You’ve come up with an amazing idea for a product or service. You’ve gone as far as building a website and creating a prototype, but now it’s time to get the word out. You want customers, and you also want everyone to know what you’re doing.
Maybe you already have a few people paying for your services. But just because a few bucks are trickling in doesn’t mean your business is really out there in the world.
Don’t worry- there are a million ways to let the world know about your awesome new company.
When our founders started Grasshopper, they were intent on using natural and transparent ways to get the word out. Their goal was (and still is) to get people gabbing about what we do. If they’re happy with our product, they’ll tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on and so forth.
We all want what happened to Timehop to happen to us:
Generating positive chatter is the best way to get the word out about a business. Don't hire a fancy PR firm- they’re expensive and you (and your new army of fans) can do it better!
So, how can you get to a point where people are telling their friends about you? Here are 15 ways to let the world know what you’re up to:
1. Be a (Genuine) Resource
You know a lot about your industry, right? That’s why you do what you do.
If you’re a respected resource, people will pay attention every time you release something new. They’ll respect your opinion, be more likely to give your product a shot, and even get excited about side projects you're taking on.
If you’re a technical co-founder, join in on these discussions on Quora, and notice how Drew Houston, CEO and co-founder of Dropbox, manages to show his authority in the space. Drew’s really busy, but he still finds the time to help others out.
Start or join a meetup group like the Lean Startup Circle. Become an expert on Clarity, a network that connects fledgling entrepreneurs with seasoned ones. Tell your college’s alumni network what you’re doing and offer to speak to some students.
2. Find Outlets in Your City
Cities are great places to live because there’s so much going on, so DUH, you’ve got to find networking groups, visit some coworking spaces, and go to some events in the area.
But don’t limit yourself to startup-friendly events. There are other opportunities in your town, city, or state like parades, homecoming events, university ceremonies, or even local bulletin boards. Check out how Annie’s Mac & Cheese got the word out at the beginning:
3. Brand your Vehicle
A branded vehicle with your company logo is an easy way to get the word out, especially if you have to drive a lot. Landscapers, construction companies, and other service providers often use company vans out of necessity (they’re always on the road lugging their stuff), but other industries are at it as well.
There are a bunch of Get in Shape for Women cars that drive around Boston with purple and white polka dots. Pretzel Crisps cars drive around the city, too, doling out free snacks to companies and stores. Lyft and ZipCar have similar campaigns— when a car in their fleet drives around, it has a mustache or a sticker to let people know its affiliation.
4. Start a Super Cool Blog
Think content marketing is a strategy you should think about down the road? Think again. Companies like 37signals and Crazy Egg have created super helpful blogs that put them on the radar screen. These companies don’t just have great products—they’re also leaders and resources in their fields. They provide extremely valuable information.
If you write well, offer honest tips, and put your sales-y pitches aside, your blog and website content can attract all sorts of visitors. Plus, if you write about other companies you admire and explain why, you might get a little attention from them too.
If you want to get the word out about your company, you’ve got to... well... get the words out.
5. Get Started with SEO and Content Marketing
Search engine optimization. Oof— seems like a lot of work— but if Google can’t find you, no one else can. If you’re selling coffee mugs, you want people to find you when they search “cute green coffee mugs,” don’t you?
Online businesses depend on SEO to succeed. Some things you can do? Get great at storytelling, and then generate positive engagement, social sharing, and friendliness with other companies. If you’re doing cool things, people will be psyched to talk you up. They’ll write about you— and give you links. These links help you get ranked, so you’ll come up when someone searches for coffee cups.
We recommend that you read Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO as a starting point. Quick Sprout’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing can help, too (both are free).
6. Make a Kooky and Catchy Explainer Video
Um, HELLO DOLLAR SHAVE CLUB. If you haven’t seen this video, watch it now.
It’s famous in the marketing world as a wildly successful viral video. It resulted in 12,000 people promptly signing up for the service. Imagine that!
Dollar Shave Club’s Video is extremely amusing (and got 11,311,515 views … and counting), but it also explains what Dollar Shave Club is. It just goes to show you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars in your marketing budget. Dollar Shave’s Club video only cost $4,500.
7. Find Someone Who Can Write About You
Have a friend who works for the New York Times or occasionally writes for Forbes? Maybe not, but do you know someone who writes for a local newspaper or website? If you don’t, find someone!
Reaching out to writers, reporters, and popular bloggers can be scary, but just one article on a popular site can help you gain significant traffic. Get in touch with the editors and writers on your favorite industry blogs. Some think that getting on a niche site is a lot better than getting written about in a huge media outlet.
