It certainly isn’t easy running a small business, is it?

You work long hours, take few (if any) holidays, and you bear the full responsibility for the overall success of your company. Your family and employees all look to you to make the business a success.

That is a lot of pressure.

This means you always have to keep looking for new and inventive ways to improve your bottom line profitability, and take your small business to new heights.

Most business owners agree that effective marketing would be a big help to their business. However, what puts them off is that they mistakenly think that hiring a marketing consultant will cost a lot of money and that they cannot afford it.

That isn’t always the case. In this issue, we are going to look at various ways you can put an effective marketing plan into action without it costing an arm and a leg…and you will also discover some very effective FREE ways to get much needed publicity for your business.

The article will be a good reference guide to effective marketing. Your business will grow as a result if you put them into action.

START MAKING HEADLINES – THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF FREE PUBLICITY

Most small local businesses focus all their marketing efforts on paid advertising or sales activities. This is totally understandable and is generally a good investment if it’s done well. However, a lot of businesses are struggling financially at the moment, so this article will cover the most overlooked weapon in a small business’s marketing arsenal: FREE PUBLICITY.

How do you get free publicity?

Easy. Be known as ‘the’ expert and authority in your field.

Despite what you might think, being recognized as an “expert” in the media is a very attainable goal – in fact you are probably already well qualified to do this, particularly if you have been in the business for a number of years. But even if you haven’t been in business long, the chances are that you have done a lot of market research and choosing your business wasn’t a decision you came into lightly.

Once you establish yourself as an ‘expert’, the benefits to your business can be awesome. If you have a solid market position but need more exposure and credibility to help your business grow, you can do this easily by investing some time and effort into generating publicity for your business through the media. If you do this, you are sure to reap the financial rewards.

When it comes to local news, there’s no reason a small business can’t compete with a business ten times its size. In fact, it’s fair to say that local news outlets like TV stations and newspapers are “biased” in favor of small local business owners like yourself, so you already have an advantage.

Think about the last time you watched your local TV news. There would have been the usual variety of depressing stories about car accidents, house fires and the economy. But there were also stories highlighting local issues. The people in these type of ‘Local News’ stories are usually people from the community appearing on camera to offer a comment.

For example, when the holiday season rolls around, a local reporter will often visit a local retailer to ask how busy it is and if their profits will be on target to beat the previous year’s takings. They might also consult another local trader who may have a different opinion on how busy it is, or perhaps to give some basic shopping reminders. Then they will interview various members of the public to ask them how busy it is and if they have all of their shopping done. They may also interview a local police officer to remind people not to drink too much during the holiday period, especially if they are driving.

Think about that for a moment; three LOCAL residents or business people all received valuable free exposure on a well-watched local newscast, and all they had to do was talk about what they do everyday.

That scenario is not unusual and you can probably think of many more examples. You might even remember a news item that featured on the news today.

It’s called publicity, and it’s probably the best marketing weapon a local businessperson has to get added exposure for their company at no cost.

But how do these people get on air or in print? Surely they must know somebody, right? Actually, no.

When you watch a news-related show and they consult an “expert”, chances are that person is no more an expert in their field than you are in yours. They got on air by simply pitching the story idea to the station or making contact with the local reporter or news station.

The local newscast is on every week night and quite often over a weekend. It doesn’t matter whether or not there was one hour’s worth of news during the day; they still have to fill the airtime.

On slow news days, news reporters are looking for local stories that will appeal to a wide audience, just like the one I mentioned above; one that they can put together without a lot of research or effort.

The same is true of newspapers. Reporters often need to generate a story idea for tomorrow’s paper, and they would jump all over a good local story that is of interest to a wide audience but not as time sensitive as, say, a local disaster.

HOW DO YOU GET ‘IN THE NEWS’?
So how do you get on air or in print? Follow these tips:

1) Send a news release in to a few local TV/Radio stations and newspapers with a good story idea. Remember, it has to be NEWS, not shameless self- promotion:

Example number 1: Auto Repair Mechanic

This is an example of self-promotion:
Visit my auto repair garage today because I want to tell you how hard I work to please my customers.

On the other hand, the same business could add this spin instead:

“As the winter approaches, now would be a good time for your viewers to have their vehicle inspected to ensure worry-free winter driving. As a local mechanic, I can help by offering practical information about what to look for in a mechanic, and what safety systems you should have checked on your car before the snow flies this winter.

Now that the reporters have your details and know that they have somebody to interview, they will be in contact once the bad weather starts to fill that criterion of the news.

Example number 2: Chiropractor

Self-promotion:
“I’m a new chiropractor in the area and I’d like to build up business by running an article in your newspaper.”

