Tag Archives: Small Business Marketing

Pros and cons of outsourcing your marketing

Coworkers meeting in trendy business office.If you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been too busy with other aspects of your business to think about marketing, you may be considering outsourcing your marketing efforts to an agency.

If, however, the thought of hiring an agency and paying thousands of dollars for your marketing intimidates the hell out of you, you’re not alone. One way to get around the fear is to think rationally about the pros and cons associated with outsourcing. That way you will be much more comfortable if, and when, the time comes to pick a marketing agency.

Pro: Saving time

Perhaps the biggest benefit of outsourcing your marketing is the amount of time you save. If you don’t have much experience with marketing, you may not be willing to take the time to learn all the ins and outs. Because an agency’s main focus is on marketing, this allows them to dedicate more of their time to your brand’s needs than you possibly ever could. Hiring an agency to do your marketing can save you valuable time that you can use to focus on your own area of expertise.

Con: Price

The first con that might pop into your head is cost. You may not be in a position to spend thousands on outsourced marketing or may not see the value in paying someone to do something you can learn to do yourself. The cost of hiring an outside agency is definitely something to factor in, especially if you’re at an early point in your business.

Pro: Experience

The only thing worse than no marketing is bad marketing. If you aren’t experienced in marketing, you risk creating campaigns that aren’t received well by your audience and don’t reap the benefits that a good marketing strategy should. Hiring an agency to handle your marketing can be beneficial because they likely have more experience than you and can produce high quality results. An experienced marketing firm will be able to provide your business with all the necessary tools required for a substantial marketing presence, from social media to search engines. The key to finding the right agency for your business is to do plenty of research beforehand and make sure the agency’s experience fits your brand.

Con: Being on the same page

Another reason you may shy away from hiring an outside agency is the fear that they won’t understand the vision you have for your company. Often times it can be difficult to find the right people who are truly able to be understand your thoughts and your business. Your brand’s personality may be lost when hiring a marketing agency that doesn’t understand what you are looking for. It is important to make sure you understand who you are working with before you hire an agency to make sure you get the most out of your relationship.

Pro: Outside perspective

An agency provides a fresh, objective perspective on how to market your company. It is easy to be blinded by your own ideas when you have worked so hard on creating a successful company. Outsourcing your marketing allows an unbiased party to say what they feel is best for your marketing strategy. It’s also easier for them to provide constructive criticism that will help your marketing strategy in the long run.

Con: Less control

When working with an agency, you may feel that you’ve given up a certain amount of control. While you may have less say in the decisions that are made in regards to marketing, your agency is dedicated to the business and you are the overall decision maker. You hired an outside team for a reason — they often have more experience and will likely have a better understanding of what’s best for the business. It’s important to understand this compromise when outsourcing your marketing. If maintaining a large amount of control is important to you, outsourcing marketing may not be for you.

About Lauren Usrey: Lauren is a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications has offices in Austin, Denver and Houston and provides digital marketing and PR services for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

 

 

Summer content marketing tips

If you’re like most people, the first things that come to mind when thinking about summer are vacation, beach and relaxation. It’s safe to say that content marketing doesn’t make the cut.

While summer may feel like the time to take a break, content marketing is just as important during the summer as it is during the rest of the year. Creating and generating content that leads back to your business will help raise brand awareness, increase your search engine rankings and ultimately get your brand in front of possible leads.

If you need some motivation, here are some content marketing tips for your summertime strategy.

Stay consistent

The best way to stay fresh on people’s minds is to continue posting content on a regular basis. It takes time for your target audience to recognize your brand, and consistency is key to increasing that recognition. Even if you’re planning on taking a summer vacation, you can easily create content and schedule it ahead of time with one of the many social media scheduling platforms out there.

Summer themed

You can use the season to your advantage by tying it into your content marketing strategy. Consider writing a blog post on the ‘Best business reads for the beach’ or adding some fun summer ideas that incorporate your product or service into your email newsletter. Staying on theme will make your brand relatable and pique more interest from your audience.

Partner up

Summer is a slow time for everyone. Consider partnering up with another brand with similar goals to create content that both audiences would benefit from. You could do an Instagram giveaway with each other’s products, or could even have them write a guest blog post for the company blog. It’s a win-win for both parties involved!

Guest appearances

Referrals from others are an easy way to get new business. Try to see if you can guest blog for a popular website, or even be a guest on a podcast. It helps your business’ credibility to have others promote you every once in awhile.

Recycle

If the summer ends up making you too busy to crank out new content every week, at least recycle old content to make sure your content marketing efforts don’t go stale. Repost old videos or reference past blog posts, but try to add in a summer twist so that it makes sense to the current reader.

