14 Big Online Marketing Ideas for Businesses on a Small Budget


Most businesses are on a tight budget, especially when it comes to marketing. Times are hard and many companies don’t have a lot of money to invest on advertising and marketing.

The irony is, not marketing your business will have a detrimental effect on your business.

One local business owner called Tom who owns a fireplace store has just put a closing down sign in his store window because nobody is visiting his store and he says he can’t afford to advertise any more.

This year alone he has spent over $6000 on advertising in his local newspaper with expensive one time ads and it was a total waste of time and money.

Although it is sadly too late for Tom, the good news for other companies who are still in business is that online marketing is not only much cheaper but it is far more effective than traditional methods of marketing plus you can easily track the success of each marketing campaign that you launch.

Here are some big marketing ideas for businesses on a small marketing budget:

1. Optimize your website for the search engines:

This is one of the first things you need to put on your ‘to-do’ list.
Why? Because Google is not only the most popular search engine on the Internet but it is also your business’ best friend.

Google and the search engines want you to rank high in the search results. If their clients are searching for a product or service that provide, it is Google’s job is to tell them about your business.

However, you have to make it easy for them by optimising your site. This need not be expensive at all and yet will one be of the best investments that you could ever make. The return will be phenomenal as customers far and wide discover your company online.

2. Google Plus Local

While we are on the subject of Google, we can’t miss out Google+ Local. As mentioned in the previous marketing tip, Google really is on your side and it wants to help your business be found. They make sure that if potential customers are looking for a product or service that you provide, Google wants to make sure that its results are totally relevant and your company appears in the listings.

As a result, search results are becoming much more local and personalized and companies who claim their Google Plus Local Page and optimise it properly get the best rewards.

3. Start a Blog

No matter what type of business you are in, you can still have a blog. In case you don’t know what a blog is, it basically stands for ’web log’ and they’re effectively online diaries.
If you are going to create a blog for your company you need to do the following:

Host the blog on your own domain. E.g. YourBusinessWebsite.com/blog

Anyone can set one up, that’s the easy part. Thinking of something interesting to say each time you blog is the tricky bit. You need to write good content that will be interesting for your visitors and customers. People won’t thank you if it’s just going to be one long sales pitch.

Create a community and make your visitors feel part of it by responding to each blog comment. If you do, the more people will be inclined to read and comment on your blog more often.

4. Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are all popular sites that you can’t ignore. By creating a profile on each of these sites, you will not only create new opportunities for potential clients to find you but they will also be excellent sources of traffic.

Local businesses that use social media sites like these, almost always see a significant increase in monthly traffic. The part that excites them the most is the fact that it is completely free. All it costs is a little of their time but the results are well worth it.

By investing a bit of time and effort providing good content that is relevant to your audience and interacting with your followers you will soon build a loyal following. This will raise your online company profile and make your site easier to find in the search engines.

“You can no longer afford to ignore social media marketing.

In 2012, 85% of marketers found that social media generated more
exposure for their business. ”

5. Case Studies and testimonials

If you already have happy customers who love your product or service why not get a testimonial or case study from them?

Case studies and testimonials are a perfect way to get brand new customers because they build credibility and give the potential customers the confidence to try your product or service knowing that other people like it. They will be less inclined to buy if they don’t see any testimonials or reviews.

The secret is to get your customer to talk about your product or service, how they used it, and they results that they got.

Most customers will be happy to do this if you ask them.

You could also provide feedback forms on your website. Online customers are used to and conditioned to leaving reviews. They are a great way to get more people interested in what you have to offer.

6. Write a free ‘Beginners Guide’ for customers to download

No matter what kind of business you are in, you can get a lot more business by writing a free Beginners Guide. It is an excellent marketing technique.

They are an excellent way to get a lot of traffic to your site and increase the interest in your product or service.

Examples:

  • Beginners Guide to Choosing a Fishing Rod
  • Beginners Guide to Setting Up an iPhone 5
  • How to Choose a New Bathroom Suite
  • Choosing the Right Spectacles for You
  • Beginners Guide to Tiling

These kinds of free reports rank highly in the search engines and do a superb job of up-selling your products and services, as well as making you an ‘authority’ in your field. Customers will see that you know exactly what you are talking about and will decide to buy from you instead of your competitors.

