How to Create a Buzz for Your Small Business
Try as they might, there are always more than a few small business owners who simply couldn't generate a substantial buzz if they hacked at a bee's nest with a golf club.
Fortunately, there does indeed remain hope for the hapless at procuring a little small business buzz. And, best of all, the steps to make it happen aren't nearly as cumbersome as many would otherwise expect.
According to veteran small business marketing experts and contemporary social media gurus, one of the primary reasons small business owners fail to get people talking is because they're trying too hard to get noticed. The solution, says business analyst Mike Randazzo, is to think less about outright marketing and more about in-depth involvement -- with one's community, industry, and customers.
Think Community Over Cash
"I'll never forget one local restaurateur in Hobart, Indiana," recalls Randazzo. "He doled out unmentionable sums of money for newspaper ads only to have very little ROI to show for it. It wasn't until he entered his establishment into a neighboring city's annual summer parade for an entry fee of $50 that the community finally recognized the dynamic personality of the owner and his restaurant. Years later, his dining establishment is still reaping the rewards of that community-centric $50 PR investment."
From volunteering to give speeches at a local small businesses forum to dressing up and passing out Halloween candy outside your shop on All Hallows Eve, there's no shortage of clever, community-oriented approaches worth entertaining to get people talking about your business in a meaningful way.
Piggy Back on Pop Culture
Marketing campaigns can be hit or miss. But those that aim to ride the momentum of major events in pop culture -- or even small but significant events in one’s own community -- can be vastly rewarding for a small business.
“Small businesses can’t compete with big business in the media,” says Jerry McLaughlin, founder and CEO of Branders, so small businesses have to get creative about using current events as promotional tools. Handled right, a major event like the Super Bowl, says McLaughlin, can be a cost effective small business marketing goldmine (read the complete interview with Jerry on the Intuit Small Business Blog by clicking here). But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you're piggybacking on the Super Bowl or your local high school football team's championship season. Anything your community celebrates "in the moment" should be celebrated by your business as well.
Testimonials Can Turn the Tide
The value of customer testimonials -- from short blurbs to detailed blogs -- cannot possibly be underestimated. When a potential customer visits your website, exposure to a satisfied customer is never bad for business. What's more, sharing testimonials (the more the better) will generate positive word of mouth advertising time and again. "The people who write these testimonials," says Randazzo, "will tell their friends to check out what they've written on your website. But the real value is that they'll take some degree of emotional ownership in your business. And when opportunities present themselves, they will promote you to others in need of a product or service that you provide."
Start Buzzing Yourself
No one likes a gratuitous self-promoter, but sometimes starting buzz means you have to start it yourself. To be sure, that's not a green light to talk about yourself or your business all day. But by simply raising your own profile to connect with new audiences and potential customers, your chances of cultivating word of mouth advertising increase exponentially.
So how do you talk it up without tooting your own horn? "Social media is the be-all, end-all of subtle self-promotion," advises Mike Randazzo. "By engaging with customers and non-customers alike through social networks, people will come to identify your business. With time, they'll begin asking you about it. And, eventually, many will patronize it."
For more advice on building your social media presence, check out Intuit's “7 Steps to Leverage Social Media for Your Small Business.”
Michael Essany is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.