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Tech Tips: Market smarter to get your message out

If you want to ramp up business for your startup but don't have the funds to invest in pricey advertising, try to market smarter and think outside the box; you'll find you can compete with a smaller budget but create an impact on par with your bigger competitors.

Social media is the gold rush of our times, and how you use it has the potential to make or break your company. There's a host of effective online tools you can use to spread the word about your small business.

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Use business directories and review sites like Yelp.com, Yellowpages.com, CitySearch.com and Mer chantCircle.com. These sites appear prominently on the first page of most search engines when someone looks for a local business, so remember to practice good search engine optimization techniques.

Once you're listed, remind your customers to leave testimonials and reviews. Recommendations on LinkedIn, comments on your website and blog posts all promote your business. A company Facebook page, a live Twitter feed or available chat on your website are a few other ways to keep your presence relevant and engaging.

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If you have valuable content to share, re-purpose your information in a blog or an eBook. You can create back links to your website and establish your expertise and credibility - it's affordable and easy to outsource.

Keeping your online presence fresh and germane can be time-consuming. Consider bringing in a college intern to help update your marketing feeds. The business experience they gain is invaluable and the time you get back to focus on more pressing business is equally so.

Another venue to try is entering business award competitions, especially local ones.

Contact your area Chamber of Commerce for any upcoming events, and be sure to broadcast your participation. If you win, you can place a badge on your website and even if you don't win, the publicity is priceless.

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Startup Maryland has an exciting concept now in its second year. It's called Pitch Across Maryland 2.0. It's a state-wide bus tour and celebration of entrepreneurship and startup companies and it's coming to Carroll County on Sept. 23.

Denise Beaver, deputy director of Carroll County Economic Development, shared that the focus here will be on manufacturing.

The tour bus is stopping at Land Sea Air Manufacturing in Westminster for a three-hour visit. The Carroll Business Path and Startup Maryland team have collaborated to connect entrepreneurs to local and regional business resources, coach them for success, celebrate their achievements and help them access capital.

Interested entrepreneurs can register for a session to board the bus and pitch their idea or business in a mobile video studio. Videos are uploaded to YouTube and then open to public and investor viewing. Votes are tallied for "Fan Favorite" and "Strongest Potential for High Growth."

This aspect of the competition allows the entrepreneurs, sponsors and tour hosts to activate social networks for even broader awareness and celebration. Winners are connected with venture capitalists and angel investors. If you're interested in participating, call Denise Beaver at 410-386-2400.

Follow some of these tips and you'll be on your way to creating a concrete marketing strategy that is innovative and inexpensive.

See you at the bus stop.

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