Tell your story

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Then what is the value of being voted America’s best breakfast?

That is what happened to the sleepy little historic getaway called the White Gull Inn in the Village of Fish Creek in Door County. As a result of a Good Morning America feature on their stuffed French toast, their breakfast and lunch businesses have increased dramatically.

The narrow, tree-lined streets outside the White Gull Inn are lined with cars and SUVs from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Alabama. The veranda is crowded with families awaiting their turn to have this sumptuous breakfast. The White Gull Inn is no longer sleepy, but awake with the bustling of families waiting to indulge in the warm cream cheese and Door County cherries that are stuffed into the thick slice of French toast. Even the Inn’s guests wait with anticipation of having their chance at the famous breakfast.

Reservations are up over last year, and other inns in Fish Creek and nearby Sister Bay are experiencing the same trend.

This is one example of how news articles and television coverage can help you leverage your business.

What can you do to make the community more aware of your business? I asked Mary Scheibel at Scheibel Halaska, a Milwaukee public relations and marketing firm, for some suggestions on increasing a firm’s visibility.

One of the most effective ways of communicating your company’s success is through media coverage, getting a reputable source to talk on your behalf. This makes sense in the consumer realm, especially when your product is something as easy to understand as French toast, but too often B2B companies overlook opportunities to share their success.

While B2B audiences are generally more targeted, the concept remains the same.

Make a point of communicating news, success stories and areas of expertise with the press. Let editors and reporters know the innovative ways you are helping your customers solve problems. Once you secure coverage, leverage your placements to maximize their impact and build momentum. Put clips from articles on your website. Provide copies of these articles and placements for your sales team. Use online marketing initiatives to communicate media wins directly to customers and prospects.

Find opportunities to use new communication mediums such as online, video and social media that reach new audiences and position you as innovative and a forward thinking business.

For example, Nashotah-based Dickten Masch Plastics has done an excellent job using media coverage as a critical component of an overall plan to driving new business. The new coverage helped them build a holistic marketing communications strategy centered on bold, directional moves the company was taking. They launched a media relations campaign and capitalized on their wins with smart online marketing efforts. With their website as the hub, they posted media hits online to boost credibility and draw customers to the site. They also promoted their media coverage with outgoing communications to help secure new business opportunities for the company. The results of these efforts have contributed to a 35 percent revenue growth projection for 2010.

Another way to increase your visibility is to enter appropriate award competitions, locally and within your industry. Look for ways to be recognized for skills, services or innovations that set your company apart as a leader. And if you win, issue a press release and celebrate the accomplishment.

West Allis-based Advanced Waste Services has excelled at building reputation and brand equity through awards. The company has been named three times on the MMAC’s Future 50 List of Fastest Growing Companies. It has been ranked in the top 100 companies by industry magazines Waste Age and Waste News. It was a BizTimes Milwaukee 2010 IQ Awards recipient and was recently named one of the top 10 small businesses in the area by the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce.

Every award they win is another opportunity for them to tell their story.

Be proactive and get involved in the community, especially with organizations that can build your reputation with customers and referral sources. Have company leadership participate on boards or committees where they can influence decisions that drive your industry. Take the opportunity to sponsor events or activities that demonstrate your commitment to the community. Milwaukee-based Creative Business Interiors and my company, SMA LLC, have built substantial rapport with the area business community through sponsorship of MMAC/COSBE events, even during the current economic downturn.

Strive to create a meaningful and relevant differentiation for your company. Know your value proposition and how you want to be perceived in the market. Above all, tell your story at every opportunity. When you can get other voices, like the media and business community, to do it along with you, your visibility and reputation will continue to grow.

By the way, inviting an editor or potential client out for French toast never hurts.

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