10 Creative Marketing Ideas to Build Your Business

AllBusiness Publication

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When entrepreneurs are first starting out, they usually are not thinking of “rocking the boat” when it comes to marketing. Yet a very creative promotion can work wonders for a new business, generating a positive buzz that will get it noticed. 

To find out which approaches work best, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC Next and Young Entrepreneur Council this question:

Q: What is one out-of-the-box promotion that worked wonders for your fledgling business? 

1. Speed dating with potential customers

I would set up in a WeWork conference room for a day and let people book 20 to 30 minute time slots with me. Founders would come in for free and get growth advice from our growth team (me) on how to scale their business. My main goal was to get out of the office and talk to potential customers. This method doesn’t scale, but by doing it we formed some great relationships with people. —Jim HuffmanGrowthHit

2. Performance guarantees

When we first started out, a great way to get our foot in the door was to offer various performance guarantees that we felt we could, and should, be able to meet or exceed. This de-risked the choice for our clients, and it’s something we still offer to ensure our clients meet their demand generation targets. —Brandon PindulicOpGen Media

3. Get a little outrageous

We made a list of 50 of our perfect target clients. We then worked out a deal with a local pizza place to deliver free pizza to all of them. Out of each pizza, we had the shop remove one slice and replace it with a small printed graphic that was in the shape of a slice. It said: “Looking to grow your company? We are the missing piece. Give us a call.” —Frank BravataMarketing Rebellion

4. Radio interviews

By giving radio interviews, you get exposure, and potential customers get to know you and will remember you. Contact radio stations to promote your business and let them know you have expertise in a particular area and are available to provide a local angle whenever necessary. This is something I personally did in the early stages of Aligned Signs. It is still a good practice for free publicity. —Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

5. Public speaking

One of the best lead generation methods is public speaking—it’s inexpensive and very effective! Sharing knowledge is a great way to provide value and position yourself as an expert. Every time I present, I have multiple people approach me afterward who are interested in learning more about my services. We’ve closed many deals this way. —Zack HanebrinkHookLead

6. Alignment with trade associations

One of the best things we did was to strategically align ourselves with several respected trade associations by offering our services in exchange for being considered their marketing partner. By first proving our worth, we built a strong endorsement from them to their respected members within the organization. That opened the door to high-quality companies looking for a vetted marketing partner. Remember, most associations are non-profits that have limited resources but do great things for their communities, so they are always interested in expert help. —Matt BardenIndustrial Marketing

7. Third-party guest posting

In the world of digital marketing, this is nothing new. But for other businesses that aren’t so content-centered, the last thing they want to think about for a quick promotion is creating content for relevant websites or blogs within their industry. Start with the most influential sites and pitch blog ideas to them that discuss unique solutions to their readers’ problems, while not being self-promoting. —Ron LiebackContentMender

8. Tell your story

If people don’t know you’re up and running, they can’t hire you. Get the word out to your entire network, however is best for you to communicate (email, social media, in person, phone, mail, etc.). When you’re first starting out, you have the novelty of newness that people will pay attention to. Tell your story about who you are serving, what problems you solve, and why you decided to start. —Todd GiannattasioTresnic Media

9. Be very specific

Be laser specific and identify your most ideal 100 clients. Think of the companies or people you’d love to work with most and to whom you can provide great value, too. From there, I’d build a very specific outbound campaign to reach them, demonstrate value, and have a call to action to hop on the phone. Before this CTA, I’d work hard to establish rapport and trust. Think in terms of “What makes me different and how can I give before getting?” This campaign might look like: Email 1, Mail 1, Call 1, Email 2, Contact Us form, etc. —Zach BurkesPredictable Profits

10. Offer add-ons

Since we sell travel experiences, we offered promotions of free side trips, tours, and adventures to incentivize customers to take action there and then, rather than get lost among our competitors. We still do this to this day. As it’s a promotion of a product within the same space as us, we get industry rates and we can find “add-ons” that sound interesting and are cool that don’t necessarily cost as much as they sound. We found this makes a big difference to customers who are often seeking more and more value for their money. This is something many companies and industries could do with partners they already work with: Buy X today and get a free Y. —Jürgen HimmelmannThe Global Work & Travel Co.

Six Communication Habits Leaders Should Remember

Forbes Publication

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Becoming a great leader takes some real initiative and confidence. But how you communicate with an audience—whether it’s your own team, potential or existing customers, or industry peers—can heavily impact just how well your message and ideas are received.

Using techniques such as body language, empathy and self-awareness can help you become a leader who is successful at getting others to see your vision and act accordingly. With your staff in particular, being a great speaker with strong communication skills can lead to increased productivity and great morale.

So how can an entrepreneur best acquire the necessary skills to effectively communicate with others? To help, six members of YEC Next share a few crucial communications habits that can make all the difference between an average speaker and someone who inspires. Here’s what they said:

Members discuss some communication habits worth remembering.