7. Start an Affiliate Program

This is possibly the best marketing tip for any business on a tight budget.

By having a team of affiliates (individuals and companies who promote your products on their websites for a commission on each sale that they get) you get people marketing your product for free. There is absolutely no limit to the number of people that you can have promoting your services. In fact the more you have, the more likely you will make many more sales.

There are a lot of third party applications and plug-ins out there which make setting up an affiliate program easier. They will handle all of your sales and commissions. Feel free to contact us for more information and we will get you up and running in no time.

8. Answer Questions relating to your product or service

The internet is the first place people look to for answers if they have a question about a particular product or service.

They post their questions on discussion forums and question and answer sites like Yahoo Answers. If you can provide the answers to their questions relating to your products or services, you can attract a ton of brand new customers. It is a perfect free way to get more visitors to your website and gain credibility.

9. Go To Networking Events

Networking events are a great place to find new clients and all businesses should make it a practice to attend networking events if possible.

These are generally arranged by The Chamber of Commerce or global organisations such as BNI (Business Networking International). A quick search online will reveal a number of networking events in your area.

They work because you will always meet somebody who you can form a business relationship with. This will either be as a customer or as a useful contact to give your referrals or joint venture with.

10. Ask For Referrals

It is surprising how many companies don’t ask their customers for referrals. Why not? If you have satisfied and happy customers, you really should be asking for referrals as it a very effective way of getting even more happy customers.

Some people feel shy about asking and are afraid that the customer will turn them down. However, you will be surprised at how few customers actually will say no. If a large proportion of customers do refuse to introduce you to others, it might be a sign that you are doing something wrong and could be doing a much better job of making them happy, giving you something to work on.

For a pain-free way of asking for referrals, why not try this method; Look up your current customers on LinkedIn and see who they are connected with. If you think someone that they know can personally benefit from your product or service, ask them for an introduction.

Most, if not all will say yes, especially if you return the favor.

11. Harness the Power of YouTube

Companies are latching on to the importance of YouTube in their marketing campaigns. Not only do videos now appear in the search results, but you can also use videos to show how good your product or services actually are.

If, for example, you create stunning cakes, why not show a video of you making and icing the cake. Or if you are a painter and decorator, create a video showing the transformation of the room with a before, during and after video. Do you provide a lawn care service? If so, again, video the results.

There is no end to the things that you could video relating to your company. Even a tour around your company premises could be interesting to your customers.

12. Provide exceptionally good customer service.


The best way to keep a customer for life and to get them to tell others about your company is by providing exceptionally good customer service. By doing so, not only will customers be happy with their purchase but they will spend more of their hard earned money on your product or services in the future.

There has never been a more important time for your company to provide excellent customer service, especially as customers are more willing to tell others about their shopping experiences on their social networking sites and by leaving reviews, good or bad.

You want them to tell all of their friends about the great experience they had using your company.

13. Do some online PR

As you know, getting some good PR is a great free way to get people talking about your company. The more they talk about you, the more people will come to your website and check out what you are offering.

Most people think of PR coming from major media outlets such as radio and television. While this would be fantastic, it is not easy to get that sort of attention.

However, there are easier ways to get PR online which can be just as effective, especially if you have a targeted customer group.

Getting the attention of blog owners is one way of doing this, especially if it is a popular and attracts the sort of readers that you want to target.

You can email the blog owner, asking if they would like to interview you. As they are constantly looking for new topics to write about, many will be happy to interview you, especially if it is something that they think that their readers will benefit from.

14. A Crafty Twitter Technique

If you want more customers, here is a great suggestion to encourage people to promote your business for free AND build up a huge mailing list at the same time.

Here is the plan:

Offer a free downloadable report, or set up an exclusive password protected VIP Loyalty Group on your website or Facebook page where you will have special offers and discounts not available to anybody else.

People can get access to the report or VIP area by Tweeting about your product or service.

Once they have sent the Tweet, they notify you and you give them access to their prize.

