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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! 

Rocket Man: How Explainer Videos Turned A Box Into Dropbox

In 2012 Drew Houston appeared on YouTube singing Elton John's 'Rocket Man'. An apt title for the founder of Dropbox, a storage service that rocketed him onto Forbes' Billionaires list in a matter of corporate minutes. When Drew founded Dropbox in 2007, the only line from the song that applied was, "I think it's gonna be a long, long time till touchdown." His service was met with a whimper rather than the hyped up bang it's kicked up today. Even the most cultish of cloud devotees, including Steve Jobs, were left wondering whether the future of Dropbox would be too dim to need shades. Now, it has burst its seams by inventing a flash drive in the sky, but when this firecracker concept was weighed down by botched corporate acumen, the effect was less than inspiring. Turning Greyscale Basics into Technicolor Tactics Once upon a time, Silicon Valley's boy-wonder was just another wannabe with just another idea that he thought was a great one. In the beginning. Drew wasn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer. He usually forgot his thumb drive at home when arriving at MIT. With some code-tinkering and an enthusiastic, "Wow, this is literally something that anyone with an internet connection could use," he rushed forward to create and release a solution for his own forgetfulness and that of others, calling it Dropbox. His bravado was fuelled by the belief that beginners make the most innovative startup giants. After all, Apple, Google, and Facebook all had that in common. What Drew and Apple did not have in common was a capacity to explain what they did. To make things worse, consumers still thought the cloud was condensed sky-water. An investment in a team of globe-topping engineers made Dropbox one of the most expensive startups failures, and their first video was one of Drew sweating over his demonstration at TechCrunch50. The iconic moment and the next video release that made Dropbox a walkaway success with five million new users reveals the single problem that had brought failure, and eventually multi-billion dollar success--the capacity (and lack thereof) to tell consumers what they needed in a compelling but simple way. After a dismal meeting with Steve Jobs, who greeted the Dropbox concept with a nonchalant, "I know what you do," Dropbox released a four minute explainer video that, at last, answered the 'what are we?' question, and won the free viral advertising of its rapidly growing users at a rate of 2.8 million invitations a month.  The video cost less than $50 000. Today, Dropbox is worth $10 billion, and has a whopping 200 million users after a mere six year climb. Compared to Apple's six year climb to a net worth of $126 million, the Dropbox rise is legendary.  Educate, Download, Refer One of the more stunning tricks Dropbox pulled out of its hat was the kind of charmed marketing that carries on while its founders laze about in their mansions sitting pretty. They will continue to earn profits even if they sign up a grand total of zero new users. There are businesses that offer more free storage space than Dropbox does, yet consumers continue to choose Drew's offering more often than the rest. Users receive a meagre two gigabytes of free storage but if they punt the company to others, they earn an extra 500 megabytes for every friend who clicks on their shared link. Rewarded social media sharing capacity isn't a tactic to sniff at, but Skydrive offers 5 GB per referral. Dropbox's secret superpower thus lies less in their business model than how it is communicated through video. The initial Dropbox explainer video was a deceptively simple tutorials of the application but, as with all good puppet shows, above the stage, marketers were pulling an intricate web of strings. The simplest selling point was, "It just works." It illustrates and educates but, again, advertising puppeteers crammed it with in-jokes like an email to Steve Jobs at Microsoft, targeted to the demographic Dropbox served and encouraging a viral campaign.  Why Skydrive Loses Today's Dropbox home page has a simple, silent explainer video that is seconds long, with the catchphrase, "Your stuff, anywhere." A download and signup button complete this powerful conversion tool. In contrast, Skydrive's homepage is a jumble of 29 words, seven buttons, and no video. Among the comparative clutter, it's easy to miss the call to action. The Dropbox campaign draws all eyes onto the video and call to action, proving that the key to adding pizzazz to online campaigns comes from funny, simple, actionable videos and thinking outside the (Drop) box. 

