story based on the research and information available to them. If they don’t know about you, there is no chance of getting discovered. They are simply too busy to go hunting for a story.
Public Relations often elude most entrepreneurs and emerging enterprises simply because they usually do a lousy job at it through no fault of their own. Most entrepreneurs have no training in public relations, and therefore don’t know the “rules’ publishers and editors follow. Public Relations is free, as advertising is paying to get your message out. Like Publicity, it takes effort, some minor printing costs, but is basically free to get your message out. The better job you do on this end of the marketing task list, the more effective your overall message dissemination will be. Publicity lasts much longer than a paid advertisement, because once the ad is printed, message aired on television or radio, the message is usually gone and forgotten. Experts state that a message must be seen or heard more than 9 times before the product or service is even consciously thought about.
The target audience is also limited to the amount of money you devote to the spread of the message; whether it be local, regional or national. The cost adds up quickly. Publicity, like public relations on the other hand, lasts much longer and is “sticky” so to speak. The message will reach a wider audience because if the information is timely, the product new to the market place or the information found to be interesting, it may be picked up by other media forms. Additionally, the targeted audience will gain much needed respect for the business, product or offering merely because of the third party endorsement from a newspaper, magazine or news article. Their featuring of your company provides endorsement value because you “must be doing something right to be picked up by the media.”
How does one create good publicity and public relations?
First, identify what it is you want to achieve by sharing your story. List the goals and objectives on paper in the order of importance to your success.
Secondly, identify your target customer base. What niche will you attempt to reach? Who are they, where do they live, what are their economics, and what are they currently buying?
Third, select your target media, whether trade magazines, newspapers, radio programs, television stations or other outlets like newsletters, journals, bulletin boards and the like. Find out who is in charge of handling your type of enterprise and contact them directly when the time is right. Honing in on the actual person will set you apart from the herd because of ego, the personal touch and you effort to search them out. Create a media list of your own with the names, addresses, email, fax and phone number of the actual person in each outlet that will be handling your information.
Lastly, since you have done all of the groundwork, you need to establish your message. Your positioning statement will tell the masses what it is that makes your company different from the competition, and why your product or service is better. This statement needs to be no more than a few sentences, or one short paragraph.
Once you have all of this work accomplished, the real work is about to begin.
Depending on the type of business, product or service you are trying to build, you need to develop stories about a particular angle. If you own a used car lot, you may want to write about the most popular style of vehicle being sought by consumers, with specific styling, features and benefits. Write your story with the particular angle of the popularity of the vehicle, and how you can’t keep enough of that type of vehicle on the lot.
Speak of its value to the consumers, the limited availability and how you seem to be able to locate them based on need, because of your secret source. If it is a car that was the pace car for the latest NASCAR race, let them know that the reporter can speak to some of your customers about how great the car is, and maybe even have them take a photo of the happy owner and his car.
Write a pitch letter to the reporter. Start your letter with an interesting fact relating to your target market. If you were pitching a magazine aimed at auto mechanics, start out with a question or statement about the ease of working on your particular vehicle you are marketing. You might write a question such as “Did you know that it is easier changing the timing belt on the Camaro than the Mustang?” Then lead into the pitch, like “As a quality used car auctioneer, I can offer your readers more than 50 easy tips on repairing and optimizing their vehicles.” You might want to include a press release highlighting your business.
After writing the positioning statement, pitch letter, putting together the media kit, press release and sending it to the right reporter or editor, stop and wait for a while. Wait at least 5 to 6 days; then contact them by telephone for follow up. It is okay to leave a voicemail message if the reporter isn’t available, but do it only once. Call him or her until you actually speak to them, but don’t leave messages after the first one. You don’t want to come off as needy or become a pest. These people are very busy, and don’t appreciate being hounded. If they ask for additional information, send it right away and follow the same follow up schedule.
Writing the Press Release is one skill that I highly recommend you learn due to its ability to spread the word without spending any money and little time. It is perhaps the most efficient method of getting the word out. The trick is to differentiate yours from the hundreds of other press releases reporters and editors receive every day.
