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 Fill Your Sales Pipeline For Small Business

Every small business owner is actually in the lead generation business! If you own a small business, the only thing you need to do every day is generate more leads, so that you can get more sales, so that you can make more money. Getting those leads in abundance means filling your “pipeline” with suspects, prospects and actual leads.

There are multiple levels of lead types for your pipeline, here they are from least urgent to most urgent:

People who know you are in business but are not currently using your products or services. These can include people from your networking groups, someone who has entered your retail store but has not purchased or even your friends and family. These people should get something from you occasionally to remind them that you are in business, but should not occupy many of your marketing dollars.

Suspects are people who have at least expressed an interest in what you sell. They may have signed up for a free report on your website or dropped their name in a bowl at your trade show. These people should receive something from you that helps remind them about the benefits of your product or service, but should not be a blatant sales pitch. These could include a piece of industry news sent by email or snail mail, a personal phone call or even a marketing piece.

Prospects are people who have indicated that they want to buy your product. They may be taking their time making a decision, but they have expressed an interest. Be careful not to lose touch with these folks! You do not want to do all the hard work of selling them on your type of product or service, only to have someone swoop in at exactly the right time to steal your sale. Make sure to contact them on at least a bi-weekly basis and it is absolutely appropriate to send them industry news that will help them make a decision. Additionally, make sure to cut the time they say it will take to make a decision in half. If they say they will buy in six months, make sure to contact them in three months so that you do not lose the sale.

And the number one most important type of lead…

Someone who refers you business, whether they have ever purchased from you or not! This one can seem counter-intuitive. Why would you pay attention to someone who does not buy from you? A person who is willing to refer you to their friends and family can, over time, greatly increase your income. Make sure that you are sending them a personal note thanking them for their referral, every time they send someone your way. Also, make sure that they are invited to your client appreciation parties, that they get a special Christmas treat and that you call them at least monthly.

If you stay aware of your leads and which are the most important, you can fill your pipeline with people at each step of the sales process and help to smooth out the sales volume ups and downs that most small business owners experience.

10 Pay Per Click Marketing Crimes That Prevents Small Business From Making $500k a Year – Guilty?

Number 10: Spending Money On PPC Before You Know It’s Going to Work For You

Have you ever noticed that a business owner will spend tons of money on Google Pay Per Click Advertising and find out later that this does not work?

Of course you have.

I know business owners who have spent more than $6,500 and never made a dime back.

Using one free tool on the internet will help you figure out your chances of your business making money online with your ad.

Don’t miss this critical first step.

Number 9: Not Enough Visitors To See Your PPC Ads

You paid for PPC ads.

What do you mean I am not getting enough visitors to see the ad? That’s Google’s job right?

Wrong…

…Google allocates eyeballs and qualified customers to you once you follow specific criteria.

End result…Fewer people see your ads…fewer take action…failed marketing campaign.

Number 8: Your Ad Is All About You

Which message do you think is better?

Please call me today as I have been in business for 30 years and am the best red lorry salesman. Call me at 911.911.911

Or

Imagine driving in your red lorry and keeping your family safe from accidents. Click on this link to
download my free guide today that reveals the secrets to buying a red lorry.

Do you have the wrong message? This will kill your campaign and in time empty your bank account.

Number 7: Spending More Money on PPC Ad Costs Than Earning In Sales

This sounds pretty obvious right.

But so often we will take care and measure our sales and bank account but for some reason small
business owners don’t test, track and monitor their PPC marketing results.

And it is not your fault. This could be seen as complicated at times.

The key is to measure your control ad, your click through rate and your cost per click and a few more areas.

Without this, you could be out of pocket.

Number 6: Picking the Wrong Keywords for Your Business

The keyword is the equivalent of the sign on your door. It is how your customers find you and determine what is relevant to you.

Imagine your customer searching for a red lorry and your ad says purple cows.

What is the chance of them ever finding you?

Using the right tools to find the keyword generally helps your maximize your profits.

Number 5: Getting Slapped By Google

This sounds strange. You can actually get slapped.

And when you do, Google charges you more for your keywords than other advertisers.

And most marketers call this the “Google slap”.

There are specific ways to match your ad to your web page to avoid the slap.

Play fair with Google.

Number 4: Advertising To The Wrong Market

If you are a local business why would you advertise to a National Audience? If you do, then you are just wasting your money.

Alternatively, if you are a National business, you advertise only in a few cities and never understand why your competitor is building a larger market share with the same type of ad.

Number 3: Not Having A Duplicate Credit Card On File

And if you don’t pay the bills, chances are you may get locked out till you make good on your card.

And the worst part, you don’t set the right daily budget and you suddenly find yourself owing tens of thousands of dollars.

Having a duplicate credit card means you are always on and capture every lead you can. It is all about building the momentum.

Number 2: No Follow Up

The tragedy…

…Not following up with the lead or selling one product or service.

There is no leverage to earn future income for this lead. You spent good money and efforts for the PPC lead and lose them once they buy from you.

Your success to achieving a $500,000 payday is largely dependent on your relationship with your list.

Number 1: Not Getting Help

This is the biggest mistake of them all.

This is the mistake that keeps most small business owners from ever having the kind of success with
earning more than $500,000 a year using PPC marketing.

I know that most small business owners don’t like to make themselves look weak or helpless, or have some preconceived ideas about PPC marketing.

It can seem confusing. Why spend all the time figuring out what works when you can talk to the right person and get answers in seconds.

You have a choice. You can go out and try every marketing method and flounder about or you can turn Google into your personal sales force.

We don’t like to ask for help. I’ve been there myself.

Number 3: Not Having A Duplicate Credit Card On File

And if you don’t pay the bills, chances are you may get locked out till you make good on your card.

And the worst part, you don’t set the right daily budget and you suddenly find yourself owing tens of thousands of dollars.

Having a duplicate credit card means you are always on and capture every lead you can. It is all about building the momentum.

Number 2: No Follow Up

The tragedy…

…Not following up with the lead or selling one product or service.

There is no leverage to earn future income for this lead. You spent good money and efforts for the PPC lead and lose them once they buy from you.

Your success to achieving a $500,000 payday is largely dependent on your relationship with your list.

Number 1: Not Getting Help

This is the biggest mistake of them all.

This is the mistake that keeps most small business owners from ever having the kind of success with earning more than $500,000 a year using PPC marketing.

I know that most small business owners don’t like to make themselves look weak or helpless, or have some preconceived ideas about PPC marketing.

It can seem confusing. Why spend all the time figuring out what works when you can talk to the right person and get answers in seconds.

You have a choice. You can go out and try every marketing method and flounder about or you can turn Google into your personal sales force.

We don’t like to ask for help. I’ve been there myself.

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.