Twitter Marketing for Small Businesses

As a small business owner you may think that marketing using social media isn't relevant to you. Traditional forms of marketing and advertising may have worked in the past, but are you sure they are still helping to grow your business in the digital age? With over a billion registered users, Twitter is now firmly established as a form of communication. Opening an account is free, and building a following isn't as difficult as most people expect. Twitter marketing is an effective way of reaching new customers and staying in touch with existing ones. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which allows users to create and send updates of up to 140 characters. The restriction on the length of posts isn't a barrier if you understand the correct way to use URL shorteners and to how to link posts to websites and images. A Twitter message can simply be a few words to arouse interest and encourage a reader to click through to read a longer article or view pictures or video content.   The following tips will help you to market your business using the power of Twitter.   1) Be clear why you're using Twitter. There's no financial cost for using Twitter, but it will cost you in time. Spending hours tweeting messages without a purpose can be a distraction from running your business. Your reasons for using Twitter may be to share relevant news with followers, to keep them informed about new products or to use it to promote special offers. Having a clear objective helps you to keep focussed.   2) Keep the messages relevant. People may be keen to see pictures of their favorite celebrities and sports stars on vacation at the beach, but these aren't appropriate uses of Twitter for a small business owner. There's a fine line between personal and business use of social media. It's fine to show customers your human side, but keep things professional and relevant.    3) Send messages on a regular basis. Once you start to build a following on Twitter it's important that you stay in touch with your audience. You may lose followers if you bombard them with too many messages, but your efforts will be wasted if you only send a few messages at random times during the month. Set yourself a goal to send at least two tweets a week on specific days. If you have news or there's something urgent you need to comment on you can send messages in between. Social media marketing is about consistent contact.   4) Be informative. The 140 character limit doesn't mean your Twitter messages can't be informative. You can link to articles and blog posts if there's more you want to say. One of the goals of social media marketing is to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and sharing informative content is an effective way to achieve this. Messages should rarely be a direct sell, but customers will come to you if they believe you are knowledgeable and understand their needs.   5) Be entertaining. People are happy to receive marketing messages via Twitter, but remember they mainly use the service for entertainment. If your tweets are purely business orientated they will lose interest. The style and content of your messages will depend on your profession or industry, but there are always opportunities to share something lighter. For example, a real estate business could tweet about supporting a local charity or the sporting achievements of a member of staff.   6) Build an appropriate following. The perceived difficulty in building a following on social media is one of the reasons why many small business owners don't use services like Twitter for marketing. In reality you don't need thousands of followers for it to work. Quality beats quantity if you want to engage with the right kind of customers. Start by following other local businesses and your key customers and suppliers. Most people will follow you back if you have a relationship. As you start to post and comment on Twitter you will gradually build an audience of people and businesses with similar interests and issues.   7) Use images and visual content. The Twitter profile for your business should use the same colours and branding style of your website and literature. Having a photograph in your profile is proven to be more effective for Twitter marketing than a company logo. Tweets including relevant photographs and images are more likely to be viewed by your followers and to attract new ones.   Increased use of smartphones and tablets means that social media marketing has become a highly effective way of building customer loyalty. Its popularity and ease of use makes Twitter the ideal platform for small businesses to exploit this trend.

How to effectively grab the attention of millennials

Marketing to consumers born between 1981 and 2000 can be something of a challenge,especially since this coveted demographic is preoccupied with all things digital. Attracting theattention of millennials through online marketing is must. The trick is getting them to actuallypay attention to the products or services you're offering. Fresh Social ContentOne survey found that millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than lose their socialconnections. Therefore, to attract the attention of this market share, you'll need fresh, shareablecontent spanning social platforms most appropriate for your business. There are plenty of greatsources for content, Reddit is a great place to find new things to share and discuss. Skip Traditional Marketing MethodsThe cold, hard reality is that most millennials aren't watching TV, at least not the conventionalliving room set. This is a generation that's always connected to various devices, so traditionalmarketing methods like TV and radio advertising and direct mailing campaigns aren't likely togenerate much attention - although effective email campaigns can still have an impact with thisgroup. Just remember, most millennials are also very resistant to traditional methods of selling.Be sure to keep it personal and relevant Brand Reinforcement Is a MustMillennials have a ridiculously short attention span, so it's going to take some extra effort toform an association with your brand. The good news is that recent research suggests that branddifferentiation matters to millennials. Once they have a positive association with your brand,millennials are more likely to recommend your products and services to friends or come back toyou when they want to make another purchase. Putting together an effective marketing strategy aimed millennials is going to be almostexclusively online. You'll need to deliver fresh and engaging content to your social media pagesand blog. You'll also want to tie everything together with links back to your website to reinforcebrand image. A focus on search engine optimization within your content to ensure higherplacement on search results page is another must. With more than 75 million people consideredmillennials, it's a group of consumers worth courting.

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