For small businesses without big marketing budgets or staffs, developing and executing an online strategy presents unique challenges. Where do I get the funding? How do I generate content? Here are a few recommendations to get you started.
If you are spending money on Traditional Media (newspapers, direct mail, yellow pages, TV, radio), track effectiveness using a direct response device (unique phone #, p.o. box, etc.). If you can’t prove you are getting an adequate return, move the money into a New Media testing budget.
Next, if you don’t have a website, create a simple one so you can be found online. Companies such as Intuit.com let you build and host a site for about $25 per month. You can create a Facebook Page and Google Places profile for free! This lets prospects and customers find you on the web.
You are what you publish online, so create specific, personalized content for your site and pages. Use language from existing materials such as your brochures to begin populating your pages. Use the language your consumers use. This helps you get found by consumers doing Google searches.
Next, keep it fresh and have fun. Upload photos of your store or office. Create a video (or use a paid service like TurnHere). Post the video on video sharing sites like Youtube and Vimeo and link to it from your site. The more rich content you post, the more easily you will be found on Google.
Ask your customers for their e-mail addresses. Then use a company like Constant Contact to build an e-mail newsletter (fees start around $15). Focus on offering insights highlighting your expertise (e.g. how to insulate your home in winter) not discounts or promotions (the insulation you sell).
Now use your savings from Traditional Media to gauge the effectiveness of paid New Media. You can build a paid Google campaign to generate guaranteed clicks or have one built for you by companies like Yellowbook or ReachLocal. Test effectiveness by counting calls, not just clicks.
Many other opportunities exist to grow your business online. Online coupons for local businesses have become a popular topic with the rise of group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social. We will explore the pros and cons in upcoming blogs.