Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Promoting a new online business on a limited budget.

Getting leads and promoting your business with a limited ad budget.

So you're launching a new small online business, and you have limited promotional funds. Promotion is vital to your new business, because it leads to lead generation which leads to customers which leads to revenue and profits.

The Gift which keeps on Giving:
Search Engine Success will Drive Growth 24/7/365.
My advice is fairly simple, and it doesn't cost a lot of money... if you do it right... just some quality thinking, actions and some of your time.

1. Get Found on Organic Search Engine Results:
This means you need to rank on Google and BING and other search engines. Your website and webpages must be SEO friendly and content must be focused and relevant to your target market. If your business is local, then make sure your content references location. Sign up with Google for free local listings. Get quality websites to link to you if possible and avoid black-hat tactics. Then monitor results and keep trying if your pages are not showing up on page one search results for search terms you want. Benchmark against webpages that rank higher than yours, and make an effort to understand what needs to be done to raise your own page ranking. Organic Search success takes time and persistence but can yield huge rewards for your business. 
Target local search results for maximum success, especially if your business is targeting a geographic area like a city, county, or neighborhood.  
Cost: FREE (not including initial website development and content management costs)

2. Take Advantage of Social Media:
Social Media is evolving and growing quickly, and is another powerful tool... if used wisely. Social Media takes time and effort to make an impact. Understand your target market and gear your efforts to get their attention. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and others offer free ways to establish your brand and service. You can also run ads. Focus on getting these social media sites linked with your main website and blogs. Add social 'share' and 'follow' buttons on your web and blog pages. Then promote the sites and gain friends, contacts, follwers, etc. Patience is important with Social Media as progress can be slow and even random, but when you hit critical mass it will directly benefit your business. Go easy on propaganda and overt promotion or you'll lose your audience. You're enticing visitors to visit your business website, the sell should be professional and low-key.
Cost: Mostly Free

3. Blogs:
They are mini-websites and they are free, and they are powerful. They can easily rocket to high rankings in organic search if the topic and niche is focused. Create niche blogs that feed to your main website and each other. Each blog should be unique on the topics and subjects they cover... and ideally done in a professional  and neutral manner - - content should attract readers, and don't subject them to 'advertorials'. Cross-Link your main website to this 'solar system' of blogs which orbit your main site. 
Cost: FREE

4. Paid Search Ads:
OK, this is not free, but it can be very effective and cheap! Open up Google Adwords and BING paid search accounts. Focus on your key search terms and try them out in very focused campaigns and ad-groups. You can limit your daily spend, you have total control of your costs. You can limit the campaigns to specific locations - - geographical areas, even cities, and languages, time-zones, etc. Paid search can cost you just a dollar a day if you  want. But results are immediate and help fill gaps in your organic search results. Display ads on 3rd party websites broaden your ad reach by a large amount.... and your added costs can be just pennies a click. With Google, you will also get FREE access to Google Analytics, which when loaded on your main website can provide you great visitor tracking, search term research, understanding and insight into your website.
Cost: You Decide

5. Email:
Use of email to qualified and targeted individuals, when done professionally, can produce another stream of leads and business. To avoid spamming issues, it is important to follow best practices, including clear opt-in and opt-out options. Segment your email lists so that you can better tailor your emails. Always include links back to your website and/or blogs. Clean up your email lists on a regular basis. Use a professional 3rd party email provider to send out the emails, such as Constant Contact, to help look professional, avoid being banned as spam by IT managers at your targeted companies. Review your email campaign stats to improve openings and click-throughs. Produce, or have produced for you, professional looking emails and newsletters in .html format which can survive various email server filters and format compatibility issues. Avoid spam-like behavior at all costs.
Cost: Variable

These five tactics; organic search, social media, blogs, paid search, and email, can bring very lucrative results to even the smallest online business with the smallest marketing and promotional budget. If used together in one cohesive strategy, the positive impact on your business can dramatic.

Regards; Erik Holladay