In this lightning round we talk about the quickest and most successful ways you can build your brand without spending money on it.
We dive into niche communities, connecting with influencers, creating content on specific platforms and the one hack Ross uses to reach even more people.
Ross: Let’s go back into time. This is the time when you’re creating a brand, you’re trying to get some traction, and you’re trying to get people to know who your company is. No one really knows who you are yet, and you really just want to get more folks to know who you are. You want more folks to know what you’re all about, you want more people to buy your stuff, et cetera. How do you do it? How do you go about building your brand from scratch when you have no money, no recognition, nobody knows who you are, so to speak? There’s a few different things that you can do. If I was to rewind back into time and look at, “Okay, Ross, when you were living in your parents’ basement and you started your first business drinking instant coffee, and you had no money to your name, how did you go about creating your business? How did you go about building your brand?”
I think some of the philosophies that I embraced back then actually still work today. And in this episode, I’m excited to share with folks how they can build a brand when you have no money, no connections, but you’re still trying to create a brand that people will trust and ultimately be willing to swipe their credit card for and have an exchange of value. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.
How to build a brand without a budget
#1 Leverage communities in a different way
How can you build your brand when you have no money? One of my favorite recommendations for people is to find their tribe, find your community, find the people who love what you are offering. Find people in your community that would actually be willing to support you. For example, if I was to start a new business in the wonderful world of graphic design, I’m going to join entrepreneurship communities on Facebook. I’m going to be active in those communities talking about how important it is to have a beautiful design website. I’m going to be talking about how important it is to have beautifully designed social media assets on their content.
If I’m in the wonderful world of, let’s say, baking, let’s niche it really down, really far, I’m going to join a local community group that are filled with people who are doing one of those buy/sell groups, whatever that may be, and I’m going to promote my content. I’m going to promote visuals of my baking goods, et cetera. You want to be active in these niche communities where your audience is spending time. Again, I’m going to niche this down one more time for folks. Let’s say that I am someone who is selling coffee. I run a coffee company, and I’m trying to, again, sell more coffee. What am I going to do? I’m going to go into various entrepreneurship groups and try to sell to people who run brick and mortar businesses, subscriptions to why they should pay me every month to drop off coffee to their company, to deliver coffee for their lunch and learns, to their clients, et cetera.
There’s a lot of value to be had in joining these niche communities where your audience is spending time and then giving them value by ultimately just being an engaged, active member. If you’re a marketer, the same thing works, right? If you run a company, you want to hire someone to go out and do this for you and be active in these communities. They’re called community managers. And by having someone manage your community and being active in these communities, it can give you an opportunity to connect closer with your audience.
What are your thoughts? What else can you do to build a brand when you have no money, but you actually have an opportunity to really connect with folks outside of your space and really build your audience?
#2 Start your own niche blog
Talia: I’m going to share my favorite one, which is what helped me when I had no brand recognition, and that was create a blog. It’s a create a blog about the industry that you’re in, and I’m going to say go as niche as possible. So for me, the best way was actually creating a blog that was solely based on case studies. All I do on this blog was share what I did, how it failed, or how it succeeded. And that was all the blog posts that I was putting in there.
For me, it was a very successful way of getting brand recognition because people were starting to look at it and say, “Wow, okay, this is interesting. I can learn from this or I can’t.” And very much, as you explained before, I was active in that niche community of conversion optimization. So I would go into different communities for designers or communities for developers, or if it was marketers and VPs of marketing and content providers and all sorts of different people who could be my target audience, and I would share the content that I created, so one of the best things to do. It’s also a great way, and we’ve spoken about this before, to build your own authority. So you create a blog. You don’t have to have fancy thing at all. Simple template in WordPress is more than enough. Go in and start creating content around your industry.
Start talking about your expertise. Start talking about your experience. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you failed, how you succeeded. Talk about everything and all the tips and all the things that you’ve learned, because people want to know. The more authentic you are as a brand, the more trustworthy you are. Obviously, the more content you put out there, the more trustworthy you look too.
Ross: I agree. I think creating content is probably one of the most underrated still today. It feels like I’ve said this for the last 10 years, that content is one of the most underrated opportunities that exists in the digital age. But the more content you create, the more opportunities you have to connect with more people. It’s just like a network effect, you publish once, you distribute forever, and you have the ability to reach millions. It’s such an underrated opportunity that still exists for brands trying to grow and connect with folks.
#3 Connecting with Influencers
Another opportunity that, I think, for folks who are trying to build their brand when they have no money is the opportunity to align themselves with influencers and people who actually have a significant audience. If I’m starting from square one, where I have five followers, I have no subscribers, nobody really knows who I am, what I’m going to do is I’m quickly going to align myself with people who have a significant audience. I’m going to add as much value to their life as possible so they are interested in sharing me on their story, so they’re interested in re-tweeting me, in sharing my blog posts with their following.
