Starting a company from scratch isn’t easy. Trust me, I’ve been there.
When you first begin, it can be frustrating. You don’t have the money to create big, extravagant advertisements or campaigns to get people’s attention. You don’t have the online presence with your website or social media to direct prospective clients to your company. You don’t have the help of a full-time marketing staff. But there are still affordable things you can do to raise awareness about your business!
And even better, there are plenty of ways to get your business off to a great start that don’t cost anything at all. With a little bit of time, creativity, and optimism, you will start to see the results of your hard work!
1. Create and maintain your social media pages
While we can’t say EVERYONE is on social media, more and more people (even seniors) are hopping online. Social media has quickly become the go-to place to research businesses, make connections, and be entertained.
Make sure you have a website and various social media platforms available to attract people while they surf the web. While it’s easy to feel like we need to be on ALL the social media platforms, don’t overload yourself. Start off with your website and a Facebook page. Once you get into the swing of posting and updating content, feel free to expand to platforms like Twitter or Instagram (our favorite).
Worried you don’t have enough time to post on several sites every day? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Check out social scheduling sites such as Hootsuite or Buffer. Facebook even has its own scheduling tools that allow you to develop posts well in advance. Our favorite scheduling tool for Instagram is Later.
Try to keep your posting schedule consistent. This lets your audience know you are a reliable company they can trust. The last thing you want to do is capture your ideal customer’s attention and then disappear for several weeks.
2. Create a content calendar
This is the one tool that will seriously make your life easier. Once you get your website and social media pages up, it can be a struggle to manage what you have already posted and organize the ideas that you have for future posts.
This is where a content calendar comes in handy. Not only does it allow you to track topics and content that you have already posted about, but it also allows you to organize when you will post future content. This is probably the most important tool to establish if you want to publish content consistently and not be frustrated because you “don’t have any ideas!”
You can set up your content calendar however you want. There are tools like Trello or you can keep it simple and use Google Sheets. Plan out your blog and social media content a week in advance, a month in advance, or however works best for you!
Use the calendar to track your progress and manage what you have to get done each week. This is particularly useful if you have multiple people on your team!
3. Network like it’s your job
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this one. Networking is king. It is simple enough to do once you muster up the confidence to put yourself out there, and the results are extremely beneficial.
Look for Facebook or LinkedIn groups that are related to your industry and connect with local companies. These people can direct you to new or potential clients and can also give advice based off of their own experiences. Not to mention, it gives you an opportunity to provide value as well!
For example, RDS is a member of the Think Creative Collective and Savvy Business Owners groups on Facebook. These groups have given us an effective outlet to meet and collaborate with other business owners. Feel free to check out these groups if you think they would apply to your small business. But there are TONS of Facebook/LinkedIn groups out there, so look around! I'd suggest picking only a few and really be intentional about participating in discussions.
But networking online isn’t the only way you should be meeting people. In-person networking, no matter how nerve-wracking, is vital. Look into local networking events, join or at least visit your local chamber of commerce, and start telling people about what you’re doing! You never know who might know someone that needs the services you offer.
Still feeling nervous about networking? Check out the tips that helped me overcome my fear of networking!
4. Partner with others
A great way to get yourself out there and gain some name recognition is to trade work with other companies. Find other startup owners who offer services that could benefit your business and could use your services. While you may not be getting cash, your business could benefit in more ways than one.
When you’re just starting out, you need all the help you can get. And, frankly, you don’t know how to do everything! This is where partnering comes in handy. In the past, I have collaborated with web designers, photographers, and graphic designers. They provided their services and in return, I provided content creation for their companies. It was worth my time and set us up for an awesome partnership.
Once you build a foundation with other companies through a trade, you can confidently use them on future client projects. By working together during the trade, you will already have a good understanding of each other’s processes and quality of work. This will give you a pool of business partners you can work with if the need arises in the future.
These partnerships can expand your clientele and help you create productive working relationships with others!
5. Research your audience
Understanding your audience is the easiest way to appeal to them. Learn about the type of people looking for your services. What do they have in common? What are their likes and interests? What challenges do they face on a daily basis? As you start to grow, you can use this information to tailor your marketing and advertising to appeal to your target audience.
Once you have identified who your audience is, it is much easier to create content that they are interested in. For example, if your audience is young and uses social media as their primary source of information, then you should beef up your Facebook and Instagram strategies. If your audience isn’t quite into the whole social media thing, consider sending out a newsletter or using more traditional marketing and advertising techniques.
A great way to gather this information is to use your website and social media analytics. What type of content are people interacting with? Not only will this help with future posting, but it may change what content you’re posting all together!
Consider developing a customer persona based on this information. Once you know who your target audience is, you can use that information as you continue to expand your business.
6. Use pretty graphics
Sometimes all you need to attract your audience’s attention is a little something to catch their eye. Graphics are a great way to increase the readership of your website and blog by breaking up the usual content with something a bit more engaging.
There are so many different websites and programs available to help you do this. Use Canva to develop sleek, professional looking graphics to ramp up your marketing efforts. Piktochart is another free online program that can be used specifically to make infographics. If you have the money and are a bit more confident in your design skills, we love to use Adobe applications like InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop!
Your graphics can be implemented in different ways. You create your own icons to use on your website or print materials. Take old blog content and repurpose it into an infographic. Consumers are often more enticed to read more visually appealing content.
Graphics can also be used on social media. Platforms like Canva provide templates for social media posts, allowing you to size down photos or create custom designs that fit the sizing of Instagram and other sites. Need an idea of what to post, put a quote into Canva and design a post around it that will entice and inspire your audience!
Just remember, your graphics should complement your content and improve your audience's overall experience!
When you start your own business, there is a lot of bootstrapping needed to make things work. Use these cheap marketing hacks to ramp up your efforts to capture engagement and cultivate interest.
What is your go-to marketing hack? Share your story and advice in the comments!
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