Sales & Marketing
27 ways to raise your company's profile
15 min read
23 July 2013
Here are 27 ways to boost brand awareness, according to Catherine Woods.
1. Consider stunts
Stunts may be risky but they can be very effective if done in a witty and relevant way, says author and “ideas man” Shed Simove. “The best are those that show you have the skills relevant to what a person wants,” he says.
Ling’s Cars founder Ling Valentine put a missile truck on the side of the A1 motorway to promote her firm. “People’s opinions changed from ‘you’re mad’ to ‘that’s clever’,” she says. “When Tony Blair forced me to remove the rocket, I was inundated with messages asking where it had gone, and was interviewed on radio and TV.”
2. Try something different
On occasion, it’s good to change tack, says Ronnie Bartlett. His family’s 60-year-old root vegetable business, Albert Bartlett, became a sponsor of iconic horse racing festival Cheltenham. He explains: “We’re getting to the male consumer because that can drive demand. Cheltenham is covered all across the world, so it’s huge exposure for us.
“There’s a lot of trade involved in the festival over the week; punters get to try our products. Everyone who eats a potato at Cheltenham will eat one of ours.”
3. Personalise and differentiate
Simove recommends adding a personal touch to your offering. “Target decision-makers but strike an emotional connection. Don’t do what everyone else will do,” he says.
“One time, to win a client, I found out all about the company’s boss, discovered his favourite character in Coronation Street was Mike Baldwin and then got the actor in question to sign a photo with a special message on it.”
4. Hire a PR firm for your business
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Hiring a good PR firm is one of the easiest ways to increase awareness of your business. Dean Horridge, founder of children’s activity company Fit for Sport, recently hired his first PR company.
“We were sending a lot of mixed messages about what we did through some of our initiatives – we wanted clarity on brand awareness across the UK,” he says.
5. Hire a PR firm for you
One of the services Rostrum Communications offers is “personal” PR. Founder Mark Houlding explains why it can be useful: “It can create credibility for the company by giving it a human face and personality, which can add value if you’re competing against larger firms with bigger budgets and brands.”
6. Pick a firm that knows your market
“An agency is not going to be able to do a great job of positioning your brand and finding the opportunities and dealing with journalists in a professional manner if it doesn’t know your market,” says Jay O’Connor, former MD of European operations for PR firm Racepoint Group. She also says it’s important to check a potential PR partner’s contacts and references.
7. Be eponymous
Valentine believes putting herself in the firing line has been the most successful tactic to raise the profile of her business. “Every other company in the car-leasing sector trades as a generic-style firm, such as XYZ Leasing, but I trade as myself. People know who they’re dealing with,” she says.
“Sticking my head above the parapet includes putting myself on TV [Valentine turned down funding on Dragons’ Den], representing myself on my webpage and personally taking care of my customers.”
8. Network online
The Results Academy founder Fraser Hay says he’s become well known through the use of online social networks such as Ecademy and Facebook. “I’ve been able to generate leads, get referrals from people in many different places and create pre-qualified prospects without having to cold call,” he says.
To make this sort of networking work, however, Hay says you need to identify what peoples’ problems are and how you can help.
9. Don’t be intimidated
Networking is a great way to raise your profile, but Liz Taylor, founder of £3.5m-turnover events company the Taylor Lynn Corporation, says you’ll make more of an impact if you’re not easily intimidated. “You should always have the confidence to speak to anybody,” she says.
10. Know your objectives and your audience
You won’t get anywhere if you don’t know what you want to achieve and who you’re trying to target, says O’Connor. She advises business owners to ask themselves a few questions before embarking on a publicity drive: “Why are you doing this? Who do you want to reach? How do you reach those audiences? Who influences them?”
11. Target obvious customers
Bartlett says the company successfully raised its profile by targeting relevant media outlets. “We featured in Good Food magazines around the world, as well as sponsoring the Food Channel and other food programmes,” he says.
12. Strike the right partnerships
To raise the profile of his new business, iammoving.com’s Simon Preston has partnered with organisations his clients have to deal with when they’re moving house.
“We have a partnership with the Royal Mail, which deals with redirections,” he says. “You’ll see us gradually growing relationships with other people, such as letting agents.”
13. Align with big names
Luxury shirt maker Emma Willis was featured in a report called ‘Face Value: Your Reputation as a Business Asset,’ published by private bank Coutts. “People bank with Coutts all over the world, so it’s a really good affiliation,” she says.
