Friday, July 13, 2012

Advertising on a Small Budget

In my last post, I talked about social media advertising. I cannot stress enough about the value of social media. First, social media is free (except time dedicated). For a business or person on a tight budget, this is a great way to spread a message. My blog is a great example! I started posting just a few months ago and “advertised” it on various social media outlets. I didn’t spend too much time on social media advertising – just a little, actually. Now with just a little work, I get hundreds of views per day (even when I am remiss with posting new content as I have been lately). A few hundred people is not a huge number, but it is commensurate with the effort I put in to social media. That says a lot considering how little effort I put in! So, for the first tip on advertising on a budget, read my last post on social media!

The next BIG idea is pretty obvious... Get the biggest bang for your buck! Advertisers want to make sure that they are telling as many people about their brand as possible for the lowest cost. I found a great way to do this is getting ad space on popular blogs (No, I am not trying to sell anything. I do not have advertisements on my blog and don’t intend on adding them any time soon…unless I miraculously get gazillions of readers and cannot resist the temptation to get rich quick).  In general, I found that blogs, even those with very high readership, cost significantly less than other types of advertising.

When choosing a blog on which to advertise, make sure that the blog’s target audience is the same as your target audience (obviously). Also, be sure to ask them to provide statistics on how many page views they get per month. You don’t want to waste money on any ad space that does not attract plenty of readers. Most importantly, do not under estimate the value of a good graphical advertisement. Consumers are experts in spotting professional-looking ads versus something you made in MS Paint. I will write a separate post with hints about creating a good advertisement.

I have also found that a great, affordable way to “advertise” are by keeping updated profiles on rating and review sites like Yelp, City-Search, and Capterra. Remember, these kinds of sites allow customers to give their opinions on your business and service. That can be tricky… who knows what axes people have to grind. The tip here is to make customer relationship management a priority. Remember, when you interact with customers, they can either help you or hurt you. Today, people are heavily dependent on reviews before making purchases. In every interaction, remember that! If you make customer relationship management a priority, rating and review tools are very valuable to your marketing campaign.

Another great way to advertise inexpensively is the almighty press release. WOW, can these spread fast! You may be shocked (or maybe you already know) to find how many news media and bloggers will pick up your press release and ‘advertise’ your business. Be sure you have something useful to say or you run the risk of being ignored. But, if you can, issue press releases frequently. A business can generally distribute a press release for a few hundred dollars if the business tightly controls the word count. So, the important thing here is to make every word count and say something useful – even if it is not massively important.

For example, let’s say you don’t have any earth-shattering news…make some - as long as it is useful. You will guess from my former posts, I believe strongly in the value of marketing with educational materials in order to build a brand reputation and strengthen relationships with customers. So, perhaps you can add new educational material to your website and send a press release to announce it. You will need to come up with an attention grabbing headline and make sure the content of the press release brags the benefits of your materials without giving too much away (you want to leave them wanting more so they will come to your website).

Still, there is more you can do to "advertise" inexpensively, but since this article is getting long now, I will be brief with the remaining ideas…

*Have you written an e-zine article lately? Yes, people really do read those things. This is another way you show your business’ expertise. Again, the important thing is to write an informative article that leaves them wanting more! The goal is to attract people to your website or to call you for more information. 

*Do you have active profiles on business information and networking sites like Manta and BizNik

*Do you network? I don’t mean online. I mean in person. Do you go to local events that support your business goals? If you don’t, you should! If you are not sure where these networking events are, check out MeetUp and see what is available. 

*Try submitting an editorial or column to a news site. Often, editors are looking for good, free content. Make sure the article is timely, interesting, useful, educational, and/or a valuable opinion. The news will not run an advertisement for free, so don’t try to trick them with an incognito ad. Instead, talk about a recent event that aligns with your business expertise and let the “advertisement” be nothing more than your name, company, and position (the byline). If you want to sneak in some ‘low level’ gorilla marketing techniques – make the column controversial… just be careful with controversy – it can backfire and damage a brand’s reputation.

*Lastly and perhaps most importantly… Google search your name and your company name. Find out where you have been mentioned in any context. Go to those sites and see how you and your company are being represented. If there is an option, create a profile and add information about your company. The important thing is to get your company name out there - everywhere!


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