Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 4

Press releases are one of the most effective ways of getting free publicity for your small business. Many small business owners fail to capitalize on this method because they just don’t know how to write or successfully submit press releases. This article will show you exactly how to do this so you can add this method to your lead generation and customer acquisition tools, immediately.

What is a press release?

Let’s start by stating what a press release is not. A press release is NOT an advertisement or thinly veiled sales pitch for your small business. Instead it is an informative, newsworthy piece, submitted to the media with the intention of it being included in their publication or programming.

Why should I use a press release?

When published, press releases can draw the attention of your target market to events taking place at your company such as a new product launch, a sale, or a new venture. A successful press release can peak the interest of your ideal prospects and have them beating a path to your door.

You can also use press releases to establish yourself as an authority or expert in your field, an excellent strategy for building credibility in the eyes of your audience.

What can I write about?

The short answer is you can write about anything newsworthy that would be of interest to editors, journalists or producers of publications and programming for your target prospects. Here are seven of my favorite, tried and tested, newsworthy events to spur your press release ideas:

  • Events related to current affairs and news
  • An amazing, incredible and/or unusual story
  • Results of survey or study
  • Customer case study
  • Community events and involvement
  • Lists, related to timely news
  • Timely “how to” information

The most important thing regarding the subject of your press release is to be sure that it is newsworthy material your media contacts will want to publish. Never, ever submit blatant advertisements or sales pitches for your products, services, or business as press releases. You may create an unfavorable representation in the mind of the media professional that may prove difficult to overcome.

How do I write a press release?

When writing a press release, this first and foremost thing you should have in mind is your audience. Remember: your primary audience is NOT you target prospects. It is the media representatives who publish or produce programming for your target prospects.

As in all marketing, you write with your audience in mind. In the case of press releases, you are writing to editors, journalists and radio or TV producers. Your media contacts must find your release compelling or your target prospects will never see it. Therefore, the better you target your message to the media, the more likely you are to have your press release published.

Once you have determined what you are going to write about, that is, the point of your press release, you need to state it in a compelling way in your headline. Your headline should grab the reader’s attention and entice them to read more. The principals of writing headlines for direct marketing work beautifully here. If you need help in this area, drop me a line, I’ll be happy to send you some free resources to assist you.

After the headline, comes your introductory paragraph. The goal of this section is to draw the reader into the rest of your release. After your headline, the first 15 words of your introductory paragraph are the most important words of your entire release – choose them wisely.

While I can’t guarantee that every press release will run based solely on the strength of the content of this paragraph, I can absolutely assure you that releases are rejected based on the irrelevance or other perceived weakness of this paragraph. So communicate the most important elements of your story succinctly. Keep this paragraph sort and sweet and reiterate the headline of your story.

In the second paragraph, you can summarize your point. You must be factually accurate. Discuss facts and specifics. In this section you are building credibility. Do not exaggerate, as you will appear untrustworthy.

You might cite a source or an expert to establish credibility for your story. Create a connection in the mind of your reader between your story and the credible source. You could include a quote in this paragraph, ether from the source or from a representative related to your business or from a customer or client. In this section you are building a logical, rational support system for your story. Remember, you are building credibility.

In the third paragraph, I like to inject some personality into the release. This is where you authenticate any claims made in paragraph two and communicate them with enthusiasm and passion. In this paragraph, you connect at the emotional level with your readers.

In the fourth paragraph you elaborate on your story by providing more details. The answers to who, what, why, where, when, and how are included in this section. This is a great place to add bullets to your release. Bullets make this section easy to read and scan and help the reader glean the main points of this section. You could also include some biographical information about a source you quoted earlier in your release, and perhaps extend their message with an addition quote from them.

In the fifth paragraph you can include more specialized details of your story. These details will likely be less important to the general readership as a whole, but could appeal to those interested in the granular level detail of your story.

In the last paragraph you give a general overview of your business. This is a great place to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Once you have written your press release, read it aloud to uncover any sticking points in the sentence structure. Next, proof read the release and eliminate any spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Finally, have at least one other person read your release before submitting it to the media.

How do I format my press release?

Formatting your press release is simple. Forget about fancy formatting, you’re not attempting to win any design awards or dazzle the media rep. with your graphic design skills.

Start with standard, letter size paper. Incorporate at least a one inch margin all the way around the page.

