You're no celebrity entrepreneur--but that doesn't mean you can't grab a little bit of the spotlight.
Some people get lucky. They wind up on shows like "Shark Tank" and even if they lose, their half hour of fame is enough to launch them into the spotlight and off they go. Or they land a favorable piece in Inc. or The New York Times and never look back.
Of course, that's not how it happens for 99% of struggling entrepreneurs out there. And that means if you want the spotlight you need to find ways to grab it yourself.
Start by becoming a subject matter expert. Here are five simple ways to do it:
1. Self-publish a book – Publishing an eBook is seldom lucrative, but it can cement your expertise and provide big media opportunities. To generate awareness, give away at least a portion free via your website. (That's what I'm doing now with my Modern Parent’s Guide to family technology.) PDF publications provide the simplest and most cost-effective solution. But numerous services like Lulu, iUniverse, Blurb, Wordclay, Xlibris, CreateSpace, and AuthorHouse also provide affordable print-on-demand solutions, including entry into Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s catalogue. Many offer distribution through eReader-friendly formats as well, though anyone can publish directly to iBooks and Kindle in hours.
2. Create your own video series – Shooting Internet-ready HD videos is straightforward with a tripod and a video camera you can get for less than $200. Check out the Zoom Q3HD or 3D footage-capable Bloggie 3D. (Although, technically, an iPhone 4 and apps like Qik or Socialcam can produce perfectly good clips for online distribution in a pinch.) Models like the Bloggie Live even offer affordable real-time online streaming. Get an external microphone and a few clamp lights (~$10 at Home Depot) for enhanced visuals and audio. Keep videos short (1-3 minutes), arresting (grab viewers in the first 5-10 seconds) and singular (personality trumps production values). Clips should cover no more than three key messages; create value by offering hints, tips, advice or exclusive access; and include a call to action, such as a link to visit your website to enter a contest. Then get your video on YouTube, Metacafe, Vimeo, Justin.tv and UStream for the widest possible distribution.
3. Start a newsletter or magazine – It’s easy to transform Word documents (books, white papers, research reports) into readily redistributable PDF documents with online converters, Adobe’s official service, or free Microsoft Office 2007 plug-ins. If you’d prefer to produce slicker-looking volumes sans newsstand distribution, try short-run print or digital solutions like Zinio, MagCloud, and Issuu instead. Email newsletters might be a better fit if you want to establish frequent dialogue with customers and want detailed analytics on how many people you're reaching. Options such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, Benchmark Email, and MadMimi are cost-effective and provide easily customized styling.
4. Build a following with a blogs – There are lots of blogging platforms out there: from WordPress and TypePad to Blogger and Movable Type. If cost is an issue, style at minimal expense using an attractive off-the-shelf template ($20-50/avg) from ThemeForest, WooThemes, HTML5 Themes or competitors. All posts should be equipped with buttons for sharing through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. (Hint: Quickly installed plug-ins such as Twitterfeed and Sociable make it easy to spread the word through social networks.) Give your key employees official blogs as well—it will help you grow your network of experts and enhance search engine performance.
5. Contribute to community forums – Part of establishing name recognition includes being a valued contributor to industry-related groups and forums on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other popular online channels. Share your expertise through articles, surveys, research, or detailed analysis. But while participating in existing social networks or building your own custom community can be useful, don't undervalue traditional networking opportunities. Make a point to volunteer with organizations and speak at conferences and events within your field. All can serve to make you a strong, stable and welcome presence in the industry, and connect you with like-minded experts who’ll help spread the word.
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