21 Ways to Promote Your Startup Business

Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 7:00pm by Site Administrator

Whether you’re running a bricks and mortar business or something online, you can promote your business in both worlds. Here are a few methods that have worked for others. Keep in mind that not all of them will work for you, as some options lend themselves better to certain types of businesses. This list is intended as a convenient resource, and even a reminder of some promotional methods you may have forgotten about.

New Media

These are just ten ways you can promote your business online, even if your business is offline. Most of these methods are free or low-cost.

  1. Website and/or weblog.
    It’s not enough these days to have just a website. Consider a weblog about a topic related to your industry or business, and resident in a subdirectory of your main website. If you already have a domain name and website, WordPress is an ideal, easy-to-use, expanable platform for adding a weblog. Publish useful resources, articles, ebooks, video how-tos, podcasts, etc., that are either directly or peripherally related to your business or broader industry. Establish yourself as an authority in your articles, without doing a hard-sell.

  2. Blog carnivals.
    Of course, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. In some niches, it’s simply difficult to build up a blog’s authority and rank without networking, so to speak. Blog carnivals can help immensely. If you don’t see one that suits, consider starting one, but prepared for the work that entails. Remember, however, that you are not directly promoting your business. You’re promoting the wonderful, useful content on your website or blog, and that of participants in each edition of the carnival.

  3. Social media.
    Social media comes in a variety of forms and includes bookmarking sites with or without voting (del.icio.us, reddit, digg, netscape, stumbleupon), wikis (Wikipedia), eprofiles (myspace), environments (Second Life), and others. These sites/ services can go a long way towards helping you promote your business, provided you respect the culture at each and are not overly commercial. Sites like Wikipedia allow you to build a profile page. (Note: some firms are now conducting job interviews in Second Life, a 3D social environment. Other companies are merely establishing a Second Life presence.)

  4. Online advertising.
    This includes graphic banners, text links, pay per click text ad campaigns, sponsorship, purchased editorials, web directories, etc. There are far too many to list them all, but Google AdWords and Text-Link-Ads are a couple of examples.

  5. Templates and plugins.
    If you have design or coding skills, you could create custom weblog themes and/or plugins and give them away. The former would mean links back to your website(s) from any site using your theme. The latter would at least build some traffic because weblog resource sites such as Weblog Tools Collection will list your plugin (and themes).

  6. Award buttons.
    Can you think of a unique way to reward other websites that fall into some award theme? Create a design for the award, make it a standard size, and start profiling other sites, to whom you offer your award. The result, hopefully, is a link back from awarded site, as well as curious traffic from those sites. This is not something that will work for everyone because there are so many awards out there. A couple of popular examples are Liz Strauss’ SOB award for “successful and outstanding bloggers”, and Kineda’s Are you an A-list bloglebrity.

  7. Ebooks.
    Seth Godin, Chris Garrett, Brian Clark, Yaro Starak and others have given away quality marketing, writing and/or blogging advice in the form of free ebooks. What do you think that did for their reputations? Right. Cory Doctorow, a blogger and co-founder of Boing Boing and a highly-praised science fiction author gives away copies of his works of fiction in ebook form, and he feels that this has increased sales of his work.

  8. Viral videos.
    Viral videos are simply any type of video that you’ve released to a video sharing site such as YouTube or Revver and which catches so much attention that loads of people start adding the video to their site. Of course, your website or weblog’s URL is shown at the start and end of the video, so you’ll get some type-in traffic. Depending on how viral you go, this could be massive. Of course, you want videos that are not only entertaining but somehow relevant to your business. They could be how-to tutorials. Or they could be like the Diet Coke and Mentos video below. Now, imagine if you were running a laundry/ cleaners. The video, had you created it, would be relevant, because you want people trying out these soda geyser experiments to come to you to get the stains out of their lab coats.