Offer to write a guest article or propose a relevant angle. Make sure there’s something in it for the writer and the blog. If you can’t put your company in context and prove your relevancy, you probably won’t be written about.
If you’re looking for media outlets, check out Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and BuzzStream. Both tools will help you stay on top of the media so you can find ways to get featured.
8. Give out Promo Codes and Samples
It’s a popular tactic, but promo codes and samples can entice people who love a deal. If you get someone to try out your service, offering them 30 days for free or a promo code, you can get people to come through the door (that’s often the hardest part!)
This gives potential customers a chance to try you out without the stress or commitment of a scary contract. If your products are valuable, they’ll likely stick around.
I signed up for an account on Squarespace, a website building platform, after hearing about a 14-day free deal.
That was over a year ago. My site is STILL happy and healthy on Squarespace- the set of free days converted me into a paying customer.
9. Say “Yes!”
There are articles out there that claim saying “no” is the key to success, but I don’t believe that’s true. If you want to spread the word about your business, you should try to say yes when someone asks you to come to an event or for a favor. Give genuinely before you ask.
If people feel like you’re always saying yes, always willing to go to bat for them, then they’ll be likely to talk about and remember you and your business. It’s all about cultivating genuine relationships.
Plus, if you don’t say yes, you might be missing out on opportunities to meet your next customers or investors. You never know!
10. Speak at and Go to Conferences
Conferences can be draining (and expensive) but they’re great opportunities to network and meet new people. If you’ve just started a business and have some clout in your industry, try to get a speaking gig at a conference. Maybe you can even tell some newbies about how hard it is to get a business off the ground!
If the thought of that makes you want to shrivel up and die, then just go as an attendee. Meet new people, learn about them, and share what you’re working on. Maybe there’s a partnership to be had or a connection you can make for them.
11. Reach Out to Interested Parties
If someone at a conference, meetup, or other event expresses interests in you and your business and hands over a business card, don’t stop there. It’s all about reaching out to those who expressed interest in what you’re doing.
Don’t just connect with them on LinkedIn- that doesn’t do much. Instead send personal follow up emails and ask these connections if there’s anything you can do for them. Work to establish positive relationships with the people you meet. Don’t let yourself be a forgettable business card in the back of their wallet!
12. Ask Connections to Review and Refer You
Personal connections are crucial because these relationships can be leveraged for much more. If you have happy customers, ask them to vouch for you. Remind them to tell their friends about you. Suggest they write about you on a review site like Yelp or Angie’s List.
Make it easy for them- add a link to emails or business cards. Ask gently- they’ll be more open if you’re not shoving your motives in their faces. Remember, you can’t be upset if they decide not to do it.
A real email asking me for review:
I know you are both very busy but if you could write a positive review about me on http://www.yelp.com/biz/gibson-sothebys-international-realty-boston that would be amazing!”
Guess what? I wrote a 5-star review.
13. Do Something Crazy
The advantage of running a small company is you’re not bogged down by corporate red tape, so get some media attention by doing something crazy and unexpected.
Need ideas? Well, we sent out 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers when we changed our name. I also sent out a bunch of creepy notes to promote our Startup Magic 8 Ball.
IKEA had a campaign where they gave out a 3D pop-up table to promote their LACK Side Table. When Amnesty International was encouraging people to write letters about the injustices in China, they sent out packages with chopstick-shaped pencils.
14. Get in Front of The Right People
If you’ve built an app for busy stay-at-home parents, you probably shouldn’t be trying to spread the word at mobile development conferences (though those can help with your actual app). That’s not where the parents are- they’re at home with their kids!
Get in front of the right people. Visit day cares, parent’s groups, elementary schools, and other places where your target market is likely to be. Read blogs by parents, find other kid-friendly business owners, and do everything you can be where they are.
15. Partner with Another Business
You use a number of tools to keep business going, not just one, right? You might use Google Drive, QuickBooks, Zendesk, and Grasshopper all at the same time.
Your customers use tons of tools, so think about partnering with another business that caters to the same audience as you. You can offer another company’s customers promo codes and discounts, or simply do a content exchange where you post on each other’s blogs. Holding an event together is also a great way to form a mutually beneficial partnership.
Get On The Map
It’s tough to get the word out, especially in a world where the internet is cluttered with stuff. Take some of these ideas, run with them, and put your company on the map! The world is waiting.