As an entrepreneur, you know how important it is to accentuate the uniqueness of your business whenever possible. Very few consumers are interested in choosing a generic product or service, after all. We almost always gravitate toward the option that's most distinctive or memorable. There are many ways to make your business unique: a unique pricing system, a unique niche in the marketplace, a product or service that can't easily be imitated. If your business is up and running, you undoubtedly know all about those basic business strategies.
What's much trickier is figuring out how to capitalize on the uniqueness of your business to generate helpful (and often free) publicity. Publicity, rather than advertising, should be the basis of any small business owner's initial marketing efforts. Advertising is usually too expensive for a new business, and lacks the grass roots credibility of good press. One good article in the local media can bring you more business than a year's worth of paid advertising!
Advertising is no longer such a powerful force in the contemporary marketplace. Consumers are more skeptical than ever of advertisers' self-serving messages, and the sheer volume of advertising messages has resulted in a drastic decline in advertising's effectiveness. We spend more and more on advertising, but get less and less return on that investment.
What is the alternative to advertising (and the basis of branding)? Publicity or PR. With publicity, you tell your story through third-party outlets, primarily the media. Rightly or wrongly, people believe what they read in newspapers and magazines, as well as what they hear on the radio, on TV, or from their neighbors. So PR is inherently more credible and persuasive than advertising. It's also a whole lot cheaper!
But how exactly do you make your business memorable, and get the kind of publicity that will result in new business? Here are a dozen simple things you can try to create good word-of-mouth about your business and increase your profits:
1. Submit regular Press Releases to trade publications, the business section of local newspapers, online newswires, etc. to announce the launch or relocation of your business, new clients/projects, new hires, promotions, etc. (You'd be surprised how many people read these announcements!)
2. Pitch a pre-written feature story to local papers (emphasizing the uniqueness of your business model, your unique personal history, your involvement in the local community, or the uniqueness of a particular project). Also consider pitching story ideas to lifestyle magazines which target your ideal client's demographic.
3. Offer to write a regular column for a local publication that features your professional expertise.
4. Develop an "elevator speech" explaining in a single sentence what makes your firm unique. Don't be afraid to focus attention on a specific client or consumer; the narrower the focus of your brand, the more powerful it will become.
5. Write a quarterly email/print newsletter for your clients/potential clients with tips for effective use of your product or service.
6. Give a talk/seminar to your local Chamber of Commerce or other community group about issues relating to your area of expertise. (I recently gave a lunchtime talk about branding to the my local Chamber and made several great contacts.)
7. Become active not only in trade groups (which are not in fact the best place to find a new client), but also in more general networking organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce, City or County committees, neighborhood associations, etc., but only if you intend to be an active participant. Also do everything you can to get support from your existing social network. Everyone prefers to work with a person they know and trust.
8. Join a professional networking/referral group which meets weekly (such as BNI).
9. Use testimonials/success stories in all of your marketing materials.
10. Purchase an intriguing vanity license plate which alludes to your business.
11. Introduce yourself to administrators of potential referring organizations: i.e., people in allied fields who regularly come into contact with people who will need an architect. Finding a friend in one of these organizations may mean multiple referrals.
12. Troll for listservs, chat groups or other online communities where you can offer your services or simply hold forth as an authority on relevant issues.
Try these simple guerrilla marketing tricks, and the results will astound you!
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Woody Holliman is a successful entrepreneur and educator whose award-winning graphic design firm, Flywheel Design, provides print design and web design services to clients throughout the United States. Learn more about his business philosophy at www.flywheeldesign.com
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