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Boost your brand – build your business

Small firms can increase their brand recognition massively by using good PR tactics, says Stuart Anderson, managing director of Alpha Public Relations

The biggest challenge shared by every business is finding new clients or customers. This is a question not just of growth but survival.

In the seminal How Brands Grow, published in 2010, the Australian academic Professor Byron Sharp demonstrated that any brand that does not grow contracts. And the single biggest obstacle to growth he identified was “mental availability”: in plain English, has anyone heard of you?

The smaller the firm, the bigger an issue this is. Discussing the process by which consumers make decisions, Prof Sharp says, “Most brands are effectively ignored, and sometimes no evaluation between brands takes place….

“Being noticed and considered is often the biggest factor in why a brand is bought or not. Given how small buyers’ consideration sets are, a brand has more than a ‘sporting chance’ of being bought if it is noticed and considered.

“So, a brand’s sales are primarily determined by how many consideration sets it failed to enter.” (How Brands Grow, pp. 186-7).

Even businesses that grow purely by referrals benefit from name recognition.

Your best friend would almost definitely have an easier time convincing you to buy a new Porsche than they would recommending an unknown maker of sports cars based in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Cowley.

For the same reason, half of your potential clients, for whom you could do a fantastic job, are ignoring recommendations from your existing clients or introducers and queueing up to do business with Coutts, St James’s Place or Hargreaves Lansdown instead.

Punch above your weight

Fortunately, small firms with interesting views and good stories to tell can increase their brand recognition massively by engaging positively with the media. By featuring in the news and contributing to publications’ special features, advisers can demonstrate their value and expertise to the widest relevant audience.

Not only does this boost your profile, it also means that when potential customers or introducers Google you (as they surely will), instead of the first page being populated by spam directories it will be full of positive references to you in trusted, authoritative publications.

Some advisers are naturals at dealing with the media and are happy to carry out all the activity they believe to be necessary by themselves. For the majority, though, the different skillset involved means they will need the help of a public relations professional.

Time value of money

Smaller firms, whose advisers have just as much to contribute to the agenda as their larger competitors, often believe that engaging a PR consultant is prohibitively expensive. However, just as there are small advice firms still serving all segments of the market, so there are also small PR consultancies that can do a great job but do not carry the overheads of a big agency.

In particular, some consultants will provide a “no-frills” service level – at its most basic a given number of press releases written and distributed per year – for a low monthly fee, with a fixed-price ‘menu’ for any additional work.

So, how do you know who to use? As a start look at their own PR – can you find any reference to them in the media?

Second, and almost as important, do they have experience in your sector? A good agent should spend their time (and your money) coming up with original, pertinent angles to help you contribute to the debate on the financial issues of the day. They should not be trying to come to grips with the notion of FCA compliance for the first time.

Visit the Alpha Public Relations website




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