Filomena Fanelli, CEO/founder, Impact PR & Communications, Ltd.
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command.” – Napoleon Hill
I’m often amazed at the how many people knowingly put off the important work of publicizing and marketing their businesses. I get it, I get it… You’re busy! Building out a website, setting up social media pages (and, even harder, keeping up with them), announcing news and authoring blog posts or op-ed articles takes time and effort. It also may be way outside of your comfort zone; I realize not everyone is a public relations or marketing professional.
The good news is, you’re in good company. You don’t have to be the expert at everything.
Many an entrepreneur confesses to me, often apologetically, that they meant to launch a site or share their news, but then they wound up getting some client work and pushed those to-do’s to the side. While I can relate, I have a few nuggets of advice to share.
First of all, just because you currently have work does not mean that you don’t need to actively market to build a healthy pipeline for six months to a year down the road. Current projects can end abruptly and even committed contracts can be severed due to no fault of your own. That’s where business development comes into the mix. Small, steady efforts to stay top-of-mind with your target audiences means that you’ll be primed for the future and not simply living in the moment.
Next, word of mouth is fantastic – I’ve gotten plenty of clients through referrals, too – but not at the expense of pursuing other means of building business. Creating content, taking advantage of the power of SEO, developing trust with current customers and prospects and staying in the spotlight goes a long way toward reaching a business’ full potential.
Speaking of trust, I have a hard time placing my faith in a business that lacks a website and know I’m not alone in that sentiment. A lack of website makes me wonder if that company is fly-by-night, especially if I don’t have the benefit of a personal relationship already. Reporters have told me they skip interviewing would-be sources if the business does not have a website or if it looks out-of-date. Ditto a lack of social media presence, which can also be a red flag to would-be customers. Multiply all of these exponentially if someone is in the field of communications or technology. After all, how can I trust you to manage my design, social media or website if your own presence is sub-par?
So, what’s a busy business owner to do? My recommendation is to either commit – here I’m talking about specific goals with a list of actions to get there and deadlines assigned to each item to ensure success – or outsource. There’s nothing wrong with bringing on experts to help you achieve the presence you know your business ought to have.
One of my first steps in starting a business was to hire a graphic designer to create a logo that captured my brand. I also hired that same firm to launch a website that I could maintain (or have team members regularly update, which is what happened in reality). I then hired a freelance writer to help me build out a few sections of my website fast. Yes, you heard me right! Even though my firm does this type of work for our customers and we are more than capable, the matter was so close to us, and we were so busy handling client work and deadlines at the time, that it was best for me to have someone treat me like the client and make my work top priority. Better yet, since they weren’t in the business and immersed in our day-to-day, they offered a fresh perspective and unbiased view. It made the finished product stronger and we had a base point to work off of. Had I waited until the time was just right and I could micro-manage it all myself, it may have taken months instead of weeks. Or I might have been the incredibly talented business owner I spoke with the other day who admitted to me that she knew she should have a public presence, but just hasn’t had the time.
Will you ever have the time? Probably not. Is that a valid excuse? Only if you are willing to accept the consequences of not doing what you needed to do in the midst of busy. Here’s to moving forward and realizing your potential!