The Web Design Business Kit Chapter 6 – Market Your Business

Marketing your business isn’t hard. There are literally hundreds of ways you might do it. Not all of them work, but you’ll soon have more clients if you follow a few basic steps.

You need a steady flow of prospects to develop your business. An approach that uses many different strategies, all linked together, will have those prospects beating down your door before too long. We’ll discuss these strategies here.

Contrary to popular opinion, your advertising and promotion effort need not be expensive. In fact, it should be very cheap and highly profitable. You don’t want to implement marketing strategies that run at a loss; you want to do what works. You need highly targeted, results-driven marketing. When you generate that lead, qualify the lead, find out how you can help, and then offer a solution, Bingo! Another sale on the way.

Develop a marketing strategy that works. Implement it regularly. Measure its impact. If it works well, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, then stop. That’s how to market your business.

Let’s explore these ideas a little more.

Do Something!

One of the biggest mistakes I see among small business people is that they simply don’t do any marketing. They have to finish off a certain job, they don’t have the money to pay for an advertisement in the local paper, they don’t have the expertise, they don’t have the time… the list of excuses goes on.

But marketing isn’t difficult:

  1. Figure out who might want what you sell.
  2. Ask people to buy it.

There are a million different ways to get the attention of your market …and that means a million different ways to waste money! Being smart about your marketing is important.

There really are countless ways to market your business. Try plenty. Measure the results. Crunch the numbers. If you can have a steady stream of prospects at the door, your business will grow.

But how can you create that steady stream?

Regular marketing means regular prospects!

Regular direct mail, regular advertising, a regular newsletter, regular networking, regular offers to local businesses… Whatever you do, do it regularly, and you’ll generate that steady stream of prospects.

As prospects see your brand in more places, and hear about you from more of their friends, they’ll begin to get used to your name. Once they’re used to your name, they’re only a small step away from feeling that they know and trust you. And then they’ll start calling.

Simply put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients. Ask yourself what might be the most effective way to get their attention, and make your offer.

  • Would it be best to cold call your prospect?
  • Would it be best to write your potential clients a letter to tell them of your services?
  • Would it be best to present a seminar entitled, “Attracting more business using the Internet”?

Let’s look at a real-life example.

Case 6.1. $20k In Thirty Days!

Recently, my company faced the challenge of generating an additional $20,000 of business within twelve weeks. Here’s how we planned to achieve the goal:

  1. Write letters to all our current clients giving them a special offer, which would then be followed up with a telephone call.

  2. Complete a direct mail campaign to 200 local businesses – a three piece mailer
    spread over three weeks.

  3. Run a five week business newspaper advertising campaign.

  4. Launch a PR campaign, including media releases announcing the promotion of a team member, the release of a survey we’ve commissioned, the announcement that the company is the new developer for a major site, and a few others bits and pieces.

  5. Ask all our current clients for referrals.

  6. Attend plenty of networking opportunities.

What were the results of our campaign? The advertisement (costing $70 per week for five weeks) secured us a $7,800 Website deal, with a $300 monthly ongoing marketing fee. The PR campaign delivered another client with $5,000 worth of work and good potential for more (we’re also on a ‘success fee’ structure with that project).

A current client has taken up our offer of site management services priced at $110 per month, and asked us to implement his online marketing campaign (another $5,000 per year). The mail-out to local businesses has generated three qualified leads that we’re now following up. A quick calculation tells me that we’ve achieved our goal of $20,000 in additional income in just a few weeks.

The key point here is that sitting around will only give you a sore behind! You might be a hot designer, but people need to know about your services before you can make a buck.

Get out there and shout from the rooftops!

Key Points

  • Regular marketing means regular prospects.
  • Understand your clients’ problems, then work out how to solve them.
  • Do something! If you’re unsure of whether a marketing tactic will work, try it – and measure the results.

Why Your Marketing Should Be Very, Very Cheap

The point of marketing is to generate interest. What’s the best measure of “interest”?

Leads and sales! The return you generate from your marketing efforts should far outweigh the cost of those efforts.

Marketing your business shouldn’t just be inexpensive – it should be profitable. It should be profitable because it works. It should work because it is highly targeted and effective.

Simple!

Targeted marketing means ROI.

Your success depends on finding people who are not your clients, but should be. The people who should be your clients will not differ much from those who are the current clients of your competitors. That makes sense – these people aren’t your clients, but they have all the characteristics of the people who would buy your services. Let’s illustrate this concept with an example.

Defining Your Market – And How To Reach It

We want to find out what the characteristics of your target audience are, so that we can get an idea of which marketing tools will be the most effective. First up: identifying your market.

There are two things about your market that we can assume to be true:

  • Your prospects with the greatest potential to become your clients will generally live within a fifty kilometer radius of your business.
  • Your prospects with the greatest potential to become your clients will operate a business. That business will probably be a small business – most businesses are.

What we’re trying to do here is find a common thread among your potential clients. Now that we’ve got this information, the next step is to find out how these potential prospects might hear about Web development businesses that offer the services they need.

Remember what we said above: the current clients of your competitors have all the characteristics of the people who would buy your services. And what characteristic – in addition to the ones we discussed above – identifies the current clients of your opposition?

They all have Websites.

It’s time for action! Call businesses in your area who have Websites, tell them you’re surveying the ways people hear of Web development firms, and ask how they first heard of the firm they use. Don’t try to develop the relationship any further than that – you’re just completing research at this stage. The people you call will usually be happy to help… and before you know it, you’ll have a fantastic idea of what tools you should use to market your business to the right audience!

You’ll also have the names and addresses of about 100 people who have Websites, and who now have a relationship with you. Mail them all a “Thank you” letter for participating in your survey, along with a summary of the survey results. Keep in touch, making contact with them every three months. Soon, a few will inevitably start to trickle over to your business.

Research Hint!

Here’s a quick hint to improve the way your survey call is received. We make the results of every survey we complete available to our local media (and, on occasion, national media). When we call businesses that might be in our market, we say something along these lines:

“We’re currently completing a survey that will be made available to XYZ Television Station. The survey question is ‘How did you first hear of the Web design firm that designed your Website?’”

This approach lends you instant credibility, and increases your response rate. If the people on the other end of the telephone know that the survey will be made available to the local TV station, they will search high and low to find you the answer!

Narrowing The Field

These simple steps provide an excellent basis from which to attack your marketing. But focus a little more deeply and you’ll find even more valuable information. For instance, by looking at who has Websites and who doesn’t) you’ll find that, in certain industries, there are more business Websites than in other industries. Let’s assume here that high-tech industries have a higher percentage of businesses with Websites than do any other industry segments.

You’ve now narrowed your target market to include:

  • small business operators
  • who manage high-tech businesses
  • within a fifty kilometer radius of your business

From your survey, you know how most of the businesses in your area hear of Website
designers.

That’s a well-targeted market!

Now you can grab your market’s attention with laser-like precision. Moreover, because your marketing is so well-targeted, it should be very successful.

The moral of this example? It makes no sense to take $5,000 worth of newspaper advertisements and hope for the best if, with just two hours’ work, you can find out exactly how your particular market hears of people in your line of business, and target your promotions, far more cheaply, to them.

Case 6.2. Mmm … Donuts

My business is perfectly situated – it’s directly above a bakery, a café, and a Domino’s Pizza! The café has changed hands three times in the past twelve months. Why? Because the operators don’t target their market.

The market for the café will be people located within a radius of about five kilometers of the store. The absolute best market will be people within a 100 meter radius. An even better market will be people who work in offices within about fifty metres of the café, which is open largely during business hours.

At any point in time, my business might have twelve employees working frantically away. Almost all of us here like to eat lunch out of the office, or at least to go out to buy our lunch, which we then bring back to the office.

Yet, in the twelve months we’ve been in those offices, we have never had the café staff knock on the door and say, “Hey, you guys! Come and eat lunch with us! We make great kebabs, sensational sandwiches and perfect pies, have icy cold drinks and we will treat you like the important people you are! Here’s a voucher for a special deal to try us out this week – come on in!”

You’re in business. You want to sell whatever it is you sell. Tell people about what you sell. Ask them to buy.

The café should be dropping their new menu in to us every week. They should have wandered around the nearby offices and introduced themselves. They should letterbox drop flyers galore. They should have fabulous big signage outside their shop. And they should do whatever they can to tell people that they’re in business, and that they have something to sell. Only then will they start to sell.

The Perfect Lead

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are a million different ways to get the attention of your market.

When people think of “marketing” they tend to think of large, costly tactics. Radio advertising. Newspaper inserts. Be aware that not every marketing tactic you use has to be a large-scale, one-to-many transmission like a flyer or an ad in the local paper. In fact, a small-scale promotion allows you to target with much greater precision the needs of a particular market segment.

We often generate leads from highly qualified prospects. In its simplest form, this promotion might see us run a competition for a lucky customer of the local stationery supply store. The competition’s prize is a free template-based Website. The stationery store owner is happy to allow us to run the competition through his store, as it makes him popular with his clients (one of whom is the lucky winner of a free Website).

We also receive the 100 or so entry forms submitted by competition entrants. We have 100 names, titles, business names, addresses and telephone numbers of business people within our area who have expressed interest in a Website! As you’ve guessed, these forms are the basis of the next step in our marketing process. I can feel some business coming on!

These competition entrants are mailed a “You’re a winner” letter, which informs them that although they didn’t win the free Website, they have won a free mouse pad and a free hour-long consultation with a Web consultant to help them identify whether their business would benefit from a Website. The letter finishes by telling them that the writer will be in touch.

That letter is accompanied by an article we’ve written, titled “Does your business need a Website?” In addition to this, we generally toss in some articles that have been written about us, along with testimonials from happy clients.

Now we have 100 potentially hot prospects expecting a call from us. They expect that we’ll set up a meeting to discuss their needs for a Website. Don’t ask them to call you. They won’t get around to it.

Let’s look at the characteristics of this market segment.

  • They want a Website (otherwise they wouldn’t have entered the competition).
  • They’ve been educated about the benefits of a Website (in your letter and article).
  • They know about our business (which has also benefited from the implied endorsement of the stationery store, which increases our perceived credibility).

From those 100 hot prospects, I’d be surprised if we didn’t make three sales.

  • That’s three new clients. That’s at least $6,000 even if they only want a teensy weensy Website.
  • That’s three more clients on our ongoing list.
  • That’s three more clients to give us referrals.

And here’s another interesting tip: always give the competition winner options for the
site they win. For example, offer:

  1. the template site for free, or
  2. the template site plus a few other added extras for a little money, or
  3. a custom-designed site, with the total bill discounted by $1,000.

They’ll almost always choose from the two options that will cost them money. We have a client who manages a resort and runs a monthly competition for two nights’ free accommodation.

80% of the winners extend the length of their stay by up to five nights! And 42% of the winners re-book to stay within the next twelve months.

