Friday, March 16, 2007

The Secrets of Writing a Good Press Release About Your Home Business

Does the thought of trying to get publicity for your business seem like something that you can't do yourself, and would have to hire a professional for? Do you think that writing a press release is totally outside your ability to do? Does the thought of talking to the media about your business make your mouth go dry and your stomach clench? If so, take heart, because you're about to learn how you can take care of your own publicity, simply and easily.

Getting publicity for your business can seem like an impossible task -- something that only happens for "big" companies that can afford to hire publicists.

The reality is, getting free publicity for your business isn't that difficult. Welcome to "Media Training 101 -- The Secrets of Writing a Good Press Release". By the time you finish reading this article, you'll not only understand the basics, you'll know what goes into the process, and what you have to do to get started writing your own press release.

First of all, let's go over some basic terminology you need to be familiar with.

Press Release: A statement with useful and relevant information that is written for distribution to the media.

Hook: The information or larger story that you can use to attach your press release to. Using the right "hook" in the right way can help you to get more publicity for your business.

Spin: Telling your story your way.

The good news about learning to write a Press Release is that there is an established format that you need to follow. And once you've learned the basics, writing a press release is a kind of "cookie cutter" process. Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind:

Make your news "newsworthy". A press release is not a sales advertisement. A good press release answers all of the "W" questions (who, what, where, when and why), and
sometimes "how." Your purpose in writing it is twofold: to provide the media with useful and relevant information about your organization, product, service or event and to get your name out to your target market.

Begin with a strong headline. Your headline and first paragraph need to grab the reader’s attention. Without being flowery or overly dramatic, you have only the first few seconds to grab your reader’s attention and get them to read your story, and decide if it’s worth running. So don’t blow it by being vague or weak. The rest of your press release can give them the nitty-gritty details.

Tailor your story to your Primary audience – the media. Your secondary audience is your target market, but if the media doesn't decide that your story is newsworthy and runs it, your potential customers will never know about it!

Pay attention to your writing. Sometimes, especially in rural areas and online, the media will run your press release in their publications with little or no modification, so make sure you’ve used your spelling and grammar check before sending it, and keep to the facts. Most of the time, journalists will use your press release as a stepping off place for a larger feature story, especially if you can show larger relevance to other current events. Always develop your story as you want to have it told – put YOUR spin on it. Even if your story is not reprinted verbatim, always remember what YOUR purpose is in writing it – to provide exposure for you, and to help brand you as an expert in your field.

Not everything is news. Just because you are excited that you made your first big sale, or started a new product line, or wrote your first article, doesn’t necessarily mean that the press are going to think you have a newsworthy story. From the time you start your first draft, keep your audience in mind. Who will find your story interesting? Why are they going to find it interesting? How is it relevant to something else that’s going on right now?

Identify a problem, and show how you’re solving it. Use real life examples about how your company or organization solved or is solving a problem. Give examples of how your service or product fulfills needs or satisfies desires. What benefits can be expected? Use real life examples to powerfully communicate the benefits of using your product or service.

Stick to the facts. Always. Tell. The. Truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments and exaggerations. It is part of a journalist’s job to be skeptical. If you want to use publicity effectively, then you're not looking for a one night stand. You want to gain the trust of the media, establish your credibility, and build an on-going relationship with your local media, so that you become a resource for them within your industry.

Find your “hook”. Try to make your press release timely. Keep informed about what’s going on in your community, in your state, region, the country or the world. Is there a local, regional or national news story that somehow ties in to your industry or your business? If you can hook your press release to current events or social issues, you increase your chances of having it picked up. If not, then make sure your story is relevant to the needs, wants or problems of your community or target audience.

Use an active, not passive, voice. Use strong verbs that will bring your press release to life. If there is controversy, describe it. There is an old adage in the news business: “If it cries it flies, and if it bleeds, it leads.” (Not very nice, but it’s often true.) So, while you may not be crying or bleeding, make what you’re writing about stand out. Use active verbs. Write “partnered” rather than "entered into a partnership" or “engaged” rather than “interested”, etc. Writing in this manner will help guarantee that your press release will be read.

Use only enough words to tell your story. Avoid using unnecessary adjectives, flowery language, or redundant expressions such as "added bonus" or "first time ever". Paint a strong, vivid picture in the minds of your audience by making each word count.

