It is especially important for small businesses to be deliberate about planning their marketing.
When people think about marketing campaigns, what comes to mind is usually something like Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever”, with its cleverly staged commercials, huge parties, and big name celebrities. But you don’t have to be a huge corporation to create and execute an effective marketing and public relations campaign—on the contrary, it’s especially important for small businesses to be deliberate about planning their marketing and PR strategies.
While you might not have the budget of a huge multinational, there’s no reason you can’t put together a great marketing and PR campaign. Follow the guidelines below to set yourself up for success.
Marketing vs. PR
Often, when small business owners create their business plans, they take advertising into account but forget about public relations, but that’s a mistake—PR can be an extremely cost-effective way for small businesses to build brand awareness. While marketing consists largely of your efforts to advertise your products or services, public relations relies more on third party endorsements of them. Such endorsements increase your visibility and promote your business without appearing so much like advertisements—which helps you gain credibility and encourages potential customers to become actual customers.
Set clear, achievable goals
The obvious goal of any marketing campaign is to improve your sales, but that’s far too loose a target to do you much good. Before getting started with any in-depth planning, you first need to establish clear, specific goals. Doing so will not only give you a direction for your efforts—it will give you a benchmark against which to measure progress and success.
Just setting a sales target might be enough, depending on what you want to achieve, but there are many other angles to consider as well:
- Establishing a vibrant presence online
- Building brand awareness
- Nurturing prospective clients or customers
- And anything else that will help your business grow
Once you have a solid goal, it becomes much easier to make the other decisions as you go about preparing and executing your campaign—each choice has a simple test to see if it’s worth your while: Will it get you closer to your goal? If the answer is no, it’s time to consider taking a different approach.
Define your target audience
To make sure your marketing and PR plans are effective, you need to know who they’re intended for. Take the time to build a detailed profile of the customers you want to reach, taking into account as much data as you can. You’ll want to consider things like:
- Purchasing history and shopping patterns
- Demographic information
- Common challenges they face
- Preferences for traditional vs. digital media
- Social media preferences
- How your product or service will help them
The great thing about taking the time to put together useful, detailed customer avatars is having that information available—and serving your business and marketing efforts—long after the initial campaign is over.
Decide on the best tactics for your plan
Now that you have your goal identified and a clear understanding of your target audience, it’s time to determine the best ways to promote your business. It’s important to find a balance of marketing and public relations tactics to create and execute a successful campaign. Below you’ll find a few solid ideas for each side—though this listing is far from exhaustive.
1. Create an elevator pitch
No matter where you are, there are opportunities for marketing. But the average attention span of an adult is around 6 to 8 seconds—shorter than that of a goldfish. When you engage with a conversation partner, that’s all the time you have to get them interested—and even when they show interest, you’ll only have around a minute to sell them on your products or services. Taking the time to put together a killer elevator pitch will pay for itself many times over.
2. Publish awesome content
Content marketing is a huge, constantly growing industry for a reason: when you do it right, it’s extremely powerful. Providing interesting, useful, engaging content is an indispensable way to attract, connect with, and nurture customer relationships. If you can create it yourself, you’ll save money, but if writing isn’t your strong suit or you need to spend the time on other aspects of your business, outsourcing to a freelancer or a reputable writing service will let you take advantage of this highly effective marketing tactic.
3. Email marketing
A highly effective way to get website visitors engaged with your business, email marketing also makes it easier to maintain relationships with existing customers. Get new visitors to your website to sign up for a newsletter or other mailing list by offering a free ebook or instructional course in exchange for their email. Over time, a solid email list can be an invaluable resource, reviews of companies, providing a ready-made audience for content, promotions, and even customer research.
4. DIY infographics
Infographics provide a powerful medium for communicating with your audience. Properly designed, they’re visually appealing, easy to understand, and extremely shareable. While a top-notch infographic created by a professional designer can be pricey, with a little effort, you can make your own for free or cheap using websites like Canva or Easel.ly.
5. Host an event, class, or webinar
Plan a free event or class to host, then print out fliers or spread the word through your network and on social media. Make sure to provide value to the attendees, and include a little bit of promotion toward the end. This can be a great way to drive customer engagement, as well as potentially making sales and building your email list for future marketing efforts.
Public relations tactics
1. Make use of social networks
With social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others becoming ever more important in the online landscape, it’s critical that you establish and maintain a strong social media presence. Doing so will not only help funnel visitors to your website, it will also help you build a following of interested prospects and loyal customers, who can help spread the word about your business and its products and services.
2. Invite customer participation
Showing that your business respects the people it serves goes a long way in building customer loyalty. Make sure that your website has a comments section, and encourage customers to provide feedback on your products and services. Respond to questions quickly, offer helpful advice, and engage with those who engage with you.
3. Guest posting
An effective guest posting strategy can serve both the marketing and PR sides of your campaign. Providing excellent, high-value content to media outlets and authority websites is a powerful way to increase your brand exposure and drive traffic to your business website.
4. Work with non-profits
Supporting local non-profit organizations through donations, volunteering, and fundraising can provide great opportunities to expand the reach of your business within the local community. Not only that, it helps boost your business’s public image and can lead to opportunities for networking with other businesses and influential individuals.
5. Distribute a press release
To get the word out about your business and its products or services to a lot of news outlets at once, you can create a press release and use a distribution service like PRWeb to distribute it to hundreds or even thousands of news services. This can get pricey, but just like with any other business expense you should calculate the expected return to decide if it’s worth the money.
Determine your campaign’s budget
Knowing how much your business can afford to spend on a marketing and PR campaign is critical when deciding which tactics to implement, and to what degree. By assigning a price to each tactic (for example, based on how much it will cost to use it once, combined with how often you’ll need to repeat it during the campaign), you’ll be able to identify how many resources you can dedicate to that approach, and find a good balance.
Set a date for completion and bring in your team
While a campaign itself can be ongoing—as long as it continues to be effective—the same should not be said of the planning phase. Set a deadline for having the first draft of your plan ready and stick with it. Otherwise, you’ll risk bogging down the process and never getting around to execution.
Don’t forget to include the key roles and responsibilities of the people who will make the plan a reality. Each person on your team should be able clearly to understand who is responsible for a given activity, to ensure smooth coordination and adherence to the purpose of the campaign.
There’s a lot that goes into preparing and executing an effective marketing and public relations strategy, so it’s important to take out as much of the guesswork as you can. That said, the rewards of creating and following through on a solid plan far outweigh the costs. Follow the framework above, identifying your goals, target audience, specific tactics, budget, and timeline, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful campaign.