Editor's Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
I’m not a sales guy. The ABC, or “always be closing,” mentality is too aggressive for me and, mostly, makes me uncomfortable. But, I now recognize the importance of promoting my startup whenever and wherever.
At first, the idea of constantly talking about myself and my pepper-sauce company, A&B American Style, was out of character. I felt silly pumping up a product with no distribution. I thought it was arrogant to say that we make a better sauce than what’s currently out there (even though it’s true: try it). What's more, I was saying it to the same people over and over again. Certainly they were getting tired of hearing it.
Slowly, though, I grew more comfortable promoting my brand. What changed? I acknowledged that my brand and I are one in the same. Since my personal goals and the goals of the company overlap 100 percent, I embody my brand. That’s stressful given the likelihood of failure, but if I can’t handle that, I should go back to being a corporate drone, right?
Now, when I talk about A&B American Style and what we’re doing, I’m relentlessly energetic. I’m genuinely excited about what we’re accomplishing. This authenticity is key. It makes it easier for me to talk about what I’m doing without feeling bad about bragging. (By the way, have I mentioned the growing list of retailers that carry our product?)
Optimism is a key point, too. Angel investor David Tisch says that having hype behind your company gives you permission to grow into it. One way I build that hype is by talking about our recent accomplishments. So, when I tell someone about good things, they get excited, too. I talk to people about what we’re doing and solicit feedback so much that they feel that they’ve helped in the process. And the truth is, they have. A&B American Style would not be where we are today without the support of our family, friends and fans.
I’ve learned that while promoting my business, I can be honest about where we are and what comes next. We are not yet a big operation and are years away from achieving even our smallest aspirations. But, talking about our brand and next steps has been great for getting us connected to key people. When people know what stage you’re at, it is much easier for them to help.
Promotion is not all about sales. It’s about staying top of mind with people. It’s about finding people who will support your brand and, by extension, you. Here are six quick tips to remember when touting your startup:
- Promote always. Never miss an opportunity to discuss your startup and don’t feel like you’re over doing it. (ehem… follow us on Twitter @ABAmericanStyle.)
- Refine and simplify the message. Don’t miss the chance to listen and learn from people who might be customers.
- Be authentic. You are your brand, so be honest about your goals. People want to hear them, and how they can help.
- Be optimistic. People want to help make something better and bigger, but only if that seems possible. Build the hype so you can grow into it.
- Talk to you customers. They want to hear about your progress, so tell them.
- Find new people to tell. The percentage of conversations you have about yourself is much higher than the percentage of conversations others have with you about yourself. Remember that.