Small Business Marketing Tools to Get You Free Publicity

As far as small business marketing goes, free publicity is gold. It’s not just that you’re getting your company name to the public without having to pay for it; it’s that the news publicity – whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, or online, weighs more heavily in your prospective customers minds. Even as skepticism reigns, people see information printed by news-type sources (whether in print or online) as being more truthful, more objective, than information that’s paid for by the company (advertising).

But simply sending out a press kit to your local news media won’t guarantee you that free publicity. The cardinal rule you have to follow is that your information must be newsworthy. One of the ways that news media keep their reputation as objective sources of information is that they are – they’re not going to print a thinly-veiled ad for your product or service as a news piece. But if you write a release that accomplishes both goals – offering the news media an interesting, informational story and letting potential customers get to know your product or service – that’s where free publicity really pays off.

To start, you need to develop a press kit as a standard component of your small business marketing materials. Your press kit should include:

Small business marketing press kit component 1: A letter to the editor of the newspaper (or magazine, or internet site) pitching your press release as a story idea. Many components of your press kit can be recycled, but the letter to the editor should change every time to send out a new press release.

Small business marketing press kit component 2: The press release. Your press release is where the journalist will look to find most of the information for her story. In the release, you should describe the news item (the launch of a new product that will revolutionize consumer’s lives, for example). Feel free to quote yourself and others in the press release expounding on the issue (that way the journalist won’t have to contact you or others for quotes when she’s writing the story).

Small business marketing press kit component 3: Your business card. Make it easy for the journalist to contact you.

Small business marketing press kit component 4: Your corporate bio. Journalists often like to add background information into their stories; make it easy by including a corporate bio that offers the important information about your business, including who founded it and when, location, and other interesting tidbits.

Small business marketing press kit component 5: Relevant photos. The keyword here is relevant: include photos of the topic your press release is about. If it’s a new product, offer some interesting photos. If it’s a new day care service, offer some pictures of the employees with the kids. Use photos that will make your story more compelling.

Small business marketing press kit component 6: Testimonials. It can be a great strategy to build quotations from current and past customers right into your press release. But even when you do that, don’t be shy about adding more.

Small business marketing press kit component 7: A data sheet for the relevant product or service. A data sheet with give the details about your product or service (that’s being covered in the press release). Relevant details include pricing, components, materials, size, weight, and part number – if applicable.

You should put all seven small business marketing components of your press kit into a folder – ideally one with your logo on the front to finish off the presentation.

Once you’ve created an appropriate small business marketing press kit, you can think about the kind of media outlets that you want to target. That small business marketing decision should be based on where your customers are – are they online, reading the local daily, or a national newsmagazine? Free publicity won’t mean much if it’s not picked up by your target audience – your prospective customers.

Once you’ve decided the media outlet that you want to target, find out who the managing editor is and send a personalized press kit to her. Or, if the publication is very large, send a personalized press kit to the journalist in charge of your area (for example, the Food journalist if your product is gourmet brownies or the Technology journalist if your product is computer software). You can also send out a press release for mass distribution using one of many online press release wires.

Business Brokers

Business brokers help you in the sale and purchase of businesses. They charge fees for providing brokerage services. The fees depend on the size of the business, the final sale and the purchase price. There are different business brokers for dealing with different kind of businesses. For example, some of them might specialize in mergers, and others in acquisitions. Apart from the fixed fee, most of the brokers also charge commissions. The commission can be computed on the basis of the selling or purchase price of the business. The larger the price, the greater the leverage to negotiate commission rates with a business broker.

If you have sold your business or purchased a new one you might feel you don’t need the help of a business broker, especially if you know the prospective seller or buyer well. But if you are entering a new industry, buying or selling a big business, or do not know the buyer or seller you are dealing with, then a business broker can be of great help. Business brokers not only help in negotiating and taking one through the complete transaction, but they have a wide range of contacts. They could find you a better deal through these contacts.

Business brokers are good at making discreet inquiries in the market to find potential buyers or sellers, and a much higher price than what you are presently being offered. If you have a small business to sell, you might not be able to get in touch with a big company which you see as a potential buyer. But a business broker could do that. They are in touch with most of the big corporations. In fact, some of the business brokers specialize in dealing only in small businesses. The list of business brokers in your area could be available either online or at the local chamber of commerce.

How I Setup My Business Bank Accounts

Breaking down the process into small individual tasks

The small tasks involved in starting a new business can often times add up to become a seemingly overwhelming process when looked at in their entirety. It is important to remember that most of these tasks really are small, and looking at them as such makes things seem a lot easier. In this article I will focus on what I looked at in my situation in order to setup my business banking accounts.

Prior to setting up my banking accounts

To get to this point I had to complete a series of other small tasks in order to have everything ready for setting up my business banking accounts. This included setting up my business address, completing my limited liability company paperwork and receiving my LLC paperwork back from my state’s secretary of state office, and applying for and receiving my Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS.

Since at this point in my business creation I do not have any real income being generated, I needed to keep all my initial expenses as low as possible. In this case it means finding a business banking structure that will not have excessive fees and preferably have no fees at all. The last thing I want right now is to spend money setting up my business on things like recurring unnecessary banking fees.

What I needed in a business banking account

I started out with a little research using the internet on what was required to setup business banking accounts. There is quite a lot of information available which can be easily found, so I will just document my steps in the decisions I made for my particular setup. There were a few things besides low monthly fees that I wanted from by business banking account.

