David Mercer – HostGator Blog https://www.hostgator.com/blog Web Hosting and Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs Tue, 16 Oct 2018 16:05:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 151369968 5 Oddly Effective Hacks to Grow Your Home Business https://www.hostgator.com/blog/growth-hacks-home-business/ Thu, 25 May 2017 14:13:58 +0000 https://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=16834 The post 5 Oddly Effective Hacks to Grow Your Home Business appeared first on HostGator Blog.

5 Creative Ways to Expand Your Home Business Running a home business can feel like a lonely occupation when there isn’t...

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Growth Hacks Home Business5 Creative Ways to Expand Your Home Business

Running a home business can feel like a lonely occupation when there isn’t enough business to keep your time occupied and no matter what you try, customers seem to stay away. Without a doubt, times are tough.

Given how hard it is for small businesses to thrive, it is vital that you, as a home business owner, work as effectively as possible to grow your business. Easier said than done, I know.

The good news is that there are some creative hacks that can have a huge impact on your business – from reducing expenses to gaining valuable media coverage.


1. Get Involved in a Great Local Cause

A Corporate Social Responsibility campaign is a powerful marketing strategy that can build consumer trust in your business.

By identifying a great cause that people care about (locally, regionally or nationally) and researching potential beneficiaries to work with, you can use CSR as a vehicle to generate newsworthy stories that are mutually beneficial to both parties.

Seek out particular problems and partner with a trustworthy charitable organization to solve that problem. It could be cleaning up a local river, or helping homeless people find jobs, whatever is relevant to your town or region.

Not only will you help charities and non-profits do better work, you’ll also create fantastic newsworthy stories that can be incorporated into your own PR campaign in the process.


2. Buy Cheap & Sell Back

Amazon is a leading retailer of both home and office supplies, as well as a host of other business related products and services. It has many sellers offering discounts on these products at different times, which means there are great discounts to be had.

The problem is that they are easy to miss, because prices can change so quickly – sometimes even on an hourly basis (depending on how many sellers there are and how competitive the market is for that particular item).

The best way to stay updated on pricing changes is to use an accurate hourly price tracker that sends you alerts when the price drops (or increases – useful if you want to sell reusable items back to make a bit of profit) any time, day or night.

Here’s a chart from RankTracer showing how the price of a common office product changes with time.


Obviously, there are better times to buy this toner cartridge than others – as you can see from the prices ranging from around $22 to $32 over the course of a month. And while this particular item is consumable and not really suited to reselling, there are plenty of products that you could easily purchase and then resell in used condition on Amazon (to recover some of your expenses).


3. Turn Bad PR into Good

Often negative reviews are a spur of the moment result of frustration and can be easily turned into a positive experience with very little effort.

Identify people who have created bad publicity out of a knee-jerk reaction and engage with them to address their concern. Sometimes this can be as simple as helping them select the product they want, or complete payment. Seriously, I’ve had bad reviews from people who forgot their login password and didn’t know how to click on the ‘forgotten password’ link to get a new one. They’re happy to write a terrible review about the entire service because they can’t login – it happens.

It’s important to focus on where you can make the most impact – this is especially true online.

According to the Pew Research Center, around 82% of U.S. adults read online reviews before making a purchase, making them an essential part of online marketing for home business entrepreneur.

Online reviews

Instead of viewing bad PR as a disaster, treat it as a marketing strategy. Using existing customers to create online reviews is a great strategy anyone can use right from the start – no matter how small your customer base.

Customers who have a positive interaction with you are often happy to send on goodwill recommendations and reviews to their friends, family and colleagues – making them a valuable inbound marketing channel.


4. Make the News (Literally)

Most good journalists and news editors are completely overwhelmed with spammy outreach emails from entrepreneurs, small businesses, organizations and companies. As a result, they don’t waste time on anything that doesn’t reach out and grab them straight away.

That’s why you need to actively put yourself in the news. Here’s how…

Step 1: Come up with Interesting News

I decided to rank the top new business ideas from university entrepreneurs over the last year or so. It took a small team of people a few days to comb through the Internet looking at winners and finalists from hundreds of different colleges across the states.

Step 2: Build a List

I had two groups:

  1. University media and public relations
  2. News media covering education

This meant I had to create two press release templates – not one.

Step 3: Send out a Press Release

I thought about what the PR and media people in those two groups of influencers needed in order to make my press release compelling and easy to use. Here’s my advice:

As a general rule, be succinct and to the point.

Don’t waste time and effort rambling on about anything. Short, punchy sentences that don’t beat around the bush are by far the most effective way to get your message across.

Step 4: Run a PR Campaign

Sometimes, for whatever reason, a journalist who is actually interested in your news misses it – perhaps they spilled coffee on themselves just as they were opening the press release. If you haven’t heard anything back, it’s worthwhile to send a follow-up email about 3 – 4 days after your original press release. After that, it’s best not to harass them further.

