Online Marketing Methods
Use of online marketing methods has become an undeniable need for businesses, and it involves various methods and components that should be applied in consideration of the size, nature, and structure of a business. The cost of online marketing also varies on a very large spectrum depending on these same factors. You may be willing to spend millions of dollars if that’s for a billion-dollar multinational enterprise, or simply nothing if you are a one-person start-up.
Here, we will discuss some beginner-level online marketing methods for small-scale businesses. We will explain some well-known online marketing tools that you need to pay for along with some useful unpaid methods. I prefer to say “unpaid” instead of “free” because even though you don’t need to spend money on it, you will need to spend your time, and time is money, eh? Let’s start!
First things first, if you are interested in promoting your business online, you should have an online display to introduce your business to your audience and that display could optimally be a website. You may not have any intention to sell your products or services online; however, at the very least, you should tell the story and background of your business, what kind of services or products it offers, and how people can reach/contact you.
If you have good computer literacy and some interest in learning new software, you may possibly create a basic business website on your own. However, the website design process involves a lot of technical detail, and a beautifully designed website requires some experience. If you wish to make an impression with your online presence, you should spare some budget to have your website designed by an experienced professional.
After completing this initial step, you will be ready to move forward with more advanced online marketing tools.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is another effective marketing tool that you will need to pay a professional to handle. It is one of the most efficient digital marketing tools available due to two main reasons.
First, high organic rankings on search engines bring about reputability. Online ads can also help you to be displayed at a high rank on search engines, but people will see it as an “ad”, and most will know that you are on the first page because you paid for it. However, SEO will help you create an organic high rank, which means that your business name is displayed on the first page of a search engine on its own, and people will think you are on the first page because you are a reputable business. Second, it is much more affordable compared to online ads that will be explained next. If you don’t have a sufficient budget to sustain regular online ads, SEO can be your way to go on a more reasonable budget.
Online ads are a fast way to promote your business and it is recommendable for new businesses, or those that are new to the online realm. What you should do is to start with publishing ads on multiple platforms like search engines and social media platforms, and then keep the most efficient ones that have the highest conversion rates. You may try to publish your ads on your own and only pay Google or social media platforms but if you are not trained or experienced in online ads, it will probably be a waste of your money since it involves many technical details. Therefore, paying professionals for publishing customized online ads specifically targeting your audience would be a wise thing to do.
SEO can be a highly effective online marketing tool for most businesses. However, if you are in a rush to promote your business and don’t want to wait at least 4-5 months to develop a high online search ranking through SEO, online ads will help you immensely by putting your business on the first page immediately. Online ads will also help your business to gain exposure and get leads in highly competitive industries where many businesses already use SEO to improve search rankings. Even though there will be an “ad” tag on it, people will see the name of your business and are more likely to click on your website compared to a webpage listed on the second or third page of a search engine result. If high competition is an issue in your industry, you will need to support your SEO with online ads to get the best out of your efforts and investment. No need to say that online ads are the most expensive online marketing tools.
Starting a Blog
Don’t worry if you don’t have that budget to invest in the paid online marketing tools that are briefly explained above. Blogging is a good way to promote your business online without having to spend any money but a reasonable amount of time and effort. You can easily add a blog to your business website that will play a significant role in communicating your value proposition and other information about your business to your audience. Additionally, creating written content related to your products and services will organically improve your search engine rankings and work as a free SEO tool. To achieve the best results with your blog, you should create your original content (not copied from elsewhere), your content should relate to your products/services, and you need to select your keywords carefully while writing a blog post. To find the optimal keywords for your blog, you may use some free keyword tools online such as kwfinder.com or keywordtool.io.
Regular Webinar Sessions
Who doesn’t love a free webinar on a topic in which they are interested, especially during this COVID-19 times that we are staying at home all day in front of our computers? If you could offer a free webinar that is closely related to your products or services, it will attract the attention of those who are interested in the topic, and hence, likely to be interested in your products and services. You could directly connect with the best target audience possible through such webinars, and if you could get their permission to send them newsletters, you can even send them regular emails to keep them updated and connected to your business. Organizing regular webinars that will deliver some valuable information to your audience is an unexpectedly efficient way of online marketing that is also unpaid.
Just like delivering webinars, recording videos related to your products and services and broadcasting them on YouTube will both help you reach your target audience while helping improve your SEO at the same time. You should try to keep the videos informative and fun rather than a mere advertisement of your products or services; otherwise, people will possibly leave without watching until the end, or worse they will leave after hitting the dislike button. You might spend time and effort on those videos, but it will mean nothing to the audience if they don’t deliver any value (which might be information, insight or just fun). As the last step, do not forget to write a good video description including relevant keywords.
Efficient Use of Social Media Pages
The use of social media to promote a business is no secret anymore. However, to make the best impression, do read the guidelines of the social media platforms and search the latest articles on this topic to do it right. I will not share any specific information here as it will be outdated soon because all social media platforms renew and update their systems frequently. However, if you carefully read and follow their guidelines to create business pages, you will see that it is not rocket science. All it takes is some time and effort, or you can pay a professional if you’d like (but you don’t have to).
After setting up a professional-looking cool social media page, do not forget to share regular posts including updates about your business, your promotions, your blog posts, your webinars, YouTube videos, or anything that will engage your audience. While sharing your posts, do not forget to add an action clause to urge your audience to get in touch with you as well as a link, email address, phone number, or an action button.
Apart from a Facebook Business Page, you could consider setting up a Facebook Group related to your products or services where your customers or people interested in your products/services can interact and communicate. On such a Facebook Group, you can have a chance to see the public opinion about your business, or assess the potential customer needs, address customer concerns, inform your audience and effectively communicate with them. This is a great tool if you don’t have too much budget but have plenty of time or additional human resources to spend time on it. This is another effective way to market your business online, and it will earn you some valuable insight into your audience and their expectations from you. Before starting this though, it would be wise to train yourself on how to deal with difficult customers as you will probably encounter a couple of them.
Being Present on Relevant Platforms
Apart from social media channels, you should search about different platforms related to your industry or target audience and try to get into those platforms as a business. There may be some free platforms where you can list your business as well as some paid ones such as industry associations. Where applicable, you should fully complete your business profile on those platforms and do not forget to give links to your business website and social media pages.
Word of mouth is an invaluable marketing tool that is also completely free as long as you provide high-quality services/products and solve customer complaints in a timely and professional manner. By saying “online testimonials”, I don’t mean those fancy sentences you put on your website because they are always open for manipulation. If you wish to create a real word-of-mouth effect, you need to ask happy customers/clients to leave you reviews on your Google (Maps) or Facebook Business Pages. Reviews on such platforms prove the genuineness of the testimonials you receive.
While doing so, there is always a chance that you may have some dissatisfied customers leaving you online reviews. Take such reviews as a chance to showcase your excellent customer service skills and try to solve their problems where possible or provide a detailed and professional explanation about the reason for that situation and why you are unable to fix that. This will show that you are a highly responsive business that cares about its customers and it will attract people.