18 Mar Small Budget, Big Impact: Branding, Marketing & Public Relations Strategies for New Businesses
Posted by Joice Truban Curry
I recently sat on a panel for the SharpHeels Small Business Entrepreneur Summit to discuss marketing, public relations and branding to a group of women who own their own business or were starting one. As I was preparing for the discussion, it really took me back to the day when I decided I wanted to go into the public relations field and how I got to where I am today with my profession as well as my company c3 Communications, Inc. I never really thought about the steps of what we did in terms of branding and marketing. It basically came organically with what I wanted and my drive to be successful, so reflecting on things and having to articulate them was refreshing. Then I thought perhaps more people might be able to benefit from some of the things we did along the way.
Research different business models when building your brand and marketing plan
When I first started my career, I really didn’t know what area I wanted to pursue or the type of business model I wanted for myself, so I researched different business models and did informational interviews with other business owners who would sit down with me and let me pick their brains. It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting. I then sat down and compared the pros and cons of the various models and created the one we have today. It is one that wasn’t being done before, allowed us to be incredibly flexible as well as affordable because it was very lean with little overhead. From there I created a 5-year business plan that included type of clients and financial goals. We look at this plan on a yearly basis and have modified it based on the environment, but the basic foundation is still in place because it is very solid. The key to being successful is creating the plan and always referring to it and don’t be afraid to make tweaks as you go.
Marketing and Advertising Budget
When I first started out, of course there was no budget to do any advertising. This was prior to the social media platforms we have today that are pretty affordable and effective. I compensated the lack of budget by once again networking with people, taking colleagues to lunch and getting the word out about my company. I also did some small jobs pro-bono i.e. doing favors for a friend by calling a station or writing a release. I just wanted my name and company out there as well as show people what I was about and how I was different than the rest. This helped tremendously not just in the short term, but it had a lingering affect for referrals, paying it forward. I would say this is the best suggestion I can give someone starting out. Call some public relations firms and ask them if you can pick their brain. Take them out to lunch or coffee. Many will be happy to give a little advice on how to get your name out there and get a little press. People helped me tremendously along the way and I love helping people as it is my way of giving back and returning the favor to this day.
Now that there are very affordable ways of advertising, we now do some Facebook / Instagram ads. As I mentioned, they are incredibly affective, and you can target whatever demographics you want. I highly recommend looking into this. I’m not talking boosting posts (although that is a start), but actually creating an ad and really getting the word out.
Go to Marketing and Public Relations Industry Events
Another way to get your name out as well as get some helpful tips is to get in front of people who might be able to help you out with your marketing and public relations. I joined the local San Diego Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). This got me in front of peers as well as larger PR companies. I suggest looking up some industry events such as through PRSA or other professional industry organizations and sign up for them. It’s all about networking and talking with people. At events, the people are basically captive audiences and again most are very willing to help out.
I would be remiss not to mention social media channels. This goes without saying as most people know they have to be on at least one platform. However, which one? It can be very overwhelming. We started with Facebook and became very good at it, engaging and growing our followers and creating our Facebook culture and then we branched out from there. Do a little research on the platforms and see which one makes the most since for your business to start out. Is the business visual? Then Instagram or Pinterest might be a great start. Is there a lot to share about your expertise, behind the scenes etc.? Then perhaps Twitter would be the way to go. But since Facebook is still the juggernaut you will need some presence there right away.
We also follow the 80 – 20 rule – 80% of the posts showing our expertise, knowledge and helping people while the other 20% is a little self promotion.
There are a plethora of things that can be done. A website that shows who you are and how you can solve people’s problems and how you are different is a must.
Emails, Newsletters and blogs
These are great communication tools with a “warm” audience since they sign up to receive them are also wonderful. However, you have to consider the time it will take, how often you want to send them out etc. If you commit to it stay with it. Your followers have taken the time to follow you and your brand. I can tell you from experience when we first started blogging, we were way too aggressive and couldn’t keep it up. Eventually they became a bit of a chore and we stopped them for a while.
Enjoy the process
In closing, the ultimate key is have fun building your business. I know I did and still do. Sure, it can seem overwhelming but if you are having fun, it all comes together in the end. Creating that plan will give you the road map with tasks that need to be done (both short term and long term). Once you have that, you start checking things off the list which is so rewarding. Once you have a few things checked off, I promise, you will start seeing the fruits of your labor take hold.
Again, I know it can be overwhelming, and as I mentioned, I love giving back, so if you want to pick my brain a little, please give me a call or send me an email. Also, I’m always learning and perhaps we can share some ideas. If nothing else, our passion for what we do. I love what I do and helping people succeed.
Lastly, pay if forward and always pay it back as you go on your successful business journey. You will see the fruits of your labor come to fruition and help others along the way.