Online Marketing Ideas on a Budget
By Tim Capper
Whether you’re the owner of a startup company or you’ve been in business for a while, chances are that you’re looking to cut costs. Who wouldn’t want to save money, so long as it didn’t have a negative affect on their business? Thanks to technology, free tools and social media, marketing has never been cheaper, but be mindful of cheaper and useless.
Here are several ways that you can market your business effectively without breaking the bank.
List Your Business on Review Sites
Today’s consumers research practically any business they’re considering before deciding to become a customer. Whether they’re looking for a dog walker or a new dress, they’re going to turn to online reviews to see what other people are saying about your company. Not only do you need to be listed on the review sites that customers frequent, but you also need to try your best to control the messages about your business that are out there. Luckily, doing both won’t cost you much at all.
Create listings for your business on the top review sites: Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List and Yahoo Local. Simply being on these review sites will help customers find you – your organic search rank will improve and people will be able to search on the site itself for your type of business.
Simply setting up these profile isn’t enough, though. First, you need to let your customers know where they can leave reviews about your business. The more positive reviews your business has, the more your potential customers will trust you. Secondly, you need to monitor these reviews sites. If you notice complaints, questions or negative comments, do your best to kindly and professionally reply to them publicly. A negative review isn’t nearly as bad as a business that doesn’t make an attempt to appease unhappy customers.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
There are numerous ways to create and maintain a presence on social media. If you’re just starting out, pick the two social media accounts that are most relevant to your business. Once you’ve created profiles on those platforms and have gotten a marketing strategy down pat, you can add additional platforms if you want to. For example, if you have a visual-heavy business, you’ll want profiles on Instagram and Pinterest first and then you can wait to setup a profile on Twitter. Here are a few ways to use social media to market yourself and your business:
• If you’re on Facebook or LinkedIn, join groups related to your industry. When you offer advice about your industry, people will start to see you as an expert in your field. You’ll improve both your reputation and your sales.
• Use social media as a way to provide customer service. For example, you can create a Facebook group for your customers who need extra support for a new product.
• Advertise promotions with visuals. Every social media platform has a way to post graphics. When you’re running a special or offering a coupon code, show the offer visually, which is more appealing to customers that text-only messaging.
• Just like with review websites, you want to monitor mentions of your company on social media, too. There are a lot of free and low-cost listening tools available. When your company is mentioned, you’ll get a notification, giving you the opportunity to respond.
Give Customers Something for Free
Whether you’re trying to convert potential customers or you want to increase customer loyalty, everyone loves something for free. For new customers who may be on the fence about buying your product or service, give them a way to try it out for no risk. For example, if you provide website design services, give every potential customers a free 30-minute consultation. When customers can try something without committing to it, they’re more likely to trust your company and eventually make a purchase.
There are several ways to offer freebies for no cost to your company or for minimal cost. For example, swag like branded pens and bumper stickers don’t cost much, but they can easily be given to customers as an add-on when they make a purchase. Digital products are even easier to give out. Create a digital product, like a gift guide or white paper, and let people download it for free when they signup for your mailing list. Even something as small as a shout-out to customers on social media for sharing your posts is a freebie that people love to see.
Get Into Blogging
Blogging is a great way to increase organic search results and get your company information out to your audience. There are a number of ways to take advantage of blogging:
• Connect with an influencer in your industry and ask to contribute a guest post. Include your business name and a link to your website in the post.
• Co-sponsor a contest with another company that complements yours. The contest information will be on both of your websites, which increases its reach. There are also a number of contest websites that you can submit yours to.
• Add social sharing to your blog posts. For example, if you have a WordPress website and blog, look for a free social sharing plugin. Whenever somebody reads your blog post, they’ll have the option to share it with their audience, which will extend your reach.
• Comment on other industry blogs. Don’t just say something simple like, “Great blog post!” though. Make your comments useful, interesting and insightful. If possible, answer another commenter’s question. Every comment you leave can have a link back to your website. When people see that you know what you’re talking about and that you have useful information to offer, they’ll be more inclined to visit your website to learn more about you and your business.
More Inexpensive Ways to Market Your Business
• In addition to commenting on industry blogs, signup for industry forums, where people are truly looking for feedback, advice and help.
• Create an account with Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where you can connect with reporters who will give free press for your business.
• Write testimonials for other businesses that somehow relate to your business. Some companies will take a closer look at your business and maybe even give you a testimonial in return.
• Create a newsletter or drip campaign with low-cost e-mail services, like MailChimp. You only pay for plans based on how many subscribers you have. For new companies that are just starting out, you can stick with a free plan until you build up your mailing list.
When you can’t afford a full-time marketer to work on your behalf and you want to get the most bang for your buck (or get away without spending a dime), low-cost marketing methods are the way to go.
This article has been written for e-Commerce series of webinars