It’s hard to allocate where your money should be spent when you’re a startup and you sometimes have to stretch every dollar. Bootstrapping doesn’t have to be hard though. If you decide to promote your own company, read on for nearly free fifteen do-it-yourself tactics and get ahead of your competition!
1. Write interesting articles. Writing articles is a great way to establish credibility and drive traffic to your site. Check out this outline if you’re not sure of the layout or for some more ideas. The key here is to make sure your articles end up benefiting the person reading it. Some ideas include:
- Talking about the social benefits of your service.
- Providing advice on pitfalls you fell into when starting your business with examples on how you overcame them.
- Creating a case study on a client.
After you put it together, setup a Google alert for the topic you discussed and leave comments on relevant posts with a link back to your site so visitors can find you. Another recommendation is to guest post on someone else’s site and link back to your post to drive more visitors. When you’re first getting started, you’re basically shouting to an empty room. Leverage guest posts and contribute to other sites before investing too much time building content on your site. Or at least have a way to be found.
Other important aspects to take into account are to make sure your headline is thought-provoking and to include a byline at the end of article. Your headline should draw people in – make sure it’s short, funny, and/or engaging. Sometimes writing it last works best. Check out this great post by Copyblogger for other headline ideas.
Finally, your byline should give readers a brief background of yourself and your company. Be sure to include a link to your site readers can click on. If you have analytics software installed on your site, track which sites are bringing the most traffic and concentrate your future efforts in submitting articles to those sites.
2. Blog about it. Don’t have a blog? Get one! If you’re worried about the cost, you can sign up for a free account at blogger.com or blog.com. The title of your blog should be relevant to your product/service – you can also make it catchy or creative depending on the industry you’re in.
When writing your posts, take considerable time in writing your headline. In addition, make sure to include keywords that relate to your post. These keywords will be instrumental in helping readers find your post. Once you’ve published your post, submit it to bookmarking tools such as stumbleupon, delicious, and digg. For a great list of social media sites you can submit your post to, check out this entry by Tropical SEO. These tools will help drive traffic to your site.
3. Send an e-newsletter. This implies you have a mailing list. If you don’t have one, start building it now. Include all the current contacts you have and be sure you have an opt in button on your site so you can collect more contacts. Another way to build your mailing list is by asking people at networking events if you can add them to it.
The next step is to write your newsletter. In it, you can talk about news in your company, recent hires, etc. Always make sure you include news your readers can use – there has to be at least one post that will benefit your readers directly. For example, in our last newsletter, we talked about leveraging social media for your business. Use an e-mail campaign service such as Constant Contact and iContact. For other alternatives, check out our previous post where we go indepth comaparing the most popular solutions. Be sure to include an opt-out option or you will be violating the CAN-SPAM Act.
4. Submit a Press Release. Write a noteworthy press release in third person and submit it yourself at free online sites such as prweb.com. For other sites, click here. You can also send the press release to the local media around your area. To gain a better chance of getting it picked up, include a cover letter that showcases how the information in your release benefits your local community.
It’s important to also note that it may prove worthwhile to pay for one PR service if you have truly newsworthy information. We’ve used Businesswire.com with great success.
5. Profile your company in Wikipedia. It’s important to build an online presence and adding an entry in Wikipedia can help you accomplish that (even with the new nofollow attribute). Check out how other companies profile themselves and use the same format. Be sure to include links to your site so people can find you (We’re working on ours now!). Note: Wikipedia is stringent on who can submit a profile. You’ll need to build a name for yourself to be included.
6. Get a LinkedIn Account. LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. It allows you to connect with those you know as well as get introduced to those you want to know. In my opinion, it’s most useful function is its “Answers” feature. This is where users post questions on several different categories about a certain topic. Leverage your knowledge and experiences by answering them and post your own questions that make others notice you. Be sure to leave a response you’re proud of because the best answer given to a question can earn you an “Expert” rating.
7. Leverage Social Media sites. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Squidoo, Ning and Zaadz can be a great way to market your company and/or offering. Make a list of groups on each that are relevant to you, join them, network with other members, and promote yourself and your service. For a list of other social media sites, click here. You should also check out free trails by Sprout Social and HootSuite to help you automate the process.
8. Add Signature Lines. You are probably constantly e-mailing vendors, clients, partners, etc. Did you know you can also market your new services in them? Add a signature line at the end of your e-mail with a link to your site that promotes your new service or blog post. It’s easy to do and can prove to be fruitful.
9. Go to trade shows. This depends on what industry you’re in but it can be a great way to promote yourself or your company. You can also set up a booth yourself if appropriate.
10. Speak at conferences. Find local, relevant conferences and offer to speak for free on an area of expertise you possess. This can be at your local chamber of commerce or other associations that relate to your industry.
11. Start a contest. Everybody loves to win something and a great way to market your company is to start a contest. Make one of your offerings for free as the prize. Use this opportunity to add to your mailing list (with permission of course).
12. Comment on blogs. Compile a list of blogs that complement your service/company or relate to your industry and comment on their posts. Try to be in the top three to comment and make sure to say something that is related to your area of expertise or knowledge.
13. Guest Blogging. Offering to guest blog on someone else’s blog can be a great way to introduce yourself or service to others. Research a list of relevant blogs and contact the blogger. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how willing bloggers will be to talk to you. You can also approach a expert in your area and offer to do a guest blogging piece on your own blog.
14. Ask for testimonials. If your clients were happy with your services, ask them for a testimonial to include on your site. If they don’t time to write one, write it yourself and ask them to approve it.
15. Network, Network, Network!
I hope you have the time to implement all of these steps.