Good question. The issue came up at breakfast with a partner in a very successful regional investment bank the other day.
He and his firm are busy. High-quality middle-market businesses are in much demand. Strategic and financial buyers are out there. Sellers—particularly owners of family businesses—have lots of reasons to sell now. Money's available for financing. Prices have stabilized. Capital gains taxes are on the way up. And competition for market share is only going to get harder.
But, in part because they are so busy, he and his partners just don't have time for "PR," which worries him, too:
- Are we underinvesting when we're busy in ways that will come back to haunt us when the current pipeline is empty?
- Are we missing organic search opportunities that provide billboards to owners who need to know about our services?
- Do we not know about new ways to target those owners?
- And how do we avoid just talking to our peers and competitors who are also out hustling for deal flow?
So, how can busy executives of emerging growth companies continue to do what they do best and grow their businesses while also ensuring they are continuously keeping up with their marketing efforts and staying ahead of the competition?
Here's what we told that busy investment banker.
1. Define your audiences by geography and industry segment
You don't need to try to reach everyone. Focus instead on the key regions and targets that mean the most to you and your business, and provide them with the information that they care about.
2. Create content that will put your firm in front of those audiences
With the limited amount of time that you have to devote to marketing, focus on content that can be used across multiple communications platforms.
The information from a single bylined article, for example, can be used for your website and posted on search engines as well as used as a marketing piece for potential clients, including newsletters and tradeshow collateral. The same goes for articles about you and your company in key trade publications.
3. Get inside your targets' heads
What are your potential customers concerned about? What information do they need to make good decisions? Once you know, developing point-of-view content that addresses those needs will be easier.
One suggestion is to develop search-engine-optimized proprietary content for your website, so your firm can stay in front of clients and potential clients when they are searching in Google for relevant topics and services. Another suggestion is to use that content for direct-to-target communications—think email campaigns.
4. Find something interesting to say
You can call it "thought leadership" if you want. But just do it. Pull ideas from your website and then elaborate on them with your industry expertise and market viewpoints. Your knowledge can then be shared via social media, press releases, and blogs (yours and others).
5. Get a program
Your company started with a business plan. Why not use the milestones laid out in that plan to demonstrate your momentum? Did you just hire a new managing director? Write a press release, post the news on your website, and then draft an email for your mailing lists.
Land a new client or customer? Repeat the process. Looking to exploit a market trend of interest to your targets? Write a bylined article on the topic, send an email to your list, and then post article in a highly visible place on your website.
Brainstorm with your partners or key employees on other tactics; they may surprise you with some interesting ideas that can be used in implementing the plan.
Remember, ideas are good only if they can be shared with others and are easily accessible to them—without your being in the way.
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When people want to know about you, your products, and your success story, the first thing they do is go to Google to see what you're doing, even before checking out your website. And if you look as if you don't have momentum, you may never get that call.
It's not too late to start doing that PR stuff...