Should you write a press release for a small business?

Should-you-write-a-press-release-for-a-small-business
Photo by Jon Tyson

News releases (direct-to-consumer releases) or press releases…what works best for your small business?

Have you ever written or paid someone to write a press release for your small business? Once it was written and distributed to journalists – did you get the results you were looking for? Are any of your customers or potential customers aware of your new product or service because of it? If the answer is no, then maybe you should try a different approach to writing and releasing your small business’s news.

The traditional press release

Press releases date back to the early 1900s, and although the internet has changed the way we distribute news, the overall process of writing and releasing a press release (the type of news, format, distribution, etc.) has mostly stayed the same up to today.

The press release was a way for businesses to spread the word to their customers about their news. They used the media to do this, exclusively releasing this news to journalists or editors. The news had to be significant enough for them to cover it.

Direct-to-consumer 

When the internet came along, it allowed a company to reach its customers directly. As the internet evolved, it produced more options for companies to engage with their customers, specifically through their website, social media, and email.

Now you can write a press release for your small business, then release it exclusively to your customers, and if the press or journalists pick up on it, even better for your small business. There is no need to rely exclusively on the press to get the word out about your news.

News release

Popularized in David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directlynews releases, also known as direct-to-consumer releases, are a way for businesses to reach their audience directly. It’s an integral part of an overall content marketing strategy that solves your customer’s problems and brands your small business as a leader and expert in your industry.

Want an in-depth, comprehensive overview of content marketing that solves problems?  Click below.

What’s the difference between a press release and a news release?

Press release basics:

  • Press releases are only for very important and specific news about a company
  • Can be written in a particular format using technical jargon that journalists and reporters understand
  • A press release is pitched and distributed to a member of the media (journalists, reporters, editors, etc.)
  • They have the decision to share it with the media (newspapers, radio, television, websites, social media, etc.) or not
  • If you’re lucky and they do decide to share it, they may edit it, submit as is, or elaborate on it

News release basics:

  • News releases don’t have to be about big important news instead, they can be about customer stories and ideas for customer problems
  • Written in a format using the language of your customers and keyword focused
  • Optimized for search engines
  • Include links that drive customers back to your website and blog content
  • Incorporate offers with specific calls-to-action 
  • Distribute your news release by posting on your website, social media, and news release distribution services
  • Track the metrics

When do you write a news release for a small business?

An absolute must in any small business is to solve your customer’s problems. So start there:

  • A series of videos, blog posts, or an ebook that will be beneficial to your customers
  • Stories from your customers
  • Different ways your customers are using your products or services
  • A new market your products or services are serving
  • New catalog or buyer guides for your products or services

Other news release ideas:

  • Your company is involved with a charity or social cause
  • When your company wins any type of award
  • Acquire a new customer
  • An upcoming sale (but they don’t usually do as well so be careful)

Written in a format using the language of your customers and keyword focused

Include links that drive customers back to your website and blog content

  • Use links in your news release that point back to landing pages on your website that can start the sales process for a customer
  • You can also link back to blog content or a series of content that is relevant to the press release
  • If your press release does get picked up by the media, including links in your news release gives your small business’s website, powerful backlinks that increase your search engine ranking.

Incorporate offers with specific calls-to-action

Along with the links, you need to have specific calls-to-action strategically placed throughout your news release that get your customers to do what you want them to do.  Here are a few examples:

  • Learn more about what our new service can do for you by going to…
  • Get this free ______ at….
  • Sign up here to get your free trial of ______
  • For more information on this new_____ visit…..
direct-to-consumer-press-release
Photo by Leon Seibert

Distribute your news release 

Now your press release is done, and you’re ready to publish it. It’s a given that you will post it on your website and spread the word through your social media, but what about reaching out to bloggers in your industry? Local bloggers and bloggers in your niche market may be more open to your news release. Make a list of them and reach out.

Instead of the traditional way of writing a press release for your small business and then trying to pitch it to journalists, try using a news  distribution service to get it out on the web. There is usually a small fee for using these services, but by doing it this way, you will get your news release out to hundreds of websites. This also helps your news release get indexed by Google, and people who follow your industry will be alerted as well.

Here are few popular news distribution services:

  1. PRWeb
  2. PR Newswire
  3. NEWSWIRE

Track the results

After, your news release has gone out track the metrics and find out where your traffic is coming from. This will give you great insight into where your customers are going on the web for their information.

