The Magic of Free Promotion: Worth the Time and Effort

depositphotos_26653227_m-2015Every business owner knows, without good promotion the best product in the world won’t get to customers. The challenge is getting your message to interested people. Advertising is one tried and true way of bringing in new customers. Advertising; however, is expensive, and your budget might not support spending so much. So, as a business owner, what can you do to reach a large audience quickly and affordably?

Publicity is an attractive way to reach out to your target market and increase your profile. Positive media coverage is a gift to businesses. That’s why big corporations spend millions on publicity. The good news is that done correctly getting publicity is free. The question is, how do you get the media interested. The following step by step instructions will guide you as you begin connecting with and benefiting from the media.

Step 1. Define How You’re Different Than Your Competition

Employment experts talk a lot about the elevator speech, which is a short statement that allows you to explain quickly who you are and what makes you stand out to prospective employers. The same principle applies to your business. Write out a statement, no more than a few sentences that will tell people what your business has to offer and why you’re better than the competition

Step 2. Set Specific Goals

After writing your statement, develop a list of what you want to accomplish by gaining publicity. Prioritize six objectives and remember to be very concrete and set deadlines. Two examples include gaining more brand recognition in your community and attracting more visitors to your location (physical or virtual).

Step 3. Identify Your Target Market

You define customers by many criteria. Age, gender, buying habits, occupation, income level, geography, and cultural norms. Include anything you can think of that would define the customers who would find value in what you offer. For example, you generally wouldn’t market yachts to factory workers, and you wouldn’t waste your time offering a book on shopping on a budget to the country club set. You need to understand who your potential customers are before you try to reach them. That brings you to step number four.

Step 4. List of Relevant Media Organizations

Create a list of all the media outlets in your local area. Radio and TV, newspapers, magazines, and any others you deem appropriate. Separate and prioritize them by relevance, high, medium, and low and add contact information. Get the names, numbers, email, and other contact information of local reporters, editors, and DJs. You can find most of this is found on their website. Learn who covers what within your industry. Your goal is creating a list of everyone who has influence or decision-making authority about which stories to cover. Make the list as comprehensive as possible. The project will take some effort because lots of research is required; however, the results will serve you well.

Step 5. Develop Relationships with the Media

Building productive media relationships are identical to building any business relationship. The key is focusing on the needs of the people who you can help you. You want attention to your company; they want attention for their publication. Media organizations are always on the hunt for stories that will interest their audience. Your task is getting to know the key players, gaining their respect, and understanding how they work. Ask about their deadlines and the type of stories they seek. Prove with your actions that you can provide, or help them find, good quality content. Placing your focus on them will motivate them to help you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with media people.

  • Remember they are people, just like you
  • Know what they are writing about
  • Read and comment on their work
  • Act with respect
  • Ask what they need
  • Respond to their needs
  • Act Professionally and reliably. Deliver on your promises
  • Keep requests on a realistic level.
  • Most of all become a go-to resource for good ideas and good content.

Step 6. Creating Stories to Pitch

Sometimes, as in the case of a new product, you have a great story to share, and if the new product is groundbreaking, for example, the iPad, it will be relatively easy to get attention. Usually small businesses or startups have to create story angles that pique media interest. Other ideas for stories include events that your planning, important charities you support, expanding with another location, and anything substantive and positive. It is vital that your content is of interest to the media and your customers. Do not waste your contact’s or your customer’s time with fluff. Remember some of the tips from the previous step. Know what reporters are working on, ask what they need, respond to their needs.

Step 7.  How to Pitch Stories

Why is one pitch effective when others quickly find their way into the gone-forever file? What is the difference? The following tips on how to pitch a story to the press are a composite of advice from experts in the public relations field added to reporter’s opinions on what works for them. Some of the items are repeats of previous information, but you will benefit from considering them again.

1.Get specific with who you pitch and make sure they are a good fit for the story. Don’t pitch a story about women’s clothing to a reporter who covers organic produce.

