"How do I make my niche business more visible? I don't have the budget to hire a public relations person or a marketing firm. What should I do to gain the attention of the public? (I am averse to dressing up in a chicken suit.)"
Angie Anderson, Hyperactive Communications:
"There are some ways to gain exposure without wearing monkey suits!:
- Do a survey about the changes in your industry, then publish the results.
- Try to win an award. [Editor's note: PROFIT has three annual award programs.]
- Write an article for your local paper or trade magazine
- Create a series of how-to tips related to your business.
Another idea is to seek the help of a high school co-op student to perform your marketing tasks: researching PR opportunities, locating the editors of various media outlets and contact information, and then submitting your story ideas. This can be a rewarding experience for both you and the co-op student."
Carolyn Rickey, Cedars Communications Services Inc.:
- "Contact organizations that have weekly meetings, and offer your services as a speaker. Don't make it a sales pitch, but rather a marketing speech. Think Rotary Clubs, Oddfellows, Lions, etc., and make the rounds.
- Does your professional organization have a newsletter? You could offer to write a story about your product / niche.
- Does your city have a Small Business Week? Ask to set up a display / table at the exhibit event. The table is minimum cost and you'll have great exposure."
Chris Taylor, Enunciate Conferencing:
"An excellent way to gain [local] business exposure at a minimal cost is to join local trade organizations, e.g., boards of trade. These organizations have extremely detailed weekly agendas of meet-and-greets, business card swaps, sales events, etc. The cost for membership is inexpensive and the opportunities for exposure are excellent. In one seminar you could meet several people who might utilize your services. By submitting business cards at these events, you are gaining peer-to-peer exposure. Word of mouth is still one of the cheapest and best forms of PR."
Bernard Dahl, ColbaNet Inc.:
"This newsletter [PROFIT-Xtra] published an article about guerilla marketing a few weeks ago. It's especially useful for companies targeting niches; best suited for people who have a knack for creative thinking. It's good reading and you will probably start having ideas after reading a few articles."
"One public relations strategy, based on the influencer model, suggests that by communicating with key people, you can pass your message on to a wider audience than you could do on your own. For example, by speaking to a journalist you can communicate your message to the entire readership of their paper or magazine. Furthermore, the fact that it is a third party spreading your message helps you gain credibility you cannot buy with advertising (or chicken suits).
The first step in leveraging the influencer model is to identify those people and organizations that can spread the word about your company. Start with the usual suspects: your family, friends, suppliers and key customers. Explain to them what you are trying to accomplish and make it worth their while to spread the word. Try using a coupon of some sort to measure the effectiveness of this marketing channel.
Next, identify other influencers, such as industry experts, trade associations, partners and, of course, media outlets. This tier of influencers is much harder to reach and will require a different set of incentives. A journalist, for example, is always looking for a story that will be interesting to his or her readers. The story should be current, easy to write and newsworthy. Journalists are bombarded with press releases, editorial demands and deadlines and tend to be skeptical of sources with whom they do not have a working relationship. This is why marketing and PR firms can be of great assistance in executing your tactical plans."