When we speak of building a business, having a great product to sell is but a small piece of the equation. It’s certainly the vital and foundational pillar, but you aren’t going to achieve initial (let alone lasting) success on the basis of a good product alone.
For starters, you need to connect with someone who’ll buy it. And in order for you to have customers, people need to know your brand exists.
Solid exposure and visibility for your brand will empower your operation to expand with purpose and efficiency. The challenge for small startups is: How do you obtain exposure without having to spend thousands on paid media?
Four Ways to Earn Exposure
With the right strategy, any startup — no matter how small — can generate brand awareness. But it isn’t going to materialize out of thin air.
You have to take proactive steps and lay down the right building blocks that will get your outfit from where it is to where you want it to be. Here are four essential tactics.
Stop Perfecting and Start Selling
Many startup founders make the mistake of trying to develop the perfect product before they go to market. This is understandable, but it can be a mistake that means you’ll get nowhere.
“Stop spending too much time obsessing over your product. Perfectionism is one of the major sins entrepreneurs have,” entrepreneur AJ Agrawal points out.
“They concentrate so much on whether their product is perfect that they never get around to actually marketing it. You need major exposure and you need it right now.”
There will come a point where you’re better off going with the version of the commodity or service you have at the moment and getting some marketplace traction, than laboring for months or years in further (costly) obscurity.
It’s scary, yes, but putting your work in front of potential buyers will inevitably generate feedback, which can refine your product according to the actual preferences and needs of the marketplace (and not your own guesses and assumptions).
Leverage the Right Influencers
Currently, you enjoy zero influence with your target audience, so it would be worthwhile to go out and find the people who might have some. If you can leverage online influencers, such as social media personalities, thought leaders, or celebrities, you will generate trust and awareness for your brand without having to do as much of the heavy lifting.
If you hope to work with influencers, you’ll have to make sure something’s in it for them. The two most common options are to pay people to promote your brand, or send them free products and ask them to try them out. Either approach could generate a positive return on your investment.
Tap Your Personal and Professional Network
You probably have access to bigger networks than you know.
Instead of keeping your idea tucked away as a way of protecting yourself against the possibility of failure, you should get out there and let people know about what you’re up to. “Getting press early on depends on two things: hustling and networking,” says Brittany Hodak, co-founder of ZinePak.
“For the first year, I made time to go to every networking event I could — especially if I knew reporters would be there. When I wasn’t networking in person, I was hustling online. I emailed, tweeted, and called reporters from every startup publication and pop-culture show I could find.”
Sometimes this is what it takes. At first, you may get discouraged by the rejections and lack of response. But as you gain inroads and enjoy a few small victories, the results will compound and you’ll see how you’re making progress.
Develop a Link-Building Strategy
In the online arena where content is currency, you need to maximize the value of content marketing by developing a link-building strategy that enhances your SEO, generates traffic, and puts your brand within reach of your target market.
A strong link-building strategy starts with great content … so make sure you’re developing sticky resources you can use to attract links.
The second part of the equation is publisher outreach. Identify publishers that offer excellent opportunities for accruing backlinks, and look for ways to cultivate these openings. You may need to work with an agency that already possesses such connections.
Get to Work
Let these ideas and strategies percolate a bit and see if and how they could be implemented as part of your startup’s organic PR strategy. Time, dedication, and imagination can substitute for a lack of financial resources.
Dig in and don’t be afraid to reach for lofty goals. Every successful firm started somewhere.