Budget limitations tend to dictate the shape of most small business marketing plans. For start-up ventures and emerging new businesses, every penny spent on marketing has to be assessed carefully, with ROI central to most decisions. So, what are the options for small businesses that have hundreds rather than thousands to spend on promoting their products and services? The good news is; there are plenty of free and low cost channels to exploit these days. The bad news is; most of these options involve hard work. Here are the top 5 you should consider:
1. Develop an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing is a tactic that relies on being found by customers. It is the opposite of outbound marketing which attempts to contact or appeal to the customer directly. Examples of inbound marketing include: SEO (search engine optimisation), blogging, document sharing and social media activity. Examples of outbound marketing include: cold calling, direct mail and advertising. Inbound marketing has emerged as a phenomenal trend over the last few years; largely owing to the explosion of SEO and social media as a means to reach people at the right moment. A properly planned and delivered inbound marketing campaign should be measured and long-term, aiming to connect and build relationships with customers. For start-ups and small businesses that are prepared to think ahead, this is essential activity. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, developing a helpful presence on a forum dedicated to your niche is completely free of charge. However, this kind of marketing strategy will involve hard work to get right. Building a trustworthy and credible profile online can’t be done with shortcuts.
2. Guest blogging
Ok, this is another inbound marketing tactic but it deserves a mention of its own. Guest blogging is a great, and usually free, way to spark potential interest in your business by sharing useful, expert, interesting or amusing content with people on websites relevant to your sector or niche. Pick the right guest blogging opportunity and it has the potential to deliver great traffic and response back to your own site. It can also have very effective SEO benefits. The key to this is the content you provide – it needs to be great quality.
3. Integrate your online and offline marketing activities
Small business marketing plans can be as effective as those for bigger businesses if you apply the same logic on a smaller scale. Integrated marketing activity is the key to successful plans for businesses of any size, regardless of your budget. So, if you’re planning to launch a competition on your website, you need to carefully think through the channels you will use to promote it elsewhere. You need to be consistent and clear with your marketing messages and your branding. Flyers and posters, for example, which bear little resemblance to your website, will not help you to crystallize an image with your target audience.
4. Paid Search
Most small business start-ups will invest in a new website, but SEO has to be a long-term objective. Achieving top placements in Google’s organic (Free-to-Click) results requires time, great quality content and approval from the web-general in the form of inbound links to your site. Paid Search (or Pay-Per-Click), on the other hand, can deliver instant traffic to your site for competitive keywords that are difficult to rank via SEO. Even as a short-term tactic, Paid Search can be used to help you inform your SEO strategy, help you build natural inbound links into your best quality content and help drive sales and response.
5. Online PR and Press Releases
The key to success online is to build great content and deliver it to a high specification. Poorly constructed websites with badly written copy and lazy content will not get you anywhere. Think about what is unique and compelling about your proposition and how to communicate that to your potential customers. Once you’ve firmly delivered this on your web property, use every online channel available to promote your great content. Press releases with PR Web can be very effective when written and deployed correctly. Networking with e-zines, bloggers and newspapers can get your fab content talked about, linked to and hyped.
These are 5 small business marketing tips that can be implemented at low cost or no cost at all. The secret to the success of any of these tips is in the planning, the effort and the delivery.