It seems the larger our population gets and the more hyper-connected our technology makes us, the more isolated people feel. Folks are texting, emailing and skyping, but actual interpersonal communication levels are suffering. While we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about the importance of digital marketing in the modern era, we can’t forget the importance of face-to-face networking!
TIP: NETWORK EVERYWHERE
More often than not, networking opportunities are all around you: the coffee shop, gym, gas pump, grocery store, etc. All you have to do is be open to them. Make eye contact, smile, say hello. Handle your interactions with genuine interest. Everyone has a story—can you care to listen?
Tip in Action: Next time you’re in public, try to have a genuine interaction with a stranger. No, not mindless banter, but a conversation. What do you have to lose?
TIP: GIVE MORE THAN BUSINESS CARDS
Instead of randomly passing out a stack of business cards, try investing a little more time in one or two people you know are worth talking to. The less time you spend with each person, the more likely those cards will end up in the trash. We remember personalities, not little sheets of paper! Focus on quality, not quantity when you’re networking.
Tip in Action: Get some really nice, expensive business cards, and only keep one or two on you. This will cause you to be more selective about who you give them to. You’ll be far more likely to only give them to people who a) asked for your card, and b) are interested in following up.
TIP: NOT EVERYONE’S GOING TO LIKE YOU
This is a hard lesson: not everyone you meet is going to like you— and that’s okay! Don’t lose sleep. Some folks will be receptive and some won’t. It’s life. As long as you aim to make positive connections, say, one per week, you’ll generate plenty of opportunities.
Tip in Action: Next time someone doesn’t seem to vibe with you, just be nice about it and move on. Maybe you’ll bump into that person ten more times before they even remember your name, or maybe your next interaction with them will pose an incredible opportunity! You never know.
TIP: CREATE CONNECTIONS & FOLLOW-UP
So you’ve met some cool people and acquired their contact information… what now?
You have to follow up in order to foster relationships. Following up can take many different forms – social media, email, phone, a cup of coffee, etc. Just make sure to keep in touch with people in order to keep the relationships in your network active.
Tip in Action: Look through your network. Who haven’t you spoken to in a while? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from reaching out. Business professionals who are open to making connections typically have the most meaningful, long-lasting relationships and strongest networks.
Pretty much all startup founders have a ton on their plates, from product development to customer service to HR, just to name a few. So how are you supposed to find the time and resources to run an effective PR campaign?
Truth be told, it’s not as hard as you might think. Here are a handful of surefire ways to get the media talking.
Craft Meaningful Positioning Statements
Before telling the world who you are, be sure that you know who you are. If you’re unsure about what you stand for, any pitch you make to the press will be misguided.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to represent yourself to the public, remember that your target audience is key. Once you have your audience in mind, it’s a lot easier to dive into deeper questions like, “What effect will my product/service have on the consumer?” Define the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How—just like in English class.
Once you’ve crafted your positioning statement, you’ll want to create a press kit to share with journalists once they pick up your story. This should include your logo(s), founder bios and photos, media advisory, important dates in the company’s history (date founded, product launched, updates made, etc.) and any other pertinent information about your business. This way you can be sure that journalists will get your information right!
Identify the Right Journalists
This step is actually a point of contention among business experts. Some say, “Any press can be good press!”, while others take a more cautious approach: identifying specific journalists to share their story with the public. We fall on the side of caution!
Get to know your local press. Reach out to the national press that you aspire to have tell your story. Review journalists’ work beforehand to get an idea of the types of questions they ask and if/how they skew their stories. Check in with your gut—how comfortable are you with this person? Aim to eventually have a database of the journalists you can keep in contact with.
Hint: Use Twitter lists to keep track of specific journalists and identify the right angle for your PR approach.
Connecting with Reporters
This is a very important step that can be handled one of two ways: cautious and friendly, or aggressive and direct.
The cautious approach involves helping and/or becoming friends with reporters in order to make yourself a trusted news source. You can do this face to face, or by using sites like HARO (Help A Reporter Out).
The direct approach involves knocking down doors and shouting your message in the direction of whoever you want to have listening. This approach can actually be very successful, especially when a journalist is looking for a fresh angle on a story.
Didn’t get that story written the first time? Don’t panic. The key is staying on the radar of your preferred journalist(s) by following up with new successes and major updates on your company. Persistence is your best tool here.
Become The Go-To Resource for News Outlets
Once you’ve established some solid relationships with journalists and are able to claim subject-matter expertise, you may become a go-to source for news stories, especially ones in your industry. This will provide you with a platform for sharing your experiences and marketing your business in an indirect way.
Ever wondered why the TED Talk series is so popular? What makes all these folks’ stories so dang compelling?
All successful TED talks have a few common threads. Let’s talk about what makes them the best presentations in the world, and the ways you can adapt your own presentation to match this level of hype.
TELL A STORY
Everyone’s passionate about something. Think long and hard about what makes you tick. Moreover, think about why you’re passionate about that thing, because chances are there’s a good story there.
If you just can’t seem to muster a passion-fueled, self-confessing monologue, you can always tell someone else’s story that you’re inspired by. Every successful TED speaker is a storyteller. Personal stories compel the audience drop their guard and connect with the speaker on an emotional level.
