A decade ago, if you were fortunate enough to be interviewed by The Wall Street Journal or New York Times or appear on Oprah, you were considered to have hit the jackpot — in PR terms, at any rate. But this isn’t your daddy’s small-business marketing.
The pervasiveness of social media has led to a level playing field where the old marketing and PR mindset — which favored the lucky few — is dead.
Today, entrepreneurs and small businesses that are clearly branded, and consistent in their marketing efforts, can generate big buzz even without getting on a top-ten TV show or being interviewed by a prestigious newspaper.
The bottom line is that it no longer takes a big, complicated and expensive marketing plan to get word out about your book, business or product. What it does require is a persistent approach to promotion.
Take for example the world of book publishing. In the distant past, the publishers themselves took responsibility for promoting the book. They would do the legwork of sending out press releases and following up to secure interviews and exposure for the author. Of course, the highest-profile authors got the most PR support from the publisher, and the larger pool of smaller fish received just a few months of minimal PR support.
In the interest of getting their own books sold, many authors still hired a PR firm at their own expense — with an average cost ranging from $20,000 – $40,000 for a four-month campaign. The results were all over the map, and, once the four months were up, the book was not considered new or fresh enough to promote further — at least not with any intensity.
Fast forward. Most authors today (even if their books are traditionally published vs. self) rightfully expect that the lion’s share of promotion for their book lands squarely in their laps. These authors, with the support of webmasters, online services and marketing consultants, can run a self-managed campaign on a reduced budget of $10,000 – $15,000.
In addition to reduced costs, the big change in marketing a book brought about by the Web is that the window for hawking a book has grown from four months to years. For books whose topics are evergreen in nature, there is almost no limit on how long a book can be promoted — especially online.
In the same fashion, small-business marketing success doesn’t hinge on a few hot hits to a huge audience but on hundreds or thousands of smaller hits targeted to just the right audience for your business, book or product.
Many small-business owners find it difficult to shift out of the old paradigm, since the allure of the most popular, biggest, most well-known media outlets is so deeply ingrained.
I recently had a conversation with a potential client who only wanted reviews of her new product launch with blogs that received monthly hits numbering in the millions. It took some convincing to help her understand that a blog targeting her perfect audience profile, but with only 10,000 hits a month, might be worth far more to her in terms of sales and exposure.
The former hit TV show Oprah was a great example. In its heyday it was the holy grail of marketing and PR, and every new client — regardless of their topic, business or product, level of expertise or uniqueness of idea — would boldly declare, “My goal is to be on Oprah.”
Yes, while it could be a huge business boon to be on Oprah (full disclosure: I was on as an expert guest based on one of my books), it wasn’t the be-all, end-all of publicity everyone imagined it to be.
To begin with, getting on the show in the first place was extremely difficult (the realm of the lucky few) and could take months, if not years. For those who did succeed in being booked (including those with multiple appearances), it often did not turn out to be the panacea that cured all their promotional ills. Guests whose books and products were a perfect fit for the Oprah audience had strong results; for others, it was a great credibility builder but did not necessarily translate into sales or business.
What’s the small-business PR and marketing bottom line?
You don’t have to wait for “the big sticks” of media to deem your work worthy of attention. You can take the initiative and go after a greater volume of smaller media outlets — both online and off — that are more specifically targeted to your audience.
Just remember, in today’s 24/7 media mania, small-business PR and marketing are not a sprint but a marathon, and the persistent many — not the lucky few — are the ones winning.
Karen Leland is the President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. Her clients include Apple, LinkedIn, American Express, Twitter and many others. She is the best-selling author of eight business books and a columnist for Entreprneur.com. She can be reached at www.karenleland.com