Begin with your headline, in title case (NOT ALL CAPS), in a bolded 12 point font. The bold formatting will draw attention to your headline. The remainder of your release will be in the same font, only without the bold formatting. Use two spaces after each sentence.

Begin the introductory paragraph with your city in capital letters, state and date followed by a dash symbol. Then lead straight into your opening paragraph. For example: LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 1, 2010 – The Ivory Tower Hotel and Casino has announced that…

Wherever possible, limit your release to a single page. If you must, use two pages, but never more than two pages. If you cannot tell your story on a single page, finish the last sentence on the first page and indicate the continuation of the release by ending the first page with the word “more” between two dashes, centered on the page as follows:

– more –

Once you have completed your story, include your contact information. Make it as easy as possible for the media representatives to contact you should they wish to. Include all of your contact information including: street address, phone, fax, email, and website address.

Finally, signal the end of your release with three pound or hash symbols, left justified as follows:

# # #

In the event that you plan to print and submit your release via regular mail and it is more than one page, print on one side of the paper only.

How do I submit a press release?

The best answer to this question is in whatever manner your media contact prefers it. This will depend on the organization you are submitting your press release to and the individual receiving it.

Remember, when submitting your press release you are submitting it to a person, not a machine. Therefore, anything you can find out about that person’s preferences regarding press release submissions can only serve you. Why not call the person directly and ask them? Tell them that you have a story you think their audience will appreciate and communicate the essence of your headline. This approach can create anticipation on the part of the media representative and virtually guarantee that your submission will get noticed, once you submit it.

If you are not sure of how best to submit your release, a call to the organization or a visit to their website will usually clarify this matter for you. Usually, an emailed version of your release is acceptable, even preferred. Always check to be certain.

What do I do now?

Now that you know how to write, format and submit your press release, you are that much further ahead than the vast majority of small business owners who don’t know and haven’t invested the time to find out. My suggestion for you is to schedule 10-15 minutes with yourself either now or later today and review the seven newsworthy events we discussed earlier and come up with at least three angles for your press release.

Then get to work! Pick your favorite angle, write the release and submit it to the media representatives that serve your targeted prospects.

For best results, combine this approach with the other methods you have learned in this series. Why not issue a press release regarding a free offer you are making? How about announcing a joint venture or strategic partnership? The possibilities for generating leads and adding new customers to your small business with these methods are endless. All you have to do is take action and implement the ideas I have shared with you in this series. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to work!

How to Turn Your Small Business Website Into a Sales Generator

It’s unfortunate that so many small business owners end up with a website that isn’t much more than a glorified online brochure that attracts little traffic. If you’re in that situation I’m positive that wasn’t your intention when you shelled out the money and spent the time creating your website. At first you may have simply created a website because you knew you needed one, but other than to have information about your company on the Internet, you may not have had a specific goal for how it would create sales for your business.

Some of the fault for this problem lies with web designers who can design great looking websites, but who don’t explain to their clients that looking great and attracting traffic and sales are two different things. However, I don’t want to get started on that! Let me focus on some changes you can make that will begin to make your website work for you.

There are two kinds of websites, what I call a “rubber” site, where visitors bounce in and bounce out, and “sticky” sites where visitors stay a while and explore and/ or they take action by adding their name to your mailing list or making a purchase. Of course you want a sticky site. Here are some elements of your website that you need to fix to create a sticky site.

1) Navigation bar – make sure that the most important types of information that a visitor might be interested in are easily accessible from your navigation buttons. Limit your navigation buttons to the most general areas. Too many choices can create confusion.

2) Opt-in form on all key web pages. – it’s amazing how many small business owners don’t take advantage of the opportunity to get visitors to sign up for their mailing list. Your mailing list is your lead list. People that come to your website are targeted, pre-qualified leads who are looking for your specific type of information. Companies pay a lot to buy lists of qualified leads and here they are arriving at your website for free! Take advantage of this by offering them a downloadable gift that has value and they will willingly fill out that form. Make sure your opt-in box is at the TOP of your key web pages.

3) Ask yourself these key questions:
* What information do my visitors really want?
* How much can I give away to create value without giving away too much?
* How can I give away enough that people want more, and then show how they can get more by buying your product or service
* What resource will be compelling enough to keep them coming back again and again?

