We won’t argue with you: social media is a powerful way to brand, promote, and sell your company online. In 2019, it might be the primary vehicle through which most entrepreneurs build their network and increase visibility. It might also be a crucial way for consumers learn about and shop for new products.
But it is not the only way. If you have a new business, you know that you have to be pushing your company on multiple fronts, thinking strategically and creatively about positioning, and considering all angles.
If you’re fatigued from reading about social media strategies, here are some non-social-media ways you can promote your business – for free.
When you win an award or competition, you win more people who care about you. Even if you are an official nominee, or finalist, or you place in the competition, it will still go a very long way in helping consumers notice you and distinguish you from the millions of other options they have out there.
Think about it: if three breakfast restaurants are right next to each other and they all look equally delicious, you’ll still most likely go with the one that earned any kind of award, whether it’s a Michelin star or Eater’s Top 50 Best Breakfasts in Brooklyn.
Seek out opportunities on media outlets related to your industry, trade groups, industry publications, and community organizations. Be realistic. If you know you’re not quite great enough to win a Michelin star, think about what you can win. Sometimes you have to start small to grow big.
Forget Your Elevator Pitch
Excuse us if we sound like your grandma, but stop emailing and calling: speak to people face to face so they can see how passionate and driven you are about your idea. Hit the pavement and bring your product to them. Especially for the food & beverage industry, there are countless networking events and conferences, which are great opportunities to meet the right people.
But before you start growing a new network, make sure you’ve exhausted the one you already have: reach out to friends of friends (of friends), have coffee with mentors or possible mentors or other people’s mentors, and seek advice from entrepreneurs and founders like yourself, who are, essentially, doing what you want to do.
Some ground rules:
- An excellent elevator pitch is important, but don’t let yourself become mechanical when you communicate with investors, partners, and consumers.
- Just because you got a business card doesn’t mean that person is automatically in your circle – take the time and energy to cultivate new relationships.
- Express sincere interest in other people’s work: sincerity comes through (especially IN PERSON). If they get the sense you care about their project, they are more likely to care about yours.
Blog (With Purpose)
Don’t just have a blog for kicks – think about how your blog content can reach a specific audience and draw the attention of potential leads. While working on a blog does not directly increase revenue, it does have the potential to eventually make you some money by writing content that will appeal to new clients (or, whoever your desired audience is).
Identify yourself as a thought leader in the space by sharing your insights, opinions, and knowledge of what’s going on in your industry. Post regularly and consistently, as a blog that hasn’t been updated in 3 months can do more harm than good, making you appear neglectful of your company and its mission. Aim to post once or twice per week.
Share your blog posts on your social media too by selecting a compelling quote, photo, or statistic to grab the attention of a user scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. If you use WordPress, a free, effective tool is the click-to-tweet plugin, which lets you make parts of your text easily shareable on Twitter.
Show Them the “Money”
Giving back doesn’t have to be in the form of large donations or your name on a building. Instead, donate your time. Especially if you have a more local product, you and your team can easily get involved in mentorship programs and intern programs, volunteering at possible partner organizations, and beach and park cleanups.
Creating a solid foundation of goodwill for your company not only gets your name and your company out there and recognized by key influencers or board members – it’s also builds trust among your consumers. The “mission-driven” startup or business can feel inauthentic these days, in that the consumer can’t exactly see where or how their money is transferred to a cause.
If you’re a mission-driven organization, consider this: a few photos of your environmentally friendly company cleaning up a beach generates more visibility and good faith than simply stating on your website that 2% of proceeds go to climate change efforts. Show them that 2%!
Care About Yourself and Your People
We know, this sounds unnecessary and indulgent. But it really matters: 65% of startups fail due to ineffective management from the founders (not product challenges, failure to pivot, or bad marketing) and 8% of startups start to fail once the founder has burnout. Focus on your three F’s: Family/Friends, Fitness and Fantastic Sleep. Okay we cheated on that last one, but seriously those are the priorities you need to make time for.
Finally, talk to your people. 23% of startups said that team issues ultimately lead to the failure of the business as a whole. In the spirit of this article, here are some easy, free ways to make sure your people know you care:
- Bring Them In: share your long-term visions for the company by putting each person’s job or daily tasks in the larger context. Essentially, show them how they are benefiting the company as a whole, and make sure they know they matter.
- Be available: Periodically check in with your people one-on-one, leave your door open, give compliments and positive feedback on a daily basis. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations if your work environment is in jeopardy. Your employees expect you to bite the bullet.
- Give Formalized (and Frequent) Feedback: the more open your line of communication, the less chance there is for miscommunication, bad work habits, and resentment. Check in on each employees goals, ideas, and opportunities for improvement with a formal feedback template.
- Raise Morale: Keep your people motivated by offering something more than just money or cash incentives. Flexible hours, work-from-home options, and unlimited coffee or snacks can boost company morale if you can’t afford a big raise, top-tier health insurance, or bonus for each employee.
And it’s not free, but pizza for the office goes a long way : )