How to use the internet to market your business ……even if you have a tight budget
The way you choose to market your business can affect everything from the way your brand is perceived, to the customers you reach, and how well you do. In fact without being able to reach your customers – and potential customers -you probably won’t have a business for long.
However, marketing in the traditional sense can be very expensive and businesses can blow thousands, even millions on advertising and marketing campaigns.
Most small to medium sized businesses don’t have large advertising budgets to play with and have to make every penny count.
The internet not only makes marketing a much cheaper option but it even allows you to reach a global audience almost on a shoestring.
There are so many online low-cost advertising and promotional tools at your disposal which give your business incredible opportunities that weren’t available a few years ago. No matter who your target customers are, it is more than likely that they will be net savvy and are used to buying and searching for products and services that they want to buy.
As a business owner, it is vital that you have a good online presence because if they can’t buy from you they will go elsewhere.
Here are some basic tools and resources that you should be using to market your business on the Internet and reach a brand new audience:
1. Set up your own website:
It may sound obvious but it is surprising just how many local bricks and mortar businesses still don’t have a website.
It is so easy to do and is not expensive. You could create your own website or you can pay a company like ours to set it for you. A website is the fraction of the price of traditional offline premises and yet it is open 24 hours a day and can be seen by anybody from anywhere in the world.
It is important that your website to have a nice clean layout and is easy for your customers to navigate round. It should be filled with useful and interesting information and be a place where customers will want to stay and not be in a hurry to leave.
Be generous and think what you can offer your visitors to make them want to stay on your site and buy from you.
Add helpful articles and how-to information about your products and services. Help your visitors get to know you by telling them about you, your employees and company events and news. Offer freebies like downloadable reports or money-off coupons.
If you can show your customers that you care and value them they will be impressed and reward your generosity by remaining loyal to you and returning to buy from you again and again.
Over time your site will get ranked highly in the search engines and you will receive many more customers from people searching for products and services that you provide.
This really is one of those occasions where having advice from a professional web designer is really a good investment and will pay for itself many times over in next to no time.
2. Use YouTube to market your business:
YouTube is not just for watching videos of piano-playing cats or people doing silly pranks. It is an extremely important marketing tool and almost every major business uses it to market their brand, because it works.
So how can your small business use YouTube to attract thousands of new visitors every day?
There are many creative ways such as these:
• Create how-to videos to show customers how to use your product or service.
• Introduce members of your staff to create authenticity and loyalty.
• Use videos to answer Frequently Asked Questions or comments from your visitors.
• Give visitors a virtual tour round your premises.
Contact us for more innovative ideas. It is one of the best ways to engage with your customers and ensure that many more people visit your site and buy from you.
3. Use Pay-per-click advertising:
While it is your aim to get ranked highly in the search engines where potential customers find you easily simply by typing in the relevant keywords relating to your business, pay-per-click is the perfect way to give your marketing a kick-start.
Considering how many potential customers you can reach by advertising in the search engines, it is relatively cheap and easy. Not only that, but you are in complete control on how much you actually spend.
You simply set a price that you would be willing to pay whenever someone clicks on your ad. You only pay if somebody clicks on your ad. If they don’t click on it, you don’t pay.
This ad format allows you to set a daily advertising budget so you are never stung with a nasty bill. What’s more, you have the freedom to cancel and restart your advertisement whenever you want and it is highly targeted only to those people who are actively searching for your products or services.
4. Participate in forums and blogs:
This is a very effective way to help market your products or services. It allows you to present yourself as an expert in your field and as someone who genuinely wants to solve people’s problems by providing a solution.
Although this is free in most cases, you need to first establish that the forum or blog will allow you to post links back to your website for the solution.
It certainly pays to do your homework first, by locating which forums and blogs your target customers visit and then patiently observe how others respond on the forum. If you discover that the forum/blog owner allows business links then you will find that it is a very effective way of marketing and telling people about the great service and products that you promote by providing genuinely helpful advice and suggestions.
5. Promotion made easy with email marketing
You might be familiar with the phrase: ‘The money is in the list’. It’s true. Email marketing is an efficient, fast and cost effective way to promote your product, service, event or special promotion.
You can create lists of customers, or potential customers by encouraging them to give you their name email address and this will allow you to keep in touch with them on a regular basis.
