Every entrepreneur is a self-promoter, but some are lucky enough to be able to pay for help in that department. If that's not you and spreading the word is your task and yours alone, here are a few things to put on your must-do list:
1. Go mobile. You almost can’t go anywhere without seeing people head down, eyes glued to a mobile device and that’s why mobile advertising—whether it’s delivered on a mobile Web browser or within an app—is growing exponentially. That means if you’re not using mobile ads yet, you might want to start thinking about it. Not sure how to get started? Here’s a good primer.
2. Get people through your door. Speaking of mobile, if you have a bricks-and-mortar location, it's time to check out services that will ping potential customers’ phones with coupons if they are close to your store. Chalkboard, for example, reaches millions of people in the U.S. and is designed to drive foot traffic to storefronts. If a Chalkboard user comes within a mile of your business, an ad will appear on the person's phone. Another option is Millennial Media which offers Local Zone Targeting and delivers ads to consumers near established lists of key locations, such as major malls, big box retail stores, consumer electronics outlets, colleges and universities, movie theater chains, and home improvement outlets.
3. Bid for ads online. If you’re not already using them, Facebook ads and Google AdWords are good places to start. They are marketplaces wherein you make a bid about how much you’ll pay to reach people, or how much you’ll pay if those people click on your link. Here are good examples of small businesses that have had good luck using Facebook Ads. And here’s a nice explanation of how Google AdWords works and why you want to use it.
4. Buy a print ad. I know. It seems old-fashioned. But there are a couple of reasons you might want to include a paper ad in your overall marketing plan. For instance, they're good for a target audience that is low-tech and not online very often. On the other hand, QR codes in print ads have been popular with smartphone users who like to play around and see where the code will take them.
Getting Media Attention
5. Use Help a Reporter Out. It’s a network that pairs reporters with sources. Why do you want to be a source, you ask? To get your company mentioned, or better yet, featured. If you sign up as a source HARO will send you daily e-mails during the week listing all the stories journalists who use the service are working on. If you’re creative you should be able to offer yourself as a source for a wide range of topics. Keep in mind, though, that reporters receive pitches from dozens of like-minded start-ups like yours. You’ll want to make your pitch stand out. Before sending it through, ask yourself: Are my words quotable? Have I included my name, contact information, title, and a link to my website?
6. Do the prep work before you pitch. Once you've selected an outlet to pitch, take some time to study it. Which reporters cover a subject area relevant to your story? Is there an editor who might be interested in it? Then reach out. Can’t find an e-mail address? Do some googling to find someone's e-mail at the same company. Once you know the e-mail format, just plug in the writer or editor you’re trying to reach. Common formats are: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Make your pitch personal. This is the tricky part because anyone working for a major media outlet is bombarded every day with pitches. You need to penetrate the noise somehow. If you’re going to approach someone via e-mail, make your first pitch short, compelling, and personal. Include details that show you’re specifically interested in working with that person, and not just spamming every journalist out there. On the other hand...
8. Don’t use e-mail. Many people in the media, unfortunately, are not able to read all the story ideas people send them; there are just too many. Sometimes a mention or message on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn is more effective simply because it can be less noisy.
9. Be creative. One guy made me a three-minute YouTube video touting the awesomeness of his company’s technology. While I can’t guarantee this will work with all journalists, it did with me, although I have to say he gave a spot-on (and short) sales pitch. One thing, though—I almost didn’t watch his video because the title of his e-mail looked like spam. So...
10. Use a good subject line. One tricky way to get a reporter’s attention is to mention in the e-mail subject line (or however you’re reaching out) a piece that they’ve already written or posted that is similar to the story you're pitching. For example, the subject line could read “Christina: Response to (title of the story).” Reporters can be thin-skinned when it comes to feedback on their work, so this kind of subject line will probably result in an opened e-mail. In the text of your e-mail tell the reporter what you appreciated about the story and use it as a segue into a discussion focused on you.
11. Do not call. Calling a reporter who’s no doubt on deadline is like barging into his or her office unannounced and is likely to have the opposite effect than the one you were intending.
12. Use the Big Four. I’m talking about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and, yes, Google+. Like Twitter, Google’s social network is a place where you’ll most likely connect with strangers, and the more the better. I find the posts there are more interesting and include more photos and videos than the other three networks. This is a good opportunity for you to get creative content out to the masses.
13. Make that five. Speaking of creative content, YouTube or Vimeo should probably be on your list of networks to use. Your videos don’t need to be expensive productions, but they do need to be engaging in some way. Do you have a witty friend who can help you brainstorm ideas? An outgoing employee or two who could take on the job of creating interesting video blurbs on a regular basis? If so, give them the keys to your other social networks and start sharing.
If all of this sounds incredibly time consuming, know this: It is. And since you have plenty of other things to be doing to take your business to the next level, you might reconsider investing in some help.
Why not hire an intern to lend a hand? Urban Interns is a great tool for finding one.
That said, throwing down dollars for professional help can have a great ROI. Agencies that pitch products full-time typically have some creative ideas. “If your product is designed to do X, [they'll] see if it can also do Y and Z,” says Dave Sniadak, who works with clients big and small at the Minnesota-based agency, Axiom Marketing Communications. “You may open up business opportunities you hadn't previously thought of.”
Not only that, but entrepreneurs can underestimate the value of a good wordsmith. “If words aren't your thing," he says, "working with a PR pro can be just the thing you need to break away from the anonymity of your current situation.”
How much is it going to cost? Sniadak says it’s like everything else, you get what you pay for. Freelance PR help can be found for around $50 an hour, whereas working with a large, full-service agency can exceed hundreds of dollars per billable hour. Project-based agencies offer a 'one price for all' payment structure.
Be upfront about how much money you can spend and don't hand over money without seeing regular results. Establish a reporting schedule, request regular updates from a singular point of contact (if you're working with an agency), and offer enough direction to allow the PR pro to get the job done without micromanaging every detail.