Members discuss some communication habits worth remembering. Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Demanding Presence

The telltale sign of a great leader versus an average speaker is how a person keeps eye contact. It can be very intimidating to have direct eye contact with the audience when one is speaking, but the person who is able to pull it off, demands greater attention. When a person has such a demanding presence, they are distinguishable from an average speaker. A person who is looking at the clock, their shoes or even up at the air shows a sense of nervousness. Great leaders are very careful to not let their attention wander while speaking. Sometimes, just looking slightly above the audience does the trick, because the people in front think you are looking at the people behind them. As long as the attention of the speaker is focused on the people, he or she exhibits the qualities of a great leader. – Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning

2. Self-Awareness

A great speaker is a person who can convey to an audience that they are the most interesting person in the room.  A great leader is one who inspires their audience to be and become the most interesting person that they know. We pride ourselves on self-awareness. Every great communication starts from knowing yourself, so you need to be aware of your inner self. The more aware you are about yourself, how others perceive you and how you take in the information the world offers you, the better you are able to connect. Having confidence and conviction in what you say translates into what you do, how you carry yourself and how you convey your message. The best way to be a great leader is to start with you, and believe in yourself.  If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? – Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

3. Posture

Posture and eye contact are paramount to being an effective speaker. You have to consider what the audience is seeing. Watching a speaker whose shoulders are slumped and whose eyes are directed at the floor is uninspiring and will damage the event at hand. When speaking, you want to command respect and hold the attention of your audience. Hold yourself upright and look at those to whom you’re speaking. It is not a big deal if you look at notes every once in a while; your audience is expecting to listen to a fellow human. That said, you need to do enough to make them feel present and engaged. The best way to develop this skill is to practice. Work with friends or family, and be open to failing for a time. Public speaking skills don’t come easy. It takes persistence. – Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC

4. Empathy

Great leaders are experts in their verticals, whether it’s Steve Jobs in tech or Anthony Williams in health. The moment a speaker can’t communicate an expert opinion is the moment all attention is diluted and lost. When speaking, great leaders are not cocky about their expertise; rather, they share with empathy, always putting the audience’s emotions and understanding before their own opinions. If they are concerned, then share that concern; if they are excited, then share that excitement. It takes practice, but it helps you target the exact thoughts and emotions they are feeling, which allows you to speak in a personal manner—something much better than just a generalized manner. And always be as transparent as possible: If you don’t know an answer to a question, be honest about that. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender

5. Eye Contact

People underestimate the power of eye contact. When you look into someone’s eyes, you communicate your interest in what they have to say. Even if you are the one speaking, you show your attention to the conversation through eye contact. Establishing that connection is crucial for leaders. Practice with a close friend and ask them to give you feedback about how your communication made them feel. – Kyle Wiggins, Keteka

6. Storytelling

An excellent storyteller makes a fantastic speaker, engages an audience, and is thereby seen as a leader. The best way to develop this skill is to find your story for your particular audience. What is your unique story? What is relatable? What is interesting? What are you trying to convey? What is your why? Find your story. Create your story. And practice practice practice. You might have a great story and be terrified of speaking. Or you may be a great speaker but you’re not sure what story to share. There are many factors at play here. You can hire an expert to help you determine your story, develop your speech, body language, posture, and delivery. – Angela Delmedico, Elev8 Consulting Group

Five Things To Look For When Considering Working With A Vendor

Forbes Publication

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As an entrepreneur and business owner, you work with vendors on a nearly daily basis. While you certainly will be regularly courted by a series of new vendors, knowing whether it makes sense to start a partnership with one of them or not requires some careful consideration.

Before you decide, you first need to figure out whether this is someone you can work with long term. Can they provide you what you need in a way that will be agreeable to your values or will you grimace every time they come into your establishment?

To find out more, we asked five members of YEC Next to discuss some of the important things to look for when deciding whether or not you want to work with a vendor. Here’s what they said:

Members share a few things to consider when debating establishing a relationship with a vendor.

Members share a few things to consider when debating establishing a relationship with a vendor. Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Integrity

Integrity is the most important quality to look for when considering working with a vendor. Look for a proven track record of following through on commitments. Many companies are good at sales and telling you what you want to hear, but do not deliver. Ask for a list of the vendor’s past and current clients and contact them to get an objective viewpoint about the vendor. – Kyle Wiggins, Keteka

2. Alignment Of Core Values

As entrepreneurs, we’re driven for quick growth and value, and sometimes forget that we’ll have to frequently work with these vendors. To make things stress-free, make sure that your company’s core values and ethics align with those of the vendors. Without alignment, aggravation can set in, and even the most successful of relationships from a monetary perspective can feel draining and invaluable. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender

3. Strong Communication

Something to consider is how frequent, quick to respond, clear and kind the communication is. Does the vendor communicate honestly? Have they been clear about what is being offered and what costs should be expected throughout the sales process? What is their timeline to deliver services? We partner with vendors that respond within 24 hours and show us they value working together. – Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

4. Clarity

I want to know exactly what I am paying for. It makes me cringe when I start working with a vendor and all of a sudden, they say something is not included in what I purchased. Whether it be a service or product, I like to list out clearly what I am expecting from a particular transaction. I don’t move forward until I get written confirmation from the vendor that all my requirements will be met. – Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning

5. Alignment Of Goals

You should never enter into business with a vendor who doesn’t understand the value of your product or service. They should understand exactly what you want to achieve in the market, and should be able to articulate why they’re suited to make that goal a reality. Likewise, get to know their business goals and track record with similar businesses. Make sure you see eye to eye with one another. – Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC