5 Ways Small Businesses Can Get Started with Online Marketing on A Limited Budget
In recent years, consumers have changed the way that they access goods and services in a very dramatic manner. 25 years ago, the idea of being able to research or purchase a product online was absurd, and I’m sure merely mentioning it in public would have you sent away for insanity. Fast forward to today and these revolutionary technologies have been almost seamlessly integrated into our lives in a way that almost makes you question how we ever did anything before they were around. But it begs the big question as a business owner, what can you do to stay up to date with modern marketing strategies? It seems that even in this day and age, only around 20% of small businesses in Australia are properly leveraging the true power of online marketing. This certainly isn’t ideal when we get into the hard facts; 81% of consumers will research a product or service online before they make a purchase. 94% of B2B buyers will research online before making a purchasing decision. Bottom line is, staying relevant online isn’t a luxury for small businesses, it’s a necessity If you’re looking for some more stats, check it out this post from our friends at Hubspot - Online Marketing Statistics Now that we’ve covered that, here’s 5 ways that your small business can get started with online marketing without spending huge sums of money; 1. Get a great website:Having a professional looking website is the foundation for your small business’ online presence. Nowadays we use websites almost as a benchmark of the legitimacy of a business. Take a moment to think about the last time you looked for a particular good or service and stumbled across a website that wasn’t so great, chances are you simply left the site and continued looking for a decent one right? Nowadays getting a website that will truly impress is very easy and inexpensive, here are a few options that will help you get started on a next to non-existent budget: Wix.com - DIY website builder with tons of great templates. Cost: $11 - $34 (AUD) p/mSquarespace.com - DIY website builder suited to online stores and blogs. Cost: $21 - $61 (AUD) p/mWeebly.com - DIY website builder perfect for business owners on the go. Cost: $10 - $33 (AUD) p/mCompassdigital.com.au - Custom websites built from scratch with all the text and images supplied. Cost: $99 - 199 (AUD) p/m Bottom line: Your website is all about creating a great first impression. Do this well and half the battle is won. It’s easy, inexpensive and in today’s day and age, not having one is a sure fire way to becoming another small business statistic. 2. Setup relevant Social Media profiles and pages:Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’re probably very much aware of what social media is, however you’re probably not using to it’s full potential. Social Media has created a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to interact with their customers in a very personal and engaging manner. We hear it time and time again, “but I’m too small to need to worry about social media marketing!”. The fact is, social media can be amazingly effective when used properly. Social media marketing for small businesses has evolved dramatically since it’s inception. In the early days, a business could get away with tagging lots of people in posts and have their sales message spread to thousands of users in a heartbeat without paying a cent. This tactic was abused for quite some time and after enough users complained about being tagged in a posts trying to sell “genuine” Ray-ban’s for $25 for the millionth time, the major social networks made it a bit trickier. Nowadays the content that you share has to be of true value to its intended audience. There has to be value in the sense that it needs to be either entertaining, educational or informative. It has to be content that's going to add to their experience on social media, not detract from it. Example: Let’s say we have Joe Blogs Real Estate. Joe has just set up a facebook page and has managed to amass 100 likes from friends and family. This initial audience is the one that this page needs to grow from by means of shares and likes. Joe was considering posting regularly about the fact that he offers free appraisals and that he’s the best agent in the area. Let’s put ourselves into the shoes of Joe’s audience, if they weren’t currently thinking of selling their home, would they be at all interested in Joe’s self promotion? Short answer: not even slightly. The reason for this is that the content he’s sharing is of no immediate value to the viewer, it’s not entertaining, it’s not educational and it’s not exactly that informative either. Where Joe could add value would be in sharing content about his line of work that is going to be of real interest to people regardless of whether they’re selling their home or not. An example of this could be sharing photos of amazing properties he’s found online or providing up to date commentary and forecasts on the property market. Case study: Here’s an example of a small business owner in Sydney that used Instagram to propel his convenience store to the heights of getting coverage on national television. Social Media Turns Redfern Convenience Store Owner Into Local Celebrity Getting your social media accounts setup is easy as providing a few simple details, if you need a bit more help, here’s an article to guide you through the steps. How To Set Up All Your Social Media Profiles In One Day Bottom line: Social media is a great way to interact with your customers in a personal and authentic way. Just make sure your focus is on delivering something of value to your followers, not just spamming them with sales messages. 