I am going to not only tag them in posts when I’m supporting their business, but I’m going to actually go out of my way to try to engage with them and become connections with them and build friendships with them. And sure, you might think, “Oh, you’re only building a relationship with the intent of getting something out of it.” No, you’re trying to help these people. You’re trying to add value to these people. And as a payoff down the road, they might support you back, which is ultimately an amazing opportunity that can exist for you if you are engaging with someone who has a significant audience, an audience that is relevant to your customers, and you can get in front of them.
I think the other opportunity that you can do to engage with industry influencers differs depending on if you are in the world of product or if you’re in the world of service. When you’re in the world of product, I always say, “Give the influencers your product and let them talk about you. Let them speak on your behalf.” If they can be your biggest cheerleaders, and they can talk about your brand consistently, you are going to be elevating your business non-stop. I remember a campaign that I had ran back in 2013, where this was when the internet was still relatively new and the whole idea of influencer marketing wasn’t a thing. But we went through Pinterest, and we saw that mommy bloggers were writing about the recipes and people were pinning that stuff left right and center.
So we were working with a massive brand there in all of the grocery stores, et cetera. We reached out to these mommy bloggers, and we gave them this chocolate bar that we were promoting. They started to write about it. They started to create content. And as a result of that, their sales went through the roof, because we tapped into the power of influencers. People trust other people, and if you can align your product with them, it’s a massive win for you. If you are a service company, you can do the same thing with other service companies, providers, people who have a customer base that is aligned with yours and engaging with their content.
So we oftentimes will get this ego going where we think, “Oh, I’m not going to promote so-and-so because they’re similar, and they’re trying to reach a similar audience as me.” No, promote their content. If they retweet you, you’re going to reach their audience. Engage and connect with industry influencers and people who are working in your space, and it can give you an opportunity to, again, build a relationship that’s going to amplify your audience and amplify your brand in front of the people that you’re going to want to connect with.
A hack that all of the listeners, I think, can take from this, and this is a simple idea that I’ve started to embrace, and it’s worked quite well. On Twitter, you can actually set notifications if certain people send a tweet. If you set a notification for when a certain influencer sends a tweet or a certain influencer puts up a post on LinkedIn or Facebook, whatever, and you were the first person to comment and engage consistently, that person is going to build a bond with you. They’re going to say, “Oh, this person really enjoys my content. This is somebody I’m connected with.” You’re going to be able to get in their good books very quickly, and you’ll start to get those follow backs. You’ll start to get them responding back to you, helping you, et cetera. So that is another way that you can engage industry influencers to help build a brand when you have no money.
Again, don’t forget, if you’re engaging with these influencers, they probably have a lot of followers. So their followers now see your brand, they follow you, and then the cycle continues. All right, what else can folks do if they’re trying to build a brand when they have no money? What else have you seen folks do and have unlocked successfully to do so?
#4 Creating your own YouTube channel
Talia: I think one of the best approaches is actually starting your own YouTube channel. One of the easiest things to do is actually create your own YouTube channel, because it’s free and you can get started at any time. All you need is a content plan, is to understand what people want, what they’re looking for, the content that they need, that they need to consume, and they want value and they want to learn from. And then you need to create those videos. It’s really simple to do. You don’t need to invest much money into it, and it’s simple to get that going really easily. What’s cool about YouTube also is that I, myself, created a YouTube channel, I think it was maybe two years ago. I put up maybe three videos, forgot about that funnel, and came back, and yet still it was getting more and more views without me doing anything.
Now, I’m not advocating to not doing anything, but I am saying that it’s a great channel to get exposure on, so I definitely recommend creating that YouTube channel. What’s cool about it is, again, when you know what people are interested in, it’s so easy to just open your camera and create a few videos. You can even sit in front of the camera, talk for half an hour and then cut that into bite-sized videos that then you can repurpose.
What you do is you create these videos, and Ross and I were just talking about this, you create a video, and then you pull content from it for a blog, for an email, maybe as a response to a question in a blog or in a community. So once you create that content on YouTube, you essentially can repurpose it all over the web and use it again and again and again, which is also easy to share on Instagram, on Snapchat, if anyone uses that still, or on TikTok and any other platform. I feel like a YouTube channel is a great way to get started to A, get recognition, start getting used to being in front of the camera maybe. Maybe if you have a team, then you can get more people in front of the camera so they can see that there’s a bigger team. And also it helps you create so much more content that will be all over the web and you can essentially reach out to all of your audience in so many different ways.
Ross: I love that. I think YouTube content can definitely help folks build a long-lasting brand. Similar to you, I’ve got videos that I’ve been slacking on. I haven’t uploaded a new one for probably four months. In the middle of the move to a new house and toddlers, et cetera, I haven’t had the time to upload new YouTube videos.