Use jargon sparingly. There are times that some jargon is required if your goal is to optimize your news release for online search engines, but whenever possible, speak plainly, using everyday language. Avoid words like "capacity planning techniques" and "extrapolate”.

Avoid hype. The exclamation point (!) is your enemy. You will destroy your credibility by using hype. If you must use an exclamation point, use one. Never do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get Permission. Most people and companies are very protective about their reputations. Be sure that you have written permission before including information or quotes from employees or affiliates of other companies or organizations. If there is a hint of a dispute in this area, chances are your press release will be tossed aside, and never used. And you will lose your credibility.

If you follow those simple rules, you'll be able to put together a newsworthy story that will help you achieve your goals of getting the word out about your business.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How To Use Testimonials to Create Powerful Sales Letters for Your Home Business

Sales letters can be an effective marketing tool when you use the right ingredients to develop a targeted sales piece that is directed at very specific audiences. When you write a sales letter, you need to introduce your product or service, outline its features and benefits, differentiate the product or service from those of your competitors, and convince the reader to make a purchase. The catch is, you must do all of this within a fairly short sales piece that needs to be very persuasive. One of the best tools you can use to help convince readers that they need your product or service is a testimonial from a satisfied customer.

When a customer gets satisfaction from using your product or service, ask the customer if he or she would be willing to write a short testimonial that outlines the experience that was delivered by the product or service. Perhaps your product saved the customer 50% off of their normal materials expense because the product utilized materials more effectively. Maybe the client that utilized your marketing consulting services has experienced a 30% increase in the number of leads derived from the marketing campaign you developed. If this is the case, let your clients tell your story in their own words. This can be one of the best methods of persuasion.

Never use a copywriter to write testimonials for you. These testimonials will never sound as genuine as those that can be given by customers. Another danger when using false testimonials is that the voice of each testimonial sounds the same, making it look like the same person wrote each and every paragraph.

When you ask for testimonials, ask for a long testimonial in the customer's own words. Many advertisers use very short testimonials that encompass one or two positive words about a product or service. This makes potential customers suspicious because it looks like an editor has cut down a lackluster testimonial into a rave review. You can always edit your customers' testimonials for grammar and spelling, but you should keep the wording the same. This will further help you to maintain a genuine appearance when using testimonials.

Use specific testimonials that describe how using your product or service has changed the lives of your customers for the better. Instead of "this is a great product," find a testimonial that says something like "I used XYZ Tools' new chainsaw and saved 50% of my raw materials from going to waste." This is a specific and measurable result that can entice prospects to make a purchase. If your business is service-based, let customers talk about how your service has improved the quality of their lives, saved them money, saved them time, or decreased waste.

Using testimonials from satisfied customers may not have occurred to you when you first sat down to write your sales letter. Once you solicit some genuine testimonials from customers and use them in your sales letters, you will start to notice a real difference in the inquiries about your product or service.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How to Use A Squeeze Page With Your Home Business

Affiliate marketing's one of the quickest methods to generate cash flow on the web today.

Among its many benefits is the fact that you don't have to spend time or money researching and developing a new product. All of this has been done for you by the product owner.

This is a tremendous burden lifted off your shoulders because this is usually the most costly aspect of any business venture.

A word of caution though, you should still do a little research yourself as to whether the market wants the product you are looking to promote and whether the price point is fair and reasonable enough to attract a big audience.

Once this is done and you have found the product or service you want to promote and are satisfied with the affiliate program you should set up what is referred to as a squeeze page.

Simply put, a squeeze page is a one page pre sales letter that entices the prospect to leave their name and email address in order to receive more information on the product or service of choice.

There are several points to be made for this superb sales tactic. Number one, you set yourself apart from all the other affiliates promoting the same product. Number two, you build your own opt-in list that you can promote other products to.

So what do you need to use this tactic? A few basics and a little skill.

The first thing you need is a web hosting account and domain name. These are very inexpensive these days and are a must have for anyone who is serious about doing business online.

Second is an autoresponder. These too are fairly inexpensive. Many hosting accounts will now offer free autoresponders with their service.

Third is an HTML editor. There are several free editors out there that are easily found through a quick search. Nothing fancy is needed, just a simple user friendly application.

And the final ingredient is a little copy writing skill.

