If you've been in business before, you understand the challenges of getting customers through the door. In theory, it sounds easy. But in practice, it’s tough.
Luck has nothing to do with your success in marketing a new business or making sales. Incorporating creative ideas into your marketing strategies is the way forward.
Related: How 5 Entrepreneurs Went From Rock Bottom to Rock Star
The internet has broadened the options for new businesses hoping to reach more customers. In addition, it’s made it easier and more affordable. A simple Google search will reveal numerous case studies of successful startups. Many prospered by driving thousands of sales on a shoestring budget. However, the success stories don’t reveal what goes on behind the scenes -- how innovators used their creativity to attract customers.
Whether you run a brick-and-mortar operation or an online business, the following ideas can help you pull in customers. The plan is to entice potential customers to inquire about your new business.
1. Invent a viral hashtag.
Brands today are likely to make more sales via social media than any other channel. Instagram and Facebook are two platforms customers use to discover new brands and products to follow. Those who find a way to go viral have the best chance to be discovered.
A business that invents a trendy hashtag can become the social-media darling everyone wants to patronize. Here are just two types of hashtags:
- Controversial. If you think it could work for your brand and customer base, follow in the footsteps of Daniela Bregoli. She now has more than 8 million Instagram followers who key in to her #cashmeoutside catchphrase (still a popular meme).
- Sensual. Nusret Gökçe is known for treating his meat affectionately. It earned him the nickname “Salt Bae.” His #saltbae Instagram videos attracted global attention when they went viral and earned him 5.9 million followers.
Related: Marketers Are Searching for Instagram Services 12X More Than Snapchat's
2. Guest-post for free.
You can extend your reach by seeking out and contacting top online publications in your industry. Offer to guest-post in exchange for having your name and business featured in their bio. This will expose your content to a larger audience and direct more attention to your website or preferred platforms.
3. Cold-call potential leads.
Reaching out directly to new customers might sound scary at first, but cold-calling is a proven way to make sales to customers who might not even know they needed your products or services. Just identify your target buyers and hit them up. Practice your sales pitch until you perfect it.
Related: Closing the Deal: 6 Savvy Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets
4. Meet new customers at events.
Because people are curious about new businesses and what these companies have to offer, attending events can be incredibly beneficial. Moreover, events often offer the opportunity to meet journalists and secure some much-needed press.
Find out how to set up your own booth or stand. Display your products, hand out business cards, and distribute flyers advertising your services or products. This is your chance to chat with the crowd, network and exchange contact details with potential customers.
Related: Why the Best Brands Are the Best Storytellers
5. Start a blog about your business.
Business blogging is similar to regular blogging. The difference is you're sharing details of your company's products or services with your readers.
Your business blog is an ideal platform to answer customers' questions and give discounts, freebies and special offers as incentives and rewards. Sharing high-quality, compelling content targeted to your ideal customers will drive traffic to your website.
Related: How I Turned Engineers Into Bloggers With 50,000 Views
6. Use Facebook ads to reach customers.
Facebook ads are an effective means to reach new customers. Even better, these ads are cheap. Start with a daily budget of $5 and target a very specific audience to keep your costs down.
To nail this platform, learn how to run a successful Facebook ad campaign.
7. Build email funnels.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to get repeat customers. Use your business blog to build a mailing list by encouraging your readers to subscribe. Nurturing your subscribers prepares them to become paying customers in the future.
Ideally, you'll start collecting emails before you launch your product or service. This allows you to start building a relationship with these ground-level potential customer base and move them down the sales funnel as soon as possible.
8. Speak at events.
New business founders can get exposure by speaking at events. It's easy to get a speaking gig if you're able to demonstrate a great understanding of the event organizer’s goal.
This tactic not only creates value-added exposure for your business but also builds your credibility as a founder and a trusted resource in your industry or market space.
Related: How This Idea Went From the Founder's Kitchen to a $20 Million Company
9. Rent a festival booth.
Cash in on spring and summer festivals. Start by researching local festivals, and speak with organizers to learn whether your customers are likely to attend the events.
It's rare for a business to get a booth at Comic Con and come back without being swamped with sales and requests for press interviews.
Entice customers by giving out freebies in exchange for their email addresses. Promoting your brand at a booth while employing ingenuity and marketing savvy could produce a significant turnaround for your business.
10. Volunteer under your brand's name.
Doing good for your community also benefits your business. Through a corporate social-responsibility campaign, your new business can open new doors to opportunity.
For example, give something free to your community. Helping people in need will get the attention of local newspapers. They’ll write about you and showcase your brand in the process, attracting even more supporters for your worthy cause (and your leads file).
11. Give away samples.
Costco knows the power of giving away samples. The retail giant has gained long-term customers from this practice.
You might offer a free trial (e.g., "first month free") or send a free sample in the mail. Bite-size versions of the real thing can prompt people to spread news about your brand, resulting in free publicity and personal testimonials.
Related: The Marketing Power of Rewards Programs
12. Hire affiliate marketers.
When done correctly, affiliate marketing can boost sales considerably. It’s one of the most cost-effective types of marketing because you only commission only after a successful sale. Affiliate marketers do the work for you by linking up with appropriate websites to promote your products or services. You part with your cash only after they’ve managed to convert visitors into paying customers.
13. Give samples to product critics.
Criticism usually is perceived as negative. Instead, try to think of it as constructive input -- a positive element. Criticism can become an effective way to refine or reinvent your product. If all you hear is good reviews, how can you tell if your product is faulty or missing a vital element?
