Perhaps the hardest part about being a small startup is that, from the very beginning, you have to compete on the same level as all of the big fish. You have to prove that you are just as worthy of a client's attention and dollars as your more established competitors. This is difficult enough for the big fish themselves, but for a new and tiny startup with a tinier budget? What are you supposed to do? How do you make a name for yourself when you can't spend as much as your competitors?
Enter: The Internet
The Internet is the best equalizer in the realm of marketing and business competition. The same exposure that used to cost thousands or even millions of dollars can now be accomplished without spending very much at all. For any business, it's worth investing in your website and hiring a content marketing service
or team to create quality content for your website. Not only does this improve the likelihood that people will search the content on your site, but that they will find what they're looking for and hire your business. Fake it till you make it
Yeah, yeah, garage startups are largely the purview of stay-at-home moms and teen bands. That does not mean, however, that you have to dedicate the majority of your operating budget to expensive office spaces or on hiring full-time employees before you have full-time work available.
Instead of spending a ton of your budget on fancy and expensive office space, convert your kitchen table into your workspace and use a virtual office service to make it look like you’re not bootstrapping it. Virtual office services give you a professional street address, accept mail, and can even route phone calls. Many of them also offer conference and meeting spaces when you want to meet with a client in a professional looking space.
For those of you who get more done in a workspace that isn’t home-based, you can rent a desk or even a small private office in a co-working space for a fraction of what you’d spend on office space in a professional office park or larger building. One of the other benefits of choosing a co-working space
is that you can brainstorm and network with other startups and maybe even find partners with whom you can work on larger projects.
Instead of hiring full-time employees to work on-site, work with contractors and freelancers
while you’re getting a toe-hold in your industry. Unlike full-time employees who might not have enough work to keep them busy while collecting their paychecks, independent contractors and freelancers only invoice for the work they complete. And, many of them prefer to work remotely so you won’t have to find space for them in your workspace. They also don’t require health benefits, paid time off, sick leave, etc. Get out there
Contact the organizers of industry-specific events and offer to be a speaker, a moderator, or a panelist during their next event. Attending these events is incredibly helpful, of course, but getting a coveted spot on stage is what helps cement your role as an expert in your field and will elevate your status much faster than if you simply attended and then asked a couple of good questions.
If you aren’t able to get in front of the crowd, spend some money on event-specific advertising and sponsorships. And, if you can afford it, buy some booth space in the event’s merch area.
These are just some of the ways that you can make yourself more competitive
in the big pond where all the big fish swim. As you work and as technology develops, you’ll likely find creative ways to market yourself that preserve your budget while increasing your profits. The only limit is your own imagination!