When considering the return on investment, or ROI, for your small business marketing budget, keep in mind that the internet reaches many more people than newspapers do. You might be set up in Charleston, but clients could be ordering your cloth diapers or handmade light fixtures from Dubai. How does this happen? There are lots of ways to get the most out of online marketing, many of which are free.
Although it costs money to sign up with a web host, services provided for a monthly fee will often include website design. It is always a good idea to create a good first impression on the web by having a skilled web designer create your page. Once your site has developed a reputation for being eye-catching but also sensibly organized, word of mouth will spread and customers will come calling (or emailing). But how do you get eyeballs onto this beautiful website you had created? Without proper search engine optimization, your online marketing efforts will fizzle. Although it would be altruistic for your company to provide the viewing public a beautiful website, the viewing public more than likely found you because they were searching for information. So optimization means you provide the search engine “spiders”, who crawl the web identifying what each page is about, the correct information that tells the spiders that, yes, our page is about ____________; you fill in the blank. We’ll call it Metal Wobblies for now. If you have done this correctly, then any customers wanting to buy Metal Wobblies enters the search term, the spiders have already identified that your page is about Metal Wobblies, only about Metal Wobblies, and all about Metal Wobblies, and guess what? There you are on the first page of the search engines for Metal Wobblies. See how easy small business marketing is?
Other free online marketing tools include social media sites. We all know it’s important. But very few of us know how to apply it to our small business marketing efforts online. The great thing is that Twitter, Facebook, Digg and others allow consumers to post their news and promotions for free. It is hard to find a company that does not have a Facebook page or a link to Twitter these days, and there is a good reason for this. It is a way to acquire ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ who pass your company name on to their ‘friends’ online. Writing a blog is also a simple way to get your message across. Use WordPress or a similar system, often supplied by your web host for little or no extra cost. Here you can write short articles using search engine optimized terms to increase your chances of appearing on search engines when internet users type in their “terms of curiosity”. What are your customers curious about that your business would be glad to supply them with?
If you want to focus your small business marketing on a certain region, consider local online marketing strategies such as posting details with city websites. These carry business information and/or local events and update an easy-to-use calendar that individuals easily browse. There might be a cost, but your company name will gain exposure in your town where word spreads fast.
Before a small firm obtains a web host or a social media account, it is important that a company create an online marketing plan. This starts in a ledger or with special software, leading to a budget for money and time. Even though Facebook et al. are free, they are still time-consuming if they are to be used effectively. There are companies who you can see are making an effort at maintaining a social presence but instead it looks more like High Noon in Hadleyville with Gary Cooper looking for a friend – someone, anyone, who will friend them, like them, +1 them, retweet them. (Don’t be that company.) It really makes sense to hire an expert who knows the in’s and out’s of social media and small business marketing, and who will know how to bring your fans running. They can do it all, on all social media sites, or since this is about how not to break the bank, they can concentrate on one type of social media – Facebook, for instance – and make a fan page for your business of which you will be proud. That’s small business marketing without breaking the bank.
See what the Wall Street Journal has to say.