Here is a tip on what to write on your page: Go to the product sales page. Pick out the highlights, the biggest benefits you can see offered. Think about what other benefits there are that may not be stated already and jot them down.

Now go into your HTML editor and put together a small sales page using a good headline, subhead and bullet points listing all the benefits you gathered. This is where the copy writing skill comes in.

Put the email capture form generated from your autoresponder on the bottom of the page. Let your prospect know that by leaving their name and email address you will then reveal this highly coveted tool, piece of information, service or whatever it is you have and they so desperately want.

Do not mention the name of the product or service on the capture page, just the benefits. The reason for this is because they may have seen this product or service before and were sitting on the fence about it and you want the prospect to purchase through your link. You are going to nudge them over the fence with your presentation.

All you are trying to do is build interest, pique their curiosity and whet their appetite for more information.

Set up your autoresponder with 6-7 emails that go out in 3-4 day intervals, each building on one of the benefits mentioned on your squeeze page.

Then add in other related services or products that you are an affiliate of. Repetition is the key and your squeeze page gives you that advantage over other affiliates.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How To Use Off-line Marketing to Promote Your Home Business

Most of the Internet Marketers seem to think of website promotion as just submitting to search engines, directories, link building and advertising in ezines or banner exchanges.

It is a known fact that most people in the world use most of their time off-line. They read newspapers, magazines, listen to radio and watch TV, talk with their friends, neighbors and family. Not all the time is spent surfing on the internet.

To ignore the value of off-line marketing is to leave 65-70% of the money to be made from your websites on the table.

Some suggestions for creating an off-line advertising/publicity campaign are :

Let your local papers know that you have an unique product that will benefit the local community and you are able to help them save time, learn more and be more effective in their daily lives. This could lead to an interview with a local reporter or even with a national with your website product as a featured item and will drive people to at least see what the buzz is about.

At the very least it will create an awareness of your domain name or product in their sub-conscience mind.

Try finding a local business that is related to your product and offer them a discount voucher to give their customers for your product.

Take out small ads in local or niche magazines to advertise the product. Some ads are relatively cheap comparable to a solo ad in a main ezine.

Try handing out flyers with a special offer in the high street or find shops that would allow you to leave them on the counter for customers to pick up.

Try sending a fax broadcast to businesses that could benefit from your product. Some companies have lists of fax numbers and can send out the fax for as little as interview each.

If you can develop an unique twist or benefit of your product or service, then you could become newsworthy and even get an interview with a local reporter, who can write a better article than any you could put together for their readers or listeners.

Investigate the possibility of sending out Press Releases to the local media. Send them your product for review. Get a well known celebrity to endorse your product.

I am sure you can think of many other ways to use off-line marketing, other than sticking notes on lamp-posts to create an awareness of your site.

Good luck

Monday, March 12, 2007

Get Your Home Business Site Set for Social Media Marketing

The year 2006 saw the emergence of social media. If you are engaged in operating a website, you must realign your site to exploit the popular social media sites for increased traffic.

You should also introduce social media components to your site because web users are experiencing these new form of interactions in more and more sites and they may have an expectation of the same from your site also.

If you want to attract repeat visitors and want them to stay longer, your focus this year should be on the social aspects of your site.

Social media use technologies like RSS, blogging, podcasting, tagging, etc. and offer social networking (MySpace, Facebook), social video and picture sharing (YouTube, Flickr), and community-based content ranking (Digg, MiniClip) features.

The central theme of these sites is user generated contents used for sharing among the end-users. The social aspects of these sites are to allow users to setup social communities, invite friends and share common interests.

You don't have to change your site completely within a month or so to take advantages of these new technologies. Introduce small changes incrementally through out the year and you will be on your way to meet these new challenges.

The first step is to declare who you are to the online community. People should be able to relate to you. Unless they know more about you, you will be just an unknown identity and most people don't like to deal with unknowns. Create an About Us page and list your achievements and skills.

Create a MySpace page and link your bio in the About Us page to the MySpace page. Also provide a link back from the MySpace page to your website. Spend an hour every week to develop your online social network in MySpace. Invite a few of these new friends to write blog articles at your site about your products or services.

Install a free blog software and start publishing at least one article in your blog. Provide an easy bookmarking feature to social bookmarking sites like delicious. This is done by providing an action button for each article in your site. The action button takes users to the submission page of the bookmarking site.