Offering product samples to critics enables them to do a deep dive. Use that feedback to improve your product or fix components that don't work as well as they should.
Related: This Website Uses Customer Feedback to Create Products People Want
14. Offer workshops.
Workshops bring you face-to-face with potential customers. Use these events to share your professional expertise. Surely, there are aspects of your business you can tap into to connect with people on this level.
Providing value, increasing knowledge and sharing good practices raises brand awareness and builds trust. You’ll be viewed as an authority in your industry while developing the skills of potential customers.
15. Post a video review of your product.
A number of platforms feature video or livestreaming content options to help you educate prospective customers about your products. Facebook Live videos are trending. One of this platform's benefits: Viewers can comment and give feedback in real time. While they're seeing you live, they're beginning to develop a relationship with you and your brand.
You also can create a YouTube channel dedicated to your product. Incorporate these videos in your business blog and create circular references: Drive traffic from YouTube to your website by embedding a link within the video and its YouTube description.
16. Secure a spot on product-review sites.
Positive reviews can boost your brand's credibility. They highlight your products and pique potential customers' interest. Reviews based on unbiased opinions are the most likely to influence prospective customers.
Investing in review sites such as Yelp typically yields a healthy ROI. According to a BCG study, business owners who paid to advertise received typical yearly profits of $23,000, generating $15,000 more than those who used only the free Yelp Business Page.
Related: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Ecommerce Campaigns
17. Post your services on Craigslist.
Established in 1996, Craigslist has grown to become one of the most popular advertising websites. The average monthly page views in November 2016 were 50 billion, with a turnover of 60 million users.
Capitalize on this free platform to get your brand out there. Post your ad under the Services section to reach customers in your niche. You can list your ad under a specific region, city and type of ad.
Still, be aware you’re up against competition. Study Craigslist to find out how to stand out from the crowd, and position yourself accordingly.
18. Send cold emails.
The beauty of sending cold emails is that your customers can access them wherever they are. No longer are they restricted to a desktop computer. Modern technologies -- mobile phones, laptops and iPads -- make it a breeze to check emails on the go.
On the other hand, people are bombarded with emails every minute. How do you make yours stand out? Develop a strategy, and carry out A/B split tests to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Research your target audience, then use the right language and the right messages to make sure they click.
Related: This is the Cold Email I Used to Connect With C-Level Execs at 22 of the World's Biggest Companies
19. Hire a human billboard.
Human billboards are a growing craze. Although they certainly won't work for free, part-time help won't cost an arm and a leg. You'll want to target students, retirees or anyone looking to earn extra cash.
A human billboard in colorful, full-body paint can craw attention to your brand -- provided it's an appropriate move for your company's persona. Even wearing a sandwich board instead of the Pantone rainbow, your human billboard will be available to answer questions from potential customers.
20. Wrap your car.
Imagine the number of people who will see your brand as you drive your local streets and high-traffic areas.
Your car becomes a moving billboard, that drums up notice wherever you go. Even when parked, it attracts attention. Vehicle wraps help your brand gain recognition, and that top-of-mind awareness could drive a high percentage of direct sales.
21. Hand out flyers.
Although businesses started using handbills to promote their brands as early as the 18th century, flyers still are having a marketing impact in the 21st century.
Don't limit yourself to handing out flyers to passersby in your neighborhood. You can display these versatile materials in shop windows, mail them to specific contacts or leave them in shops where members of your target audience are sure to show up. Flyers raise awareness of your brand and provide ample "real estate" on the page to give the reader or viewer a picture of who you are. In addition, if people tuck your flyer away in pocket or snap a quick photo with their smartphone, they can refer to this info when they need to contact you.
22. Run viral contests.
Regular contests can ramp up your business quickly and build engagement with your audience. Plan them properly to ensure success.
Qualified winners should get free products as prizes. Contests should involve participants who can highlight your business on their social-media channels, so shares and likes quickly can go viral.
Another option: Invite participants to enter a contest with their email addresses. Follow up by sending sales emails.
Related: How the Rules of Tech Branding Helped Raden Create a Smart Suitcase
23. Build a product-page website.
A product-page website is essentially a landing page. Showcase your product with images that display its best features. Choose a design that complements your brand, and include captivating copy that emphasizes how your product or service solves a problem.
A combination of professional design and appealing images will attract target visitors and can help convert leads into sales. Make sure your product page includes an opt-in offer so potential customers can access your giveaway in return for giving up a few contact details.
24. Create a punchy elevator pitch.
Know how to sell your brand, and entice potential prospects in 30 seconds or less. Create a short, memorable elevator pitch. Then, practice until it’s perfect. Make it punchy, relevant and full of benefits. Use it to impress likely customers when they ask you about your brand. You never know when you’ll have an opportunity to pitch your products or services. Always be prepared.
25. Send out press releases.
What news can you share? What’s interesting? How do you differ from your competitors? Write a compelling story about your business. Submit it to various free public-relations sites to let the world know about your business.
Related: 6 Ways to Build a Billion-Dollar Sales Machine
Marketing your business doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. With creative thinking and a few tips in this article, you can grow your business more quickly. Choose which tactics would be most at-home in your industry. Plan properly, and don't be afraid to step a bit out of your common comfort zone.
Guy Sheetrit is the CEO at Over The Top SEO, a senior executive with 14 years experience in the technology, marketing and software development industries.