When you’re a new entrepreneur (i.e., just starting out) you may lack many things, but you don’t lack the hustle and energy that seasoned business veterans envy. If you are not yet operating in the black, you’ll have to start with low-hanging fruit – cost-effective marketing ideas – to get the word out without the support of a large marketing budget.
For example, I’ve chosen to enter an industry with well-entrenched players in most local markets. The large format commercial printing industry has been around for decades, but many of the local and national companies have a mediocre, at best, online presence. This is where I’ve positioned our company to shine. We don’t focus solely on only online sales though, as many sales still come from phone calls and referrals.
Nevertheless, here are five marketing tactics that I’ve used to grow my business, Coastal Creative Reprographics, and a few innovative ideas I’ve seen work for others.
Donate to local fundraising events.
Donate your time, or even better your company expertise, to local fundraising events to get your name out there. Not only are you doing a good thing for a worthwhile organization, you’re networking at the same time. You’ll meet the event organizer, corporate sponsors, and other companies attending the event.You might get acknowledgement at the event itself, or a mention on the organization website.
Pro Tip: If mentioned on the organization website, ask for a referral link, or a mention in the newsletter if appropriate.
Share an announcement with your personal network.
Announce to your personal network as soon as you launch your new venture. Beyond the loving messages from your close relatives, you’ll put the word out there and get natural referrals when people know what you actually do. When you send the message, don’t ask for direct business, instead ask them to put the word out for you or let you know if they know of any acquaintances that you can help.
Pro Tip: If you have built in networks such as your college alumni network, fraternity/sorority network, or local club network these will give you an extra boost.
Interview industry experts on your company blog.
If you’re a nobody entering the scene with your first startup, you can feel like you’ve got a long way to go before you get any type of clout in your industry. One of the best ways to connect with industry experts is to do a round up post and post it on your company blog.
Ask three questions to twenty experts in your field, not all will reply, but many will. Write up a blog post with the questions and answers. If executed correctly, you can get many of the interviewed experts to share the post on social media platforms which will spread awareness and traffic for your brand.
Pro Tip: Ask questions that are not too broad, not too specific so that you can get a variety of different responses from the experts you interview.
Network at trade shows.
Younger, and inexperienced, entrepreneurs tend to focus on the easy online marketing wins and focus less on face-to-face networking. Trade shows in your industry offer a plethora of opportunities to make connections with peers and new customers. Most trade show attendees skew older in age, so it’s an excellent place to connect with seasoned business owners that can help you boost your career.
Pro Tip: Do as much research you can beforehand on the people and companies you want to talk to, and create a strategy before you even enter the trade show.
Leverage new social networks.
Everybody and their mother are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A majority of businesses are there because someone said they have to and don’t know what they’re doing. Instead of competing with giant companies on the large social networks, be innovative on new ones.
For example, Pinterest is growing fast and has a heavily skewed female audience. If your brand is highly female focused, this is a platform you need to use. It works best for consumer products and lifestyle brands. Even if your products are male oriented, females do the bulk of online shopping.
Also consider Instagram. This popular YFS Magazine article on ‘How to Make Your Brand #Instafamous by Using Instagram’ nails it. Millennial consumers, especially, are flocking to this network and increasingly ignoring Facebook. The key is to not blatantly promote your product or service, and make it more about the people using your products.
Lastly, SlideShare is a smaller social media community than the giants, but skews heavily towards business professionals. If you’re already creating slide decks for presentations you give in person, by uploading on SlideShare you can gain additional views and traffic from a worldwide audience. Make your deck compelling and innovative to gain the most views and get featured on the SlideShare home page.
Pro Tip: You can’t be on every social network all the time as a new entrepreneur, so limit yourself to the best for your industry and focus on those.
What young entrepreneurs tend to lack in experience and bank accounts, we make up for in energy and technology know-how. By thinking creatively, we can work within our small budgets and still make a powerful impact.
Mark Krenn is a passionate young entrepreneur and founder of Coastal Creative Reprographics, where he designs, creates and installs trade show exhibits and large format printing products for marketing departments. Mark enjoys constant travelling and almost every sport. Connect with @coastalrepro on Twitter.
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