Running a small business is difficult. Most successful companies will have to manage a number of moving parts before even making their first sale. When your business is ready for an influx of customers, marketing will attract the awareness and traffic that results in revenue. While many businesses outsource marketing duties to an outside agency, small businesses may not have that option. Fortunately, online options have empowered business owners to manage their own marketing efforts.
Cheap Ways to Market Your Company
Controlling your budget is paramount when researching available marketing options. Along with cost, it is also important to understand the nature of your business and the marketing channels at your disposal. Coca-Cola, for example, does not use pay-per-click (PPC) ads to sell their products. The cost relative to profit per unit is not sufficient enough for Coke to use PPC advertising. Smaller operations will have to face similar distinctions when deciding their marketing strategies.
Leverage Contacts into Your Own Referral Network
Existing businesses will often have contact information for their customers. If you have yet to collect some form of contact info from your customers, you could be missing out on future sales and new customers. Incentive based referral programs are a common technique used by companies to increase their customer base. By offering discounts or free products to existing customers, they are much more likely to suggest your business to their network. Word of mouth advertising and personal recommendations are among the most powerful marketing tools available to a business. Leveraging your customers networks with referral programs, email campaigns, and social media advertising (which can let you access friends or family of existing customers) can greatly improve your bottom line.
Online Ad Networks
Advertising is the lifeblood of the internet. Without advertising, most content would still be locked inside paywalls, only available for a fee. Combined with powerful analytics software, online ads can potentially yield big results for companies that know how to use them. Probably one of the best-known ad networks is offered by Google and appears around their well-known search results. Pay-per-click advertising is a great option for small businesses because budgets can be set to any level and adjusted for efficacy along with way.
As we discussed earlier, the efficacy of PPC advertising will depend on execution and the business attempting to use it. The profit per sale will determine whether or not PPC is viable for a particular business. As an example, if a business spends $1,000 on PPC advertising but only gets one sale that profits $500 then the campaign lost $500 and is probably ineffective. For many industries, especially those with high commissions or profit margins, PPC advertising an incredible asset. Mortgage brokers and insurance offices routinely pay upward of $30 per click for Google search advertising. However, the commissions they earn on each sale more than accounts for the cost of the campaign.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great option for small businesses because it is largely free. A time investment will be required for an effective SEO strategy but this can be accomplished in as little as three to five hours a week. Adding well written and researched content to your website will improve its rankings on Google. Other tactics, such as getting links to your site on other websites (known as backlinks), will also improve your ranking and yield higher traffic numbers.
Careful management of Google’s Analytics tool will help you understand how people are finding your website and which keywords are most likely to lead to a sale. The upside to SEO is that it is a free strategy made possible by the existence of Google.
Value Added Sponsorships
This option is a little riskier but has the possibility to fantastically increase awareness. The internet and social media have segmented media choices to a degree never before seen. As a result, “stars” are popping up in various industries. Blogs or social media accounts run by well-known graphic designers can boost the fortunes of an advertising or marketing agency by featuring their work. In another, more disgusting example, some dermatologists have made names for themselves posting pimple popping videos online. (Yeah, we know, it’s weird.) If you sell beauty or exfoliating products, this sort of simple (and admittedly weird) sponsorship can bring a lot of traffic and attention to your business for a relatively small sum.
Andrew Egan is a Houston-based writer focusing on merchant services, small business, and finance.