The steps leading to a startup launch sometimes happen under the radar. Behind closed doors, you research the competition, define your target customer, figure out finances, enlist assistance, and padlock intellectual property with patents, trademarks or copyrights.
But as you draw closer to launching your business, it’s time to abandon stealth tactics and build a plan to etch an indelible mark on customers’ consciousness. Having a clear strategy to promote your business will set you apart from competitors.
Wait, you say. I can’t afford a flashy promotion campaign.
You’re not alone. But without promotion, the business you’ve worked so hard to establish is more likely to stagnate and be ignored than to grow and find customers.
So let’s go back to the basics and review proven, foundation-level promotion strategies that have power to help new or existing businesses break through the marketing chatter without spending a fortune.
Build a website Have one already? Great. Review and update it regularly. Keep the content fresh, interesting and engaging. But if you’ve put an Internet presence on the back burner because you can’t afford web-design assistance, search online for information about “creating a website” to discover templates and tools that enable anyone to create a basic site at little or no cost. A note of caution – for many of your potential customers, your website is the first impression they have of your company. It is wise to invest appropriately in a well-designed site that accurately portrays your image and company.
Begin your site content with a concise description that introduces your business and sets it apart in the marketplace. Then detail your products and/or services, experience and results, endorsements and testimonials and, of course, your contact information. Plan to add content as your business develops.
List your business in search-engine directories, and reward customers who post reviews When potential customers hear about your business, they will turn to Google, Yelp or other sites to learn more. Ensure your entries on those sites are accurate and include links to your website.
Consider offering customers a discount coupon if they post a review of your products or services. Incentives encourage reviews and also can lead to repeat business.
Create or improve business cards and stationery Don’t underestimate the importance of these tools, which help define your business, show prospective customers that you are a professional, and help them remember you. Search online for information about “creating business cards” to find affordable services that walk you through creating everything from business cards to brochures. Always list your web address and social media handles on your business card, letterhead and promotional materials, and keep a stack of business cards with you.
Network For entrepreneurs, networking is a way of life. But your time is precious, so think quality versus quantity by networking in organizations that attract your target customers or people active in the entrepreneurial space.When you meet someone, restate their name to embed it in your memory, and don’t forget to exchange business cards. As soon as you politely can, jot notes on business cards to remind you about your conversation with each person. Following those conversations, send a handwritten note to each new contact to help them remember you.To become even more well known, offer to be a speaker for industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries or local business groups. Speaking engagements can boost your name recognition, build your prospect list and gain publicity for your business.
Create business profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest and/or YouTube … and use them to build your credibility Determine which of those sites your target customers frequent, and begin your efforts there. As with your website, ensure your online profiles include a compelling description of what your company does and what distinguishes it from the competition. Then position yourself as a source of expert information by blogging, tweeting, sharing and posting about topics relevant to your industry.Liz Bohannon, CEO of Sseko Designs and a graduate of the FastTrac® NewVentureTM program, uses her company’s Facebook page to feature new products and to share stories of the college-bound young women of Uganda who make them.
Email services help you manage your contact list, and send professional-looking e-newsletters or offers. It’s important to request permission before sending email, but you often can build a permission-based contact list by giving something away — perhaps an e-book or a tip sheet about how to do something related to your business.Rob Oyler, a FastTrac® TechVentureTM graduate who is president and founder of WANRack, is building his company’s email list by offering a free white paper, “E-Rate Changes Put Private Fiber WANs Within Reach for K-12 Schools.” The paper helps the company’s target audience of K-12 school administrators recognize the benefits of and federal funding options for private, fiber-option wide area networks. Those digital networks provide the bandwidth schools need as they switch to digital learning tools — and those networks are WANRack’s specialty.
Capitalize on opportunities to publicize When you launch a new product or service, send a press release to local media outlets. And also be aware that organizations with which you are affiliated may be ready and willing to publicize your business. For example, my colleagues at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation FastTrac program publish success stories about select program graduates in a print publication and on a website, both of which have broad distribution. The graduates submit information via an online form, and a professional writer crafts the stories, which are revised and approved by the entrepreneurs before publication.
Promoting your business isn’t rocket science. It’s about reaching out to people to share how your business can help or serve them. Grabbing opportunities to share that news could be a key to you
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