Marketing tools and opportunities are more accessible and more affordable than ever for small businesses. But any marketing activity takes time and for the cash-strapped small business owner, time is money.
There are so many ways to do-it-yourself when it comes to marketing your business today - from social media and pay-per-click advertising to e-newsletters and events. However, cost-effective marketing is about testing and fine-tuning; and getting a measurable return on the time and money you spend on marketing.
Take a disciplined approachIt's tempting, when you don't have a lot of budget for marketing, to simply try things on the basis that anything is better than nothing. But lack of budget is not an excuse for scattergun marketing. Anything you do can and should be planned and measured.
So-called “free” marketing methods - such as social media - must be approached with discipline. That means you need to set objectives, monitor time spent and measure results. Thanks to analytics software, this is easy to do.
Know your limitsThe dilemma for many business owners, though, is when the DIY approach is actually less cost-effective than getting outside help. A professional website design, proper branding, strategic use of search engine optimisation - all these are jobs that business owners frequently try themselves before realising they need more expertise.
Specialist freelancers, such as here at LjH Consluitng, often provide the most cost-effective solution here.
Every business is different. With a wealth of ways to reach your audience, it's up to you, the business owner, to investigate which marketing methods will work best and to make sure they are delivering results - so your spend isn't wasted.
Nine cheap (or free) ways to market your businessThe internet is your gateway to millions of potential customers if you know how to advertise your business online. If you don’t, there are a lot of online agencies and consultants trying to get into your pocket by offering services that will promote your business
But the good news is that you can do most of this marketing yourself very cheaply or even for free.
Building a websiteIt may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Your business needs a website to be competitive online. Without a website you will be facing a constant uphill battle. It will only cost you a few pounds a year for hosting and a domain name; and with that you can generate customers and sales. The likes of Wix, WordPress and Go Daddy offer cheap or free website templates which can be used to build a simple website.
Search engine optimisationFree search engine traffic is tantamount to winning the lottery. If you are able to convince the search engines that your website is the most relevant site for your targeted keywords, you will experience a consistent stream of search engine traffic. With the right SEO strategy, this traffic can be converted into revenue. You can either do this optimisation yourself for free, or you can pay someone else to do it.
Content marketingA successful content marketing strategy will drive traffic to your website as well as help with search engine optimisation (SEO) - and it’s completely free. It can be labour-intensive to write regular blogs, articles and case studies; but all that work will bring rewards. A well-crafted content marketing campaign can significantly raise your ranking in search engines
Social networksWhatever business you are in, there's at least one social network for you. Increasingly, small firms are finding that image-based apps such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram are helping to build their brand and attract new customers.
And Twitter and Facebook still have the power to deliver an army of fans and followers. Social media allows you to interact directly with your online customers and the only cost is your time. You can target specific audiences and engage with them interactively in order to build profitable long-term relationships.
Online video sharing sitesIf you are able to produce some interesting videos that are related to your business, posting them on sites like YouTube and Vimeo could send you a steady flow of website traffic. These sites are free to use and the potential traffic gain from them is astronomical. Make sure that you submit more than one video to maximise your exposure.
Online photo sharing sitesOnline photo sharing is like online video sharing. If you have some photos that are relevant to your business, don’t be afraid to share them on Flickr. This will increase your website visibility and send more targeted visitors to your site.
Pay-per-click advertisingYou may think that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an expensive tool but you can control your costs with PPC and drive high converting traffic to your site. But you have to find the balance between cost and revenue; otherwise it can be a drain on your budget. It might seem like a good idea to pay for the top spot on Google, but if you aren’t converting enough sales it’s not worth it. The trick is to make sure you are getting a good return in investment with every PPC campaign.
Email marketingEmail marketing has been given a bad name by spam. But the difference between a legitimate marketing campaign and spam is that people will actually request emails that are legitimate. So how can you make your email marketing campaign legit? All you need to do is create an email list of prospects and customers to send regular emails to. Creating that list is a little more difficult; you have to persuade people to agree to be added to your mailing list. Once you have created your list, you can begin email marketing but it is important to allow your recipients to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
Local business listingsIf you are promoting a bricks and mortar company, you should be taking advantage of local business listings online. This will place your website on the front page of search engine results with similar local services when someone does a search within your area. This can be a great way to get a fledgling business in front of the eyes of thousands of potential customers in your area.
There are many different ways to get your name out there and you should use all of them. For cheap, or even for free, you can drastically increase your customer base by making the most of online marketing.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.