I advise SMBs and startups on digital marketing strategies and tactics that get results. Companies turn to me for help with their content strategy, social media marketing, podcasting, marketing automation and online public relations. I have been involved in starting several web development and online marketing companies. I earned the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) designation from Public Relations Society of America and served as president of the PRSA Charlotte chapter in 2009.
It all begins with understanding who your best potential customers are.
Spend some very focused time in determining not only who they are (moms; small business owners; homeowners; etc.) but want needs and desires they have. How will these align with your products or services?
Also—talk to these people! Don't assume you know who they are and what they are thinking. Otherwise, you could build "a better mousetrap" or launch the greatest business ever (in your mind)...only to find it doesn't resonate with anyone.
Narrow your focus as much as possible. It's very tempting early on to try to appeal to everyone ("every woman will love this!), but that is a recipe for disasters. As the saying goes, "The riches are in the niches." Aim for a tightly defined audience and ensure they will be treated like royalty.
Remember, it's not about how great you are—or how many features you have or how much better you are than alternatives that may exist.
It's about the value you can bring to those potential customers.
If you are introducing something brand new into the market, why should they care about it?
If you are bringing a new twist on an existing product or service—opening a new shop, starting a consulting business, becoming a Realtor or whatever—why should they consider switching to work with you?
Once you understand your ideal customers' persona, the strategy part will be easy. Go where they go—online and offline. Pick a few key channels at first and pour your marketing time and dollars into them.
As you grow and have more profits to invest in marketing, you can increase what's working, cut what's not—and experiment with new channels.
Finally, think more in terms of objectives, which I like to remember with the acronym PLOT:
People—whom you are trying to reach
L-a measurable level you are hoping to accomplish
O-what outcome you wish to achieve
An example could be:
• Invite at least 75 small business owners to attend a free webinar (download an ebook; attend a free tasting; etc.) in exchange for signing up for our mailing list by July 1st
Salesmanship built on a solid foundation of quality (in what you sell), desirability and trust.
Regardless of what you do, if you can't sell it, you won't be in business for long.
I have found that when I was truly passionate about my business (and its products/services), selling was easy. On the flip side, when I was trying to grow too fast and trying to "hard sell," I failed miserably.
Another thing you should consider is public relations, or more narrowly media relations.
Identify journalists in your area that write (or broadcast) about your industry. Introduce yourself and tell them you are hoping to become a resource over time, and ask them what types of things they are most interested in/looking for. Then, actively look for items of interest to send their way--even if it has nothing to do with your business. This is critical; you want to be genuinely helpful, and not simply pestering them to cover your business. In addition, you may also "pitch" yourself as a quotable source when they are working on stories that involve broader topics about small business.
If possible, offer to meet them at their office. You might get a tour of a newsroom, radio or TV studio and see firsthand how they work.
Over time, journalists will appreciate good sources. Many journalists are overworked and underpaid, and they are grateful for "eyes and ears" who are uncovering story ideas for them. Even better, if you make introductions of other reputable sources to them, you further cement yourself as valuable in the journalists' networks. Remember, in your area what they care about most is the local impact of anything they write about...even for national/international stories, they will always be looking for a local "angle."
After developing a rapport (over a period of months and even years), it will be easier to contact these people when you have something newsworthy to share about your company.
Receiving favorable coverage in the media equates to a "third party endorsement" of sorts that is far more credible in consumers' eyes than traditional advertising and marketing.