NEWS: Marketing Consultancy with Global Experience Touches Down in Bristol, Connecticut

Journey Communications is proud to announce its recent expansion into Connecticut, with Bristol serving as the consultancy’s new local headquarters. The company, which offers marketing services to small and medium-sized businesses, brings an exciting repertoire of lead generation and brand awareness solutions from Los Angeles, California to the Constitution State.

Clients look to Journey to help them tell their brand story and attract more clients through the use of both digital and traditional marketing platforms. The consultancy offers a range of strategy, advertising, marketing, social media, and public relations integrations designed specifically for locally owned and independent businesses. The most popular services that Journey offers are business planning, marketing strategy, social media strategy, content creation, media relations, digital advertising, and influencer communications. The company’s current clients are located in Connecticut as well as New York City, Los Angeles, and Sydney Australia, and vary in industry from health, wellness, and beauty to food and beverage, hospitality, home improvement, real estate, technology, and financial services.

Journey owner, Chelsea O’Donnell, is a Bristol, Connecticut native and often comes back to the city to see family while on business trips to New York. Through word of mouth and recommendations, she found that her personal visits were becoming increasingly peppered with meetings from local business owners looking for advice and assistance with their marketing, social media, and brand positioning.  O’Donnell was inspired by the demand and decided that extending her services to her home state of Connecticut could offer local businesses the opportunity to increase their visibility and potential reach.

“Finding new customers can be difficult, and while online marketing and social media provide small business owners with an infinite number of tools to get their brands in front of people, knowing how to use those tools effectively can be overwhelming,” says O’Donnell. “Our job at Journey is to take our knowledge of these amazing platforms and build a brand story to help our customers reach the people who are looking for the products and services that they provide.”

According to O’Donnell, small businesses are the engine room of the local economy, yet so many don't have the resources to grow the way that they want to. One particular pain point lies in the areas of marketing and social media management. Many small business owners are aware of the new client acquisition tools at their fingertips, but with sales, operations, and staffing nipping at their heels, very few have time to manage a Facebook account, send out regular email newsletters, and keep their website up to date with compelling content. That’s why Journey works directly with small and medium-sized companies to create and implement a marketing plan to attract and retain clients, freeing the business owner up to concentrate on other critical business operations.  

“When a client comes to us for the first time, we start with their business goals in order to get a better understanding of their needs and what we are expected to deliver,” says O’Donnell. “Once we go through the initial discovery session, we develop a plan and execution that gets our clients results on time and on budget. As a small business owner, you can't do it all, and you shouldn't have to. Journey has the resources you need to get your business moving, growing, and performing the way you expect it to.”

Journey Communications is currently accepting new clients in the Central Connecticut area. For more information on the company and its services, visit journeycomm.com or call 646-589-2267. The company can also be found on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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About Journey Communications

Journey Communications provides smart, strategic marketing solutions for busy small business owners who are looking to attract more clients and build their brands. With clients in the health, wellness, beauty, food and beverage, hospitality, home improvement, real estate, technology, and financial services industries, Journey helps businesses get noticed through traditional and digital marketing, social media, public relations, events, and integrated creative campaigns.

20 Free (or Cheap!) Marketing Tips to Light Up Your Brand

20? Did you say 20? That's right, we've got a whole lot of inspiration and ideas to help you get your business groove on. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

IF IT’S FOR FREE, IT’S FOR ME

What’s the best way to start a business with no marketing budget? Create a suite of branded assets that you own and control. A website, various social media channels, a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel or video blog, a newsletter or an event series can help you get your product or service out to the world at no, or a relatively low, cost. The key is to pick a few and do them well and regularly. You want to build an audience of dedicated, loyal purchasers, not a massive and passive fan base.

HI, MY NAME IS…

Don't assume people know what your business is all about. Just because you live and breathe it doesn't mean everyone else does. Give your customers, followers and fans a monthly refresher to remind them about who you are and what you do.

COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE

Need help finding customers? Make sure YOU are where THEY are. There are a whole slew of online websites and forums connecting small businesses to consumers, from Yelp to Thumbtack to Angie’s List to HomeAdvisor, and let’s not forget Facebook, Google+, Instagram and other social media platforms. Not ready to spend a heap of cash to get started? Many of these services offer the ability to create a free profile, so even if you’re not yet able to maximize the opportunity via advertising, you can still be found and contacted by potential customers. 

MONEY, CASH, GOALS

Many small business owners want to know how much they should be spending on marketing. There is no hard and fast rule but we like to suggest at least 10% of revenue should go to marketing for established businesses, while start-ups should think about investing upwards of 20% or more. The key is to put your analytics to the test so you can invest more into what’s working and say sayonara to what’s not.