Make news releases part of your overall content marketing strategy

To get the full benefits of releasing your news to your customers, you need to make it part of your overall content marketing strategy. So first, you will need to create a content marketing strategy for your small business. 

Here’s a basic five-step process for doing that:

  1. Goal: Establish the goal you are after – sales, subscribers, shares, new customers, etc.
  2. Buyer Persona/ Avatar: Who is your customer? Are there multiple types of customers? Create a buyer persona/ avatar
  3. Content: Create content that addresses and solves your buyer persona/ avatar’s problem
  4. Organize and schedule: Create an editorial calendar for your content
  5. Social Media/ Email: Get the word out using your social media, news releases, and email list

Should you write a press release for a small business?

Sometimes and depending on the news and your industry, you will need to pitch journalists with your press releases. They are valuable in getting the word out. But if you are planning on building a content strategy to solve your customer’s problems and become an industry leader, talk to your customer directly by writing a news release. If you do a good enough job, hopefully, a journalist will cover it, and it will be like writing a press release for your small business.

Do you need help writing a news release or press release for your small business?

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How to brand a small business

How-to-brand-a-small-business

Well-established companies have always built themselves a brand, but in the social media age, the term was starting to get used for athletes, rock stars, movie stars, startups, investors, moguls, and any expert in any field. Outside of their specialty, talent, or expertise, a lot of them focused on building their brand and branding themselves a certain way. Whether you are a small barbecue joint, hair salon, or brewery, you are going to want to do the same thing and focus on building a brand for your small business from the very beginning. This post will briefly discuss the basics of how to brand a small business.

The origins of branding

With the term “branding” being thrown around so much, many people have probably forgotten its original meaning. Its origins date back 4,000 years ago to the Indus Valley in Asia. During this time farmers branded (actually burned) their livestock to indicate which ones they owned. Over the years, branding slowly evolved into artists signing their names on their work to consumer goods’ manufacturers branding (adding a logo) their products. During the twentieth century and with the invention of the radio, TV, and mass media, branding became more strategic and focused on putting a face to the brand.

To learn an in-depth history of branding check out Taylor Holland’s post on www.skyword.com.

How to define your small business’s brand

Unlike its gradually developing history, since the beginning of this century (due mostly to the internet) branding has quickly taken on definitions that encompass all facets of marketing. But to make things simple – your brand is the feeling/ perception/ general impression that is invoked inside someone when they hear your name, see your logo, or come in contact with your company. If it’s a good or great feeling, this someone is probably a loyal customer.

Branding your small business is going to take some work, but here is where you can start.

1. Create your solution to your customers’ problems.  Once you have your product or service, then you will need to do the necessary research on your customers and competitors. This research and data will be the basis for constructing your brand.

2. Define what your brand stands for. Define the values for your brand, then create your mission statement. Doing the necessary research in step one will give you the ability to be creative in this step and express what you want your brand to stand for. If you can see far ahead enough in your business and you have an ultimate goal, you can also include a vision statement for what you want to accomplish as a brand.

3. Unique Selling Proposition. What is it that you want your brand to be known for that is different than your competitors? What are your customers looking for that your competitors are not giving them? Examples can be extraordinary customer service, tiered pricing model, subscription-based service, delivery options, etc.

Click here to learn How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition.

The visuals

Logo

Starbucks-siren-logo-on-a-coffee-cupOutside of the feeling that a person gets and remembers from interacting with your brand. Your logo is the next branding component that comes to their minds. The Golden Arches of McDonald’s, Starbucks siren, Apple’s bitten apple, and Target’s red and white target are great, iconic examples of this. When you think about these logos, they are all pretty simple logos that are easy to remember. So when you are creating your logo, keep it simple with minimal colors and take time to create it.

Branding style guidelines

With the help of a designer or design agency, you can construct your logo while also laying out the branding style guidelines for your brand. A lot of small businesses will create the logo then move on without taking the extra step to establish the fonts, colors, imagery and photography, and typography that stem from their logo. With a branding style guide, your internal team and any external teams you work with will now know how to present your brand.

Click below to see a few examples of brand logos and their branding style guides.

Do you need help branding your small business?

Spread the word

You’ve done the work and created a brand. Now it’s time to go out and tell the world! So how are you going to do it? Sometimes word of mouth, your website, and social media alone aren’t going to cut it. Try the following ways below to start spreading the word.

