When coming up with marketing plans for your business, social media has become a given. When we create our marketing plans for Headbands of Hope, it’s not if we’re going to put it on Instagram, it’s when and how. But because social media has become tremendously infused in every corner of our lives, it’s easy for your marketing campaigns to get lost in such a saturated market.
What else can a business do to reach people? Here are some ideas that don’t involve likes, shares or tweets:
1. Ambassador programs
I started my business in college. To get the word out, I recruited some of my college friends at other schools to be campus ambassadors for Headbands of Hope. An ambassador serves as representation for the brand and can help spread the word in his or her immediate community (in this case, campuses). We implemented a point-reward system where students can complete activities, such as giving a presentation on Headbands of Hope at a sorority chapter meeting, in exchange for points that they can cash in for headbands at the end of the month.
Our campus programs have been so successful, that we’re expanding in 2016 to have nursing ambassadors and community ambassadors. Figure out if there are particular communities that use your product (and will be vocal about it!) and create an ambassador program to help spread the word about your business.
2. Trade shows
Trade shows can get pricey depending on which ones you attend, but the return can be totally worth it. The biggest advantage to trade shows is relationships. It’s one of the few scenarios where you can shake the hands of your consumers and also build relationships with other brands.
Find out if your industry hosts any conferences or trade shows you can attend as an exhibitor. If that’s too much of an expense, just come as an attendee and network as much as you can. Introduce yourself to the show administration and see if there are any “first timer” specials you can get as an exhibitor for next time.
You could link blogging to social media, but I choose to separate them. I truly mean when I say bloggers are how we got our first real customers (meaning they weren’t my friends or family). Think about who your target audience is and what kind of blogs they would read.
Parenting? Fashion? Nutrition? Business? Find blogs that match your audience and send them a pitch for a collaboration. Understand that you may have to give them a freebie of your product and/or a fee to be featured or reviewed.
Take it a step further and ask the blogger if they’d be willing to host a giveaway on his or her site by collecting email entries you can add to your newsletter.
Do you have an industry-related topic you could talk about for hours? Maybe you have the secret to designing the perfect product packaging? Or how to develop a board of advisors? Put it on paper and send it off to blogs and websites that are looking for content. Ask them to include your bio and hyperlink it to your business site.
Most of the time you’ll have to contribute content for free, but if you gain at least one new customer from an article (but hopefully you’ll get lots more), I’d say it’s worth it. It will also help your credentials and SEO.
Those same topics you can write about, can you give a presentation on them? Businesses, schools, conferences and organizations are always looking for speakers to energize and inspire their audiences. Don’t make your whole talk a sales pitch, but you can talk about your business as an example of a greater lesson or motivation.
Reach out to your local chamber of commerce or even high schools, depending on your target audience. Don’t forget to bring something with your business information on it that attendees can walk away with at the end of your program.
Call me old fashioned, but any time you can get in front of people and build relationships around your business, it's always a good opportunity.