American academic Ralph Emerson said that if a man makes a better mousetrap than his neighbour, the world will beat a path to his door to get it.
I don’t agree. Regardless of how brilliant your products or services may be, if you don’t let people know about them, your growth hopes are a fantasy.
Marketing and communications are difficult to get right. They have to be done in conjunction with many other activities, and there are numerous options to promote your products and services.
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Getting the strategy right needs both preparation and action. Ultimately we all learn by doing rather than by thought!
Know your customer
A vital first step is to know who your customer is – and it’s not ‘everyone and anyone’. Then, you need to understand their buying behaviour. Next, you need to reach them and talk to them.
Mainstream media – print (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast (radio and television) – are very powerful ways for a business to promote its brand or services to broad audiences. Adverts need production and thought and reach wider audiences than public relations. This needs an engaged and interested reporter or journalist who sees relevance in your story, given their interest.
For growing businesses, advertising in mainstream media often remains inaccessible. It’s expensive and risky and it needs a well thought out strategy. There are other options!
Getting into the media
Since the beginning of time, the most successful communicators have been storytellers. Working with the mainstream media requires us as business owners to become storytellers.
All business owners who own a growing business have a story to tell. They’ve had an idea and acted on it; they’ve struggled; and they’ve failed – many times. And then, through sheer perseverance they have succeeded.
The struggle to build your business has compelling stories in it. Some joyful, many terrible; and what happened, how you behaved, the doubt and uncertainty, and the light-bulb moments all work together to create the character and drama of any story. This is what captivates the media’s readers, viewers and listeners.
A request to have your story heard by media is not personal. Newspapers and magazines, radio and television companies, receive thousands of press releases and announcements every day. Your story needs to stand out above the others.
Journalists take an interest in stories that are relevant to their audiences, and involve:
- The unusual or out of the ordinary
- Something that has not been done before
- An intervention that addresses a problem most people can relate to
- Something heart-warming – a sad tale that becomes an inspiring one
- Humour and fun – bearing in mind that a bad joke has no place
- Expertise on a particular topic in business and society
- Creating jobs and bettering people’s lives.
The commonly spoken phrase that originated in the early 1900s ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’, infers what you need to get ahead. I would add ‘and it’s about who knows about you’.
That is the power of mainstream media, the many who learn about you through a compelling story that they share with their networks.