“I have also collaborated with young British fashion label Rodnik. It distinguishes you from being just another shirt maker in Jermyn Street.”
14. Hire a celebrity
Neville Upton brought former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio on board as a director of motivation for his £26m-turnover customer relations firm, The Listening Company. As well as inspiring the 2,000-strong workforce, Upton says Dallaglio also spends time with clients.
“Everyone knows who he is. He’s an impressive person and he’s helped raise the company’s profile a great deal,” Upton says, adding that the initiative has been “very good value for money”.
15. Focus on content
O’Connor says whatever your message, the content you’re putting out there has to be relevant to the audience. “You need to focus on the benefits of your products or services and what’s going to matter to clients or consumers, not the technical aspects that people won’t care about,” she says.
16. Champion a cause
IT services specialist Connect has helped grow awareness of the company by undertaking initiatives to boost the number of women in IT. For example, Connect has formed a group for women IT specialists, worked with schools to promote the IT sector to female students and taken part in industry-wide groups investigating the issue.
CEO Mark MacGregor says: “It helps us stand out from the crowd because it’s not just about us launching a new product.”
17. Be an expert
Writing opinion pieces, joining the speakers’ circuit or running an event that shows your expertise is a good way to get yourself known, according to Judith Germain, founder of Dynamic Transitions.
She says: “I’ve published a lot of articles on the web. I’ve also written a lead article for Talent Management Review, as well as running online and offline business communities.”
18. Be accessible to journalists
If you’re positioning yourself as an industry commentator in the media, Houlding recommends: “Be readily available and give an interesting and different point of view.” He warns against becoming a “rent-a-quote”, saying it’s easier to build an image in one specialist area.
19. Befriend the right writers
Emma Willis says dealing with the press is “absolutely critical” to building up your profile. “I’ve worked hard – on my own and with PR agencies – to be written about in quality publications my customers read, such as the Financial Times and Vogue,” she says. “I will personally go and meet the relevant journalists, even those in the US. I give them a good idea about what I do.”
20. Join a business organisation
“I’m involved in quite a lot of other business activities,” says Preston. “I’m an international board director of the Young Presidents’ Organisation. We have a relatively low public profile, but it’s all about business leaders networking together, sharing experiences, ideas and education.”
21. Be charitable
Helping a charity to raise money not only means using your skills to help others – it may also put you in touch with potential partners. Taylor works with the Prince’s Trust Fundraising Committee.
She advises: “You’ve got to be a little bit canny and make it work commercially for you. Find out who supports the charity, who’s involved, where they come from and what they’re trying to achieve.”
22. Target students
James Lott is the co-founder of business management tool provider The Working Knowledge Group, which runs competitions with university students as a way of promoting its products and services. “Students use a derivative of our strategy tool,” he says. “Throughout the competition, they keep seeing this tool and think ‘I could use this in my future business’.”
23. Be transparent
Today’s consumers are demanding more information about the products they buy and the companies that supply them. Tapping into that can help give your business a better profile. Take vegetable company Albert Bartlett.
Bartlett says: “Our packaging tells you the name of the grower and you can also read about them on our website. It’s good for everyone, as the growers are focused on promotion as well.”
24. Get sporty
Bulldog is the official grooming supplier to rugby team the London Wasps. “We sponsor the back of the shorts,” adds co-founder Rhodri Ferrier. He says that while it’s hard to measure the tangible benefits of sports club sponsorship, the club did get a lot of publicity during the Rugby World Cup. “It’s a great tie-up because it’s a good club that stands for the things we stand for.”
25. Apply for a business award
Many organisations, Real Business included, give out annual awards to the great and the good in a particular area. Winning an award can earn you coverage in the press, the respect of your peers and make potential clients aware of you.
26. Jump on the bandwagon
While we would never advise changing your business to take advantage of trends, it’s worth promoting a particular side of your business if it’s relevant to a hot issue.
Kelly Smith’s company, Smartbunker, offers customers a data centre that uses zero-carbon energy and green technology. “We have a truly unique proposition, which marks us out in a crowded marketplace – that’s why we’re getting so much publicity,” he says.
27. Be consistent
No one is going to take you seriously if you don’t come across as genuine or consistent. Germain says consistency is often a problem when people cross from offline to online: “A lot of people feel they can write stuff online and act in a certain way, then be very different offline. Everything on the web can be googled.”