For a large corporation like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Toyota, Ford, GM, or Coca-Cola visibility isn’t a major issue.
They get tons of visibility and part of the reason is that they are pillars of their industry.
They also have huge marketing budgets that allow them to run ads on a regular basis.
You may not be a direct competitor to any of the companies that I listed but you might find yourself competing with them for attention.
That said, small businesses have opportunities that simply didn’t exist 20-30 years ago.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at why visibility is so important for small businesses and what marketing and public relations options you can use to help improve it.
Every Company Needs Visibility
The majority of small companies I work with are concerned about awareness and this ties directly to visiblity.
If you’re not getting visibility, people may not even know you exist let alone consider you as a viable option for their needs.
It’s crucial for any business, big or small, that wants to establish itself in the marketplace.
I mentioned some very large and successful companies at the beginning of this piece but they weren’t always who they are now.
They started as small companies and there was a time when they weren’t well known.
You might say, “They are big because they produce products that people love.”
I agree with you but creating a great product won’t correlate to success if there isn’t visibility for your company .
It’s not just your company that needs visibility. It’s the products and services that you sell as well.
If I say, iPhone, not only do you know the product, you know who makes it.
The same would be true if I said I had Mustang or Corvette.
You know those things because those products have had high visibility. In the case of the cars, they’ve had visibility for decades.
Why is Visibility is Important
Every business, regardless of its size or industry, has one thing in common: it needs customers to survive.
It’s not a surprise that certain types of businesses that have a physical presence choose to be in areas where there is high traffic. They do this because it gives them better visibility.
Opening in an area that has little visibility can be fatal.
Let me give you an example.
Years ago, there was a restaurant that opened not far from where I live.
When it opened, there was a nice write-up in the local newspaper to give it some visibility.
And it seemed to have worked. I went there maybe two weeks after it opened and it was packed.
A few months later it was gone.
I’m sure there are many reasons why but its location didn’t do it any favors. It was a few blocks away from a main artery that has a variety of businesses on it, including restaurants.
This particular restaurant was in a small business park that was surrounded by residential housing.
I’m sure you’ll agree that this was an odd choice.
When you have a physical location, like a restaurant, it’s important to be in an area where you get the right kind of traffic.
It wasn’t like there wasn’t any traffic on the street they were on. This street gets a good amount of traffic.
The problem was it wasn’t the right kind of traffic. When driving into a residential area, do you look for a restaurant? Probably not.
People weren’t looking for them because they didn’t expect to find a restaurant in the middle of the residential area.
It was hidden in plain sight.
To this day, when I drive past this little business park I think to myself, “Why would have anybody have opened a restaurant there?”
Not everybody’s business needs to be in an area where there is a large amount of traffic.
Many companies may do most, if not all, of their business online.
Amazon and Netflix spring to mind.
Even an online a company needs visibility. Having a website isn’t enought. Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will show up.
If Amazon wouldn’t have got visibility, it would have died. The same is true with all the companies I’ve mentioned in this article.
Improve Your Visibility
The truth is, getting visibility for a small business isn’t that much different than it would be for a large multi-national corporation.
It comes at a cost which is money and/or time.
And this can be a problem for a small company.
It’s hard for you to have the money to compete against Amazon or Walmart but it’s not impossible.
There are opportunities you have to get the visibility that will impact brand awareness and your reputation. They all fall under marketing or public relations (PR).
Let’s look at a list of ways you can get your small business visibility (in no particular order):
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Media Relations
- Social Media
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content Curation
- Influencer Marketing
- User Generated Content
- Public Speaking
- Google Ads
- Social Media Ads
- TV Ads
- Radio Ads
- Print Ads
- Billboard Ads
I numbered these for a reason. I wanted you to be able to see the number of different options you have.
You might be thinking, “There are many of these that aren’t right for me.”
I know. They aren’t all right for me either but it’s nice to know your options.
I want to talk about some of these. I’m going to go into great detail because I have talked about them in the past. If I have, I’ll include a link to where you can read more if you want.
I’m not going to talk about the more traditional options such as TV, radio, print, and billboard ads. I’m sure you’re well acquainted with these options.
Ready? Let’s go.
Content marketing is often synonymous with a blog.
A blog can be a great way to help you generate traffic to your website but I understand it may not make sense for you.
If you have a blog, it should be consistently updated. You determine the frequency of the posts but you want people to see that you are committed to your blog.
Abandoning it isn’t a good look nor is randomly posting.
People like to see consistency.
I’ve been on sites where there is a flurry of activity and then nothing for seven months. Then a few posts and nothing for another year.
Part of the job of a blog is to keep people coming back so if it’s not consistent, you are wasting this opportunity.
