Don’t have a Coca-Cola size budget for marketing? It doesn’t mean you can’t direct attention to your business. I first drafted this list of ways I’ve marketed Styleta and Gym-Pact without spending money for Tory Johnson’s Spark & Hustle conference in conjunction with the Massachusetts Conference for Women in December this year, since I’ll be speaking at the bootcamp. I then gave a talk on this for an informal Start-Up Chile meetup on marketing. After getting great feedback, I’m now posting this list of ways you can advance your company without money so hopefully you can get the attention you need to get your own company off the ground!
- Networking with media – whether through Twitter, HARO (Help A Reporter Out – a great resource to find reporters looking for stories), events, etc, getting connected with reporters interested in your story is key for getting publicity for any events, launches, online competitions, etc. Styleta has been featured in Glamour, People Stylewatch, Seventeen, InStyle, Teen Vogue and others, while Gym-Pact has been featured in the Boston Globe, NY Times Freakonomics Blog, UK Independent, NPR, Atlantic Monthly, Good.is, Next Web to name a few.
- Tapping into alumni networks – Harvard’s network is great, but tons of schools have amazing alumni in your field who are happy to give you a hand. For Styleta, I built my list of advisers from the alumni list. For Gym-Pact, while in Santiago for Start-Up Chile, I have had meetings with corporate partners, potential investors and advisers just by emailing my alumni list.
- Creating opportunities for evangelism – When your users love you, make it easy for them to tell their friends and reward them for that. Gym-Pact incorporates groups, free days and other rewards for people to refer our product to friends and family. Also, we make it easy for people to get involved in building our business – from easy feedback loops on our website and mobile app, to letting them help us build our database of gyms. Crowdsourcing is key to building something huge on a budget.
- Create a little controversy – The easiest way for something to go viral is if there’s something to talk about, so create a debate to get people talking. Gym-Pact’s blunt, cheeky and counter-intuitive message of paying when you DON’T get to the gym amplified our media exposure and made a lasting impression on readers.
- Following and getting to know key influencers – for Styleta this was fashion bloggers, for Gym-Pact it is fitness bloggers and personal trainers. Styleta’s Student Designer Challenge and Style Fusion on the Runway show in NYC could not be as big without bloggers behind us.
- Speaking opportunities – like Spark & Hustle, Harvard’s Intercollegiate Business Convention, NY & Boston Fashion Week, pitching to Jason Calacanis on This Week in Startups (and getting him to sign up to be a beta user of Gym-Pact!). I am a personal evangelist for my business everywhere I go!
- Sponsored events – It’s amazing how many things you can get for free if you operate under that mindset. Styleta has had multiple 250+ people, capacity-filled events on just $50-150 budgets. Get local sponsors with a key stake in your audience to sponsor everything from venue, equipment, volunteers, food & drink, etc.
- Don’t forget your friends! – It’s a bit tricky to navigate between tapping into your personal network and overselling to your friends, but if you keep it infrequent, targeted, and low-pressure, there are tons of people in your own personal network who are willing to “Like”, vote, tweet, sign-up, comment, share or otherwise support your ventures. Styleta’s and Gym-Pact’s mailing lists both started with 150 friends and grew from there.
- Exchange campaigns – sharing your audience with other similar organizations and vice versa. Styleta did a “Keep or Donate” campaign with Fashism.com and banner exchanges with blogs. Gym-Pact is doing the same with our fitness prize sponsors, exchanging marketing for goods. Find out what you have to offer and give something to get something in return, especially with organizations with similar missions or audiences.
- SEO – I’m not an expert so any tips you have would be great!