Small businesses often feel that public relations aren’t something they can afford. Public relations is synonymous with big business, expensive marketing and advertising budgets, and hundreds of employees. Who has time to develop public relations and spread it around when you have an entire business to manage, anyways?
If you do any business through word-of-mouth, you’re already doing more public relations work than you might realize. If you and your business contribute to local events and engage your community with promotions, online and print media, and advertisement of any kind, you’re on your way to mastering public relations. Today I’m going to look at the word-of-mouth side of self-promotion and how you can capitalize on your network.
Good News Gets Around Fast
If you know your business is providing a valuable new service to your community, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell customers and other local business owners. Drumming up goodwill from your visitors is a great way to spread the word that you’re open and ready for business. To spread that message around, though, you have to deliver it first. Tell anyone that might seem interested—don’t start and end with friends and family. Tell your neighbors. Tell the business across the street. Write your local newspaper or nightly news broadcast. Even tell your competitors!
You shouldn’t be afraid to lean on others to get that message across either. As a small business owner it’s easy to slide into the mindset that you’re competing against more businesses than you actually are. Reaching out to other relevant businesses and asking them to help promote you to their customers isn’t unheard of—ever seen those pinboards filled with other business cards and offers? You can also form valuable long-term partnerships with other local businesses this way.
Generosity Does Wonders For Business
If you aren’t engaging with your community and giving back through projects and services, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to leverage your business’s reputation to your benefit. The Giver’s Gain is a philosophy worth living by: if you want better business and more professional contacts, you have to give a little to get a little. Giving and helping others is an excellent way to not only build your network, but also leverage your current network and customer base for valuable gains.
Helping people will give you chances to connect with people you might have never met otherwise, or open you up to new opportunities that can help drive new business to you. Your generosity will inspire others, and the chain of giving and helping others will keep on going—and eventually it could come back to you. You will also establish a generous reputation for yourself and your business, which in turn attracts other generous people and businesses to you. Potential customers and clients will recognize your generosity and will feel more compelled to come to your business. And most importantly, you’ll feel great doing it!
Bridge The Digital Divide & Build Business With Social Media
Social networking has breathed new life into networking and connecting with others. Local businesses can go national, even international through social media interaction online. For instance, if you need some friends in the press, look no further than LinkedIn: 92% of all journalists have a personal account there. All sorts of people are on Twitter as well, not to mention Facebook.
With over 120 million users, LinkedIn is an invaluable asset for professionals seeking to build a robust contact list. Professional and special interest groups abound, and are a great way to connect and build professional relationships with people across the country or across the world. You can get valuable advice from real professionals and provide some of your own for others—advice that could turn into a business partnership or a new opportunity.
Twitter is also an incredible networking and leveraging tool for your business. I always emphasize the social media side of marketing, but Twitter is a valuable tool for networking and relationship building as well. You can participate in group discussions and reach out to new people using hashtags and by replying to interesting tweets. You can flesh out relationships with interesting people you’ve met over Twitter later, and leverage those social relationships further down the line.
Bottom Line: Good Publicity Comes Naturally To Generous People
Social media, the internet, and changing cultural values have emphasized the personal over the professional, above all other things. Professional networking has reflected this change: the game is no longer simply about swapping business cards and taking advantage of someone’s skills when you need them. Now, networking is like a first date: you have to really get to know someone personally as well as professionally in order to leverage that contact later on down the line.
Once you’ve developed these valuable relationships, you can begin to leverage your contacts. Ask for some professional advice. Request that someone set up an affiliate advertisement to your website on their blog. Form affiliations that drive valuable web traffic and interested customers to and from related businesses to increase conversions on both ends. Help others, and they’ll help you: the leveraging possibilities are endless when you build beneficial relationships for everyone involved.
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