Marketing probably isn’t your favorite topic or task. You may feel uncomfortable tooting your own horn. You may not be sure what exactly to market about, or when, or how to go about it. But you probably also know that marketing is the key to your business success. Think about it this way: Marketing is like the training homework you give your clients. Not doing it means not achieving your best possible results.
Whether you’re a pro at staying on top of your marketing, or marketing remains a line item gathering dust on a “someday when I have time” to-do list, here’s one way to give your business a boost: Leverage your milestones.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time you’ll encounter milestones, or moments of significance, for your business. This might be a business birthday, such as your 1st or 5th or 10th (or even 20th!) anniversary. It could be a new certification or educational achievement as part of your pursuit of professional development. You could also count the addition of a new service as a milestone worth celebrating and sharing.
These moments provide built-in, ready marketing opportunities if you’re willing to take advantage. Milestones can be used as an opportunity to create new referral contacts, to deepen good marketing partnerships, or as an excuse to get back in touch with referral relationships you’ve let go stagnant. You can also use them to draw new clients or invite old ones back into the fold with a special offer or discount in celebration of your big news.
How To Share Your News
There are myriad ways to get the word out, and the more channels you choose the more results you’ll see. Tell people about your milestone through your print and email newsletters, on your website, and through your social media. Share it in print materials distributed to physical businesses like vet clinics, shelters, pet supply stores, and dog daycares. Though not something we typically teach at dogbiz, a good milestone can be a good excuse to break the no advertising rule.
If you’re up for going all out, put out a local or online press release and also contact your local media. A local print or online publication or news channel may be interested in a feel-good story about a successful community business. Or you may be able to pitch an angle related to your milestone. For example, if you’ve just achieved a new certification, you might suggest a piece about how to choose a dog trainer or dog walker that includes understanding the implications of an unregulated industry and being careful to choose certified dog pros.
Look for ways to draw out your good news. A one-and-done announcement approach is unlikely to get you much notice. In addition to getting the word out in as many ways as you can, work to keep it out there. You’ll probably only send one press release or get your news into the local paper once, but plan for 1-3 months’ worth of shares via social media and email, and look for opportunities to keep in touch around your milestone with your current and desired referral partners.
Make Yourself Useful, Not Just Newsworthy
The way to keep your news newsworthy for longer—and to make it more relevant to clients, potential clients, and referral partners—is to find ways to be useful to them, related to your milestone. This is the content or community marketing angle we so often talk about: Sharing your knowledge and expertise as both community education and marketing.
The idea is to pass on some of the new learning from your recent certification or educational achievement, or a taste of the expertise available via your new service, or some of the wisdom you’ve gained and shared with clients over your 10 years in business.
Just graduated from Malena DeMartini’s Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer program? You might share new insights into that devastating condition and it’s treatment. Just added a puppy day school program to your other training services? This is the perfect time to put out some good tips on puppy socialization or house training. Celebrating a business anniversary? Take the opportunity to tell dog lovers the three most important training tips you’ve learned over your years of walking dogs.
Get your great tips and insights out via your social media, newsletters, and blog posts. Give branded tip sheets to referral sources, offering them for free to share with their clients, possibly along with any special celebratory offers you’ve created. Pitch articles to local print and online publications.
The point is to give, to be generous. Part of what makes marketing uncomfortable is the idea of asking others—often strangers—for help promoting us when we aren’t particularly comfortable promoting ourselves to begin with. Celebrating a milestone gives you a built-in opportunity to give to others—to referral sources, clients, and your community. By doing so, you build good will, awareness, and brand loyalty while doing something of true value.
You work hard for your achievements. It’s a shame not to make them work hard for you. And if you’re not yet convinced, consider this: Marketing doesn’t have to be about tooting your own horn. When you make it about educating your community, marketing is about helping more dogs—through what you share and by the business doing so brings.