CALL ME, MAYBE?

Want to get more online reviews? Ask for them! You probably have tons of satisfied customers who would be happy to write you a testimonial, but guess what? They’re busy! It’s up to you to remind them. After each transaction, send a follow-up email to your customers thanking them for their business and include a link to your Facebook, Yelp or Google page. A simple, “if it’s not too much trouble” can go a long way in helping you build your business.

FINDERS KEEPERS

Every small business owner knows that it’s cheaper and easier to retain customers than to find new ones. So treat your customers like gold and add value in ways they can appreciate. See an article that a customer might be interested in? Give them a heads up. Come across an event you think might be a fit? Send it over. Have an idea that might help a client solve a problem? Offer it up. In a time when good customer service is very hard to find, a simple gesture might just be what keeps you ahead of the competition. 

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT US?

If you're spending money promoting your business, you need to be clear on what's working and what's not. If you're not technically savvy, implementing a lead form on your website that asks “how did you hear about us?” is probably all you need to learn more about what is and isn’t performing. The way you capture the data doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be accurate.

BUDDY UP

Expand your reach by partnering up with local businesses that offer products and services that are complimentary to yours. Think about the types of companies in your area that are looking for similar clientele and host a meet-up to discuss collaborating on events, social media or PR efforts. You'll get the benefit of expanding your audience, as well as the support from working with other small business owners who have similar goals. 

I’VE GOT THE POWER

Too many small business owners forget that their best ambassadors are right under their own roof! Give your employees the opportunity to contribute to the growth of your business by giving them insights into your short and long-term business goals. Lead a brainstorm session to discuss employee ideas that can hit specific targets. Empower your team to share their favorite at-work moments on social media and repost and reward your favorites. Let your experts share their knowledge through short blog posts. Remember, everyone in your organization can be a business builder, but only if you let them.

WORD ON THE STREET

We all know testimonials and referrals are the best forms of marketing, so why not make the most of yours? Did you get an email or thank you card from a grateful customer? Ask if they mind if you share it with your social media following! Get a great Facebook review? Jazz it up and repost it on your website or other social media channels. When someone is looking for a professional, they want to know the person they’re dealing with is trustworthy and will get the job done. Hearing reviews from your past customers is a great way to gain that trust. So get on it!

SHE’S A BRAINIAC, BRAINIAC

As a small business owner, you have a certain expertise that puts you ahead of the general public. So make sure you’re using it! Own a spa? Tell us your top tips on how to keep our skin looking soft and sexy. Have a bakery? Help us learn how to make the perfect cupcake! Is fitness your game? Give us your favorite 15-minute core workout. Customers respond better to being educated than being sold to, so mix your knowledge in with your product pushes and service sells. Your target market will thank you.

YOU USED TO CALL ME ON MY CELL PHONE

How does your website look on your mobile device? More than half of all Internet usage is being consumed on the go, so if your digital storefront isn't mobile-friendly you could be losing valuable customers. Luckily, platforms such as SquareSpace, Wix and Weebly make building a mobile site easy and cost effective. Don’t turn off people who are actively seeking you out, instead, make it easy for them to transact!

EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Have something new to promote in your business? Don't just leave it to social media to announce the news. Schedule several social posts using different images and content, post to your website, send an email newsletter, write a press release to send to the local paper and blogs, list events in free local calendars, take advantage of Eventbrite and Facebook Events, publish your story on Medium, print some eye-catching postcards or flyers, and share it with any local businesses that you think might want to help promote the news. Creating something new is one thing but making sure you're shouting it from the rooftops is a whole other beast. Have a list of ways to promote your news and make it your routine. It's the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck!

CALENDAR GIRL

Social media can be daunting if you're constantly worrying about what to post. A simple editorial calendar will help you collect your ideas and organize them into categories to ensure your posts are relevant and exciting. A content calendar will also let you know what kinds of posts are getting the best response. Need help with a template? Let us know!

CAN I HAVE A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME?

Thinking about launching a new product? Wondering what name, design and language will appeal to your target demographic? Consider surveying potential customers to find out! Tools such as Survey Monkey will allow you to find your future customers and ask them questions about their preferences and likelihood to purchase. If you're entering a new market or your team is in an opinion deadlock, a simple bit of research might be just what you need to move forward. 

DON’T HATE, APPRECIATE

Negative reviews are a reality of being in business. If you get one, the best thing you can do is communicate with the reviewer by offering an apology and working to understand what went wrong. You’re never going to get it 100% perfect all the time, but a willingness to acknowledge a mistake and improve upon it will show your customers that you’re willing to give it your all.