4) Make sure your website is regularly updated to include sticky elements that will keep people engaged and coming back. Here are a few ideas:

* Discussion forum
* Twitter update feed form to show all your latest tweets on your website.
* Regularly updated blog with easy RSS feed subscription sign up so they are notified by e-mail each time there’s a new blog post.
* Free tools or downloads
* Fresh audios, videos, or articles. Ask people to opt-in to get access to these.
* Any resource that they need to check or access regularly – like links or industry news updates.
* Free give-away on pre-determined dates
* E-mails that link them back to different pages on your site
* Serial business “soap opera”. They must come back the next week for the next part in the series and you e-mail them when the answer is available, with the link.

5) Try putting a video on all your key pages. Video gives you an unprecedented opportunity to talk to your website visitors when they’ve never met you. Begin the relationship with the video. Tell them you understand their problems and you’d like to start them on finding a solution by giving them a gift if they opt-in. This is very powerful.

6) Your sales page content: Write customer and benefit focuses sales copy on your web sales pages and include video and strong testimonials. If you are getting traffic to your sales pages but still not generating sales then the problem is one of these:
* the headline needs some changes
* the content doesn’t create perceived value
* the pricing is wrong
* there is a trust issue-which can be improved with great testimonials and a strong, iron-clad guarantee.
Simple changes can increase response.

With a bit of planning and a few weeks of work you can start to get a much better response to your website. I’ve seen small tweaks to the home page of our website increase our opt-in rate by as much as 25% to 30%. Those new subscribers can then be converted into buyers. Your website can dramatically increase your sales if you give it regular attention.

Finally, although your website can generate tons of leads you need to do more to close the sale.

Search Engine Optimization Cost – Tips to Make SEO Costs Easily Affordable for Your Small Business

Search Engine Optimization Costs can be greatly influenced by answering some basic questions about your business and SEO plans, objectives, and other consideration. Here are some questions or issues every small business should resolve before engaging an SEO consultant, or trying to implement SEO themselves:

1.What is the number one priority, objective, or goal that you want to achieve through your online marketing efforts?

  • Are trying to establish your business as an “authority site”?
  • Are you trying to build a community using social media?
  • Are you trying to generate more leads to fill your sales funnel?
  • Are you are trying to attract more customers to a retail or physical location?
  • What is your desired outcome for visitors to your website?
  • What is your “business model” for your online marketing?

The responses to these questions will affect the online marketing strategy, approach, or techniques that are most suitable.

2. The BIG SECRET of Internet Millionaires and virtually ALL Successful Online Businesses…

Actually, this “secret” is painfully obvious – it is one of the fundamentals of achieving success online. But, just as major league athletes focus on the fundamentals of their competitive sports, it is worth highlighting here: TRAFFIC MATTERS MOST – IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENT.

To be more specific – targeted traffic is what matters most. Attracting targeted traffic essentially means that the visitors to your site are already pre-qualified to the extent that you are presenting them with information that is aligned with what they are searching for. This assumes, of course, that the methods used to attract them are consistent with search engine optimization and search engine marketing best practices.

Practicing “Attraction Marketing” or “Magnetic Marketing” or Customer Centric Marketing leads to “friction free marketing” and long-term relationship-building.

3. How do prospects and customers find you now – and how could you attract more?

  • Which keywords do prospects use when they are searching online for what you offer?
  • Where is your business currently ranked for those terms in the search engines?
  • How competitive are the keywords that you are currently using to promote your business?
  • How viable is it that you will be able to rank for those keywords in the near future?

4. What does “Google Page 1 Rankings” actually mean – and why does it matter?

A Google Page 1 Ranking means either that a particular web-page appears on the first page of the natural “organic” Search Engine Results Position (often referred to by the acronym: “SERP”) in response to a search for a particular keyword or keyword search term, OR that an advertiser has outbid all other advertisers to appear in the Sponsored Results.

Google Page 1 Rankings matter greatly because:

  • 81% of people search online before making a purchase.
  • 72% of people use Google when performing online search.
  • 98% of people choose a business on “Page 1” when making a “buying decision”.

Conclusion: If your business isn’t ranked on the first page of Google’s “natural” or “organic” search results, you will be missing out on close to 75% of potential prospects, leads, and sales.

Important Note: Recent metrics evidence that people performing online searches increasingly look beyond the Sponsored Results and directly to the “organic results” for the information they seek.

