Harness the Power of Free Ink

You don’t have to pay a cent to get your name and message out there. Check out the following plan for taking advantage of free outlets for promoting your small business.

How many of you are frustrated and bewildered by the “Small Business Marketing Paradox?” We all recognize the critical need to do more and better marketing of our products or services to survive and thrive. But, few of us have the knowledge and skills to do it ourselves. Yet, we hesitate to—or can’t afford to—invest in having experts do it for us. The result is that we often do nothing. Bad idea.

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    If you have more money than time, find a pro—or several—who can help you figure out your marketing plan and carry it out. If you have more time than money, consider Harnessing the Power of Free Ink, a “No-Budget Marketing” strategy that I’ve found very useful for sustaining my business over the last 27 years.   

    So, why bother to get free ink?

    Well … here are three really important reasons.

    Really Important Reason No. 1: It builds brand awareness. Writing articles in industry, association and business printed and electronic publications can create positive exposure and name recognition for you and your business. The exposure helps connect the dots linking you, your value proposition and expertise.

    Really important reason No. 2: It establishes expertise. That exposure can, in turn, enhance your credibility and image. Readers generally assume people who write articles must be experts. Not necessarily true, but their perception is your reality. Take advantage of it. Credible articles may also differentiate you from competitors who are equally, if not more, qualified but who don’t have similar exposure.

    Really important reason No. 3: It enhances marketing. Printed or electronic copies of the articles can become no-cost credible marketing support tools you can send to prospects and customers. A simple little “I thought you’d find this interesting” note helps you keep in front of the market without ever selling or asking for the business.

    What do you write about?

    Simple: Write about what you know, do or provide, but don’t sell. Talk about the importance of IT security, not your specific software tool. Discuss the advantages of managing customer relations, not your CRM package. Highlight ways to reduce presentation fear, not hiring you as a speech coach. Make sure your content supports your image as an expert and potential resource willing to provide valuable and useful content.

    Where do you look for free ink?

    This is also easy. The list is deep and wide:

    • Reach out to local business publications and try to connect their needs with your expertise.
    • Hook up with HARO, Help A Reporter Out. This service connects reporters and bloggers with content experts like you. You write pro bono, but can gain excellent and even national exposure. I’ve had several HARO pieces in the last two years.
    • Search independent blogs writing about your areas of expertise, business focus or industry. Reach out and offer your services. Some have huge audiences and loyal followers.
    • Search the editors of electronic and print publications produced by the local, state or national trade, industry or professional groups you belong to and support. They’re always looking for interesting content that would appeal to their member/readers.
    • Here’s one most people don’t think about: Search your larger clients for the blogs they send out to their customers. See if they could use some of your content to help educate or inform their readers.

    Now what do you do?

    Good for you. Someone else has just created a credible and objective tool to help you grow your business. Now, get as much value from it as you can with the following suggestions:

    • Thank the source for the exposure, of course.
    • Post the piece, with permission, on your site in a special category or as a news item. Include the full text or a link to the source.
    • Reference it in your blog or eLetter, again with a link to the source.
    • Send out a note to colleagues, prospects or clients with a link so you can gently keep in front of them.
    • Include the full text with other support materials you send prospects or leave behind after sales pitches.
    • Send it out to professional groups you’re involved with or support whose members might benefit from the content.

    So, Harness the Power of Free Ink to support your No-Budget Marketing” plan. The return on your investment can be enormous. And do let me know how it works for you.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  


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    Visual marketing has been proven to be an effective way for businesses to stick out in the minds of their customers. Courtesy of the visual storytelling experts at Goldfarb Weber Creative Media, here are some tips on how you can fold visual marketing into your overall marketing strategy.

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    This is where Goldfarb Weber Creative Media comes in. Having built their business for the past 45 years, the firm solves clients’ communication challenges with high-end visual media. The company’s 10-person team of producers, cinematographers, writers, editors, motion graphic artists and developers work to advocate for their clients, usually through documentary-style storytelling.

    Mind Your Business had the opportunity recently to sit down with Goldfarb Weber CEO Tony Weber to dive deeper into how visual storytelling can help sharpen a company’s marketing strategy. Here’s what he had to say.

    MYB: Where do your clients need the most marketing help and what solutions has your company provided to help them overcome these challenges?

