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5 ways to promote your startup

It’s never easy to start a small business, but now may just be the perfect time. The economy is still in recession and hiring has slowed to a crawl. So if you are underemployed or willing to take a leap with a bit of an emergency fund behind you, you’ve got nothing to lose. After all, those pension plans we all thought were guaranteed after decades of working for the same company clearly aren’t worth what they once were. There’s no true reward for longevity in the corporate world. Better to go out and realize your dream! So you’ve got the idea, and the willingness to cultivate it. How do you start to develop a base of customers? The best, most inexpensive options for a small business are all through the internet. Here are five great ways you can promote your startup online right now.

If your startup is a commercial or retail business with a storefront, you’ve got to get up on the business listing sites. It takes quite a bit of effort and no small amount of money to show up at the top of those search engines when people type in keywords. But it is easy to get yourself up on all of the local and regional listing sites. That way if someone searches for a product or service by location, your startup will pop up as an option. Check out Yahoo Local, Windows Live Local, Yellow Pages and Google Local for a start.

Another great inexpensive option is the well-worded and timed press release. You don’t have to be a PR professional to get this right, but it is a good idea to have one review your work if you can. Basically, you want to announce your new venture in an exciting way that clearly shows your target audience and reveals a purpose that will be meaningful to people. It should be a page or less, and include a compelling quote by the senior members. Make sure all of your website and contact information are there as well. Then blast it out to all of the business owners you know, the bloggers and news sites within your niche and even the PR wires if you have access. As long as you catch people on the right day they will repost it, and you’ll receive the promotional visibility completely for free.

Next, get yourself up and running on the social media sites. Today’s internet is all about personal interaction. People get their news from each other these days, not from television networks or newspapers, and recommendations from tastemakers, friends and associates will go much further than any paid advertising. Upon the launch of your business you should have a website in place, but all should also be connected to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any of the other networks that make sense. You can promote everything you are up to through these various sites, and begin locating and contacting an expanding core audience.

Now that the network is set up, you’ve got to fill it with interesting content. That means developing a ‘news’ page on your website, or a fully functioning blog. Consider what it is that made you want to start your own business in the first place. What do you do better than anyone else? Or how does the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years give value to people? If you can establish yourself as an expert and deliver that expertise in a blog on a daily basis you will gain a following. And that will translate into business for your new company.

Finally, consider network marketing opportunities. This doesn’t mean you have to set up an affiliate program or anything, and you’re probably not ready for that step. But it never hurts to connect with other small businesses for cross-promotion. Perhaps you can praise the company that made your store signs, and in return they give your business a shout out. Maybe you can provide a service to another company in return for inclusion in a newsletter or an advertisement. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, and you’ll find small business owners more than willing to work for the common good.