How to Market and Spread the Word
There’s only one currency for entrepreneurs, and it’s not measured in dollars and cents.
It’s measured in clients and customers.
Without a solid client base or loyal customer following, your new full-time gig won’t have much of a chance at remaining a full-time gig. But with effective marketing and networking, you may feel more secure in your former “side gig” than you ever did as an employee!
What’s Better—Word of Mouth or Heavy Marketing?
We all know lucky people like Ritika Puri of Storyhackers, a boutique content marketing consultancy.
“Believe it or not,” says Ritika, “I built my entire business through word of mouth referrals.” Not only did Ritika handle marketing solely through word of mouth advertising, but she doesn’t even have a traditional freelancing website!
Not everyone is so lucky. Or is it really “luck” at all? Ritika credits her success to her passionate approach to work. “I genuinely love getting to know my clients and love to make them 200% happy…I am very passionate about (and completely believe in) the work that my clients are doing. This passion guides me towards amazing projects and people.”
If you take a similar approach to your work in a field that is friendly to word-of-mouth marketing, then you’ll likely see the same success as Ritika Puri. But that’s no reason to ignore conventional marketing, either.
Our advice? Experiment, and adjust your marketing strategies according to the results you’re getting. If you’re as busy as Ritika, perhaps you can rely on word-of-mouth marketing for now. Keep approaching each client with passion and a dedication to making them “200% happy.” You’ll be sure to attract new customers naturally.
If not, keep reading.
When—and How—to Start Marketing Your New Business
In taking your side gig to a full-time job, there are two very important variables to consider.
- The first is when to begin. Many entrepreneurs who have just taken the leap to full-time self-employment think that spending an inordinate amount of money on advertising is essential. Many entrepreneurs recommend having a core strategy in place first, as well as a definable, unique brand that will attract customers more readily. “Successful start-ups build a product for a specific user that’s unlike anything out there,” says Andrea Cutright of Foodily. “Focus on what makes your company different from the beginning.”
- The other variable is how to begin. If you’re like Ritika Puri, you’re already marketing simply by the nature of how you run your business.
For other entrepreneurs, the question isn’t so easy. Many recommend against traditional advertising—television spots, radio ads—as they can be costly, particularly if your startup depends on online traffic. If this is the case, there are plenty of cost-effective marketing strategies that might better suit your new gig:
- SEO (search engine optimization), which allows people to find you when they do an online search for your services.
- Content creation, which is creating valuable resources for your customers, writing guest blog posts to promote your company, running your own blog to attract visitors, etc.)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads via Google, Bing, and other search engines.
- Placing bids on websites like Elance or oDesk (for service-based businesses).
- Social media strategy, which involves engaging customers you already have, connecting with your community, participating in groups, chats, and more.
- Local sponsorships and events
For more information on marketing, read The Startup’s (Budget) Guide to Traditional Marketing and 15 Ways to Let the World Know About Your Awesome Business.
“But Where Should I Network?” Tools for Getting Started
How do you get started networking? Just like you’d get started building a house by picking up a hammer, let’s begin by focusing on the right tools.
Where to network
- Industry conferences
- Chambers of Commerce
- BNI, Rotary, and Kiwanis Clubs
- SCORE chapters
- Business seminars
- Small Business Development Centers
- University and college entrepreneurship and small business programs
- Public speaking events
- At a computer!
- Twitter – Follow business leaders in your community, connect with your customers, and show an active social presence
- Facebook – Get a Facebook Business Page and start by connecting with family, friends, and others from your personal life. Post relevant, timely, and friendly Facebook posts to inspire more Likes
- LinkedIn – Connect with local groups, co-workers, and others. LinkedIn is a great platform for B2B marketing.
- Google Plus+ – Success on Google+ helps searchers find you. Post blog content, reviews, and other info to boost your rankings in search.
- MeetUp.com – Find industry-specific networking groups with other like-minded people in your city, town, or region.
- Reddit – Check out what’s going viral and ask anonymous questions. Be wary of doing any kind of sales-y marketing on reddit!
- Quora – Ask any question and get answers from experts and amateurs alike. Answer questions posed by others to prove your authority.
- Read Which Social Media Channels Are Best For Your Small Business? for a better understanding of all the networks.
- Planely – Planely takes your flight information and shares who you’ll be traveling with, allowing you to meet new people even before you arrive at the conference—or wherever you may be flying.
- Jump Scan – If you’re a frequent networker, you can connect with other people by copying your information to a scanning bar code. Talk about time-saving.
- WhosHere – True, this app is typically used for seeking out dates or friends, but it also promotes itself as helping you find connections. When you cast a wide net, every tool you have at your disposal brings the potential for new opportunities.
Three Tips to Accelerate Your Networking
Contrary to popular belief (see our “myths” from Chapter One), not every entrepreneur is an extraverted networking machine. Simply put, networking isn’t intuitive to all of us. But you don’t have to be the life of the party to run your business:
- Cast a wide net: Kathryn Minshew, founder of the Daily Muse, said that a business should not succeed thanks to “one silver bullet.” “I keep a lot of irons in the fire so if one partnership doesn’t go through, or one deal turns out to have much less impact than I’d hoped, I still have plenty of other things in the works!”
- Give more than you get: Whether working on a project for a client, handling customer service, or networking, you’ll go much farther in life if you give more than you expect to get in return. Rather than “using” people, you’ll be a source of happiness and productivity for them—and that’s when they’ll be more likely to work with you.
- Know who you are: Who are you selling to? What does your product or service do that no one else can do? Establishing a unique brand is a key moment in your business, and it’s going to be necessary if you want your marketing efforts to work.