Make certain that your press release is being targeted to the prospective publication or TV or radio broadcast. Write it in such a way that it is tailored specifically to their reading or listening audience. It makes no sense to send your clothing store press release to an auto repair magazine; unless it is work clothing you wish to feature.
You need to make sure that your reason for sending a press release is important enough to garner attention. A Grand Opening, a new product launch, the opening of another branch store, a new book publishing, or some other notable reason.
Format is critical and should be followed to the letter. The professional press release is always typed and double spaced. If your company stationary is colored, use white letterhead instead, and include the contact person’s information, such as name, title, phone and fax numbers, company and address. This information should be located in the upper right-hand corner of the document. Leave a little white space, and then input an eye-catching headline in bold type. Just below that state “For Immediate Release” unless you want to delay the publication of your information.
At the beginning of the actual release you may want to use a dateline, which is where the information is based from. For example, “Chicago, Illinois, September 30, 2010 –
Then begin your release of information. The entire press release should be no more than one page, or a page and one half if that is not possible. It should be long enough to ensure that: who, what, where, when, why and how are clearly covered. Keep the bragging to a minimum, if at all, because hype is frowned upon. Self promotion is easy to spot, and reporters and editors will shy away from your press release if it is obvious.
If there is a photo of the business, the product or service feature, include a copy in 8 inch by 10 inch. If you have a press kit, include that as well. It should contain your business card, a cover letter addressed to the reporter or editor, the photos (if available) and any reprints from coverage you may have received in the past from other outlets. Make sure that the principle officers are named, with possible quotations, and all graphics, typographical correctness are perfect.
Networking – Some people think that there is some sort of trick to effective networking. I think that it is an acquired skill that must be developed. Remember one thing: it’s your business, and it is up to you to market it. Entrepreneurs must be able to network, and to know where to market as well. “If it is to be, it is up to me” is the mentality that every entrepreneur must possess. Proclivity is essential, so take total control of your situation by laying out a networking plan as part of the overall marketing plan. This is just another tactic, so use it as one.
Identify a list of groups that will serve as a possible fan base, customer base or possible alignment partner. Make a list of 8 to 10, highlighting them from best to least possible. If you are a financial planner, try a homebuilder association, or a real estate organization. You can attend several meetings prior to joining, and that way you can develop a contact list that may serve you in the future, even if you decide that the group isn’t for you.
Hint: There are Meetup Groups everywhere, and they cover nearly every topic. There’s the Chamber of Commerce, BNI, CEO Space, as well as a host of LinkedIn groups in every market. There is no shortage of groups to check out.
Attend one or two new groups a month. If you start out with one this month, expand it to two next month, and so on. Select groups that are different, so that your potential selection of contacts will be varied and not just the same old group of individuals.
Set a goal to meet at least five new people at each event you attend. Scan the room and work it. By that I mean that you should not immediately head for the bar, or sit in a corner, but actively seek out individuals you have never met and introduce yourself. It is human nature to naturally stay in your comfort zone and seek out people you are comfortable being around, so you will have to stretch your skill set and meet those that to whom you wouldn’t normally gravitate.
Most organized networking events will have a meet and greet time and then a formalized portion of the meeting. Take advantage of the meet and greet; after all, that’s why you’re there. Meet people, and get to know them. All too often people flit around the room gathering business cards like vultures. Then once they get home, forget all about whom they met and how they could be of possible use. Make your acquaintances meaningful.
My Advice: Give of yourself rather than seeking out those who might possibly be of service to you. If you take the initiative of serving others to get what they want, you will get what you want. “How can I serve you in your business, so you can move to the next level?” I call it COOPERATIVE CAPITALISM.
Be approachable while attending these events. If you are a shy type; move around the room and smile at everyone with a sincere smile. If you are sincerely interested in meeting new contacts, you will have to outgrow your shyness. Introduce yourself to the leadership of the activity, and let them know who you are and what you do.
Become an active participant in a few of the networking events that you especially like, or the ones that yield the best contacts. People naturally have an elevated opinion of those who take the initiative to organize an event, or present opportunities for meeting others in the group. By serving in some fashion, you expand your influence, provide opportunities for yourself to speak to more individuals, and become known merely by association.