Instead try this:

“Many local residents live with back pain everyday. As a local chiropractor, I’d be pleased to share with your viewers the 3 most common types of back problems, and the steps they can take to correct them now before the problem gets out of hand.”

Almost every news station focuses on health issues, especially if there is a celebrity in the news with a similar condition. For example, when Catherine Zeta Jones admitted that she suffered from bi-polar it raised awareness of the condition and news programs jumped all over it, interviewing people in the local community who were also struggling with the condition. So, as soon as they want to do a feature on back pain, because they know you are qualified to talk about that, they will contact you.

Example number 3: Gadget store

Self-promotion:
“My new gadget store took a lot of work to get up and running, and I think people would be interested in hearing about the exciting products that I have to offer. “

With a different spin this could become newsworthy:

“With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, people are constantly looking for unusual and useful gifts. As the owner of a local gadget store, I’d be happy to give you information on the latest crazes for the festive season, including what’s hot, what’s not, and some gadget buying tips for families to help them stretch their shopping budget.”

Can you see the difference? Shameless self-promotion is just that – it’s an attempt to promote your company through the news media, and it simply won’t work. Reporters will see right through it and will ignore you.

On the other hand, positive News Spin takes something that your business is recognized for and turns it into a story that a news outlet would be likely to broadcast or feature in print.

It is the topics and the same business but putting a slightly different spin on things makes all the difference.

That kind of exposure is very good for business.

Remember, the news channel doesn’t maintain its credibility by promoting businesses. Nobody in the press really cares about your business and it doesn’t really want to go out of their way to promote it. However, offer them a news story that involves your business, and it is no longer promotion. It’s news.

2) Switch on your PR antenna and follow the news

When something newsworthy happens, news media like to cover it from different angles (like the Catherine Zeta Jones story mentioned earlier). A story that was not very interesting yesterday can quickly become interesting today, especially if something has happens in the news to spark people’s interest.

NEWS : A rash of break-ins in the local area has residents wondering about their safety.
Anyone who owns a security company should be all over this one. You could offer your local news station safety tips, information about how home alarms can protect your home, and so on.

Remember: when something is in the news it gets people’s attention. They are much more receptive to hearing what they can do to avoid the problem themselves.

In a situation like this where viewers are concerned about their health and safety, they will be very attentive to any news item about securing their homes.

The news media know that if they interview you to discuss safety, they’re feeding the public’s appetite for safety related articles. Just remember you are not on TV to pitch your product. During the interview, talk about alarms in general and provide general household safety tips. It will add to your credibility and the phone will be ringing off the hook the next morning as the public will trust you and you will be seen as the local authority on the subject.

There are lots of other companies that could benefit from this type of news such as self-defense classes, neighborhood watch programs, private security patrol companies… the list goes on.

WHAT ABOUT MY BUSINESS?

You can find PR opportunities in almost any business. To prove this, go and buy a selection of today’s newspapers and give yourself 20 minutes to flick through them all.

As you do, think about how your business/products/services may relate to other wider topics that are reported in the papers.

Look at the news stories and features. Ask yourself, what topics are popular? Can you adapt what your business has to say to something that is already causing a stir?

Tear out anything that grabs your eye and start to compile a cuttings reference file for your desk. Repeat the exercise on a regular basis and include the Sunday papers now and again.

Don’t forget you can apply the exact same publicity principles to ANY information avenue – like trade publications. Your customers have their own publications that relate to and interest them,(for example, Restaurant Owner Monthly). What topics are hot right now in your industry or theirs? Does your business have something to contribute to an ongoing debate?

Pay particular attention to regional newspapers and business publications. Is there something happening locally that you can tap into? Helping the local community brings many benefits to everybody concerned.

For example, a local car hire firm might provide free minibus hire to a kid’s playgroup after reading about the theft of the playgroup vehicle just before a planned visit to the seaside.

This would be a great story, and would provide a good photo and branding opportunity for the business. Plus, it gives a great day out for the kids.

Being opportunistic isn’t a sin if it offers a win-win situation all round for everybody involved. It will enhance your company’s reputation, while giving genuine value to your customer.

Online Press Releases
Online Press releases are a great way to use your news to instantly promote yourself to millions of people around the world via the Internet and attract new customers as a result.

This is where our expertise comes in; we can help you reach a brand new audience by sending out press releases, which in turn will increase your rankings in the search engines.

We know how to reach thousands of journalists worldwide and generate a buzz for your business.

Contact us today to find out how we got our 2 latest clients in NBC, CBS, Yahoo Finance and generate a real buzz and interest in your company and attract new customers in 24 hours or less.