Good marketing is a crucial part of any company’s business strategy. However, when competing against major players small businesses often struggle to establish themselves in the market without spending vast amounts of money on marketing and PR. Justine Smith, our PR Managing Director offers SMEs her top tips for gaining cut through in a cost effective manner.

“Every market will be dominated by major players with huge marketing budgets which for an SME poses a significant challenge. However, there are a number of proven tactical activities available to SMEs that are simple to execute and free, often only costing you time. When implemented correctly, these activities can have a significant impact on an SME’s brand reputation and brand engagement,” believes Justine.

Justine’s 8 simple marketing and PR tips:

1. Press releases: As an SME it can be easy to assume that because you are not John Lewis or Selfridges the press cannot possibly be interested in what you have got to say. However, any business of any size is capable of being newsworthy.

Often your best bet is to hire someone else to write your stories for you as it offers an outside perspective on your business. A PR expert will ensure it is written to best suit your target audience, and they will already have existing media relationships ensuring maximum coverage of your press release.

2. Social media: 78% of consumers say that the posts made by companies on social media influence their purchases1. There are huge opportunities for companies to engage directly with consumers and sway their purchase decisions with compelling online content. So make sure your business has a strong online presence.

This can be achieved by sending out regular posts. Hootsuite is a great social media tool which you can sign up to for free. It allows posts to be scheduled for the day or week ahead, so a steady stream of content is guaranteed. A good way of engaging with your audience is to issue calls to action. Facebook posts which feature questions generate 92% higher comment rates than posts without questions, according to the Buddy Media report2, but be sure to ask the question at the end of your post. And, provide your followers with good visual content. Kissmetrics reports that photos attract 53% more “Likes,” 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs.3

3. Contribute to online sites and forums: Take to Google and find discussion sites or LinkedIn groups which are focused on your industry. Start submitting regular posts offering tips and advice or get involved in discussions, and make sure, when posting online, that your company name is clearly visible to the other users.

4. Awards: Winning an award can help to boost your company’s reputability and kudos! Even making the shortlist can help to improve brand awareness and promote your business to new customers. So scour the internet, your local business press, and relevant trade titles for industry specific awards to enter. If you prove successful make sure you take full advantage of the PR exposure by updating all marketing materials with award details and logo.

5. Offer something for free: Unless you have invented a completely revolutionary product, chances are your target audience will already be a customer of one of your competitors. So, give them a reason to switch by offering a free trial, once they are hooked, they will come back as a paying customer.

6. Run a joint promotion: Contact a non-competing small business serving customers in your market and set up a cross-promotion partnership whereby you publicise their products or services to your customers and in exchange they do the same.

For example, a logical partnership for a bespoke furniture store would be the nearby interior decorating shop. Both companies are targeting customers looking to redecorate their homes but their offerings serve different areas of the market, and thus satisfy the different needs of the customer.

7. Blog: B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t!4 However, a blog should not be utilised as a selling tool, it should primarily serve as a platform from which you can share advice, industry knowledge and expertise.

But do not underestimate the amount of time it can take to create the content to build and keep an audience of followers. The alternate option is to write guest posts for already established blog sites, this will get your company’s name out there without the pressure of maintaining your own blog.

8. Use testimonials/case studies: Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating (89%) when influencing buyers.5 Potential customers do not want hear how great your product is from you, they want to hear real stories from real customers, who have had genuine experiences with your product.

Justine concluded, > “No matter what size your budget is there is no excuse for not marketing your business. We help businesses of all sizes to successfully raise their profile within target markets, using a number of these proven marketing and PR activities. It is a matter of utilising available resources because even though you know how great your product and service is, nobody else will until you tell them, or show them!”

1) http://socialmediatoday.com/rgbsocial/1532766/unignorable-stats-about-how-social-media-influences-purchase-behaviour
2) http://www.forbes.com/sites/sage/2014/03/31/three-easy-tips-for-effective-social-media-marketing</http:>
3) http://blog.kissmetrics.com/more-likes-on-facebook/?wide=1
4) http://www.inboundwriter.com/
5) http://www.inboundwriter.com/