5 minute read

This article was written by Kayleigh Alexandra. A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing and commercial strategy.

How many brands are out there jostling for position? No matter what field you look at, you’ll find heated competition, with countless similar businesses scrambling for ways to outperform each other and build lasting positive reputations. And it certainly isn’t easy to earn attention. People have seen enough ads and read enough generic copy that they default to boredom.

To actually spark some interest in a desensitized and indifferent populace, you need to do something different. You need to be different. There’s an excellent chance that your products and/or services aren’t so special that people need to buy from you even if they don’t want to. You’re just one viable choice among many. Why do you deserve their business?

In short, it’s time to get creative with your promotion. It’ll give you an edge over your rivals, and compel people to give you some serious consideration. Here are some ideas to try:

Get fearless on social media

Here’s a truth that everyone knows but most are unwilling to admit: Businesses are more afraid of social media than they are excited by it. It isn’t wholly unwarranted, admittedly. We all understand by now that just one errant social media remark at an unfortunate time can massively damage a business—but you can’t let it kill your creativity.

That means no more second-guessing every Facebook update you post, and no more running every drafted tweet through several rounds of edits until you’ve sanded it down to such an extent that no one could possibly object to it. Why? Because anodyne is also boring, but your life and business—if presented honestly and transparently—are not.

If you want to stand out, all you need to do is use social media to say what you want to say, when you want to say it. Provided there’s no malice (and you steer well clear of politics), it will all be defensible, and any attention you get will work in your favor—provided, of course, you don’t panic and apologize for no good reason.

Spark some interesting UGC

Speaking of social media, it’s a fantastic avenue for picking up some UGC (user-generated content). UGC is immensely useful: It requires no effort from you, it’s free, it’s creative and it’s more likely to convince someone unfamiliar with your brand (after all, it doesn’t come from you, so it’s undoubtedly less biased).

Twitter in particular is full of UGC, but—as with posts in general—it tends to be fairly pedestrian. Given how much scope there is, you can easily come up with a different kind of challenge that people would enjoy. Here’s one example: Ask your Twitter followers to create your company logo using small household items (pins, matches, etc.).

You can put your challenge together informally, send people to a dedicated landing page or even use a system like ShortStack to generate everything (even down to hashtags and rights requests). Pick the approach that suits your budget and ability.

And remember: You’re looking to make something shareable. If it doesn’t seem interesting or funny enough that it might end up on a site like Imgur, you’re missing out on a huge amount of value (and a massive opportunity to showcase your personality to new audiences).

Start selling custom merchandise

People like supporting their brands today. They’re much more selective about supporting them to begin with (they need to be won over by their personalities and commitments to ethical business), but once they’ve made their choices, they’re fairly set in their ways.

This is why selling branded merchandise is so useful. You can make some extra money to boost your business, enhance customer loyalty, pick up some more UGC from people sharing photos, get your brand represented in public and online and, when useful, opt to give pieces away as free gifts for your customers.

What’s the fastest way to do it? Start with T-shirts. Set up a store (Shopify’s storefront designer is a good start), then choose a print-on-demand service and upload your designs—your logo should suffice.

And if you want to step up to different types of product, reach out to a company that offers extensive printing services. Let them know what you’d like to sell, and they’ll be able to figure out what fits your budget and practical requirements.

Host (and promote) an event

Now that everything’s moved online, there’s a lot of power in going against the grain and taking your marketing efforts offline. A real-world gathering is a lot harder to ignore than a Twitter chat, particularly if you choose a good location—and if you hype it up properly beforehand, you can end up with a good turnout.

At the event, you can show off your products (if you sell any), or give people more information about your services. You can give out branded merchandise and get valuable feedback from people about what they like and dislike about your brand. You can even make some sales, particularly if you take along a mobile POS system.

And, of course, you can make a worthwhile story out of that event. You can blog about the process, share stills and videos and talk about your strategy. You do need to be careful to keep spending down and confirm that it’s producing ROI, but that’s par for the course in marketing.

Start a YouTube channel

I mentioned sharing video from an offline event, but you can (and should) be doing a lot more with video. It catches the eye like no other form of media, and keeps people watching for lengthy periods. It allows you to do something extremely potent, and that’s appealing to someone’s empathy—as tough as it is to root for a brand, it’s so much easier to root for a person, and having your staff appear in videos will demonstrate the humanity in everything you do.

You can make behind-the-scenes videos to show what you do every day. You can have each member of staff speak directly to the camera to explain their role and what makes them so passionate about it. You can even get inventive and make your own low-budget ads: It’ll give them some added homespun charm and keep the costs low.

And if you have absolutely no idea how to approach editing, well, that’s another problem that AI is in the process of solving. Magisto automatically analyzes any media resources you upload (video clips, audio clips and images) and forms them into edited videos that you can adjust. Pick a happy song, and the tempo of the edit will change to match it. It isn’t expensive, so it’s probably worth trying to see if it’ll work for you.

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll make much money from YouTube monetization these days (the 2017 adpocalypse was a sign of things to come), but that isn’t the point of doing it. The goal is to get people behind your brand, all so the mere mention of your company name will find a positive reception.

You don’t have to do all of these things, but it’s certainly worth giving at least one of them a solid try. The most important thing to remember overall is that you can’t be fearful of the consequences. It’s a matter of risk versus reward, and you can’t stand out if you’re afraid to break from the status quo. Have courage!