  1. Always read the work of the person you are pitching. Read it carefully and thoroughly so you understand what interests them. Pitch them stories that add value to the original line of thought. Describe how your story will add that value to writer and the readers.
  2. Don’t sell your company, sell the story. The story provides no value unless it helps the cause of the writer, the publication, and especially the readers. Your message will come through but only if they publish the story.
  3. Always act with respect. Sometimes the answer is no. Accept it and move on to pitch another day. Don’t give up easy. Be prepared to offer evidence that proves the value of your story, but don’t get angry and try to bully your way to success.
  4. Be succinct. Don’t go into the whole life story of the company. Get right to the point, say thank you, exchange a few pleasantries, and excuse yourself with the promise to check back at an agreed upon time.
  5. Don’t lie about your reasons for the story. Be honest and upfront at all times. Act with respect.
  6. Resist the temptation of becoming a pest. Call once, email once, or pitch once and then let it go for a respectful period before following up; however, please do follow up. You run the risk of losing many opportunities if you forget to follow up or if you follow late. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, don’t lose your coverage now.

New Media Options to Promote Your Business

So far the focus has been traditional media options, but the world has changed rapidly in the last few decades. Traditional methods are not the only, nor some would argue the best, choice for businesses trying to get the word out.

Social Media has become a way of life, particularly for younger generations. Staying connected with these sites is something you must take advantage of as a business owner. To augment your website, you should have business pages on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. These options are an excellent way to explain to people who you are and what you do. Make a habit of posting business related material every day and remember to keep the material relevant to your customer’s needs and interests.

Email lists have become a very useful tool for growing businesses. You inform people about the latest industry trends by sending out a monthly or weekly newsletter. Often these newsletters will contain a call to action that will result in increased sales. Again, like with traditional media, if you create content that provides value for customers they will share that information. Over time, your email list will grow. Some e-commerce businesses operate primarily off of these lists.

Learn to promote your business visually on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Sharing images, video, and other graphic representations are great ways to drive traffic to your website, or customers to your physical location.

YouTube and other video sharing sites are easy and free. Every computer or mobile device comes equipped with camera’s that produce good quality video. Star in your commercials or grab your most adventurous employees and get them ready for their close up. Or just explain what you have to offer and invite people over for a visit. Have fun with it and keep in mind all the catch phrases you’ve heard over the years. You might have one go viral create a new trend.

Take action to ensure your website is mobile friendly. Statistically, more people buy from their mobile device than from their computer. That trend will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.

Tie everything together. Your social media sites, video sharing sites, website, stories in the press, email newsletters, all of it should list information about finding the others. Make sure when people get to one part of your coverage they will find out how to get to all the parts. See you in the media.

Julie Dudley – Silver Pearl Inc.

Julie Dudley is the owner of Silver Pearl Inc.

Nature of Business:

I provide bookkeeping services for businesses, non-profits, and individuals. I specialize in set-up, catch-up, and clean-up bookkeeping: setting up

a new bookkeeping system or catching up on neglected books. I love my work because I help people get the most from their financial information, not dread it! Bookkeeping isn’t just for taxes–it helps answer people answer questions and run their business or life more effectively. I help people focus on what they do best and gain peace of mind about their finances.

An important aspect of my business is collaboration with CPAs, financial planners and other professionals.

What Julie has been up to since her participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

I am thrilled that I have met my goal of having a stable revenue stream that is not dependent on tax season. I have learned to use the Activity Tracking technique on a regular basis, which has helped tremendously to even out the typical “ups and downs” of a start-up business. I always feel that I’m doing something to continue to build

my business. I’ve also been able to commit to a part-time assistant on a regular basis, which makes me more confident about growing my business.

Through Bill’s coaching, I have learned to think of myself as a business owner, rather than self-employed. This has greatly changed the way I approach my business and how I set goals for the future. I’m very excited about building a business with real value for customers long term, and for me for the future!

Julie’s best advice to other small business owners:

Set stretch goals, but don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your goals if things don’t go exactly as planned. If you are starting from scratch, it takes a long time to get to the point where you feel like you have stable income!

Also, if you are in a trust-oriented, referral-based business like mine, learn a process for meeting people and following up, even if you are an introvert. You can’t rely on social media and websites to market for you (but they are great once you get a referral for people to check you out).

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Julie you can connect with her on: LinkedIn.com

Olalah Njenga – YellowWood Group

Olalah Njenga is CEO of YellowWood Group.