  9. Affiliate program.
    Are you selling something online? Do you have enough of a profit margin to offer other sites (probably blogs) a percentage of sales to be an affiliate? They advertise your program/ products on their site, and if a visitor to your site, referred by an affiliate, purchases something, the affiliate gets either a flat or percentage commission. It’s free advertising for you, and if you develop a symbiotic relationship with affiliates, that’s revenue for both of you. Before you can pull off an affiliate program, however, you need establish some sort of authority with your brand/ website/ weblog. For example, Amazon.com, who are probably a better known brand around the world than any terrestrial bookstore chain, have an affiliate program that earns some diligent bloggers reasonable extra monthly income. [Some affiliates, of course, earn nothing.] One great resource to read is Tropical SEO’s How to: build an affiliate site you can sell for $1M. While it’s written for the perspective of an affiliate, if you plan to run an affiliate program, it’s worthwhile reading. It’ll come in handy if you plan to actually help your affiliates be better at their end – something that, of course, is good for both of you.

  10. Copywritten sales letter.
    The massively long sales letter written by a highly-paid but experienced copywriter could be enough to boost your business into the millions or multi-millions in terms of units sold or revenue. And it works online (one-page websites) as well as offline (direct mail).


Old media

Of course, let’s not forget the offline methods of promotion that have been around for decades. Some of these will still work for you, even if your business is online, especially if your website URL is displayed prominently.

  1. Billboards.
    Obviously, this is likely to put a dent in your wallet, but there are some locations that might be affordable. In some bigger cities like Toronto, Canada, there are digital billboards in some parts of the city, especially near the main thoroughfares. So billboard operators can control the number of “impressions” of your ad. This might allow you to opt for a smaller, more affordable monthly plan.

  2. Coupons.
    Coupons are suitable for some businesses. For others, they’re tacky, unless you can come up with a unique design/ approach. Coupons work both offline and online.

  3. Flyers + inserts.
    Back in the late-80s, someone stood on a busy corner in downtown Toronto handing out flyers that were rolled up and tied with a red ribbon. I stood around and observed for a while. Nearly every one that passed by took a flyer. Compare that to the uptake ratio of a flat piece of paper.

  4. Radio ads.
    Radio ads do not have to be all that expensive. Ask for affordable plans. Also check with community and student radio stations.

  5. TV ads.
    Every TV station will occasionally have an unfilled ad slot that they reserve for local businesses. You might get lucky and get an affordable spot. Find out if your community has a filmmaking/ multimedia collective. You may be able to put together a commercial for less than a few thousand dollars. There even a few websites that offer entrepreneurs inexpensive TV commercial production. Examples are Cheap TV Spots, Cheap TV Spots!, and Spot Runner.

  6. Talk shows, lecture/ circuit.
    If you’re the averge startup entrepreneur, Oprah’s probably not going to be calling you up. But it could and does happen. Just make sure you don’t pull a Tom Cruise. There are, of course, local radio and TV talk shows, and if you have something interesting to offer, that’s a bit more publicity for you.

  7. Stickers and bookmarks.
    Don’t underestimate the promotional value of little piece of paper or cardboard. Stickers are always fun, but limited in terms of the age group you can target. Bookmarks – the paper kind that you stick in books – can be given away at bookstores or libraries.

  8. Business cards.
    Or even better, Moo cards with your Skype acct printed on them. If you’re a software company, burn a stack of “business card” mini CDs loaded with software and give those away instead. They’re the size of a business card but are fully-functioning software CDs.

  9. T-shirts.
    Everyone loves a t-shirt, right? Well, maybe. Get something interesting designed, print off a batch, and give them away to friends and at tradeshows, or wherever they’ll take them. It’s not free advertising, per se, but it can be effective at least locally, sometimes nationally or globally.

  10. Festivals.
    Most cities and towns have a festival or three in the Summer and Fall, or even at other times of year. If it’s suitable to your business, give away free product samples. Or t-shirts. Or business card CDs.

  11. Human body.
    Tattoos and shaved logos (head)? It’s true. There are people who will rent space on their body for your logos – sometimes even permanent.

What ever method you use, be creative, be innovative, and consider different perspectives from the consumer side. Either that or open up your wallet and hire an experience advertising agency.


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1 Comment »

  1. Great list. I have submitted it to http://www.BizHeat.com
    It’s a new born social media site for Business News.

    Comment by alex — December 31, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

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