The marketing arena has changed dramatically in recent years. In many ways it’s now easier and cheaper for small businesses to excel with DIY marketing. I’ve listed here 5 free options, but bear in mind that nothing’s really free – they all cost you in time, and there are always some drawbacks to ‘free’.
FREE ONLINE MARKETING CHANNELS
If you have a website, Google will find it automagically and list your site. Free! Somewhere… But you’re unlikely to rank well without putting in plenty of time and effort on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), fine-tuning your site and regularly adding content (eg. by blogging). [Read more here about DIY SEO.]
Statistics show that over 80% of people choose organic over paid listings, so it’s worth the effort to gain a high-ranking result in Google’s organic search.
2. Google Places page aka Google Local
This is an easy way to get a page 1 listing on Google. When someone includes a locality in their search (which they often do), Google will give much higher priority to businesses with a geographical listing. It will appear on the map, with a marker and a link to your Google+ Local page (which you can setup free here) and can then link through to your website.
A Places page is essential for businesses with a bricks’n’mortar shopfront, and handy even for those without, especially if your market is localised.
Once it’s setup, you don’t really need to touch it again, but it’s good to raise your profile further by collecting some favourable reviews.
3. TrueLocal listing
A business listing with Truelocal.com.au is free to signup here. Again, it’s good for getting seen in page 1 search results, but its downside is that the display will not only list your business, but other competitors in the same area.
The trick then is to differentiate yourself to stand out from the rest. Fill out all the fields, add attractive images, and gather some good reviews from your clients.
4. Email marketing
Mailchimp is completely free if you have less than 2000 subscribers (up to 12,000 emails can be sent per month.) Beyond that, it’s still almost peanuts to pay for the sort of reach that a good email campaign can provide.
You’ll need to spend some time setting up your template, and time writing up valuable content or offers, etc, for each campaign. Check the in-built reports but also setup tracking processes and integration with Google Analytics so you get to understand what works and what doesn’t.
5. Social networks
All of these are free to signup and use (there is a premium paid upgrade on LinkedIn, but I’d suggest most people don’t need it) so their main cost is time.
You can pay for Facebook ads and sponsored posts to grow your audience initially, but then most growth should be organic once you’ve built a good community.
It can be difficult to measure the returns from social media, but it can be a great way to share the love that you – hopefully – have for your business. Enjoy it, make it fun, and if it starts to bore you, try another channel.
PS. I’m going to look in-depth at each of the mainstream social media networks in future blog posts.
SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA?
If you find it’s all taking too much of your time and energy, you can outsource some or all of your social media. But is it advisable? That, as I always say, depends.
It depends on your goals, your chosen channel/s, and your brand’s personality. If you ARE your brand, I think it’s good to reveal some of yourself on social media in order to really connect with your audience.
It depends on whether you’re outsourcing to a specialist social media company, or to an e-lancer in a far away land. The costs will vary significantly, but so might the quality.
Trial and error in this arena could lead to people losing interest in your brand and ‘un-following’. So weigh up the pros and cons carefully before you decide to outsource. Perhaps you could outsource other aspects of the business instead, giving you more time to keep your finger on the pulse of social media.
Response time is also important when people ask questions or otherwise engage with you via social media. They expect a fairly quick response, even a conversation, so social media isn’t something you can schedule to attend to once a day.
Choosing the right channel/s to spend your marketing time and money is a bewildering prospect for many small business owners. Ultimately you need to be active where your target audience are active and balance that with which activities provide the greatest returns. It might take some trial and error. But at least you don’t need to throw thousands of dollars away in the process…