How to Be Proactive When Building Online Reviews

Online reviews are a crucial part of any business because they act as a window that shows the public “how good” your business really is. This means you have to be pay close attention to what is being said about your business online because this will directly impact the number of consumers who will actually choose to do business with you.

If you have several positive reviews posted from satisfied customers, other people will want to experience those benefits for themselves. In fact, the more reviews you have, the better.

As a result, your sales will increase. So it is crucial that you set up, claim, and verify all of your local directory listings to open up different avenues for your customers to leave reviews.

This includes Google+ Local, CitySearch, YellowPages, InsiderPages, Yelp, SuperPages, MerchantCircle; among many others.

Once you set up these listings, more people will be able to:

  1. Find your business
  2. Leave reviews for your business
  3. See what others have to say about your business

You may be wondering “how” you should go about getting reviews from your customers… Simply ask them to go online and let others know what they think about your products or services. This should not be a daunting task and many would be happy to do so.

You can effectively ask for reviews through word of mouth, on your receipts, on your website, on your social media sites, and any other feasible method.

While your focus will be placed on getting positive reviews, keep in mind that some of your unhappy customers will also post their opinions about your products or services online; and that’s OK. A few bad online reviews are to be expected, but when they exceed the number of positive reviews, your reputation is at stake.

So it is critical that you stay up-to-date about what is being said about your business online. This way, you will have a chance to respond to any negativity, which will show people that you actually care about your customers.

Following just these few simple tips will help you protect your brand, generate fresh leads, and build loyal customers online.

How to Google+ Circles Can Grow Your Business

The main purpose of joining social media sites, such as Google+, is to grow your network, gain exposure, and generate customers for your business.

Google+ circles are great when it comes to creating brand awareness and building an audience for your online marketing presence. Circles are similar to “Likes” on Facebook and “Followers” on Twitter; it is used to build a network of people who are interested in your business, products, or services.

However, many people find that Google+ circles are more “user-friendly” than other platforms like Facebook. For instance, its “drag and drop” feature makes it quick and simple to add people into your circles.

Not only that, but you can create many different circles in Google+ and only add relevant people to each circle. As a business owner, it is recommended that you create separate circles for your business prospects, clients, employees, family – or any other segment that relates to your needs.

This makes sharing information a lot easier as it can be tailored only to those groups who have an interest in what you are sharing.

You can also create specific marketing campaigns to target specific circles.  The nice thing is that if you offer different types of products and services, you can create individual circles based around those specific things; allowing you to target even further.

Keep in mind that social media is about more than “selling” your products and services. It creates a way for you to “build relationships” with your target audience, which will in turn create more loyal customers over time.

By sharing helpful and interesting information with them, such as tips, videos, or photos, you can quickly build trust and authority status.

With good, valuable content, it won’t take long to find more people to join your circles because the people in your circles will recommend it to their friends, family, and other associates. Although it takes time to manage, growing Google+ circles is not hard for most people.

Due to the explosive growth of Google+, businesses can no longer ignore this amazing digital tool. With more than 170 users, it is a very powerful way to generate more exposure for your brand.

Effective Mobile Coupons – Cashing in on Mobile Marketing!

If you’re a texter, you know that sometimes 160 characters are just not enough to communicate what you want to say. Spilling over into a second text is no big deal when you are texting with friends and family, but when you are texting a mobile offer to a customer, this is a big no-no! A single text – 160 characters (including spaces) – is what you have to learn to work within to craft effective text offers that consumers will rush to redeem.

When you hear “mobile coupon,” do you picture a paper coupon with dotted lines around the edges, ready to be cut out? Most mobile coupons – in reality – are simply texts from businesses with a code to provide at check-out or when ordering food, a product or services that generate the discount promised.

When you write a mobile offer to send out over text, you are sending a mobile coupon. Within the 160 character limit, you have to convey who the message is coming from, what you are offering, the time limit for the offer and the offer code.

For instance, if you manage a pizza parlor, a text offer might go something like this:

Gianni’s Pizza is having a Monday Madness pie sale – $5 for a large 2-topping pizza – good today only 2 pm-10 pm – carryout only – discount code MONDAY5!

