How to Promote Your Small Business on a Budget in Tough Economic Times

It’s a fact that when budgets get tight, promotional efforts are the first thing businesses cut. Whether it’s PR, advertising or marketing – companies usually slice these programs quickly without a second thought. As one boss once told me “PR people are the last to know and the first to go.” Unfortunately, if you look at industry studies, companies need to be do just the opposite – they need to continue to promote their businesses more than ever in slow economic times. Historically, companies that have continued with their promotional programs do better and come out ahead of their competitors.PR Versus Advertising
The question remains: How do you promote your business when money is very tight? The answer: Be creative. Think strategically and focus on your core audience by using public relations instead of advertising. If you don’t understand the difference between the two than you probably have not been doing a good job of promoting your business anyway. Here’s why: There is a big difference between PR and advertising.Public relations is a targeted approach that extracts an intrinsic buy-in from your customers. It tells your story through third-party outlets, primarily the media. This gives PR credibility. Most people find out about new products or services by reading about them or asking other people – not by seeing ads. People are hit with hundreds of ads a day and we all tune out to keep our sanity! Think about it, would you rather pay for an advertisement or have an article in your local newspaper that features a happy customer that educates potential consumers about your product, who you are, and what you do?Advertising, on the other hand, is an expensive buckshot approach where you pay a lot of money to reach everyone, hoping that a few people will notice. It simply is not a good investment for small to medium-sized companies (which make up 95 percent of the economy). Business owners know this so they don’t advertise. The bottom line: advertising works well if you have unlimited funds and are a huge company like Nike or a Microsoft, and can continually throw massive amounts of money into advertising to reach consumers.The Major Difference
Here’s the major difference between PR and advertising: PR (publicity) builds a brand name; advertising is then used as a follow up tool to maintain the name. To understand this difference I recommend a book (which I give to all my clients) titled “The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries. You can find it for .95 cents at any online book store.The other major difference between PR and advertising is that PR takes more time and commitment on your part. You are not turning the keys of the kingdom over to some supposed industry “guru/artist.” You are part of the team, fielding the ideas and recommendations. PR is not a ground attack, but an air strike with specific targets. This keeps the cost of PR low, and helps you provide a steady stream of information about your company to potential consumers.A good PR person has a lot of tools at their disposal to help you promote your business. You pay them for their time and any stories or articles that end up in the news do not cost you anything.
Such major companies such as Starbucks, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Dunkin Donuts have been launched with very small PR budgets.What a Good PR Person Can Do for Your Business:o A good PR professional can get your name out in the media by telling your story through consumer and educational stories, and tie-in’s to topics currently being discussed in the media called “hot button issues.” Example: Health care reform. If your company deals with privacy or living will issues, there is a story to be told now.o A good PR professional can promote you as an “expert” in your field. This makes the media aware of you, who you are and what your company does. They will contact you when they have questions about a topic related to your industry and this, in turn, raises the visibility of your company.o A good PR professional can write articles for you for your web site and send E-newsletters to your current customers loaded with news, information, tips and advice about your industry and business.o A good PR professional will find opportunities for your company with local organizations so that you can support special events such as health fairs or charitable events. Your employees can get involved and this creates a win-win because you are helping your community while increasing your visibility.o A good PR professional can promote your business through on-line article services that are viewed by hundreds of companies in your industry every day and use other “new media” such as Facebook to update your account(s) and keep your news fresh and interesting.Tips on How to Promote Your Small Business and Not Break the Bank:o Determine your budget and your commitment level in employee hours on your part.o Find a reputable PR professional, there are a lot of good freelancers out there who have extensive experience. They are much cheaper than an agency, and you get personalized service from the top dog, not a college-aged kid, hired to save the agency money.o Find a PR person by observing what other companies are doing, if you see a company that has a successful PR program, call the owner and ask him/her who they use, or Google PR professionals in your area. Example: “Public Relations professionals in Louisville.”o Once you have identified a few candidates, set up meetings and go over your goals, ask them for some ideas, and pay them for two hours of their time to find out if they are a good fit for you. Most will not charge you for an initial meeting.o Invest in a long-term plan of at least six months to a year. Go back and re-evaluate your plan in three months.As a business owner, you know the importance of building your business at a slow and steady pace. PR works the same way. Think of PR as the tortoise in the “Tortoise and the Hare” fable. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember, building strong relationships with your customers is the most important goal you have. Let a good PR professional help you meet that goal.

