Starting a Business From Scratch: How to Market & Brand Yourself

More often than not, when building a new business from scratch, there are zero dollars available for marketing or PR outside of creating a sleek, legitimate website. However, many professionals do not realize how much marketing can be done on the part of the business owner at the beginning, and at no cost other than time and some effort.

Now is the best time to be a businessperson and/or thought leader who wants to create a meaningful brand or movement, because we have an infinite pool of resources available at our fingertips, most of which are free. Here are just a few examples of ways we’ve found every businessperson can (and should) begin marketing themselves from the beginning:

  • Cultivate a strong social media presence. Social media platforms are excellent ways to communicate with your audience, mirror your website’s messaging and show off a little personality behind the scenes. And more than anything, they are an opportunity to express the human side of your brand. The very first thing I did for NRPR Group (once the website was built) was plant our brand on every single social media platform our peers, press, clients, competition and future business leads were already on. Choose the channels that work best for you and your brand, but make sure to choose at least

    • By default, Facebook is the most popular social media channel, because it is accessible and used by all age groups. Every business should have an official Facebook business page, and every executive can consider creating a personal Facebook fan page. Doing either of these is not an expression of ego; it is a practice in ensuring your audience has as many touch points with you and your business as possible. Also, it can often send up a red flag to a prospective client or media member when they go to vet your company and see you don’t have these entry-level resources.
    • Twitter is so important in the fields of marketing and PR because it is the most efficient and immediate way to connect with media, potential clients and peers about trending topics. It is also an excellent way to show how much you know within your field and ecosystem. Retweet articles, share meaningful bits of advice or humorous anecdotes about your business. Get involved. Get loud. On Twitter, it is fully acceptable for you to follow and interact with influencers you haven’t met yet and hope to connect with. Again, for free.
    • Instagram is a great third option, as pictures and videos speak a thousand words. It is also a great opportunity to mix a little personal flair into the professional mix. Share your story, your team, your workplace and flow. But make sure you have separate accounts for you, as a person, and your business. Your brand is bigger than you, and even bigger than your team. Your posts should have an industry-wide focus on inspirational content, mentorship and relevant developments—all crafted with a unified, engaging and branded style. Remember, Instagram is an exercise in curation; it’s a completely different aesthetic. Viewers consume the overall look and feel of your feed all at once, as opposed to the timely and individualized filtering on other platforms.
  • Create thought-leadership pieces. This is key in establishing yourself as a voice in your industry. You have experience in your field that could benefit others and ground you as a leader, so find a funnel to get that knowledge out there. Either begin by composing your own installments of thought leadership pieces or hire a ghostwriter to create pieces for your voice. Once people read your words, they can better understand your position and interact with your insights. And usually, placing well-written articles doesn’t cost a thing. Some major publications accept contributed articles from executives, as ReCode does through “Voices.” A great vehicle for self-publishing is through the LinkedIn Pulse. This is the easiest way to share your expertise and earn eyeballs, all for free.
  • Co-brand and co-market with like-minded businesses. Let’s say you’re a new company that sells socks. Usually, when people buy shoes, they also need socks. Finding a brand that is symbiotic to your work in this way is an excellent way to cross-promote, grow your audience, create a community and elevate both brands at the same time. You should seek out like-minded brands at your level (or even a little higher—why not think big?) to collaborate with. For example, Fitmark, a high-quality bag company with strong roots in fitness, often co-markets with a ton of fitness-related companies. And in doing so they basically created a perfect storm of co-branded cross-promotion through a simple giveaway or contest on social media. By co-marketing, you tap into followings and audiences outside of your own and pull those people over to you, while still celebrating other brands. It can be done offline (sponsoring events) or online (social media giveaways, etc.). The sky’s the limit. You’re ultimately becoming homies with brands that fit into your ecosystem and getting the value of being marketed by them when you need them (and vice versa). Nine times out of ten, it doesn’t cost you anything more than some product and some time.
  • Release videos to interact with your audience. People appreciate getting behind-the-scenes glimpses of the companies they know and use. Whether taking a quick Facebook Live video with your iPhone to share some thoughts about a current industry issue or producing a polished YouTube video of insights and advice to your peers, being bold enough to step in front of a camera and show the world the face behind your brand—letting them hear your voice and see your passion firsthand—will attract attention to your business and develop trust in your company. Again, it often doesn’t cost a thing to start. Choose a platform to regularly release streaming content (YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, etc.) and keep the content informed, confident and approachable. And remember, this isn’t a platform for you to push your political agenda or vent your day’s frustrations; it is an opportunity to verbally share meaningful information about your work without having to write anything. It’s recorded, it’s saved and it’s shareable.

Branding and marketing yourself is a complete, holistic effort, but it needs to be done across several platforms and it is something that requires patience. You won’t reach a million subscribers overnight, and it might take some time to see a quantifiable impact on sales or business leads. But it can be done without spending any money or outsourcing work to expensive freelance professionals. Some business owners might second-guess these tips, thinking them trivial and ineffectual in an immediate, tangible way.

But anything that is brand new requires a little bit of time to blossom. You have to look at each of your marketing efforts, even on the social media side, as a million tiny snowflakes culminating into one massive marketing snowball effect that you absolutely must do the work of creating. Don’t overthink it. Just do it and trust that it has worked for nearly every brand as a means of being accessible to your audience and better understanding what they want and need from your brand. Take on the extra effort at the beginning, then watch your company grow.

Nicole Rodrigues is founder & CEO of NRPR Group. Follow her on Twitter: @NicoleRPR