1. A local convenient branch location

2. A national chain with many locations

3. A good on-line banking service

4. The ability to add on a multitude of business services down the road

5. Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges

A convenient branch location

The good news is that I was able to find all of these things in my community. I needed a local convenient branch location because I do not want to have to travel all over the place to perform my banking tasks. This is a matter of time-management for me, and in the past I have chosen poorly with personal bank accounts because I thought I would do most everything on-line and not really need something close or more convenient. While I do perform most of my personal banking on-line, I still find myself wishing I had chosen a closer bank when there are times I needed to physically go to the bank. Depending on the types of deposits I will need to make, I envision myself needing to physically go to my business bank in the future much more than I need to for my personal banking needs.

A national chain with many locations

I wanted to choose a national bank with many branch offices because if I decide to personally relocate or setup a business in another location, the chances of having a local branch of the same bank is much more likely with a larger national financial institution. This would mean I would be able to keep the existing accounts with the same bank and not have the hassle of starting over with new accounts at a different bank in order to maintain the same convenience of having a close branch location.

A good on-line banking service

Having a very good on-line banking service is definitely one of the major considerations I had in choosing my bank. In today’s day and age, I want and expect very good on-line banking services including on-line bill pay, statements, account funding transfers, consolidation of all accounts into a centralized site for easy viewing, and most importantly built in functionality to download my accounts easily into financial software such as Quicken or Quickbooks.

The ability to add on a multitude of business services down the road

The ability to add additional business banking services or having a business bank which is easily scalable was also a consideration I had concerning the bank I would choose. This is an area which was not the highest priority at this time because I figured that if the bank I chose met the other qualifications then they would also have the ability to easily scale my business accounts to meet the needs of my business down the road. Merchant services and other business financial services would be some of the things I envision needing in the future.

Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges

Last on my list would be one of the most important considerations I was having at this point early in my business setup. Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges with the need to only maintain a low balance in my business banking accounts is a must at this time. I would not be opening my accounts with a lot of money, and I did not want what money I was depositing into my accounts to be eaten away at by service fees. I needed an account that would allow me to have a low minimum balance at the same time avoiding as many fees as I could. Many banks have accounts with no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees for personal banking accounts, but this is usually not the case with many business banking accounts.

So how did I do?

I ended up opening a business banking account with Chase Bank. They had a convenient branch location close to my home and right across the street from my business UPS Store mailbox, which incidentally is my official business address at this point (See my article on Getting My Business Address.) They met my listed criteria for convenience, and also are a well recognized national financial institution with many branch offices throughout the nation. This means the likelihood of finding another branch close to me if I chose to relocate is much greater. They have a very rich on-line banking service that met all of my requirements for on-line banking abilities, and easily integrated with my Quicken software. They offered many business financial services which were available to me, but at this time I do not require them. It is nice to know I can get these services in the future with them. Most importantly, they were able to structure my accounts so that I do not have any monthly service fees or minimum balance requirements, NONE!

How did I avoid fees?

They had a program where I could open a business classic checking account which would normally have fees unless I maintained an account balance that was more than I would have been maintaining. I could avoid the fees by applying for a business credit card account and linking it to my business checking account. As long as I made at least one transaction a month on the business credit card account then I would not have any business checking account fees. I know the question many will be asking. What about the business credit card fees? Well I made sure the business credit card did not have any annual fees or other hidden fees also. It did not. Believe me I asked many times. There were also other benefits to having a business credit card which initially I did not place as much value on. These benefits included establishing a credit rating for my business which was independent of my personal credit history. This is important because in the future, the business may one day be able to obtain loans without personal liability of the loans by me for the business. Another benefit of having a business credit card is better protection for on-line purchases and fraud when using a credit card versus using a debit card on-line.

Making sure I have at least one transaction a month on my business credit card was easy enough. I simply set-up my internet hosting provider to use my business credit card for the monthly hosting fee of the business. This ensures that even if I choose to use my checking account checks or debit card, which was also free of fees, I will always have at least one charge on the credit card to meet the bank’s requirements for waving all of my business accounts’ service charges. Not a bad deal in my opinion.

What paperwork did I need to setup my accounts?

First I have to say the customer service for setting up my business banking accounts was top notch! I just walked in to the branch office without any appointment and a representative from the business banking department met with me immediately. I made it clear from the beginning that I was small-time when it came to my business at this point. They still treated me like I was a larger business. They took the time to explain everything and answered my many questions. I was approved on the spot for a business credit card with a very nice limit. I plan to never even carry a balance on the card, but it was nice to see I qualified for a respectable line of business credit.

All I needed to set-up my accounts were my personal identification, the employer identification number I received from the IRS, the certificate of filing from the Office of the Secretary of State from my state, and my LLC operating agreement. All of these documents, except for the personal identification of course, were part of the LLC package I received when I filed for my LLC using LegalZoom.com. Everything was in order and I had everything with me to complete the task without having to make any additional trips to the bank for further documentation.

Conclusion

By breaking down the tasks involved in setting up a business, you can decrease the seemingly complicated event by making it merely a series of small uncomplicated steps. In this step of setting up my business banking accounts, I knew what I wanted to accomplish and what I needed before I ever walked into a bank. By having my paperwork in order and by doing a little homework before hand, I was able to complete this task without it being a headache or a frustrating event.

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