How to Get the Best Publicity for Your Small Business

Advertising your products or your services will require a lot of work. However, if you are willing to try even the simplest measures, your business might be able to reach your advertising and marketing goals.Even if your business is just starting out, don’t think that you won’t get a share out of the market that is out there. Getting a few people to notice what you have to offer to them is already an achievement. Learning how to sustain and, later on, improve that interest is important.Keep in mind that you have a small business. You might not be able to compete with the big companies and their nationwide TV commercials or their billboards. It will be very hard for you to compete. Remember that you do not have the money as well as the resources in order to pull off such plans. However, what you can do is to be unique and creative with your plans. Advertise your product or service in a way that is uniquely your own. Your customers will be able to easily remember you and your company through these advertising strategies.Be sure to offer something to your clients or customers. Don’t just advertise and show your name and say what your company does. You also have to make sure that there are some things that will make new customers prefer having you over other established companies.As much as possible, make your rates lower than the market standard. It can be hard to convince buyers to shift to your product or service if what you are offering is more expensive than what they have been used to getting. But, be careful not to put a very low price tag. Customers can be suspicious and think that your product or service is just a scam.Go online and get as much people in your locality to connect with your business website or social networking page. Most websites can be maintained at a minimal price. Also, social networking websites are free. In addition, there is no need for you to hire an employee for this part of the marketing process. You just need to invest more time in order to improve your business’ online presence.Start small scale and then go to a larger plan. Starting small can mean that you will be able to protect your budget. You shouldn’t invest a huge amount of money on something that you don’t have full confidence in. Take this as a test of your marketing plans. You are not necessarily going full swing with your advertising efforts but you are also trying out which tasks you might invest more in to be able to promote your business.Make some minor modifications to reduce your marketing expenses. Instead of using a whole piece of paper that measures 8 x 11 inches, it might be wiser for you to use smaller pieces of paper. Surely, you won’t need a whole page to tell your potential clients what you have to offer for them. This can help you reach more people with the same amount of money.

Basic Factors to Consider for Advertising Products and Services

Advertising is an effective tool of marketing used for promoting products and services to be sold to generate business revenue. Thus, it won’t be wrong to say that the ultimate purpose of advertising is to push the sale of products and services through different ways of promotion. In the absence of advertising, it is difficult for others to know about your products or services. Although you sell high quality products at reasonable prices, you won’t be able to reach adequate number of buyers or the target audience to earn profit.Advertising not only promotes, but also establishes your brand amongst your target group. It positions your brand in such a way that your products or services become a replacement of the need they fulfill. The best instance of this is Cadbury ads appealing the audience in India to eat Cadbury chocolates, whenever they feel like eating sweets. Their ad copy – “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye (means: Lets have some sweets)” with the characters eating chocolates indirectly asks people to replace Cadbury chocolate for traditional Indian Sweets. In short, ads help in building good reputation of the brand or company and gradually increase the sale of the products and services.Therefore, advertising can be considered as an investment that could indirectly improve your brand value and generate good returns in terms of sale. However, it is to be noted that ads won’t directly add to your sales or create a customer base for your product or service. It simply helps your brand to create a space in the subconscious mind of your target audience, who might end up being your consumer/customer. This vital role of advertising makes it an essential marketing tool, which is widely used across the world by even the business giants like Microsoft, Apple, Tata, etc.The whole idea of considering advertising as an investment makes it necessary for us to consider certain factors before advertising the products and services. The basic factors to be considered before advertising any product or service are as follow:In order to create a successful advertising for your product or service, follow some basic advertising principles:Aim and Objectives of Advertising: Identifying the main objective behind advertising your products/services is the most essential of all the factors. This is because without a proper objective one can never achieve anything in any field. Also, it helps you to evaluate how well the aim and objectives would go with your company or brand image. It also makes the ad campaign or the progress of the ads measurable and realistic.
Expecting immediate rise in sales: Expecting a sudden hike in sales after the advertisement of your products or services is like lying to your own self. Advertising is not a solution to your financial issues. However, it might gradually help you in pushing the sales of your products and services.
Don’t make false promises: The advertising works, only if the product or service meets the expectations of the target audience. If they don’t live up to their promises, then the advertising is more likely to fail. It might create some buzz at initial level even if your product or service is of low quality, but it will eventually fail. So, it is important to make promises that your product or service can fulfill.
Understanding your product: You must know the complete details of your product – be it materials or uses. This will enable you to know what your product can do to exist in the market. In your advertising, you could make use of its benefits or solutions as excuses for its sustainability in the market over the period of time.
Target prospective customers’ needs: You advertise products or services mainly to persuade your prospective customers to opt them against your competitors’ or ordinary products. Therefore, it is important for you all to understand the needs of your prospective customer. This will help you convince them easily by portraying you product as a means to meet their needs.
Ads must be informative and effective: Your ads must be able to educate your target group about the products’ USP and other benefits. Also, it should inform them about the products availability and why it should be used. Besides this, the ads must be effective enough to deliver the message to the audience in a creative, unique and convincing manner. It must grab their attention and leave an impact on the target audience. In simple terms, it must be effective enough to bring the customers to the product’s outlets or at least enquire about the product, if not buy.These basic factors, if considered, can really help you create great ads that would make sense and grab the attention of your target audience. The resulted ads would be distinctive, yet recognizable and easy to relate with your product or service. These ads would not only have good recall value, but they would also have the ability to convince prospective customers to try your product.