The 6 Foot Rule is one that must always be followed. Simply put, if someone comes within six feet of you, introduce yourself. Always have business cards with you no matter where you go. People will have a better chance of remembering you if you have a professionally printed business card for them to remember you by. It doesn’t matter where you are, even on vacation. You never know who you will meet and under what circumstances.
The Elevator Speech is another rule you should practice. Imagine getting into an elevator and you meet Warren Buffet. You notice you are both going to the 15th floor. Wouldn’t it be great to let him know about your new business idea? What do you do? Say? This is where the elevator speech comes in. It is a 15-30 second message that conveys everything to make him WANT to invest in your company.
Example: Here’s mine for my latest business venture: Hello, my name is David Dunworth, President of Tiburon Health and Wellness. We teach employers how to cut their group health insurance costs by 50% or more, and employees get better coverage than ever before. Who do you know that could help me reach more employers?
Succinct, to the point, and something that everyone could find interesting. Remember, most people have it in their nature to be helpful, and would be happy to give you an idea or two. In my case, everyone needs health care coverage, and are either an employer, employee, or are self employed (unless they are retired and on Medicare).
Follow up on contacts within a couple days of meeting them. Keep in touch through email, or share a meal with them on occasion. This is not to get business, it is to develop rapport, and a friendship. People do business they know, trust and respect.
How can I help your business move to the next level? is a great question to ask new people you meet. Through service we receive, and by helping others get what they want, we will get what we want. Be sincere, or don’t ask the question. If you know someone that can assist them even if you can’t: introduce them. Cooperative Capitalism works.
Guerilla Marketing is perhaps the widest topic to be covered here, and is a book in itself. My advice is to actually locate books on the topic and utilize any of the 500 or so strategies that are covered in them. I will not make an attempt at listing the tactics; there are experts sharing their knowledge on the internet, in books, webinars and a host of other outlets. Do some research for the best methods to use for your product or service.
Article Marketing – We’ve already touched on writing articles briefly, but this is a particular strategy that can not only drive traffic to your business, it can be a business in itself. Organizations on the internet offer opportunities to write for a living, but I feel that writing articles highlighting your own business is a better use of your valuable time. As I described earlier, the article should feature information targeted to specific audiences, and doing so will have a wide range of results. Not only will your business get some publicity from the article, your readership will expand and knowledge of your business’ existence will become wider.
Strategic Alliances are a bit different than coop marketing in the way it is approached. Developing a strategic alliance is like a marriage of two companies for very specific reasons. For example, a fitness club with a terrific reputation might approach a medical center’s cardiac care department with a strategic alliance idea. Through an approved process, the fitness center might be able to offer post cardiac recovery services, monitored and approved by the medical center. The medical center gains advantage as perhaps the only center in the community with an outreach center that they don’t have to fund, and the fitness center gains additional business by serving as the cardiac rehabilitation for post cardiac patients. It is a win-win for both businesses.
Expert Testimony is a terrific way to become a well recognized star in your particular field or industry. By volunteering to speak at local groups, service clubs, the Chamber and everywhere you can for no charge, your sphere of influence will grow over time. Contact the editors of industry publications and volunteer to write articles and columns. Develop a seminar on a facet of your business and offer it through as many outlets as possible. If you have a web presence, perform webinars and teleconferences for free to develop your “expert” status. Your purpose here is to become known as someone in the know, and you are also developing a following. The top 50 publications are an excellent venue to offer your opinion or review of information, and can be found on the internet through a simple search.
Coop Marketing is a topic I wrote extensively on a couple months ago, and the information is readily available on my blog site. Simply put, coop marketing is a strategy that combines your product or service with another for mutual benefit. You have to think this strategy through extensively because not all opportunities are right for you or your coop partner. As an example, consider this: If you were a gift basket company with a limited budget, consider partnering with a florist that can share in the common market niche. By splitting the cost of advertising or contributing equal amounts of product to a charity organization, you both can win at half the cost of doing it yourself. By writing a joint press release, as well as marketing materials pertinent to your shared activity, you’ll each gain exposure and possibly even receive additional recognition in other media sources that find your contribution noteworthy.