Be prepared to engage with journos and media people to help them get the information they want in order to publish content around your press release. The easier it is for them to put together a piece that mentions you, the more likely it is to happen.

It’s also worthwhile keeping an eye out on Google for recent news articles mentioning you (or set up an alert), because media houses often publish without notifying the source.

Create Your Blog


5. Create a Killer Sales Funnel Using Content

Online content that drives business is difficult to create. The two most common mistakes I see are:

  1. writing content that assumes the reader is ready to buy, and
  2. not spending nearly enough time promoting content you create.

It’s very important to write content that reaches out to a wide audience so that potential customers can enter the top of the sales funnel and get to know you and your service, without feeling immediate pressure to buy.

For example, you might write an article about “how to use widget A to accomplish something important,” with a link to your buying page for widget A. People who are doing research before they buy can read the article, get the information they were after, and be exposed to your brand before moving to a buying decision.

Content that home business owners (especially online store owners) create should also be of interest to other people, organizations and influencers because getting other people to share it is important. Without interest from important influencers it’s hard for your content to have any real impact since you’ll have a tougher time getting it in front of your target audience.

This means building relationships with influencers (often called influencer marketing). Building relationships with bloggers, reviewers, and journalists is time-consuming, but pays accumulating dividends as time goes by. The sooner you start, the quicker you’ll develop a strong network of influencers and quicker you’ll start seeing returns.

Don’t forget that content that ranks well in Google search results can be a nice source of passive income for work at home entrepreneurs, too.


As a small business owner, I’ve no doubt you’ve got plenty of other great tricks up your sleeve. Perhaps you recently discovered a fool-proof way of finding new customers, or getting bloggers to talk about your service? Whatever it is, share what’s worked for you in the comments to help others grow their business!

David Mercer contributes to SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online by turning creative business ideas into profitable startups. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with programming and Web development books translated into over 13 languages worldwide.

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A Proven Press Release Template (With Instructions On How To Use It) https://www.hostgator.com/blog/a-proven-press-release-template-with-instructions-on-how-to-use-it/ Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:47:33 +0000 http://www.hostgator.com/blog/?p=11844 The post A Proven Press Release Template (With Instructions On How To Use It) appeared first on HostGator Blog.

At some stage in the life of your company, preferably earlier rather than later, it becomes vital to garner media...

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Press Release Template

At some stage in the life of your company, preferably earlier rather than later, it becomes vital to garner media coverage, in some form or another, in order to raise awareness about your products and services. Your business will have to learn how to work with and communicate with media houses and publishers as part of your overall marketing strategy in order to reach bigger and better audiences.

This is where the press release comes into play. It’s an incredibly powerful PR tool that can make the difference between ending up in mainstream news, growing like mad, becoming profitable, selling out and retiring… or not.

But because press releases can have such huge payoffs, journalists and news outlets are constantly bombarded with irrelevant or spammy info that simply gets ignored. Most companies use a technique called, “spray and pray” that adds to the huge volumes of mediocre content (i.e. hit thousands of sites with your PR message, and someone will publish it eventually) the news media has to deal with.

Against this background it’s important to understand just how difficult it can be to get decent coverage. That’s why it’s important to start out armed with the right press release that can be used for maximum benefit (if done properly).


What makes a press release work

Repeat after me, “it’s not about the press release.”

Sounds a bit odd, considering the point of this article is to share a press release template (one that won national media coverage). But it’s true. There’s far more that goes on behind the scenes of a successful press release than meets the eye.

Before I share the press release, here’s a step-by-step example of what I did in order to get national news media coverage for my site…


1.   Come up with a compelling story

Not every business is intrinsically exciting. It can be harder to get media coverage working in accounting than it can in tabloid gossip. But, just because it is harder doesn’t make it impossible.

Be creative in the way you approach the ordinary aspects of your niche industry. Take your time thinking outside the box. Find something interesting to talk about – especially if it involves other people.

Don’t talk about yourself.

A story should be about your industry, and the players in it. Not about yourself. Anything that has even a hint of self-promotion will be duly ignored by almost every quality journo in the world. And, unless you have a big budget to pay for media coverage, this tactic simply won’t work.

For example, I spend a lot of time sharing small business ideas to help inspire and stimulate aspiring entrepreneurs. But there’s no point in writing a press release each time I post a new idea to this list. Journalists aren’t interested in what I’m doing. Yet.

But, there are other industry players who are doing newsworthy things that I can talk about at the same time. So I went out and created a list of the top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs that highlighted the breadth of talent found in young entrepreneurs (crediting the entrepreneurial colleges nurturing them at the same time).

That was interesting for me to see the incredible ideas and startups coming out of U.S. colleges, it was an interesting article for my readers, and above all else, it was something newsworthy for mainstream media.


