Monday, June 19, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Create a Press Release for your Local BusinessIn the right context, a press release can be a powerful tool for bringing new attention to your business and can help you gain connections with local news outlets that bring more value over time. In the wrong context, they can make you look like a nuisance and make people more likely to ignore your future press releases. Local businesses should definitely include press releases in their marketing plan, but you have to be careful about how you do so.
When to Use a Press ReleaseThe main purpose of a press release is to alert journalists of something newsworthy so they might cover the news for their readers. Your audience here is different than the one you focus on for most of your marketing efforts. A piece of news your customers may be interested in, like a sale coming up, wouldn’t be something a reporter is likely to care about. As with any type of marketing move, you need to think of your audience when considering a press release. Ask yourself if the news you’re announcing is actually the kind of thing you ever see covered in your local papers (remember to include business sections and papers in this – they’ll be one of your key targets for press releases). If you can honestly answer yes to that question, then it’s worth proceeding with a press release. To give you an idea of the types of topics that usually make a good press release for local businesses, here are a few examples:
- A new product release
- Important hires (like a new CEO)
- Opening a new location
- Winning an award
- A charity drive
- Community partnerships
How to Craft a Press ReleaseYou want your press release to make it as easy as possible for any journalist or reporter reading it to glean all the information they need, and know where to go next if they want more.
Start with a template, but make it your own.Press releases often take on a standard format and that’s ok – it helps readers know where to look for the information they want. For that reason, it can be smart to start with a press release template that helps you get the structure right. Just make sure you update everything in the template to make it relevant to your own business and news.
Spend some real time on the headline.For the most part, a press release headline isn’t a place to try to be catchy or clever. Your main focus should be clarity. You want anyone skimming to quickly be able to tell what the press release is about and decide if it’s relevant to them. That doesn’t mean your headline has to be dry and boring, but don’t sacrifice clarity in the name of trying to make it more interesting. Something like Acme Launches Charity Drive to Help Pay for Local School Lunches would be better than How One Local Company Hopes to Help Students. The latter might fly on social media, but it’s too vague for a press release.
Don’t bury the lede.Put the most important information right up top. Don’t make anyone read too far to learn what you have to say. There are some types of content where saving the most important or interesting piece of information for last can make sense as a way to keep your audience reading or watching, but for press releases, you’re writing for busy journalists who make quick decisions about whether or not a story is a good fit for their publication and audience. You want to make it as easy as possible to find the information they need to make that decision.
Include a good quote or two.Some reporters who choose to cover a story they see in a press release will reach out to get more information. Others will want to cover it based entirely on what’s included in the press release itself. To give them more to work with, have a couple of quotes from someone in your company that speak to the importance or value of the news you’re announcing.
Include your website and contact information.For those who do want to collect more information, make it easy for them to know where to go next. Include your website, as well as information on how to get in touch if they have further questions.
How to Distribute a Press ReleaseOnce your press release is written (and proofread), you need to work on getting it in front of people.
Use distribution platforms.Distribution platforms like PRNewswire and PR.com can help you get your news in front of a wide audience fairly quickly. Submitting your press release to these platforms is pretty quick and easy, so it’s worth doing, but it’s not the most effective way to reach the people most likely to cover your story, so don’t stop there.
Reach out to local publications and journalists.This is the most important step to getting the kind of coverage your press release is designed to encourage. Research local publications that may be interested in your news and try to identify the writers working there that most consistently cover similar topics. Then send your press release specifically to them. This more targeted approach will ensure you get the attention of the right contacts – the ones who spend time actively looking for information like what you’ve included in your press release. If they like what they see, it can lead to a story about your business and be the beginning of a relationship you can continue into the future.
Promote on your own platforms.Post it on your website and share it to your social network. If what you’re doing is newsworthy enough for the press, it’s probably something you want your customers and prospects to hear about as well, so promote away.
Should You Hire a PR Person?It’s possible to craft and distribute press releases without the help of a PR professional, but someone who’s been working in the field for a while will possess certain skills and knowledge that can ensure your press release goes further faster and does more for your company. They can save you the time and energy of having to learn to write a good press release from scratch. And most importantly, they probably already know some of the people you want to reach and how to frame your release just right to capture their interest. If the news you’re sharing is important and you really want it to get the attention you feel it deserves, a PR consultant will likely be a worthwhile investment. Press releases have been overused and abused by businesses in the past, but when you actually use them for their intended purposes, they can really pay off. When your business really does have something big and important to announce, use a press release to make sure everyone that needs to can hear about it.