Advertising – There are more ways to advertise your business and get in front of people than ever before. What does this mean? It means that just because there are a lot of advertising platforms, doesn’t mean they are all going to work for your brand. You know who your customer is, but do you know what social media channel they hang out on? Before you do any advertising, find out where your avatar is hanging out and consuming information. Once you know where they are, thoroughly research the platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google, Email, Amazon). A lot of small businesses make the mistake of advertising without doing the appropriate research on the advertising platform itself and end up wasting a lot of money doing ads the wrong way. If you don’t want to do the research, pay a skilled expert to do the ads for your business. This way, at least you will know they are getting your brand out there the proper way and to the right people.

In person – If you’re the owner of a business, you are the brand also. Get out and meet people locally. Go to meet-ups or even start your own meet-up to meet people. Provide people with information and educate them about the industry you’re in. Help others and position yourself as an expert in your industry. Attend workshops and events at S.C.O.R.E. or your local Chamber of Commerce. Present your brand as a solution to these people’s problems.

Content – Creating content is essential for building a brand. Much like going out in person to meet people to solve their problems, creating content is doing the same thing online. You need to post information that educates and solves your customers’ problems. If you do the right type of research for advertising, you will find out what type of content your customers’ enjoy consuming (video, blog posts, podcasts, etc.). But creating content is easier said than done, especially in the beginning stages of starting a business. So how do you stay on top of your content output and strategy?

1. You can pay someone to do it. Upwork.com, Fiverr.com, and other freelance sites are places where you can find a content writer to write for you in your brand voice.

2. Depending on your industry, you can share trusted content from other experts that fall in line with your brand’s values. By sharing this content, you can engage them and start a conversation that will provide more insight into them and their problems.

If blasting messages through social media isn’t getting you the results you thought it would you may want to try the previous suggestions to provide value and spread the word about your small business brand.

Be consistent

Shiny object syndrome is a real thing for entrepreneurs and business owners. Social media bombards us with new trends in marketing and selling products. Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of them, and after every other video on YouTube, there is another ad telling you how much money you are missing out on if don’t sign up for this new webinar.

So it’s tough to stay consistent!

But once you have established your brand, you need to be consistent by following your mission and values and sticking with your unique selling proposition. Your brand’s mission and values should direct you when you make business and marketing decisions. Of course things will change (and you may need to pivot) but in the beginning, stay consistent for your customers as well as your employees. Confusing people about what your brand stands for is the worst thing you can do in the beginning stages of your business.

Trends will come and go but real consistent brands are here to stay.

How to brand a small business

Branding may seem like a lot of work, (and initially it is) but it sets up a guide for you as a small business owner to follow. Everything your brand does will follow your mission, unique selling proposition, and branding style guidelines. And stay consistent, especially when dealing with customers or clients.

What strategies do you use to brand your small business?

 

How to create a unique selling proposition

Walmart knows how to create a unique selling proposition.

Why is your product or service different and better than your competitors’?

When you start a business, you have to look at the market. Who (your competitors) is already there and what do they offer? What do these brands stand for? Are customers able to distinguish one brand from the other? There are a lot of businesses that forget about this, but it’s imperative if you want to have a long lasting business. It goes right along with your branding and what a customer thinks of when they think of your business. So when you enter the market, position your brand in a way that it is better than your competitors and benefits your customers. In this post, I will touch on:

  • Defining a Unique Selling Proposition.
  • How to Check Out and Compare Your Competitors.
  • Finding Out What Your Customers Really Want?
  • How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition.

Unique selling proposition (USP) defined.

Maria Veloso said in her book Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy (AMACON American Management Association; Third edition, 2013) that “A USP is something that sets you, your product or service, or your business apart from every other competitor in a favorable way”.

At the beginning of your business, I’m sure you want to offer all the products or services and be everything to everyone, but in actuality, you are nothing to no one. That’s why a unique selling proposition is so important. The more you are able to niche down on what you do, the more you will become something to someone.

After reading that definition above, start thinking about the companies you work with in your business, and you buy from in your personal life. Why do you use them? What sticks out in your mind about them?

