Today’s guest post comes from a long-time San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer and journalist, Murry Shohat. For over 20 years, Murry has been writing and providing PR and marketing services for technology and media firms. I figured Murry could enlighten us on how to publicize our small businesses and make us all famous and wealthy…maybe.
Small business owners tell me that marketing is one of the most difficult things to figure out. Energy flows in new and even mature small businesses emanate from the competency of the owner. Whether you are a chef, retailer, mechanic, accountant, e-bay lister, dentist, inventor, software developer, entertainer or what-have-you, marketing is not high on your list of new things to master. In fact, marketing often gets after-thought attention. And that’s a shame because winning new customers (and keeping current ones) is the chief focus of marketing. Done properly, proactive marketing becomes the lifeblood of the business, oxygenating every aspect.
Experienced restaurant owners understand viral marketing — the strong recommendations transferred by patrons to their friends and family, also called word-of-mouth. “Gayle, that new African grill at the mall has the most unusual flavors and all the entrees are under $12. You and Henry should go before the place has a line outside.”
Sooner or later, a reporter for the Daily News may take a table. Let’s hope it’s not a bad day because positive viral flow can be stopped in its tracks with a poor review. “Henry and I were planning to eat at that new African place you recommended, Carla, but the MysteryGourmet only gave it one star in today’s paper.”
Experienced business owners — the ones who have learned to value proactive marketing as much as a chef treasures fresh ingredients like organic produce and spices — do not risk reputation to the whims of reviewers. Instead, they court their local and regional media through publicity.
Restaurant writers representing print, broadcast and web media (and key blogs) around the region come to the private media-only dinner arranged by a publicist in advance of a public grand opening. Surprises or disappointments are eliminated by plan. It’s publicity 101 and I’m going to tell you how to do it.
Let’s say you are a dentist opening a new practice after 10 years in a team office. Or, you’ve taken the plunge and decided to solve a key business problem with new software in your own startup. Maybe you are listening to your friends by opening a natural fiber dress shop catering to petite and queen-size needs. Or your 20-year old accounting practice needs a new image and clientèle. Whatever business you are in, publicity is your ally and you need to do it right.
Marketing people talk about tools of the trade, and publicity ranks first — above advertising, brochures, flyers and other “collateral” as the most valuable tool in terms of return-on-investment. Experienced business owners know for example that marketing is about space and time. If you create an ad or commercial, you have to purchase space or time to put it in front of potential customers. With most marketing tools, you pay (often dearly) for space and time. But with publicity, you mostly pray for space and time.
We’ll begin our tutorial in Part II: Who, what, why, when and how to pray. Stay tuned.