Nature of Business:

As the CEO of Yellow Wood Group my role is to help clients identify and leverage their competitive advantages. In general we work with growth focused small businesses who serve medium to enterprise sized companies. As a marketing and sales performance company everything we do is designed to align marketing efforts with sales goals and help clients win by playing smarter and un-leveling the competitive field.

What Olalah has been up to since her participation in 100 Days to Abundance:

I developed an intensive training course for growth focused small business owners that want to make marketing more measurable in their business. I have received three awards for achievements in business and revenue growth. I have been appointed to two University Boards and I serve as the Chair of a board that supports the professional, political and civic interests of women business owners.

I am excited about continuing to grow my team, opening two new offices in the next two years and expanding Breakthrough Advantage™ into new markets.

Olalah’s best advice to other small business owners:

Business owners should never confuse the role of marketing with its function. The role of marketing is to support the sales process, if you’re not doing that, then what are you doing?

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Olalah you can connect with him/her on: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Kat (Haney) Woods – Kat’s Design Services, LLC

Kat (Haney) Woods is Founder & CEO of Kat’s Design Services, LLC

Nature of Business:

Kat’s Design Services, LLC is an interior design firm that does business in the Greater Raleigh Metro Area of North Carolina. The company provides both commercial and residential customers with a wide variety of creative interior design solutions to meet their design goals. Kat’s areas of expertise include interior design, redesign, eco-friendly design, and home sale staging.

Kat’s Design Services, LLC is focused on providing high quality service by partnering with clients to plan and implement creative interior design strategies to make their surroundings more functional, more marketable, more eco-friendly, more beautiful and ultimately more enjoyable.

What Kat has been up to since her participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

I have hired a part-time assistant. Her administrative strengths have enabled me to accomplish more work and bill more hours.

I recently enjoyed being published on the front page of the Raleigh News & Observer’s Home & Garden Section in conjunction with a piece from the Associated Press titled ‘Strike While the Iron is Hot’:

My side bar box was titled, ‘How to Add More Iron to Your Home’s Diet’ which appeared for an encore edition the following weekend in their on-line edition.

Kat’s best advice to other small business owners:

As Bill said, don’t worry that everything has to be perfect, just do your best and keep moving forward! Perfectionism can look like procrastination to your client, so keep working on that speed of execution. (I remind myself of that every day!)

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kat you can connect with her on: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube,

Kim Niskey – Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

Kim Niskey is a Senior Sales Representative for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

Nature of Business:

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce is the Triangle’s largest business membership organization—made up of more than 2,300 member firms representing two-thirds of the private sector employment in Wake County. Over 85% of our member companies are small businesses.

Our Chamber is regional in scope and helps our member companies accelerate their growth in greater Wake County. We help them work “in” and “on” their businesses by providing over 120 networking, training and professional development opportunities annually. Whether it’s economic development, networking, legislation or greater Wake County area quality of life issues …. our Chamber is involved!

I am one of the sales reps on staff and my role is to invite businesses into our Chamber membership and help them maximize their membership. I do this by educating them about our benefits specific to them personally and to their organizations and guide them in our opportunities in which to participate. Also, I love to connect them with each other at our events!

What Kim has been up to since her participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

Bill Davis’ teachings and consulting has greatly contributed in my working smarter, more creatively and more efficiently. I have had the privilege of building business relationships with several talented business professionals so my business network has grown exponentially. Also, I have already significantly surpassed my sales year-to-date compared to this time last year!

Now that for 2 years I have been a Senior Sales Rep for our Chamber and also have been attending our Chamber events/forums for that duration, I feel very comfortable in discussing the opportunities we offer with any business professional in any size or type of company.

I am excited to find additional networking opportunities to connect with decision makers in all types and sizes of companies! This will expand my network and help me be even more of a resource to others in my current network. Also, some of the opportunities I find may help others I know too … and that is VERY exciting!

Kim’s best advice to other small business owners:

Research.. research… research! It will be very helpful for you and the prospective client or strategic partner if you have researched their company and them personally prior to your meeting. Reviewing their website usually gives you good insight into their company and LinkedIn is a great tool to find out more about them personally. If you do the research, you won’t ask questions that you probably should have known and you will have a much more productive meeting. That has been my experience anyway!

