Stop giving it away! We asked successful young entrepreneurs to brainstorm creative ways that small businesses can spread word and boost sales without resorting to the likes of daily deals sites.
The Young Entrepreneur Council asked 11 successful young entrepreneurs to share a creative way to market a business without resorting to daily deal sites. Here are their best answers.
1. Who Are Your Allies?
Doing joint-venture marketing with companies targeted the same customer base can be an excellent way to lift sales without relying on coupon sites. For example, you can upsell each others products in your shopping carts, or do email blasts promoting each others non-competetive products. It's a win-win scenario—if you can find the right partners. —Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs
2. Solve Problems for Your Customers.
Search Yahoo! Answers for questions related to your niche that you are knowledgeable on. Provide a helpful answer and put your website in the source field. When you actually help people as opposed to spamming, people will be more likely to click on your link and check out your site. Yahoo! Answers also ranks very well in search engines, which is a nice bonus. —Josh Weiss, Bluegala
3. Give Away a Little Taste...
What most people don't realize is that you have to "buy" customers and if you go out of pocket and give away your product or service for free the first time, you will be able to reach many more people than any other traditional marketing campaign will allow you to reach. You need to look at the lifetime value of that customer's repeat business. —Louis Lautman, Young Entrepreneur Society
4. The Ultimate Thank-You Note
Spotlight your customers with testimonials. How are your customers using your products or services to improve their business? Just ask and then feature them on your blog. People are tired of hearing about your business, but they do care about themselves. Give them a place to tell their story and they will share it with their networks. —Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees
5. Show Them Who's the Big Winner!
No matter the small business, there is a clever way to invite customers to participate in a fun and exciting contest of some kind. For a restaurant, it might be some sort of eating contest to promote a local favorite. For a clothing store, it could be photo submissions of your favorite jeans. Establishing this shareable content will create positive buzz for the business. —Logan Lenz, Endagon
6. Be a Thought-Leader, Online and Off.
Give away an eBook that provides useful information that is relevant to your industry. Potential customers will begin to think of your company as a thought leader in the space and may even share the eBook with others. —Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh
7. If All Else Fails, Facebook
Facebook Ads allows you to get very specific about who you want to target. This makes it an amazing platform for businesses of any size. Try using it to offer a discount or free product that allows you to capture prospective clients to your mailing list. For example, you can target people on their birthday by sending them a message or a gift? —Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World
8. Start Creating Content, and Creating Value.
Your content is your marketing. Give away your expertise, share something of value and publish it where people are looking. Answer questions in forums and on LinkedIn. Share your knowledge with people on your blog or a webinar. Prove to your audience that you are a trustworthy and valuable source and the new leads will come in. Coupons are short-term. —Lucas Sommer, Audimated
9. Did You Hear?
High conversion happens when someone hears about your product or service through a friend. Instead of sharing the revenue with daily deal sites, reward your best customers through a referral program! When they share your brand, thank them by offering free or heavily-discounted products. —Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
10. Run Your Own Daily Deal!
Even if you don't have a huge email database as daily deal sites do, why not run a first-time special on your site for 24 hours? The key is to send the special to unsuccessful or not-so-warm leads from the past—not to clients who are already loyal. —Devesh Dwivedi, Breaking The 9 To 5 Jail
11. Offer the Exclusive Invite.
Coupon sites definitely don't work for some small businesses. If you're having trouble seeing how they would work for yours, consider offering coupons to your business events. Hosting a workshop? Put out a coupon for it. Even if you don't get many biters, these can raise your brand awareness. —John Hall, Digital Talent Agents
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The YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR COUNCIL is an invitation-only organization composed of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program. @YEC