Tweets. Status updates. SEO. Blog posts. It can be daunting to keep up with the latest and greatest marketing tools if you’re an overworked entrepreneur, but if you’re going it alone, there are some tools you simply can’t overlook.
Many entrepreneurs think they can’t afford to market their business. They look at the big players in the industry and see their excessive marketing budgets. Fortunately, small businesses don’t need big pockets to market effectively. In fact, some of the best marketing tools are free or low cost, and are just as effective as bigger ticket tools like commercials or print advertising.
1. Social Media
Whether you’re into Twitter or Facebook personally or not, if your customers and target audience play there, you can’t overlook social media as a way to reach new business. One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is put his own opinion of social media (it’s for my teenagers; we’ll never get business from such a waste of time) in the way of his business’ success.
People are clamoring to interact with brands, and social media provides a fantastic way to do so. Choose an employee, intern or social media consultant to represent your company’s voice, and plan how often they will update and interact on sites like Facebook and Twitter (currently the two most popular and useful for a business). You should have activity at least two to three days out of the week to continually generate interest.
Not sure what to post to these sites? Links to press releases, company news, new products, sales and tips on how to use your products are a great place to start. But don’t be afraid to add a little of your personality. You don’t have to be business-minded all the time. Talk about the World Cup or the downpour outside. People relate to people, not robots, so it’s important to build a repoire with your contacts on social media sites.
Blogs as a marketing tool come from two different angles:
- Writing one to represent your business
- Working with other blogs to tell others about your business.
Writing a company blog is a great way to explain what you do behind the scenes, offer tips for how to use your products better, and become known as an industry expert. Aim for 2 to 3 posts a week, and vary them up. Write about news in your industry (if you’re in the oil industry, talking about the BP oil spill is a great way to drive more traffic to your site) and show that you know your stuff. People are more likely to buy from a company that shows it’s blog savvy.
For each blog post (which you can write, if you’re prolific enough; otherwise employ an intern or marketing firm to write them), focus on a topic, and boil it down to a few keywords that people are likely to search for. “How to” posts are always helpful and popular.
After your blog has been up for a while, check your analytics to see which posts were the most popular. Revisit those topics from new angles, and always link to past articles to keep people on your site longer.
Use sharing tools (WordPress has several free plugins that let visitors easily share your posts on sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, Twitter and more) to give your new posts more exposure and get more traffic.
Bloggers: Today’s New Journalists?
While you may wait years to get on Oprah’s hot list, there’s no waiting line to get the attention of many bloggers who write about your industry. Connecting with influential blogs is an economical and smart way to reach a wider audience that trusts what a given blogger writes about.
By doing a bit of research, you can find the bloggers who are writing about your industry. Aim to connect to the blogs with better traffic and following. If you sell a product, reach out to them with a well-crafted pitch, inviting them to try your product (for free) and/or give your product away on their blog. The better you treat the bloggers, the more they will become evangelists for your brand.
Set up a plan to reach out to a certain number of bloggers each month. Track your efforts well; some bloggers will drag their feet on reviewing your product, so it’s important to keep up with the dates you contacted them and the status of your review.
A simple look at your analytics will show which blogs sent the most traffic to your site. For those that sent the most, build longer relationships with them, perhaps buying affordable advertising on their sites.
3. SEO and Keywords
If you’re not technical minded, the term SEO may scare you off. It’s simple, really. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s how well your website ranks among others that use the same keywords. A keyword is simply a word that describes what your business does. If you sell baked goods online, your keywords might be:
- Corporate baked goods
- Birthday cookie
You want your website to appear at the top of a search result for a given keyword, and there are strategies you can use to get there. The easiest is to think in terms of your keywords at all times. When you (or your web design firm) write the copy for your website, it needs to use the keywords you want to be known for often. Your blog should use those keywords and link to your site. You want to write great content that uses the keywords too.
Do a little research on how to think in keywords, and with a little practice you can boost your placement in search engine results.
By implementing these three marketing tools, you will see a ramp up in website visits, interaction with your brand, and sales in just a few months. These tools are free if you do them in-house, but hiring a marketing consultant to handle them can also be cost effective if you don’t have the manpower to pick up new skills.