Now, these are just a couple of ways to market your business for a minimal investment. Don’t blindly follow the herd by tossing your money away on marketing tactics that don’t work. Research your market, talk with your market, analyze your market – that’s the way to very cost-effective marketing.

Key Points

  • Tightly targeted marketing is inexpensive – and should generate a decent ROI.
  • Research your audience, and use what you learn to refine your marketing efforts.
  • Ask your clients how they found you. This should indicate what marketing channels your prospects will use.
  • The perfect lead is well-qualified. Qualified prospects are best, so try to use marketing tools that prequalify the potential client.

Advertising, Promotion And Public Relations

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of highly targeted promotions and qualified lead generation, it’s time to turn our thoughts to some of the more common marketing alternatives.

In this section, I’ll get a little more specific on advertising, promotion and Public Relations (PR).

We’ll look at how you can assess the potential of a particular marketing tool. We’ll also consider a range of different tools, and what they can and cannot do for you. Lastly, we’ll get into PR in some depth – if you’ve ever wanted to know how to write the ultimate media release, keep reading!

Assessing Your Advertising Options

Just what is the best way to assess your advertising options?

There’s no “right” answer to that question. There are all sorts of cultural, economic and local considerations that impact on the effectiveness of every advertising medium.

However, here are some general guidelines that will help you assess each different medium you consider using.

Use Your Research

Take a look at the audience survey you completed and see if the particular medium
you’re considering is mentioned.

There’s no point advertising in the newspaper if your target market did not identify it as one of the ways they found a Web developer. Similarly, there’s no point advertising in a particular newspaper if no one in your target audience reads it.

Rely heavily on your research – that is why you’re researching, after all!

Analyze The CPM

CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand, M being the Roman numeral for 1,000.

The CPM is the most analytical and objective measurement you can make of a communications vehicle. Once you know how much it costs to use a particular means to contact 1,000 people, you can easily compare the costs between media.

It works like this. The local newspaper reaches 50,000 people. You can buy a half-page display advertisement in the paper for $1,000. Therefore, if we divide 1,000 by fifty, we see that it will cost us $20 to reach a thousand people.

Obviously, the lower the CPM, the better. But keep in mind “media waste.” This refers to the number of people who see your ad, but who aren’t in your target audience and don’t have a need for your services.

Usually, the more “mass”, or general, the reach of the medium you use, the more media wastage there will be. For instance, a TV ad on the local television station will likely reach far more uninterested parties than will a direct mail campaign targeting businesses in your area that don’t have a Website.

So, when you consider CPM, also consider the amount of media waste. The CPM of a newspaper ad might be cheap at $20, but if 90% of the paper’s audience aren’t in your target market, it doesn’t matter how low the CPM is, you’re still wasting a lot of media – and money!

Speak With Other Advertisers

If the local TV station representative is trying to sell you some space, choose an advertisement or two you see running on that channel, and call those advertisers. You’ll soon have a reasonable idea about what sort of response those ads are generating.

Listen To Your Instincts

Timing and gut feel are important. Some times of the year or month are simply a dead loss for Web design business.

For example, most businesses close down over the Christmas period, while their owners are off enjoying the season’s festivities. Don’t waste your money advertising then.

Stick To Your Budget

Budget is a major consideration. Running three radio advertisements across three days might be within your budget, but it won’t be of any benefit. Some media, like radio, require repetition of your message in order to be effective.

If you don’t have the budget to suit the medium, then don’t bother buying the space. Keep track of your expenditures using the Marketing Budget that’s included in the Budget spreadsheet on this kit’s CDROM.

Consider The Real Costs

Remember, also, the fact that an advertisement generates an inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s successful. Here’s why. A client is currently running an advertisement in a local free weekly newspaper. His thinking was that if the ad generated one new client in twelve months, the advertisement would have been “successful.”

Wrong! The ad has been a disaster. After sixteen weeks at a cost of $60 per week, his ad has generated twelve inquiries. He has yet to make a sale. Yet the client estimates that meeting with the people who inquired, putting together the proposals, and talking on the telephone with these “prospects” has cost him in excess of $2,000 already.

He now subjects each “lead” to a fairly rigorous qualifying process before he takes the relationship any further. And he’s trying to off-load the advertisements (as he’s tied in to an advertising agreement with the paper for the full year).

Which Promotional Option Suits You?

I can’t tell you the answer to that! However, taking into account the targeted marketing tips I provided earlier, I’ll discuss here a few of the popular options for advertising, promotion and PR efforts.

All of the techniques listed below are perfectly capable of generating new clients in droves. Your challenge is to identify which option suits you, try it, and measure the results so that you can improve your ROI in your future promotional efforts.

Newspaper Advertising

Base your budget on the CPM I mentioned earlier. Newspaper advertising needs to be really well targeted to be successful. As we’ve discussed, it would probably be more cost effective for you to advertise in a business newspaper, rather than the local community newspaper.

Yellow Pages Advertising

This is almost a ‘must have.’ Many people will choose a designer from the Yellow Pages. These ads can be very expensive and, unfortunately, with this medium it’s a case of “the bigger, the better!”

If you do make the commitment to buying a large, prominent (and more expensive) Yellow Pages ad, then make sure you very closely measure which clients find out about you from these ads, and what sort of return you receive on your investment.

Radio Ads

Radio spots are not usually well-targeted. Don’t advertise on radio unless you can try it very cheaply, and be sure to track the results!

On the other hand, a radio appearance can be a great way to boost your profile. For instance, if you’re interviewed as a special guest during the computer show on your local radio station, you can attract real attention to yourself and your business.

Writing Articles

If you can get a “Why you might need a Website” article published in a business magazine, it can work very well to generate leads.

Writing articles is a good form of PR, and allows you to “borrow credibility” from the publication in which your article appears. As the only expense involved is the time it takes you to write the article, this form of promotion can be very cost-effective.

Flyers

Flyers are OK, but only because they’re cheap. You can target them a little (for example, by delivering them only to local businesses), and with a little luck you might receive a call or two as a result of your efforts.

Hold A Seminar

Why not hold a seminar titled “Developing a Website for Your Business”? Great idea! It’s beautifully targeted, you have the opportunity to build enormous credibility, and you have a group of hot prospects in a room for a day, learning all about the Web – direct from you!

Spend $1,000 to promote the seminar, fill up a good-sized room, and retire to the Bahamas on the profits! Well… not quite, but you’ll do OK!

The trouble here is that you have to spend a little to make a little. Charge a token fee of, say, $10 per head, so that your audience perceives some value in spending a day with you. Granted, you may not make much of a profit from the event itself, but it’s the lead-generation that will benefit your business in the long run.

Ask For Referrals From People You Know

It didn’t take me too long to realize that the vast majority (and most profitable part) of my business came from prospects who were referred to us by past and current clients.

Know what we do now? We ask everyone we know to please, please, please refer their friends or business contacts to us. If someone refers us a client, we say thanks.

Referrals are perfectly targeted, and don’t require any work on your part. If you’re not asking every man and his dog for referrals to your business, then you aren’t serious about being in business.

Local ISPs And Hosting Companies

Local providers of computer- and Internet-related services can be a rich source of referrals. Contact them to establish a reciprocal arrangement through which you refer hosting clients to them if they refer Web design clients to you. This arrangement can work on a commission basis as well.

Branded Merchandise

T-shirts, stickers, buttons, mouse pads, pens, and mugs with your logo on them? Don’t even think about it!

What influences people to select someone in your line of business? I’ll bet it isn’t how nice your branded coffee mugs are. Prospects won’t initially select you based on merchandise, so don’t do it: it’s a waste of money.

Having said that, I do find these products great as gifts for clients you want to thank for some reason. But this kind of expense can only really be justified when you’re well established and very profitable.

Write A Report

Write a report devoted to making and saving money with a Website, and give it away for free. It’ll be another great lead generation tool.

Once the report’s finished, take a small ad in the local paper, do a post office box flyer drop, send targeted direct mail, and shoot out a Media Release promoting your report. You’ll soon have some very hot prospects on your doorstep!

Here’s another idea. Include a Tips Sheet as part of the free report. Then use this Tips Sheet as the main part of your media release, which you write like a Top Ten list: “The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Being Ripped Off on the Internet!”

That sort of release, backed up by some research, will almost always get a run in relevant media.

Classified Ads

Advertising in newspaper classifieds is very cheap and can work quite well. Worth a try.

Telemarketing

Phone marketing can also work well. Try it and see.

Guest Speaking

Fantastic! Guest speaking is free, and generates real interest on the spot. You’ll be perceived as an expert, you’ll learn the techniques required for public speaking (which are a huge advantage), and you’ll be exposing yourself in the nicest possible way to your potential market.

Brochure

Printed brochures can be good, but only once you’ve established your business. When you’re starting out, it’s much more cost-effective to demonstrate your professionalism in other ways that require a smaller initial outlay. Our research tells us that fewer than 20% of an audience will read your brochure.

Newsletters

Newsletters are great! They’re cheap and they’re easy. Use a desktop publisher with some decent paper. I can produce a great-looking newsletter for about sixty cents a copy.

For some reason, people seem to attach more credibility to the printed word than they do to an electronic message. For this reason, newsletters can help build recognition and improve perceptions of your credibility within the market, especially if your newsletter’s continued regularly, over a long period of time.

Networking

As we’ve discussed before, networking is a must-do. Join the local business groups, go to the lunches, attend the charity golf days. Remember, however, to keep a close eye on the amount you spend on these events, and closely analyze the return you make.

Prepare A Video Or CD

Describing your business and the benefits you provide in a video or CD is a great idea, right? No. People won’t watch the video, nor will they look at the CD. You’d think they would, and both these media provide a great way to demonstrate your expertise, but people just don’t look at them. Why not? Because it’s too easy to procrastinate.

Think about it. If someone dropped off a video to your office, would you find time to look at it?

Sponsorships

Sponsorship opportunities usually require you to provide cold hard cash and/or services. The impact of these kinds of arrangements is very difficult to measure, as sponsorship rarely provides an immediate response.

Public Relations

Love it, love it, love it! It’s free if you do it yourself, and the impact can be enormous if you get your story covered on a decent TV show, radio program or newspaper feature.

PR has the benefit that it doesn’t have to be particularly well-targeted if it gets to one million people in your city and doesn’t cost you anything! PR is excellent, so let’s take a closer look at this form of promotions.

A Public Relations Primer

Public Relations covers a wide range of activities, but in a promotional sense, it’s about building goodwill for your business by gaining unpaid media attention. The whole premise of PR is that you “borrow credibility” from the media, rather than looking like an advertiser who’s simply paid for exposure.

So, how does it work? First, you have to attract the press. Now, you can get the media’s attention in two ways – the easy way, or the hard way. The easy way is to write a concise, well-constructed release about your newsworthy event. The hard way is to write a sloppy release on something that nobody cares about.

Here are the basic rules of thumb you’ll need to follow:

  • Media releases should be one page long – and one page only. You need to tell your entire story in that single page.
  • Your release should be on A4 or US Letter size paper only, no odd sizes.
  • The paper you write your media release on must be plain white, not colored – no letterhead, no logo, nothing but white.

