It's the beginning of the New Year -- time to make some resolutions! I'd like to suggest one that could potentially make a big difference to your floor covering endeavors. Specifically, I advocate that you look at your business with new eyes. We spend so much time focusing on the bottom line that, sometimes, we overlook the little things. Things like what's new at your store.
If you are like most of us, you're so familiar with your business that you don't see it objectively. As a result, you probably think that you have no news to tell and therefore have no reason to send out a press release. But it's always a good idea to periodically take stock of your operation and make the effort to communicate to potential clients all that you can offer them. Let me give you a list of ideas to get you thinking along these lines.
Promotions and events. Here's an area over which you exercise total control. You know (because you've written a marketing plan for this year, right?) how many such events you're going to have in 2004. Rather than just spending money on advertising, I urge you to supplement your promotional plans with a dose of public relations.
The more creative you are, the more newsworthy your events become to your local newspaper. Even if you have only a small advertising budget, you can still command some press coverage. A good source for ideas can be found in Al and Laura Ries' book, "The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR."
Moving, new locations or remodeling. Here's a chance to make hay about your dust! Plan your PR campaign to coincide with the construction. Announce the plan first, follow-up on the progress and then hold a news conference when you're done.
By doing so, you'll whet the public's appetite to beat a path to your door. And if you've just completed an expansion during the recent economic doldrums, don't you think that would be a great story for the business editor?
Honors and awards. Artist Andy Warhol once quipped that everyone will enjoy 15 minutes of fame during his or her lifetime. If that's the case, take advantage of it. If you are the recipient of some honor, the awarding organization may distribute a press release to an industry trade publication. But such news means so much more to you on the local level.
And don't forget the less obvious. Perhaps you've just been named an exclusive dealer of a new product line, or maybe a supplier has asked you to act as an advisor. Maybe you recently participated on a panel at an industry trade show conference, or perhaps you've been cited by a trade group for your superb customer service. Your local newspaper will want to know about these things. They may even be moved to write a feature article about you!
Employees. Did you recently hire a new employee -- one with special expertise -- to better serve your customers? Do you work with a student intern who was awarded a scholarship? Have you promoted a member of your staff? Has an employee retired or recently marked an anniversary milestone? These are the basis for those human-interest stories that are so popular with the general public. They project a warm, cuddly feeling about your business.
And don't forget to add the all-important paragraph that provides important information about your business. One such paragraph that I include with my press releases reads as follows:
Carter Lynn has more than 30 years' experience in designing and launching innovative products, marketing strategies and communication programs for decorative home-furnishing manufacturers and retailers, both in the United States and abroad.
Customers. Listen to what your customers say! That's just good business, but it also gives you the opportunity to find a story that will make you a hero to a columnist and, in turn, allow you to mention your store. (If you're a regular reader of this column, you know that many of my ideas come from distributors and retailers whom I regularly talk to or read about.)
Personal life: You've been elected president of the Rotary Club! You shot a hole in one! Your child got engaged, married or had a baby. Certain media aren't interested in this kind of story, but some local television stations and small papers are. Don't forget to add your tag line: for example, P.R. Brilliant has owned ABC Floors on Main Street for 25 years.
Your vendor's news is your news too. Your primary supplier of floor coverings has established a new line of environmentally "green" products. The local news angle is that you carry the products and here's what they can do for consumers.
Of course another way to go is to make your own news. Can't imagine what that would be? Maybe the following will provide some inspiration.
• Promote local culture. Offer to speak on floor covering trends at the local library, community center or women's clubs.
• Assign areas of expertise to your staffers. Give each one a job title, such as Display Manager, Kitchen & Bath Remodeling Advisor or New Home Building Planner. Write up a press release and send it to local media. Submit separate releases each time you give an employee a special title to increase the number of releases you send out.
• Institute an annual award. Some high schools, or even local colleges and trade schools, will establish scholarships in your name for a very small donation. Give remodeling or redecorating medals to local residents. It's a wonderful way to keep up on projects after the flooring materials leave your business. These projects can also be entered in trade competitions or brought to the attention of editors for possible inclusion in consumer and trade publications. (Be sure to get photo releases!)
• Involve a dignitary. This can be newsworthy in itself. But besides the standard story of who bought stuff at my store, look for ways to include local media personalities or others in your promotions and events. Of course, you should choose wisely when selecting politicians!
I hope these ideas have stimulated your thinking about ways of making your business a real standout in this New Year. Cheers!