Women leading women

Shining the spotlight on your business

In trying to raise the profile of your business, do you really have to burn money on advertising and direct mail? Are there alternative channels that will reach your audience and stimulate a strong response?

Last month, in the first of our ‘profile-building’ series, we explored the benefits of creating a powerful reputation for you and your business, one that:

  • distinguishes you from competitors
  • helps you build a loyal following
  • brings in new and repeat business

Key to your reputation will be your strengths and a clear understanding of your following (chosen market). This understanding really grasps the ‘hot buttons’ that are key concerns for that audience, either on a daily basis or in a key moment. Your reputation will build more quickly if you can articulate simple messages that touch on these ‘hot buttons’ and position you as part of the solution or remedy.

Show you understand

Those messages shouldn’t be a blatant advertisement of your products or services. If they are, people will switch off more than they switch on. Instead, consider creating publicity that demonstrates you understand and you have expertise, resources and experience that will help with the specific issue/ ambition/ desire/ activity etc. they are facing. By being seen to give guidance and positioning yourself as an ‘expert’ or knowledge source, you will:

  • gain their attention
  • build their interest and
  • secure their trust

And when they trust you, they’ll be more likely to select you over a competitor.

Fit the publicity channel to the following

By getting to know your following, you can select the best channels that they interact with. Ask some of your clients, who typify your ideal following, what channels they really interact with? What do they rate and value? Remember, the trick to making publicity build a great reputation is to pick the channel that your following likes (not the one you would be flattered to be in). There’s plenty to choose from, such as:

  • Magazines, papers, radio, TV etc – where you can feed journalists with ideas for news stories, articles and commentaries
  • Blogs, websites, twitter – where you can give helpful comments, insight and solutions to key issues
  • Events – where you can network, facilitate, speak at, offer to give presentations or demonstrations
  • The communications your following publishes – where you can contribute ideas, top tips and the like
  • Other publications and books – such as how to guides, hints, ideas.

Letting your following influence your publicity choice helps you to be selective and get a better return on your marketing ‘bucks’.

A bridal jewellery designer, let’s call her Jane for the purpose of this article, is a great example of how this can work in practice. As wedding-related goods are usually a one-off purchase, Jane had to search continually for new customers. She’d tried advertising but often found word of mouth and recommendations brought in the best business. She now wanted to be more proactive about her reputation and capture a bigger chunk of the local bridal market.

Showing your following you understand

With our help, Jane began devising a ‘don’t forget’ checklist when planning a wedding. The material for this came from her past customers and their anecdotes… ‘If only I’d done this’ or ‘In hindsight, I wish I’d…’. She turned these tips into an initial checklist of 10 key points. She offered these to journalists in some of the magazines her customers said they had read when planning their weddings. Some of Jane’s clients were also happy to be profiled as case studies and their stories attracted interest from ‘wedding’ journalists. Elements of Jane’s checklists were soon published and one regional magazine running a wedding feature, asked her to give tips on how to select the right bridal jewellery for different dress styles and figures. Jane profiled all the publicity she received in a ‘latest news’ section on her website and e-newsletter.

Giving broader support and guidance

She also elaborated on the checklist in her website and e-newsletter. Each month she focused on a different aspect of wedding event preparation and often featured tips from other wedding services providers, such as venues, dress-designers, florists and photographers who she formed links with. Soon this was picked up by journalists covering wedding-related stories and she was asked to give further expert comment, which she did. Jane created downloadable checklists which people could pull off and keep with their own wedding arrangement files. These were designed with her branding and contact details on them. Her website statistics showed the checklists were popular and visitors to the site increased dramatically.

Stimulating referrals

As well as involving other wedding services providers in her e-newsletters, Jane created a directory on her website where she freely profiled them. This area of her site became popular as people soon began to ‘trust’ Jane’s guidance and turn more and more to her ‘directory’ of recommended wedding suppliers. These suppliers often reciprocated the gesture of goodwill and displayed Jane’s promotional material in their premises, gave referrals or created an ad/link from their website to hers.

Being valued for more than your products and services

Word of mouth about Jane’s business soon spread as people realised that she was offering more than just bridal jewellery. She soon became known for giving real insight and help in the process of organising a wedding. Many visiting her site also looked at her jewellery collection during their visit. In fact after a period of six months, Jane noticed that the reputation she’d built had begun to bring in customers from other parts of the UK. They came from recommendations, from seeing her articles and from interacting with her website. She now has plans to develop the directory side of her site to cover other regions too and she regularly keeps in touch with her following to glean more ideas, tips and suggestions.

Lessons to learn from Jane’s success

As well as demonstrating the power of carefully managed publicity, Jane’s story also reveals that reputations build dramatically with the involvement others. So think about those businesses that complement yours in some way. Can you work together to create support and guidance, which profiles your combined expertise and insight? Who are the people who regularly recommend you and how can you reward their goodwill to encourage further referrals?

A good reputation needs careful management. As well as managing the message to attract your following, you need to be careful about the publicity channels you select. Publicity can be a great marketing tool to small businesses with their limited budgets and resources. Look at ways to generate it and enhance your own reputation. Don’t underestimate the power of quality marks, awards and endorsements. The more you can demonstrate that yours is a quality business (who genuinely cares about its following) the more positive and powerful your reputation will be in these uncertain times.

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About the Author: Michelle Daniels is the Managing Director of Extended Thinking. An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and professional services marketing group.

Extended Thinking
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.

Photo credit: This great photo has been taken by Smig44 –  he promises it’s not real money!

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