As you get a bit more confident, and become recognized by the media, you might want to bend these rules – this will probably be OK once you’ve established yourself a little. But to begin with, stick to these guidelines.

Now, let’s look at what you need to include in your release.

Contents Of A Media Release

Your media releases should always follow this standard, accepted format. It’s what journalists and editors will expect, and it allows you to communicate your message clearly. Your media release should contain the following elements (see the sample Media Release file on the CD-ROM – it’s a good example of how the following elements work together in practice).

Release Timing Details

The timing of publication of a media release can be extremely important in some cases. To let the press know when they can use a release, it’s common practice to include release timing details in the upper left corner of the page. You have two options; choose the one that’s more appropriate for your purpose.

You can either write "For immediate release," to let the journalist know that he/she can report upon the information at any time. Or you can write "For release on October 1st, 2003," which lets the journalist know if your story is urgent or time-relevant.

Headline

The headline of the release is next. Your headline has a big job: it must grab the attention of your readers, and encourage them to keep reading, so it has to be compelling. Make it as interesting as you can.

Body Copy

The body copy is next. Split this into three parts.

  1. In the first paragraph, tell the whole story: the who, what, when, where and why. Tell the whole story in 2, or maybe three sentences. It’s sometimes a little tricky, but it can be done.

  2. The second part of the release should contain quotes that give credibility to the story while fleshing out the most important details.

  3. The third part of your media release should contain your call to action. What do
    you want to have happen as a result of your media release?

As you write, think about your release from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know you or your company. Who cares about the information you’re discussing in the release? If you can’t answer that, then your release isn’t newsworthy. If you can answer that, make sure you write the release in a way that will be interesting to them.

Contact Details

When the release is complete, write "ENDS" on its own line. Below this write: "For further information, contact:” followed by your name and phone number.

And that’s it!

Top Ten Tips For Your Media Release

  1. Make sure the information is newsworthy.

  2. Write a great headline.

  3. Start with a brief description of the news: the who, what, when, where, why and how.

  4. Ask yourself, "Is this really newsworthy?"

  5. Make sure the first ten words of your release are effective, as they’re the most important.

  6. Avoid the excessive use of adjectives and fancy language.

  7. Focus on the facts.

  8. Provide contact details, and make sure you can be reached.

  9. Send it to the right person! There’s not much use sending your IT story to the
    sports journalist.

  10. Follow the structure I’ve outlined here – don’t deviate from this plan! These are the standard rules you should keep in mind when you write a media release.

    Stick with these and you’ll have a professional-looking release, for which you won’t have had to pay hundreds of dollars!

Making Contact

Send your release to the right person. There’s not much use sending your Internet-related story to the sports journalist! A quick call to the reception desk at those newspapers or television studios you’re targeting should get you the information you need.

How To Distribute Your Release

With the range of distribution outlets available these days, it’s a simple matter to pay a media list to shoot your release off to 500 editors across the country. But is that best?

Should you sit at your fax machine and slowly send out release after release to the editors you’ve targeted? Maybe you should send the release off to an Internet-based service for rapid email distribution.

What’s the best way to distribute your release?

The answer to this question will change with the type of release you’re sending. As usual, I’d suggest you test various methods and closely monitor the results. You might find that your Internet-related media releases have great success when distributed via an Internet-based service.

But my big word here would be ‘targeted.’ In my company, we first identify the specific publications or media we want to target, then take a look at what they produce and the news angles they take. After that, it’s a simple matter of writing our release specifically for that publication or show, that editor, or that particular journalist.

Sure, this might mean a little extra work, but the results that a well-targeted media campaign can provide can be well worth it.

The Call

It’s all gone well so far. You’ve sent your media release off to your targeted media contacts and you sit back, imagining your face on the nightly news… and then you get the call.

Suddenly, you have a journalist on the phone who wants more information on the story, and perhaps a quote or 2! What do you do next? You have a couple of options:

  1. Panic, start um-ing and ah-ing, blurt out a few long-winded answers, and generally squander your opportunity to get your message across.

  2. Calmly gather all the relevant material you have had sitting on your desk ready for this call, and start the interview.

If you want to take the second option, you’ll need to be ready ahead of time. So, when you prepare your release, prepare for what may happen.

Prepare for the interview. Try to think about what journalists would want to know. In my experience, they want information: they want it concise, they want it relevant, and they want it now. It’s your task to give them what they need to do a good job.

Make it as easy as possible for the media to do their jobs. Most people seem to assume that journalists are hunting around for the dirt, that they’ll grab any slip-up you make and turn you into a laughing stock. In my experience, this has not been the case. The vast majority of journalists I’ve dealt with have been professional, accommodating, and have taken great pride in putting together a story that’s interesting and top quality.

If you don’t have much experience with the media, rest assured that they won’t make your life harder. They’ll almost always guide you through the process and make it as easy as possible.

When you’re speaking with the media, try to relax. Imagine the interview is a friendly conversation with someone who wants to learn a bit more about what you have to say, because that is exactly what it is.

So, before you send off the release, make sure you have handy as much information as might be required. Also, have a list of the contact details of the people the journalist might like to interview about your news item. That way, when the press calls, you’ll be ready for action!

The Release Has Been Run! What Now?

The local television station has sent out a journalist to cover your media release and you find yourself featured on the evening news. It makes a big impact for business and lifts the business profile a mile! Fantastic!

What’s next? Do you send the journalist a gift of a dozen bottles of wine, send her out for dinner or just send money? Well, none of the above actually!

Look at this situation from the perspective that we use to approach client care. Anyone who helps your business is doing you a favour. If you reward the behavior, it will be repeated. And, it’s just good manners.

So, what should you do when the media runs your story? Say “thanks.” It’s common courtesy. Here is an example letter you might like to use:

Dear John,
Just a quick note to say thanks for coming out to interview me about our business now selling pieces of the moon.

We were thrilled to see how well the story came up on the news, and I just wanted to say thanks for guiding me through it all.

It really helped having a professional treat me with kid gloves so we could look our best. We have had some tremendous
reactions to the story.

Now I know how hard it is to make it look as effortless as you do! Thanks again.
Regards,
Brendon Sinclair

What Not To Do With Your Media Release

First, the confession: I’ve done this once or twice. I’ll never do it again. Scout’s honour.

Imagine you’ve written your release, honed your headline, penned a terrific opening, and presented all your information on one page. Your contact details are all there, the release is well-formatted, and it’s newsworthy. You’re off to a great start!

Now, you fax or email it to the editors at various media outlets. Terrific. Then, you ring every single person that you faxed the release to, and say those magic words:
"Just checking to see if you got my media release?"

Don’t do it. Don’t ring. Why not?

  1. Editors don’t enjoy it. They have your release. If it’s newsworthy they’ll follow up on it. Leave them alone!

  2. I’ve done the math and here it is. Let’s say you fax your media release to 100 editors. Later, you start the follow-up telephone calls. Each call costs an average of $1 and takes three minutes to make. The tricky part is in actually finding the person you want to speak to. It takes an average of two phone calls to find the person you’re after.

That’s 200 phone calls, 600 minutes and $200 you will spend following up that release. For that $200 I could fax a release to another 500 editors! 600 minutes is ten hours. That’s a full day’s work. Your time could be better spent!

The media has enormous power and influence, and is always looking for good stories to run. If you have a newsworthy story, it might well be run – giving your business tremendous exposure.

Is There An Advantage In Using A PR Agency?

Good PR agencies should have vast experience in assessing whether your media release is newsworthy (and if it isn’t, they can provide some suggestions on how to make it newsworthy). If it is newsworthy they can ensure that it’s written in a concise and effective style that will attract the attention of an editor or journalist.

The big advantage of using a PR agency is that the PR person is in the industry. The PR person regularly talks with editors, journalists, and other contacts. The PR person has already established a level of credibility with a circle of journalists.

Think of it this way. Imagine we take two copies of the same release. One is sent to the local newspaper by Joe Smith of Joe’s Web Development. It’s Joe’s first release. The other release is sent to the paper by the PR person.

In a perfect world, they’d both be read. Because the PR person already has credibility with a press contact at the paper, it’s more likely that this person’s release will be read first.

Don’t get me wrong. The media is after top quality, newsworthy stories, and doesn’t care where they come from. However, the press person’s previous experience with the PR person will go quite a way to getting the release read.

Having said that, I advocate doing it yourself – especially in the early days of your business. Having a PR firm can be very expensive, and if you do it yourself, you’ll develop yet another skill which, in turn, will help grow your business.

Providing Free Samples Of Your Work

Now here’s a good question! What came first, the chicken or the egg?

The typical problem with starting a service-related business like Web development is that you’re far more likely to be successful if you can demonstrate your products and skills.

This is fine if you’re an experienced designer with a few decent sites under your belt. Nevertheless, if you haven’t developed any Websites, or completed any programming that you can promote as your own work, it can be a little difficult to convince your prospects that you’re the person for the job.

What’s the right answer to this question?
Part of me says don’t do a free site unless there’s an obvious and achievable benefit for you. You’re in business, after all.

A free site… that pays.

Now that’s an important point: “…unless there’s an obvious and achievable benefit for you.” If you can see a real benefit, then designing a site for free might be worth its weight in gold. But be businesslike – put a few caveats on the production of this free site.

  • Ask for home page acknowledgment of your support.
  • Request that the client organization send you a signed letter of thanks on official letterhead (to frame and put on your wall, scan and post on your Website, etc.)
  • Ask for permission to quote the client’s recommendation.
  • Ask for permission to add the site to your portfolio.
  • Ask for permission to link to your site from their home page.
  • Have the client agree to recommend your business to any person who he or she feels would be a potential client for you.
  • Reach an agreement that the client’s media team will prepare and distribute a media release about your generosity.

You might make your requests sound a little more friendly than what I’ve described here, but this is a good starting point.

Don’t ever do a free site grudgingly. If you’d rather hold out for paid work, then don’t agree to the freebie. Why not? Because you want this client to refer other, paying clients to you. You’ll want to do the best job you possibly can. What goes around comes around, in Web development as in life! Let me explain…

Case 6.3. Karma And The Freelance Web Developer

My business has completed some free sites; in fact, we do one each year for a community organization within our local area. Just over a year ago, we completed a site for the local helicopter rescue service (RACQ CareFlight Queensland). They run a much-needed operation, with a budget in the millions that’s funded almost completely by public donations.

Despite what I’ve just recommended, we didn’t actually ask for anything when we agreed to build their site. It just so happens that RACQ CareFlight Queensland is a very professional organization that benefits from the services of its tireless, in-house public relations staff member, Carol.

As soon as we finished the site, Carol arranged for the presentation of a plaque to thank us for the site. She also organized a media release on the launch of the site, which included full acknowledgment of our role in the project.

