The name of the game is online marketing, but what about the rules of the game? Two small business owners approached me a couple week ago asking where they should spend their online ad dollars. They were two very different business owners. One owned a well-established second generation construction company that was looking to rebrand itself – the other a talented young woman who recently chucked in her much-hated job and was looking to turn a part-time talent into a full-time business. Both had no idea how to go about advertising online and had big business funds.
For them and for anyone out there that also feels like a deer caught in headlights when online advertising comes up – this one’s for you.
If you’re strapped for cash, you certainly don’t have the money to invest in online advertising; at least, you don’t have the kind of money you need to really see returns. You have options, and the sooner you know what they are the better off you’ll be. First, look into networking with colleagues that are already out there with a strong digital presence. See if they’re open to link exchanges or can guide you in the right direction. You don’t have to attend a networking group to get referrals – not when you’ve probably got a really strong network of friends who you can give and take from. Remember that networking works both ways. It’s not just about them getting you business or giving you leads; it’s in your interest to do the same for them. Networking groups work the same way, except they rarely admit it.
Save a Buck but Spend an Hour
You may not have $50 to spend on one weekly online ad pitch, or even the usual $250 for a week run in a print publication. So instead of appearing as an ad, why not take the more constructive route and appear as an article? While some magazines are wise to this and now charge you to even get an ad/article in, many others don’t. On this note, magazines that charge you to publish an article may not even be worth your time. You’ll know this by digging through a couple of old issues and seeing the quality of the copy printed. If it’s an advertorial, you know no one’s really reading it or taking it seriously. So, while you don’t have the cash to dump into ads, you can offer to write informative articles the publication would be interested in featuring. This works for both online and print ads. Make sure you get a byline and one link in return.
The Meat and Potatoes of Online Advertising
While free and cheap is fine, you really should consider spending the money if you can afford it. The downside with free is that you end up spending a lot of time; and if time equals money, then you’re left with the same problem. So, if you’re ready to spend the bucks, here’s what you need to know:
Online ads are a serious business, with reports indicating online ad revenue hit upwards of $8.4 billion this year alone.
There are two places you can invest in: social media and local media. Whether or not you should be on social media depends on your audience and what their habits are like. If you’re going to hit social media, stick to your demographic and to local customers. You’re better off testing tighter ad campaigns at $50-$100 a week rather than spreading yourself thin. This way you can also track which targets are getting the most return.
The next step (and ideally simultaneous to social media advertising) is to hit up blogs. If you’re a local service, stick to local publications and blogs. If you’re industry based, focus on blogs in your industry – which you’ll find offer very affordable rates.
No matter what route you go, it’s strongly recommended you set up a half-decent website and/or blog and start accruing an email list. More on this coming up soon.