5. Generating Traffic through Paid Advertising (AdWords, Facebook Ads, CPA, CPC, etc):

Paid Traffic remains the fastest way to generate traffic for new websites, to test keywords, and to “pump” life into websites that are stuck on page 2, 3, 4, 5….157…or otherwise not prominently displayed in the search results….BUT…the value of the bought traffic may be worthless…especially if it doesn’t convert to sales.

When business owners or webmasters get frustrated with their online efforts, there is frequently a temptation to try to make up for lost time by purchasing traffic from advertising brokers (i.e. the “content network”). As tempting as it is to generate “traffic” fast using this method, it should be understood that there are very real risks associated with it.

Anyone with a valid credit card charging capacity can generate traffic fast. Beware, however, that the traffic generated from many of these sources is a total waste of money. Ask almost anyone who has tried it.

Obviously, Google and Yahoo have made literally billions of dollars by selling this kind of traffic (i.e. paid clicks). In the early days of AdWords and AdSense lot of savvy internet marketers created online advertising empires by functioning as advertising “arbitrage” agents. For the past several years, however, many of those very same marketers complain of losing vast sums on advertising campaigns.

Caution: If you choose to use paid advertising to buy traffic, proceed carefully – and limit your spending until you verify that the cost/benefit ratio of your advertising program is within your accepted tolerances, and expectations.

6. Keyword Research – and How to “re-position” your company online (if necessary).

One of the smartest things you can do, and definitely one of the first things you really should do, is to perform some basic keyword research. Only by conducting detailed keyword research can you know how to proceed with your online marketing efforts. Only after performing keyword research can you determine whether you will be wasting time and money (and lost-opportunity costs) by trying to promote your business based on words or terms or “keywords” that are either too competitive, not sufficiently searched, or otherwise non-performing.

You can begin to get a sense about all of this for free by using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

Start by entering a broad term that relates to your business or niche. Then scan the results for the keywords you are currently using.

Then review the competition, both in terms of AdWords and also in the search engine itself. If the first page of natural SERP results is dominated by major corporations, major “authority sites”, or other stiff competition, then that keyword may be difficult to rank for. This is especially true if the SERP results are for main indexed pages.

On the other hand, if the first page of Google returns a lot of “inner pages” (i.e. pages that are on the third hierarchy of the site structure, or lower), and if they are not from “authority sites”, but rather from blogs or smaller sites, then ranking for those particular keywords may be achievable, and perhaps even relatively easy).

7. Knowing Who Your Visitors Are – Capturing Visitor Contact Details for Lead Generation

The single most important missing element from most business websites may be a “lead capture form”. It’s hard to believe that with literally billions of websites published, so many websites lack such a valuable but inexpensive and easy-to-implement tool.

Lead capture forms have been available for at least 10 years. And we have all grown accustomed to using them – as consumers, or as “subscribers”. You may be reading this information as a result of having entered your email address into a basic lead capture form (sometimes referred to as a “squeeze form” or “squeeze page”, depending on how it is implemented).

Lead capture forms are typically integrated with Auto responders such as Aweber, Get Response, iContact, Infusionsoft, 1ShoppingCart, or others.

If you are trying to develop any kind of business intelligence about your website visitors, and trying to establish a follow-up rapport with them, it is essential to incorporate lead capture forms into your website.

At the most basic level, setting up a lead capture form can be accomplished in minutes.

8. Understanding Web 2.0 and How Social Media Can be Leveraged to Facilitate SEO and to Grow Your Business:

Web 2.0 and Social Media are extremely complex and dynamic developments. The easiest way to understand the potential of Web 2.0 and Social Media, in terms of how they can help you grow your business is this: Make It Easy For People to Learn About You and What You Offer – and expand your circle of influence or like-minded “friends”.

Unlike “web 1.0” sites, Blogs are “Web 2.0 ready” – what this means is that they are preconfigured (in most cases) to allow for RSS feeds, Social Network Sharing, Commenting, etc.

It’s no secret that the way Google (and other leading search engines) rank their search results is largely based on what other people think. It follows that the more people who link to your site, the more Google will consider your site to be an “authority site”, or at least a meaningful site, within a particular niche, or for certain keyword terms.

The easiest, cheapest, and one of the most effective things that you can do to improve your search engine optimization is to incorporate a blog into your website (or make it your website), and to create meaningful and relevant content on a regular basis (e.g. 4 times a week or more).

Make it easy for other people and blogs and organizations to get your content and to derive value from you. RSS feeds and Social Bookmarking tools are ideal for this task.