Starting a business is never easy, but it’s even harder if you don’t have customers or supporters. Since most entrepreneurs don’t have a massive marketing budget to spend on high-profile ad space or flashy and elaborate advertisement production, the internet is a great place to start. You don’t need an award winning agency or a visionary designer to develop a well-branded presence online. What you do need is time. By the time you’re ready to start marketing your business you should have some basic information about your own company and your audience. You should have used this information to develop a visual brand identity or, at the very least, a logo that represents what you do in a way that will appeal to your audience. Note: If you haven’t done this yet you will not pass GO and you will not collect $200. Go back to basics and build your brand to be the foundation of your business moving forward. With a logo in hand and a decent understanding of who your customers are (or will be) you’re ready to get going. Step 1: Build a Website Unless your business revolves around your website, you don’t need anything too fancy. Identify the information and media your customers will expect to see and present it in a visually pleasing way. If you’re pinching pennies, buy a pre-designed WordPress theme that fits your needed functionality and customize it to fit your brand. Things to Consider: You can pay about $10 more for a responsive design that will make your website mobile friendly and much more impressive. Do it! Great photos make a website infinitely more attractive. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for stock photos, hire a photographer and get the shots that best represent every aspect of your business. This will help to establish your individuality as a business and to make the personal connection with your customers. Include social sharing options on all of the pages that make sense, definitely the blog. Don’t have a blog or know how to blog? Stay tuned. Step 2: Get Social Take what information you have about your customers and figure out where you should be spending your time. If your audience is well into their 50s or older you probably won’t catch them spending a ton of time on Twitter or G+, but they might be active on Facebook and LinkedIn. Use your logo and some of the photos you’ve taken to create a unified presence on the channels you decide to use. Questions to ask before deciding which networks to use: Are my customers mostly male or female? Are my customers tech savvy? Do my customers use their smart phones for social networking? How much time does my customer spend online? Step 3: Publish and Share Your new job in the social space is to be interesting and valuable enough to get people to pay attention. You can do this by creating your own content that appeals to the interests and needs of your audience and by curating content that will do the same. As you succeed in your new responsibility you’ll see that people have started to pay attention and, if you’re lucky, engage. Make sure that when you share and publish this content you are using a consistent voice that matches the personality, values and mission of your brand. Elements of Good Content: It entertains, educates, assists or inspires an emotional response. It’s relevant to the lives of the audience you’re trying to reach It hasn’t already lived and died in the social space. In other words, it’s not old news. Step 4: Keep Going If you want to see results you’re going to need to invest time and creativity. Always keep your goals in plain sight when it comes to the work you do. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new follower or share but when it comes down to it you’re interested in turning all of this work into new business. Provide value on a regular basis but don’t be afraid to let them know what your business does and how it could benefit them. After all, you’re dedicating all this time into making their lives easier, the least they could do is listen. If you set up a consistent presence online and engage your customers regularly, you will see your business grow. Over time these efforts can equal a reach and frequency that you will never be able to pay for with your ad budget.
Mike Bal is a marketing consultant who focuses on capitalizing on opportunity. Though his experience is heavily weighted in social media, he is well versed in web design, branding and integrated marketing strategies. He's worked with clients from all over the world to achieve various goals through creative and innovative community driven marketing. Mike is currently working on a collaborative book project called Marketing Apocalypse: The Brand Survival Guide. He has rounded up experts and thought leaders from various backgrounds to create a comprehensive collection of ideas to help brands survive in the modern marketing landscape.