The RACQ CareFlight team also recommends us to everyone they meet who might need our services. They act as references for us when required, and we recently received a large photograph of the helicopter in action, along with the plaque that says “Tailored Consulting, Friends of RACQ CareFlight 2002.” Both the plaque and the photograph are on display in our office.

To top it all off, Carol has also devoted some time to come into our offices and lead inhouse training on the role of the PR professional within small business. We’ve generated two Website sales from our association with RACQ CareFlight Queensland, and combined with the extra services Carol has provided, we’ve received a terrific benefit from completing this “freebie” (in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that we’ve helped our local community).

It’s true that these events reflect more on RACQ CareFlight’s professionalism to look after their sponsors than the sort of treatment you can expect from every client for whom you develop a free site. Yet the way Carol has looked after us provides excellent pointers as to the ways in which you need to benefit from agreeing to complete a free site. If you got this kind of exposure each time you completed a free site, you’d be a very happy business person!

Key Points

  • There are myriad ways to market your business – and a myriad of ways to waste your marketing budget! Make your decisions wisely.
  • Consider the CPM and media wastage inherent in any campaign you undertake.
  • Assess media options carefully before you buy – but don’t suffer analysis paralysis. Try a few different options.
  • Public relations costs very little, and provides you with instant credibility. Write a newsworthy release for optimum exposure.
  • Make any free sites you build pay!

A Plan Of Action

In this chapter, we’ve talked about getting out there and doing some serious marketing to get your business up and running. If you don’t do any marketing, you won’t be in business long. If you implement poor marketing, you may be in business for less time.

If you effectively market on a regular basis, you will have the foundations of a successful business.

Develop a plan of action to get yourself in the game. There’s an example Marketing Plan, which should give you a good starting point, on the CD-ROM in this kit.

But what marketing methods will work best? As I’ve said throughout this chapter, there’s no simple answer to that! It’s important to identify the best way for you to implement your marketing strategy. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another.

If you market yourself well, you should expect that:

  1. Qualified prospects will respond to the marketing you do. The best business comes from people who call you – these people are motivated and keen to go. These are the prospects you want!

  2. You’ll be able to convert more prospects into paying clients.

  3. You’ll generate referrals – an excellent (and probably the best) way to land more business.

Over the years, my marketing plans have shifted from being long, boring documents to quick summaries of just a page or two. Instead of writing pages and pages regarding each newspaper’s demographic and geographic reach, and how it’s relevant to whatever campaign we’re planning, I’m likely to scribble down “Classifieds, $100 worth on Saturdays for ten weeks in Daily Planet. Contact Clark Kent, Ph. 555-5555.”

That approach works for me only because I know the local newspapers and their readership, and, through experience, I have a general idea of the impact of those advertisements.

A two page summary might not work for the next person, who might need a plan that contains a little more documentation and review. Whatever the size of your plan, there are a few essential points that you’ll need to include.

An Objective

The first thing your plan needs is a goal. Make it simple, and make it achievable. For example, your goal might be as simple as “Sign up four clients within two months.” It might be “Generate sales of $10,000 in a month.” Or even “Have ten prospect meetings in a month.”

Make the goal as specific as possible – no airy fairy language like “My goal is to implement an appropriate range of actions to assist clients in developing effective Web-based strategies.” Not only are all of those words hard to spell, but they’re too ambiguous. You need something simple, easy and measurable.

Market Information

OK, you’ve set a simple goal. Now, take a look at your market. Using the example from before, you may have defined your market to be small businesses within a fifty kilometer radius, participating in high-tech industries.

As we discussed earlier in this chapter, perhaps you’ve also completed a survey to find out exactly how these companies choose Web developers (if any). Maybe you also asked about their level of interest in Web development and what factors influence the decisions they make (you might find, for example, that they all are members of the local Chamber of Commerce).

To fully profile your market, you might also like to know:

  • size of the market
  • market segments
  • who the competition is
  • the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
  • your target market
  • what their buying patterns are (Many businesses are seasonal. For example, the local toy shop may generate most sales at Christmas.)

Once you have this information, you’ll be a little better armed to attack!

Competitor Information

Complete a competitor analysis using the research techniques we discussed in Chapter 2.

For each competitor, make sure you know who, what, when, where how and why. See how they advertise. Review their client list. Benchmark against them. Now, plan to beat them!

Your Marketing Strategy

Take a look at the marketing options available to you, and leverage what you know about:

  • your target market
  • how your market finds out about Web development firms
  • how your competitors advertise
  • each marketing option

Competitor information is relevant to your marketing strategy in a number of ways. First, when you review a competitor’s strategy, you need to ascertain whether simply copying their approach will be enough. It works for them, so it should work for you, right? Well, it sounds reasonable enough, but in practice things can be a little different.

Established businesses have established names. There is an element of trust associated with their longevity in the industry (I don’t think I have ever seen an industry from which so many people have dropped out!) and that equates to sales, often via referrals.

As we know, referrals are often the best way to generate new business. If you do exactly what the competition is doing, as the new kid on the block, you’ll almost certainly fail. You need to identify successful strategies that you can apply to your business, and apply them with a twist.

If your competitor generates business through direct mail, then perhaps a direct mail campaign that incorporates a competition might work better for you. As long as you can develop your own unique angle, your campaign’s potential for success will soar. As long as you’re noticed, you are known. That’s half the battle of attracting clients.

The information you’ve gathered on your competitors might also help you decide to adopt a strategy of competitive opposition. This can be highly effective in helping you move from a saturated and cluttered market to one where you may well be the only industry voice.

Let’s say your competitor has a strong presence in the local newspaper. By the sheer volume of ad space they’ve bought, and the length of their association with the paper, the competitor may have that particular market segment covered. Your small advertisements may not be able to make a big impact.

However, if you know that this advertising works for the competitor, it may be time to
commence an advertising campaign in competing magazines and journals. You have the advantage of knowing that print advertising works for your competitor, along with the added benefit of having a good chance at winning a decent slice of an uncluttered parallel market.

Take what you can learn from your competitor, tweak it, and apply it to your own marketing to suit yourself. Importantly, you need to make it different so that you, and your business, stand out.

Go get ‘em, tiger!

Your Marketing Message

What message will you communicate through your marketing efforts? This is a key consideration – the quality and clarity of your message can mean the difference between an excellent response and an ordinary one.

When you’re promoting your business you have to grab people’s attention. Be outrageous. Be provocative. Be shocking! After all, you have to be the highest profile Web developer or programmer or graphic artist in your region.

The old advertising formula for communication is Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA). Each represents a stage that your prospects must move hrough before they will buy from you:

  • Attention
    The prospect must be attracted to your message.

  • Interest
    The prospect has to become interested in what you have to say.

  • Desire
    Your message must spark within the prospect a desire to obtain the benefits you offer.

  • Action
    Ideally, your message will prompt the user to take action towards procuring your services.

The important point here is that nothing is going to happen as a result of your advertising unless you grab people’s attention. Do whatever it takes!

Once you have the prospects’ attention, you should restate their problem (that is: they don’t make enough money through their current business channels).

Next, you offer them a solution to that problem (that’s your pitch).

And finally, you ask them to take action (ask them to contact you).

Being outrageous gets attention, and it’s attention that you’re after! A by-product of being outrageous is that you’ll often be entertaining as well – and a lot of clients like to be entertained.

They want a good job, a real solution, and professionalism, but they also want to be entertained. Make your prospects enjoy themselves – make them laugh – and you’re off
to a great start!

Measurement

OK, now we’ve got a good picture of advertising, promotion and PR for the freelance Web designer. The point here is that you need to implement many different marketing techniques on an ongoing basis. Running seasonal campaigns is good, but continual promotion via a number of means is far more effective. Only then will you generate a healthy number of prospects for your business.

This brings us to an important point: the whole idea behind marketing is to generate
interest among your target audience. More than that, the purpose of marketing is to
generate leads – leads that will evolve into sales. In order to ensure you use your marketing budget to your best advantage, you must do one thing:

Measure the cost of every response.

Measure the response to every marketing technique you implement. It’s a simple process to analyze the benefits per dollar of everything you do – and it’s even easier if you use the Marketing Budget in the Budget file and the Marketing Activities Analysis Sheet included on this kit’s CD-ROM.

Look closely at the dollar benefits and tweak your marketing tactics accordingly. For example, let’s say your $40-per-week classified advertising campaign generates two, $3,000 Website sales within a couple of months. You’ve spent around $200, and generated $6,000 in income. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But don’t forget the other, hidden “costs” of the advertisement. The cost breakdown may look something like this:

  • Time spent writing the ad – 1 hour
  • Unproductive leads generated – 14
  • Time spent following unproductive leads – 10 hours
  • Time spent on winning proposals – 8 hours
  • Travelling time – 4 hours
  • Overhead costs – postage, letterheads, envelopes, telephone calls, etc.

Assuming you generate a healthy 30% profit on the jobs themselves – that’s $1,800 – you need to deduct wages for twenty-three hours of extra work (a minimum of $690). Also deduct $200 for the advertisement itself, and maybe another $100 for overheads such as postage and petrol.

That reduces your $1,800 profit to a return of just $810 for your original investment of $200. This is a fairly simple example, but keep in mind that the benefits you receive from many strategies may not be so easily quantified.

Whether you follow any of these advertising, promotion, and PR suggestions is up to you. You can forget this information, or do something with it. Just do it! Think big. Isn’t it time?

Key Points

  • Make a plan! Identify your objective, and how you’ll get there.
  • Consider the market, and your competitors. List the tools you’ll use to market your business, and the message you’ll promote.
  • Measure the results of everything you do. Trial and measurement is your path to successful marketing!

Chapter Summary

We kicked off this chapter on the theme that doing something was better than hypothesizing about what you could do. This is definitely the case when it comes to marketing.

If you haveoo

Marketing your business isn’t hard. There are literally hundreds of ways you might do it. Not all of them work, but you’ll soon have more clients if you follow a few basic steps.

You need a steady flow of prospects to develop your business. An approach that uses many different strategies, all linked together, will have those prospects beating down your door before too long. We’ll discuss these strategies here.

Contrary to popular opinion, your advertising and promotion effort need not be expensive. In fact, it should be very cheap and highly profitable. You don’t want to implement marketing strategies that run at a loss; you want to do what works. You need highly targeted, results-driven marketing. When you generate that lead, qualify the lead, find out how you can help, and then offer a solution, Bingo! Another sale on the way.

Develop a marketing strategy that works. Implement it regularly. Measure its impact. If it works well, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, then stop. That’s how to market your business.

Let’s explore these ideas a little more.

Do Something!

One of the biggest mistakes I see among small business people is that they simply don’t do any marketing. They have to finish off a certain job, they don’t have the money to pay for an advertisement in the local paper, they don’t have the expertise, they don’t have the time… the list of excuses goes on.

But marketing isn’t difficult:

  1. Figure out who might want what you sell.
  2. Ask people to buy it.

There are a million different ways to get the attention of your market …and that means a million different ways to waste money! Being smart about your marketing is important.

