Building a start-up business on a small budget is never easy. But being new to the industry it’s important to build the best track record and gain as much positive attention as possible to elevate and expand your company in no time.
Below, 15 gurus from Fast Company Executive Board share their time and knowledge about low-cost ways to create a buzz factor of excitement about your product or service.
1. SIGN UP WITH AN AFFILIATE MARKETING CHANNEL.
Affiliate marketing has shown to be a powerhouse marketing channel for small businesses. Since affiliate marketing requires little upfront cost, you can focus on building a strong network of brand ambassadors to advocate your product with no initial expense. Make sure to work with influencers that properly resonate with your brand, and have the audience you’re looking to reach. – Mendel Cohen, Krafted Digital
2. BE AUTHENTIC IN HOW YOU CONNECT WITH CUSTOMERS.
Connecting honestly and authentically with your customers or clients, at all the relevant touchpoints, will lead to organic growth and a strong reputation in your industry. Making your clients or customers feel important and that your services or products align with their core values will help build recommendations and brand advocates. – Petty Rader, Ergobaby
3. BUILD A SUPPORT STRUCTURE WITH OTHER COMPANIES.
Identify a compelling partnership that can add scale and credibility. Build the support structure to grow the partnership and work through a plan to find joint win-win outcomes for both companies. If you treat the partner as an extension of your team, you have added scale, expertise, and access for your company. It also likely means you’ll have diverted dollars towards the partnership so it can flourish. – Paola Doebel, Ensono
4. UTILIZE LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RESOURCES.
One way for B2B to grow in one market would be to explore your local chamber of commerce. Do you receive the email addresses of the other members and are you allowed to email market that list? Chambers are a good resource and network for businesses that are just starting out. – Laura Kerbyson, Laura Kerbyson Design Company
5. ENGAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS.
Word of mouth advertising is essential. If you provide a great service, then people will revisit and repurchase. Leaders should also pay attention to social media marketing and storytelling. There’s a phone in nearly everyone’s hand with alerts on the ready. It’s inexpensive, and the results can be exponential. – Maurice Kelly, Windpact Inc.
6. DON’T BE SHY ABOUT ASKING FOR REFERRALS.
Get comfortable making the ask: Ask people for referrals. Then ask those referrals how you can support them. Ask people to read your next article to ensure clarity or dimension, because people love to help! – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog
7. ELEVATE YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY.
All you need to do to get started is to create how-to posts, round-up articles, and ‘best of’ content in relation to your industry. You’ll need to optimize your posts for search engines and then build backlinks to your work. While it’s a lot of work, it’s inexpensive and has long-term benefits that outweigh the results you get from immediate but pricey ad campaigns. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. CHOOSE YOUR PRO-BONO WORK WISELY.
It may sound odd, but I was extremely limited in taking on pro-bono projects. Some will argue you miss opportunities to build your portfolio, but I would counter that it spared me a lot of grief, and I was able to use the time I would have given away for free on my own business. When I took on small budget clients, I still charged a nominal fee to ensure they were truly invested in the project. – Hannah Fryer, Brambling & Co., LLC
9. SECURE SOME SPEAKING GIGS.
Avoid social media. It’s extremely difficult to get attention, build trust, and convert if nobody has heard of you. Instead, ask for referrals, and introductions, and try to get small speaking gigs at events that your target audience attends. Participate in annual or bi-annual trade shows. People are there to grow their businesses and have invested time and money to attend. So, focus on captive audiences and not the browsers! – Mike Koenigs, The Superpower Accelerator
10. WRITE AND PUBLISH ARTICLES.
Be seen. Write and publish often, and ensure you’re visible by building your company in the public sphere. It’s as easy as making simple, consistent social media posts or engaging in dialogue with industry veterans in a public way. When starting out, being seen is relatively cheap to do and can help attract the attention you need to break out and grow your business. – Bilal Aijazi, Polly
11. PREACH YOUR COMPANY’S MISSION AND VALUE.
Make certain that all employees understand and can speak to the mission of the brand and the value the company presents. If everyone is out there, be it on social media, at conferences, or at speaking engagements singing from the same sheet, eventually, that message will take hold. When you deliver on your promises, your customers and clients will take that messaging and run with it on their own – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32
12. FUEL YOUR CREATIVITY.
Be creative and think outside the box for resources that you may need. You do not always need the newest and the most up-to-date technologies. For example, there is no shame in using Excel as your customer relationship management system when you’re starting out in business. It helps leaders and their teams in defining sales and client engagement. You can use everyday tools to launch and then integrate new tools as you grow. – Leigh Burgess, Bold Industries Group, Inc.
13. DO THE RIGHT FAVORS FOR THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
When I was starting my business, I did a few book projects for my mentor gratis. He ended up referring me to so many clients that my business blew up. But I’ve also done favors for people who didn’t appreciate it at all. So make sure the person you’re trying to serve isn’t a taker, use your special skills to hook them up and it will pay off 100-fold. – Anna David, Legacy Launch Pad
14. KEEP FOSTERING COLLABORATIVE OPPORTUNITIES.
Team up with credible partners, thought leaders and publications to create compelling content that entertains, educates, and engages audiences. In addition to leveraging owned social media outlets, team up on industry events, and encourage content partners, collaborators, and thought leaders to share the love, by sharing content that highlights their expertise and point of view within their communities. – Val Vacante, Merkle, a dentsu company
15. HAVE LIVE CONVERSATIONS WITH MORE PEOPLE.
This really depends on your industry, company, and target customer. But in most industries, if you are starting out you need to be talking to actual people. A lot of entrepreneurs think buying ads or social media will quickly get the job done. But there’s no replacement for reaching out to people and having live conversations. Networking and getting connected to more people are irreplaceable. – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute