While its true that I have successfully provided internet marketing services for some very large corporations, by far I receive the most amount of correspondence from local business owners requesting marketing ideas for small business. Today more than ever your small business needs to consider how, not if, it will use the internet to gain new clients or sales. Here are 5 things you should consider before giving up and heading down to Hobby Lobby to buy a stack of fluorescent pink poster board to hang around town with your phone number.
- Bring in an Expert:
The most common response I get from business owners when I suggest options for their internet marketing strategies is “I don’t have time to do that!”.. and you know what? They are probably correct. Running a small business is a lifestyle that requires a lot more commitment that any full-time job. The idea of adding new responsibilities to your daily work load will probably just leave you shaking your head in horror. I get it. So bring in an expert. For less than the measly salary you would pay a part-time employee you can get a professional just like myself to handle it all for you. An expert will have experience implementing the various marketing ideas for small business and will help you pick an affordable strategy to get you started. It’s simply basic math. How much free time do you have and what is it worth?
- Get your business listed on Google, Bing, and Yahoo for FREE!
Believe it or not there are some free options for you to list your business in these top search directories and you should absolutely be using them. While the traffic you see from the free business listings may be minimal at first, most of the paid search options I will discuss later can build off of these listings in very innovative and effective ways. All will require you to have an account with that search engine, and if you don’t already.. well.. then now is a great time. Unsure how to proceed with this idea, see idea #1.
Google My Business – This is a must have! It’s free to setup and will require a super easy validation process to prove you are actually at the location you list. Often a PIN is sent to the address. Your Google My Business listing could help you appear on local search maps and later as you grow into paid search on Google AdWords the listing can be integrated into your ads and more.
Bing Places for Business – Pretty much the same story for Google. Bing is a top search engine although its traffic is much smaller than that of Google. Still, its absolutely worth doing.
Yahoo Local Basic Listing – This one can be a bit tricky to setup do to the fact that they are really trying to convert you into a sale for their Yahoo LocalWorks service which charges $29 a month to spread your business info to many other local sites. While this does sound appealing for a quick setup on all of those other sites, I personally have a hard time justifying the unnecessary monthly expense after the initial setup.
- Search Engine Optimization – SEO
Oh those magic words! You’ve probably heard them many times but I’ll bet you don’t really understand what they mean.. or what’s really involved.. and that’s OK. There are books written on this subject, so I’ll just give the quick version.When you do a search you see a Search Engine Results Page, also known as a SERP. This page has 2 kinds of listings – Paid and Organic. You have probably never noticed but some of those listings you see will have a little “ad” icon next to them; those are paid. Scroll down the page, farther, there you go, those are the organic and they do not cost anything if a user clicks them. SEO is the process of making your website relevant for the appropriate keywords for your business with the hope that it will help you appear in the targeted organic listings on the SERP.Yes, that webmaster that built your site SHOULD have taken that all into consideration before the site was developed, but guess what? He didn’t! Even if he said he did.. he didn’t! I know, I’ve been doing SEO for 19 years and I have yet to see a website designed and optimized correctly for SEO. Sad but true. Now what?Fix it. At the very least your website should be optimized correctly for your businesses name and location. Make sure you have a contact page with business address, hours of operation, maybe a map, and whatever regional areas you might service.
You could go an extra step further and create special pages with unique content about each of the regional areas that you service. O, there is so much more you can do and I would suggest reading up on it and putting a plan together to slowly but steadily make those changes.
Sounds daunting? You bet it is.. and seriously time consuming. Those free clicks from organic listings take a whole lot of effort and skill to try and get and either you learn how to do it yourself and spend the time making those changes, or see suggestion #1 and hire a company like us to provide SEO Services.
Note!!! There are a ton of companies that will bombard your email or phone with offers to “give you SEO”, and for a ridiculously low price. This happens especially when you register a new business license, file a corporation, or register a domain name. I know, I get them too. All the time. Any business, including your web designer, that calls you and says they will give you SEO for $50, $100, or $200 is a scam, no matter how much you wish that is what it really costs. Sorry.
- Social Media Marketing
I’ve known several small businesses that have correctly harnessed the power of their social media presence to turn casual interactions into sales, but its not as easy as it seems. Most business blow it by trying old school “sale” posts or coupons, etc. There is nothing “social” about seeing a boring post about 10% off. It simply doesn’t work. However, engaging your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Pinterest, absolutely can work when done correctly.I know a photographer who based his whole marketing plan on Facebook and it worked, and it wasn’t the paid ads either. He posted photos of his latest projects and models, shared photo tips, and engaged his audience honestly all while driving traffic back to his business website. I suggest reading up on some social media marketing best practices and implementing their suggestions. Don’t have the time, see suggestion #1.
- Paid Search & Google AdWords
This is my true #1 suggestion for small business looking to drive targeted traffic to their websites and it is the first course of action I recommend to all of my clients. With paid search like Google AdWords you pick the keywords your ads will show on and the amount your willing to pay per click (PPC). Your ads will show in prominent positions on the search results page, with that little “ad” icon, based on several factors including but not limited to your per click bid amount.Small local businesses will find this a perfect way to start since you can target only those people searching within any area you choose. You pick the daily budget, you choose the keywords and bid amounts, and you only pay when somebody clicks your ad. Your ads can even be enhanced with information from your local business listings. While Google AdWords is the big gorilla when it comes to exposure from paid search, some business often find that the cost per click has been so inflated due to competition that they simply can not afford to appear for their needed keywords. That is when trying Bing/Yahoo!, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and others comes into play. I had a travel industry client who simply couldn’t pay the price for Google AdWords but found their ads on Bing and Yahoo! to work well enough that their company actually did great as a direct result from the new business generated on those lower volume less competitive networks.The unfortunate truth..
Google AdWords, just like Bing, has done an outstanding job making it very easy to setup and run Google AdWords accounts, HOWEVER the problem is that it also makes it very easy to spend your money quickly and incorrectly. Running a pay per click account takes a lot of work in the setup and in the daily management.Google provides excellent resources to help teach you the best practices and strategies that are needed. The question is do you have the time to commit daily to learn and run such a campaign? Correctly doing the keyword research as well as building and organizing your account is crucial to your success. Your website absolutely NEEDS to be correctly optimized for your ad campaigns for many reasons including usability, conversion rates, and relevancy. This is probably why the most popular service that I offer is my Google AdWords Management. For $350 a month, you can have an expert build and manage your Google AdWords account for you. It makes a HUGE difference.
So, as promised I have provided 5 marketing ideas for small business all based on internet strategies and techniques that I know work. Each of them have volumes of books and articles written in detail about their correct implementation and it would be impossible for me to go into all of it here. As you probably noticed, they ALL require a significant amount of time and energy. You have the choice, take the time to learn to do them yourself, OR simply hire an expert that will work with you to discuss your options and come up with a strategy that fits your budget.
The biggest mistake I see from most small business owners is that they fail to correctly budget for marketing. They build websites before taking marketing into consideration as if having a website is simply enough. Some owners are so outdated that they think a yellow pages ad is all it takes. Wise owners invest in an expert to work with them on building successful internet marketing strategies, both paid and organic, that bring in a constant flow of new clients and sales all while constantly optimizing the results for higher ROI and conversion rates.