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kim you can connect with her on: LinkedIn

J. Allen Gayle – Downing & Gayle Insurance Services

J. Allen Gayle is Vice President of Downing & Gayle Insurance Services

Nature of Business:

Downing & Gayle Insurance is an independent insurance agency which has been serving NC since 1988. We offer Personal Lines policies (Auto & Home, etc.); Commercial Lines (General Liability, Property, Buildings, Workers Compensation, Commercial Auto); Life Insurance and Group Health insurance.

What Allen has been up to since his participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

2011 ended up as a down year for us. However, this year started out very well and has continued to improve each month. We have already exceeded last years numbers by the end of May 2012. 100 Days to Abundance is not an overnight fix, but it works. Honestly, it’s like all diet plans, they all work, but you’ve got to do them. No matter how good ideas are, they never work if you don’t put them into action!

Although the unemployment numbers are still bad and the global economy hasn’t improved much either, the economy in the Triangle Area and Eastern NC has begun to show some improvement. I feel our business is in the right place, with the right tools and poised to move forward with every opportunity. All indications show this year has the potential to be the best year in the history of our company, barring any catastrophic losses (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.).

Allen’s best advice to other small business owners:

You’ve got to have Integrity. Integrity – Do what you say you are going to do and do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Listen, the ability to share the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” with millions of people in a matter of nano seconds is ever present. So do the right thing, do it well, and be visible, in networking groups, on social media websites or on the internet via your own website.

Success is not the achievement of your Goal. Success is the execution of a well prepared plan that guides you step by step to the accomplishment of your Goal.

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Allen you can connect with him on: Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp.

Mary Jo Sheerin – MJ Sheerin CPA

Mary Jo Sheerin is the Owner of MJ Sheerin, CPA, MST.

Nature of Business:

I am in the field of providing accounting, tax and business consulting services to my clients.

My clients are mostly composed of small closely held businesses. Small businesses are my specialty.

I assist individuals in forming their businesses by educating them as to the pros and cons of each “business entity type” (corporation, LLC or other). There are many reasons to operating your business as one form of entity as opposed to another. It is not just a financial decision. This is not a decision to be taken lightly.
I also prepare tax return for individuals, businesses,estates and trusts. What makes my tax preparation service different is the manner in which I service my client. I believe in meeting with my clients and reviewing their information with them. By meeting with my clients, I have discovered many other deductions they could take on their tax return, or actions they could make, to lower their taxes. Many other firms simply pick up your information and go from there.

I also assist small businesses in setting up their accounting books. I assist them in the accounting functions necessary in running their business.

What Mary Jo has been up to since her participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

My business has grown. Through the tracking methods learned in 100 days I am much more aware of the dates in which I do things. As Bill says, the advantage small businesses have is that they can “act quickly”. Large firms may have to go through alot of red tape. By watching the dates on my meetings, projects, networking events, I stay on top of what I need to do!

I am able to grow this business. It is growing in reputation and that is very important to me. The quality of my services and how my clients feel when they are in my office are very important to me. I want to be the “fun” CPA to work with. Life is way to short! Why not put a little fun in our work life?

Mary Jo’s best advice to other small business owners:

You can do it. There will be bad days, but have faith in yourself! Many people started out of their garages…IBM

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Mary Jo you can connect with her on: LinkedIn.com and Inside919.com.

Nate Brown – Brown Financial Group NC

Nate Brown is the owner of Brown Financial Group NC.

Nature of Business:

I help create comprehensive financial plans for families to help them acheive their retirement goals. These plans include an understanding of where you are currently and how long of a roadmap is necessary to complete in order to reach your goals. In general I serve new families, newly married couples and couples expecting children, as each of these new variables invites an examination of their financial situation to verify that an optimal circumstace is still in place after the life changing event.

What Nate has been up to since his participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

I have built a network of over 2,000 people in a little more than a year, by focusing on building relationships with those I meet at events rather than looking for prospects. It is a subtle difference, however having my main priority always be building relationships has lead me to establish a network of people that I have inspired with my interest in helping them.

Everything is exciting right now, I have created my own financial firm the Brown Financial Group of NC recently and the transition is a very enjoyable one. I am being personally mentored by an experienced independent advisor that is allowing me to learn all the specific information that will allow me to succeed. In addition to that, my personal business Networking with Nate is about to release the first module of my book, The Networking Roadmap, designed to teach any business owner how to increase the efficiency of their networking efforts.