Monday, June 5, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
The Q&A Guide to Personal BrandingJob seekers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs hear a lot about the importance of building a personal brand. But what, exactly, does “personal brand” really mean, how much does it matter, and how do you go about creating yours? The answers to these questions and more are in this FAQ Guide to Personal Branding.
Personal Branding Basics
1. Isn't my personal brand the same thing as my portfolio, reputation, or professional image?Kind of. Your personal brand includes all those elements plus a few more, like your ability to build rapport with other people and to communicate the value only you can bring to a job or a project.
2. Do I really need a personal brand?Everyone has a personal brand, whether they manage it or not. That's because other people, including people who might hire or recommend you, form impressions of the quality of your work, your work ethic, your interpersonal skills and more when they see you or your work online. Your personal brand is out there. The real question is whether you're making it work for you.
3. If my personal brand already exists, what is it?To answer this question, you'll need to audit your brand, which is not as taxing as it sounds. Start by looking at the professional and personal information that recruiters, potential clients, and hiring managers can find about you online. What are your top Google search results? What images are associated with your name? How many of your social media and forum posts can the general public see? Is there media coverage of your work and accomplishments? Next, look at what other people say about you and your work. How do your references describe your skills? Are there online reviews for your business? If past employers or clients have given you LinkedIn recommendations, is there a theme running through them about reliability, creativity, or some other positive trait? What do your mentors or academic advisors say about your skills? Finally, look at your existing work. Can employers and clients find your portfolio online? Is it easy to view and does it truly represent your best work? Taken together, all of these views—the information anyone can find about you, what peers and mentors say about you, and what your work says about you—make up your personal brand. For example, let's say Jane is a costume designer who turns up in a lot of Google searches and social media posts alongside stage actors wearing her Elizabethan-style creations in Shakespeare productions. Her LinkedIn is filled with recommendations that praise the authenticity, wearability, and durability of her historical costumes. And her website includes a video portfolio of her costumes onstage, a link to a local museum exhibit of some of her work, and photos from a sewing class she teaches at a local community center. From all this, we gather that Jane is creative, detail-oriented, highly skilled, and community-minded. As brands go, Jane's is a good one—depending on what she wants her brand to achieve.
Personal Brand Uses
1. What if my personal brand doesn't match what I want to do professionally?If our hypothetical Jane wants to develop her career in historical stage costuming, she's on the right track. However, if she's hoping to move into high-tech costuming with LED lights and robotic components, she's going to have to adjust her branding to show prospective clients and theater companies that she's right for that type of work. Once Jane knows what she wants to do, she can set goals for her brand. Let's say she wants to get hired to combine her love of robotics and costumes for the stage. So she starts sharing photos from a robotics class she's taking on her Instagram account, which she links to her website. Maybe she chats on Twitter with makers who build the types of gadgets she wants to work with and collaborates with them on some experimental designs. By adding those experiences to her personal brand, she's in a better position to show prospective clients that she knows how to do that work, which will make landing those new clients easier. Those gigs, in turn, will become part of her portfolio to help move her brand in the direction she wants it to go.
2. How can I use my personal brand to drive business traffic without selling all the time?Be your (best) self. Your personal brand can and should relate to your business, but it should be also be where your share the causes, hobbies, and interests that make your life uniquely yours. For example, personal finance isn't an exciting topic to most people, and there are plenty of experts selling systems, advice, and planning tools. What sets someone like author and consultant Ramit Sethi apart from the personal finance crowd is his social media presence. Sethi's posts are an eclectic mix of life advice, how-to guides, posts on his interest in fitness, and odd emails and success stories from his readers. This blend of personal and business posts helps build rapport. It's also more interesting to his audience than constant reminders to fund your 401k.
3. Does a personal brand matter if I'm launching a startup?Yes, indeed. Make your experience and previous successes the main elements in your personal branding to show potential investors, employees and vendors that you know what you're doing. Richard Branson, for example, has such a long history of business wins and such a positive social media presence that any venture he invests in gets a boost in buzz along with his cash. Like Sir Richard, you can use social media to talk about what you've learned from your successes, mistakes, and mentors. You can also give credit to the people who've worked for you and who've inspired you—a good way to signal to prospective employees that you'll give them their due.
