21 August 2014 By Northern Lights
New figures show the UK has now become the “self-employment capital” of Europe as soaring numbers of entrepreneurs set out on their own road to business glory. While this may be great for the economy, it presents a major headache for the growing number of businesses out there who have to work harder to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
But how do you differentiate your business from your competitors, how do you communicate your offer most effectively and how do you build valuable relationships with potential customers when so many others are trying to do the same?
The answer is PR. For start-ups and small to medium-sized business owners (SME), the benefits of PR can be massive.
Often the hardest thing to do in the early stages of business is to explain exactly what you are offering to potential customers and funders. It’s no coincidence that the first thing Britain’s rising tide of tech start-ups do is appoint a PR agency. They bring in expert communications support to clearly explain exactly what they offer and, most importantly, the benefits it can bring.
Effective PR goes way beyond providing the “oxygen of publicity” and putting you on the front page of your local paper. For SMEs, effective PR is about making sure you are speaking to the people that matter – the people you want to sell to.
That’s why I’ve created the SME PR package for Northern Lights and in this blog I look at the key points to consider for small and medium-sized businesses looking at their communications needs.
Communicating your business offer
When first considering if you need PR support, a good test is to pitch your existing offer or business idea to your mum or a close friend. If they’re struggling to understand what you do or the benefits you can bring, you need PR.
Effective PR is about developing a simple and compelling story about your business and then creating ways to deliver that message to customers.
The rapidly evolving nature of the way we communicate means businesses now have a multitude of options to choose from but, as always, the key is to make sure any communications strategy is highly-targeted.
While you may have garnered 1,000 followers on Twitter, how many of them are people who will want to buy from you? Similarly, while it may feel good to get a page in your trade magazine, are your customers reading it?
Solid PR is about making sure you get a quick and successful message to your clearly defined targets – even if that’s just an audience of one. The services of a PR agency are not just for the big boys; PR agencies are highly adept at communicating your offer by creating quick and cost effective solutions that deliver swift results for SMEs, too.
Raising the profile of your business
That said, profile is also important. By having a strong profile both online and offline, you help to keep your business front of mind when potential customers are considering their options and, most importantly, it helps to maintain relationships with existing clients.
By utilising a PR firm’s contacts and insights, you can ensure that you and your business maintain an engaging and interesting profile through the various social media channels and also secure valuable media coverage to help promote your offer.
Creative PR will ensure that you continue to deliver insights and opinions that attract customers, while also continually helping to make sure you stand out from your competitors. For many, the prospect of appearing in the papers will fill them with dread, but the support of a PR agency can help to ensure sticking your head above the parapet brings only success.
Building business relationships
Perhaps the biggest benefit of PR, is the help it can bring in developing new relationships with other businesses and customers.
Effective communications through newsletters, press reports, social media channels and events are all valuable in building and maintaining relationships.
By maintaining an active and responsive social media presence you can quickly make new contacts and start to develop an understanding of each other. Expert guidance on social media can also help you identify potential new targets and start online conversations to help begin the buying process.
Newsletters and e-bulletins are also hugely powerful in keeping your business front of mind with customers and contacts. By sharing insights and delivering exclusive offers, it once again helps to cement relationships and spark new ideas for further business.
Similarly, press reports and events are great for sparking conversations with people who may not have heard of your services or fully appreciated the breadth of your offer.
The benefits of PR
Put simply, PR is perhaps one of the most powerful ways of growing and developing your business. Sales is all about communicating the benefits of your offer and PR can help you deliver that message to a wider audience.
Inevitably, SME business owners have little time for social media, PR and marketing, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. By investing a small amount of time in communicating what you have to offer, you can quickly see a return for your business.
All too often I get calls saying “I need a bit of PR” and the business owner wants a press release for the local media. However, after a quick chat it soon becomes clear that the greater benefit will come from putting that energy into communicating with a more focussed audience.
So, the next time you think “I need a bit of PR”, stop and ask yourself what you actually want to achieve and carefully consider how best you can communicate that.
If you have any questions about your own PR strategies or ambitions, feel free to get in touch or comment below