Five Communications Tips for Frugal SMBs

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What I like most about working with SMBs is typically they’ll want their communications consultant exposed to every facet of their business.  Generally, SMBs are more apt than large companies to allow an “outsider” become an “insider” because they simply can’t afford not to.  They recognize that a consultant can be of the greatest assistance when given the opportunity to become a de facto employee, and at significantly less cost than a full-time employee of equal or even less experience.

And because resources of every type are finite at smaller organizations, leadership is forced to make budgets work harder. Whether it’s optimizing or repurposing a manufacturing line, developing a more strategic approach to supply chain sourcing or being more creative in their marketing, SMBs wrote the playbook on maximizing shoestring budgets.  A small company’s communications program is no exception.

Advice for SMBs managing a bare bones communications budget:

  • Partner with bigger brands (judged by the company you keep). But it make it easy for them to do business with you. Just  recently, a former client of mine with less than $2M in annual revenue had an in-person meeting with execs from the best known company in their category, a brand with a global reputation.  If you do your homework and offer real (complementary) value, there’s a chance that over time your outreach efforts will be recognized and possibly rewarded.   The example I referenced (where a partnership looks possible) doesn’t happen with one swing of the bat. My ex-client reached out to the bigger brand several times over the last two years and built a rapport by keeping the large company updated on growth, distribution expansion, new products, etc.
  • Don’t take it personally if the crème de la crème of the influencer community doesn’t acknowledge you. It generally takes a compelling success story, built over time, before national mainstream media and other top-tier influencers will pay attention to you (if ever). In the meantime, build relationships with the trade and local media, and with emerging influencers. Trade journalists take pride in discovering new and interesting companies and tier two celebrities may want to get attached to companies that show potential. If you’re in the food business, for example, forget about Bobby Flay showcasing your products and instead engage with a few of the many well-respected, but still emerging chefs.  Over time, Mr. Flay may take notice.
  • Focus on media exclusives and ditch the press release (for now). As an SMB, you likely don’t have “breaking news” to share on a regular basis, nor the resources (budget and people) to develop deep relationships with too many journalists. Instead, cultivate a handful of key media relationships. When you do have news to share, consider offering a select reporter exclusive access.  A single article that reports your news to a critical audience is more valuable than a bunch of news briefs.
  • If you’re running a small business, you may find it overly time-consuming to create or discover content, share it, engage with your followers and monitor your progress on anymore than two or three social media networks.  If you’re just getting started with social media, take the lead from other companies in your industry.  Mirror the type of content they’re posting until you’re comfortable developing your own social media personality.
  • Blogging. Phew. Who has the time?  Businesses that post new content on a company blog see increased web traffic and an increased number of leads.  And depending on the content, some blog posts can be repurposed as by-lined articles and offered to publications/websites hungry for fresh and interesting content.  A current client of mine kicked off its company blog in Q4 of last year.  An independent blogger, well-known and respected in the market my client sells into, was hired to post every other month for a fair fee.  Subject matter experts who are company employees are being signed up to post during the months the hired hand isn’t.  What’s the right number of times to post per month? More is better.

Some is better than none.

 

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