Many small businesses do not have a marketing plan and are operating in a reactive way with their marketing activities. 

Proper planning is key so be sure to put pen to paper and identify your goals. It doesn't have to be complicated, but once you have your plan in place, you can take a better look at your business and how to make it stand out from the rest. 

Some items to have on your plan outline:
  • Who is your target market? Do you have one or many different audiences? Prioritize them.
  • Where do they get their information? Poll your customers and find out where they go on and offline to get business information.
  • Who are your competitors? What are their marketing activities? What sets you apart from them? Create a competitive analysis and track their activity online with Google Alerts.
  • What are your goals? Is it to renew previous customer business or attract new customers? Have a strategy for current/past customers as well as prospects.
  • What is your budget? What funds do you have available?
  • What resources do you have? Do you have marketing staff or do you need to outsource? 
  • How will you measure your marketing? Put some targets in place and be sure to follow up and do a review every few months.

These are just a few topics to have in your outline. Pricing, partners and product details may also need to be addressed. 

Once you have your plan on paper, it will be easier to focus on your marketing strategy and stay the course.

Image by smarnad from freedigitalphotos.net

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, is offering The Best of the Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week 2013 on her website as a free ebook that I highly recommend. 

She includes many tools that help public relations professionals save time and money such as the social media image maker that helps you resize images for all types of social media accounts.

She also gives out valuable tips that are hard to find elsewhere. The tips she shares are hidden gems that PR pros would usually pay money to acquire.

Here are some of the neat tips and tricks that are in the free ebook:

—Where to find a huge directory of freelance writers

—Where to find a giant list of local and regional magazines so you know all your pitching opportunities

—36 places to publicize your startup

—Where to find a free 39-page report on how to research and pitch bloggers, step by step

Check out this wonderful ebook and start using her PR tips today.

I recently wrote about retail promotion tips for the 2013 holiday season. If you are a small business, there are ways you can stand out from the competition this season.

Start promoting now. The holiday season is shorter this year and the retail outlook is lower than last year. Email newsletters that share what's new and spotlight promotions

Offer stand out promotions. Get creative. Make your repeat customers VIPs and give them the star treatment. Start a referral program. Find ways to stand out and draw in new customers.

Customer service is tops. Above all, make sure your customers experience a positive, helpful environment. Going above and beyond expectations will ensure they return.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's hard running a small business. How do you carve out time to market your business when you are busy running it? 

Here are some great public relations tips from Media Leaders to generate publicity. Some of my favorite tips include:
  • Have a story to tell.
  • Build a short list of highly targeted media.
  • Keep your pitch short and sweet. Leave them wanting more.
  • Partner up with a technology company and show how you solved a customer's problem.
  • Track your inbound links and those of your competitors and see what works and what needs work.
What tips have worked for your business?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are lots of newsworthy things that you can share with the media about your business and employees. 

In addition to traditional product and service news, think about the ways your business interacts with your community. 

Are you involved with a local charity? Is your organization eco-friendly? Has a customer found a new use for an old product? Is your business culture different from others in your industry?

Sharing this type of information with the media through a well-written press release can bring publicity that helps shape your brand, builds company awareness and creates human interest. 

Small business owners are busy running their business and handling most tasks from operations to sales. Here is a quick way to stay on top of your company, your competitors and your industry. 

Set up a Google Alert for your company, competition, and industry keywords. You can specify to receive an email when it occurs or get a daily or weekly update. This allows you to stay on top of recent industry news and monitor what is being said about your company

Looking to monitor social media mentions? Another site to track company mentions in the social sphere is Social Mention. You can set up alerts similar to the Google Alerts and stay notified!

Small businesses often have more work than resources and less budget for marketing and PR. Here are some PR tips for small businesses to build on. 

Think local and build a media list in your area. Check Patch and get to know your local journalist. Become a resource. Be sure to publicize any local events and charitable activities. 

Network. Join your local industry organization and get involved. Offer to speak or sponsor an event. 

Offer helpful advice to customers and prospects. Start blogging. Write an FAQ page and answer customers' top questions. Make sure the blog is included on your web site. Wordpress is an easy to use system.

Go social. Set up a free LinkedIn company page. Add products and services. Link your blog to the page. Add a Facebook Page and start a Twitter feed for the company. 

Listen, Monitor and Engage. Check Social Mention and set up Gmail alerts for industry keywords including your company. 

Find out what people are saying in your industry, about competitors, about you! Respond and resonate with people and join in the conversation. 

What other PR tips would you like to see?

As a public relations person, I am always looking for ways to connect with journalists. Here is a great web site and newsletter for journalists seeking experts and sources. Peter Shankman is hilarious and started it out of the goodness of his heart. He also offers humor and insight into the curious world of PR. Check it out.


Small businesses can struggle with public relations, especially if the owner also handles the sales and marketing functions of the company. Here is a quick PR tip for businesses looking to build local publicity.

Find local AOL Patch sites for your city. Sign up for the newsletter and get active on the site. Add your events, if applicable. Comment on stories. Reach out to the local editor and offer to write a column on your area of expertise, if it relates to local readers.

Have any other neighborhood publications? Do the same with them. Build a local media list. Create a relationship and watch it bloom!

Here are the key things you'll learn in this article:

1. That you don't need big budgets to make a big impact in public relations;

2. That there are several social media tools you can use to create buzz about your business.

I was thinking about small businesses and how they are especially hit hard in a down economy. I wanted to post some tips that you can do for free that will help continue your business building efforts even in a recession.

1) Get local with search.

Make sure your company is listed in Google and Yahoo local directories. They are free and you can even link to your web site.

2) Get local in business/service directories.

With directories like Angie's List and CitySearch popping up, be sure your company is listed in the relevant local directories. Be sure to ask customers to write a recommendation for your company as well.

3) Build a local media list at smaller newspapers and start a relationship.

Offer advice, take a reporter to lunch. Local media is easier to reach and if you are doing neat things with the community, be sure they know about it. Having an event for charity? Send a media advisory.

4) Remember your employees. PR isn't all about outside relations.

Make sure your employees are motivated and happy. You can reward them with small things like praise (employee of the month/quarter), pizza in the office for a job well done, etc.

5) Discover social media.

Start a blog on WordPress and talk about your industry, not just the company. Give tips, advice, general observations. Sign up for Twitter, a microblogging site, and follow people that interest you and join the conversation. Create an account in LinkedIn and Facebook (and free business pages) and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. You can even ask business questions in LinkedIn and answer others' questions and be seen as an expert in your field.

6) Okay, I said five but here's a bonus tip.

Sign up for Help A Reporter.com's newsletter and get PR queries from journalists looking for sources. But be sure if you answer, that your pitch is on target, short and sweet and do not send attachments. Include contact info in your email and links if needed.