Many small businesses start off in the home, perhaps on the kitchen table or in the dining room. You may be employed elsewhere either full time or part time. You might be a first time parent or have made a life change decision. Often there is very little money in the kitty to fund the business.
Thousands of new small businesses are started in Australia every year. Many new business starters have invented something, or started an online business or have licensed a product for Australia. You may also be setting up a consultant business or a shop.
Once you have worked out what the business is going to do and who you are targeting to purchase your product or service, then you have to make your potential customers aware of the business and know where to find you. If you haven’t had any previous experience at marketing, this can be a daunting experience.
Of course the first thing you should do is get online. Create a website. Sign up to Facebook and twitter. Start a blog and update your website frequently. Check out other websites and see if you can organise reciprocal links. Be as active as you can as this should create awareness for your business and may increase sales. But it may not work for everyone.
If you don’t have money for regular and frequent advertising, which is what is needed to get results, what else can you do?
If the target market for your business is local then your PR will need to be more focused but you can still do PR. Target local media – radio, press, possibly even regional TV. You can be a local business and generate national publicity by putting yourself out there as an ‘expert’ on certain topics. For example Feast Australia was a local Mornington Peninsula business but generated national exposure with their stress free dinner party tips.
If the business sells products or services via a website which delivers nationally, or it is available in stores nationally, then PR may be the way to go. It can create a much bigger bang for your buck than traditional advertising.
Now we have to talk about the unmentionable. Money. For most start ups, paying a PR agency a minimum of $2-3000 per month for 3, 6 or even 12 months is out of reach. The budget just won’t extend that far. But you still need to let potential customers know where to find you or your products!
DIY PR1 is another of the options available. Editorial endorsement of a product can make a huge difference to sales. It is not as daunting as it sounds. It basically consists of thinking of a newsworthy ‘angle’ for the business. There is always something that business owners’ believe makes your product or service stand out from the crowd. You can use this to create a great media angle.
Imagine you are talking to someone and describing your product or service, you would definitely cover off the major points and that’s what the media release has to do. Get the journalist’s attention and then explain the story behind it.
Once you have a great media release, you just need to send it to the relevant journalists. Most media outlets have your details online or you can be found via a phone call. Or you can purchase media contact lists from ww.handleyourownpr.com.au if you want the easier option!
In the search of publicity, people can also subscribe to a great new service at www.sourcebottle.com.au where you get notified by email or twitter of journalists who are looking for specific types of people to interview. If you or your business fits the bill then all you need do is reply.
One of the drawbacks of publicity is that there is often a time lag between starting to let the media know and when the stories start to appear. Businesses need to persevere! Most magazine journalists work in advance, often by a month or two, so even if you put a story in the issue you are currently working on, it will still take some time for it to appear. Daily newspapers won’t be like this though.
Of course, if you contact daily newspapers, radio and TV producers then you can get a much faster turnaround, and often a bigger response. Make sure that the story will fit into the program you produce before contacting them. And be ready for the producer to say they want you on air later that day or week if you say yes!
Getting publicity for small business isn’t always easy. But it’s certainly not rocket science and a few great editorial hits will prove its worth in no time!
Jules Brooke is the owner of Handle Communications, a full service PR agency, and is a partner in www.handleyourownpr.com.au, a DIY PR website that offers free advice to small businesses on how to run your own PR campaign, as well as selling media contact lists.