4 Ways To Grow Your Brand With Little Or No Budget Community You’ve worked hard to turn your idea from notepad scribbling to a reality. It likely took late nights, careful planning, and some financial gymnastics, but here you are with a new shiny product, website, or storefront. Now that your idea is out in the world, customers will start appearing out of nowhere ready to buy and share your product right? Unfortunately for us (myself an entrepreneur as well), reality looks less like the field of dreams “if you build it, they will come” and more like the hunger games. A sea of companies with bigger teams, budgets and great products are already out there, and competing with less resources can prove a daunting task. As someone who has weathered the sea through my fair share of storms I’d like to share 4 ways to grow your company that won’t break the bank and that have worked well for me and others. 4 Ways To Grow Your Brand With Little Or No Budget #1. Send Product Samples To Influencers You and your product have a story to tell – marketing is the art of telling that story and influencers have a microphone. Handwrite a few notes and emails and send some product samples (along with your idea & story) to people who are also passionate about what you’re selling. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in return either: “Hi [name], I loved your piece / segment / post on [blank]. I recently started a [Your product] company and am trying to get the word out – can I send you a sample? If you like it, I’d love to be able to offer your readers / viewers a discount on it. Thanks!” #2. Use Social Media (but don’t spread yourself too thin) Social Media is one of the most useful and most misunderstood parts of marketing. Brands have been trying to figure out the best way to use it since the beginning with very mixed results. One of the biggest mistakes companies make, is spreading their efforts too thin by trying to master 15 different social media channels (yes… there are at least that many). I recommend finding 3 – 4 at the most and writing down specific goals for what they’ll be used for. Example: A Fashionable Men’s Clothing Store that sells both online & in-stores Goals #1. Get more people in store for promotions #2. Share the visual aesthetic of the brand & grow a following of people who like it #3. Run holiday / season promotions to the website Recommendation For #2 and #3 – Build a following on visually appealing social network sites (Instagram & Pinterest) For #1 and #3 – Create a Facebook group to create offers and run local promotions. #3. Build A Clean, Trustworthy & Branded Website These days, you don’t need to be a programmer or spend $10k+ to build a world-class website. Services like Shopify, Squarespace, Wix and WordPress make it easy to get a clean looking site up in a matter of hours or days (as opposed to weeks or months!). Based on my experience consulting with clients and with building my own site here are my personal recommendations for which service works well for different scenarios. Online E-commerce Sites My two favorite website builders for e-commerce platforms are Squarespace & Shopify. I personally prefer Shopify for 2 major reasons: #1 They have a built in app store they have built into the platform that allows you to quickly & very affordably implement things like abandoned cart recovery, loyalty programs, affiliate programs, and just about any feature you could think of adding to you site. #2 They allow for more customization on the programming end. If your company is successful, you may want this ability. Physical Location Businesses Even if you don’t sell products online it’s still a great idea to have a website! People will still google you to see where you are, what you sell, and what you’re all about. For these types of companies I recommend using something like wix.com or wordpress.com. They are both designed for people with no programming experience, but still come with some amazing templates out of the box. I personally recommend wix.com, unless you’re thinking of running a blog with the site, in which case I’d think about using a blogging platform with a built in content management system like wordpress.com. #4. Find Or Make A Network of Fellow Entrepreneurs Having a group of like-minded people to share expertise, collaborate, and bounce ideas off of is incredibly valuable. As long as you’re not a competitor, you’d be surprised how willing other business owners are help. You can also pass along promotions their customers may be interested in as a way to get the word out about what your company does. There are lots of ways to plug in to your local business community to meet peers of business owners. You can find meet-up groups on meetup.com, plugin to your local start-up community, meet people at events hosted by co-working spaces like WeWork, or connect with owners simply by sending an email to the “contact us” page on a their company’s website.