2.   Identify journalists & editors who cover topically related stories

This step shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise. There is absolutely no point in sharing a story on the wrong news site. A business editor won’t publish a story about bird migration patterns, so why bombard them with irrelevant stuff?

Find the writers, editors, journos, bloggers and reporters who write about the same or similar topics. A good way to do this is to search for similar stories on Google and note the websites and writers responsible.

Build a permanent journalist contact list including their names, employer, email address, social media accounts, and other pertinent data.

Record all your interactions as it is very likely you are going to need to build a strong relationship with them going forward. A press release is never a one off thing. You’ll need those contacts again so it helps to keep them organized from the start.


3.   Draft a press release template

A good press release has the following generic features:

  • Subject: A punchy, interesting, clear and concise one liner. The subject line has to be catchy and of real interest to the reporter otherwise it’s unlikely your press release will be read.
  • Date: A date is important because many news sites don’t want to cover something that is already stale.
  • Media contact: Journalists and reporters must have someone they can contact about the press release in case they have questions about it.
  • Teaser: One or two sentences. Think of it like an elevator pitch. Easy to read. Easy to understand. Compelling.
  • Point of interest: It’s a nice idea to highlight one aspect of the news that is particularly noteworthy to that particular journalist. This can be adapted in the following step when tailoring the template for specific people.
  • Motivation: One sentence about why people will care about this news. If you can’t think of one, you probably don’t have news worth reporting on.
  • Credibility: Is there supporting and compelling 3rd party evidence to support this story? Unless the story talks about something that is plainly obvious in the public domain, you’ll need to establish some sort of credibility.
  • About: Who are you to share this news? Establish some sort of personal or brand authority and trust.

In the case of my specific example, I sent the following press release to USA Today’s college section:

Press release: 24/04/16

Subject: Top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs

Source: SME Pals (http://smepals.com/startup/top-10-new-business-ideas-university-entrepreneurs)

The top 10 new business ideas by university entrepreneurs has been compiled and published. The full winners’ list complete with profiles on each business is available on SME Pals at:


The top 3 winners are:

1)   RaptorMaps – MIT 100k Launch

2)   Latitude – BYU Big Idea Pitch

3)   Focus Foods – Harvard New Ventures

The list offers a fascinating selection of startups that highlight the creativity and energy of young entrepreneurs in colleges around the U.S. Please feel free to quote from the original article, use the media and screenshots as required. In addition, feel free to contact me for more information regarding this news.

How the winners were chosen:

The SME Pals team scoured university competition websites for two days gathering a list of possible candidates from winners, runners up, and other finalists over the previous couple of years. From that big list only those ideas that had moved from being an idea into a real startup were considered.

The winners were selected based on which were inherently unique, or offered elegant solutions to existing problems. The final rankings were chosen based on an assessment of how profitable (i.e. how much existing and potential demand there is in the market) each could be, what their growth potential is, and what possibilities there are for providing ever more and better add-on services/features as the businesses evolve.



About SME Pals

SME Pals (http://smepals.com) is a preferred free entrepreneurial resource with many great universities like Duke, Cornell, Boston, Emory, and more, because it offers an innovative and creative approach to generating business ideas; along with guides and advice to turn those ideas into successful startups.

And, not long after that, I was delighted to see that they had covered my story online:

Best New Business Ideas


4.   Customize the press release

Once you have a draft press release statement it’s important to look at who you are sending it to and acknowledge that they might be interested in different aspects of the story. Not everyone is interested in the same thing, and being smart about who you are pitching to can make a huge difference.

For example, the same template was used as the basis for a new press release sent out to each of the colleges and universities that made it into the top 10 list. In this case, the focus was less about the list and more about the inclusion of their idea/startup into the list.

In addition, the modified template also included mention of the fact that the list has already garnered national media attention (to bolster the ‘credibility’ section). Again, it wasn’t long before the release made it onto the news feeds of top universities around the country:

Press Release Pickup

Once you’ve successfully pitched a news outlet it often becomes easier on subsequent tries as there may (or may not) be some interaction with the journalist in order to complete the story. In this sense, an undeniably important aspect of writing successful press releases is the quality and number of existing media connections to which you have access.


Press release template

So, hopefully you’ve seen that having a great press release is only a small part of the equation. There’s a lot that goes into building a successful PR campaign using press releases. But, since we know this particular one has worked on a national level, here’s a blank outline for you to copy and paste into your email client to get started:

Press release: INSERT DATE








Above all else, it’s important that your press release makes life easy for the journalist involved. Keep it short and to the point, but include everything that is necessary for the journalist to verify and understand the story.

Have you used press releases to drive media coverage? What tips and techniques do you have to share about what works and what doesn’t? Share your thoughts in the comments.

David Mercer contributes to SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online by turning creative business ideas into profitable startups. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with programming and Web development books translated into over 13 languages worldwide.

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