That’s 153 characters and it’s pretty good – it covers all the elements, but it can be improved – consider this instead:

Gianni’s Pizza’s Monday Madness pie sale is on. $5 for a large 2-topping pizza. Today from 2-10 pm. Carryout only. Use code MONDAY5 when ordering. 555-555-5555

This refined message is at 159 characters. By stripping out a few words and some punctuation, the text is more targeted and now includes the phone number which would be click-to-call to encourage on-the-spot ordering to take advantage of the time-sensitive offer.

By having the business name up front, you let them know who’s communicating with them – this is appreciated and will encourage them to read on and making the offer immediately lets them evaluate whether the offer is relevant for them. Next, giving the terms and limitations encourages them to act immediately if they are interested in the offer. Finally, providing a click-to-call number makes it very tempting for them to click to access the deal straight away. If they close the offer to look for your number, you’ll lose people who would otherwise have redeemed the offer.

This model is valid for any small business, whether you own a dry-cleaner, hair salon, yogurt shop or landscaping service. The components of an effective text message are the same, only the content relevant to your business will vary.

Once you start sending out mobile offers, you’ll learn which offers generate the highest redemption rates. If you approach your texting strategy like a science experiment, you’ll be able to most effectively hone your text writing skills. This means changing only one aspect at a time. For instance, if you send out a mobile coupon, be sure to keep the text to improve upon it.

Even if you get a good redemption rate, you can always tweak for better results. If your offer was a dollars-off coupon, consider trying a percent-off next time or a buy one-get one type of offer to see which type of discount engenders the best response from your customers. Then, you may want to tweak the time period your offer is valid for – same day offers may elicit a better response than a three day window – depending on your business – but you’ll never know unless you tweak.

When crafting your text message, brevity is key, but don’t use abbreviated lingo unless you have to – for instance “Call to order” is preferable to “Call 2 order.” When people scan texts, this can look like a typo or a spam message that can cause them to delete your message.

Mobile coupons are being redeemed at a rate 10 times higher than paper coupons and cost 1/50th the price of paper coupons. If you’re not using mobile coupons to increase revenues and profits, you’re leaving money on the table every day.

How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Business

With more than 100 million users, LinkedIn is among the most influential social media networks for business professionals today. According to LinkedIn press, more than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages, which shows that businesses all over the world are starting to see the power in this network.

LinkedIn provides the perfect platform for businesses to connect with other businesses, as well as potential clients or customers.

LinkedIn is not only for the big fish; it is equally useful and effective for small companies because it offers great tools, such as groups which assist in the much needed “networking” aspect of business.

Here are 3 reasons LinkedIn can be extremely effective for small businesses:

  1. Company Pages – Similar to Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn Company Pages allow businesses to set up a profile on the network. These profiles contain general information about business, such as their products, services, employee information, owner information, etc. Be sure to fill out all of the fields to give a thorough description about what your company and what it has to offer.
  2. Easy to Make Connections – All of the LinkedIn features, such as sharing, messaging, connections, and groups, make it easy for businesses to connect with others. In fact, it’s one of the best online sites available when it comes to “networking.” Unlike other social networking platforms that are all about connecting with “consumers,” LinkedIn is known for connecting businesses with “like-minded business owners.” Again, networking with fellow businesses in your industry – as well as other industries – can add a lot of value to your own company.
  3. More Search Engine Exposure – As you know, one of the most effective ways to capture the attention of local consumers is by coming up in the results for search terms related to your industry. LinkedIn pages are ranked in the search engines, which is another reason your business should establish a presence on this network. There’s no such thing as “too much” exposure, so LinkedIn is another web property you can utilize to gain more visibility in the search engines.

Mobile Websites Are No Longer Optional

The mobile web will soon be the dominant choice in internet usage, overtaking web browsing on PCs and laptops by next year. Given the clear supremacy and growth of mobile web browsing, it’s shocking to learn that 70% of businesses don’t have a mobile website.

Standard websites designed to be viewed on laptop and PC screens are incompatible for the smaller screens of iPhones, Androids and other mobile web devices. Even if your non-mobile website can be seen on a mobile device, that doesn’t mean it’s functional on a mobile device. Only 1% of standard websites will render on a mobile device.

