Making Your Business Name Known

by Cathy Zimmermann

Can customers find you when they are looking for what your business sells? These 8 publicity and promotional ideas for small and home businesses can help keep your name at the top of the list when customers go looking for you.

Online business marketing
Image source: Photospin.com

No matter how wonderful your service or product is, you won't make any money if people don't know about it. There are a number of things you can do to get your name out there and many of them won't cost you anything but time. Here are eight tips to get you started.

Get listed.

List the physical location for your business in Google Places for Business and Bing Places for Business. Use Google Product listings to drive shoppers to your website. Get listed on sites like Yelp!, Citysearch,  and Local.com so people can find your business and review it.  

Be creative.

When re-branding itself a few years ago, Grasshopper Group used chocolate-covered grasshoppers to spread the word. They got lots of television news coverage as TV anchors ate them on the air. Create your own newsworthy event, something so different that people just have to talk about it. Where do you get that great idea?

Need more marketing tips to promote your business? Look here for dozens of marketing ideas.

Listen to your customers.

Morton's Steakhouse got a mountain of publicity when Peter Shankman posted a tweet jokingly asking @Mortons to meet him with a steak at Newark Airport when he landed. Someone at Morton's saw the post and they sent someone to greet Shankman with a Porterhouse steak when his plane landed. The resulting buzz spread their brand in a very positve way across the Internet. Listen to your customers and respond. They will spread the word.

Use press releases when you have news.

PR Newswire and Business Wire are the industry leaders, and as such, may be beyond the budget of your small business, but they offer excellent advice on how to write and use press releases. PR.com and PRLog.org will distribute your press release for free. When you get press coverage, ask permission to post it on your website.

No news to report? Use HARO.

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) was created by Peter Shankman to connect reporters and bloggers with small businesses "to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services." How does it work? Suppose you own a restaurant. You sign up with HARO as a source, and they send you emails with queries from reporters. Choose the queries that you are qualified to answer: maybe for a business article about the economy's effect on restaurant patronage, or a management piece on how to motivate employees, or how to choose wine for a food or bridal magazine. When you are quoted as a source, your business name becomes newsworthy, and you become a recognized expert in your field.

Get connected: tweet, start a blog, get a Facebook page.

This is the digital age. You don't have to wait around for someone else to write about you. Whether you own a pizza parlor on Main Street or you make widgets, you can find something to blog about. Start by sharing advice and how-to tips. Basic service is free on Wordpress, Blogger and Tumblr. Social media can give you exposure as well. A Facebook page gives your loyal customers an easy way to share you with their friends, and even street vendors are using Twitter to boost their business.

Related: Why Facebook and LinkedIn are Good for Your Business

Use YouTube.

Businesses for whom ambiance is a big selling factor (like restaurants, bars, boutiques, and catering halls) should definitely take advantage of this free platform to show potential patrons what they're missing. But no matter what your business is, you can find a way to leverage this powerful tool to your advantage. For example, a veterinarian shows how to brush a dog's teeth; a hairdresser demonstrates the proper way to use a straightener or curling iron; a pet store owner explains how to clean the sand in your fish tank. Then put your videos on your Google Places Page.

Related: 8 Ideas to Boost Your Video Marketing

Give something away.

Facebook Pages are perfect for this. You can offer promotions to get people to come into your store, or to get them to your online storefront. Location-based services like Foursquare let you reward frequent customers with something special and build buzz around your business.

Whether you're blogging, tweeting, or helping a reporter out, the more places you can be found on the web, the better your chances of being found in the brick-and-mortar world.

© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®.  May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.

Cathy is a staff writer and digital media producer at Business Know-How and a graduate student in the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program for writing and digital media.
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