In the age of online marketing, it’s easy to think you can get by with marketing your business exclusively through online interactions. From the comfort of your desk, you can build a website, publish and syndicate content, host advertising and even make strong connections that land you major sales and deals. It’s a fantastic age we live in, right?
Yet, while online marketing can account for a substantial portion of your growth, most startups need a little something extra. For entrepreneurs, that means going out in public for real-life, face-to-face connections.
So, when you’re truly ready to take your company "public," try these valuable strategies to maximize your impact:
1. Networking events
Networking events are the perfect gateway for practically anything you want to accomplish for your business. These events are designed to help professionals in your area get together to meet and exchange valuable information and opportunities. Even if all you do is introduce yourself and your company to other attendees, you’ll at least circulate some positive PR for your brand.
But in most cases, networking events do you one better: They introduce you to dozens of valuable connections, whether in the form of potential new customers, local business partners who can help some arm of your business or even potential hires for your team.
As an added bonus, networking events also introduce you to people who might land you other valuable public appearance and marketing opportunities, including the ones I cover further down in this list.
2. Local special events
It’s also valuable to make appearances at local festivals and other community gatherings, especially if there’s some professional element to them. For example, you could attend a local tradeshow and set up a booth for your business. That way, you’ll gain immediate brand exposure and, more importantly, get the chance to meet people face-to-face who may not use the Internet at all for professional networking.
During and after the event, you can post images and content related to your experience there. This may seem like a small step, but in reality, if you do this for every event you attend, you’ll be able to build up your local relevance and domain-authority in record time. In this way, attending local events works as both an online and offline marketing strategy.
3. Speaking opportunities
There are more speaking opportunities available than you might realize, in your area. Assuming you live within an hour of a big city, chances are there’s at least one major speaking event going on every single week. With enough public credibility, you should have no problem landing these gigs occasionally -- especially as you build more momentum.
Truth be told, many events are desperate for speakers, so you'll be doing them more of a favor than they'll be doing for you. Speaking opportunities are the perfect chance to show off your expertise; plus, you can use your attendance as a speaker as a line item on your entrepreneurial resume.
4. Community board opportunities
Cities love to host community organizations, and all those organizations need a board of directors to keep things running smoothly. A quick Google search for the community boards in your area should reveal a plethora of choices. For example, you might find an economic diversity board or a small business board.
Getting a position on one of these boards isn’t easy, but it will open you up to a ton of new opportunities in your area. Plus, as you serve, you’ll be adding value to your community; and as your community thrives, so will your initial customer base.
Last, but not least, volunteering is yet another great way to meet people and build your network of professional connections. Look for nonprofit organizations, charities and economic-development organizations in your area, and reach out in whatever way you feel most comfortable.
No matter what you do, you’ll have the chance to meet tons of new potential clients and partners, and you can give back to your community at the same time. Plus, if you blog or socially post about your experience, you’ll get the added bonus of earning positive karma for your business (at least in customers’ eyes).
As an entrepreneur, you serve as the charismatic figurehead of your business. Your online presence may do wonders for increasing your brand’s reputation, but there’s simply no substitute for the power of a personal public appearance. Whether it’s the eye contact, body language or a firm handshake that does the job, you’ll make bolder impressions with different types of people, and you’ll be able to forge more relationships and partnerships as a result.
As with most elements of your business, the secret boils down to a healthy balance.