I have become numb to traditional marketing. Supposedly all these advertisements are having an effect on me and my purchase behavior. That’s what a ton of research tells me. But if you ask me to recall a single advertisement I’ve seen in a magazine or on television, I couldn’t.
Such is the fate of traditional advertising. It’s become wallpaper. We barely see it anymore. We need to think of more creative ways to get our message out there. Here are 16 to get you started. Not all of these techniques are fully on the up and up, so it will be for you to decide what’s appropriate for your business. Please add some of your own suggestions in the comments below.
1. Submit a note to your alumni magazine
You went to school with smart people, right? Wouldn’t it be great to work with some of them, or have them as clients? And what do we all do when we get our alumni magazine? We skip to read the class notes, and then the obituaries. Dying would probably not be a good business move, so why not write something for the class notes. Here’s a little known secret. Your alumni magazine publishes everything you send them. They’re so desperate for content that they will most surely publish your latest status about your family and business. Make sure to include your latest contact information so everyone can reach you.
2. Buy someone’s name on Google AdWords
If you’re looking to get one person’s attention, play to their vanity. Since everyone does a healthy amount of ego searching, purchase a Google ad of their name so your result comes up at the top, before their legitimate results. It’s an old technique, but not enough people are taking advantage of it.
3. Follow up by calling on the phone
Why is following up with someone on the phone considered “unique?” Because no one does it anymore. In general, people rarely follow up. If they do, you get an email, a Twitter follow, or a generic LinkedIn request. A phone call is personal and it requires attention. You can delete emails and LinkedIn requests. You can’t just hang up on someone you just met. I had someone follow up with me on the phone in December and wow did that make an impact. I just had lunch with him yesterday.
4. Say it with sidewalk chalk
Don’t bother paying for a major sponsorship at that next conference. Instead, just write your slogan or web address with sidewalk chalk outside the conference hall.
5. Rent out a parking spot and set up shop
Some businesses roll up their vans and trucks into parking spots and start conducting business, and others turn a metered parking spot into an art project or social gathering (a.k.a. PARK(ing) Day). You could do this as well. Assuming the police in your town are cool with you renting out the space for the day with a fistful of quarters, bring in a barcalounger, a couch, and anything else to make it a comfortable space for people to relax and engage.
6. Tweet whatever the trending topic is right now
Want other people to see you, then go where everybody else is paying attention, and that’s the current trending topic. While many might not see this as part of the true spirit of Twitter, it is a way to game the system. I was at a conference recently where the hashtag was trending and all of a sudden porn stars started showing up in the feed. Unfortunately, none of them were at my conference, but we sure all noticed them.
7. Hide your business card in relevant books
This technique creeps out my wife, but I think it’s very clever. Go to a bookstore or the library and find all the books that are relevant to your business. Slip your business card in with a personal note on the back suggesting that the two of you get together for a book club on this very book.
8. Let your fans know how much you appreciate them
You probably have a good idea which people are the avid readers of your content. They either comment on your blog, “Like” you a lot on Facebook, or click on all the links in your newsletter. Identify each of those people and let them know how much you appreciate them. Do a little something special for them in return. Ask how you can help. They’ve already shown that they’re fans. Go that extra mile and they’ll be telling all their friends about you. It’ll be the greatest work of mouth network you could possibly create.
9. Pay for someone’s cab ride at a conference
Ten years ago I went to a conference in Las Vegas and a company picked me up at the Las Vegas airport and gave me a ride to the hotel. It truly was an incredibly nice gesture and I greatly appreciated it. They used that time in the limousine to demo their product for me. I told everybody about it. A great time to pull this technique is when you see a huge cab line outside a conference. Simply start at the beginning of the line and ask if anyone is going to your hotel. Once someone says yes, then say, “Can I buy your cab ride?” You were already going to pay for it, now you’ve got someone at the conference you can pitch your business. They’ll be very receptive and appreciate the free cab ride gesture. Plus, you just saved yourself a lot of time not having to wait in in line.
10. Use Quora and LinkedIn to ask for advice and then follow up
You know where many of your industry’s influencers are? They’re answering questions on Quora and LinkedIn. Want to find them and connect? Then post an industry relevant question and see who comes rushing. Both services also have a means for you to find the most popular authors in your industry and invite them to answer your question. Once someone answers, begin a dialogue. Your goal is to make friends with as many industry influencers as possible. Those people will soon be your best and most trusted advocates that others will trust.
11. Work a line
One of the greatest untapped opportunities is the line. You can find lines at Disney World, the movies, or outside an Apple store for a new product launch. People waiting in lines are prime targets because they are literally a captive audience. You could walk up and down the line wearing a sandwich board or handing out flyers, but that’s not going to solve their major problem which is boredom. Why not engage them? Walk up with a tablet or iPad in your hand and ask, “Want to see something cool?” and then show them your product. Others will soon congregate to see what cool thing you’re showing off.
12. Offer regularly scheduled free consultation
One of the best ways to market yourself is to show off what you can actually do. Simply carve out some time and announce via social networks, your mailing list, or anywhere else that you’re offering free consultation for a certain period of time. Do it for an hour a day, an hour a week, or maybe carve out a full day to do nothing but offer free consulting. You can do this via online chat, via a Twitter hashtag, or via the phone.
13. Let your business sponsor your yard sale
Eventually you’re going to want to get rid of all that crap that’s been collecting in your house. Don’t let that opportunity go by wasted. When you put all your stuff in front of your house and hope to collect $75 by the end of the day, why not also put up a sign that lets all your neighbors know what company is sponsoring this yard sale. Remember to also put a listing on Craigslist and other relevant sites.
14. Advertise your business through your mobile hotspot
If you have a phone that can turn into a portable hotspot, let everyone see it the next time you go to a conference. This is a great opportunity to get some free advertising to your industry peers. Rename your hotspot your web address or create a message that says, “TXT 415-555-1212 if you’re looking for developers,” “TXT 415-55-1212 if you want the password to this hotspot,” or some other way you want to connect with people at the conference.
15. Create your own backlinks
Using a blog search engine and a traditional search engine, enter keywords for which you’d like your business to rank high in search results. Go to each resulting blog post and leave a comment with a link back to your site, ideally to a relevant article. Do this for 50 sites and you’ll soon see better search results on that term.
16. Tell others about your favorite products and people
Create a list of your favorite products and people, and then let them know about it. For people, you can let them know by email or @reply via Twitter. For products, you can post on Facebook and link to the product’s fan page, and you can also @reply on Twitter. The benefit of promoting others is that they’ll see the post and possibly retweet, “Like,” comment, or republish your testimonial. They’ll be aware of you and once they share it you’ll get access to their audience. I did this recently for the article “My 16 Favorite “Free to Cheap” Cloud Services I Use to Run My Business.”
What’s your unique tip for promoting yourself and your business?
These are my recommendations. I’ve personally only done a few. Have you done any of these? Do you have any of your own techniques? If so, what, and how did it turn out? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks to Blogussion for a few of the tips in this article.