We all want less for more and we all start out thinking the Internet is free, this magical place where you become rich by spending nothing. The reality is that such cases are extremely rare. Most success stories are built through online marketing, where things can get expensive fast unless done correctly.
What can you do with a limited budget?
Today there are tons of smart ways to cut spending, stretch each dollar, and improve returns, without compromising the quality of what you’re putting out to the world. The Internet offers a ton of great options to minimize your spending and get the best return on investment for the money you put into online marketing. From the use of direct mail techniques, to social media and video marketing, it is important to remember that there are many ways that you can implement the use of marketing amongst any business or industry you find yourself in. The key here is to know where to look for those tools and options and more importantly, how to go about using them.
Finally, you also need to make sure that you never put yourself in a position to dilute your content or your brand for the sake of marketing.
Oh…and one more thing: Professionals
You will find plenty of people out there today telling you how they can get a million likes and followers on various social media platforms. They are fake. More unfortunately they also mask the fact that there are plenty of dedicated and skilled professionals out there who are really good at helping you create awareness and get more eyeballs on your product. And nothing replaces the experience of a pro. It’s all about using those pros in the most effective, least expensive way.
Also here are a must-do’s for before you start with your online marketing strategy:
- Prioritize: Decide how much you can spend and identify how which approach stands a chance of getting you maximum traffic.
- Plan: Much of the cost in online marketing comes from a poor understanding of the customer. Do preliminary research on who your customer is, what they care about, and why they buy from you.
- Track: Keep track of your efforts to make sure you’re not investing in a loss. Whether it’s pay-per-click, SEO, or content marketing, define and track metrics for an investment is paying off, and make the call whether or not to continue. You may decide that it is now the time to entrust in an agency like NGP Integrated Marketing Communications.
Now lets see how to save $$$ on various aspects of your online marketing strategy:
Website Development & Design
Custom solutions can be an expensive waste of time. Explore free, open-source platforms such as WordPress or Drupal, and search for reliable plugins to handle the functionality you need. Choose a platform with a strong developer community so you can get help when you need it.
Customize a template and invest in design!
With platforms like WordPress, there are hundreds of inexpensive or free templates to choose from. Find one you like, then to customize and spruce it up to fit your needs rather than build from scratch. Employ a developer if necessary
Your website and logo are the professional face you put out to the world. They’re also signals of how trustworthy you are. Well-designed sites are easier and clearer for customers, which means more conversions for you.
Bring in an SEO as early as possible. SEOs can contribute to insights on content and design considerations, including allowing the proper amount of room for text and avoiding scripts search engines can’t read.
When dealing with SEO agencies an important fact is that the bulk of the impact of hiring an SEO comes at the very beginning, when the biggest gaps in your strategy narrow. Sign-up for a short-term to medium plan with agencies/consultants who work in monthly or project basis, or by the hour. After an initial project or time period, call upon them as needed.
You will need to explore and come up with an SEO strategy that covers:
- Keyword research & mapping
- Competitor analysis
- Information architecture evaluation
- Local SEO considerations
- Analytics implementation
If you’re unsure how to lead an SEO campaign like this then check out https://raventools.com/blog/seo-campaign-visual-guide/ for more help.
Link building DIY
Start-ups and small business owners should invest time in learning link building.
Link building is typically difficult, expensive, and tough to source out reliably but it can translate into improved rankings. Not knowing about link building can get you de-indexed from search engines. Online resources, such as Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to Link Building, help take out some of the guesswork. Some quick link building to do on your own:
- Contact partners for partnership pages, blogs to guest post on, or resources to contribute.
- Put a process in place to ask for a link whenever you’re covered by industry media, sponsor an event, or get involved in your community.
- Set up Google Alerts for your brand name to discover when you’re mentioned online, then follow-up and ask for a link.
- Claim your Google+ Local Business listing. Find places to list your business and then make sure every listing is consistent with your Google+ local listing. The WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder tool is useful for this job.
- Use Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC) to test how viable new content is and whether or not it will be worth the investment.
Schedule quarterly check-ins
Time is short and ongoing monitoring can get really expensive. The next best thing is to have the same pro who set up your SEO campaign come in three to four times a year and perform a tune-up based on the data and, importantly, fill you in so you can keep an eye on it all yourself. The tune-up methodology only really works with small, low-risk campaigns. If there is a risk things could run seriously off the rails, it’s best to make the check-ins more frequent.
Add your own negative keywords
There’s nothing worse than paying for clicks on phrases that won’t ever convert. Negative keywords are irrelevant keywords that you don’t want to trigger your ad. Creating a list of them is an easy way to prevent wasteful spending.
E.g. if you sell calendars, “Mayan calendar” isn’t a phrase you likely want to target, so you can add it to a negative keyword list.
Make heavy use of retargeting
Don’t lose customers once they’re already in. Remarketing allows you to capture leads who have already engaged with your content instead of expending budget trying to get brand new ones while the old ones wander off into the void.
Create process documentation:
- A persona pull sheet that outlines who your audience is, what they care about, and how they consume information.
- A style guide that outlines your brand’s voice and tone
- An editorial calendar that covers what’s being written, the target persona, who is handling the creation, and where it will be published.
These docs keep you organized, and your content consistent, serve as guidelines for outsourced writers, and reduce cost sunk into edits and rewrites.
Don’t get hung up on writing. If you’re a strong speaker, a podcast might work best. If you’re comfortable on video, film yourself.If none of the above works for you, track down a journalist and ask him or her to conduct a quick 10-minute interview on a topic and then translate their notes into a post.
Get an editor. Make long-term creative relationships
Instead of paying high rates for an elite writer, find yourself a solid editor. Editors can correct, polish, and refine writing to make even a mediocre writer’s work sound sharp and professional, giving you a little leeway to spend less on writing talent.
Businesses tend to resort to freelance writing hubs, or content conglomerates to save money. That’s a mistake. Working with the same writer over the long term means they’ll learn your requirements, understand your subject matter, and master your style guide, cutting down on the costs of edits and revisions.
Build permanent assets
Blogs are fickle. They need constant updating and thus constant cash to stay afloat. Therefore consider investing in content you can market over and over again: e-books, white papers and guides can all be used multiple times and make great bait to land customer e-mails and sign ups. Combine this with retargeting from PPC and it’s a HUGE win. It costs much less to retarget a warm lead than find a brand new one!
Repurpose your idea!
Choose one “big idea” that’s relevant to your audience.Plan a comprehensive piece of content on it. Usually this is a permanent asset you can market over and over. Think about what else it could turn into.After building and monitoring your asset, repurpose it over and over again for dozens of pieces of relevant content.
E.g. statistics make great fodder for infographics and tweets which can later be used in Slideshows, Ebooks and videos
If your business has a very niche audience and you need fast traction, find a big industry hub (like Tumblr) and aim to publish your content there, leveraging their audience and their promotional networks instead of building yours up from the ground up.
Social media is not “free.” It requires time and attention to update, monitor, and respond to customers on the channels you choose:
- Zone in on any two social networks where customers are most active, until you have the budget to expand.
- Make use of online question-and-answer forums including Reddit and Quora. It’s amazing how much free information and help you can get on virtually any online marketing issue—just by asking.
After all this invest in a professional to assess your site, reveal weaknesses, and show what to target, as well as where to implement their recommendations step-by-step. Do what you can on your own, and call for help for aspects you’re not comfortable dealing with.
So that’s a wrap on this little step-by-step to help you get started with using your $$$ for online marketing.