Your standard website may feature high-resolution graphics, flash video and lots of interesting content. The very things that make your standard site so interesting are what will make it unusable as a mobile website. Most smart phones can’t play Flash programs, hi-res photos take too long to load and the volume of content will make the site slow to load and navigate.

Instead, you need to focus on the most critical information about your small business that a mobile web surfer needs. At a minimum, they need to know where you are, what you do, how to contact you and your hours of operation. For a mobile website, less is so much, much more!

Many of the best mobile websites launch with an opening screen that has just a few options that are large clickable buttons to easily navigate the user to the information they need including:

  • How to Find Us – clicking this can take your potential customer to a page where they can see your address, click for directions or click to activate their smart phone’s GPS function to automatically navigate to your establishment
  • When We’re Open – clicking this can take your potential customer to a page that simply lists your daily hours of operation – if there are holidays upcoming, you should also indicate whether you are open on the holiday as well as any days your hours will deviate from the standard
  • How to Reach Us – clicking this can take your potential customer to a page where they can click-to-call your business number, click to send an email to you or click to send a text to you – just be sure that whichever option they choose is monitored so you can communicate on the spot
  • What We Offer – clicking this can take your potential customer to a page that very briefly summarizes what you do, what you sell, what services you offers, etc.
  • Special Deals – clicking this can take your potential customer to a page that offers them an incentive in the form of a discount or freebie to sign up for your mobile texting list – this captures them on the spot and allows you to reach out to them again to encourage a transaction with your small business

Two other options to consider when prepping your small business website are social media links and an option to link to your full website. Consumers are very engaged in social media and if you have a presence on Four Square, Facebook, Twitter or other media sites, you should include links to your pages so they can follow you if they like.  Another option that many mobile sites don’t offer, but that may be desired is a link to your full website in case they want to browse all of your content.

No matter what, a mobile website, even a poorly executed one, is better than no mobile website at all. But it’s easier than you can imagine to set up a mobile website for your small business in just a few hours to get found on the mobile web and drive business to your establishment.

Offer an option to see use your full site

The Dark Side of Groupon

Is this a business killer?

First, it’s important to understand that this article is not actually focusing on Groupon specifically. Groupon just happens to be the most popular of the “daily deal” sites. Additionally, “The Dark Side of Groupon” is a better title than “The Dark Side of Daily Deal Sites.”

How These Sites Work

They offer a special deal which is generally a package with a discount of at least 50%. To the retailer they offer the opportunity to sell an amazing amount of goods or services within a short period of time. So far, so good, right?

Example:
Taking a quick look at Living Social (another daily deal site), I found the following offer for an Orlando carpet cleaner…

$39 for 3 Rooms of Carpet Cleaning, a $150 value.
They’ve already sold 82 in just a couple days. That’s about $3200 worth of sales in less than a week. Depending on the size of this business, that could be an amazing amount of work.

Of course, Living Social will take their cut. Surprisingly, this can be as much as 50%. Imagine that you’re this carpet cleaner – good news, you just got 82 new jobs, bad news; you’re doing them for $20 a pop.

Where’s the Value?

So why do daily deal sites work for those who are successful with them? The answer can be explained in two words – “repeat business.” This is the main selling point for using this kind of marketing tool. It can be very successful, but only if you have a few things together.

The Plan

First, you need to have a plan to deal with the influx of business, and handle it well. Your goal is to get positive word of mouth and repeat business from these customers. You are likely losing money on each ‘deal’ sold, therefore the whole value is in referrals and repeat business.

Second, you need to make plans for how to convert these bargain hunters into lifelong customers. Some of this goes to service; however, making sure you have a solid plan to keep in touch with your clients – new and old – is key.

Third, have a second special offer for them, right after they take advantage of the first. This can take some of the bite out of the first package, and will certainly lead to more repeat business.

Fourth, you need a plan for getting referrals from these new customers. You could run a promo such as this –

“You were smart enough to take advantage of this special through Groupon, now we’re going to give you a chance to share the same discount with you friends/family. Just send them the code 123, and we’ll give them the same deal you got.”

Just use your imagination as to how you can turn each new customer into more referrals. Additionally, you will get more referrals if you have a customer list where you deliver good information on a regular basis. This helps with top of mind awareness about your business.