Also, provide an action button for direct posting of blog articles to digg. Digg is a popular news ranking site. A well dugg article will bring thousands of visitors to your site.

Provide a forum at your site for users to discuss your products and services. Don't delete negative comments because they provide insights into the improvements needed to serve your visitors better. However, censor hate speeches and meaningless bantering. Register your forum at BoardTracker. BoardTracker is a forum search engine.

If you are offering products, allow users to review and rate your products. This will help you in inventory management because you may want to discontinue low rated products.

Provide RSS feeds for your new products, blogs, forum postings, etc. An RSS feed provides teasers of your contents. Users will use RSS readers to scan your teasers and visit your site for more information if the teasers draw their attentions.

Publish all your feeds at feedburner. Feedburner provides media distribution and audience engagement services for RSS feeds. They also provide an advertising network for your feeds. If you have quality contents, you will be able to monetize your contents using their services.

Create short how-to or new product videos and post these videos in social video sharing sites like YouTube, Google video. Provide a few start and end frames in these videos to introduce your site with your site url. Post these videos using catchy titles, teasing descriptions, and appropriate tags to make them discoverable.

Provide embedded links to your posted videos in your site. This will save your bandwidth and storage space because the videos reside in the video sharing sites.

Besides videos, use social photo sharing sites like Flickr to share pictures related to contents in your site. Use the same title, description and tag techniques discussed earlier for social video sites.

Provide a Send to Friend feature for all products and services you offer. This feature is a link that sends the article, product description, etc. to a recipient via e-mail.

For starter, Yahoo provides a service called Action Buttons (search for Yahoo Action Buttons) that add links to your website for users to share, save, and blog about your website. The Yahoo action buttons use delicious for social bookmarking, and Yahoo blog site for blogging. It also has a print feature.

The social media is not a fad. It is here to stay and bring in profound changes to web surfers' experiences. It is the right time for implementing features that will make your site social media friendly. Also, using marketing techniques that utilize popular social media sites, you will be able to bring traffic to your site.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How Business Networking For Your Home Business Puts Money Into Your Pocket

Business networking puts more money in your pocket by helping you overcome the number one biggest problem facing new business owners. Prospecting for new customers. Business networking events can go a long way towards making the whole prospecting problem go away. There are two main kinds of networking opportunities available to the average entrepreneur. Passive networking and strong networking. Both have unique benefits and drawbacks.

The most well known example of passive networking is your local chamber of commerce. You can find a chamber of commerce chapter in almost every major city worldwide. Your local chamber of commerce gives you the opportunity to meet with many of the movers and shakers in your local business community. Through the many events they plan on a monthly and yearly basis, they offer you a chance to connect with a number of potential prospects for your products and services.

Weekly networking groups or clubs are an example of strong networking opportunities. These kinds of business networking events can be found in many major cities worldwide. A strong networking group will meet on a weekly basis for the sole purpose of exchanging business leads with one another and learning better ways of networking to grow their business. The most successful networking groups require your weekly attendance and insist that their members provide fellow members with referrals throughout the year. They also allow only one person from each profession or industry to belong to the group. This keeps the quality of the referrals high. One such group is Business Network International (BNI).

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of networking? They both have their place but strong networking groups represent a bigger commitment than passive networking groups. By belonging to a strong networking group, you are committed to be on the lookout for referrals for group members. Strong networking groups also usually meet on a weekly basis whereas passive networking groups usually meet monthly.

Passive networks can have multiple people from one profession or industry as members. They also have no requirements for passing on referrals to other members. Referrals do occur in a passive networking event but it is not facilitated by the meeting and is totally up to the business owner to initiate. You can belong to multiple passive networking groups. Any business you get from passive networking will most likely be a result of the amount of effort you put in.

Strong networks on the other hand restrict membership to only one person per industry or profession. This greatly increases the likelihood that you will receive referrals from participating members. Meetings are structured in a way to encourage referrals and there is a formal referral exchange that happens every week. It is strongly recommended that you only belong to one strong networking group in order to keep the quality of your referrals high.

In either case, it is important for members of these groups to see you as professional and competent. Referrals will go to people the referrer knows, likes and trusts.

Want more business? Start attending business networking events in your area.