I know so many entrepreneurs and business owners who become uncomfortable, queasy or downright terrified when faced with having to promote themselves or market their businesses. Fear of judgment or rejection can often set off a treadmill of self-doubt and anxiety that ultimately leads to some debilitating mixture of confusion, inertia and overwhelm. And of course, none of this is good for business!
But here’s the thing, there are so many creative, conscious and compelling ways to get your important work out into the world and bring more people through your doors, without ever having to feel like a snake-oil salesman.
The fundamental key to effective, feel-good marketing is to focus way more on how you serve, rather than on what you sell. Make generosity your mantra, concentrate on generating consistently outstanding customer experiences and direct your most valiant efforts towards producing work that adds tremendous value to others’ lives.
That said, if you want to build a truly successful mini-empire, you’re going to have to bring some heart and hustle to your game and put yourself out there. While the old adage of “good work speaks for itself,” still rings true, you’re running a business in a noisy world where it’s increasingly hard to hear. The trick is to find smart and standout ways to be heard.
While the tactics and strategies you choose are going to depend entirely on your niche and preferences, I’ve put together a random list of 15 ideas that will hopefully get your ingenuity, imagination and innovation flowing:
1. Host a free event that is loaded with value, surprises and goodies for your customers, clients and prospects. Make sure to publicize it widely and send out a press release.
2. Showcase your superstar customers and clients on your website in a way that is genuine and appreciative. Applaud their achievements, include links to their businesses and offer a shout-out to the causes they care most about. Chances are good that they’ll be flattered and share the recognition in their networks. Always make sure to get their blessing in advance!
3. Sponsor a local sports team, dance troupe or charity event. Being a community builder not only makes for good karma, it also helps grow brand awareness.
4. Seek out innovative partnerships for cross-promotions. Find collaborators in complimentary niches and industries to co-create events, special offers and interesting customer experiences.
5. Create a coveted, value-laden freebie on your website in exchange for email addresses. This could be a helpful checklist, how-to guide, a discount coupon or some other special gift. Be sure to follow up with your gift-getters!
6. Join professional associations, your local Chamber of Commerce and other organizations where you can foster meaningful relationships with other business owners. You’ll get access to new resources, identify new partners and clients, and discover new opportunities on all sorts of fronts!
7. Create outstanding content wherever and whenever you can in a way that is strategic and thoughtful. Start a blog, make a video, get on Periscope, send out a newsletter, create your own podcast, host a webinar or guest write on other sites.
8. Find unique group volunteering opportunities for you and your staff as team building experiences. Supporting a local initiative or service organization not only heightens morale while making an important contribution, it positions your business as a caring and valuable community member.
9. Build a dynamic and mutually beneficial referral network. Referrals and word of mouth are indisputably the most powerful form of advertising! Nurture and grow relationships with professionals and other businesses you would gladly refer your customers to, and who in turn, are happy to send referrals in your direction as well.
10. Get some sumptuous swag to give away. Make sure it’s exceptionally useful, wildly creative and/or beautifully designed. Put some serious thought into this and aim to delight!
11. Sign up for the HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and read the listings on a regular basis. Offer your knowledge and know-how to reporters who are constantly searching out experts to interview on virtually every subject under the sun. It’s a win-win – you get publicity and they get a great story!
12. Go for the WOW factor with clients and customers as often as you can. Mail a handwritten note, send some cookies, personally deliver one of your favourite books or forward an article you know they would love. Gratitude and generosity are powerful business builders.
13. Enter industry and business award competitions. Recognition from your peers is a huge credibility booster. Even if you don’t win, you’ve still increased your profile through the publicity associated with competition.
14. Actively seek out speaking and/or teaching opportunities. Volunteer for free gigs at non-profits, post-secondary institutions or community groups.
15. Involve your customers and clients in the life of your business on a regular basis. Ask for feedback, testimonials and reviews in a consistent, non-intrusive and kind way. Test out new ideas and ensure that you give them the inside-scoop on upcoming products, services and events. While this keeps you top of mind, it also offers you invaluable insights on a regular basis to continually improve your business.
I’d love to hear any and all of the other successful + creative ways you market your business - share in the comments below!
*Photo Credit: Christopher Campbell