I was in a meeting this week for an organization I’m doing a small bit of work for, one that, like many of the clients I work with, is trying to be innovative and reach its audience without a big budget. Marketing and PR hinges on three key steps: (1) Identify the audience you’re trying to reach, (2) Decide what message you’re trying to tell them, and (3) Pick your channel(s) and use them to deliver that message.
When you break it down this way, instead of thinking of marketing as a big, scary, advertisingprwordofmouthyelpgoogleanalyticsfacebooktwitterAAAH! conglomeration, you realize that marketing, as a concept, is quite flexible. You can always do something to market your business–it’ll cost you either money or time, sometimes both–but there’s always a way, even if you don’t have a lot of either. Figuring out a way to get your message to your audience is key. You can be doing everything right, but if no one knows you’re doing it, it’s all for naught.
A lot of people immediately go to Facebook, Twitter, blogging or their website as their messaging channel. This is great, but as I always say, you’re kind of preaching to the choir here. It’s far less expensive to keep a customer than get one, so it makes sense to pay attention to your loyal fans. But you’re not reaching new people on a regular basis through these channels.
Then we have the other end of the spectrum: advertising. Thanks to Google AdWords, advertising is more targeted than its ever been before…and it’s still really expensive and not targeted enough, in my opinion. Advertising is an absolutely essential part of many people’s business, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not realistic or affordable for everyone. PR can be less expensive, but it’s also less reliable in its messaging and timing, and it’s often tough to find something truly newsworthy.
So I suggest that when you’re thinking about your target customer or prospect, you consider who else is also catering to that person. Competitors, of course, are playing in your realm, though they’re unlikely to help you out. So that leaves thinking outside the box a big. If you’re a company that makes a health food, what about finding businesses that promote healthy living as well–yoga studios, gyms, and the like? If you’re a storefront that sells speciality bartending and drink items, consider where your clientele might hang out–speakeasy-type bars in the areas, spots known for great food and drink, etc.
Once you’ve identified other businesses or organizations that cater to similar customers, it’s time to get in touch and figure out mutually beneficial ways to work together. If they send out a newsletter, consider ways to contribute content. Shout out at one another on social media. (FYI, this is a great and easy way to introduce yourself to the business to begin with–retweet something your target is tweeting and help them out.) The entire objective here is to come up with a way to get your name in front of their audience, and vice versa. Plus, there could be other cool ways to work together (in the case of the bartending item example…Maybe a bartender at a local watering hole could teach a complimentary cocktail class at your storefront).
Think outside the box. These initiatives take time and require you to build relationships, but they’re wonderful ways to promote your business in a super-targeted way without a lot of cash. Good luck!