Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Promote an Online Business

Although my sites are still in development, this is something I've been working on. This week I explored a couple of options: hiring a public relations professional and commissioning a short animated clip. The jury's still out on both of those options, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

First thought: good animation is expensive. If a clip is catchy enough that it gets some viral circulation, it could pay for itself many times over, but that's a lot money to put on one spin of the roulette wheel (e.g, the cost I was quoted by an animator this week for one 30 second clip was almost as much as it will cost to develop one of the programming-intensive sites). I think I've got a clever concept, but it's what everyone else thinks that counts.

Second thought: when looking for a public relations pro (or any vendor, for that matter), try to find one who thinks like an entrepreneur. To put it in military terms, look for a commando, not a REMF. I remembered reading an article a couple of years ago about a commando-style PR guy, someone who generated millions of dollars in sales for his clients through his work alone. I contacted him, but my sites aren't in his sweet spot (he focuses on off-beat household products). He did refer me to a colleague though.

Earlier this week, I had a pleasant conversation with his colleague, who was bright and personable, but no commando. A few days after our conversation, he sent me an e-mail saying he enjoyed our conversation and suggesting some services he could offer me. These were two of them:

Messaging Workshop and Media Materials Development

A messaging workshop will help identify the primary and secondary messages that will help both services further develop their brand and identity. The Messaging Bible we develop as a result of this workshop could also be shared and used by your entire team so you are communicating with one voice throughout all communications vehicles (blog, website, social media platforms, newsletter, bylined articles, etc.). Once these messages are identified we recommend developing a comprehensive online press kit that can help supplement any pitching and marketing efforts.

Fees: $3,500 for a ½ day messaging workshop plus any travel expenses

$1,500 for the initial development and ongoing edits of all materials

Executive Communications & Media Skills Training

Executive communications and media skills training enable your spokespeople to be well prepared to handle media interviews and become a better all-round communicator in your day-to-day life and during speaking opportunities. Such training is based off of the Messaging Bible and allows you to proactively tell your story to existing partners, clients, consumers and especially with the various media audiences while launching both brands throughout the U.S.

Fees: $3,500 for a ½ day communications training plus any travel expenses

He went on to suggest more REMF services in that e-mail. This was what I wrote him in response:

Thanks for getting back to me. It was nice speaking with you as well.

To be candid though, what you've sketched out below isn't what I'm looking for. I'm looking for results, and I'm willing to pay for them. The specific results I'm looking for are getting articles about my online businesses placed in established media. I'm not looking for workshops, boot camps, messaging bibles, etc.

I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me though, and wish you the best of luck with your business. Perhaps we'll be able to work together in some other capacity in the future1.

1Offhand, I can't think of a capacity where he and I might work together, but you never know; so instead of burning this bridge completely, I just left it a little charred.

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