When it comes to running a successful business, marketing is essential. For a small business, marketing often seems like a daunting task - especially when it comes to marketing your business on the web.
Many times, budget-minded business owners fear that small business marketing needs to be expensive in order to be effective. Fortunately - this isn't true. Here are five simple tips for small business owners who are looking to save dollars, while still running an effective online marketing campaign.
1. Optimize Your Website
There are three simple steps to take so that you can be sure that your website is working for you.
The first is to use a descriptive title for your site as well as keywords and a description that allows search engines and site visitors alike to know what they will find when they visit your web page. Once that's taken care of, make sure that you are placing keywords appropriately in the text of your website.
Your keywords should be specific to your products and services, and should be chosen with consideration for the terms prospective customers would use when searching with Google or Yahoo or whichever other search engine they use.
Finally, these keywords should also be used in the alt image tags as they relate to the photos and illustrations that you post to your website.
2. Market Your Website with Articles & Distribute Press Releases
Article marketing is an extremely effective way to draw visitors to your website. By creating an informative short article that relates to your business, your area of expertise and your keywords, you can show readers a bit more of what they'll find from your business - which you can link to in your resource box at the bottom of the article.
Online press releases are another effective marketing tool. Like conventional press releases that let local newswires pick up a story about a new staff member or a new product line, online press release distribution will allow you to get the word out to those who publish online newsletters or who review products and services like those that you offer.
Both articles and press releases published online create valuable, relevant inbound links to your website (via the link to your site in your resource box at the end of each article or press release). Search engines place a great amount of value on the number of inbound links you have to your site, so this is an excellent way of building popularity with the search engines, as well as your human customers.
Both article marketing and distributing press releases will enable you to establish yourself as an expert and your company as a source for products or services. Each is effective, and often, submission to article directories is free - that's right, free marketing for your business, all it takes is a little bit of time.
3. Start a Blog
It's a common statement when it comes to Internet marketing: content is king. A blog - short for a weblog - allows you to create fresh content at regular intervals, driving traffic and search engines to your website.
Like article marketing and press release distribution, having a blog allows you to establish your expertise about the products and services that your small business offers. Unlike article marketing and press release distribution, however, a blog allows you to begin to carry on a dialog with your current and prospective customers.
Your blog works like search engine magic for your website. By linking your blog to your website, you draw the search engines to your website. Your site will rank higher and your customers will have a much easier time finding your site.
4. Commit to a Link Building Campaign and Submit Your Site to Directories and Search Engines
As a small business owner building and promoting your business on the web, having quality inbound links is important. Links allow your site to be found by those who visit similar sites looking for the products and services that your company offers.
Links - like those at the end of your articles and press releases, like those that link back to individual products or services from within your blog, and like those from others who have purchased from you in the past - help to improve your site's search engine rank.
By submitting your business' website to relevant directories and even to industry-specific - niche - search engines, you'll begin to generate additional links. More importantly, however, these niche directories are increasingly used by those looking for very specific sites. Having your listing present will make it even more likely that your prospective customers will find your page; that makes them a particularly valuable marketing tool for your business, and, again, it's often free to submit your site.
5. Look for Joint Ventures with Other Like-Minded Business People
It's not uncommon for small businesses to work together - a movie theater and a restaurant offering coupons for a discount if you spend the evening at both places. In my past life working with large corporations I realized that the largest companies grow by means of joint ventures all the time. However, many small businesses do not look into joint ventures when it comes to marketing their businesses.
Is it always easy to find the right joint venture for marketing your business? No, of course not. But it is possible to find like-minded business owners whose customers could benefit from your products or services just as your customers could benefit from those that they offer.
As a result, both small businesses will be better able to extend their outreach and develop a wider customer base. If you are going to enter into a joint venture, search for companies with similar goals and a similar customer base but a different type of product or service. Stay on the lookout, keep an open mind and you just might find the perfect opportunity to market your business to a new audience.
A perfect example of this principle is a recent joint venture I did with a company who specializes in teaching business credit skills to small business owners. This company markets to the same clients that I wish to add to my customer list, but they offer a completely different service. By working together, we were able to market our services to each other's mailing lists, resulting in both of us attracting new customers we would not have had otherwise. The great part about this joint venture was that there was no out-of-pocket cost to either of us - just our time and a little creativity in coming up with suitable promotions to each other's lists!
Taking your business to the web does not need to be difficult, nor does it need to be expensive. By taking a creative approach, small business owners on a tight marketing budget will be able to find traffic and increase their customer base.
Focus on reaching the search engines: use the right keywords and use them appropriately. Let people know that you have the information they need with articles and be sure to get the word out by distributing press releases. Interact with your customers with a high quality blog, and focus on getting great links. Lastly, take advantage of partnerships with like-minded business owners.