You have a Facebook page, and you have plenty of likes. That’s good, right? You send out emails offering coupons or discounts to drum up business. That should attract more business, shouldn’t it?
Marketing a company can take thousands of forms, but how do you know if your communications efforts are delivering new customers? Whether it’s social media, digital communication or the old-fashioned PR of just getting on the news, you need to think strategically to make sure you’re getting the most out of what you put into it.
“A lot of people, in my experience, hire a PR firm because they’re great at what they do and they want to be recognized,” says communications expert Dr. Jacob Farbman. “It’s not about being recognized. It’s about how all of this ties into the bottom line.”
Farbman is director of Communications for the NJ Council of County Colleges and a professor of communications at TCNJ. He is also a longtime practitioner, and he provided NJBIA’s Small Business Network with an hourlong presentation on Making the Case for Hiring Small Businesses.
Large companies have huge advertising and PR budgets that allow them to research and target specific audiences to make sure they deliver an exciting, attention-grabbing message to the right people. Small businesses don’t have huge budgets, but with a little planning and strategizing, they can target their communications in the same way.
Here are four steps to get there.
Step 1: Have a specific goal.
Is there a particular market you want to crack? Do you want to improve your relationship with your customers? Are you looking to build your reputation with local officials?
“It’s not just potential customers. There are a lot of people we communicate with,” Farbman said, which means that any communications plan has to have a goal to be effective.
“Where are we now, and where to do we want to be; and what are the actions that we’re going to take over time to reinforce our position,” Farbman said.
A small business can improve its reputation by communicating its value to the community, such as how many jobs it creates and the local organizations it supports.
If the goal is to reach new customers, Farbman said, small businesses can communicate their value over large companies, by emphasizing the positives, such as less bureaucracy and more flexibility.
Step 2: Know who you want to reach and how to reach them.
A pizzeria trying to increase its business with local high school students is going to communicate differently than a law firm promoting its legal services. Many companies think they have to create a brochure, but understanding your goal and who you want to target can offer more cost-effective alternatives.
“The important part here is that not only do we identify who it is we’re going to do business with, who is important for our purposes to be successful, but how do we reach them,” Farbman said.
Step 3: Choose a message that resonates with your target audience.
Once you know who and how, then you need to come up with the right message. Farbman explained that an effect message is one that is going to connect with the audience, one that makes people say: “I should do this because it’s important for me.”
He urged businesses to incorporate communication into their long-term planning. Crafting effective messages involves a lot of listening to customers and potential customers to create that idea that is mutually beneficial.
“This isn’t something where we wake up one morning and decide we’re going to do some communication today,” Farbman said.
Step 4: Measure the results.
An outstanding website that wins awards for design and being informative is not necessarily the most successful. Businesses need to track who is using the website, what parts of the website they are going to, and how many of them are acting on what they see by emailing or calling the business. Using Google Analytics or Word Press’ SEO tools are among many easy and cost-effective ways a business can track results.
The Small Business Network provides informational and educational opportunities, open exchanges of information, and networking opportunities for NJBIA member companies with less than 50 full time employees. If you want to be a part of the network, contact Stefanie Riehl at firstname.lastname@example.org.