Business Angle: Staying Current with Marketing
Professional Surveyor Magazine - February 2014
By Michael Dix
For small- and medium-sized businesses, marketing tasks can be difficult to establish and keep current. Many times, simply determining what the marketing tasks should be for your firm can be challenging, especially if there isn’t an employee assigned to manage them full time. This can result in problems like an archaic corporate website, existing clients not being up to date with your latest offerings and achievements, and an unsettling first impression to prospective clients.
Most firms in the industry today are here because of their strong reputation, quality work, and relationships they have built over many years. Some firms have found that they can rely on their reputation alone to perpetuate their business cycle and can be quite successful with little or no marketing efforts at all. Others have found that even with a strong reputation, they are not as competitive because of a lack of marketing resources. Wherever your company finds itself in this marketing spectrum, there are a few ways that you can build up your marketing efforts on a shoestring budget and with limited personnel resources.
Everyone has been subjected to “death by PowerPoint”; however, Powerpoint is still the predominant presentation platform. Presentations seem to be put aside until the day before (or hours before) they are to be presented, so saving time here is important. Consider creating a PowerPoint template with a layout that can accommodate all of the media (images, graphics, animations, text) that you use. This will help to streamline the creation of new presentations and save you from searching for that company logo image file that is always saved in a hard-to-remember folder.
If you already have a template, you may want to spend time updating the layout and creating new graphics to provide a professional look. Newer versions of PowerPoint have easy-to-use graphics and photo-editing tools.
For those looking to really stand out and engage their audience, try new presentation platforms like Prezi.com and Powtoon.com. These platforms are easy to learn and allow you to create unique graphics and transitions. This can help deliver your message and keep the audience engaged. Many of these new platforms are typically cloud-based, so you may have to log in through a web browser to create and present them. However, the basic accounts are usually free, and you can access your presentations remotely instead of having to keep track of a thumb drive.
Corporate websites are a must-have in today’s business world. While most companies have one, many times it remains unchanged from when it was created in … when was it … 1999? If you can’t remember, it might be time for an update. Sometimes the person who created the site is no longer at the company, and it’s a mystery how to make changes or navigate the site. Even if your site was designed by a professional, it may be inaccessible because no one currently at your company has the knowledge to do “website stuff.”
Fortunately there are many ways to get your website current and looking professional. Even if you have no experience at all, there are software platforms that can assist you in creating a website for little or no cost. What do I mean by “platform”? A lot of online platforms have website templates already created for you. For instance, you can select a template that has a color scheme, home page, menu bar, areas to enter text, etc. already created, so all you have to do is enter in the content, such as your mission statement and company pictures. It’s almost as easy as filling out PowerPoint templates, and you never have to write a single line of code.
For the over-achievers, many platforms will allow you to view the code that’s running in the background of the template to help you learn along the way. Selecting a template that is “responsive” will automatically size and format the webpage depending on the device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) that it’s being viewed on.
With a little bit of time and creativity, you can create a brand new website easily. Platforms you may want to start with are WordPress.com, Wix.com, Weebly.com, and Squarespace.com. If it still seems daunting, a good place to start may be to Google “How to build a website using WordPress” (or other platform), where you will find a variety of forums and videos that will help to get you started.
If website creation still proves to be too challenging or you simply don’t have enough time, many professional web designers can create a site for you at a reasonable cost. In any case, it is a worthwhile investment to refresh your image with existing clients and give a professional and informative first impression to prospective clients.
Press Releases and eNewsletters
If you want to keep your customers, partners, and industry publications up to date on your business, press releases and eNewletters are great ways to get the word out. Press releases are the classic method and are typically sent to professional media contacts. I recommend sending out a press release at least once a month. You shouldn’t send one out if it doesn’t contain something relevant, but it is important to keep the media and industry current on a regular basis, and your company should be doing something interesting or newsworthy each month.
Another way to keep people updated is through eNewsletters, usually targeted towards a company’s clients and partners. You likely receive many of these already from other companies and may have come across some that are helpful and informative and others that are annoying and keep your inbox unnecessarily full!
For starters try to send out an eNewsletter each quarter and see how your clients and partners respond. Within the eNewsletter content, include links to your website for more in-depth stories or to the landing page of a new service you are offering. This will drive them to your website and create more traffic for other content to be seen.
To create eNewsletters, check out ConstantContact.com or MailChimp.com. If you’re not sending out too many each month, MailChimp offers a free account, and becoming familiar with using their templates may also help you better understand how to use the website platform templates described above.
How should social media fit in to your marketing efforts? Maybe you’re not entirely sure what “social media” even means. There are many opinions on the best way to approach this. Some say that because social media is generally free and because “everyone is doing it,” you should have an account on every social media platform. Others argue that most social media is not professional and that most people aren’t searching for your company’s offerings there (or that posting on them could even be a PR liability). There is value in each of these opinions, but it is important to find out what fits your company the best.
For example, you may want to create a company profile on LinkedIn. Many job seekers keep an account on this site, and it may help them get a positive feel for your company. However, if many of your current employees are not on LinkedIn and you don’t expect prospective employees to be on there, then it may not make sense to focus your efforts here.
Another example is starting a company blog or posting professional and informative videos to YouTube. This may help your company show up before others in search engine results, especially if your competitors are not doing this.
Michael Dix holds degrees in business and geomatics and is the owner of Spatial Brand, a firm that provides marketing and public relations support for small businesses in the geospatial and construction industries.
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