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12 Ways to Think Outside the Marketing Box and Reach More Customers Online Find and convert more online customers by sharing free samples, hosting events and even riding the wave of someone else's audience.

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In today's saturated marketplace, entrepreneurs need to ramp up their online marketing efforts in order to compete and attract more customers. Fortunately, you don't need expensive and complex marketing campaigns or a big budget to rapidly reach more customers. You just need some ingenuity and motivation to make a big impact and lasting impression.

Here are 12 ideas for reaching more customers online in 2016.

Related: 16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing in 2016

1. Share free samples.

Remember those free perfume and cologne samples that seemed to stink up every magazine on the newsstand? Today's free samples have been upgraded to complete sets and useful sizes that don't come smeared across a piece of paper. For example, Jessica Alba's The Honest Company offers a free Discovery Kit of diapers and wipes or essentials for free with the payment of shipping and handling.

2. Host an event.

Turn your customer outreach into an event by hosting a webinar that talks about your product and helps potential customers solve a problem like setting up their first WordPress site. Remember, hosting an offline event can also generate traffic online. Organize your own Meetup.com group and define your audience with a highly-targeted theme like "small business management for creative companies," and use it to target your desired age group and location.

3. Leverage Reddit.

Reddit is surprisingly powerful when it comes to spreading the word about a product or business -- in fact, it can attract thousands of loyal fans. The trick is engaging as a regular, contributing member who offers useful advice on a regular basis. As you develop a reputation on sub-reddits like Small Business, you can ask for feedback on your company or services to do a little market research while spreading the word.

4. Set up a referral program with a twist.

Affiliate marketing and referral programs are nothing new. But turning them into a virtual marketing machine is a relatively new concept. Noah Kagan mastered this approach by giving away a freebie when signing up for the AppSumo subscriber list, which then requires you to tweet a shout-out to his company in order to unlock other desirable bonuses.

5. Create a selfie campaign.

Today's online marketing and sales conversions doesn't typically happen in a simple and straight-forward fashion. It takes more than tweeting out a sale or plug for your product to turn heads. Instead, create a selfie campaign and ask your most loyal customers or employees to take selfies with your products. In exchange, offer free prizes and merchandising for the most creative selfies. The New York Public Library even got in on the selfie marketing action in order to generate free publicity.

6. Run a LinkedIn Group.

Create your own loyal audience by running a LinkedIn Group and moderating it yourself. Reach out to your LinkedIn network or people who fit your demographic to join your group. Post helpful tips, articles and promote other people's work and businesses to establish that you're looking out for the best interest of your potential customers. Occasionally send out promotions or request for feedback to help generate interest in your business.

Related: 5 Ways to Generate Business Through LinkedIn

7. Piggyback on someone else's audience.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can ride the wave of someone else's audience? Identify people, businesses and influencers with large social media and blog followings. Warm them up by touching base about their services and offering to lend a hand. The idea is to create an ongoing relationship before asking if they want to team up and work together, submitting a guest post or asking for a plug in their next online newsletter.

8. Get creative on YouTube.

Gaining a following on YouTube requires more than tutorials and over-the-top cat videos. As an example, some of the most highly profitable people earning millions of dollars on YouTube are playing with toys. Play-Doh videos, toy sets and opening up surprise eggs are all astonishingly popular with unlimited potential for product placement for the toy industry.

9. Join someone else's promotion.

Put out feelers in your industry and find out who's running an upcoming promotion. Ask to donate free products as a prize or as part of a merchandise bag to help attract a new client base. You may end up reaching a new set of customers and stumble into a viral promotion earning valuable press.

10. Launch an online course.

Designing a free ecourse can help build trust with consumers by offering viable solutions to their problems. Platforms like Udemy.com already have a built-in audience of people actively looking for new classes and content. At the end of your course, offer a free service, coupon or sample in exchange for signing-up for your newsletter.

11. Get innovative with backlinking.

Brian Dean made a name for himself with his site Backlinko and his innovative backlinking techniques. Track down websites who blog about similar products and services you offer and look for dead links to companies that have shut down. Let the website owner know which links are broken, casually offer up information on your own site and see how many new backlinks you end up with.

12. Run a viral contest.

You can't set up a contest and just hope it goes viral. There are ways to encourage the process by doing something everyone wants. Ramit Sethi offers free vacations, laptops and cash on his blog, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He also sets up innovative ways to help rapidly spread the word by upping your chances of winning for every tweet and social share hopeful entrants make.

What's your genius tip for reaching more customers online? Share your best insights by leaving a comment below.

Related: How to Use Quizzes to Boost Your Marketing Strategy

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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