4. Does my personal brand have to be business-focused to be effective?Not necessarily. Consider Oprah Winfrey. There's no question she's among the most successful businesswomen ever, but business skill is not the main theme of her personal brand. Oprah's life and career are a master class in a different approach to personal branding—one based on emotional resilience, generosity and empathy. Her rise from poverty and abuse to billionaire is an inspirational story, and her experiences have given her the ability to make her audience feel that she understands them and wants them to succeed. If you've faced obstacles on your path to success, consider talking about them. Share what you've learned to encourage other people in your field or target audience who face similar challenges.
Building Your Personal Brand Website
1. What domain name should I use for my personal website?Ideally, your personal website URL will be your full name with a .com top-level domain, because it makes you easy to find and because .com is still the most trusted top-level domain. If your name .com isn't available, choose a variation that includes your name, if possible.
2. What information should my personal website include?There are five basic elements your site needs to be effective as a marketing or job-search tool:
- Contact information. Make getting in touch easy. Put your preferred phone number and/or email address above the fold on each page of your site.
- Your portfolio or resume, or both. Present your best work in the way that makes the most sense for what you do. If you're a videographer, embedded videos are an obvious choice. If you're a still photographer or graphic designer, make your images easy to browse. If you're a writer, include links to live articles online or PDFs of your print work.
- An “about me” section. Include a short professional bio, some background on your hobbies, interests, and charitable causes, and maybe even a list of people or places that inspire you. The keys here are to keep the section brief and fun to read and to relate your “about me” information to your personal brand. Jane, our would-be robotic costume designer, will likely include information here about robotics challenges she's participated in, classes she's taken, and collaborations she's done with other costumers and robotics pros.
- A blog. Regular posts on topics related to your interests and work can help you build a rapport with your audience – especially if you reply to reader comments and reach out to other bloggers with interests similar to yours. Not much of a writer? Consider adding a video blog, a podcast, or a photo of the day instead of text-heavy posts.
- At least one photo or video of you. A professionally done headshot is a worthwhile investment. If you're an outgoing person, the new trend of short video headshots may be perfect for you
3. How often should I update my personal website?You'll do better in search results if you update your site often, which is important if you have a common name. A blog on your site makes it easy to add fresh content. You can also update your portfolio whenever you finish a great project, and add new charitable work or interests to your “about me” page. At least once a year, look at your site on a live preview tool like Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to make sure it meets current responsive display standards. If your site looks bad in the preview or is rated “not mobile friendly,” choose a newer, better optimized template for your site.
4. Isn't this a lot of work for a site that doesn't even sell anything?Maybe, but your personal brand and your personal site can lay the groundwork for you to get hired, find clients, or raise investment capital. That's because before people do business with you, they want to know something about you, understand your skills and interests, and see your talent or expertise for themselves. When you manage them well, a strong personal brand and a good website can go a long way toward building your career.
Monday, June 5, 2017 by Kristen HicksAnyone that has their own business is an entrepreneur, but that one simple term encompasses a wide variety of experiences and business types. There are so many different types of entrepreneurs, that many terms have been coined to describe the different modes of entrepreneurship. If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are there’s at least one additional and more specific term you can claim as well. Here are some of the most popular types of –preneurs you can be.
The SolopreneurDefinition: A solopreneur is any entrepreneur with a one-person business. Solopreneurs go by many names – freelancers, independent contractors, and self-employed are some of the most common you’ll hear. While some solopreneurs hire other contractors to help, solopreneurs generally run their businesses based on supplying the kinds of services or products that one person can provide on their own. This is a popular business choice since it provides independence, solopreneurs can usually work from anywhere, and it requires lower startup costs than running a business that requires employees. Recommended Reading: How to Become a Freelancer Making the Move to Full-Time Freelancing? 7 Steps for Success
The InfopreneurDefinition: An infopreneur is someone who bases their business on selling information products. Infopreneurs sell things like courses and ebooks, rather than physical products or services. As with being a solopreneur (and many infopreneurs are also solopreneurs), infopreneurship is a popular choice for new entrepreneurs looking for a business model with low startup costs. Recommended Reading: Become an Infopreneur 3 Keys to Creating Successful Information Products
E-preneurDefinition: E-preneurs are entrepreneurs who have businesses based entirely online. Also called online entrepreneurs, this category has a lot of overlap with the others on the list. It includes entrepreneurs that sell SaaS products, those that sell information products entirely online, and many solopreneurs that sell online services like social media consulting. As more and more of our lives move online, there’s more opportunity for entrepreneurs to create online products people need that can be sold and bought from anywhere with an internet connection. Recommended Reading: How to Start an Online Business How to Get Your eCommerce Website Up and Running