Some businesses worry about email marketing because they wonder if it will annoy their customers and view their emails as spam.
If the emails were unsolicited this would definitely be spam and under no circumstances should you ever do this.
However by encouraging your visitors to opt-in to your mailing list themselves, they are giving you their permission to contact them and are actually requesting news and updates from you.
It is well worth investing time making the email worth your reader’s time. Think about the email you would like to read if you were them. They don’t want to receive the hard sell in endless sales pitches.
Prepare a simple newsletter filled with useful information and include news about your new products and services. Give anecdotes and experiences of how the product or service can improve their lives or solve a particular problem.
Despite it being one of the most effective means of marketing it can also have the power to turn people right off you and your company if you handle it wrong. If this is something that you are worried about, please contact us for advice first. Once you have learnt how to master email marketing you will discover that it is one of the most profitable and rewarding marketing strategies that you will ever use.
6. If you are not already on it….get on Facebook.
With over a billion users, the chances are that your customers and potential customers are already on Facebook. Your business should be there too.
Use Facebook Ads, updates and Fan pages to keep fans posted on your business happenings.
The whole point of being on Facebook is to engage with your existing and potential customers so it is vital that you keep your updates relevant and interesting. Don’t just talk about you and your business. Facebook users do not go on Facebook to read sales pitches.
Instead, share anecdotes, news items and comments about things you have seen on fans pages. Ask for options, share images and hold competitions for customers to win small prizes.
For example, if you sell hair products have fans answer a quiz about your products or get them to post photographs showing their hair after using your products. Winners would receive a free bottle of shampoo or conditioner.
Follow up with a winner holding your product. The idea is to make use of every opportunity to interact with your fans online.
7. And while you are at it…take your business to Twitter
Choose a snappy Twitter username related to your business and start Tweeting updates. Twitter is a conversation and not just a place to push your products and services. The conversation often moves faster than Facebook posts.
Try to imagine Twitter to be like a steady flowing river. Whenever you post, your message makes a bit of impact then gently flows away and more posts take its place. Not all of your followers might see your post so that is why it is a good idea to post often and regularly.
Your Twitter posts should build trust and be interesting to your Twitter followers. As well as business information share some fun things too like photographs, inspirational quotes and messages as well as re-tweeting some of the posts that your followers make.
A good tip to get more people to see your posts is to link your website to your Twitter feed so that more of your customers can see the Tweets that you have made.
It is not necessary to sit around all day Tweeting. There are lots of tools that you can use that will allow you to schedule your Tweets at specific times while you are doing other things like running your offline business.
8. Become interesting on Pinterest
The internet is much less word based and is more visual. That is one of the reasons why Pinterest has caught the public’s imagination and is such a popular social media platform.
Your company can make the most of this by feeding in gorgeous shots of your business and products.
Make the images interesting and attractive so that your visitors will want to share them.
As with any sort of advertising, focus on what makes your products unique and interesting. Make the item or service desirable and try to capture that in your photographs.
9. Set up a Google+ Business Page
Google+ (or Google Plus) is the search giant’s answer to Facebook. It might not have the numbers to dominate Facebook but its user base is still huge.
Due to Google’s dominance of search on the Internet it is very useful for businesses to maintain a Google+ presence.
Think of Google+ as the glue that holds all Google products (Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube etc) together. It is socialising the whole Google experience and helps you to build, brand and improve search engine rankings and form relationships with your clients using Google+.
Join groups, share photos, information and link up with your customers in Google Hangouts.
10. Use Surveymonkey to glean valuable information that your business can use:
If you need a way to learn more about your customers, validate ideas with potential customers, or make sure you’re delivering what your existing customers want, then a survey is a great tool.
SurveyMonkey is perfect for keeping an eye on the pulse of your customers. In general people love surveys and to be asked their opinion. Ask people what they want or what they think about your product or service and they will be quick to tell you.
Ask for feedback on your products, services and promotions. Remember to keep the survey short and interesting – and be prepared for honesty!
You can link to Surveymonkey using your website, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account.
For more effective online marketing strategies that will help your local business to thrive online and reach a brand new audience why not download our Internet Marketing Magazine. Our monthly magazine’s subscription is FREE and will benefit small business owners and entrepreneurs to learn the latest online marketing strategies. You will be glad you subscribed to IMMAGS.