Digital Marketing Opportunities For Small Businesses……
Little or no time
Relatively little time
Primarily an Organic tactic
Facebook Pages offer an easy way to get a conversation going with your customers, improve loyalty, ask for feedback, and build community. Successful business Pages on Facebook require frequent monitoring and content updates.
You can think of Twitter as a kind of public-email-listserv for the web. Depending on the type of business you operate, you might use Twitter to announce new products, chat about news items in your industry, or offer discounts. Depending on your industry, you might see success with minutes a day, or it might take hours.
Plus is a new social network from Google. It’s sort of a hybrid between Facebook and Twitter, allowing for group conversations with some of of your techier customers and prospects.
Pinterest is a digital bulletin board–a highly visual way for people to share interesting content they come across online. It’s a lighter version of a Facebook wall, with lower follower expectations of update frequency.
LinkedIn is the largest social business network. Developing a strong reputation by answering questions in certain forums like insurance, banking, or consulting may pay off for your business. LinkedIn charges a small subscription fee for optional Pro accounts which give you additional intelligence about other users.
Free or very low cost
Relatively low cost
Relatively moderate cost
Relatively high cost
Primarily a Social Media tactic
A number of sites offer opportunities to answer questions for prospects; some of the best known of these include Quora and Yahoo Answers . Industry- specific examples includeAvvo and Travellr . These sites don’t require any set amount of time, but the more questions you answer the faster you’ll build your reputation.
Providers like Constant Contact andVertical Response offer the ability to maintain your email lists and send branded emails at a reasonable price. It probably won’t bring you a ton of new business, but few strategies can match email to build existing customer loyalty.
Reviews / Social Reputation
Customer reviews play a role in your local search engine rankings, but more importantly, they influence whether customers ultimately choose to contact your business. Encourage customers to review you as part of your regular point-of-sale or follow-up process; a handful of web companies like CustomerLobby orReputation.com can also help.
Offline Ads w/QR Codes
A bridge between the offline and digital worlds, QR codes allow smartphone owners to scan them and be directed to a webpage that contains more information about the product or service being advertised. A number of websites offer free QR code generators , but there’s obviously cost involved to purchase the ads themselves.
Lead Generation Services
Online lead generation companies like Thumbtack , ServiceMagic , andRedBeacon offer guaranteed customers–if you’re able to sell them after their initial request. Some sites charge a membership fee; others take a percentage of the contract amount.
Location-based services likeFoursquare and Facebook Placesgive you the ability to learn a lot about your customers…if you have time to analyze the data. Offering specials (usually small dollar-value) can bring in new customers from these services as well.
Social Media Ads
Ads on Facebook and LinkedIn are easy to set up on your own. You can target demographic, geographic & even interest-based ads at reasonable prices. Some guidance is still recommended to ensure the best use of your ad dollars.
Paid advertising programs such asGoogle Adwords and Microsoft AdCenter in which businesses are charged a fee when a searcher clicks on their advertisement. Sometimes called “PPC” or mistakenly called “SEM.” Guidance recommended to ensure advertising dollars are spent wisely.
Optimizing your local business listings like Google Places , Bing Business Portal , and Yelp is one of the most time-effective and cost-effective digital marketing opportunities for small businesses. Start at GetListed.org !
Linkbuilding is a key component of traditional SEO. When done well, it’s one of the most successful long-term strategies on this list. It’s also one of the hardest and most time-intensive to execute, and often requires help from a professional agency .
Blogging is a great way to demonstrate your expertise to, and build relationships with prospects, peers, and your existing customers. It can give a big boost to your SEO but requires a significant time commitment.
Text Message Ads
Like email, text message ads probably aren’t going to bring you much in the way of new business, but services like Fanminder and 4infocan help you keep existing customers who have opted-in to receive your messages coming back.
Digital Loyalty Programs
Loyalty cards are rapidly going digital, with companies like Punchd(now owned by Google), the Bing Business Portal , and Punchcard , offering easy-to-manage loyalty programs for your customers with smartphones.
Video is a fantastic way to engage with prospects –both on your website and search engines like YouTube and Vimeo. There are some exceptions, but video production is usually tough to do in-house, and companies like TurnHere andSpotzer aren’t terribly cheap.
On-page SEO–making your site more visible in the search engines for keywords related to what you sell–is something that can usually be accomplished fairly quickly by a professional , but usually requires technical knowledge. And without linkbuilding, simply adjusting your code may only have a limited effect.
Most small businesses probably don’t need to develop their own app–or even have anything beyond a basic mobile website. But in certain high-value, high-visual industries like interior design, homebuilding, or finance, developing your own app might make sense as a customer recruitment tool. AppStack is one of several companies that seeks to make app creation for small businesses affordable.
About This Graphic
As a small business, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of options to market your business online. Even those of us who do internet marketing full-time find ourselves overwhelmed.
I hope this graphic, developed for attendees of our Local University series, helps you understand at a high level how some of the more popular options work, and which of them might be the best fit for your business based on your own time and budgeting priorities.
Note that each option is marked with at least one flag as an “Organic,” “Local/Mobile,” “Social,” or “Other” tactic. If you’ve taken our Online Marketing Mix survey , I hope that overlaying our recommendations of which general area best matches your business will help you decide where to start marketing your business online.
Source: -David Mihm, President, ww.getlisted.org