Inbound + PR = Marketing Brilliance
As a small business owner, you might be a bit confused about PR and inbound marketing. If you’re lost and need a little guidance, take the following advice from some of the marketing industry’s thought leaders.
1. Figure out your personal brand and promote the heck out of it.
“Personal branding is about finding what makes you unique and special in the marketplace, and then communicating that through different channels to the people you want to target. It's not about mass marketing yourself,” says @DanSchawbel, personal branding expert and bestselling author of Promote Yourself. “Start small, choose a niche, and gain visibility. Once you've established yourself, you can bite off a larger market share.”
2. Bring your brand to life.
“People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people,” says @VedranTomic of Small Business Trends. “Make your company more human by featuring your employees on the “about us” page. Use real people, not models, for the pictures on your site. This lets your visitors and potential customers know that they will be dealing with real people when they call.”
3. Hire the right people.
Rand Fishkin (@randfish) of Moz.com says, “The people you hire will have a huge impact on your success. Seek out those who are already doing great work in their spare/for themselves/for fun.”
4. Social media is one of the best free PR tools out there.
Most small businesses do not have a huge advertising budget. Social media is the small business owner’s friend. There is no charge to create company pages on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Posting quality information on social media sites daily gets your brand in front of people regularly.
5. Include calls-to-action in social media posts.
“I collected all the posts on the top 10,000 most-liked Facebook pages and compared posts that contained the words ‘like,’ ‘comment,’ and ‘share.’ I found that posts that included a call-to-action got more of the specific action they mentioned,” says @DanZarrella, HubSpot’s social media scientist.
6. Vary the channels through which you reach potential customers.
According to marketing strategist Dan Meerman Scott (@dmscott), “PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: Great website content, YouTube videos, blog posts, ebooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence in Foursquare, Instagram, and so much more.
7. Keep track of what social media platforms your target audience uses.
“The fastest growing age bracket on Twitter is 55-65 year olds, while it’s 45 to 54 year olds on Facebook. So basically it’s grandparents on Twitter and parents on Facebook,” says @MackCollier. It only takes a minute of research to find out what platforms are most popular with your target audience.
8. Engage your audience…
Speaking of social media, one of the best ways to get customers’ attention is to interact with them through those social media channels. Thank users for following you. Answer their tweets or status updates when they mention you. Offer followers certain discounts or hold special sales or contests via social media. Get customers and clients involved by interacting with them.
9. …but don’t overwhelm them!
Your customers don’t want to be inundated with content. The last thing they want is for their social media feeds to be flooded with advertisement. “Understanding customer journeys and engaging customers at the right moments along that path is more important – and something that really allows the promise of content to connect with social media,” says @RohitBhargava, founder of the Influential Marketing Group.
10. Address negative feedback.
Don’t ignore those negative reviews or comments. Address them in a courteous manner and offer to remedy whatever issue the customer or client has with you. “The number one rule when responding to all criticism, even the negative type, is to stay positive,” says Mashable’s Josh Catone (@catone). “Adding more negativity to the conversation by letting yourself be drawn into a fight with a customer or user will only reflect poorly on your business.”
11. Take advantage of positive feedback.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good testimonial. Feature satisfied customers’ endorsements on your website. “Every customer is a reporter,” says marketing expert @JayBaer.
12. Consider sponsoring an event.
Is there a special event going on in your area such as a charity golf tournament? Think about getting involved by sponsoring or volunteering. People will not overlook the fact that you give back to your community.
13. Connect with other entrepreneurs.
People who have been (or still are) in your shoes have valuable advice to share. Ben Parr (@benparr), former co-editor of Mashable, says, “Starting a company is often a lonely and nerve wracking process. Yet you’re really not alone. There are thousands of others making similar journeys around the world, and even more who have not only gone down the entrepreneurial path, but succeeded. These people are more than happy to share their advice, insight, and stories.”
14. Put some thought into your website design.
Don’t just throw together a free website and think you’re finished. Really take the time to plan out what you want your site to say about you and your brand. According to digital marketing strategist Samir Balwani (@SamirBalwani), “When you’re building an online presence, the most important aspect is your website. It’s your hub and your first impression. Creating a website requires a good deal of thought; it’s important to plan what information you want on the site, what the layout will look like, and how you’ll connect each piece together.”
15. Don’t skip the blog.
“Write regularly and consistently,” says @JeffBullas. “People will then come and visit regularly and keep coming back because they know it will be new and topical (that is why magazines have regular publishing time frames).”
16. Optimize your website for mobile browsing.
A non-optimized site is hard to read and frustrating to use on a smartphone. "Smartphone users are a significant and fast-growing segment of internet users, and at Google, we want them to experience the full richness of the web," says Yoshikiyo Kato, software engineer at Google.
17. Keep your website fresh.
From @HubSpot’s inbound marketing blog: “If you’re not continually innovating, something is broken! And stale websites can easily plateau and lose their effectiveness. Now, don’t go and overhaul everything ... instead, constantly iterate with minor changes to your email marketing, landing pages, and conversion funnel, and use A/B testing to test what works best.”
18. Set up alerts and protect your reputation.
Tools like Google Alerts make it easy for you to keep track of what people are saying about your business. “There are several options for social listening using alerts,” says social media strategist @KimReynolds. “Each one of them helps you monitor your brand by alerting you to mentions of your name (or other keywords) on the various social networks, blogs and commenting systems and forums.”
19. Learn the basics of SEO.
Search engine optimization is what helps websites turn up on the first page of search results, and according to Seth Godin of @ThisIsSethsBlog, “Results on the first page of Google are more trusted. People with a lot of Twitter followers [are more trusted] as well, which is one reason both metrics are aggressively coveted and sometimes gamed.”
20. Change your strategy.
According to @GregVerdino, executive coach and strategic advisor, “Strategy is all about change. If your strategy doesn’t cause your organization and the people in it to believe something different about the business and behave differently in carrying out their business, then I’d argue you don’t really have a strategy at all. Properly done, strategy moves an organization from where it is today to where it wants to be tomorrow.”
image credit: stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net