If you're a start-up or indie brand, you can compete with big businesses by making your size work to your advantage, says beauty PR and brand-building expert, Jo Jones. Here are her 7 insider tips

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Jo Jones is something of a legend in beauty PR, having been in the biz helping build brands for 20 years. She's also co-founder of  Beauty Banks,  a charity that redistributes unused toiletries to those in need and one part of beauty vloggers The Beauty Hags with beauty editor and influencer Nadine Baggot. Jo has worked with start-ups and legacy brands with marketing budgets big and small - ranging from zero to generous six-figure pots of money. In her experience, lack of spends isn't always the obstacle you think to getting your business seen.

"While a hefty marketing budget opens up lots of doors it also comes with its own challenges," she explains. "Big brands are tethered. They lack the agility to move fast and be responsive in real time to their customers because there are layers and layers of processes and hoops they have to jump through to get anything signed off and approved. This means they can quickly become irrelevant in our fast-paced ‘we want it right now or we’re moving on’ world." And it's this agility that indie brands can, and should, leverage in order to compete, she says.

Jo's latest venture is Beauty Beat Communications, an online training and mentoring platform for independent and startup beauty businesses to help them access PR without the price tag.

So if you're looking to drive awareness to your business and be seen by the right people, here are Jo's no-cost ways to make your brand stand out.

1. Personalise your customer service

"The beauty industry is obsessed with personalised products but less so with personalising customer service. This is where indie brands have a distinct edge over bigger brands. You can get to know your customers, ask them questions, learn about them, engage and have a personal conversation. And why not send personal thank you notes or birthday cards? These personal touches will make such a difference to your customer engagement and will absolutely secure your brand's endorsement to that customer's friends and family."

2. Be brave and try new things

"Because your brand isn’t tethered to a corporate hierarchy and you are the chief decision-maker, you can test out new ideas and be bold with your messaging. You can take the risks that bigger brands can’t. And if the risk doesn’t work you can move on and try something else. Fortune favours the brave, so go forth..."

3. Go nano

"Park the idea of working with big influencers with their millions of followers because your first port of call will be to their agent who will forward on the influencer’s rate card. Go nano instead: search for influencers with 10,000 or fewer followers who are speaking to your customer and target them instead. A well-worded DM on their Instagram congratulating them on their feed and offering a product sample is professional and will deliver you support on their channels if you’ve picked your target wisely."

4. Piggyback news and trends

"A big brand has to go through a process to get a post approved on their Instagram channel whereas you do not. Use your advantage by checking what beauty topics and hashtags are trending on social media and in the news and create a credible story that links back to your brand and get it out there asap whilst the news is still hot."

5. Show your personality

"Inject colour into your storytelling and your communications and show people who you are. Whether that’s injecting some humour into your storytelling or taking people behind the scenes of your brand It will help customers to emotionally connect with you and your brand. People connect with people not with businesses."

6. Involve your customer

"If you’re creating a new product and can’t decide on the right name for it, ask your customers and followers to choose. Make customers part of the process by giving them your shortlist of names and asking them to pick their favourite. When that product launches they will already be heavily invested in its success."

7. Use your coolness

"Niche, indie brands are cool and editors and influencers all want to discover the cool brand that no-one knows about yet. Cast your net small – choose a handful of editors and influences that you think are 100 per cent on-brand for you and invest your time and energy engaging with them. Nurture those relationships and give them time to grow before casting the net wider. The mass PR approach of targeting everyone is over. The future is all about going narrower and deeper."

For more information or to sign up to one of Beauty Beat's online courses go to  beautybeat.co .