How can startups and small companies launch new products on a tiny budget? Hi, my name is Bobbie Carlton and I’m one of the founders of Mass Innovation Nights and Innovation Women.

Big Budget Doesn’t Always Mean Big Results

Big companies spend a fortune on their product launches—millions and millions of dollars—and even they don’t have all the budget they’d like to have. Startups and small companies have almost none. Over the last eight years, we’ve launched almost a thousand new products. These companies have gotten more than $1.3 billion in funding and we haven’t spent much more than a fraction of what a large company would spend promoting a single new product.

We call it “crowd promoting,” and what we’re doing is we’re gathering together a community and getting them to help us. Crowd promoting may sound like something that just small companies do, but companies like Ford and big organizations like NASA also use crowd-promoting tactics.

Getting Started with Crowd Promoting

First off, you’re going to look for your community. Who are the people that want to help you succeed? In the Boston market, we created an event that is focused on bringing in people who want to help entrepreneurs succeed. These are the local service providers, other accelerators, and incubators. They’re also the marketing people. They’re all helping these young startups and small companies launch their new products.

Building Your Teams

So when you’re building a crowd, who are the different teams? First there’s your internal team and your marketing team but also all of your employees. The second team is your external friends. These are your partners, perhaps your resellers, or maybe even the retailers who are going to be selling your product. Then you’re going to look to your local community.

One of the reasons that we’ve created Mass Innovation Nights as a live event is that we want to do face-to-face marketing. We want the entrepreneurs, the startups, and the small companies to be able to talk directly with their customers, their partners, and the community at large. They get a huge amount of feedback when they’re out talking to people face-to-face.

Consistent Messaging

When we get started with a crowd-promoting project, we want to make sure there’s consistent messaging. One way to do that is to create materials that everyone can use. You can create cards that you hand out to people. You can e-mail them information. You can do anything you want, but make sure that people are using the same message, the same handle, and the same hashtag when they’re helping you.

Make Sure Everyone Wins

One of the things that most people don’t think about when they talk about creating a community—and it holds true with crowd promoting as well—is that there’s a certain amount of self-interest involved. Everyone has to win. For us, when we’re creating an event, the entrepreneurs get all the support of the local community and the local community gets something out of it as well: your local bloggers are getting content, or maybe the local service providers have a terrific networking event. You have to make sure that everyone wins.

One of the most important things about crowd promoting is you can’t just take from your community. You have to give something back. And at the same time, you also have to allow people to give to you. This is the essence of creating a community where everybody wins and everyone has an opportunity to shine.