MompreneurDefinition: Mompreneurs are entrepreneurs that are also moms who run their business alongside childcare duties. Mompreneurs usually start businesses in order to be able to stay home with their kids. They often market their products or services to other mothers, although that’s not always the case. There’s a big overlap in this category with solopreneurs and e-preneurs. Recommended Resources: The Mompreneur Show Productivity Tips for Busy Working Moms
SocialpreneurDefinition: A socialpreneur is an entrepreneur with a business model based on providing some kind of social good in the world. If your goal in entrepreneurship is less about profit than changing the world for the better, then you’re probably a socialpreneur. Socialpreneurs make a point of selling products that are sustainably and humanely made and often provide a portion of their profits to a charitable cause. They usually highlight their social mission in their marketing and make it a key part of their positioning. Recommended Reading: Are You a Socialpreneur? 5 Essential Strategies for Becoming a Socialpreneur
EcopreneurDefinition: An ecopreneur is an entrepreneur who either builds a business based on providing eco-friendly products and services, or commits to running their business in a sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion. Ecopreneurs are a subset of socialpreneurs but, in a culture that’s increasingly concerned about climate change and environmentalism, they’re a big enough category to include here as well. You’ll also hear ecopreneurs called green entrepreneurs or eco-entrepreneurs. Recommended Reading: Are You an Ecopreneur? How to Become a Successful Ecopreneur?
MultipreneurDefinition: Multipreneurs are entrepreneurs who have multiple businesses or business projects going at once. Many entrepreneurs have too many ideas to stop at one business and decide to branch into several fields or pursue multiple business ideas. If being an entrepreneur requires a good deal of work and energy, being a multipreneur requires the same in spades, so it’s definitely not for every one. But for the entrepreneurs that start to get antsy once they have one business idea off the ground, becoming a multipreneur is the natural next step. Recommended Reading: What is a Multipreneur? 7 Key Traits it Takes to Be a Multipreneur Did we miss one? Let us know what type of entrepreneur you are in the comments below!
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
The Subscription Box Business Model 101Entrepreneurs have a lot of different options for business models they can take on. One that’s become especially common in recent years is offering subscription boxes.
How Do Subscription Boxes Work?Subscription box businesses offer to send their customers boxes filled with a certain type of product at set intervals. Most commonly, customers pay a set amount to receive a new box at approximately the same time each month. Different companies sometimes tweak the model a bit though. You can offer more or less frequent deliveries, or give the customer an option to pay different amounts some months than others based on what will be in the box.
Benefits of a Subscription Box ModelSubscription box models are becoming more and more common for good reason. They offer some clear benefits to both business owners and customers that make them an attractive business option.
1. Consistent SalesThe main benefit of a subscription box business model is its consistency. With most businesses, you hope to gain loyal customers that will buy from you again and again, but you never really know when you can expect them to make that next purchase. With subscription boxes, you usually have a pretty good idea how many customers will be making a purchase each month and for how much. You can predict your revenue for each month, quarter, and year with far more accuracy than most businesses, which allows you to make smarter decisions in how you allocate your budget throughout the year.
2. Committed CustomersBuilding relationships with customers is an ongoing challenge for brands. Attracting customers that like your business enough to commit to purchasing on a regular basis is any business owner’s dream. Subscription box companies manage to pull that off by offering the right type of product at the right price point in the right package.
3. Opportunities for PersonalizationOne of the benefits many subscription box companies provide is a personalized approach to the boxes. Personalization is something many companies hope to pull off, but have a hard time doing well. You need to know a lot about your customers in order to get it right and customers aren’t always prepared to be forthright with their preferences or personal information. Providing that personal information means they’re more likely to like what they get in their box each month, so customers are quicker to offer more detail. That gives subscription box companies the ability to more readily please their customers and further build a positive relationship with them with each box.
4. Subscription Boxes are ExcitingAll that explains why businesses love them, but what makes customers eager to make that kind of commitment to a company? There’s something exciting about the anticipation of receiving your box each month. Some companies increase that excitement by adding a surprise element – you won’t really know what you’re getting until you open the box that just appeared on your doorstep. Subscription boxes offer a convenient way to access a type of product you either like or need on a regular basis, and they’re packaged in a way that makes receiving them fun and exciting.
How to Make Your Subscription Box Business WorkAs with running any type of business, getting a successful subscription box business off the ground requires getting a few key elements right. If you’re considering a subscription model for your business, here are a few steps to help you make sure the work you put in pays off.
