Are you a company that has a low advertising budget? If so, there are a variety of fairly new low-cost advertising and promotional tools that you can use. If you have a business and you want to expand your territory but cannot afford to plant stores all around, you can take advantage of the Internet’s many free or low-cost tools.
Nearly everyone in business is on the Internet now, and they enjoy the convenience and ease of buying from or learning more about your business online. Give your customers what they want by having a sound presence online.
Establish your website. Your website needs to have easily navigated layouts, be filled with useful and interesting information and be free of junk or unhelpful things. Avoid using anything that will discourage a customer from lingering; some upfront paid advice from a web designer can be well worth it and will pay itself back in no time.
- Besides just information about your business and your sales basket, what else can you offer? Think of adding articles, individual stories about staff and company events, how-to information using your products or services, lessons learned anecdotes, freebies such as downloadable craft tutorials or a free ebook, etc. Be generous and your customers will be impressed, checking back regularly for more.
- Submit your website name to many website directories. You can search the Internet for free website directories and you will find quite a few links to places where you can advertise.
Use pay per click advertising. Advertising online has a large reach and is the way many sites thrive or even survive online. You can set a price that you would be willing to pay every time someone clicks on an ad that you write. You only have to pay this when someone clicks on your ad. If no one clicks on your ad, you do not have to pay. These ad formats allow you to set up a daily advertising budget and you have the freedom to cancel and restart your ads any time you want.
- Use ‘sidebar ads’. These display ads while people are playing games. Consider also expanding into ads on apps for smartphones and electronic tablets.
- Use Google ads on the side of your Google bar. If you type in something, then it will come up on the right side of your search results as small ads.
- Be considerate about placement of ads on your website and be careful about the types of ads you’re willing to have shown on your website. Do you really want your competitor’s ads showing up?
Use YouTube to promote your business. Perhaps one of the most popular and creative way to show more information about your business is to use videos. Some examples of how to do this include:
- Upload a video of your company, and put on as many links as you can from all sorts of topics so as many people as possible see it.
- Videotape launches and other public events promoted by your business so that clients who couldn’t make these events are still able to catch up on what happened.
- Video how-to information related to your business, so that when someone is looking how to solve a problem your business has knowledge of, they find your video answer and learn more about you. Self-help videos on common, basic problems can be a great way to show your business’s sharing side and to garner interest from potential new customers.
- Create an ongoing storyline showing customers using and enjoying your products or services. This may require a little more work but stories rope people in and they’re far more likely to remember your business if there’s a regular mini soap opera to tune into!
4. Participate in forums and blogs. This is one way to help promote your product or services, showing yourself as an expert and as someone who genuinely wants to help resolve people’s problems. Often you can do this for free. However, this option has one huge caveat––be sure to post in forums that are website promotion friendly if you intend on using your URL or emblazoning the post with your business details. Not all blog sites or forums allow promotion blog or forum posts and breaching this could see your business blocked and even badmouthed. In some cases you may have to pay a fee to advertise on their sites but usually you do not. In many cases, simply stating that you’re the founder/owner/director/community manager, etc. of a certain site can be sufficient to alert people to the good your company is doing online. Let them do the rest of the adding up and finding of you––consumers are intelligent.
5. Use email marketing. You can create lists of customers, or potential customers that you can keep in touch with on a regular basis. However, be aware that many recipients regard this as spamming and may complain. Always seek to get the agreement of customers to be emailed first, and always take into account spamming laws, which detail that you’re not allowed to send people information they do not want. It makes good business sense to only send information to people who want to hear about your products or services and not to those who do not. These e-mailings can all be sent out in bulk, as if you were sending them through postal mail.
- Spend a lot of time making emailed information worth the recipient’s time. Prepare a newsletter filled with useful information about living life in general, or with humorous anecdotes, etc.; don’t just email updates about your business and marketing pitches. Be subtle!
6. Get on Facebook if you’re not already there. Even if your business does have a Facebook account, make sure it is optimized to get the most from it. Use Facebook ads, updates and Fan pages to keep fans posted on your business happenings.
- As a business, just be careful to get your business a Facebook Page and not a Profile; profiles are for individual people only and they are limited in what you can do as a business. Moreover, if Facebook discovers you using a profile as a business, you stand to lose the whole profile and all the friends your business has accrued.
- Keep updates relevant and interesting. Don’t just talk about your business though; share anecdotes, news items, comments about things seen on fan’s pages, images, etc.
