I doubt that my old man coined the term, but I can’t recall how many times he proclaimed â€œit takes money to make money.â€
At the time it sounded, well, idiotic. But I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of truth to that simple phrase. If you want people to purchase your product or service, you have to let them know about it. And the only way to that is by marketing.
That’s not a big deal when you’re a Fortune 500 company. But what if you’re a small business or startup that has a tight budget?
While that’s definitely a concern, there is an almost endless supply of free or affordable tools and resources that can market your company online. To help you get started, here 7 tips that you need to use for online marketing on a budget.
1. Understand Your Market
Before you start wasting valuable resources, mainly time and money, you need to identify your market. What’s their age? What’s their gender? Where do they live? What are they into? What are their wants or needs? What social media channels do they use? Once you know your audience you can being to develop a marketing strategy and realistic goals.
But, won’t that cost a lot of money?
Not really. Because you already know your product, which means you have an audience in mind. So, if you’re selling a product that ensures a better, greener lawn, you’re targeting homeowners in the suburbs. And you may want to use Pinterest to highlight how beautiful a lawn is after using your product. It’s unlikely that a college student is interested in something that they currently don’t need.
2. Set an Appropriate Marketing Budget
You have a target audience. You have established attainable goals. Now it’s time to work on an appropriate budget. According to the SBA.gov, most businesses â€œallocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues.â€ The site suggests 3-5% for start-up marketing. However, you need to consider â€œthe industry you’re in, the size of your business, and its growth stageâ€ before settling on an exact amount.
What’s really great about the world today is that there are a number of free, or reasonably priced, options platforms to market your business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest account are all free, for example. You could also set-up a Google AdWords campaign that only charges you when someone clicks on your word.
3. Learn The Basics
This isn’t saying that you’re not capable of handling online marketing duties. It’s just saying that you probably don’t know the fundamentals. And, it’s not expense to learn. It really just takes a couple of hours per week. Subscribe to industry blogs. Watch instructional videos. Listen to podcasts. Participate in a webinar or Hangout. Follow industry leaders on social media, which you can find at Followerwonk. These can all help you get a handle on the basics.
Still lost? Google has a great Online Marketing 101: Advertising on the Web course.
4. Go Brand Yourself
You have to set yourself apart from the competition. And the best place to start is by having a website. You can purchase a domain name, which should be the name of your business, on sites like GoDaddy (currently running a $2.99 for first year special). After that, you’ll need a reliable host and a presence on social media. Just remember, you’re website should appear professional and include information regarding your business, how to contact your business and a way for customers to pay for products or services.
From there, it’s all up to you. Keep in mind, however, that you also want to be disruptive. Hire a local celebrity to endorse your product. Make an entertaining video like â€œWill It Blend?â€ from Blendtec. Come up with a slogan. In other words, find something that’s going to give your brand it’s own identity.
5. Blog, Blog and Blog Again
Now that you’ve got your website up and running, you need content. Lots of content. Some of the best content that you can include on your blog is writing about your experiences or expertise in your industry. Whatever you blog about, be certain that the content is of high-quality, authentic and consistent that enough that it will engage your market. When you do that, you can drive-in more traffic, generate leads and gain more links. Best of all? It’s only going to cost you time.
Also, don’t forget to tell everyone about your blog content either. Spread the word far and wide on everything from Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Stumble, Reddit, Delicious or Scoop.it. To save some time, make use of social media management tools like Â Buffer, HootSuite or SproutSocial.
6. Build Relationships
Whether that’s meeting someone in an airport, convention or through social media, building relationships is a key element in your marketing strategy. But, it’s one thing to introduce yourself. It’s another to establish a relationship. One of the best ways to do is asking how you can help them. If you lend them a helping hand, let’s say writing a guest blog post, they will return the favor by introducing you to their audience.
Another great way to build relationships is by relying on the tried and trusted email marketing campaign.
7. Create a Little Buzz
How can you get people to notice you on a shoestring budget? Social media is a start. But you have to go all out. For example reach out to influential bloggers, send a press release to the media, wear a bunny suit and hop through the subway if you want. It’s all about getting people to talk about you and your brand.
Other ways to generate buzz is by giving away freebies. This doesn’t mean a free vacation. But you could offer a free trial to the first 100 new subscribers. You could run a promotion, like a 10% off coupon, that’s good until the end of the month. These are all simple, cost-effective ways to not only attract new visitors, but have them come back for more.