In an article in Fast Company, Alexis Ohanian, the cofounder of web content and online community provider Reddit, shares his secret for marketing success. Surprisingly, it’s not search engine marketing nor another high-tech solution that helped Ohanian and Steve Huffman, Reddit’s other cofounder, promote their company. It was custom sticker printing — real world, real time, and above all, economical.
When Reddit began ten years ago, its founders had only $500 to spend on advertising. Ohanian spent every dime on custom sticker printing to promote his company. He took them with him wherever he went. All across America, Ohanian put his stickers wherever he could. Lamp posts, street signs, community bulletin boards, utility poles—all were places in which Ohanian promoted his company by putting up stickers.
Next, Ohanian began to hand out his custom made stickers at conventions, meetups, and to people he encountered out on the streets. Using these stickers, each featuring a cute alien, helped Ohanian build brand awareness from the very start. Consistency and persistence in handing out the stickers helped the founders to promote their business efficiently without overspending their advertising budget.
The stickers became status symbols. As brand awareness rose, Ohanian discovered that people showed off the stickers to their friends to show that they were members of the Reddit tribe. Fans began to upload photos of themselves stickering things to social media and other Web platforms.
Ohanian suggests that businesses should create opportunities for fans and other promotional merchandise. If they feel that the promotional items are “something special,” he says, it will build more loyalty to the brand. With an innovative logo that tugged at people’s heartstrings with its charming mascot, Ohanian was a smashing success at branding his business.
Fans began to create their own art featuring Reddit’s adorable mascot. One fan even got a tattoo featuring the little alien’s image. When a company’s fan base begins to promote the brand image, brand awareness snowballs. build a sense of community gets a startup company off on the right foot, advises Ohanian.
Ohanian also emphasizes that businesses need to stop talking about themselves and put the customers first. Treating those first customers well is essential for companies to build a loyal relationship with their customers. Happy customers who receive promotional merchandise, as well as good service, will help business owners market their business with referrals and positive remarks about the company to their friends.
Furthermore, Ohanian advises, business owners need to respond to customer feedback quickly. Solving customer problems helps to solidify the customer’s relationship to the company. People who care enough about a company to dash off an email to them are “gold,” according to the entrepreneur. When a business owner resolves the issue quickly, customers develop even more brand loyalty.
Ohanian counsels business owners to focus on the customer when marketing their company on social media and their official website. Content that helps or entertains the customer is even more engaging when customers are featured prominently.
Today, Reddit is one of the largest Internet empires online. With 2.8 billion page views, 35 million visitors every month, and a net worth of $500 million, Ohanian and Huffman have conquered their marketing challenges to succeed in business in a highly competitive industry.