We asked our 2005 young millionaires for their advice on getting the word out. Follow their tips to leave the competition in the dust.
"First and foremost, we found it essential to build a really terrific client experience. Over a quarter of our sales have literally come from clients referring other customers to us. We got partners to endorse us and co-market us to promote us through their sales forces. Half our business to date has been generated though referrals from these partners. It's cost effective to do that."--Jonathan S. Bush, 36, co-founder of Athenahealth, a Waltham, Massachusetts company that provides internet-based revenue-cycle management for the health-care industry
"It really depends on the industry you're in. We put an awful lot of emphasis on trade shows because all of our customers are there. We talk about pre-show marketing. For our first trade show, a four-day show, we had over 140 meetings booked."--Chris Griffiths, 32, founder of Garrison Guitars, a manufacturer of acoustic guitars in St. John's Newfoundland
"Even today, our advertising budget is minimal. Our business really grew through satisfied customers, and I think that's the best way to spread the word about your business. Create a culture in which your customers are the number one most important thing, and make sure that's spread across the culture whether it's the person answering the telephone or the person sending out the product.
"As you build the company and the brand, all of the touch points a customer might have with your company have your brand on it. How is the phone, what do the emails look like, what's your customer service policy, do the branding elements look and feel and sound the same across the organization? In our company, whether someone calls our Chicago office or Houston office or the headquarters, the phone gets answered the same way, the salespeople talk to the customer the same way. Having a great product, a great advertising campaign and a great logo will mean nothing if the salesperson is unhelpful or rude. At first for us, it was knowing how important our customers are and treating them well, but then as the company grew, it was making sure that culture stays alive and that can be a challenge at times especially as the company gets big."--Babak Farahi, 32, founder of Multivision Inc., an Oakland, California, company that records and broadcasts coverage for clients
"Well, obviously newspaper advertising, of course. Being involved in the community, being involved in the chambers of commerce, writing letters to people when you start your business about people you're friends with, or vendors or prospective customers. Explain to them why you're developing your business, [and] if you're background is important to your business, explain about your background. Just communicating on a personal level and making that personal connection with people is a great way to get that campaign going."--Ryan Duques, 29, co-founder of Shore Publishing, the publisher of 16 community newspapers in Connecticut and Rhode Island
"Treat every customer or person as though it's your last one. You will have to probably see or deal with this person again. Because for every one person that's satisfied with you, they tell five people. But for every person who's dissatisfied with you, they tell 20 people."--Billy Strade, 35, co-founder of The Closet, high-end clothing retail shops in Orange County, California
"Hire a good publicist. Press releases and third-party placements are far more effective than advertising. Put your money in that rather than traditional ads."--Donna Slavitt, 38, founders of World Packaging Corp., a New York City manufacturer and distributor of promotional, private-label and licensed items
"For us it's about continuing to build relationships with big content partners, like the Citysearches of the world, and providing a service that most people wouldn't ever even know about. You wind up using the service and tell a friend. That's the best marketing we do.
"We do spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year marketing ourselves. We have outdoor and radio and print campaigns. We do a lot now because I finally have the money to do it. In the early days, I provided service second to none and the word of mouth is what built it and continues to build it. We spend a tremendous amount of marketing dollars on the internet. But every month when I look at where people came from, it's still 'referred by a friend.' The ads and marketing are really more for the trade side and for my salespeople than they are for getting a new consumer coming on. There's a minimal call to action with those ads. But when a big advertising executive sees our outdoor ads in Las Vegas and New York, there's value to that."--Andrew Fox, 33, founder of Clubplanet.com, a New York City-based online nightlife destination service
"Today, one of the benefits TheFerretStore has is that we've been around for 10 years and have solid placement in all the search engines. Companies new to the Internet find that the whole model changed over the past couple of years; it's pay for play [now]. You want to come up on a search engine, you're paying for it, that's the trend."--Scott Sanfilippo, 34, co-founder of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus, which include pet supply websites and a website development and internet marketing group
"My personal belief is that companies that market to you as a merchant, trying to sell you better search engine placement, are a waste of your time. For your website, you want to have the most clear, concise content. Make your content original."--Joe Palko, 33, co-founder of Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus
"You have to also market your customers. You can't just get the first time order and not follow up with them again. We do a lot of direct mail, postcards, thank-you notes for an order weeks after it was placed."--Scott Sanfilippo
"Start out with your friends and family, opinion leaders in your community. Getting positive word of mouth is essential. With the advent of the Internet, there are so many things people can do to get their name out that's extremely cost effective."--Joseph Semprevivo, 34, founder of Joseph's Lite Cookies, a Deming, New Mexico-based manufacturer of sugar-free and fat-free cookies and food products
"It's always right in front of you. Use the resources available to you, and it doesn't always cost much. One of the things that makes us so unique is a viral e-mail blitz that has at least a couple hundred thousand e-mails for us to promote and market virally. Our strength is the urban consumer, so everything from radio stations, magazines, offices, college campuses--we're constantly faxing them about clients and have gotten a lot of response from that. Since we're a guerrilla marketing company, we have guys handing out fliers and postcards with our information on it, and we use mobile advertisement and co-brand with clients with our logo on it as well."--Shawn Prez, 34, founder of New York City-based Power Moves Inc., a street promotion, marketing and event-planning company
"We've had a lot of luck with Google AdWords; it's a pay-per-click program where you submit different keywords. You can pay different rates for words, which will give you better placement. I go brute force with that and put in as many relevant keywords as I can think of, product names we carry, and put everything at the lowest amount that we offer. We get tons of traffic from that."--Joel Boblit, 29, founder of Somerset, Wisconsin-based BigBadToyStore Inc., an online toy retailer specializing in collectible action figures