You’ve launched your business. Your check list is nearly complete…
Business goals – check
Catchy business name – check
Equipment – check
Business cards – check
Insurance – check!
1001 odds and ends – check
Customers – um….uh…sure?
Whether you are running a weekend bounce house rental or just opened an indoor go-kart track, reaching new customers without breaking the bank is the single largest challenge most new business owners face. The options are seemingly limitless. Print advertising? Billboards? TV and radio? Wow, everything is so expensive and you never really know what will work without a hefty investment and by then it is often too late. We’re not going to argue against traditional advertising options. Often they can work very well. However, we’re going to assume for a moment that you and your team are working on a tight budget and need to spread the word about your business quickly. Introducing the not so hidden gem generally referred to as ‘Internet Marketing’. We’ve asked our very own internet marketing experts to provide a summary of the most cost-effective methods available to new business owners looking to turn the internet into a sales tool. So, without further ado, here are….
10 Tips For Reaching NEW Customers On a Budget
- Website – It may sound obvious, but any effective internet marketing effort starts with a professional, informative and optimized website. The scope of website designs can vary greatly. For weekend or home-based small businesses often a self-built site using builders like Wix.com or Godaddy’s Website Builder is your best bet when first starting. The ‘follow the bouncing ball’ approach utilized by these site builders makes it relatively simple to put together at least a functional website. If your budget allows and your needs are a bit more advanced, we recommend hiring a professional website designer to turn your vision into reality. The most popular platform for websites is currently WordPress because of the flexibility available to designers – and search engines love the platform. Please note that professional design can cost anywhere from $1000 and up depending upon the scope of your needs. If you seek to incorporate an on-going SEO (search engine optimization) strategy somewhere down the line, you’ll also want to make sure to incorporate a blog into your design. Search engines simply love NEW, original content and a blog is the easiest way to address this. (You’re reading a blog now!)
- Local Search – When you search for something locally (like most people do), you inevitably are presented with a variety of business directories and maps listings. Fortunately, adding your business to the most popular business directories is often FREE. It takes a bit of time, but it is certainly worth it in the long run. A list of the most popular business directories that provide FREE listings for businesses is included at the end of this post. There are literally 100s of free local business directories available. A sound strategy is to commit to building about 10 new listings every month (10 listings can be done in an hour or less) and over time you’ll see your search engine traffic continue to grow. Please note that some listings require a physical address, but there are still quite a few that allow home-based businesses to be added without publishing the full street address.
- Social Media – The key to social media for most local businesses is to remain active without spending too much time on it. Typically, if you’re spending more than 15 minutes a week managing your social media, then it is too much. Most local businesses can get away with simply using Facebook and Twitter. (Connect Facebook to Twitter so you only have to post once by visiting http://facebook.com/twitter). Social Media posts should be a mixture of promotional messages and things that are simply interesting for the casual reader. No one ever watches a tv channel of nothing but commercials.
- Reputation Management – It is all about REVIEWS. Whether you like it or not, people will eventually review your business online. And many people now Google a business in search of reviews before deciding to do business with them. The best way to make sure you receive positive reviews is to make asking for them a part of your business strategy. You can ask via thank you emails, asking on your receipts/invoices, posts signage in your business, etc. The most popular review sites include Google+ Local (aka Google Maps) and Yelp.
- Market-Specific Niche Sites – For most industries, you can find website directories that allow you to add your business (often for free). Chances are good that these sites are conducting their own SEO efforts. Examples: Bounce House Rentals, Laser Tag, Family Fun Centers, Skateboard Parks
- Introduce Yourself to Local Niche Sites/Blogs – Just about every community has at least one website that provides a list of upcoming events or a list of to-do things for parents, etc. Typically a few simple Google searches can lead you to the top sites in your area. Make sure to reach out to the site managers and learn if there are any ways that you can be included in their offerings. A few examples include: http://capecoral.com (provides a way to submit upcoming events) – or http://familyeguide.com (serves a very specific local community with upcoming events, business spotlights, etc.)
- Start Building Your Email List for Newsletter Marketing – Taking the time to send out a newsletter to 10 people is a waste of time. However, if you start accumulating email addresses from day one, email marketing can be a very powerful tool down the road. We recommend using MailChimp to manage your email lists and newsletter campaigns. Mailchimp’s services are FREE until your list grows beyond 2000 addresses. NOTE: There are some legal beagle issues related to building an email list, so please be sure to review what is required as you build your list. Mailchimp has quite a few resources available to assist you.
- “In house” Promotion – You have a website. Facebook and Twitter are plugging along. Now what? Market to your existing customers. If you have a retail presence, use in-house signage to promote your social media and upcoming events/promotions. If you are a mobile business, create a postcard or brochure that includes links to your online promotional venues that you can leave with your customers. Repeat business is key to continued growth.
- Pay Per Click Advertising – PPC advertising is not for everyone. If not managed properly, it can be very expensive. The two venues that offer the most potential are Google Adwords and Facebook advertising. Facebook advertising is relatively new and thus a bit less expensive than adwords, but it can be a great tool for new businesses. The key to do-it-yourself PPC management is to start small and test what works. For Google, we recommend starting with a budget of $10 a day and monitor feedback from there. For Facebook, you can typically see results for as little as $5 a day.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics is a free service from Google that allows you to review virtually anything and everything about your website’s visitors. How many people visit from a mobile device? Is your website easy to navigate via mobile? How are your various online efforts working? How are people finding your site? Knowing the traffic patterns for your website can help you determine how to proceed in the future.
Local Search Resources (Current as of 12/1/15)
Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local, Google Places, Google Maps)
Bing Places (Formerly Bing Local)
Local.com ( a listing here ultimately creates listings on several hundred various sites via strategic partnership)
A Note About “Automated” Subscription Services: You almost cannot start an internet marketing campaign without running into automated local search services. The most popular is from Yext. They are seemingly everywhere. While services like Yext can work for local businesses, they are a bit over priced for what they provide. Our internet marketing guru recommends a combination of manually created listings (as included above) and a basic automated service like the one provided by Moz.org for only $84/year.
In summary, the above strategies may sound like a lot of work upon first review, but in fact most require only a time investment and the return you’ll see is well worth it. Good luck!