Folks – I am harrybbb, the author of the beloved SMB Consulting Best Practices book – a classic if I say so myself! I post up passages as a virtual book reading – this is all about bettering yourself! So read on and I hope you will say RIGHT ON!
Our final P in the marketing mix is promotion. It’s been said that a great consultant is a shameless, relentless self-promoter, a statement not too far from the truth. You should always be promoting yourself, and there are several ways to do exactly that.
Promoting yourself with a large marketing budget isn’t hard, as you can hire an advertising agency to “buy” you market presence. However, given the world that SMB consultants live in, I’ve all but ruled out big-budget marketing. The real trick is to promote yourself in a dignified way with few or no budgeted dollars. That’s the situation you, as a new SMB consultant, are more likely to find yourself in. In this section, I illustrate low-cost ways to get your name out in front of a lot of people.
Get the word out!
Initially, you have to get the word out somehow that you are officially an SMB consultant open for business. Simply being an SMB consultant doesn’t generate business. You have to announce the availability of your services in some fashion.
Once established, it’s in your best interest to keep your name visible so you can at least retain, if not gain, market share. Granted you’ll have other, perhaps better ways of generating business (such as referrals), but as a self-employed SMB consultant you should always be spreading the word about yourself and your services.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use the sample template in Microsoft Word and write your own press release. Then e-mail, fax, or snail mail it to every paper in your area. This should include the dailies, weeklies, and monthlies.
It has been my experience that the large daily papers might not print the press release or will print just a sentence in their business announcements column. These papers get many press releases and are selective. You might have better luck with the smaller weekly business newspapers. These papers are often short on local content and may print your press release word for word. I’ve had good luck generating publicity with the regional weekly business papers over the years. Check out www.bizjournals.com if you live in the USA to find the business weekly in your area. This is shown in Figure 5-14.
A huge chain of business weekly newspapers is Bizjournals.
BEST PRACTICE: Include your photo with your press release. Many papers will print your photo along with your text-based announcement. A photo has a much more powerful impact than just text. Getting your photo published with your press release is considered a major win in public relations.
You might issue a press release when you:
- Open for business
- Have an open house
- Lease new office space
- Hire a new employee(s)
- Land a new consulting contract
- Perform volunteer efforts (such as helping a school put in a network)
- Secure an appointment to a board (such as a not-for-profit board or service organization board, like Rotary).
- Win an award. Perhaps you’ve won an award for service. I was once named the service provider of the year for a not-for-profit. This generated both a press release and photo opportunity.
In Figure 5-15, I show a sample press release written by my good friend and fellow SMB consultant, Fredrick Johnson, announcing an office move. This e-mail sent to friends, family, clients, and media is simple and effective. You can easily do this!
Consider writing an article. The weekly business papers seem to be more receptive than the daily papers for this type of activity. The monthly business magazines will also accept your submission. Writing an article allows you to enjoy the good publicity of having your name and maybe a photo in print along with your words of wisdom. Perhaps you want to write an article about how Windows Server 2003 is being implemented. Articles tend to lend an air of authority, so it’s a great way to build up business.
You can use the articles again and again. Attach your articles to the back of your SMB consulting proposals. Those articles can be credibility-builders with prospects in the bidding process.
If you find you’ve got a knack for writing and your articles are thoughtfully received by the readership, consider leveraging your writing commitment into a regular column. This is a great way to establish yourself as an authority. More important, you enjoy the benefit of consistent publicity, appearing in print on a regular basis. This builds both recognition and a following.
BEST PRACTICE: Manage your expectations when it comes to writing a column. You’ll be on the hook for a commitment to the publisher, so first verify whether your schedule can accommodate more work. I’ve found writing a column to be mostly a labor of love, as it will typically bring you little or no pay. The byline, establishing you as a published authority, is your reward. And while your telephone won’t ring off the hook from writing a column, you’ll get a few e-mails along the way. More than anything, a column provides you some “paper” to go forward and promote yourself with. As long as you know going into the arrangement that you are making a commitment, you’ll be fine.
Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation
MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)