FREE TO BE ME

Give your online presence some personality! We live in a world full of perfectly curated communication, which can get really quite boring. Let your business be a reflection of you, rather than being so stuck on the rules. A little experimentation might just uncover a voice that customers relate and respond to.

DON’T LET THE NUMBERS DEFINE YOU

Social media success is not just about how many followers you have. It's about how many followers you have who engage with you and your business. Would you rather have 1,000 followers who are genuine, prospective customers or 10,000 followers who don't even know what you do? I’d take the first option any day.

MIX IT UP

Not all great marketing costs a fortune. You can build your brand through a smart mix of traditional marketing (like snail mail or sponsorships), digital marketing (like newsletters and SEO), social media (through a combo of great content and advertising), events (such as speaking engagements or networking) and public relations (like media articles and publishing). Just don't put all your eggs in one basket, make sure you diversify your strategy.

SAY G’DAY!

Social media check-ins and tags are gold. Don't ignore them. Make sure you are virtually welcoming your guests and acknowledging them for their patronage. These interactions can be brilliant testimonials for your business if you use them correctly. 

Starting Up on the Cheap

One of the most terrifying things about launching a start-up (and there are many) is the amount of capital needed to get off the ground. Most entrepreneurs assume they won’t be able to get a proper paycheck for at least a couple of years, so with lots of bills and no income, how can anyone afford to start a business?

If your idea involves the manufacturing and distribution of a product, there is no getting around the need for initial capital. But if you’re in a service-based industry and your product is essentially you, your brain and your brawn, there are ways to get going with a little bit of cash, a whole lot of motivation and some smart marketing strategies.

Make It Real

If you want to build a business, no matter if it’s a lemonade stand, a real estate start-up or a fashion label, you’re going to need a place where people can go to get information about you. The easiest way to do that is a website, or at the very least, a standout Facebook page. Your website your shop front and it’s the first thing people see when they start to do research about the services you provide. A good website has lots of great imagery and enough content to explain who you are and what you do without being overwhelming or complicated. It’s a good idea to make sure your website answers the 5W’s of your company (who, what, when, where and why) and most importantly, “how” – as in how you can help your potential customers. If you don’t know the first thing about building a website, there are plenty of solutions at your fingertips. If you’re patient and have a bit of creative flair, platforms such as Squarespace and Wix provide all the tools you need to get something simple up and running in a day.  Websites on Squarespace cost as little as $12 a month and getting a domain name is usually around $10 per year, so it’s not going to break the bank.

Get Social

Once you have your website sorted, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the free megaphone that is social media.  Create separate business accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and any other platforms you like to use and make sure that the content you’re posting is relevant to your business and audience.  I run a marketing and PR consultancy for small businesses, and I like to use a mix of curated and unique content which is a fancy way of saying that I like to share articles that I think small business owners would find interesting, plus I write a fair few of my own.  Make yourself relevant to your audience in both the content that you share and the platforms that you use. As an example, if you’re a personal trainer, offer your expert advice and opinions about at-home workouts, healthy recipes and ways to keep fit on the go. If you’re an accountant, don’t focus all your efforts on building a Pinterest board because let’s be honest, it’s going to be tough to inspire people to use your services by posting pictures. Rather, use a writing focused platform like Medium, where you can publish long-form articles on topics such as how small businesses can keep their incomings and outgoings organized.  Whatever you decide to talk about and whatever you use to do it, never ever bombard followers with sales pitches.  Give them news they can use that has an appropriate connection to your business. Otherwise, they’ll get bored and give you the flick.

It’s Not What You Know…

With your web presence locked and loaded and your content trickling through, it’s time to start shouting about your business from the rooftops. The best brand advocates are often family, friends, and people who, well, like you. If you’re just starting out, contact your internal network and let them know a little bit about your venture with a quick and friendly “about us”. Introduce them to your new business’s social media profiles and pages, and invite them to like and follow you. The beauty of social media is that it can be wide reaching with just a few shares, and you never know who you might be loosely connected with that is in need of your services. When you first set up your profiles, it’s tempting to jump right to this step before deciding on your content strategy. My advice is to hold off until you have at least a few posts up and live. Not even your mom is going to recommend something with a whole lot of nothing in it.

