6 steps I followed to get hundreds of new clients — without spending a dime on advertising or marketing
Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and founder of the company Bridesmaid for Hire, and she works as a professional bridesmaid in the weddings of complete strangers.
When I started Bridesmaid for Hire in 2014, I didn't have much money to put behind launching and scaling as a business. But I did have time. I'd recently been laid-off from my full-time job as a copywriter, and knew that I had to make my new business work, even without much of a budget.
What I lacked in financial resources, I decided to make up for in mastering knowledge that I could use to become my own marketing department. I spent time learning social media strategy and PR. I even researched other businesses, in all types of industries, and put together a master plan of how to use viral tactics and customer satisfaction to level up and expand my business, all for free.
Over the past six years, I've worked with hundreds of clients without spending a dollar on advertising or marketing. Here's exactly how I did it so far.
1. Build a personal brand
When you first start a business, a lot of trouble in getting new customers lies in people needing to trust you, especially when you're the one providing the service to them. That's why I turned to my personal brand, which consisted of years worth of blog content, a social media presence, a website, press interviews, and more. This allowed potential customers to get to know me and my reputation, apart from just my new business.
Everyone needs a personal brand. Start by understanding your value, skills, and story. Then communicate that consistently across multiple platforms, starting with a website and one to two social media channels.
People like to do business with people they can relate to and know. That's why your personal brand will help attract new customers who might be wary of taking a chance on a business they just discovered.
2. Do your own PR
Getting featured in news articles and going viral multiple times helped me bring in new customers on a monthly basis. I never hired a PR firm and instead found ways to pitch media myself.
I started out by researching and creating a long list of media outlets I wanted to be featured on, and then learned what kind of stories they like to focus on. Then I adjusted my pitches to each of these press outlets and followed up with them, many times, to get feedback and eventually get featured. By doing this, I've been featured in over 250 press outlets in the last six years.
Create a wishlist of places you'd like to be featured on, then do your research and craft a pitch that is relevant to what their audience will care about and what will make a good story for them to run with. You can also use tools like Help a Reporter Out (which is free) to get an understanding of what reporters are looking for from sources.
Read more: How 3 people who freelance while working a full-time job bring in thousands a month on the side
3. Provide free value
Although I was eager to make money when I started my business, I realized that I also needed to create constant value for my customers and oftentimes that came in the form of free value.
I decided to write weekly blog posts and create advice videos on YouTube so that every time someone found out about my company (through press or social media) they could consume tip-based content for free. This was my way of providing credibility for the business and value for the customer.
In addition to products or services you offer, create at least one way to share free value with your audience. Consider a blog, video series, podcast, ebook, or other marketing materials that won't cost you anything, and will give so much to your audience and prospective customers.
4. Tap into social media
Social media can be a powerful free avenue of finding new customers for your business. I decided to use Instagram and Facebook heavily, posting at least once a day on both platforms. I also interacted with other accounts that my audience would adore in the industry (but weren't my competitors), I used hashtags so my content would be searchable, and I only posted content that had value for my audience (and wasn't too salesy or generic).
Pick two platforms to launch on and maintain them regularly. It will help new customers discover you and leave with a mighty first impression of the business.
5. Keep industry friends close
I spent a lot of my free time finding people within the wedding industry I could network with. If you don't have a budget for ads or marketing, word of mouth referrals can be a big way to gain new customers.
I sent cold emails to other wedding vendors and introduced myself and my services. I met at least five industry professionals for coffee every month to network. I sent them business, and they sent me business. This was a great way of building relationships with people who interact with my audience but aren't my direct competitor, and create a connection to gain new customers on a regular basis.
Research who else in your industry your customers often interact with or buy from. Reach out to them and make a connection. This can significantly help you build your business and help you get referrals.
Read more: An entrepreneur sold his design agency to Salesforce after having a psychotic break in his early 30s. He recounts his experience in the toxic world of tech startups — and how he made it through.
6. Create superfan customers
I prioritized over-delivering for my customers to ensure they were happy with my service. This helped me create superfan customers who would share my information with their friends and networks, and also be happy to act as a good referral. Sometimes I'd ask past customers to share my information, or I'd offer them a free service (like a check-up phone call) if they brought in a new customer.
Read more from Business Insider