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Small Business Marketing: 3 Tips to Get Started

Start here - Small Business Marketing

So you’ve decided to open a small business or start marketing the one you already have. Congratulations!

Whether you are just forming your ideas or expanding existing promotional efforts to include online channels, you’re about to navigate a journey that has the potential of taking your business to the next level – fast.

Although the techniques and tools for today’s PR and marketing may seem daunting, don’t be intimidated.

Start with these 3 steps to ramp up your small business marketing efforts:

1. Create a Roadmap. Before you start almost any project, the preparation you do beforehand will be key to future success. Imagine hopping in the car for a cross-country trip without a GPS or map to guide you to your goal destination.

PR and marketing are the same. When putting together a plan, ask yourself these questions:

 

  • What are my objectives? Do I want more customers? Do I want to attract a different market than I currently have? Am I looking to create a stronger local presence?
    Defining what you want to achieve is critical in keeping your plan focused and being able to measure success over time.
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  • What is my budget?
    It’s important to establish what you are willing to spend prior to creating a plan. While many PR and marketing tools are not as expensive as you think, the costs still need to be accounted for in such a way that it’s not a strain to you or the business.
    In creating your budget, look for places where you might be able to save. Learning how to write a press release on your own can save you copywriting fees, for example.
    Decide in advance how you want to divide your dollars. Perhaps you should consider a mix of advertising (the message you pay for and place with specific outlets, such as the Yellow Pages) and PR efforts (those which help you get the word out in multiple ways, such as news releases, special events, community tie-ins).
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  • How much time am I willing to commit?
    A PR and marketing effort can be as big or small as you decide. However, in an Internet landscape where content is king – you likely need to carve out time to create content, and connections online.

    2. Go forth, measure and refine. Now that you have a plan, it’s time to take action.

    One of the more important elements of any plan is ensuring to coordinate efforts so that you stay on message and can get more bang for your buck.

    In addition, it is marketing and PR best practices to test a tactic at least 3 times before determining its effectiveness. Imagine if TV networks only ran one ad for a new sitcom premiering. The likelihood that the audience saw and remembered the concept, premier day/time and what they liked about it is miniscule.

    So, marketers combat this issue with frequency.

    Make sure your brand is visible in as many places as your target audience is looking including:

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  • Search Engines
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  • Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn
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  • Print Publications (Newspapers, Magazines)
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  • Signage outside your building (if you are a brick and mortar)

    Before, during and after you launch your marketing plan, measurement is key. In order to define success, you will need to know where you started – i.e. your benchmarks.

    As marketing plan components deploy, watch for spikes in traffic on the site from referring sources such as search engines, press release distribution services, ads etc.

    After a frequency is established, you can compare tactics and messages to see which is working the best and which need to be refined or removed from the plan.

    3. Don’t forget about local. Whether your location is critical to your business or not, making connections locally is still an important part in growing your business.

    For example, when you become familiar with the news sources in your area, you can create relationships that make you the go-to-person for insight on your given area of expertise.

    For a locally-driven business such as a restaurant, pet store etc., local is going to be a critical part of success as you need people within physical proximity to you to help the business grow.

    However, companies that operate out of a city but serve national customers can also benefit from local connections. Don’t discount the affect you can have on referrals and even signing up local clients by attending networking events, sponsoring local charities, etc.

    To let people nearby know you are there, try the following:

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  • Submitting your business to Google Places
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  • Use local listing services such as Yellow Pages and patch.com.
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  • Provide interesting tips, suggestions and secrets to local radio and news programs. For example, if you own a hardware store, offer “best bird feeding” practices highlighting products consumers can find in your store.
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  • Create a blog specializing in activities and events surrounding your industry with a local flavor, i.e., if you sell surfboards, provide updated surf reports and new local competition information.
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    There is no limit to what you can accomplish with a well thought out and executed PR and marketing plan. Remember to be consistent in all your efforts. Maintain the same language, message and keywords in all tactics regardless of the channel. In no time you will be measuring noticeable returns on your small business marketing efforts.

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