The checkboxes are endless when it comes to the list of things to do to promote your business online: Send a weekly newsletter, constantly update your social media pages, write that guest post you’re hoping will bring traffic to your own site—I could go on and on.
But—believe it or not—there’s more to promotion than keywords and Facebook pages.
This didn't really sink in for me until a friend finally dragged me out from behind my computer to be her plus-one at an art show. While it didn't seem related to my work, I ended up meeting potential designers for my shop and people who referred friends to my site for career help. I realized that breaking out of my online routine into offline opportunities could actually broaden my business. And that made me think: Maybe I should get out more often.
Maybe you should, too. Here are three things you can do to promote your business without having to cut it down to 140 characters or use the Valencia filter.
Host an Event
Events are not only a great way to get your company’s name out there, but also an excellent opportunity to partner with brands you’d like to build better relationships with or be aligned with in the public eye. They can be an instant cred-booster on both the consumer and the business-to-business fronts, especially if you throw an event that really benefits the attendees.
Two great examples are Tory Johnson’s Spark & Hustle conference and Women 2.0 conferences. Both offer actionable takeaways from interactive workshops and insight from industry-specific professionals that attendees wouldn’t get anywhere else, especially not in a general article or interview found online. As such, they’ve been incredible brand-builders—not just for the organizations that run the events, but for the sponsors, partners, and vendors affiliated with it, too.
On that note, if putting together an entire event sounds like a little more than you’re up for, see if you can help at an event thrown by another organization. The first time I did this, I volunteered to give resume advice at an event thrown by The Muse and Bauble Bar. It was little planning or effort on my part for a big benefit: A number of the people I talked with have become loyal users of my site, ProfessionGal. Next, I am looking to kick it up a notch as a moderator for a panel discussion with entrepreneurs sponsored by ELSA AND ME. Events like these are great because you’ll get to spend time getting to know current customers, while also gaining new ones from the sponsors you’re working with.
Give Teaching a Try
While lots of entrepreneurs suffer from impostor syndrome—symptoms include second-guessing your strengths and feeling like one day people are going to realize you have no idea what you’re doing—most have actually become experts in their fields during the process of figuring out how to run their businesses. Which means: You have the chance to impart your knowledge to people who are eager to learn, while also spreading the word about what you do.
I did this in my early days with ProfessionGal when it was mainly targeted to college women needing help landing their first job. I’d go around to local sorority meetings, give them an overview with quick tips, and then leave my contact info posted on their activity board to pick up business. It worked like magic.
See if there are opportunities at local community colleges or professional development organizations to head up a class. And remember, teaching doesn’t have to be limited to a classroom setting: Speaking at conferences, participating in workshops, or going to events are all ways you can get to know your customer base better and meet potential clients or users by educating them about your services or products.
Pass Out Swag With a Personal Touch
I don’t think the world is hurting for any more pens swiped from doctor’s offices or keychains from your go-to car garage (though my apartment is full of them, and of company-sponsored Mardi Gras cups like any good Cajun girl has).
So, that’s why I’m skipping the generic company swag and giving personalized gifts a shot. I know how it feels when you get a postcard from a friend or a sketch of yourself from your art-student friend. It’s special and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t keep from smiling.
That’s the feeling I want to induce when I pass out things to people to promote ProfessionGal. I don’t want them to only recognize the logo—that’s like learning Spanish through rote-memory flashcards. I want them to resonate with the feeling and meaning it represents so that it’s remembered like a second language, like second nature. So, I’m personally sketching watercolor pictures of things gals can relate to—like a lipstick-stained coffee mug—that they can hang in their workspace, emphasizing our purpose of helping professional women “find their style and work it.”
In other words, I’m showing what we do rather than just saying it. Another great example of this is when internet service providers sponsor Wi-Fi hotspots or charging stations at airports or conferences to allow travelers or attendees to finish work or contact family. In the end, that’s the message behind the sponsorship—it's not about providing internet service or an electrical outlet, but about allowing you to keep in touch with the things and people you need to, no matter where you are.
Much like your mission statement, you want to invoke a feeling, reinforcing that the purpose of your business is to address a need or provide a solution to a problem—not just provide a specific service. If you can give your customers something that does that—you’re bound to be remembered.
When it comes to promoting your business, don’t be afraid to get out there. Meaning, get out of the four walls of your house and computer, and think outside of the traditional advertising avenues to let people know what you do and what makes it so special. Meeting people in person leaves a lasting impression, not only on them, but on you. Trust me, it will remind you why you’ve spent so many late nights working so hard on your laptop in the first place.
TopicsEntrepreneurship , Public Relations , Syndication , Advertising , Starting a Business , Running a Business , The Rookie's Guide to Starting a Business by Megan Broussard
Megan Broussard is the creator of the career-lifestyle site ProfessionGal, based in NYC. It’s your treat for the workweek if you’re a young female professional or entrepreneur with a craving to get ahead and have a sweet spot for office style. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, and Google+.More from this Author