Harness the Power of Free Ink

(This article originally ran in the Cleveland Council of Smaller Enterprises ‘Mind Your Business’ blog.)

How many of you are frustrated and bewildered by the ‘Small Business Marketing Paradox’? We all recognize the critical need to do more and better marketing of our products or services to survive and thrive. But, few of us have the knowledge and skills to do it ourselves. Yet, we hesitate to – or can’t afford to – invest in having experts do it for us. The result is that we often do nothing. Bad idea.

If you have more money than time, find a pro – or several – who can help you figure out your marketing plan and carry it out. If you have more time than money, consider Harnessing the Power of Free Ink, a ‘No-Budget Marketing’ strategy that I’ve found very useful for sustaining my business over the last 28 years.

So, why bother to get free ink?

Well … here are three really important reasons.

  1. Writing articles in industry, association & business printed and electronic publications can create positive exposure and name recognition for you and your business. The exposure helps connects the dots linking you, your value proposition and expertise.
  2. That exposure can, in turn, enhance your credibility and image. Readers generally assume people who write articles must be experts. Not necessarily true, but their perception is your reality. Take advantage of it. Credible articles may also differentiate you from competitors who are equally, if not more, qualified but who don’t have similar exposure.
  3. Printed or electronic copies of the articles can become no-cost credible marketing support tools you can send to prospects and customers. A simple little ‘I thought you’d find this interesting’ note helps you keep in front of the market without ever selling or asking for the business.

What do you write about?

Simple … write about what you know, do or provide, but don’t sell. Talk about the importance of IT security, not your specific software tool. Discuss the advantages of managing customer relations, not your CRM package. Highlight ways to reduce presentation fear, not hiring you as a speech coach. So, make sure your content supports your image as an expert and potential resource willing to provide valuable and useful content.

Where do you look for free ink?

Also easy. The list is deep and wide:

  • Start with COSE or your local Chamber. Discuss their content needs and your areas of expertise. Stress providing value to readers, not getting free ink. They get that.
  • Also reach out to local business publications, like the PD, Crain’s, Community Leader, Small Business News, etc. and try to connect their needs with your expertise.
  • Hook up with HARO, Help A Reporter Out. A service that connects reporters and bloggers with content experts like you. You write pro bono, but can gain excellent and even national exposure. I’ve had several HARO pieces in the last two years – https://www.helpareporter.com/sources/
  • Carol Roth is a leading national PR expert and creates several different publications where content experts can contribute. She’s run several of my articles lately. Start by contacting lisap@smallbusinessexpertforum.com for details.
  • Search Independent Blogs writing about your areas of expertise, business focus or industry. Reach out and offer your services. Some have huge audiences and loyal followers.
  • Also search the editors of electronic and print publications produced by the local, state or national trade, industry or professional groups you belong to and support. They’re always looking for interesting content that would appeal to their member/readers.
  • Here’s one most people don’t think about. Search your larger clients for the blogs they send out to their customers. See if they could use some of your content to help educate or inform their readers.

Now what do you?

Good for you. Someone else has just created a credible and objective tool to help you grow your business. Now, get as much value from it as you can.

  •  Thank the source for the exposure, of course.
  •  Post the piece, with permission, on your site in a special category or as a news item. Include the full text or a link to the source.
  • Reference it in your blog or eLetter, again with a link to the source.
  • Send a note out to colleagues, prospects or clients with a link to gently keep in front of them.
  • Include the full text with other support materials you send prospects or leave behind after sales pitches.
  • Send it out to professional groups you’re involved with or support whose members might benefit from the content.

So, Harness the Power of Free Ink by to support your No-Budget Marketing’ plan. The return on your invest can be enormous.