The Internet world is really harsh, especially if you are trying to grow your own business and you don't have a high-profile name to back you up. Even if your product is based on a really awesome idea, getting the customers to find out about it is a real hassle. To make matters worse, since it's a startup company, you probably don't want to spend much, or don't have too much money to throw away on expensive marketing campaigns. Here are a few free or low cost solutions that can bring some much needed attention to your business.
Nowadays, there are a lot of companies trying to make it big by pitching their products to various websites, online newspapers or blogs, so getting them to post a story about your startup could be quite difficult. In order to improve your chances you will need to catch their eye on a more personal level. For example, before sending a press release to a certain website, browse it a bit first to get a feel about its general ideas and the kind of projects they generally take, then change your story a bit to match their interests. Even the smallest effort in that department can take you a long way.
Another version would be to track down your competition (the biggest competitor if possible) and find out who wrote about them (the exact journalist). Once you've gotten a hold of his or her mail address send a cold message with the story that you want published. Keep it short, make the angle (the reason why your story should be published) obvious and personalize the email as much as you can.
If that doesn't work as well as expected the best thing to do would be to identify bloggers or tweeters with a lot of influence in the field that you are interested in (or at least close to it), then convince them that your business is worth helping out. The best approach is to send them lots of materials and useful information before touting your product, and don't forget to stroke their egos (it's highly efficient).
Websites That Can Offer Publicity For Your Startup
There are several websites that can help you advertise your product for free or without requiring you to pay too much:
- TechCrunch - if your product gets a story on this website and it's still unsuccessful, you should seriously consider changing it up. With over ten million unique visitors per month, TechCrunch is the biggest website out there focused on reviewing startup businesses. While there are no guarantees that your project will make it to their pages, it's worth a shot to contact them and see where you get from there. Furthermore, TechCrunch also runs a database for tech businesses and investors named CrunchBase that is worth joining. Link
- Vooza - I'm not exactly sure about how much their services cost, but if your startup needs "street credit" (an outsider that gives your business legitimacy), this is the place to go. Their advertising methods are very trendy and can quickly become viral. Furthermore, they are used to working with small, startup companies, so their experience won't be an issue. Link
- CNET, Venture Beat - both these websites specialize in technology-related news, product reviews, etc. and have a lot of visitors (especially CNET), so trying to contact one of their editors to publish a story about your startup could be highly beneficial. You can also try to contact them on the official channel (through their contact area), but it's generally less effective than the previous method.
- MuckRack - this website is practically a newspaper made out of tweets sent by journalists and is mainly used by those who are looking for new subjects to cover. You can write a short story about your startup and if you're good enough some journalists may decide to cover your business. To use the website you will need to click on Press Release button and you can write a 140 character long mini press release. It costs $1 per character ($50 minimum fee), but your message will get displayed on the MuckRack site as well as posted on Twitter. From what the Alexa ranking webpage is showing, this website is mostly visited by females, so if your product is designed for women, don't skip it. Link
- HARO - is a journalist community with over 25,000 registered members and, best of all, its free. You can either list yourself source and wait for someone to contact you when they decide that your startup is worth mentioning or follow their stories until you find some that are related to your business, than ask the journalists who covered them to write about you as well. Link
- PSFK - this website specializes in new digital trends and stories about interesting ideas. With over one million readers per month, it could be a good launch pad for your startup. Try to get a hold of a personal email from one of its editors, but if that's not possible just contact the website and send a press release. Link
- Others - There are a lot of other website that can help your startup get some public attention. Here's a list with some of the ones I know: Submit Startup, MakeUseOf, BigStartups, Startuplift, Hacker News, GotoWeb2.0 and Reddit.
Person to Person
Another cheap way of promoting your startup is something called word-to-mouth. Basically, it's a type of marketing strategy in which a company encourages its customers to promote the business amongst their friends by offering rewards for those who bring new people in. For example, certain games offer ingame items or advantages for those who invited a friend to play, and the respective friend accepted. It might take a bit of time and effort, but it's usually cheaper than recruiting the help of a third party.