3. Get your business listed where it counts.In the beginning, getting found online can be a big challenge so you have to take steps from day one to make sure you can be found when your sought. This can be achieved on a basic level by listing your business on all the relevant directories that your customers may seek your services on. Here is a list of the main directories we’ve found to be most effective at generating new business; Google My Business - This is the first directory you should list your small business on. It allows you to be displayed on Google Maps and in search results. Your customers can also leave reviews, so be sure to always provide great service. TrueLocal.com.au - For Australian businesses, True Local is a great directory for your customers to easily find you when required. Creating your listing is free however they do offer a number of premium services which may or may not be worthwhile to your business. Gumtree.com.au - You may laugh at us for putting Gumtree on here, however it can be extremely effective for certain types of businesses when it comes to finding new customers. Hipages.com.au - Ideal for home improvement businesses including builders, painters and handymen only, Hipages is an online directory and “on-demand services” mobile app that connects customers and tradies in a heartbeat. It operates on a pay per lead basis however the value for money is incredible. Pay around $15 to quote on a job against a maximum of 2 other businesses. I can personally attest to it’s effectiveness and will say, in the nature of full disclosure, that I have been in no way paid or encouraged to give this endorsement. The list of great business directories out there is almost endless, if you want to find more, check out this article with a more comprehensive list of business directories you could utilize. Top 10 Free Local Directories in Australia Bottom line: Submitting your business to a variety of relevant directories will help you get found from day one. Don’t expect results overnight, but you’ll be surprised how much this step will pay dividends over time. 4. Become an active online participantNow that your business is starting to build something that resembles an online presence, it’s time to becoming an active online participant. What I mean by this is that it’s time to start communicating more with other users on a variety of platforms. The main objective here is simple and relates to a lot of other areas within online marketing, it is to entertain, educate or inform. It’s time to stop being a lurker. You can contribute to the internet in a variety of ways, some more valuable to your goals than others. The best place to start is to figure out where your customers are lurking on the internet when they’re at a stage you could add some kind of value. The most common place is on Q&A forums like Quora or Yahoo Answers. It’s here you can showcase your expertise in a particular field to people all over the world, all while getting the warm and fuzzies knowing you helped someone. This can benefit you as these answers are often seen many thousands of times by other web users that are actively searching for the solution that you offer. Just be sure to include a link back to your website in your answers. Bottom line: With some dedication and consistency, your answers can become a constant source of quality traffic to your website which will ultimately result in more sales and more growth. 5. Contribute to the web with great content relevant to your field.Content is all the “stuff” we spend hours looking at online. It’s cat videos, blog posts, news articles and photos. Consumers are swamped with more adverts today than ever before, this means the impact of traditional channels are somewhat diluted. Content marketing is the process of creating “stuff” that is going to provide some kind of value to your chosen audience. As we’ve established, in the digital realm value can be defined as something that entertains, educates or informs. For more info about what content marketing is, check out this article; What Is Content Marketing As a starting point, here are a few ideas for some content you could create to help engage with your audience. Blogging - This involves writing articles or post that are relevant to your particular industry or niche. Creating great written content can help your online marketing efforts in a variety of ways including but limited to;Improve search engine rankingInfluence your audience’s purchasing decisionsEducate them on a solution you provideEstablish your business as a credible authority in its niche Check out - Should You Start a Business Blog? Youtube - This option falls into a category somewhere between a social media channel and a content delivery channel. Creating Youtube videos is a great way for you to visually showcase your business and the benefits it offers. It’s completely free however do be sure to enlist the help of professionals if you’re unsure of the best practices with lighting and sound. Check out these FREE resources direct from Youtube - Creating Great Video Content 50 Content Marketing Ideas For Your Business Website Or Blog Bottom line: Content marketing is the most time and labour intensive step in the process of drawing quality traffic to your website however out of every marketing strategy out there (both paid and unpaid), content marketing is the single most effective strategy there is. Focus on adding true value to your audience, stay relevant and you’ll reap the rewards in time. In Summary:Like with all things worth doing in life, online marketing does take a great deal of time and effort but it certainly is something that will give back what you put in. Take the time to get a solid understanding of your audience and what the problem is that your product or service is going to solve. Please feel free to reach out to any of us here at Compass Digital if you feel there’s anything we can help you with on your journey to small business success!