Keep in mind that everything on your website is content.
But, not all content that you can create will have a home on your website.
If you’re on social media, you’re creating or possibly repurposing content.
If you create video, it’s likely living somewhere such as YouTube.
Regardless, the key behind content marketing isn’t that you’re just creating content but promoting it as well.
If you’re writing articles for your website but never promoting them, you aren’t engaging in content marketing.
The same goes for any other content you create.
And, keep in mind that the goal of any of the content you have is to help people.
Email has been declared dead but these proclamations haven’t done anything to actually kill it.
Email marketing can be one of the most impactful tactics that you use in your marketing mix.
People who subscribe to your email list are showing interest in your company. They want to hear from you.
The same can’t be said for a blog or social media presence.
It’s not as sexy as other options but it is becoming more important in today’s world.
Social is becoming more fractured and the only way to truly stay connected to your people is to by getting them to subscribe to your email list.
Media relations and PR are sometimes used synonymously.
While it’s not accurate, I do understand. When you want to reach out to the media, you turn to a PR professional.
Media relations is working with the media to cover your company and its products.
It’s an effective way to help with visibility and to build credibility and brand awareness.
You see this in practice all the time.
A CEO on 60 minutes.
A business owner on the local news channel.
A spokesman for a non-profit speaking about a fundraising event in the local newspaper.
The media needs stories and if you can provide one that their audience is interested in, you have shot.
Notice what I said in the previous sentence. It’s about the right story for their audience which means when your pitching, it’s not about you. It’s about helping them.
And if you do, you might just be able to create some visibility through the media.
You know what social media is but are using it in a way that can help you?
Social media should be part of a larger strategy but you need to know how you are going to use it in a way that helps advance you toward your goals and objectives.
You also need to be consistent.
I listed content curation in the list of options and this is where it typically falls. Sharing content that you think will be helpful to others through social media.
There are three key things to remember.
One, it’s called social media for a reason. While it can be used to promote your company, it shouldn’t be a digital billboard. Engage with people.
Social can be a great way to connect and build relationships.
Two, you don’t need to be on every social media channel. Pick one, preferably the one where your audience is.
Building a good social media channel takes time and effort.
In the beginning if you’re on more than one, it’s going to create more problems than it solves.
After you’ve mastered it, you can add another channel if it makes sense.
Three, keep in mind that social media is rented land. While it can help you with visibility, you have no control over it or the algorithms that power it.
If its your main presence on the internet, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get hit negatively at some point but when.
Have a social media presence but also have website that is your homebase.
SEO is working to improve the rank of pages on your website in search engines, such as Google.
The higher you rank, the more visibility you will have.
The whole idea of ranking higher on a search engine results page (SERP) is to increase traffic to your website.
It may sound simple but it’s not easy.
SEO is a long-term strategy. It’s not something that you work on for few days and you’ll see instant results.
It’s also not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. It’s a constant meaning you always need to work on following good SEO practices.
Google updates all the time so, what would work five years ago or even six months ago, isn’t necessarily what will work now.
We also don’t know exactly what signals Google uses to rank sites.
And, according to John Mueller, Senior Search Analyst at Google, there is no one prescription that will work for every site.
At this point, you might be wondering if it would be easier to ignore SEO.
I’m not advocating you ignore SEO nor am I advocating that you become expert but you should understand it, if only at a high level.
You can Learn about it on sites such as:
Follow highly respected SEO’s:
The number one driver of traffic to my website is Google. Without it, my traffic would be cut in half. That’s the power of SEO.
Practicing it will make a difference in how much visibility you get in the search engines which in turn will influence the amount of traffic you get.
There has been a lot of talk about the importance of video over the last couple of years.
Quality used to be a barrier to entry. Not anymore. The camera on your phone produces really good-quality video.
It can create affinity in a way that writing can’t. This is especially true if you’re not a great writer.
You do need to know enought about it to create a good video. This is knowing about things such as lighting, sound, and editing.
With video, like anything else, you need to have a strategy in mind for how you’re going to use it to help you get marketing and business results.
It’s not a toy, it’s a tool. If you don’t use it right, you won’t get results.
Reviews and Referrals
Reviews can create both visibility and credibility.
A friend of mine told me that reviews have been a great driver of new business.
The key to reviews (and referrals) is to be active in asking your customers for them.
To be clear, this isn’t you asking them to leave you a positive review. It’s asking them to leave an honest review.
There should be no benefit provided to people leaving a review for you. This would be unethical and if you do it, it’s only a matter of time before it comes out.
If you have customers that are telling you how happy they are, ask them for a referral (and a review).
Referrals are a hard thing to rely on in the long run but they can be impactful in creating new visbility for your business.
