From The Cheap Revolution:
It’s hard to allocate where your money should be spent when you’re a startup - and you sometimes have to stretch every dollar. Bootstrapping doesn’t have to be hard though. If you decide to promote your company yourself, read on for fifteen do-it-yourself tactics and get ahead of your competition!
1. Write an interesting article. Writing articles is a great way to establish credibility and drive traffic to your site. Check out this outline if you’re not sure of the layout or for some more ideas. The key here is to make sure your article ends up benefiting the person reading it. Some ideas include:
* Talking about the social benefits of your service.
* Providing advice on pitfalls you fell into when starting your business with examples on how you overcame them.
* Creating a case study on a client.
After you put it together, submit it to online article submission sites such as ezinearticles.com. For a list of more than 150 other sites, check out this post. (Pick your shots and find the ones that will be the most relevant to your audience).
Other important aspects to take into account are to make sure your headline is thought-provoking and to include a byline at the end of article. Your headline should draw people in – make sure it’s short, funny, and/or engaging. Sometimes writing it last works best. Check out this great post by Copyblogger for other headline ideas.
Finally, your byline should give readers a brief background of yourself and your company. Be sure to include a link to your site readers can click on. If you have analytics software installed on your site, track which sites are bringing the most traffic and concentrate your future efforts in submitting articles to those sites.
2. Blog about it. Don’t have a blog? Get one! If you’re worried about the cost, you can sign up for a free account at blogger.com or blog.com. The title of your blog should be relevant to your product/service – you can also make it catchy or creative depending on the industry you’re in. Check out more on Blogging here.
When writing your posts, take considerable time in writing your headline. In addition, make sure to include keywords that relate to your post. These keywords will be instrumental in helping readers find your post. Once you’ve published your post, submit it to bookmarking tools such as stumbleupon, delicious, and digg. For a great list of social media sites you can submit your post to, check out this entry by Tropical SEO. These tools will help drive traffic to your site.
I would also set up a Technorati account. This will help even more readers find your blog. It’s free to set up an account and you can set up your blog to automatically ping the site every time you post. MyBlogLog is another site I recommend setting up an account on. It allows you to build a community around your blog as well as network with other bloggers.
3. Send an e-newsletter. This implies you have a mailing list. If you don’t have one, start building it now. Include all the current contacts you have and be sure you have an opt in button on your site so you can collect more contacts. Another way to build your mailing list is by asking people at networking events if you can add them to it.
The next step is to write your newsletter. In it, you can talk about news in your company, recent hires, etc. Always make sure you include news your readers can use – there has to be at least one post that will benefit your readers directly. For example, in our last newsletter, we talked about leveraging social media for your business. Use an e-mail campaign service such as Constant Contact and iContact. For other alternatives, check out our previous post. Be sure to include an opt-out option or you will be violating the CAN-SPAM Act.
4. Submit a Press Release. Write a noteworthy press release in third person and submit it yourself at free online sites such as prweb.com. For other sites, click here. You can also send the press release to the local media around your area. To gain a better chance of getting it picked up, include a cover letter that showcases how the information in your release benefits your local community.
It’s important to also note that it may prove worthwhile to pay for one PR service if you have truly newsworthy information. We’ve used Businesswire.com with great success.
5. Profile your company in Wikipedia. It’s important to build an online presence and adding an entry in Wikipedia can help you accomplish that (even with the new nofollow attribute). Check out how other companies profile themselves and use the same format. Be sure to include links to your site so people can find you (We’re working on ours now!).
6. Get a LinkedIn Account. LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. It allows you to connect with those you know as well as get introduced to those you want to know. In my opinion, it’s most useful function is its “Answers” feature. This is where users post questions on several different categories about a certain topic. Leverage your knowledge and experiences by answering them and post your own questions that make others notice you. Be sure to leave a response you’re proud of because the best answer given to a question can earn you an “Expert” rating.
7. Leverage Social Media sites. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Squidoo, Ning and Zaadz can be a great way to market your company and/or offering. Make a list of groups on each that are relevant to you, join them, network with other members, and promote yourself and your service. For a list of other social media sites, click here.
8. Add Signature Lines. You are probably constantly e-mailing vendors, clients, partners, etc. Did you know you can also market your new services in them? Add a signature line at the end of your e-mail with a link to your site that promotes your new service or blog post. It’s easy to do and can prove to be fruitful.
9. Go to trade shows. This depends on what industry you’re in but it can be a great way to promote yourself or your company. You can also set up a booth yourself if appropriate.
10. Speak at conferences. Find local, relevant conferences and offer to speak for free on an area of expertise you possess. This can be at your local chamber of commerce or other associations that relate to your industry.
11. Start a contest. Everybody loves to win something and a great way to market your company is to start a contest. Make one of your offerings for free as the prize. Use this opportunity to add to your mailing list (with permission of course).
12. Comment on blogs. Compile a list of blogs that complement your service/company or relate to your industry and comment on their posts. Try to be in the top three to comment and make sure to say something that is related to your area of expertise or knowledge.
13. Guest Blogging. Offering to guest blog on someone else’s blog can be a great way to introduce yourself or service to others. Research a list of relevant blogs and contact the blogger. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how willing bloggers will be to talk to you. You can also approach a expert in your area and offer to do a guest blogging piece on your own blog.
14. Ask for testimonials. If your clients were happy with your services, ask them for a testimonial to include on your site. If they don’t time to write one, write it yourself and ask them to approve it.
15. Network, Network, Network!
I hope you have the time to implement all of these steps. If not, consider using a virtual team to help you execute and accelerate the launch of your web business!
check out more in full post