Marketing Magic

After you’ve covered your bases on the home front, it’s time to start getting out there and into the real world. I am a huge fan of free marketing and there are a number of great ways to get the word out about your business without spending a fortune.  Here are my four favorites:

1. Become an advocate.

When I was first starting out, I looked for bigger businesses and opportunities that I could leverage to help me get the word out about my brand. Because I do marketing and PR for small businesses, I found a global brand that was looking for ambassadors to promote an event that spoke directly to my target market. By volunteering my time and energy, I got to meet all the local businesses in the area and introduce them to my business, all while giving them an opportunity to participate in an event that would boost their sales for free.  If I am being honest with myself, I know that I’ll never have the advertising power or reach that this mega brand does, but through my partnership with them, I got a little slice of their pie for my own business.

2. Donate (and it doesn’t have to be dollars).

In my area there is a non-profit that helps high school kids get ready for the working world with a specific focus on business ownership. I don’t know about you, but my high school somehow skipped practical business life lessons, like how credit cards really work and what an interest rate is. Through this non-profit, I volunteer my time to teach young people about basic marketing and PR, which I absolutely love and feel great about doing. On the flip side, being involved in the organization also gives me access to a network of potential clients through the school system, which for someone without kids, probably wouldn’t be an avenue I would normally explore. There are great non-profits and charities that rely on businesses for help, and a lot of the time, expertise is more valuable to them than money.  So get involved.

3. Get in with the media

I’ve been doing public relations since I was 17 years old and while it’s not the easiest way to make a name for your business, it can be one of the cheapest. One of my favorite PR tactics is pitching a column to the local newspaper. I did this for my dad a few years ago, and he still considers it to be a changing point in his business. He is a remodeling contractor who, while having 30 years experience and an excellent reputation in our hometown, was finding it hard to stand out amongst a growing sea of competitors. We pitched the local newspaper on the idea for a weekly column, highlighting home improvement Q&A’s from local readers. All of a sudden my dad’s name and face had a page of its own every week, directly opposite to the cluttered page of three-inch ads from the 25 other remodelers in town. There isn’t a day that goes by when he doesn’t get a call from a potential customer who is ringing because of that column. It has continued to build his reputation as a trusted expert in the area, which is the kind of recognition that no advertisement could buy, regardless of the cost.

4. Offer free (or cheap) workshops and classes.

One of the biggest mistakes new business owners make is not valuing their own expertise. I used to work with a large group of financial planners who I had to constantly remind of the uniqueness of their skill – an expertise in money – the one thing that people are most confused about and fearful of.  As a business owner, you have to recognize your expertise, and instead of thinking of yourself in the sense of a profession, start thinking of yourself as an expert. If you’re a financial planner (or money guru as I like to call it), offer a low-cost seminar unveiling your top 10 tips to retire by the time you’re 45. If you’re a personal trainer, promote a free butt blaster class for new moms. If you’re a florist, create an architectural arrangements class for brides-to-be. The point is, get creative and get yourself out there. With online platforms such as Meetup and Eventbrite, organizing and marketing a get-together can be a breeze, and by using free event spaces such as a library or a park, your investment can be minimal. Remember, meeting 10 new people is better than meeting none. Just don’t forget to think about your hook and how to introduce your business in an organic way to keep people coming back for more. It’s great to offer something on the cheap but always remember the long-term goal - to generate new business.

If You Spend, Spend Wisely

I religiously trial a minimum of six marketing activities per month and at least half of them cost me nothing. But there are a few things I’ll foot the bill for, which helps me to stay relevant and on top of potential clients minds.  One thing I love to do is good old-fashioned mailings, which take some time but in my experience are well worth the cost. If you are above the age of 30, you’ll remember a time when you’d get more snail mail than e-mail. My how times have changed! Nowadays, a personal letter is a rarity, and, ironically, a point of difference in this digitally driven world. Each piece of mail I send out, which includes a branded letter talking about my and a business card, plus labels, envelopes and postage cost $1.34 per piece. I send out about 100 per month, and then follow them up by connecting with the recipients on social media, giving them a call on the phone or popping into their business or office to introduce myself. It’s a silly little tactic and by no means groundbreaking, but in a time when marketing revolves around the smartphone, a good old-fashioned letter can go a long way.

Final Thoughts

For my business, I base my marketing budget on approximately 15 percent of my revenue, which of course doesn’t account for the things I do to build my business for free. What I make sure to do is acknowledge the time it takes to execute what I call active marketing, which while free is also much more time consuming than simply dropping an ad onto Facebook and waiting by the phone. I have built this time into my business plan and you should too because as they say, “time is money” and just like anything else, it should be accounted for.

If you can’t get the idea of starting a business out of your head, but are frozen by a lack of funds available to get going, change your thinking. There are thousands of great resources available to start-ups, and with some research and the right attitude, anything can be possible.