DITCH WORDY POWERPOINTS
Many TED talks don’t use any presentation tools whatsoever. If you’re the type of person that can give a successful talk without a PowerPoint, by all means, go for it! However, most of us do need some type of visual aid to give our best, most organized performance.
Our point here is that you shouldn’t rely too heavily on PowerPoint and other presentation tools. Don’t get so caught up in listing facts and figures that you forget to connect with the audience on a human level. PowerPoint’s great, but it’s too often used to replace a presentation rather than supplement it!
TEACH THE AUDIENCE SOMETHING NEW
How many times have you watched a video or read a blog that just reiterated something you read elsewhere? It happens all the time. Many companies seem to be creating content about anything and everything, for no other reason than this: everyone else is.
Instead of creating content or presenting on topics outside your wheelhouse, stick to your passions and personal stories. The reason TED talks are so widely appealing is because they always offer new information in an interesting way. If you stick with content that’s unique to you, you’ll be sure to captivate the audience.
Good ol’ tried and true email marketing: the gold standard of digital marketing. Email marketing can include product updates, special pricing and discounts, corporate news and more—and it’s critical for retaining your customer base! Some quick pointers on crafting these emails:
- The message line must be captivating.
- The emails themselves should be short and sweet.
- They should include an attention-grabbing “call to action.” You should aim for a boost in sales every time.
Social media strategist Jay Baer calls Facebook Fan Pages “email newsletters with smaller pictures.” Sneaking in promotions on Social Media is totally doable, and particularly beneficial for small companies with low visibility. Having a website is a good start, but social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like, are the true building blocks for a strong brand.
How to best market yourself on social media is the topic of a whole other article, but we’ll talk about some of the basics here. The most important thing is that you post consistent, compelling updates and engage your audience. Some quick guidelines for social media marketing:
- Social media is part of an integrated approach to optimizing your site’s ranking with search engines (an important goal in any marketing plan).
- Your branding must stand out in this noisy digital world of ours. Catchy phrasing and eye-popping illustrations will coat your message with instant cachet. People will look forward to seeing more from you, especially if your content is informative and useful.
- Be sure to use social media to connect people to your website. Make your posts interactive so you can keep a dialogue going with your audience.
Social media isn’t always the best way to generate leads for direct business—search engines can guide visitors to your site with more efficiency if your website is loaded with keyword content. However, posts, tweets, and blogs can add fuel to the revenue fire and help you build a substantial digital following when done well (and often). Remember that your audience reach is very important here. Your efforts on Twitter won’t make a difference if you don’t have any followers.
Ask your email subscribers to follow you in a quick message. Tell customers by word-of-mouth. Build your network any way you can!
If you’re seeking out ways to raise your brand awareness, Google and YouTube are your roads to riches. Supplementing your social media efforts with Google and YouTube ads is a great way to brand your small business.
Contrary to what you might think, statistics show that people do actually engage with ads when it’s something they’re interested in. Placement is everything. Google offers flat-rate advertising with no contract commitment or startup fees.
YouTube is often called the playground of marketers. You have a lot of options when it comes to advertising, from target audience to display option (a banner, in-stream video, etc.). Plus, the reach can be massive!
Here are a few pointers for designing an online advertisement:
- Have an explicit goal.
- Open with a hook.
- Keep it short, compelling, and visually appealing.
- Label it appropriately and use descriptive keyword tags.
Most importantly, invest your ad dollars wisely and go where the people are!
Your business website is the ground floor of your marketing plan. It’s where you tell your story, build your brand, make sales— it’s where digital business actually goes down! Your website is a great, controllable tool for enhancing your visibility. Here are a couple things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your website:
- Use keyword tools like Google AdWords or Long Tail Pro to create content that gets the best results.
- Highlight your call to action (CTA) buttons and use direct response methods to help your visitors buy.
SEO (search engine optimization) tactics are an important adjunct to any good marketing plan. Studies show that 94% of consumers hit the internet before they commit to a product or service, so while utilizing SEO strategies takes time, it’ll absolutely pay off. Keep in mind that there are a variety of cloud-based tools to make your SEO easier, such as Moz and Raven Tools.
Revenue-sharing is simply another way to get business. Consider creating an affiliate program or network!
Most marketing campaigns focus more on SEO and social media and fail to include this bonus strategy. You can promote your business by rewarding partners for displaying your ads and bringing in referrals. Your affiliates will get a commission for driving visitors to your website.
Affiliates can function like an extended sales force. They smooth e-commerce, increase branding, and generally fill in the gaps left by other methods. A little research will tell you if this approach is right for your business and if it will return high enough profits to be worthwhile!
Marketing may be intimidating to new entrepreneurs, but with the right connections, materials and strategies, you’ll be able to master the process efficiently. All it takes is some hard work and a malleable business plan!
With attention and care, your brand will emerge, your company image will grow, and your revenue will creep skywards.
This guide for promoting a business was a collaboration between the exceptional marketers Jackie Steinmetz and Ali Schwanke.
Note: Some of the ideas in this article are attributed to Joshua Steimle’s How to Get Free Press post on Forbes and Renee Warren’s Startup Marketing Guide from Onboardly. Consider checking out their content!