A few brands with well-known unique selling propositions:

  • Walmart – Cheap prices on groceries and everyday items. Even their slogans for the past thirty years refer to it. (1988 – 2007) “Always Low Prices, Always” (2007 – present) “Save Money. Live Better.” If you have ever shopped at Walmart, I’m sure you have noticed these slogans somewhere in the store.
  • Amazon – Although it’s being considered more and more a competitor to Walmart, Amazon was first known and declared by themselves “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”. This positioned them as the go to bookstore online (I still buy all my books from Amazon). Over the years that USP changed and in the eyes of consumers Amazon has become known for a few unique selling propositions including it being the biggest online store for any product, a place to check out customer reviews on products, and its Prime Free 2-day shipping.
  • Subway – Everyone probably remembers Jared Fogle and how he lost over 200 pounds exercising and eating Subway sandwiches. It was a massive campaign in the 2000s, for both Jared and Subway and sales skyrocketed. The campaign stressed how Subway sandwiches were a low-calorie meal that can help you lose weight. Then Jared made some bad choices. Lately, Subway has been using the slogan “Eat Fresh” to get customers to choose their subs over its competitors. They are also putting more of an emphasis on using fresh ingredients and knowing what is in them and where they originated.

Now at the fundamental level, think about what your brand’s USP is? Why do customers buy from you instead of your competitors? What value do you offer them that is different than your competitors? Do your customers come back to purchase more from you?

Check out and compare your competitors

Entering a market with already established competitors can be tricky. They are already known, and customers may have already become accustomed to them. So start studying your competitors.

If they have a brick and mortar store, visit it. How is it set up? How do they greet their customers?

Check out their website, social media, and sign-up for their newsletter. Look at the messaging their brand is putting out – how is it different than yours?

Compared to your competitors – here are some questions to ask yourself and others in your business.

  • Do we make our customers’ lives easier?
  • Do we offer incredible customer service?
  • Do we have affordable prices?
  • Do we save customers time?

You need to differentiate your brand from your competitors, or there really won’t be a reason for customers to buy your solution to their problems.

What do your customers really want?

Earlier I mentioned that you need to think about your business’s unique selling proposition at the fundamental level. I’m sure you came up with a good idea of why you think your customers buy from you over your competitors. But do you really know for sure?

Remember it’s always about your customers, and solving a problem by providing a solution for them. What do your customers’ really want from your business? And how do you find out?

Ask them.

For businesses that sell products on Amazon, contact your buyers (make sure to adhere to Amazon’s guidelines on contacting customers) to ask for a review of your business (ask for a review of your product as well). If there were any problems they encountered, have them reply to your email, that way you can handle the problem for them without them giving you a bad review.

If you provide a service, offer a survey that asks your customers how you did.  You can supply specific questions that address your unique selling proposition. You can also monitor reviews of your company online in places such as Facebook and social media, Google reviews, and Yelp. Make sure the reviews are from genuine clients and aren’t from fabricated online accounts. Then try to ask them why they left the review they left.

If you own a brick and mortar store or restaurant, personally ask or provide a survey for your customers, asking how you are doing but more importantly what they want.

Don’t forget! – it’s always about your customers

How to create a unique selling proposition

So you thought about your USP, you checked out your competition, and you asked your customers what they think. Now you should have a good idea of how to create a unique selling proposition for your business. If you don’t or you’re stuck, keep asking your customers.

Do some analysis and if necessary change your business model. If you sell ala carte services and your customers prefer package deals start offering a few package deals. Take some time to think about how you will present your unique selling proposition and the branding that will go along with it. Get creative!

After you have established your USP, declare it the solution to your customers’ problems.

Conclusion

There are a lot of similar businesses out there. Just think about how many mechanic shops you see in your city. How many heating and cooling and plumbing vans and trucks do you see on the road when you’re driving? Does their branding reveal their unique selling proposition? Is there a message of value in their branding? Probably not. It’s probably just their name and how many years they have been in business.

Don’t be like them, be remembered. Put some real time and effort into your unique selling proposition and stand out from your competitors!

Budget Brakes' Unique Selling Proposition is offering brakes for as low as $89.99 with a lifetime guarantee.
Budget Brakes’ Unique Selling Proposition is offering brakes for as low as $89.99 with a lifetime guarantee.

Do you need help on how to create a unique selling proposition for your business?

 

Veloso, Maria. Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy Third edition. AMACON American Management Association, 2013.

 

Write for Marketing – Empathize with and Solve Your Customers’ Problems.

