At a certain stage of development, a business can raise its profile in the community with a print, radio or TV advertising campaign. But early on, or when funds are not available, there are other, cheaper, ways of raising your business’s profile. Joining a professional organisation, being part of a community fair, or asking local newspapers to write about you – these are all outside the traditional advertising spectrum and some are more effective depending on the target market. Here are six different ways to raise your business profile – and some of them don’t cost anything at all.
1. Social media: A gift to small business
Ever since the late nineties with the dawn of the internet, and more so since the mid-noughties with Facebook and Twitter, businesses have been able to reach thousands, even millions of people for virtually nothing. Set up a Facebook business page. Ask people to post images of themselves using your product. Upload tips and interesting links to other products. You can pay to boost posts on Facebook and Twitter if you want, but if you make your posts funny, informative and personal, you can build up something money can’t buy – a loyal following.
2. Call your local newspaper
A friend who edits a local newspaper says she is amazed at how few requests she gets from people wanting to have their stories told. She says she is sometimes desperate for feel-good stories about local business, and has to hound business owners for them. While some local papers may demand that you take an ad out first, if you call with a story idea and pitch it to the editor personally, you may be surprised at the reception.
3. Write your own media releases
If you want to be more professional, and don’t want to spend hours on the phone, you can write your own media release. It should be one page long, announce something newsworthy at the top (new product, new outlet, recent award), and include comments from you that can be used as ready-made quotes by lazy journalists. Include your name and contact number “for more details and interview opportunities” at the bottom. Email or fax that to as many newspapers, radio shows and (think big) TV stations as you can, along with a photo that helps tell your story.
4. Join a local business group
People sometimes ask is it worth it to join a local business network or chamber of commerce. The answer is you won’t know the real worth until you have been along and participated. Being a member could mean you are invited into a communal venture where the cost of a major regional advertising campaign is shared by multiple businesses.
Business groups can give you advice on business tax, invite you to seminars and business coaching workshops. A typical chamber of commerce membership costs around $120 annually, and offers courses, advice, an online book collection and advocacy when dealing with the local council.
5. Become a regular at local fairs
Even if you are selling a service rather than a product, people like to be able to put a face to a name. Hire space at local fairs and hand out information or free samples. Don’t worry if you don’t sell anything, see this as opportunities to generate buzz around your business rather than sales.
6. Staying in touch and making new contacts
Take advantage of cloud-based technology to reach your customers. Get a virtual toll free number – a 1800 number – so that it’s easier for customers to call you. You can also get a toll free number with online fax capability. It’s easy to send a fax online in Australia, you just attach the documents to an email and hit send. Online fax is a cheap way of getting information out there – use it to fax your media releases for example.
By using these methods and technologies you can raise your business profile without going down the traditional advertising route. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy coming up with new stories, new media releases and new ways to connect with potential customers.