By Geo A. Ropert
I always try to write blogs that will give my readers valuable information, believing that knowledge not shared is knowledge wasted. I’m happy to provide insights, tips, even secrets that can help entrepreneurs and small business owners beat the odds and not only stay in business – according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 50% of startups don’t survive through their first year – but thrive.
Knowing that most startups and young organizations can’t afford to hire professional PR and marketing firms or add a dedicated staff member to their team to handle those tasks, I don’t mind helping them learn the strategies my partners and I use to earn our clients media coverage, grow their social media presence and influence, and establish a trusted brand identity.
Why? Well, I’ll be honest. If I can help them succeed while they’re getting started, maybe when they reach the Stage II level they’ll have come to know and trust me, and hire my firm to help take their PR and marketing to the next level. This will be the time when having pros in place is critical if they’re to compete with others in their field and dominate their marketplace.
If you’ve reached Stage II in your business, congratulations! Only half of the businesses that make it past their first year make it to the five-year mark, and only a third make it to ten. You’re creating jobs, contributing to growth in the economy, seeing the fruits of your labor and, hopefully, making some better money. Notice I didn’t mention all the challenges you have overcome and will still face, and that they grow as your company grows; you know that. Let’s stay positive here!
Now, you’re in the place where you can put more focus into growing your brand recognition and reputation, and build strong, lasting relationships with your target audiences through well-developed and implemented public relations strategies. You’ve reached the point where investing in effective marketing is not only possible but necessary if you’re to increase your sales and your profits.
And where PR and marketing once operated largely in silos, today they are more integrated than ever. Ensuring a company’s brand and message is consistent across several communication platforms, especially with the rapid rise and evolvement of digital media, means that the two disciplines now work together to build faith and trust in your brand and demand for your products or services. Hiring a reputable firm or a seasoned professional, or two, to lead your efforts is a smart idea.
Start with PR
Having a solid public relations plan that’s executed by a professional will help guide your brand’s growth and will be one of the most cost-effective ways to generate awareness of your company and its products and services. While marketing will do its part in building sales, positive news and stories about your company will do more to attract potential customers, gain their trust and get them to do business with you.
A PR pro will know how to communicate with the media, your stakeholders and your target audiences, crafting messages that address each of their unique perspectives and needs, and deliver them across traditional, digital and social media. They’ll have experience in a variety of ways to get publicity, from media relations to press conferences, and from special events to recognizing a client or employee who made a difference. They can write your press releases, blogs, social media posts, research and white papers, or prepare your annual report, all containing keywords and phrases that reinforce your brand message.
Your firm will also know how to utilize the myriad tools available to them for communicating and building relationships, and they’ll also be able to measure your company’s public relations efforts and relate them back to the achievement of sales goals.
Mix in the Marketing
Marketing is as much science as art. Today, it’s nimble and can take advantage of technology to monitor and address trends and tendencies as they’re occurring. The path that a prospective customer takes, from initial interest to purchase, can be tracked, analyzed and improved with each interaction they have with your business.
You’re at the point when implementing some advanced advertising and promotion tools will go far towards reaching deeper into and connecting with your target markets. Marketing communication tools abound, so your team can find those that best meet the needs of your business model. The metrics they produce can be used to define client personas and identify opportunities and challenges for completing a sale in a variety of scenarios; and feedback can be almost immediate.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and a robust digital and social media presence are a must and so is the ability of the firm you hire to fully utilize them to their greatest benefits. With a quality CRM program you’ll be able to establish and grow customer relationships by generating predictive communication that engages them, gets their attention and then gets them to take action. Your CRM will complement your front-facing marketing by keeping track of where your customers came from, what they saw or heard that brought them to you, and what you can do to best serve them.
All digital and social media are not created equal, not by a long shot. Effective marketing will address these differences by creating written and visual content, often in hand with public relations, that appeals to the user demographic in which it appears. Copy and style differs with each, as does how and when it is communicated, but the message remains consistent, creating that repetition that is so important to the buying cycle.
A Need for Separation
As you’ve grown, you’ve also seen the need for separation between PR/Marketing and sales. It’s highly advisable. Your communication professionals are there to grow your brand and promote your products and services. Your sales team will use what has been created and shared to build relationships and close the deals. Let them each accel at what they do best.
I know it’s been a journey to get where are you are today. Your time, effort and sacrifice haven’t gone unnoticed. You’ve probably done a lot of the work yourself but now it’s time to get strategic, to get the right people in place who do what they do very well, so you can focus on your greater mission and vision.
Geo A. Ropert, APR is the founder and president of Ropert and Partners Public Relations.