About Sam Lauron:  Sam Lauron is a Communications Associate at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with digital marketing, social media, blogging and tech PR activities and helps run the newly launched Startup Over Coffee, a crowdsourced map of local startup resources. Manzer Communications provides digital PR and marketing services in Austin, Denver and Houston and for any national brands seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

12 Days of Christmas PR Tips

IMG_0274If you’re like me, you hate that Christmas is starting earlier and earlier each year. It used to be that the start of the holiday shopping season was the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, which meant we could have a nice, quiet family gathering punctuated by some college football before venturing out the next day for the season’s hottest deals.

What does that mean if you are hoping to get your business in the news in time for the sliding holiday schedule? Get ready sooner, plan to run a PR campaign longer and be as creative as possible to stand out from the pack.

In my own version of the 12 Days Christmas (only now it’s probably closer to 45 days), here are some DIY PR tips to help you grab a stocking-full of media mentions:

1. Start Early: If you are in retail, then you should be planning for the holidays in early summer. Many print magazines are planning out their holiday issues 3-6 months in advance. Online pubs don’t start as early but you want to get the jump on the competition; plan on reaching out to them as early as September (now!). Newspapers might plan out their holiday content 1-2 months in advance, depending upon the size of the publication. Finally, TV news has the shortest lead-time but you still need to start early in order to be top-of-mind as they plan their morning and weekend news shows.
2. National vs. Local: Decide if you want to go after the national media or local ones instead. Keep in mind that going after national media is very, very hard because everybody wants to get national coverage, especially in lifestyle pubs that reach millions of consumers. If your brand depends upon local customers then that’s where you should focus your attention.
3. Call-to-Action: If you are planning a holiday event or there is some kind of date which is critical like a post-Halloween Christmas sale, then be sure to tell the media about it as they are often motivated by time deadlines (especially TV news).
4. Lists: Media outlets LOVE lists. In fact, they call them “listicles.” It results in more eyeballs for a TV show, hands on a newspaper or clicks to a website. The more unique your gift ideas, the better. For restaurants, you could ask if media outlets are doing lists on holiday beverages, dishes or party venues.
5. Email vs. Phone: Most journalists prefer you email them, unless you are already on a first-name basis and they can trust you to send good story ideas. Otherwise, try emailing a couple of times before picking up the phone.
6. Social Media: Sometimes you can pique the interest of a reporter with a well-written tweet or Facebook post. Just be careful not to abuse the trust with too many solicitations.
7. Doing Good: The holidays is a busy time for altruism and thus it’s harder to get on the radar of media outlets for any events you may decide to launch. Toy collections, coat collections, holiday meal give-aways…the list goes on. If you decide to pursue a holiday event then be prepared to start early and don’t give up on it if you don’t get much media coverage the first time through.
8. Holiday Trends: Not every news mention needs to fit into the perfect little holiday story with a bow on top. Sometimes you can ride a trending news story if it relates to your business and the holidays. Say there’s a massive amount of snow in Colorado and your business helps book ski tours then consider pitching a story about a perfect way to spend Christmas at a Colorado ski resort.
9. Don’t forget New Years: It’s part of the holidays, too! Expand your horizons by a week and you will increase your chances of getting picked in the news.
10. Visuals: Be sure to have lots of good visuals in the form of high-resolution pictures, images and videos to share with the media. It makes it that much easier for media professionals to work with you.
11. Samples: The jury is out on whether you should send unsolicited samples of what you make or sell to the media. The bottom-line is that sending out products won’t be the reason why you are picked for a story; it’s the quality (and timeliness) of your story idea. My recommendation is skip the samples; work harder on making your pitch memorable, then offer samples.
12. Don’t give up: Just because you don’t hear back from a reporter doesn’t mean you should give up. Wait a couple of days and reach back out. Just don’t turn into a pest, or cop an attitude – they are doing you the favor, not the other way around.

Those are your 12 Days of Christmas tips for a fun, festive holiday season. Feel free to ask us any questions or post any of your time-honored PR tips!

About Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR and marketing firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

Thanksgiving Day Promotion Ideas for your Small Business

With Thanksgiving Day approaching you have more ways to grow your business’ brand awareness through your local news media.

Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions for a variety of businesses:

 

  1. Seasonal Recipe: if you are a restaurant or bar, share a great “Thanksgiving Recipe” for a dish or beverage with the local newspaper or online cultural review. Make sure they give you credit and don’t be afraid to ask for a link back to your website.Thanksgiving Giving: sign your company up for a day of support for the homeless – humans, pets, or humans and their pets – and let the TV news know about your plans.
  2. Start a Race: some towns have annual races on Thanksgiving to raise money and awareness for a special cause. If your community doesn’t, maybe your business can start one.
  3. Turkey Hotline: start a group that has a hotline for struggling families who are in need of a cooked turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving; work with other businesses and nonprofits to get them cooked and delivered.
  4. Black Friday / Thanksgiving Thursday: Big Box stores have gotten a lot of publicity for their plans to open on Thanksgiving Day. If you are a small retailer and want to fight back, tell the media you will open early as well and will have special offers for early holiday shoppers.
  5. Thanksgiving Travel – Part 1: if you are in the travel industry, let local news media know about travel tips people should consider on what is usually one of the busiest travel days of the year.
  6. Thanksgiving Travel – Part 2: if you own an automobile shop, then contact the media with a list of reminders people should keep in mind before heading out on the road trip to grandma’s.
  7. Turkey Tips: if you are a caterer, share your best tips with local TV news stations on how to select the right turkey for the family, how to cook it just right, then carve it so it looks like a turkey right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
  8. Small Business Saturday: the Saturday after Black Friday is when small retailers get the spotlight. If you are a small boutique or specialty food store, reach out to newspapers or TV news stations with information about your plans.
  9. 3D Turkeys: with all the buzz around 3D printing, find a 3-D printer and create your own edible 3D Thanksgiving. I hear chocolate is now being used in 3D printers, so maybe other edible materials are to.
  10. Bitcoin: yes, another tech buzz term could win you some media coverage. If you are a restaurant, maybe you accept only Bitcoins in lieu of real money for a Thanksgiving Day meal.
  11. There’s an App for Thanksgiving: so you created an app that is related to food shopping, recipes, restaurants, etc. Look for ways to show how the app can help families find unique, creative ways to enjoy the day.
  12. Giving Thanks for Veterans: veterans have put it all on the line for over a decade now in far away places like Afghanistan and Iraq. What if you got a bunch of businesses to give away free turkeys to the vets in your community? Distribute them in a Humvee for effect or play on the infamous MRE (made-ready-to-eat) food all vets came to loathe.
  13. Vegan Thanksgiving: vegans are a vocal minority so if you are a vegan restaurant or make vegan products for sale in grocery stores, Thanksgiving is a good time to emphasize the alternative recipes to traditional ones based on meat and dairy products.

The rest is up to you. Be creative, zig when other zag, and you just may get some valuable attention from your local news outlets.

The Holidays Come Earlier Each Year, So Should Your PR Campaign

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go!” Tra-la-la-la-la-laaah.

Old timers complain the Christmas season doesn’t officially start until the day after Thanksgiving, on Black Friday. Not anymore.

Holiday music is making its way into stores along with festive, winter decorations and fur-lined boots and mittens. Walmart, Best Buy and Macy’s are starting their sales on Thanksgiving Day, before the turkey gravy has even had a chance to congeal. Car advertisements from Mercedes Benz tell us what the 1%ers can expect in their Christmas stockings this year.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from the holiday season where retailers are supposed to make up to 50% of their annual sales in a little over 30 days.

With holiday shopping coming sooner every year, that means your PR campaigns should start even earlier, too.

Want to get your store or restaurant into a print magazine for a holiday issue? Sorry, you’re about 2 months late to the party. Next year, start pitching your story in September as most magazines plan their issues 2-4 months in advance.

If you want to reach out to a local newspaper or online community ezine, then you should start pitching them now. They are probably assigning holiday articles as you read this so don’t wait a second more.

Local TV news stations like to get into the holiday spirit, too. The good news is they typically don’t plan their coverage more than a week in advance. Still, if you are planning to host kids at your pet store to make stockings for their dogs, cats and hamsters, then you may want to start pitching about 2 weeks out and then touch base again the following week.

Got a special drink menu at your coffee shop or bar? A cultural online digest for your town may want to share a recipe, and your business name, with its readers.

Don’t forget Thanksgiving, either! Just because it’s become a formality to get out of the way so we can start shopping ourselves silly doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice media mention for your nonprofit or business.

The trick is to be creative with your story idea to stand out from the rest of the holiday PR dribble. And, of course, get started now!

