Compounded with the fact that many early-stage businesses have to get attention without a marketing budget, and the task of launching seems virtually impossible.
Fortunately, there are some key lean methodologies that can attract significant viewers, press, and sign ups without spending a penny on marketing.
1) Thought leadership
Establishing yourself as a domain expert drives immeasurable value to your startup. Once you’re considered an expert, it’s much easier to get press, speak at conferences, talk to high-level executives, and see exponential growth.
Simply “establishing yourself” as the expert might seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, as a business owner, you have a very compelling case on why you are actually the expert in the space: You FOUNDED a company that specifically focuses on the industry you want to become an expert in. This is what you will want to play up.
Take the time to invest in building thought leadership and becoming a respected go-to individual in your field. This means focusing early on sharing your knowledge by giving informative talks, sharing good content, and contributing useful advice.
Focus on bite-sized tasks that work towards building yourself as a thought leader:
Speak at meetups and small events in your area.
Teach a class on Skillshare or General Assembly.
Write guest blog posts on industry publications.
Become a moderator or panelist at trade shows and conferences.
Get in touch with other industry experts and interview them for your company blog.
Find a relevant podcast and reach out to be a guest host for a show.
Pre sales serve two massive benefits. First, it validates your idea and gets real people talking about your product early and second, it provides revenue that can be used to fast-track a fundraising round or let you focus on your product development without fundraising from investors.
With the tremendous rise of KickStarter and Indiegogo, more and more startups have access to creative ways to get the first batch of product made.
Running a successful pre-sale campaign is more than just putting up a page on your website or Kickstarter. You need to have targeted approach: Line up journalists and bloggers ahead of time, make sure you have enough early adopters ready to support your campaign to give it an early boost, focus on a compelling video that clearly explains your vision, and set reasonable goals.
3) Getting press
A scattershot approach to press is a fast track to a journalist’s spam folder. Journalists are inundated with pitches, spam, and people asking for coverage. It’s important to understand your vision and have a very clear alternate future distilled down.
Follow a process with the goal of getting your first article published:
Identify key journalists that write about your space or industry
Find a mutual connection or key reason to reach out to them. If you don’t have a connection, comment on something recent they wrote about.
Use a spreadsheet or CRM to keep track of the status of all your relationships.
Learn how to pitch a journalist: keep your emails short.
To tip a journalist over the edge, you can offer them a publish-first exclusive and let them be the first one to cover your launch.
4) Leveraging free growth hacks
Using the viral power of the Internet to spread your idea can launch your startup without spending a penny. There are a ton of strong online communities that have gathered around topics relevant to your business.
The key fact to remember is that in order to get value, you must give value. Don’t simply sign up on communities and post your startup; become a member, answer questions, ask for feedback, and focus on helping others.
Online communities have thousands and millions of people that are constantly looking for good content. You can utilise Q&A sites like Quora, communities like Reddit, niche forums and blogs, or create informational/how-to videos on YouTube.
In addition to communities, remember that good content often gets shares for free. Think about how many times you’ve read a blog post and sent it to a friend. If you’re having trouble getting your content out to the public, consider finding an influential leader in your space to share your blog post or video.
Shannon Wu is the director of marketing at FOUNDER.org.
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