7 Promotional Stunts That Work

Check out these simple and affordable ways to shine the spotlight on your business--no highflying gimmicks required.

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Looking for ways to promote your new company? Let’s face it: Some stunts are better than others. You could rent a hot-air balloon and sail across the New York skyline, but that’s a bit spendy (and possibly dangerous). Some small companies might pass out fliers on street corners, but really, who has the time?

Here are some practical tips that might prove more effective–and give you more time to do real work.

1. Use a coupon insert.

Yup, it’s an old-school tactic, but it still works. Scott Hamula, a professor of Internet marketing at Ithaca College, says one trick is to find a complementary business–if you make an app, then maybe you try a local wireless carrier store. Ask if it will stuff its bags with a coupon or add a promo code to its site for your new business. You may be surprised by how many existing companies will oblige.

2. Join a local entrepreneur competition.

Nishadha Silva, a tech evangelist for the diagramming app Creately.com, entered a competition in the early days of his start-up. He says, even if you lose, you gain the exposure of being at the event and will receive constructive feedback. If you win, of course, the spotlight is yours.

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3. Find your inner subreddit.
Reddit.com is a massive forum for discussions about Web links and topics. Andrew Wilkinson, a co-founder of and executive director for a site called Studentdonate.com that helps students with college funds, says entrepreneurs should look for a relevant “subreddit” (a forum within the forum) and start posting. Say you make apps for real estate. Start posting tips on the real estate subreddit.

4. Use Patch to share tips.

This local news service has lost some luster lately, but Patch is still a viable way to engage with customers in your area. Mike Wolfe, the president of social-media marketing firm Wam Enterprises, says he has found success posting news items that link back to a client site on the Patch site for the Bedford-Katonah community in New York, where he is based. It gives him a way to show his expertise in his field. “Every time we have taken this approach, there has been an increase in traffic. The branding takes time, but I believe we will see additional success here,” says Wolfe.

5. Hire a spokesperson on Fiverr.

Short video clips can be an effective medium to introduce a company. Michael Raanan, the president of Landmark Tax Group, says you can hire someone for $5 on Fiverr to read a script for you, and then you can post the video on your home page. “Interest in the company has increased more than anticipated as a result of these videos,” says Raanan. “In addition to Facebook likes and Twitter followers increasing by about 30%, we’ve also seen an increase in traffic to our website. About 25% to 35% of the viewers visit our website.”

6. Start a project on Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is not only a great way to fund a new venture; it’s also a nice way to gain exposure. Several entrepreneurs told me they’ve used Kickstarter as a way to fuel interest in a new company. The project might focus on only one product among many you plan to sell, but the promotion is priceless.

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7. Teach a course on Udemy.

If it’s good enough for Marissa Mayer (Yahoo’s new CEO), it’s good enough for most start-ups. On Udemy.com, anyone can become an instructor. You create a course using video snippets and a syllabus on any topic. This provides two benefits: You gain exposure for your company, and you establish credibility by sharing your insight.

What promotional stunts have worked for your company?

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine and writes the Tech Trends column in every issue. He also writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com@jmbrandonbb
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