How to get your small business in the news in 90 days or less

At PR over Coffee, we dwell on the many ways a small business (or nonprofit) can boost its brand and profits with guerrilla, do-it-yourself PR tactics. To that end, here is a list of 10 ways you can get your small business in the local news in as little as 90 days:

  1. Ask a reporter out for coffee and let him or her know about some of the interesting new initiatives you are pursuing
  2. Look for national news trends and pitch a reporter on how your business is representative of that trend (e.g., offer to talk about how your business is implementing the Affordable Care Act; tell them how a government shut-down could impact your company and community; or talk about how you are embracing the “Farm-to-Market” movement by buying all of your ingredients within 100 miles of your community)
  3. Partner with a nonprofit: find a way to partner with a local nonprofit to get some attention for the nonprofits cause and how you’re encouraging innovative business partnerships
  4. Enter an industry competition: some community media outlets sponsor “Best Workplaces” or “Fastest 50 Private Business” awards; others sponsor industry competitions like office designs, or Addy awards, or barista and bartender competitions.
  5. National Days & Months: every day and month there is a celebration of something: “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” “National Ice Cream Day,” “National Bird Feeding Month,” even “National Cheeseburger Day.” Find a clever way to celebrate the special occasion and let the local TV news know about your plans in hopes of winning a studio interview or getting a film crew to come out to your event.
  6. Joint Event: one way to keep the cost low is to coordinate an event with another local business. For example, I worked with a premium olive oil retailer in Austin on a special dinner pairing of food from an Italian restaurant and unique oils and balsamic vinegars served with wines from a local winery. We got an interview for both businesses.
  7. Seasonal Offerings: be the first to hit the media with unique offerings related to the holidays. Ask a newspaper to include your offering in a list of items perfect for Mom’s on Mother’s Day, fun activities for kids over the Winter Holidays, etc.
  8. Hire somebody lately? Tell the local news about your recent new hires as they probably have a “People on the Move” section highlighting new employment and promotions.
  9. Offer your expert opinion: I was interviewed in Austin about Lance Armstrong’s interview by Oprah because I had a good relationship with the ABC News affiliate and they wanted a PR expert to talk about how the interview could help/hurt Armstrong. Reach out to the media when you see something important happening (nationally or locally) and offer to be an expert source.
  10. Launched a new business? Most media will cover a small business just because they launched, especially if you opened a bricks-and-mortar business like a restaurant, retail store, car wash, etc.

Many of these tips are proven PR tactics for small businesses. I have personally used many of them for myself and my clients to great effect. If you pick two or three from the list above and set a 90-day goal of purpose-driven PR, I promise you will find a media outlet interested in covering your latest news.

Happy pitching!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

Creative PR Tips for Small Business Owners

To be a successful small business you have to be memorable. Bland, uninspired, status quo just won’t cut it anymore. When’s the last time you got excited buying a box of Saltines?

To succeed in PR, you have to be creative and memorable, too.

Reporters are just as starved for authentic small business stories as consumers are starved for great products and service. That explains why I eat lunch once a week at a restaurant like the Noble Pig here in Austin, Texas and not at any one of 100 Subways or McDonald’s around town.

The little-known truth is that PR forces small businesses to discover what is authentic about their products or services, then find creative ways to make them relevant to a particular audience.

Case in point: yesterday I had coffee with a holistic medicine practitioner in Austin. He asked me what the secret is for a business like his to get media coverage in a market saturated with every imaginable kind of alternative medical practice. I explained that it’s a lot like the algebraic equations my daughter is learning in math class this year. (He raised a skeptical eyebrow, too…)

Since we’re solving for Newsworthiness, I told him, the equation goes like this:

Newsworthiness = ((C + T) – M) * E

Where:
C = Creativity
T = Timing of your news
M = Marketing schlock
E = Effort you put into the pitch

In other words, you are newsworthy only if you can come up with a creative idea about your business, peg it to a trending or seasonal topic (think seasonal allergies or New Year’s Day), subtract out as much marketing hype as possible, then reach out to the media until you get a Yes or No response.

Creativity is quite possibly the single-most potent variable in the small business PR equation. Frankly, it’s really hard to get a reporter, who is bombarded with news pitches all day long, excited about the same old Halloween pitch about a dentist who buys back Halloween candy because she cares about your kid’s dental health. Yawn.

To stand out, you have to be different. Bold. Outrageous. (This is where creativity comes in handy.)

Do something the seen-it-all media hasn’t seen before! For instance, the aforementioned dentist could create a list of low-sugar candies (still tasty, don’t be a total buzz kill on Halloween) that parents should consider purchasing instead of the normal teeth-rotting, stomach-bulging treats.

Of course you can have the most creative ideas in the world but if your timing stinks then you’ll get shot down every time.

Still, creativity is the goose that lays golden PR eggs so be sure you spend a lot of time coming up with fun, alternative, shocking or just plain goofy ideas.

The media will thank you for it because, when it’s all said and done, you’re making their job that much easier.

Happy pitching!

About Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR and marketing firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

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