There really are countless ways to market your business. Try plenty. Measure the results. Crunch the numbers. If you can have a steady stream of prospects at the door, your business will grow.

But how can you create that steady stream?

Regular marketing means regular prospects!

Regular direct mail, regular advertising, a regular newsletter, regular networking, regular offers to local businesses… Whatever you do, do it regularly, and you’ll generate that steady stream of prospects.

As prospects see your brand in more places, and hear about you from more of their friends, they’ll begin to get used to your name. Once they’re used to your name, they’re only a small step away from feeling that they know and trust you. And then they’ll start calling.

Simply put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients. Ask yourself what might be the most effective way to get their attention, and make your offer.

  • Would it be best to cold call your prospect?
  • Would it be best to write your potential clients a letter to tell them of your services?
  • Would it be best to present a seminar entitled, “Attracting more business using the Internet”?

Let’s look at a real-life example.

Case 6.1. $20k In Thirty Days!

Recently, my company faced the challenge of generating an additional $20,000 of business within twelve weeks. Here’s how we planned to achieve the goal:

  1. Write letters to all our current clients giving them a special offer, which would then be followed up with a telephone call.

  2. Complete a direct mail campaign to 200 local businesses – a three piece mailer
    spread over three weeks.

  3. Run a five week business newspaper advertising campaign.

  4. Launch a PR campaign, including media releases announcing the promotion of a team member, the release of a survey we’ve commissioned, the announcement that the company is the new developer for a major site, and a few others bits and pieces.

  5. Ask all our current clients for referrals.

  6. Attend plenty of networking opportunities.

What were the results of our campaign? The advertisement (costing $70 per week for five weeks) secured us a $7,800 Website deal, with a $300 monthly ongoing marketing fee. The PR campaign delivered another client with $5,000 worth of work and good potential for more (we’re also on a ‘success fee’ structure with that project).

A current client has taken up our offer of site management services priced at $110 per month, and asked us to implement his online marketing campaign (another $5,000 per year). The mail-out to local businesses has generated three qualified leads that we’re now following up. A quick calculation tells me that we’ve achieved our goal of $20,000 in additional income in just a few weeks.

The key point here is that sitting around will only give you a sore behind! You might be a hot designer, but people need to know about your services before you can make a buck.

Get out there and shout from the rooftops!

Key Points

  • Regular marketing means regular prospects.
  • Understand your clients’ problems, then work out how to solve them.
  • Do something! If you’re unsure of whether a marketing tactic will work, try it – and measure the results.

Why Your Marketing Should Be Very, Very Cheap

The point of marketing is to generate interest. What’s the best measure of “interest”?

Leads and sales! The return you generate from your marketing efforts should far outweigh the cost of those efforts.

Marketing your business shouldn’t just be inexpensive – it should be profitable. It should be profitable because it works. It should work because it is highly targeted and effective.

Simple!

Targeted marketing means ROI.

Your success depends on finding people who are not your clients, but should be. The people who should be your clients will not differ much from those who are the current clients of your competitors. That makes sense – these people aren’t your clients, but they have all the characteristics of the people who would buy your services. Let’s illustrate this concept with an example.

Defining Your Market – And How To Reach It

We want to find out what the characteristics of your target audience are, so that we can get an idea of which marketing tools will be the most effective. First up: identifying your market.

There are two things about your market that we can assume to be true:

  • Your prospects with the greatest potential to become your clients will generally live within a fifty kilometer radius of your business.
  • Your prospects with the greatest potential to become your clients will operate a business. That business will probably be a small business – most businesses are.

What we’re trying to do here is find a common thread among your potential clients. Now that we’ve got this information, the next step is to find out how these potential prospects might hear about Web development businesses that offer the services they need.

Remember what we said above: the current clients of your competitors have all the characteristics of the people who would buy your services. And what characteristic – in addition to the ones we discussed above – identifies the current clients of your opposition?

They all have Websites.

It’s time for action! Call businesses in your area who have Websites, tell them you’re surveying the ways people hear of Web development firms, and ask how they first heard of the firm they use. Don’t try to develop the relationship any further than that – you’re just completing research at this stage. The people you call will usually be happy to help… and before you know it, you’ll have a fantastic idea of what tools you should use to market your business to the right audience!

You’ll also have the names and addresses of about 100 people who have Websites, and who now have a relationship with you. Mail them all a “Thank you” letter for participating in your survey, along with a summary of the survey results. Keep in touch, making contact with them every three months. Soon, a few will inevitably start to trickle over to your business.

Research Hint!

Here’s a quick hint to improve the way your survey call is received. We make the results of every survey we complete available to our local media (and, on occasion, national media). When we call businesses that might be in our market, we say something along these lines:

“We’re currently completing a survey that will be made available to XYZ Television Station. The survey question is ‘How did you first hear of the Web design firm that designed your Website?’”

This approach lends you instant credibility, and increases your response rate. If the people on the other end of the telephone know that the survey will be made available to the local TV station, they will search high and low to find you the answer!

Narrowing The Field

These simple steps provide an excellent basis from which to attack your marketing. But focus a little more deeply and you’ll find even more valuable information. For instance, by looking at who has Websites and who doesn’t) you’ll find that, in certain industries, there are more business Websites than in other industries. Let’s assume here that high-tech industries have a higher percentage of businesses with Websites than do any other industry segments.

You’ve now narrowed your target market to include:

  • small business operators
  • who manage high-tech businesses
  • within a fifty kilometer radius of your business

From your survey, you know how most of the businesses in your area hear of Website
designers.

That’s a well-targeted market!

Now you can grab your market’s attention with laser-like precision. Moreover, because your marketing is so well-targeted, it should be very successful.

The moral of this example? It makes no sense to take $5,000 worth of newspaper advertisements and hope for the best if, with just two hours’ work, you can find out exactly how your particular market hears of people in your line of business, and target your promotions, far more cheaply, to them.

Case 6.2. Mmm … Donuts

My business is perfectly situated – it’s directly above a bakery, a café, and a Domino’s Pizza! The café has changed hands three times in the past twelve months. Why? Because the operators don’t target their market.

The market for the café will be people located within a radius of about five kilometers of the store. The absolute best market will be people within a 100 meter radius. An even better market will be people who work in offices within about fifty metres of the café, which is open largely during business hours.

At any point in time, my business might have twelve employees working frantically away. Almost all of us here like to eat lunch out of the office, or at least to go out to buy our lunch, which we then bring back to the office.

Yet, in the twelve months we’ve been in those offices, we have never had the café staff knock on the door and say, “Hey, you guys! Come and eat lunch with us! We make great kebabs, sensational sandwiches and perfect pies, have icy cold drinks and we will treat you like the important people you are! Here’s a voucher for a special deal to try us out this week – come on in!”

You’re in business. You want to sell whatever it is you sell. Tell people about what you sell. Ask them to buy.

The café should be dropping their new menu in to us every week. They should have wandered around the nearby offices and introduced themselves. They should letterbox drop flyers galore. They should have fabulous big signage outside their shop. And they should do whatever they can to tell people that they’re in business, and that they have something to sell. Only then will they start to sell.

The Perfect Lead

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are a million different ways to get the attention of your market.

When people think of “marketing” they tend to think of large, costly tactics. Radio advertising. Newspaper inserts. Be aware that not every marketing tactic you use has to be a large-scale, one-to-many transmission like a flyer or an ad in the local paper. In fact, a small-scale promotion allows you to target with much greater precision the needs of a particular market segment.

We often generate leads from highly qualified prospects. In its simplest form, this promotion might see us run a competition for a lucky customer of the local stationery supply store. The competition’s prize is a free template-based Website. The stationery store owner is happy to allow us to run the competition through his store, as it makes him popular with his clients (one of whom is the lucky winner of a free Website).

We also receive the 100 or so entry forms submitted by competition entrants. We have 100 names, titles, business names, addresses and telephone numbers of business people within our area who have expressed interest in a Website! As you’ve guessed, these forms are the basis of the next step in our marketing process. I can feel some business coming on!

These competition entrants are mailed a “You’re a winner” letter, which informs them that although they didn’t win the free Website, they have won a free mouse pad and a free hour-long consultation with a Web consultant to help them identify whether their business would benefit from a Website. The letter finishes by telling them that the writer will be in touch.

That letter is accompanied by an article we’ve written, titled “Does your business need a Website?” In addition to this, we generally toss in some articles that have been written about us, along with testimonials from happy clients.

Now we have 100 potentially hot prospects expecting a call from us. They expect that we’ll set up a meeting to discuss their needs for a Website. Don’t ask them to call you. They won’t get around to it.

Let’s look at the characteristics of this market segment.

  • They want a Website (otherwise they wouldn’t have entered the competition).
  • They’ve been educated about the benefits of a Website (in your letter and article).
  • They know about our business (which has also benefited from the implied endorsement of the stationery store, which increases our perceived credibility).

From those 100 hot prospects, I’d be surprised if we didn’t make three sales.

  • That’s three new clients. That’s at least $6,000 even if they only want a teensy weensy Website.
  • That’s three more clients on our ongoing list.
  • That’s three more clients to give us referrals.

And here’s another interesting tip: always give the competition winner options for the
site they win. For example, offer:

  1. the template site for free, or
  2. the template site plus a few other added extras for a little money, or
  3. a custom-designed site, with the total bill discounted by $1,000.

They’ll almost always choose from the two options that will cost them money. We have a client who manages a resort and runs a monthly competition for two nights’ free accommodation.

80% of the winners extend the length of their stay by up to five nights! And 42% of the winners re-book to stay within the next twelve months.

Now, these are just a couple of ways to market your business for a minimal investment. Don’t blindly follow the herd by tossing your money away on marketing tactics that don’t work. Research your market, talk with your market, analyze your market – that’s the way to very cost-effective marketing.

Key Points

  • Tightly targeted marketing is inexpensive – and should generate a decent ROI.
  • Research your audience, and use what you learn to refine your marketing efforts.
  • Ask your clients how they found you. This should indicate what marketing channels your prospects will use.
  • The perfect lead is well-qualified. Qualified prospects are best, so try to use marketing tools that prequalify the potential client.

Advertising, Promotion And Public Relations

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of highly targeted promotions and qualified lead generation, it’s time to turn our thoughts to some of the more common marketing alternatives.

In this section, I’ll get a little more specific on advertising, promotion and Public Relations (PR).

We’ll look at how you can assess the potential of a particular marketing tool. We’ll also consider a range of different tools, and what they can and cannot do for you. Lastly, we’ll get into PR in some depth – if you’ve ever wanted to know how to write the ultimate media release, keep reading!

Assessing Your Advertising Options

Just what is the best way to assess your advertising options?

There’s no “right” answer to that question. There are all sorts of cultural, economic and local considerations that impact on the effectiveness of every advertising medium.

However, here are some general guidelines that will help you assess each different medium you consider using.

Use Your Research

Take a look at the audience survey you completed and see if the particular medium
you’re considering is mentioned.

