Marketing your online business on a budget
“There’s an app for that” has become a popular phrase expressing how there is an app available for any need that could ever arise in your life. Likewise, you can find a business for virtually anything on the internet. You need someone to take care of your pet after you get taken up by the Rapture? “There’s a business for that.” Not only does any given business exist, but multiple versions have concurrently popped up. As a result, the internet has become an overwhelming swarm of information, easy for any online business to be drowned out. In order to be heard, you have to take measures into your own hands through your marketing strategy.
Planning a budget marketing strategy
Unfortunately, many burgeoning businesses don’t have the capital to employ the high-profile marketing campaigns, such as a spot on YouTube. However, there are ways to advertise your company without breaking the bank, you’ve just got to have some marketing savvy. You can make the most out of your budget by:
- Making your marketing decisions according to your budget
- Diversifying your advertising efforts
- Eliminating the ineffective resources while maintaining the sources that convert to sales
- Scoping out for new ways to grow
Marketing can become costly if set up incorrectly and left unmonitored. Running a business probably has you pulled in all directions, but it’s critically important for you to be attentive to your marketing strategy since your business’s growth depends on it.
Before you embark on your advertising campaign, sign up with an analytics program (such as Google Analytics). You can keep track of the number of hits to your site, determine where these clicks are coming from, and observe any developing trends. With this information, you can make an informed decision on what marketing options to maintain, bump up, or discontinue. A solid analytics program should be the foundation upon which your advertising strategy is built.
Many businesses use pay per click (PPC) advertising. Typically on search engines, businesses bid on specific keywords for an ad to appear under and pay whenever someone clicks on the link. Because this is such a popular advertising method, it has become a bit costly, especially for highly competitive keywords. For a small business in a general market, the cost does not usually justify the sale. However, this method can be affordable and cost effective for some niche companies using niche keywords, because they can be highly listed for a low cost.
When looking into PPC under the constraints of a budget, conduct some research into the “nichiest” words relative to your business without getting too obscure. (A delicate balance, indeed.) This can not only save you money, but it also narrows your audience down to those who are more likely to be interested in your services. You’ll be paying for more worthwhile clicks, those more likely to turn into sales.
Not surprisingly, Google Adwords is the most popular PPC provider.
Type in a keyword in your search engine, and you get results. Ever wonder how certain sites make it to the first page? They usually employ a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Even if you don’t do any SEO, chances are that your site will show up somewhere in a keyword search, but where you show up in the ranks will depend on the relevance of the page and how many sources link back to you. If you add more content to your site and increase the number of relevant websites that link to it, your site will improve its rank in the search results. SEO is an affordable and efficient advertising method.
Google’s Keyword Tool can suggest good keywords for your pages.
Publishing articles is another method of SEO that entails writing short content articles on topics that are relevant to your business. Within these articles you can insert some of those keywords and a link back to your website. These articles are then published on other blogs and sites, ideally sites that are relevant to your industry. Writing content related articles is a good way to direct relevant traffic your way.
This practice isn’t as easy as writing an article advertising your business, chock full of keywords and links to your site. In fact, many sites discourage self-promotion, but rather are looking for meaningful and informational articles that enhance their own site. In article marketing, your role is to share your expertise. Many sites and blogs have strict guidelines for what they are and are not looking for. Do a little research and tailor your articles that way.
Avoid writing just one article and distributing it to many sites. Search engines value original content. If you have 100 links out there imbedded in the same article, the search engines may only consider it as one link because you’ve technically only produced one unit of information. Done right, article marketing is mutualism at its finest: you get links to your site distributed and the other sites gain content.
Advertising on a website
Practically every website now has advertising space, usually sold per month or per unit of impressions. Your ad could generally receive up to four percent of the site’s traffic, so make sure the site is getting a lot of traffic. Again, it’s a difficult edge to straddle between price and prominence. The high-ranking pages will usually cost more and the low-ranking pages will be cheaper. As with PPC, look for blogs and sites that relate to your services so that your money can go further.
Note that website ads are easily lost amongst all the other noise on a page. Make sure you have an appealing ad that will stick out amongst the others (this does not mean flashy and annoying). It could be worth spending the extra money to get your ad professionally designed.
You have a number of options if you decide to go this route. You could purchase ad space directly from the site itself, or you could use an advertising network. There are many categories of such brokers and they can distribute your ad to a network of affiliate sites specific to your target audience. They essentially do the research for you, of course at an extra cost, which could be worth it.
Advertising on Facebook allows you to specifically target your audience based on their demographics, location, and interests. It’s almost eerie how specific you can get. Similar to PPC, you pay per 1,000 views.
Embrace it. Everyone has a social media account, if not five of them. You’ve got to go where the people are. Social media can be used as an opportunity to establish your business’s personality. Differentiating yourself from others can attract new customers, establish a loyal following, and get you that edge you need. You can market yourself to be fun, hip, chic, or innovative. But construct your image strategically because this could backfire. You don’t want people to consider you outdated, or obnoxious! Social media is an easy way to engage your customers and colleagues. Put the links to your social media pages on your site and give people the option to “share” your content with their “friends” and “followers”. It’s virtual word of mouth advertising and it’s free.
Another option is to arrange for an affiliate program, which acts as an agent or publisher. The affiliate program (like ShareASale or Post Affiliate Pro) does all of the work for you: develop the strategy, design and write the ads, and scope out ad spots. The affiliate is paid on commission, which means this can be a cost effective method if you have high returns. There is an art to setting the right commission for your budget. High commissions will attract a quality affiliate program while too low of a commission will often attract low quality publishers who spam. If you decide to utilize this option, be sure to monitor your affiliate to ensure their advertising choices reflect what you want for your business.
A differentiated and thoughtful marketing campaign is the key to your business’s success and as you can see, there are many options out there. The good news is that this can be done on a budget. Whatever options you decide to integrate into your marketing strategy, remember to monitor them closely to ensure that they’re gaining, rather than draining, your money. Decide what services, features, and qualities your business excels in and market away!
Nina Wu is marketing coordinator and writer at A Small Orange .