2016 was one of those years that will forever stick with me, I started writing for VentureFizz (a site I’ve always appreciated in my years of working within tech and business), I got married, and I launched a passion project of mine called “innonorth.” This article isn’t meant to be a plug for the project but just to frame the rest of the post. Innonorth is a program I started with the help of Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and Salem’s Economic Development Planner, Andrew Shapiro that set out to highlight the explosion of innovation happening in the tech/media space in Salem and the north shore. The goal being that we can put a single brand behind this movement that might help entrepreneurs and professionals consider the north shore when it comes time to set up shop.
I say this because it makes a difference in terms of how we talk about building a brand. Innonorth doesn’t sell a service, or make a product. We don’t make any profit, nor look to. So if you’re looking for “hacks that took my business from $0 to seven figures in 12 months” this isn’t the post for you. This article will discuss 3 of my favorite strategies that helped lead to developing a brand and image that seems to really resonate with people (and doing it with little to no budget).
1. Check Your Ego: Consider Building on Established Platforms to Start:
My first inclination when starting up the marketing for the new brand was to build from scratch. Install Wordpress and code the site myself. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the best option and began to look at other brands using third party platforms to run their marketing. Interestingly enough, there’s been a wave of companies hosting their corporate blogs on Medium.com. Medium is a very simplified, but elegant blogging interface that doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, but that’s also the beauty of it. Why toil away at designing a blog and getting a clean simple interface that allows me to post articles quickly when that’s already been built by way more talented people than I? From a branding standpoint, Medium allows you to connect your domain to their system so you don’t even have to sacrifice brand equity.
I’ve also found that Eventbrite is awesome for planning and promoting events. Not only is it free, but they equip you with really useful tools and functionality that make publishing and promoting events far more simplified and streamlined. In terms of email marketing, my favorite has and always will be MailChimp, for either free or $10-50/month you get access to one of the most simple, yet powerful email marketing platforms on the market, complete with automation workflows and robust RSS merging.
I’ve used just about every marketing automation platform on the market and I recommend going with HubSpot over their competitors based on its ease of use and value.
2. Media relations can change everything... but do it right!
Working with the press is a huge opportunity to reach new audiences and tap into an established network. However all-too-often it seems people truly appreciate how challenging being a reporter can be. Instead of pinging media outlets with pitches for your business, craft a narrative that’s relevant to your brand or industry but will also interest a broader audience. A few months ago I began following a reporter for Patch.com and decided to tweet at her because I was working with a number of really dynamic local companies that I thought she might be interested in covering.
My pitch was all about what was happening in the region, which ultimately lead to a whole series on innovative companies on the north shore. As a marketer, business owner, whatever, you have a unique perspective and set of experiences that may lead to interesting stories, and these reporters know that. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind how often these people get pitched every day, so if you have an opportunity at telling an interesting story, make it about the story, not about you.
3. Figure out a strategy early for social-media publishing, and don’t let it waver!
One of the hardest things for me starting out was trying to stay on top of posting to our social media accounts. It was so easy to tweet out a few things here and there and completely forget to come back to it. Thankfully there are a number of free/small money tools on the market that help ensure that doesn’t happen.
I have been using Buffer lately and it’s helped me take hold of my social broadcasting. Essentially these tools allow you to pre-populate your accounts with posts and set schedules so that you know you can go about your day and not have to worrying about having an inactive social presence. As an added bonus, you’re able to see which times perform the best and continuously optimize your social schedule to ensure your posts get the most exposure possible. I’ve noticed our social following has almost doubled in followers in the two months I’ve been leveraging these tools! It’s been a game-changer.
Have you launched a brand from scratch? What other tips do you have to add? Share them with me on Twitter: @JustinMillerCo.