There’s no point advertising in the newspaper if your target market did not identify it as one of the ways they found a Web developer. Similarly, there’s no point advertising in a particular newspaper if no one in your target audience reads it.

Rely heavily on your research – that is why you’re researching, after all!

Analyze The CPM

CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand, M being the Roman numeral for 1,000.

The CPM is the most analytical and objective measurement you can make of a communications vehicle. Once you know how much it costs to use a particular means to contact 1,000 people, you can easily compare the costs between media.

It works like this. The local newspaper reaches 50,000 people. You can buy a half-page display advertisement in the paper for $1,000. Therefore, if we divide 1,000 by fifty, we see that it will cost us $20 to reach a thousand people.

Obviously, the lower the CPM, the better. But keep in mind “media waste.” This refers to the number of people who see your ad, but who aren’t in your target audience and don’t have a need for your services.

Usually, the more “mass”, or general, the reach of the medium you use, the more media wastage there will be. For instance, a TV ad on the local television station will likely reach far more uninterested parties than will a direct mail campaign targeting businesses in your area that don’t have a Website.

So, when you consider CPM, also consider the amount of media waste. The CPM of a newspaper ad might be cheap at $20, but if 90% of the paper’s audience aren’t in your target market, it doesn’t matter how low the CPM is, you’re still wasting a lot of media – and money!

Speak With Other Advertisers

If the local TV station representative is trying to sell you some space, choose an advertisement or two you see running on that channel, and call those advertisers. You’ll soon have a reasonable idea about what sort of response those ads are generating.

Listen To Your Instincts

Timing and gut feel are important. Some times of the year or month are simply a dead loss for Web design business.

For example, most businesses close down over the Christmas period, while their owners are off enjoying the season’s festivities. Don’t waste your money advertising then.

Stick To Your Budget

Budget is a major consideration. Running three radio advertisements across three days might be within your budget, but it won’t be of any benefit. Some media, like radio, require repetition of your message in order to be effective.

If you don’t have the budget to suit the medium, then don’t bother buying the space. Keep track of your expenditures using the Marketing Budget that’s included in the Budget spreadsheet on this kit’s CDROM.

Consider The Real Costs

Remember, also, the fact that an advertisement generates an inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s successful. Here’s why. A client is currently running an advertisement in a local free weekly newspaper. His thinking was that if the ad generated one new client in twelve months, the advertisement would have been “successful.”

Wrong! The ad has been a disaster. After sixteen weeks at a cost of $60 per week, his ad has generated twelve inquiries. He has yet to make a sale. Yet the client estimates that meeting with the people who inquired, putting together the proposals, and talking on the telephone with these “prospects” has cost him in excess of $2,000 already.

He now subjects each “lead” to a fairly rigorous qualifying process before he takes the relationship any further. And he’s trying to off-load the advertisements (as he’s tied in to an advertising agreement with the paper for the full year).

Which Promotional Option Suits You?

I can’t tell you the answer to that! However, taking into account the targeted marketing tips I provided earlier, I’ll discuss here a few of the popular options for advertising, promotion and PR efforts.

All of the techniques listed below are perfectly capable of generating new clients in droves. Your challenge is to identify which option suits you, try it, and measure the results so that you can improve your ROI in your future promotional efforts.

Newspaper Advertising

Base your budget on the CPM I mentioned earlier. Newspaper advertising needs to be really well targeted to be successful. As we’ve discussed, it would probably be more cost effective for you to advertise in a business newspaper, rather than the local community newspaper.

Yellow Pages Advertising

This is almost a ‘must have.’ Many people will choose a designer from the Yellow Pages. These ads can be very expensive and, unfortunately, with this medium it’s a case of “the bigger, the better!”

If you do make the commitment to buying a large, prominent (and more expensive) Yellow Pages ad, then make sure you very closely measure which clients find out about you from these ads, and what sort of return you receive on your investment.

Radio Ads

Radio spots are not usually well-targeted. Don’t advertise on radio unless you can try it very cheaply, and be sure to track the results!

On the other hand, a radio appearance can be a great way to boost your profile. For instance, if you’re interviewed as a special guest during the computer show on your local radio station, you can attract real attention to yourself and your business.

Writing Articles

If you can get a “Why you might need a Website” article published in a business magazine, it can work very well to generate leads.

Writing articles is a good form of PR, and allows you to “borrow credibility” from the publication in which your article appears. As the only expense involved is the time it takes you to write the article, this form of promotion can be very cost-effective.

Flyers

Flyers are OK, but only because they’re cheap. You can target them a little (for example, by delivering them only to local businesses), and with a little luck you might receive a call or two as a result of your efforts.

Hold A Seminar

Why not hold a seminar titled “Developing a Website for Your Business”? Great idea! It’s beautifully targeted, you have the opportunity to build enormous credibility, and you have a group of hot prospects in a room for a day, learning all about the Web – direct from you!

Spend $1,000 to promote the seminar, fill up a good-sized room, and retire to the Bahamas on the profits! Well… not quite, but you’ll do OK!

The trouble here is that you have to spend a little to make a little. Charge a token fee of, say, $10 per head, so that your audience perceives some value in spending a day with you. Granted, you may not make much of a profit from the event itself, but it’s the lead-generation that will benefit your business in the long run.

Ask For Referrals From People You Know

It didn’t take me too long to realize that the vast majority (and most profitable part) of my business came from prospects who were referred to us by past and current clients.

Know what we do now? We ask everyone we know to please, please, please refer their friends or business contacts to us. If someone refers us a client, we say thanks.

Referrals are perfectly targeted, and don’t require any work on your part. If you’re not asking every man and his dog for referrals to your business, then you aren’t serious about being in business.

Local ISPs And Hosting Companies

Local providers of computer- and Internet-related services can be a rich source of referrals. Contact them to establish a reciprocal arrangement through which you refer hosting clients to them if they refer Web design clients to you. This arrangement can work on a commission basis as well.

Branded Merchandise

T-shirts, stickers, buttons, mouse pads, pens, and mugs with your logo on them? Don’t even think about it!

What influences people to select someone in your line of business? I’ll bet it isn’t how nice your branded coffee mugs are. Prospects won’t initially select you based on merchandise, so don’t do it: it’s a waste of money.

Having said that, I do find these products great as gifts for clients you want to thank for some reason. But this kind of expense can only really be justified when you’re well established and very profitable.

Write A Report

Write a report devoted to making and saving money with a Website, and give it away for free. It’ll be another great lead generation tool.

Once the report’s finished, take a small ad in the local paper, do a post office box flyer drop, send targeted direct mail, and shoot out a Media Release promoting your report. You’ll soon have some very hot prospects on your doorstep!

Here’s another idea. Include a Tips Sheet as part of the free report. Then use this Tips Sheet as the main part of your media release, which you write like a Top Ten list: “The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Being Ripped Off on the Internet!”

That sort of release, backed up by some research, will almost always get a run in relevant media.

Classified Ads

Advertising in newspaper classifieds is very cheap and can work quite well. Worth a try.

Telemarketing

Phone marketing can also work well. Try it and see.

Guest Speaking

Fantastic! Guest speaking is free, and generates real interest on the spot. You’ll be perceived as an expert, you’ll learn the techniques required for public speaking (which are a huge advantage), and you’ll be exposing yourself in the nicest possible way to your potential market.

Brochure

Printed brochures can be good, but only once you’ve established your business. When you’re starting out, it’s much more cost-effective to demonstrate your professionalism in other ways that require a smaller initial outlay. Our research tells us that fewer than 20% of an audience will read your brochure.

Newsletters

Newsletters are great! They’re cheap and they’re easy. Use a desktop publisher with some decent paper. I can produce a great-looking newsletter for about sixty cents a copy.

For some reason, people seem to attach more credibility to the printed word than they do to an electronic message. For this reason, newsletters can help build recognition and improve perceptions of your credibility within the market, especially if your newsletter’s continued regularly, over a long period of time.

Networking

As we’ve discussed before, networking is a must-do. Join the local business groups, go to the lunches, attend the charity golf days. Remember, however, to keep a close eye on the amount you spend on these events, and closely analyze the return you make.

Prepare A Video Or CD

Describing your business and the benefits you provide in a video or CD is a great idea, right? No. People won’t watch the video, nor will they look at the CD. You’d think they would, and both these media provide a great way to demonstrate your expertise, but people just don’t look at them. Why not? Because it’s too easy to procrastinate.

Think about it. If someone dropped off a video to your office, would you find time to look at it?

Sponsorships

Sponsorship opportunities usually require you to provide cold hard cash and/or services. The impact of these kinds of arrangements is very difficult to measure, as sponsorship rarely provides an immediate response.

Public Relations

Love it, love it, love it! It’s free if you do it yourself, and the impact can be enormous if you get your story covered on a decent TV show, radio program or newspaper feature.

PR has the benefit that it doesn’t have to be particularly well-targeted if it gets to one million people in your city and doesn’t cost you anything! PR is excellent, so let’s take a closer look at this form of promotions.

A Public Relations Primer

Public Relations covers a wide range of activities, but in a promotional sense, it’s about building goodwill for your business by gaining unpaid media attention. The whole premise of PR is that you “borrow credibility” from the media, rather than looking like an advertiser who’s simply paid for exposure.

So, how does it work? First, you have to attract the press. Now, you can get the media’s attention in two ways – the easy way, or the hard way. The easy way is to write a concise, well-constructed release about your newsworthy event. The hard way is to write a sloppy release on something that nobody cares about.

Here are the basic rules of thumb you’ll need to follow:

  • Media releases should be one page long – and one page only. You need to tell your entire story in that single page.
  • Your release should be on A4 or US Letter size paper only, no odd sizes.
  • The paper you write your media release on must be plain white, not colored – no letterhead, no logo, nothing but white.

As you get a bit more confident, and become recognized by the media, you might want to bend these rules – this will probably be OK once you’ve established yourself a little. But to begin with, stick to these guidelines.

Now, let’s look at what you need to include in your release.

Contents Of A Media Release

Your media releases should always follow this standard, accepted format. It’s what journalists and editors will expect, and it allows you to communicate your message clearly. Your media release should contain the following elements (see the sample Media Release file on the CD-ROM – it’s a good example of how the following elements work together in practice).

Release Timing Details

The timing of publication of a media release can be extremely important in some cases. To let the press know when they can use a release, it’s common practice to include release timing details in the upper left corner of the page. You have two options; choose the one that’s more appropriate for your purpose.

You can either write "For immediate release," to let the journalist know that he/she can report upon the information at any time. Or you can write "For release on October 1st, 2003," which lets the journalist know if your story is urgent or time-relevant.

Headline

The headline of the release is next. Your headline has a big job: it must grab the attention of your readers, and encourage them to keep reading, so it has to be compelling. Make it as interesting as you can.

Body Copy

The body copy is next. Split this into three parts.

  1. In the first paragraph, tell the whole story: the who, what, when, where and why. Tell the whole story in 2, or maybe three sentences. It’s sometimes a little tricky, but it can be done.

  2. The second part of the release should contain quotes that give credibility to the story while fleshing out the most important details.

  3. The third part of your media release should contain your call to action. What do
    you want to have happen as a result of your media release?

As you write, think about your release from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know you or your company. Who cares about the information you’re discussing in the release? If you can’t answer that, then your release isn’t newsworthy. If you can answer that, make sure you write the release in a way that will be interesting to them.

Contact Details

When the release is complete, write "ENDS" on its own line. Below this write: "For further information, contact:” followed by your name and phone number.

And that’s it!

Top Ten Tips For Your Media Release

  1. Make sure the information is newsworthy.

  2. Write a great headline.

  3. Start with a brief description of the news: the who, what, when, where, why and how.

  4. Ask yourself, "Is this really newsworthy?"

  5. Make sure the first ten words of your release are effective, as they’re the most important.

  6. Avoid the excessive use of adjectives and fancy language.

  7. Focus on the facts.

  8. Provide contact details, and make sure you can be reached.

  9. Send it to the right person! There’s not much use sending your IT story to the
    sports journalist.

  10. Follow the structure I’ve outlined here – don’t deviate from this plan! These are the standard rules you should keep in mind when you write a media release.

    Stick with these and you’ll have a professional-looking release, for which you won’t have had to pay hundreds of dollars!

Making Contact

Send your release to the right person. There’s not much use sending your Internet-related story to the sports journalist! A quick call to the reception desk at those newspapers or television studios you’re targeting should get you the information you need.

How To Distribute Your Release

With the range of distribution outlets available these days, it’s a simple matter to pay a media list to shoot your release off to 500 editors across the country. But is that best?

Should you sit at your fax machine and slowly send out release after release to the editors you’ve targeted? Maybe you should send the release off to an Internet-based service for rapid email distribution.

What’s the best way to distribute your release?

The answer to this question will change with the type of release you’re sending. As usual, I’d suggest you test various methods and closely monitor the results. You might find that your Internet-related media releases have great success when distributed via an Internet-based service.

But my big word here would be ‘targeted.’ In my company, we first identify the specific publications or media we want to target, then take a look at what they produce and the news angles they take. After that, it’s a simple matter of writing our release specifically for that publication or show, that editor, or that particular journalist.

Sure, this might mean a little extra work, but the results that a well-targeted media campaign can provide can be well worth it.

The Call

It’s all gone well so far. You’ve sent your media release off to your targeted media contacts and you sit back, imagining your face on the nightly news… and then you get the call.

Suddenly, you have a journalist on the phone who wants more information on the story, and perhaps a quote or 2! What do you do next? You have a couple of options:

  1. Panic, start um-ing and ah-ing, blurt out a few long-winded answers, and generally squander your opportunity to get your message across.

  2. Calmly gather all the relevant material you have had sitting on your desk ready for this call, and start the interview.

If you want to take the second option, you’ll need to be ready ahead of time. So, when you prepare your release, prepare for what may happen.

Prepare for the interview. Try to think about what journalists would want to know. In my experience, they want information: they want it concise, they want it relevant, and they want it now. It’s your task to give them what they need to do a good job.

Make it as easy as possible for the media to do their jobs. Most people seem to assume that journalists are hunting around for the dirt, that they’ll grab any slip-up you make and turn you into a laughing stock. In my experience, this has not been the case. The vast majority of journalists I’ve dealt with have been professional, accommodating, and have taken great pride in putting together a story that’s interesting and top quality.

If you don’t have much experience with the media, rest assured that they won’t make your life harder. They’ll almost always guide you through the process and make it as easy as possible.

When you’re speaking with the media, try to relax. Imagine the interview is a friendly conversation with someone who wants to learn a bit more about what you have to say, because that is exactly what it is.

So, before you send off the release, make sure you have handy as much information as might be required. Also, have a list of the contact details of the people the journalist might like to interview about your news item. That way, when the press calls, you’ll be ready for action!

The Release Has Been Run! What Now?

The local television station has sent out a journalist to cover your media release and you find yourself featured on the evening news. It makes a big impact for business and lifts the business profile a mile! Fantastic!

What’s next? Do you send the journalist a gift of a dozen bottles of wine, send her out for dinner or just send money? Well, none of the above actually!

Look at this situation from the perspective that we use to approach client care. Anyone who helps your business is doing you a favour. If you reward the behavior, it will be repeated. And, it’s just good manners.

So, what should you do when the media runs your story? Say “thanks.” It’s common courtesy. Here is an example letter you might like to use:

Dear John,
Just a quick note to say thanks for coming out to interview me about our business now selling pieces of the moon.

We were thrilled to see how well the story came up on the news, and I just wanted to say thanks for guiding me through it all.

It really helped having a professional treat me with kid gloves so we could look our best. We have had some tremendous
reactions to the story.

Now I know how hard it is to make it look as effortless as you do! Thanks again.
Regards,
Brendon Sinclair

What Not To Do With Your Media Release

First, the confession: I’ve done this once or twice. I’ll never do it again. Scout’s honour.

Imagine you’ve written your release, honed your headline, penned a terrific opening, and presented all your information on one page. Your contact details are all there, the release is well-formatted, and it’s newsworthy. You’re off to a great start!

Now, you fax or email it to the editors at various media outlets. Terrific. Then, you ring every single person that you faxed the release to, and say those magic words:
"Just checking to see if you got my media release?"

Don’t do it. Don’t ring. Why not?

  1. Editors don’t enjoy it. They have your release. If it’s newsworthy they’ll follow up on it. Leave them alone!

  2. I’ve done the math and here it is. Let’s say you fax your media release to 100 editors. Later, you start the follow-up telephone calls. Each call costs an average of $1 and takes three minutes to make. The tricky part is in actually finding the person you want to speak to. It takes an average of two phone calls to find the person you’re after.

That’s 200 phone calls, 600 minutes and $200 you will spend following up that release. For that $200 I could fax a release to another 500 editors! 600 minutes is ten hours. That’s a full day’s work. Your time could be better spent!

The media has enormous power and influence, and is always looking for good stories to run. If you have a newsworthy story, it might well be run – giving your business tremendous exposure.

Is There An Advantage In Using A PR Agency?

Good PR agencies should have vast experience in assessing whether your media release is newsworthy (and if it isn’t, they can provide some suggestions on how to make it newsworthy). If it is newsworthy they can ensure that it’s written in a concise and effective style that will attract the attention of an editor or journalist.

The big advantage of using a PR agency is that the PR person is in the industry. The PR person regularly talks with editors, journalists, and other contacts. The PR person has already established a level of credibility with a circle of journalists.

Think of it this way. Imagine we take two copies of the same release. One is sent to the local newspaper by Joe Smith of Joe’s Web Development. It’s Joe’s first release. The other release is sent to the paper by the PR person.

In a perfect world, they’d both be read. Because the PR person already has credibility with a press contact at the paper, it’s more likely that this person’s release will be read first.

Don’t get me wrong. The media is after top quality, newsworthy stories, and doesn’t care where they come from. However, the press person’s previous experience with the PR person will go quite a way to getting the release read.

Having said that, I advocate doing it yourself – especially in the early days of your business. Having a PR firm can be very expensive, and if you do it yourself, you’ll develop yet another skill which, in turn, will help grow your business.

Providing Free Samples Of Your Work

Now here’s a good question! What came first, the chicken or the egg?

The typical problem with starting a service-related business like Web development is that you’re far more likely to be successful if you can demonstrate your products and skills.

This is fine if you’re an experienced designer with a few decent sites under your belt. Nevertheless, if you haven’t developed any Websites, or completed any programming that you can promote as your own work, it can be a little difficult to convince your prospects that you’re the person for the job.

What’s the right answer to this question?
Part of me says don’t do a free site unless there’s an obvious and achievable benefit for you. You’re in business, after all.

A free site… that pays.

Now that’s an important point: “…unless there’s an obvious and achievable benefit for you.” If you can see a real benefit, then designing a site for free might be worth its weight in gold. But be businesslike – put a few caveats on the production of this free site.

  • Ask for home page acknowledgment of your support.
  • Request that the client organization send you a signed letter of thanks on official letterhead (to frame and put on your wall, scan and post on your Website, etc.)
  • Ask for permission to quote the client’s recommendation.
  • Ask for permission to add the site to your portfolio.
  • Ask for permission to link to your site from their home page.
  • Have the client agree to recommend your business to any person who he or she feels would be a potential client for you.
  • Reach an agreement that the client’s media team will prepare and distribute a media release about your generosity.

You might make your requests sound a little more friendly than what I’ve described here, but this is a good starting point.

Don’t ever do a free site grudgingly. If you’d rather hold out for paid work, then don’t agree to the freebie. Why not? Because you want this client to refer other, paying clients to you. You’ll want to do the best job you possibly can. What goes around comes around, in Web development as in life! Let me explain…

Case 6.3. Karma And The Freelance Web Developer

My business has completed some free sites; in fact, we do one each year for a community organization within our local area. Just over a year ago, we completed a site for the local helicopter rescue service (RACQ CareFlight Queensland). They run a much-needed operation, with a budget in the millions that’s funded almost completely by public donations.

Despite what I’ve just recommended, we didn’t actually ask for anything when we agreed to build their site. It just so happens that RACQ CareFlight Queensland is a very professional organization that benefits from the services of its tireless, in-house public relations staff member, Carol.

As soon as we finished the site, Carol arranged for the presentation of a plaque to thank us for the site. She also organized a media release on the launch of the site, which included full acknowledgment of our role in the project.

The RACQ CareFlight team also recommends us to everyone they meet who might need our services. They act as references for us when required, and we recently received a large photograph of the helicopter in action, along with the plaque that says “Tailored Consulting, Friends of RACQ CareFlight 2002.” Both the plaque and the photograph are on display in our office.

To top it all off, Carol has also devoted some time to come into our offices and lead inhouse training on the role of the PR professional within small business. We’ve generated two Website sales from our association with RACQ CareFlight Queensland, and combined with the extra services Carol has provided, we’ve received a terrific benefit from completing this “freebie” (in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that we’ve helped our local community).

It’s true that these events reflect more on RACQ CareFlight’s professionalism to look after their sponsors than the sort of treatment you can expect from every client for whom you develop a free site. Yet the way Carol has looked after us provides excellent pointers as to the ways in which you need to benefit from agreeing to complete a free site. If you got this kind of exposure each time you completed a free site, you’d be a very happy business person!

Key Points

  • There are myriad ways to market your business – and a myriad of ways to waste your marketing budget! Make your decisions wisely.
  • Consider the CPM and media wastage inherent in any campaign you undertake.
  • Assess media options carefully before you buy – but don’t suffer analysis paralysis. Try a few different options.
  • Public relations costs very little, and provides you with instant credibility. Write a newsworthy release for optimum exposure.
  • Make any free sites you build pay!

