One of the biggest dilemmas for any new or small business is determining how to invest for marketing. For many new businesses, there is often not a marketing budget, because until the point of opening, the expenses have all been reserved for getting the business off the ground. As you get closer to opening, a bit of discouragement and insecurity starts to set in as you drive down the road and see the massive billboards of your competitors, see their commercials on TV, see their ads in the local circulations, get their mailers daily in your mailbox – or the dreaded Google search and see their website as a top result and as a sponsored link. “How am I ever going to compete with somebody so established and with such a large marketing budget?” The fear of falling into the shadows overwhelms you and visions of you shutting your doors begin to flood your mind. Great news! Creative and online marketing can not only be very successful, but it can be very affordable as well!
Step One: Create Online Local Business Listings and Social Media Profiles
A local business listing is essentially your business’ online profile that shows your business name and other important information for people to be able to find or contact you, such as address, phone number, hours, website, and other important information. With so many different online directories featuring FREE listings, the more you are listed, the more visible your business is to the public, increasing your chances of being found.
Listing your business on all of these directories can be very time consuming – not to mention, when you have to make an update, it’s important to update every single one so that there’s not conflicting information about your business online. MOZ.com features a single platform that allows you to enter your information once, and it updates all major data aggregators with your information, publishing you across all of the top local search directories. This one tool can save you hours of time making your initial listings, and will save you even more time when you need to make updates. Plus, it’s so affordable it won’t break even the smallest marketing budget.
Additionally, there are many different social media platforms that allow you to create a business profile. Some of the most popular are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Periscope. These social networks are free and are an additional way to be visible to your audience and offer a great opportunity to communicate directly with them. Take advantage of these free solutions, making sure they are consistent with your branding and that you update them regularly.
Step Two: Start a Blog
The idea sounds simple enough, and it is. The hard part is keeping the blog continuously updated. When a blog is regularly updated with new posts, you can expect these powerful results:
- Build customer loyalty. Customers and visitors are more apt to follow a regularly updated blog.
- Establish leadership and gain trust. Your website is constantly gaining new and vital rich content, setting you apart as leaders in your field,
- Receive higher search rankings. As search engines crawl the web, this informational content will contribute to higher search engine credibility which will help you appear higher in search results.
This leads us to:
Step Three: Optimize Your Website’s Content
It’s not only important to have a blog, but it’s vital to make sure the content within your blog posts are optimized for your target customers. A blog without optimization can be fairly useless, but an optimized blog is core to marketing that will convert visitors to customers. See our blog post “5 Best Tools for SEO” for more information on simple ways to get your website optimized efficiently and effectively.
Step Four: PPC
PPC or “Pay Per Click” is a method of advertising where the advertiser pays a fee each time an ad is clicked. Depending on the keywords you bid for, this can be affordable, or it can become very expensive with some more competitive keywords. The more advertisers that are competing for a specific keyword and the higher their marketing budget, the higher CPC (cost per click) you will pay to advertise.
While raw or organic SEO can contribute to free visitors, PPC also has its perks because you can quickly and easily target a very specific audience within precise locations. Facebook advertising, also a CPC model, can also be a great tool because you can get very granular with your target, such as gender, age, marital status, interests, behaviors, locations, and many other factors. A downside to PPC is that many tech-savvy users have trained themselves to block out or ignore sponsored ads and links.
Step Five: Email Campaigns
Email marketing is a major cost savings tool when part of an online marketing campaign. Once you begin building a list of emails from visitors or customers, you can specifically and strategically establish automated email campaigns to target their behaviors and actions on your site – plus, did we mention it’s very cheap compared to the alternatives! Traditional mailers can be extremely expensive to produce and mail. The chances of consumers actually reading this and not tossing it directly in the trash are pretty bleak these days. According to this HubSpot article, direct mail can cost up to 100 times as much to produce and send. In this article’s campaign example, direct mail-only campaigns returned $27 for each $1 spent. The same email campaign resulted in $2,600 for each $1 spent, making email 95x times better in terms of ROI (return on investment).
Utilizing email marketing to keep your customers informed with updates, sales and new products is not only effective but extremely affordable and convenient. There are several different platforms that can help you manage your email campaigns and make them look great at the same time such as MailChimp, Emma and SalesForce. Most of these types of services are free up to a certain amount of email sends or contact records, but they offer paid plans with more robust features as well.
What about that marketing budget? What’s next?
If you follow these steps with your strategic research, planning and optimization, you can greatly reduce your marketing costs, making a marketing budget a foreseeable goal. Once you are ready to take it to the next level, it would be very advantageous to seek the consultation of an online marketing expert. Marketing for yourself can produce great results, but at the end of the day, you will want to be so busy running your business that you will not have the time to constantly update online marketing campaigns like the experts do. At this point, you can reach out to an expert to help you reach your full online marketing potential and further maximize your marketing budget.