Life as a startup founder can be tough. Advertising and PR is often a pain-point for many entrepreneurs, but gaining exposure and recognition is an important step in going from amazing idea to full-blown business.
However, exposure does not solely equate to big media mentions. In fact, there are many other ways to get in front of your target audience and introduce your startup to the world.
So, if you are balling on a bootstrapped budget, here are a three clever ways that you can get a little more exposure as a startup without spending tons of money on a PR or advertising agency.
Leverage online directories
This is a super easy way to get your company some exposure that doesn’t take a lot of time or money. Believe it or not, “Googling it” isn’t the only way that people find new companies to work with. In fact, adding your company to online directories can be very beneficial for a young startup.
There are two basic ways that this can be used to your advantage:
Get in front of new audiences
There are tons of online directories where you can easily submit your startup to be listed and potentially be discovered by new customers. These directories have already done the leg-work for building up an audience and all you need to do is submit your company’s information to be listed.
Popular business directories include Google, Yelp, YP, Better Business Bureau and more. Of course, not everyone will be looking for the service or product that you offer, but some percentage of them will be and if you are not listed, you will not be discovered.
Improve SEO through backlinks
Another compelling reason to list your startup on online directories is that it can be an easy way to acquire those juicy backlinks you need to help your rankings. As a new business, most startups have new websites, which means that they are probably not showing up much from an SEO perspective.
Backlinks are a pretty important factor when trying to improve the ranking position of your website. Think of it like third party validation in the eyes of Google. If more people reference your website through backlinks, Google will recognize that validation and give your website a better ranking.
However, it is important to realize that from an SEO perspective, not all online directories are equal. In fact, if an online directory is not a Google compliant website, then backlinks from those websites can actually hurt your SEO. Basically, you want to make sure that the website is not a spammy backlink farm and that they use some element of editorial discretion.
An example of this is JasmineDirectory. Founded in 2009, the company actively adds new and qualified websites to its directory, where they allow businesses to list relevant information about their company in an SEO-friendly way. The website holds a decent domain authority, allows follow backlinks on its listings, and holds a low spam score, all of which are indicators of a great place for a backlink for your startup.
Encourage amplification through social media
Another great way to get exposure as a new startup is through social media. Of course, you can spend lots of time building your social media accounts by sharing great content and engaging with other users, but there are a few hacks you can leverage to really improve your exposure as a business.
There are a few ways to do this, but the point is to inspire viral engagement with your startup by incentivizing your audience to encourage their networks to also participate in your social media channels. Typically, this works best through some type of social media contest. The reason for this simple: there is a very clear prize incentive that drives people to engage and share with their networks.
This means that with just a little bit of funding (or some great partnerships) to put up a tantalizing prize and a bit of coordination, it can be very easy for a startup to get a decent amount of exposure.
If you have never run a social media contest before, there are some key components to make sure that it runs smoothly:
- Create a hashtag requirement for participation so you can easily track engagement
- Push hard to raise awareness of the contest; you can’t expect it to go viral just because it’s live!
- Make sure to include specific CTAs that drive engagement with your social channels or website
- Add an element that requires people to share the contest with others in their network
There are also some helpful software that you can use to help facilitate your contest. A great example is Vyper.io, which allows you to create a custom landing page, collect email sign-ups and deploy different engagement tactics to drive interaction with your brand and social channels.
“Hijack” networking events
There’s a lot of advice when it comes to being “successful” at a networking event. However, that advice often focuses on confidence tips and how to interact with people on a more personal level. Of course, there is no denying that attending an event and talking to even just a few people can really help build your network. But let’s face it, you can only hand out so many business cards to so many people.
That being said, if you can overcome confidence issues and you really want to gain exposure for your startup, then there are a few ways that you can “hijack” a networking event so that you can leave a lasting impression:
- Actively participate in discussions. Any event with a panel discussion presents an incredible opportunity to speak to the entire crowd, even if you are not a presenter. Get up and ask a tough question to the panel. Remember you are speaking to the whole room, so don’t be afraid to mention your startup!
- Create your own content from the event. Perhaps you have a short survey, or video, or you are writing an article about the event. Whatever you are doing, you have created an excuse to engage with those attending quickly and easily. You have also opened up an opportunity to engage with the organizers of the event, which may even justify them sharing your content on the event organizer’s website or social channels. Additionally, every person that you interact with for the development of this content will be interested to see the final result and will likely share it with their own networks.
- Bring a prop to create your own mini-event. Most networking events are full of people who are nervously standing around and desperate to kick off chit-chat with the closest person. People don’t always know what to talk about, which you means you have the attention of an audience that is ready to be grabbed. Bring something that is representative of what you do and that can be used as a conversation piece.
Even bootstrapped startups can get their companies in front of their target audience and introduce themselves to the world. Use the tips above to give your startup some exposure, without dipping into your cash reserves.