When you’re starting your first company, you may find yourself strapped for cash. Like many entrepreneurs, you may struggle with obtaining capital. If you do receive funding, whether through VC investors or an alternative source such as crowdsourcing, you will want to dedicate most of it to improving your product or service. However, at some point, you will need to think about marketing and advertising to the public. After all, you may create a great product, but if no one buys it, your company isn’t financially viable.
Yet, if you’re already tight on capital, is your only option to take the hit and pay for expensive ad space? On the recent episode of the Making Bank podcast, Nathan Hirsch discusses his marketing and advertising strategies. Nathan Hirsch and his partner started their company Freeup with a $5,000 investment, which they then grew into a revenue of 12 million dollars a year. Despite Freeup’s success, however, they spent $0 on paid ads. So, how did they do it?
In the process of growing his company, Nathan became an expert in marketing and advertising in more creative ways for young entrepreneurs on a tight budget. Keep reading to find out what those alternatives are.
One of the first pieces of advice Nathan suggests is looking into the creative sphere for other opportunities, such as guest-starring on a podcast. He highly recommends reaching out to podcasts relevant to your product. In Nathan’s words, “Podcasts is a big one. I go on a podcast every single day.” In fact, he’s been on over 300 podcasts—a major reason why he hasn’t had to pay for ad space. By connecting and being potentially booked as a guest speaker, you start to nurture a business relationship. He says, “it’s just a great way to network with people,” and truly believes it’s one of the best ways, as both parties benefit from the exchange.
For example, if you have new software, talking on a tech podcast helps promote your product, your company, and yourself. The podcast, in return, records an interesting episode for their listeners. Being a guest on the show helps get you “in front of thousands of people,” and tap into a new audience. This audience may have the interest to buy your product but is one that you previously did not have access to on your own. While not every listener will buy your product, you will still be able to convert some. In addition to the audience, landing a podcast slot is “good for backlinks. It’s good for SEO.” What Nathan means by good for SEO—Search Engine Optimization—is that by pairing your name with the name of a podcast, people will more easily discover you. If a listener is Googling the podcast episode, or just the podcast itself, your name can come up in that search. Overall, Nathan believes “it‘s good for brand awareness.”
The next approach that Nathan advocates for is partnerships. He says, “We also focused on partnerships. So, one of the smart things we did early on was we started off just in the Amazon space, providing VAs and freelancers for Amazon sellers.” He explains that “we went to Amazon software companies and there’s a bunch of them in the Amazon space. We went to all of them and we said, ‘Hey, you don’t provide VAs. We don’t provide Amazon software. Let’s partner.
A partnership is a great way to extend your reach by tapping into an already existing clientele. Like speaking on a podcast, both parties involved benefit from the exchange. As with a podcast, there is a cross-over in consumers. As Nathan said to those he approached, “Let’s do a content swap. Let’s get you in front of our community and vice versa. And so, all these Amazon software companies that all the Amazon sellers were using were promoting Freeup and vice versa. And that was a huge boost.”
The great thing about partnerships is that they have the opportunity to keep growing. Nathan says that as they became more successful, they “kept finding other partners as well” and their partnership program only grew.
Once your company has gained some traction, you can also turn to affiliate programs. Popularized by Amazon, affiliate programs, or associate programs, are programs in which associates help drive traffic and money to an online merchant site through an affiliate link, that then pays out these associates.
Affiliates through people such as YouTubers, Bloggers or other creatives can help grow your company in a surprisingly effective and efficient way. As there are so many content creators out there, you have many options for the size of the audience and the branding. You can have as many or as few as you would like, and while some many bring in more traffic than others, they are still talking about your product and bringing awareness to your company. On the matter, Nathan says the “affiliate program was key too. We paid out over $250,000 in the last year of Freeup in our affiliate program.”
Nathan very briefly mentions backlinks as another great source of awareness and traffic. While he only touches on backlinks, they are still a creative and less expensive alternative to paid ad space or commercials. Backlinks, simply put, are links on one site that bring the searcher to another site. Each link acts as a “vote” for your site in the search engine. The more “votes” your website has, the more the search engine will understand it as valuable, quality content and will push it up further in the rankings. You can accomplish this by being featured in blog posts or articles on other sites that link to yours.
Overall, the most important lesson Nathan imparts is to think outside the box. As a small company, you don’t have to give up all of your capital just to follow the traditional route. Get creative and you will soon see the results.