Business Killer

It would be surprising if a few businesses have not closed their doors as a result of running one of these daily deal coupon offers. I imagine it goes something like this…

1) The business gets 100’s of sales for an offer they don’t have the capacity to fill in a timely fashion
2) The employees get overworked and start providing poor customer service
3) Instead of 100’s of new customers the business has 100’s of new people who have had a negative experience and are telling other people

It would be hard for any business to recover from a scenario like this.

It’s Just Marketing

It’s important to understand that this is just another form of marketing. It’s a simple business truth, marketing is an investment. It’s either a good investment or bad investment, depending on how well it works.

It’s easy to look at the daily deal offers and get the idea that this is different because you get money up front. It is different, but you still need to evaluate it based on the potential ROI. The difference is due to it being “event based.” You can’t ease into a daily deal promotion. Once you start, you’re stuck with the results. That’s why I feel it requires a lot of planning to make sure it’s a success for you.

Regarding the investment, remember that the discount is part of your investment. The carpet cleaner mentioned above is providing $150 worth of carpet cleaning for $39. This means each package carries an investment of $111 in services.

Note About Usage

A certain percentage of people who buy gift certificates won’t use them. In other words, some of the people who buy the $39 package above will take no action, yet you’ll still receive the $20 (after fees) without having to do anything. Of course, these people won’t become repeat customers, so it’s hardly the best case scenario. This can, however, offset the fees.

Opportunity Cost

With the information in this article, it’s easy to see how a daily deal for your business is likely to cost you $1000’s (as well as a large amount of time) in the short run with the goal of building repeat and referral business. This means the opportunity cost is represented by the other marketing efforts you could undertake using the same amount of time and money.

Recommendations

If you are considering using a daily deal site to promote your business, you’ll want to create a plan as discussed earlier. It’s also a great idea to contact other people in your industry who have used this tactic and see how it worked for them. If you don’t think your local competition would be honest with you, you could just check with people in other locations of comparable market size.

This strategy doesn’t need to be a business killer, however you should certainly consider it carefully.

UPDATE: I was speaking to a client about about this and he mentioned that he’d written an article all about these daily deal sites. It’s very interesting to get the perspective from a merchant who has used this promotional tool multiple times. Below is the link to his article.

Should you feature your business with Groupon? Advice from an experienced business owner.

Top of Google for $100 a Month

On several occasions I’ve had clients tell me that a telemarketer has called with this promise. “Pay us ($40, $100, 200, etc) per month and we’ll put your website at the top of Google. We have a special relationship with Google. ”

Is this a scam?

It’s generally not a scam in the strictest sense. They aren’t lying, but they do leave out a lot of important facts. Most of these places are using Adwords to promote your business. Adwords allows you to bid on a keyword (choose an amount are willing to pay per person who clicks through to your site) and therefore is called Pay Per Click advertising. Using this system, you can be at the top of Google (the sponsored listings show at the top and on the right), by just paying enough money.

Read moreTop of Google for $100 a Month

The Repetition Myth

If you’ve read many marketing books you know the huge number of times a potential prospect needs to be exposed to a marketing message before actually purchasing the advertised product or service. I was reading one of Jay Levinson’s books recently and he said that it takes 9 impressions before someone takes action. Furthermore he says only one in three attempts at making an impression are successful. This means you need to put your message in front of your prospect 27 times.

This got me thinking. Why does it seem like some people just instantly buy? Here’s my BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). The repetition has already taken place before you get there. In other words, through various sources that prospect has already heard many times how much they need what you’re offering.

The trick is tapping into an internal dialog that someone is having. Let me give you a totally self-serving example:

Fred the business owner knows he needs a website. His clients keep asking him if he has one, and everywhere he turns he sees evidence that this is a must. At the same time, he keeps having the same discussion in his head, “Yeah I know I need a website, but I can’t afford it.” Now I come along with a simple marketing message, “Basic Websites Under $500” This instantly presents a potential solution (a scratch for an itch) that he has had for a long time.

If you can craft the right marketing message, the repetition has already been done. You only need to delve into what your customers really need and want, and tap into that inner dialog.