Special Events/Grand Openings are a great way to make your business noticeable, but you have to get the word out well in advance of any special event such as a grand opening or holiday celebration. Simply hanging out your shingle and expecting the world to beat a path to your door is not the least bit realistic. Your business is your business; it’s up to you to create excitement, enthusiasm for your product or service, and get the buzz working in your favor. You’ll have to design a flyer or invitation, offer refreshments and perhaps entertainment, give away prizes and other special promotions and what ever else you can think of to enhance the excitement of the market.
Couponing/Discounts is an excellent strategy to gain market share, but you give up a percentage of the sale of each product or service each time one is redeemed. If you have a web site (more on this soon) it is easy to distribute a coupon or discount message to everyone that visits you site. The only challenge to that strategy is that it takes additional marketing of some sort to drive people to your site in the first place. If you do things the old fashioned way like direct mail or door to door flyers and strategies of that nature, there are inherent costs for printing and the labor to distribute. This strategy is a very expensive method to market your product or service, but it will help gain exposure and market share.
Advertising is not only an expensive strategy, but often is a pure waste of money. The learning curve for do it yourself advertising is a long, frustrating and potentially disastrous. There are more than 25 filters to be used in the construction of an advertising message and overall coordinated campaign. A brief look into the yellow pages will provide some of the worst forms of advertising. An easy way to define the quality of an ad is to ask the following: “Who else can say that? Another question that qualifies the ad is: “What makes this business so special?” I have written an extensive article on advertising mistakes and how to avoid them. You can find it on my blog site.
Web Site Marketing is the way to level the playing field. A well designed, functional web site is perhaps the big differentiator when it comes to a web presence. Large and small companies share the same internet, so make this opportunity work for you. There are a number of steps to capitalize on this form of marketing, so take it one at a time to do it right.
Name selection is extremely important, so take your time and select the proper web site address. Make a list of the best possible names, then log on to a domain registration site to check out if the name is available. For a fee ranging from free to $35, you can be officially on the internet as a company. Once you have found a name that is available, make sure it is easy to spell, remember and is relatively short.
Post your new internet address on every piece of marketing you use, from business cards to letterhead. Make sure everyone you know finds out about your web address, and remind them often. Include it on press releases, and include it on the signature section of your emails.
Outline what your site will cover, making sure you don’t overlook any details. On the list content should be at the top along with structure. By that I mean how are the pages to be broken out. Back links and navigation of the site is important, so make it functional and easy to move back and forth between pages.
A good web site loads quickly, has multiple pages and offers the viewer all of the information you would want in a site if you were shopping at your own site. As an idea generator, check out your competitors and see what you think about their site. Do they have an easy to navigate site, or is it cumbersome and slow to load? Are the graphics and photos current? Is the information pertinent and spelled correctly?
Design your site to be attractive and easy on the eye. The use of colors is important, and there is a particular psychology to the use of color in marketing and advertising. If you are having your site designed professionally, have the designer use several color schemes from which to choose. The use of a web site service (offered by many domain registration companies, Microsoft, and others) will provide easy to load templates with a variety of color schemes.
Web tools such as templates, graphics and HTML auto load services make designing and loading a site easier than it has ever been. FrontPage from Microsoft is a program you can buy that helps build and maintain your own site. A few short years ago was another story, but today the premade templates are fun to use, fast loading and the need to know HTML code is no longer necessary.
Selling from your web site is easier now than ever before, thanks to the web host company, PayPal, and other credit card transaction companies offering data capture with plenty of security. If you want to control the entire process, a shopping cart program is the way to go. They can be found online or through your local bank.
There are a number of strategies and tactics to use to market your business. The quicker you master these, the faster your business will grow. Money is almost always a concern, so begin with the strategies that don’t cost anything substantial. You can become a success through the use of these methods, and can look forward to considerable success the better you get at promoting your venture. Good luck!
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