2004-09-30    -    [ Internet ]
Create Personal PR With E-Mail

We all want to work with people who are the best in their fields. When we're in an expert's hands, we trust we're getting the highest level of quality. We're often willing to pay more for that confidence.

How do we position ourselves and our companies as experts to boost our stature in the eyes of customers and prospects?

E-mail is an ideal way to create your own personal PR campaign to educate your target audience about your ever-evolving capabilities.

Begin With a Strategy

Start by creating a best-customer profile. Twenty percent of customers generally provide 80 percent of income. Think about the profitable 20 percent of your audience and ask yourself:
How were those customers first acquired? Referrals, marketing, tradeshow, networking, telesales?

What about those customers makes them profitable?

How can you attract more of those customers?

What do those customers need to know about you to engage your services or buy your products?

What's the best way to reach those customers?

You can stay in contact with the remaining 80 percent, but focus on the more lucrative (and probably satisfying) 20 percent of your customer base.

Think, "How Can I Help?"

Think about the needs of this target group. How have you helped them before? What can you offer going forward?

Inventory your creative assets, anything you have on hand that would be useful to clients. By showing prospects how you've solved their colleagues' problems, you build a reputation. Here are some ways to build up creative assets:
Write up a case study of each successful project. Ask clients for testimonials immediately after the project (before they move on to the next job).

Keep a log of problems you solve for clients, new techniques you use, useful articles you've read, and questions you find yourself answering repeatedly.

Look for opportunities to be interviewed by the press. This is easier than ever with the Internet. Journalists often visit professional chat rooms to pose questions. If you have the expertise, shoot off an answer. Also, ask your clients if they have contacts at industry publications; see if you can get your case studies published there.

Enter award competitions in your field, where applicable. Any kind of "win," even if it's an honorable mention, is worth letting people know about. If you don't have anything to enter in the competition, see if you can be a judge; expert status will automatically be conferred on you.

This is all becomes material for your e-campaign.

Launching Your Campaign

Start off casually by sending a quick note with the latest news to prospects. Send a link to an article that quotes you, a photograph of a recent project, and the like. Short notes can be very effective -- and less labor-intensive than an e-newsletter.

In time, though, you'll want to step up to an e-newsletter. This doesn't have to be as daunting as it may initially appear. With the proliferation of newsletters, a one-page newsletter is all anyone has time to read. A short newsletter can provide a little break for prospects. If it's too long, they may print it out to read later (which will probably never happen).

Should you use text or HTML? What e-newsletter service should you use? Contact people you know who currently publish e-zines and find out their experience. (You can also check out ClickZ's Newsletters archives.)

Make Day-to-Day E-Mail Count

Create an e-mail signature line highlighting your expertise. Be sure to update it from time to time with the dates of upcoming speaking engagements, a list of awards, client testimonials -- whatever enhances your credibility.

Remember, not only will your clients, colleagues, and prospects see these e-mail messages, they may forward them to others. Your circle of influence is always expanding.

Watch as Opportunities Multiply

The more you put out to the world, the more that comes back to you. Your e-newsletter may be forwarded to a journalist who needs an expert to interview for a column. You may be asked to speak at conferences. You could find yourself on TV or a radio show. You will often be contacted by prospective clients from other parts of the country or the world who you would normally never have a chance to work with. And every time there's a new development, you'll add that to your e-mail campaign to continually build your expert credentials.