Talia: And a new baby [inaudible 00:11:58].
Ross: And a new baby, exactly, right? I haven’t been too active with it, but the traffic and the ROI of those videos that I launched, let’s say, last year are still paying dividends today. So you create once, you distribute forever. Once a piece of content is up on the internet or people consume it, more people can give you value as a result of it.
#5 The power of podcasts
Ross: Now, another way that I think folks can build a brand when you have no money, and this is something that I would do if I was starting from scratch and I was to launch any type of business. Let’s say I was launching a software company, let’s say I was launching a service company, I would start a podcast like this. I would probably do a YouTube channel at the same time. I would start reaching out to people who I want to connect with, people who I want to sell to, ideal customers, and I would actually start interviewing them.
I would ask them interview questions around their career. I would ask them interview questions about their thinking, the way that they do things on a regular basis. If I am trying to sell to entrepreneurs, I would run a podcast where I would interview entrepreneurs on a wide range of things that allowed them to be successful. And when they became successful, I would essentially use those insights to create a blog post or a YouTube channel or some type of content about the success that that entrepreneur had. When I’ve done that, when I’ve done these interviews, and I’m using that to inspire my own content, I would follow up with every single person that I interviewed and be like, “Hey, here’s the link to the podcast that we recorded. I’m so grateful to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining me. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you found value in this.”
And then I’m going to say, “By the way, if you ever need X, Y, Z service, by all means hit me a note back. I would love to connect with you further, and I would love to show you how we work with companies and entrepreneurs just like you.” By interviewing these people, it makes it easy to build that initial relationship. And then once you have that relationship, you follow up by adding value to them by saying, “Hey, don’t forget if you ever need someone to do X, Y, and Z, that is the service that I offer. This is the product that we sell.” So by interviewing your own customers or ideal customers, you get in front of them. By following up and then introducing your product and your solution and how you could help them, it’s even easier to do if you run an interview series.
So let’s recap all of the different things that we just talked about as it relates to how you can build a brand when you have no money. The first one was be active in a niche community. Find a community that your audience is spending time on, find a community where your customers are spending time on, and use that as a place where you can build relationships with people in your niche. Whether it’s a Facebook group, a Slack channel, whatever it may be, you want to go into these places.
You want to look at creating a blog. I think this was an idea that you shared that I think everyone can learn a lot of insight from. You write a piece of content once and distribute it forever. And that piece of content can give you value as a brand. It can help you be elevated. Don’t forget, folks, when you’re creating this blog post, you want to create content that’s educational, engaging, or entertaining. If your content does those three things, it’s likely content that people are going to find value in.
You want to engage with industry influencers, people who have authority, people who have a lot of followers, people who are already where you want to be. You want to connect with them, build relationships with them. Because by connecting with them, you’re able to reach and access their followers and ultimately use that to grow your own community and your own brand. You want to consider launching a YouTube channel. I love this advice. I love this tip because, like you said, you create a YouTube video once, and you upload it, and it can generate results for months and months to come.
And then finally, interview your customers in your desired niche, the people who you actually want to sell to. Build a relationship, connect with them closely, and then sell to them in that follow-up email after you let them know how great it was to have them on your podcast, how great it was to chat with them. But you also want to just let them know that this is a service and a product that you offer as well. What are your thoughts? Does that summarize everything? Did I miss anything or does that cover everything from a brand development perspective when you have no money?
The key to building a brand
Talia: It’s great, I love it. I think that the most important thing is consistency. Just persevere keep going. Sometimes it will feel like you are creating content that no one’s engaging, no one’s seeing it, keep doing it, keep repurposing it, keep sharing it with the world and keep creating content. Because it’s really easy to go towards the new shining thing that’s now in the news, and everyone’s like, “Oh, let’s do TikTok, let’s do Instagram Stories or Instagram Reels and whatever.” But at the end of the day, what you want to do is be focused and decide on one or two of these things that you’re going to focus on for the next 90 days, and just do those consistently. Keep on doing it over and over and over again, and it will pay back in so many ways, tenfold, really. So I really encourage you to just keep going. At the end of the day, those who are consistent are those who succeed.
I love it. Consistency is the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate hack to life. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do, but also one of the most important. So without further ado, folks, we really do appreciate you checking out the Action Driven podcast between myself, Ross Simmonds and Talia Wolf. Thank you so much for listening. We really hope you enjoyed this episode, and we hope you can take some of these tips to really drive results for your business and for your career.
Ross: Without further ado, I have to also say, if you are listening to this on Apple, if you are listening to this on Spotify, whatever platform you are using to listen to this podcast, please leave us five-star reviews. We would love to connect with you further. We would love to keep doing these episodes. Those five star reviews gets us excited every single time we see them, so please take the time to do it. It would mean the world to us. And if you want to connect with us further, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/actiondrivenpodcast. See you soon.