What is one of the most important things a startup needs?
Even before they officially launch – even before they land their first major investor – startups need visibility. If no one knows about your startup and what you’re doing, then you might as well not be doing it at all.
Far too many startups fail because they never attract the right kind of attention. That’s due to a few reasons, one of which being that they think marketing is a dirty word and don’t put enough resources into it.
But marketing isn’t a dirty word; it’s a necessity. You can call it a necessary evil if you want, but it’s still vital to your success because visibility is vital to your success.
How do you get it, though, without spending a fortune on marketing? That’s where outreach comes into play.
What Is Outreach?
Outreach can also be called public relations, although they’re not completely synonymous. Outreach is how you get others to help you spread the word about your business.
Meeting and greeting potential investors at an event is outreach. Sending out an email to a list of people who may provide crowd-sourced funding is outreach. Getting a story placed in a magazine or trade journal through talking to a reporter or writer is outreach. Asking for referrals is outreach.
Any time you convince someone to help tell others about your venture, you are using outreach – and outreach is one of the most powerful things you can do to gain visibility early on in your journey (and even well after you’ve made it).
Why Outreach Is So Powerful: Two Reasons
Outreach is powerful, for starters, because it’s free (mostly). Sure, you may need to hire a PR specialist or publicist at some point, but there’s nothing about outreach that you can’t do yourself, given time and determination.
You don’t have to hire anyone to pick up the phone and call a connection asking for an introduction to someone you really want to talk to. You don’t have to hire anyone to send an email to a reporter at a publication to offer yourself as an expert source, or to let them know about a new development with your company. You don’t have to hire someone to ask your network of friends, family, and followers (3F) to spread the word about you.
You can also form partnerships with other ventures where you and the other guys promote each other and borrow each others’ networks. That is also free; it costs only time. Outreach can fit in any business’s budget.
Outreach is also powerful because word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing is the most powerful form of marketing on the planet, and much of outreach is WoM. Even you talking to a writer at a publication is word-of-mouth because they are going to take your words and broadcast them to the publication’s readership – which may include very important people who need to know about you.
Why is WoM marketing so powerful? Because we are social creatures, and we are more likely to put value in something if we hear it from someone whom we like, trust, or respect.
Outreach, therefore, costs very little – usually only time – and takes advantage of our social nature through getting others to tell their networks about us.
Create an Outreach Strategy Today
You need an outreach strategy. You need a concerted, coordinated plan for:
- Identifying your messages (the things you want people to say on your behalf);
- Identifying the people/publications you will use to spread the word; and
- Figuring out how you’re going to reach these target people.
Start with everyone you know. These people all know other people. It’s how humans work. Figure out how large your extended network is, and who knows who so you can pinpoint the people to target for your outreach campaign.
Then think of every relevant publication that covers anything related to what you do and who you are. It’s very easy to find reporters and editors to talk to at these publications. Think of what you’ll say to them and what you have to offer them. They want news and good stories. Think of how you can provide either – or both – to them.
Think of potential partners who will be happy to communicate to their networks on your behalf – partners who you are willing to promote as well.
Do all of these things, and the pieces will start to fall into place. You’ll start to understand how many people you can reach simply by asking them to do the hard work for you and tell others who you are, what you’re looking to accomplish, and – most importantly – why they should care.
Outreach pays off, big. It will help generate the visibility your startup needs. Commit today to creating a plan for outreach, then get started – the sky’s the limit.
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