    Weber: Clients want to create awareness about their organization or company, but often don’t know where to begin. Our solution is to start with a vision or anthem video that puts the stake in the ground of who you are and what you stand for. This is typically a big picture piece that serves as a table-setter, meeting opener, and introduction to your mission, values and impact. This is the video that will be shared throughout your digital landscape. One hundred million hours of video content is watched on Facebook every day and 10 billion videos are watched on Snapchat. Starting your strategy with a vision piece gives you some clarity to break through all the clutter.

    MYB: What are some of the best solutions that your clients have adopted?

    Weber: Having a video marketing strategy is paramount for leveraging the massive audience that social media presents.  Eighty-one percent of individuals have purchased a product or service after watching a video. Your video strategy needs to have goals and the great thing about social is that it can be measured—so you can calculate your ROI. We are experts in determining what type of video works best on what platform (Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, e-mail and broadcast). We determine when the time is right to produce a longer format video with superior production values or when it’s time for more of the short, snackable content. Knowing your audience and what you want them to know, feel and do is a good start. One thing is certain—your video must be formatted for the mobile viewer!

    MYB: What’s the most effective way for a business to tell their story?

    Weber: The most effective way to tell the story of my business is by showing the work we have produced for our clients. I have a PowerPoint presentation that I show at pitches, and I always tend to breeze through our history, and mission and quickly get to showing some of our work. The work is what resonates with potential clients. They can tell that we have mastered the craft of documentary-style digital storytelling and have the ability to capture the heart of a story and establish a personal connection with the viewer.

    MYB: What do you think will be the next big marketing trend as it relates to video?

    Weber: Virtual reality; 360-degree video; live video; vertical; square-shaped videos; e-learning videos. All of these are growing. Lately, I am seeing a big push in animated, explainer videos for my clients. Sometimes, an effective approach is to combine typical documentary-style talking head videos with an animated, info-graphic look. We are also producing a lot of anniversary videos. This town was really on a roll 100 years ago!

    MYB: And now for some shameless self-promotion on our part: How has COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership helped your business?

    Weber: Being involved with COSE/GCP has helped my company in so many ways. First, we are very tied into many things that involve moving this region forward—so having the most updated information and being educated on every business initiative is a must for us. Second, the networking is invaluable for being able to know and converse with the business leaders of this community. And third, knowing best practices and taking advantage of the advice that the business leaders of this community can provide.

    Want to be featured in an upcoming business profile? Become a COSE Investor Member today and secure your spot in our special profile series. Learn more about the benefits of being a COSE Member by clicking here. Or, contact our Membership Team directly via email at memberservices@cose.org or by phone at 216-592-2355.

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    Check out our Social Media Playbook below, featuring tips from Ted Moss of Fresh Squeezed Minds.

    Knowing what to focus on when engaging in social media will help your business score points with customers.

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    Next up: Hiring an Outside Marketing Company: 4 Questions to Consider

    Hiring an Outside Marketing Company: 4 Questions to Consider

    Entrepreneurs often feel a lot of pressure to do everything themselves, but there’s no need to be a hero. Acquiring the services of an outside firm can be the right move. Here are four questions to ask when looking at bringing in a third-party firm.

    Many small business owners try to take on graphic design, social media, public relations and other marketing efforts in addition to sales, operations, finances, HR, and so on. Doing this creates suboptimal results across the board and puts your business at a disadvantage when competing against larger companies with significant marketing resources.

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    Many businesses believe hiring an employee to handle marketing is the way to go. However, hiring a marketing person can be costly and difficult. Not only is finding talent challenging, but If he or she leaves the company, you have now lost that person’s skill and knowledge. As a result, marketing efforts suffer and the business must now invest time and money in hiring and training a new person.

    There is another alternative to tackling your marketing efforts that may be a better fit for your business–hiring a company to do it for you. A company that specializes in helping companies execute their marketing efforts can provide better quality, expertise consistency–leading to better return on marketing investment.

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    CyberOhio was launched last year by the Ohio Attorney General’s office and is a collection of cybersecurity resources aimed at helping Ohio’s businesses fight back against cyberattacks. The goal is to provide the best legal, technical, and collaborative cybersecurity environment possible to help Ohio’s businesses thrive. 

    How can CyberOhio assist your business?  Click here to view our brief interview

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