I would like to offer my perception of the wisdom that Bill Davis freely offers to participants of the Networking with Nate meetings every Thursday and Friday at the Team Nimbus center. We meet for an hour with a unique networking event structure that I have designed to amplify the ability for someone to interact in a small group environment to build relationships with other business owners. Bill runs a business strategy table where he facilitates a discussion of how to incorporate the principles of the 100 days to abundance program into your specific business model. Anyone can come bask in the warmth of his knowledge for great effect to their bottomline profit for just an hour of their time. I don’t know of any other place where so much good knowledge is offered pro bono by such wise people. Please contact me at nate@brownfinancialgroupnc.com if you have any questions, I hope you have a great week.

Nate’s best advice to other small business owners:

Take the time to understand what benefit you provide to what specific group of people. Having a clear understanding of your value is necessary, as I see many business owners struggling to pay their bills because they aren’t attaching the correct value to their service. Often times if the service is valued properly, the target market isn’t well thought out. The 100 days to abundance program taught me the optimal strategy to use when planning the foundations for a business model, which I have used twice to form both Networking with Nate and the Brown Financial Group of NC.

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Nate you can connect with him on: LinkedIn.com

Jim Vogel – IMU Social Media

Jim Vogel is owner of IMU Social Media.

Nature of Business:

IMU Social Media provides content and strategy for small business on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Word Press. Visibility and presence are critical on these platforms for client engagement and marketing; many businesses do not want to do it, do not know how to do it, but know they need it because their competition is there. We fill that role as surrogate with posts, tweets, and fresh content.

What Jim has been up to since his participation in 100 Days to Abundance/Team Nimbus:

Midway through 100 days, I switched gears from sales training to content writing and management, and I never looked back. I followed my passion based on the support of the class, and I have seen huge dividends in both growth and opportunity.

This service is a brand new business model with scalability and unlimited potential. Every organization needs a social media presence that is focused and professional. The biggest advantage for IMU is the ability to write content across disciplines for auto centers, orthopaedics, clinical psychology, legal offices, training, pro basketball, town festivals, accounting, and daily retail deals among others.

We have grown to being a referral business based on reputation with NO COLD calls needed for growth.

Jim’s best advice to other small business owners:

In 100 days, I learned to be a small business owner. Coming from 30 years of corporate it was no easy task. Just find your passion and then find your niche. It is a simple plan. In fact, it is so simple, we often do not think of it.

The three things I have taken away from 100 days are that client acquisition, time and money are the avenues for success. I pay astute attention to these every single day. The three ingredients pay for college tuition and the mortgage.

I am humbled to be featured in Team Nimbus; I have tried over the years not be be the “spotlight” guy. I really enjoy supporting and serving others; my success is the honest and true byproduct of the success of other people. I truly believe that servitude and leadership mean the same thing.

Finally, remember to follow your passion and fill a need. Doing it through others just plain makes you feel good.

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Jim you can connect with
him on: Inside919, Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

Lois LeSavoy – Sendoutcards.com

Lois LeSavoy is the owner of  Keep in Touch w/sendoutcards.com.

Nature of Business:

As the finest “Keep in Touch ” System out there we look for the business people who understand the value of building lifetime relationships.

Instead of letting business happen to you… do business in a proactive way. “Its not what you say about yourself that people believe anyway, its what others say about you that they believe”.
It makes sense to have a system in place that will allow you to do that every day?

What Lois has been up to since his/her participation in 100 Days to
Abundance/Team Nimbus:

Clearer about my hedgehog. Still struggle with keeping track of everything but getting better at that by delegating more.

The people I’ve met thru this community has been invaluable. I take pride in the business community and how we support one another.

Wow…Opening new countries. For me it is opening of new markets. I get reenergized when I see people make success at what ever level they want usinging this system.

Also as true visionary, I see SendOutCards.com as a game changer as fundamentally changing the way people sendout cards and gift. Much like Netflix changed Blockbuster horizons…I see that with Hallmark.

Lois’s best advice to other small business owners:

Make sure that you have a cadre of people who support you in your endeavor. Not too many but the “right” ones. Each may play a role but make sure they are on your side and will tell you when you are right and when you’ve gotten off the track a bit.

If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Lois you can connect with her on: Facebook, Inside919 and LinkedIn.