The difference between an average firm and a high-profile, high-revenue business boils down to branding strategy and the tools used to implement that strategy. Because it remains true that people purchase from those they know, business owners must think about name recognition or branding their product or service. Repeat business occurs because people remember you—the quality of your product, good service and your story. It’s all about being a buzz master and knowing how to spin your business across all communication channels.
Consumers are switching from the telephone directory to search engines to find products and services. Flyers and TV advertising must be complemented with e-mail advertising and Web sites. It therefore is necessary to include Web 2.0 in the business strategy and, thankfully, it doesn’t drain the bank account. Web 2.0 is the catch phrase for social media—blogs, e-mail, newswires and search engines—that make it easy for business owners to put their brand on an e-magazine that’s read around the world. Not to use technology or adjust to the presence of the Web as a communication channel may threaten the survival of your business.
Julie Kehoe, head of Outcast Communications’ New York operations, says her office uses virtual marketing through bloggers, video news releases, “smart releases” and podcasts to realize clients’ objectives. Does this sound over your head? Stick around, it’s within your reach.
Regardless of staff size, territory or industry sector, every enterprise needs to toot its horn. I hope you have the actual brass instrument and a digital music file. It comes down to tools and forming relationships. It is also respects the power of one person who knows how to deploy technology.
Power of the Individual
Recently, public relations executives were queried about how they promote their clients. Their ideas are useful to business owners who are doing their marketing and public relations on their own. Lisa Bass, managing director of e-MediaPro, stresses that all value resides in the individual. “Given the change in the social economic order from postindustrial to support technology, people are dictating the terms of engagement. Business now has to accommodate the individual,” she says, meaning small-business owners must utilize the same mediums by which individuals receive their information—blogs, e-mail, etc.—as their marketing tools.
With the right tools a small shop can appear large and handle big orders. Bass recommends using Evite, Constant Contact and What Counts to manage bulk e-mail. To brand your e-mail page, use eBrandit or MS Outlook, so that your e-mail shares the same corporate face as your Web site, letterhead and business cards. Try video/audio streaming from your Web site. This is easily accomplished if you use a Mac computer. For Windows, it requires downloading an inexpensive add-on to MS Media Player. Other tools include online media list management software and such Web-based media relations management applications as Logix. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) and handheld computers keep people connected to the job, clients and the Web. Sales personnel and executives can use these tools to draft letters, prepare presentations and check their calendars while sipping coffee at a diner.
Chris Capra of Lotus Public Relations concedes that these tools give smaller firms flexibility in work configurations and capacity to serve. They allow boutique and small firms to have a bigger presence and allow staff to work from various locations, he says. For Ruder Finn’s Gerard Crichlow, using these tools amounts to a “green approach” to work process and work product, that is, the paperless office.
Wherever a business starts in deploying technology—be it Constant Contact for sales notices or launching an interactive Web site—human interaction can’t be beaten. There’s nothing like sharing a meal and a laugh with a business prospect. Handwritten thank-you notes still have high impact.
By Akosua Albritton