When you think about promoting a business one of the first things that traditionally comes to mind is the media. After all, who doesn’t want to see their product or business featured in the pages of a national magazine or be given Oprah’s seal of approval? As a former publicist, the idea of pitching to the media doesn’t faze me – but it scares a lot of people. It can be a daunting and time consuming process, and one that doesn’t necessarily return your investment of time and effort. Here are 6 less intimidating and more direct ways to gain visibility for your business that don’t always rely on media coverage.
1. Donate to charity
Donating to charity is a great way to gain visibility and free advertising. It not only helps your business become known in the community, but also allows you to become a meaningful local presence while doing something nice for other people.
Be creative in what you have to offer. I once met a woman who was in charge of her school’s auction. She told me about a boutique whose donation was a 2-hour “Shoe Party” for up to twenty women, which included a 15% discount for each of the guests. The shop owner could have just offered up an item of clothing but instead she donated an experience, one which the attendees will undoubtedly enjoy and share with other friends.
2. Become an Authority
If you have specific knowledge or a valuable skill, consider promoting yourself as an authority to help others. Leading a workshop or seminar positions you as an expert and potentially generates a revenue (if you charge a fee). You might also consider creating content to publish on other websites or blogs in your niche. By sharing insight on a related property, your name and brand can reach an entirely new audience supported by third-party endorsement.
3. Reach out to others
Last weekend, I received an email via Small Batch Baking Company’s Etsy website from another seller who lived in a neighboring town. At first I thought it quite odd that a jewelry designer, who had nothing in common with my business except geography, wanted to connect, but I later realized she was onto something. What exactly? The first thing I did after reading the email was check out her Etsy shop! Her strategy is to find shops she likes, "favorite" a couple of their items, and ask the sellers to do the same. This exposes her products to each sellers' respective followers and is a win-win for both parties.
4. Invest in existing customers
It costs less, and takes less effort, to retain current customers than to obtain a new one. Find ways to connect with those who are already familiar with your business. These customers are the ambassadors to the rest of the world for your business and should be treated with care and respect. They have already tried, trusted and invested in you -- pay them back by offering special sales, great service and loyalty programs.
5. Join forces with industry professionals
Consider how you could work together with folks in your industry, combining efforts to bring attention, draw customers and garner sales. For example: If you are a caterer looking to attract the attention of wedding planners, why not host a cocktail party featuring your food, or stage a soiree? Secure a space, invite a florist to pretty up the tables, a photographer to mount some photos on the walls, and have a stationer send out the invites. You’re all trying to generate the same type of business; you might as well do it together!
6. Give it away
My old boss used to say that the cheapest form of PR was to give the product away -- something that has stuck with me 20+ years later. At Small Batch Baking Company we give away a LOT of babka, partially because in the food business, the best way to get people interested in the product is for them to taste it. But it also pays us back many unexpected ways.
Two weeks ago I dropped some babka off to a friend I had recently reconnected with, having lost touch when our family moved out of state. Not only did she later send me a rave review, she a) asked if she could share a bag of the babka with a local journalist and b) texted friends with a photo she had taken, telling them to expect babka for the holidays. While these gestures were greatly appreciated, I was most excited to discover not one, but two, business ideas were generated from the short time I spent with her – one that came as a complete epiphany, the other that would add value to our current product – and that’s definitely worth a few pieces of babka.