Podcasts have been all the rage for the last several years.
They can help you create visibility and affinity for your company. They can also potentially help drive sales but I’m one of the few people who hasn’t run through the streets advocating for everybody to start a podcast.
There are so many podcasts these days that it can be hard to stand out and grow an audience.
However, If you are interested in going this route, I suggest checking out the podcast, 3 Clips. It’s a podcast about making podcasts.
Also, be aware that you don’t have a podcast in order to benefit from one. How? Check out the YouTube Short below.
One of the great things about having a community is that you are no longer at the mercy of the algorithms that power search and social media.
Community is similar to email.
The people who show up to your community do so willingly.
It gives you an opportunity to connect and have conversations.
There are platforms where you can build a community such as Slack but you can build a community almost anywhere. Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Discord, and even Twitter.
Community does have its challenges and there are things you should consider before starting one such as having rules and how you will moderate it.
Influencer marketing can be powerful but it’s not new. It’s been around for a long time. It’s only with social media that everybody stood up and took notice.
The mistake made with influencer marketing is the same mistake people make with marketing in general, going for a big audience.
The bigger the influencer you work with the more money it’s going to cost. If your only goal is to get in front of as many people as possible, you’re not likely to get a good return.
This type of influencer marketing has created a lot of blowback to the point where the latest trend is deinfluencer campaigns that tell people what not to buy.
Engaging in influencer marketing will bring visibility but you want the right kind of visibility. You also don’t want to break the bank.
There are plenty of people who have smaller followings but are highly respected. They can have a much bigger impact for an influencer campaign than Kim Kardishian.
If you go this route, look for microinfluencers who have an audience that is similar to an audience your trying to reach.
Every industry has conferences.
In the world of marketing there a slew of conferences that people talk about.
Content Marketing World. MozCon. Inbound. Social Media Marketing World and a host of others.
Your industry has them too.
They are a great way to learn about new trends, learn new things you can apply to your business, and to network.
This is a post about visibility so, think strategically how going to a conference can help with this.
Maybe it’s delivering a talk or leading a leading a learning session.
Maybe there are certain people or businesses you want to network with so can partner with in the future that would help your company with visibility through a news story, doing a webinar, or appearing on a podcast.
Remember, the whole idea is to help you get visibility. If your company doesn’t have very much brand awareness, setting up a webinar is going to be a giant disappointment for you.
People won’t show because you won’t have generated the awarness to get them there.
If you are new to this space, you want to partner with somebody, a company or an individual, who has high brand awareness.
It should be a partnership that makes sense. If you sell marketing services, don’t set up a webinar with a company that sells seeds for gardening. You’ll be getting the wrong type of visibility.
As awareness for your brand grows, so will the opportunity to run your own webinars.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is just for companies that sell services. It can be a good option if you sell products as well to support your customers.
There are opportunities to speak at all sorts of events.
It could be something put on by the local chamber of commerce.
It could be something bigger like an industry event that is focusing on your city or the region you live.
There are many national events as well.
Awareness about you and your brand is going to impact where you can speak.
If nobody knows who you are, hoping to speak at a large national event is a bit of a pipe dream but a small local event might be perfect to help you raise your visibility.
Sponsorships are really wide open. You can sponsor everything from podcasts to email newsletters. Events to school sports and little league.
It’s a good way to get your name out there and generate some brand awareness.
The costs will vary based on what you do.
You also need to make sure that you are aligned with what you’re sponsoring. It needs to be something you believe in and it should make sense for your business.
If you sell alcohol, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to sponsor the 10k run that is raising funds for cancer research.
But, it would make sense if you are a health-related company.
In other words, pick and pitch wisely when it comes to sponsorships.
Digital Ads: Google and Social Media
For many, cost is a significant barrier to running ads on TV or radio.
This is less of an issue with Google and the social media networks. I say less of an issue because the cost of running an ad campaign will vary. It could cost more for certain campaigns than others.
A big plus with digial ads is you have more control over who sees them than you would if you usedtraditional channels such as TV, radio, print, or billboards.
The more traditional forms are about getting ads in front of as many people as possible in the hopes of reaching the right people.
When you place ads through Google and social media, you can target who you want to reach.
Another big difference is that you pay based on either the click or the impression of your ad.
The downside with Google Ads is that it can be competitive so you should at least have a basic idea of how to use them or hire somebody who does.
Like Google, the costs for social media ads can fluctuate a bit and you need to know how to properly use their tools so you can get the most out of your ads.
As a small business, if you are inclined to run ads, you should definitely take a look at the digital options you have but make sure you understand your audience so you know which option is best for you.
You don’t want to be running ads on Twitter if your audience is on TikTok.
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