Great Small-Business Marketing on a Budget

Strong marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Marilyn Smit, of M45 Marketing, offers suggestions for how to stretch your marketing dollar most effeciently.

Budgets are always limited at small businesses, so let’s take a look at two ways to get the most bang for your marketing buck: plans and press releases.

Doing things is easy. Deciding what to do is hard.

With a small budget, it’s tempting to just jump right in and tackle a tactic or two, but to get the most out of a limited marketing budget, do a plan. It doesn’t have to be long or involved, but it lays out what you want to achieve, how much you’ll spend, what you’re going to spend it on, and over what timeframe. A good plan is important not just because you’ll figure out what to do, but because you’ll decide, in a thoughtful way, what not to do.
If you need help with a plan, get some. Retired business execs, the Small Business Administration, a marketing class at a local college, or friends and relatives with marketing experience are all good options. Just be sure to find an objective source. It’s probably not a good idea to have a newspaper salesperson be your planning partner, for example, since most of their strategies will predictably revolve around newspaper advertising.
Then, don’t overdo it. Two or three goals are enough for a year for most small businesses. Try to measure the results of what you’re doing so that you know what’s working. This does not have to be complicated, either. Positive, frequent, anecdotal evidence doesn’t cost anything and can be a good alternative to formal surveys.

Press Releases: Pillar of cost-effective marketing

One of the most reliable workhorses for a small marketing budget is the press release. While sometimes referred to as “free advertising,” press releases do have a price tag in time spent, but they’re generally far less expensive than paid advertising. So, as part of your plan, set up a regular press release schedule.
Most businesses have enough going on to do a press release at least quarterly – monthly is better. The discipline of thinking through what news is happening in your business, and when you should talk about it, is a good marketing habit. Here are a few tips to improve the chances that your press releases will be used.
• Make sure your subject is really news. Think of what would be relevant and interesting to the audiences of your local media. A sale isn’t news, for example; constructing a new building for your business may be.
• Send your releases to the attention of a specific person who covers the subject you’re writing about.
• Be sure to include a contact number for more information – and be sure someone will answer at that number.
• Write clearly and use your best grammar – proofread!
• If possible, send the releases as an attachment to an email, rather than mailing a hard copy.
• Include brief quotes from people at your business, your customers, or other people relevant to the topic – with a person’s name and the correct title associated with them.
• Include a good headline (the main point of the whole release), but don’t expect it to be used.
• Include photos with captions. Usually a .jpeg file is fine when sending with an email.
• Keep it short – two pages (double-spaced) max.
• For very basic announcements, try a media alert instead of a full release. This means bullets with who, what, when, where, how and why.
• Link press releases to your website and any social media you use, such as your Facebook page).
• Post releases on your website, and keep them current. There’s nothing worse than having 2009 as the most recent date for a release on your site.
Don’t expect that every release you send will be used, but by sending them out regularly you’re developing some familiarity with editors and reporters. Even if they don’t use your info this time, they may think of you when they’re working on a story where your business could be included.
See you in the news!
Marilyn Smit is co-founder of M45 Marketing Services, 524 W. Stephenson St., Freeport. M45 is a full-service agency that helps its clients to integrate and implement all aspects of marketing efforts, from strategic planning to promotion to product documentation.