A Plan Of Action

In this chapter, we’ve talked about getting out there and doing some serious marketing to get your business up and running. If you don’t do any marketing, you won’t be in business long. If you implement poor marketing, you may be in business for less time.

If you effectively market on a regular basis, you will have the foundations of a successful business.

Develop a plan of action to get yourself in the game. There’s an example Marketing Plan, which should give you a good starting point, on the CD-ROM in this kit.

But what marketing methods will work best? As I’ve said throughout this chapter, there’s no simple answer to that! It’s important to identify the best way for you to implement your marketing strategy. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another.

If you market yourself well, you should expect that:

  1. Qualified prospects will respond to the marketing you do. The best business comes from people who call you – these people are motivated and keen to go. These are the prospects you want!

  2. You’ll be able to convert more prospects into paying clients.

  3. You’ll generate referrals – an excellent (and probably the best) way to land more business.

Over the years, my marketing plans have shifted from being long, boring documents to quick summaries of just a page or two. Instead of writing pages and pages regarding each newspaper’s demographic and geographic reach, and how it’s relevant to whatever campaign we’re planning, I’m likely to scribble down “Classifieds, $100 worth on Saturdays for ten weeks in Daily Planet. Contact Clark Kent, Ph. 555-5555.”

That approach works for me only because I know the local newspapers and their readership, and, through experience, I have a general idea of the impact of those advertisements.

A two page summary might not work for the next person, who might need a plan that contains a little more documentation and review. Whatever the size of your plan, there are a few essential points that you’ll need to include.

An Objective

The first thing your plan needs is a goal. Make it simple, and make it achievable. For example, your goal might be as simple as “Sign up four clients within two months.” It might be “Generate sales of $10,000 in a month.” Or even “Have ten prospect meetings in a month.”

Make the goal as specific as possible – no airy fairy language like “My goal is to implement an appropriate range of actions to assist clients in developing effective Web-based strategies.” Not only are all of those words hard to spell, but they’re too ambiguous. You need something simple, easy and measurable.

Market Information

OK, you’ve set a simple goal. Now, take a look at your market. Using the example from before, you may have defined your market to be small businesses within a fifty kilometer radius, participating in high-tech industries.

As we discussed earlier in this chapter, perhaps you’ve also completed a survey to find out exactly how these companies choose Web developers (if any). Maybe you also asked about their level of interest in Web development and what factors influence the decisions they make (you might find, for example, that they all are members of the local Chamber of Commerce).

To fully profile your market, you might also like to know:

  • size of the market
  • market segments
  • who the competition is
  • the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
  • your target market
  • what their buying patterns are (Many businesses are seasonal. For example, the local toy shop may generate most sales at Christmas.)

Once you have this information, you’ll be a little better armed to attack!

Competitor Information

Complete a competitor analysis using the research techniques we discussed in Chapter 2.

For each competitor, make sure you know who, what, when, where how and why. See how they advertise. Review their client list. Benchmark against them. Now, plan to beat them!

Your Marketing Strategy

Take a look at the marketing options available to you, and leverage what you know about:

  • your target market
  • how your market finds out about Web development firms
  • how your competitors advertise
  • each marketing option

Competitor information is relevant to your marketing strategy in a number of ways. First, when you review a competitor’s strategy, you need to ascertain whether simply copying their approach will be enough. It works for them, so it should work for you, right? Well, it sounds reasonable enough, but in practice things can be a little different.

Established businesses have established names. There is an element of trust associated with their longevity in the industry (I don’t think I have ever seen an industry from which so many people have dropped out!) and that equates to sales, often via referrals.

As we know, referrals are often the best way to generate new business. If you do exactly what the competition is doing, as the new kid on the block, you’ll almost certainly fail. You need to identify successful strategies that you can apply to your business, and apply them with a twist.

If your competitor generates business through direct mail, then perhaps a direct mail campaign that incorporates a competition might work better for you. As long as you can develop your own unique angle, your campaign’s potential for success will soar. As long as you’re noticed, you are known. That’s half the battle of attracting clients.

The information you’ve gathered on your competitors might also help you decide to adopt a strategy of competitive opposition. This can be highly effective in helping you move from a saturated and cluttered market to one where you may well be the only industry voice.

Let’s say your competitor has a strong presence in the local newspaper. By the sheer volume of ad space they’ve bought, and the length of their association with the paper, the competitor may have that particular market segment covered. Your small advertisements may not be able to make a big impact.

However, if you know that this advertising works for the competitor, it may be time to
commence an advertising campaign in competing magazines and journals. You have the advantage of knowing that print advertising works for your competitor, along with the added benefit of having a good chance at winning a decent slice of an uncluttered parallel market.

Take what you can learn from your competitor, tweak it, and apply it to your own marketing to suit yourself. Importantly, you need to make it different so that you, and your business, stand out.

Go get ‘em, tiger!

Your Marketing Message

What message will you communicate through your marketing efforts? This is a key consideration – the quality and clarity of your message can mean the difference between an excellent response and an ordinary one.

When you’re promoting your business you have to grab people’s attention. Be outrageous. Be provocative. Be shocking! After all, you have to be the highest profile Web developer or programmer or graphic artist in your region.

The old advertising formula for communication is Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA). Each represents a stage that your prospects must move hrough before they will buy from you:

  • Attention
    The prospect must be attracted to your message.

  • Interest
    The prospect has to become interested in what you have to say.

  • Desire
    Your message must spark within the prospect a desire to obtain the benefits you offer.

  • Action
    Ideally, your message will prompt the user to take action towards procuring your services.

The important point here is that nothing is going to happen as a result of your advertising unless you grab people’s attention. Do whatever it takes!

Once you have the prospects’ attention, you should restate their problem (that is: they don’t make enough money through their current business channels).

Next, you offer them a solution to that problem (that’s your pitch).

And finally, you ask them to take action (ask them to contact you).

Being outrageous gets attention, and it’s attention that you’re after! A by-product of being outrageous is that you’ll often be entertaining as well – and a lot of clients like to be entertained.

They want a good job, a real solution, and professionalism, but they also want to be entertained. Make your prospects enjoy themselves – make them laugh – and you’re off
to a great start!

Measurement

OK, now we’ve got a good picture of advertising, promotion and PR for the freelance Web designer. The point here is that you need to implement many different marketing techniques on an ongoing basis. Running seasonal campaigns is good, but continual promotion via a number of means is far more effective. Only then will you generate a healthy number of prospects for your business.

This brings us to an important point: the whole idea behind marketing is to generate
interest among your target audience. More than that, the purpose of marketing is to
generate leads – leads that will evolve into sales. In order to ensure you use your marketing budget to your best advantage, you must do one thing:

Measure the cost of every response.

Measure the response to every marketing technique you implement. It’s a simple process to analyze the benefits per dollar of everything you do – and it’s even easier if you use the Marketing Budget in the Budget file and the Marketing Activities Analysis Sheet included on this kit’s CD-ROM.

Look closely at the dollar benefits and tweak your marketing tactics accordingly. For example, let’s say your $40-per-week classified advertising campaign generates two, $3,000 Website sales within a couple of months. You’ve spent around $200, and generated $6,000 in income. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But don’t forget the other, hidden “costs” of the advertisement. The cost breakdown may look something like this:

  • Time spent writing the ad – 1 hour
  • Unproductive leads generated – 14
  • Time spent following unproductive leads – 10 hours
  • Time spent on winning proposals – 8 hours
  • Travelling time – 4 hours
  • Overhead costs – postage, letterheads, envelopes, telephone calls, etc.

Assuming you generate a healthy 30% profit on the jobs themselves – that’s $1,800 – you need to deduct wages for twenty-three hours of extra work (a minimum of $690). Also deduct $200 for the advertisement itself, and maybe another $100 for overheads such as postage and petrol.

That reduces your $1,800 profit to a return of just $810 for your original investment of $200. This is a fairly simple example, but keep in mind that the benefits you receive from many strategies may not be so easily quantified.

Whether you follow any of these advertising, promotion, and PR suggestions is up to you. You can forget this information, or do something with it. Just do it! Think big. Isn’t it time?

Key Points

  • Make a plan! Identify your objective, and how you’ll get there.
  • Consider the market, and your competitors. List the tools you’ll use to market your business, and the message you’ll promote.
  • Measure the results of everything you do. Trial and measurement is your path to successful marketing!

Chapter Summary

We kicked off this chapter on the theme that doing something was better than hypothesizing about what you could do. This is definitely the case when it comes to marketing.

If you have an idea that a particular tool or approach might work, try it, test the results, and adjust your future activities accordingly. Don’t procrastinate! Get out there and do something!

We qualified this (apparently reckless!) approach of mine with some key marketing theory, beginning with a discussion of how to target your marketing efforts. We talked about defining and reaching particular target audience segments, and how you can attract prequalified leads through targeted marketing.

Next, we discussed in detail your marketing options. First, we addressed the issue of assessment, so that you could identify which marketing tactics and tools might be valuable for you. Then, we launched into a review of the more popular and affordable marketing options available to the budding freelancer or small business owner, and I provided a Public Relations Primer for your use in attracting media attention to your work.

Lastly, we looked at developing a marketing plan that contained goals, a market and competitor analysis, a detailed strategy, the marketing message, and addressed the all important aspect of measurement, without which your marketing efforts would lack direction.

Let’s continue to discuss the ways you can work to establish your freelance or small Web design business. In the next chapter, we’ll cover the development of a strong competitive advantage, or Unique Selling Proposition, which will help you distance yourself from the competition and really stand out from the crowd.

Don’t stop now! /#l#/http://www.sitepoint.com/article/1201/#nlt#/Read Chapter 11 – Handle Client Complaints/#enl#/.

an idea that a particular tool or approach might work, try it, test the results, and adjust your future activities accordingly. Don’t procrastinate! Get out there and do something!

We qualified this (apparently reckless!) approach of mine with some key marketing theory, beginning with a discussion of how to target your marketing efforts. We talked about defining and reaching particular target audience segments, and how you can attract prequalified leads through targeted marketing.

Next, we discussed in detail your marketing options. First, we addressed the issue of assessment, so that you could identify which marketing tactics and tools might be valuable for you. Then, we launched into a review of the more popular and affordable marketing options available to the budding freelancer or small business owner, and I provided a Public Relations Primer for your use in attracting media attention to your work.

Lastly, we looked at developing a marketing plan that contained goals, a market and competitor analysis, a detailed strategy, the marketing message, and addressed the all important aspect of measurement, without which your marketing efforts would lack direction.

Let’s continue to discuss the ways you can work to establish your freelance or small Web design business. In the next chapter, we’ll cover the development of a strong competitive advantage, or Unique Selling Proposition, which will help you distance yourself from the competition and really stand out from the crowd.

Don’t stop now! /#l#/http://www.sitepoint.com/article/1201/#nlt#/Read Chapter 11 – Handle Client Complaints/#enl#/.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alicia-Sterling/100002165387152 Alicia Sterling

    This was truly an entertaining and educational presentation of marketing. I’m glad I stumbled across it.