Customer screaming into phone.In any industry, it should always be about the customers and how a business or product can solve their problems. The more a business can explain how their product or service can solve a customer’s problem, the more likely the customer will understand why they need it. Broadly providing a solution to a problem and then pounding it down everyone’s throats, provides no value to anyone. Advertising was done this way for years, but it’s starting to change now. How many commercials do you remember doing this? There are some companies that still do this, but now our brain is so turned off to them that their messages don’t even register. So why don’t you write for marketing and empathize with your customers’ problems? Don’t shout out them, listen to what they are saying. Find out what their problems are and provide solutions. In this post, I will touch on how to create and define your customer, solve their problems, find out where they are, and write for marketing to them.

Creating your Customer.

What are you trying to accomplish?

You created a product, or you provide a service. Why? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to solve a problem for a niche?

Who are you solving a problem for?

At the same time, you are creating your product or service you need to be thinking about who you are going to serve. In marketing, this person (customer) is called your avatar or buyer persona. Get familiar with the details of this person (background, needs, interests, goals) and then create them, give them a name, and design or find an image. You can find an image by doing a google search through google images. Print out the image and put it somewhere where you can see it.

What problems do these customers have?

You will need to do some comprehensive and detailed research. What are their problems, predicaments, or pains and, where are they going to find solutions to these? What do they read or watch on a daily basis? Read what they read and watch what they watch. Study what they are doing so you can understand and empathize with them and start thinking like them. This research will also begin to give you an idea of how to communicate with them.

How are you solving their problems?

Yes you are providing a service or product, but what are you really doing for your buyer persona? What problem or problems are you solving?

Another way of thinking about it:

Are you making life easier for them?

Are you making life safer for them? Piece of mind?

Are you saving them time?

Are you giving them more value than your competitors? What value do you bring?

Is your offer affordable and saving them money?

Basically the reason people make the decision to buy is related to if the product or service is going to give them pleasure or avoid pain for them. Successfully show how your product or service can do that for your customer, and you’re on your way to a loyal client.

Where can you find your customers?

Now that you have an idea of the problems you are going to solve for your buyer persona, you will need to go back to your research. Where are they going to find answers to their questions? Where are they going to get solutions to their problems?

Here are some places online your customers are most likely going to, to solve their problems.

  1. Search Engines/ Google – research on anything
  2. YouTube – research/ How-to videos/ tutorials
  3. Facebook – Ask questions to get answers/ news (in real time)
  4. Twitter – Ask questions to get answers/ news (in real time)
  5. Amazon – Search for products and read reviews
  6. Email subscriptions – Keep them updated and informed
  7. Blog subscriptions – How-tos, information

Go to these places online. Listen to what they are saying and take note of the words and phrases they are using.

Put it all together – Solve your avatar’s problems by educating and informing them.

Now that you know who your avatar is, what their problems are, how to solve their problems, and where they are online, you need to write for marketing to them. When you write for marketing, write as if you are writing directly to your buyer persona/ avatar, that image you have for them. Hopefully, by now, you should know this person well and should be able to empathize with them and use their language. You should be excited to offer them help and solutions to their problems, so write like that. Don’t write like you are writing for a billboard on the side of the expressway where anyone who drives a car can see it.

Since you know where they are hanging out online, make sure to follow the rules of each platform they are on. There are certain ways to write on Facebook, and it is different from writing on Twitter or LinkedIn. Use the same keywords and key phrases as your buyer persona when writing for search engines so that they can find your content.

Now offer up content that educates, informs, and solves problems. Offer them enough high-quality content that they will begin to trust you as the authority in that niche. Your buyer persona will come to you for answers and solutions.

Lastly, get them to take action. Since you provide this educational content, ask them to sign up with their email address for your free e-book or for notifications of every time you post new blog content or whatever action you want them to take.

Conclusion – Write for Marketing.

As you can see, it’s a process to write for marketing. You can’t just write to the masses and expect to solve all their problems. You need to research and know your customer/buyer persona/avatar in great detail. While learning who they are, you will begin to empathize with and have a desire to truly help them with their problems. Then provide content to them that adds value by educating and informing. As repayment from your buyer persona for providing this great content, your business will become the go-to business for your particular niche. Why else would you have a business that offers products or services?

Are you having trouble creating your buyer persona or avatar and trying to write for marketing?