1. Find the right product.For an ongoing subscription to make sense, you have to be selling something that people are likely to want or need more of every month. There are a lot of products that simply doesn’t make sense for – no one wants to buy a new blender or smartphone every month, for instance. Try to think of items people are likely to buy with some frequency. With so many subscription box companies already out there, finding a niche that’s not already available in the space (or that’s at least underrepresented) can be important too. There are loads of subscription boxes that provide beauty products, but not as many that focus specifically on vegan products. For vegans that like the idea of a beauty subscription box, but feel left out by other options, Vegan Cuts is an obvious choice. Focusing on a niche makes it easier to cut through the competition and find a specific audience that will love what you have to offer.
2. Know your audience.This is important advice for every type of business, but subscription box businesses depend on reaching the exact right customer who will love what you’re offering enough to commit to buying it with regularity. The most successful subscription box services show this clearly in the types of boxes they offer and the way they market their businesses. Signing up for a subscription box service is almost like joining an exclusive club for people that share a particular passion or interest. The people behind BarkBox get this. The first thing you see when you visit the site is a tagline welcoming visitors into the club, in this case one for dog people. The company knows their audience is made up of people who love dogs – enough to spoil and pamper theirs on a regular basis – so all their marketing is focused on reaching those people and trying to create a connection to them through their shared love of dogs.
3. Develop your brand.Figuring out your product and audience should go a long way in helping you figure out what your company will be. Now you need to figure out how to communicate what you are to the world. Determine a brand name that both sounds good and communicates what you do to define your positioning in the space. You want to be able to clearly to communicate to anyone who comes to your website what makes you unique and why your box is worth trying. Butcher Box has a name that tells you exactly what it is: a subscription box for meat. The website makes the company’s positioning clear: you can get high-quality meat delivered straight to your door. Not all subscription boxes have positioning that’s this clear and straightforward, but your goal should be to give your potential customers a clear idea of what they can expect from the subscription within moments of landing on your website.
4. Set up a website.Every business needs a website. Your customers need to be able to find you on the web to learn what you do and sign up for your service. If you’d like to do some dabbling in the subscription box business model before fully committing, you can list your subscription box idea on Cratejoy. If you'd rather have your business stand on its own instead of piggy backing on another brand, then you should invest in building a website. This gives you more opportunities for communicating your brand’s specific style and positioning, and provides an online space to point your marketing back to. It also signals to potential customers that you’re serious. Having your own online real estate shows you to be a more legitimate, established business.
5. Create a marketing plan.The biggest hurdle any new business has to overcome is getting word out to potential customers that the business exists. To get your business on the radar of the people in your target audience, you need to develop a marketing plan. The best tactics and approach to take will depend on the audience you’re trying to reach. If you’re not already familiar with common marketing techniques, then take some time to do some research into online marketing tactics like SEO, content marketing, email marketing, and social media. You’ll probably want to hire people who specialize in each tactic you decide to try and may want to hire a marketing consultant to help you craft an overall strategy, but it helps to understand the basics of good online marketing yourself first.
6. Customer service is paramount.While marketing is important to attracting the new customers you need to get your business off the ground, customer service is the key to keeping them. Subscription models only work if your customers are consistently happy with your service month after month. Why would they continue to choose your business over and over again if anything about their experience was less than perfect? For that reason, a key part of your business plan must be ensuring that your customer service goes above and beyond. Field to Cup broadcasts upfront that they care about customer satisfaction. They make it clear on their homepage that anything customers don’t like, they don’t have to pay for. They have a money back guarantee and free tea replacement anytime someone doesn’t like a tea they received. That’s not cheap for a business to offer, but it gives customers the confidence that they’ll always be satisfied with the service.
7. Encourage referrals.If you play all your cards right, your customers can become some of your best recruiters. A customer who loves your box enough to continue their subscription long term probably loves it enough to recommend it to their friends – especially if you give them a juicy incentive to do so. The snack subscription service Try the World offers customers $15 off their next order if you refer a friend to check the service out. To sweeten the deal, your friend gets a free first box to see if they like it. If you get enough committed customers happy to advocate for your brand, it cuts down on the amount of marketing you have to do to attract new business. For a business model that’s dependent on a good relationship with your customers, it makes sense to encourage those happy customers to help spread the word.
Start Your Subscription Box Business!The subscription box model can be a great option for many types of businesses. It encourages a closeness between the brand and customer that most business models can’t manage and gives your customers something to get excited about each time you send a new package their way. With the right approach, your subscription box business can thrive.
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