- Hold little competitions for customers to win small prizes. For example, if your business makes eco-friendly items, have fans answer a quiz or send in photos of themselves doing something sustainable in order to win one of your eco-products. Follow up with a photo of the winner holding your product; make use of every opportunity to interact with fans online. Do not involve Facebook buttons such as “Like”, “Share”, and “Tag” as part of any contest though; this is against Facebook terms of service.
- For more ways to make the most of a Facebook page as a business, see How to leverage your Facebook business page to boost profits and brand awareness.
7. Take your business to Twitter. Get a good Twitter handle for your business and start tweeting updates. However, remember that Twitter is a conversation, not just a place to push your products or services. Be sure to instruct employees to interact with online fans.
- For a small business, the best policy is to cover what’s expected of online interaction, then ask your employees to use their best judgment when using an aggregated Twitter account. This builds trust and self-monitoring and will help to keep the flow of conversation going well for your business. The only exception to an aggregate Twitter account is for an employee you don’t trust. In which case, why don’t you trust this person? Does this person really belong on your team or is it simply a case that they’ve a lot to learn yet? Be honest with yourself.
- Seek insight from those following you. Ask them questions to find out what they want from your business, whether it’s more, something different or for your business to stop doing something. These insights are invaluable information and are part of the conversation flow.
- Encourage sharing of your Twitter information by making it interesting and worth people’s while. As well as business information, share a few random fun things too, like photos, inspirational messages and charity efforts your business is involved in.
- Add tweets to your website so that customers can see real time what is getting tweeted about your business.
- You don’t need to be sitting around tweeting all day. Use a tweet schedule service like TweetLater or Hootsuite to schedule your tweets to appear when you’d like them to, all while you’re doing other things. This lets you take advantage of different time zones around the world too. If you ask for email digests, you can check these in good time and respond to someone who has tweeted, sooner rather than later, if needed. Moreover, email digests allow you to track trends and topics on Twitter that are of importance to your business.
8. Become a part of Pinterest. Pinterest has created an platform for visual social media input and your company can make the most of this by feeding in well taken photos of your business products and other relevant images. Make them interesting, compelling and shareable though; some creative effort will need to be put into the photos to make Pinterest users want to share the photos around. As with any advertising, focus on what makes your products interesting and desirable and try to capture that in photographs.
- Crowdsource using Pinterest. A creative way to get the crowd to promote your products for you is to ask your Pinterest followers to pin pictures of themselves holding, using or standing near a product of yours. Re-pin these onto your “beloved customers” (or some such) board. This gives your customers the chance to feel that they’ve been noticed and cared about and it also tells future customers that people use your products––and love them!
- Encourage your employees to pin pictures from your website or of official events to spread among their friends. Ask that they include a socially relevant comment to help engage others looking at the pinned photo or image but don’t direct them; they’re more likely to know what to do innately than any directives could ever establish!
9. Go on Google+ Business Pages. A more recent stream of consciousness in the world of social media, your business really should be here as well as on Twitter and Facebook. It’s still unfolding and this is a niche time to establish your business’ presence. Join groups, share photos and information and link up with your customers in Google Hangouts.
10. Use SurveyMonkey to get much needed insights for your business. You can link to surveymonkey surveys using your website, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. And get this––almost every person loves a survey. Ask people directly what they want and you’ll find out in no time.
- Ask for feedback on products, services and promotions. Be prepared for honesty!
- Keep the survey short and interesting.
11. Keep social media interactions meaningful and considerate. Social media is a great tool for businesses but it can also be misused and create follower fatigue, unlikes and unfollows and general annoyance if misused. As part of this:
- See your fans and followers as people first, customers second. Make that vital connection as human-to-human because this is what online social media acolytes expect and they’re far from impressed from a business that assumes superiority. Befriend people, follow them and take an interest in them as much as you expect the same back. Interact and talk the talk with them; don’t simply assume that because you’re selling something that they want that that is all you need to do online.
- Provide meaningful content that matters. What you share, say and produce online must have resonance for your followers and not be a slavish reproduction of “buy our product”. Link with people and organizations that your brand should be linked with and share their content around too, and converse with them openly online.
- Be knowledgeable rather than jumping on bandwagons. Hashtags on Twitter and Facebook campaigns can be compelling. But do they match what your brand is trying to say? Often it’s better to wait until all the facts are out before throwing your weight behind a cause that simply springs up online overnight.
- While it is important to trust those of your employees who are representing you on social media, be sure that they “get” what it means to connect and interact with others online. Don’t force employees to do it if they’re uncomfortable or show any signs of irritability or cynicism. Your business cannot afford rudeness or faux pas caused by lack of motivation.
- Learn from errors made using social media and online resources. Mistakes will happen and your business will recover from them. Learn the lessons these incidents teach you and don’t repeat them.