We know it can be disheartening when beginning to look at online strategies on how to promote your business online.
How are you supposed to compete with major brands throwing endless budgets with hell-bent on the aim of online advertising world domination? Isn’t it a waste of time competing with these giants?
Well we can tell you right now, definitively, and with absolute clarity, it is not.
Well, because the online community is near infinite and there are many opportunities to reach your target market in ways that are highly effective while at that same time, being cost-efficient or even free.
We’re going to supply you with some simple, effective and very cheap ways of boosting your online presence, an aspect that is absolutely crucial to the running of any 21st century business.
But first, a few things you need some background knowledge in before we get into the nitty-gritty world of the digital marketing race.
What are personas and why are they important?
Personas are fictitious people you create who represent each segment of your target market.
The idea is to create these people, give them a name and a face, and give them realistic lifestyles, so that you will have a deep understanding of who they are. You’ll know their likes, dislikes, their challenges, which social media platforms they use, and when they engage with them.
Your personas are basically your target market and you’ll engage differently with each one.
By constantly referring to your personas throughout your marketing development, it makes each stage user focused.
We don’t need to tell you why this is important, but we will anyway. A user focused marketing campaign that is truly catering to the customers needs is an appealing one, and appealing marketing campaigns turn up sales.
Remember, each persona represents your dream customer, and an entire segment of your market, so what works with that person, will work for everyone she represents.
When we go through the process of buying anything, we go through the process of the buying cycle. What’s wonderful about the online marketplace, is that we can track exactly at which point a customer is on this cycle, and tailor our marketing specifically to them.
As you can probably work out from the above, their needs change depending on where they are in their buying process.
The buying cycle consists of three stages:
Awareness stage – this is where a prospective customer becomes aware of the need for a product. This is typically associated with cursory searches on Google. They’ll pop on and off of websites to get a feel for what’s out there.
Consideration stage – at this point, the user has a more definitive idea of what they want. They will evaluate various solutions and will compare features, prices and special offers. Google searches become more specific to the final product they wish to purchase.
It may include words relating to colour, size, specifications and location. During this stage, they will check out reviews and comments and see what people are saying about the products and services on social media.
Purchase stage – the decision to purchase has been made.
This is where you need to gently steer the customer through the process of purchasing, making the transaction as easy as possible for them.
Google is the largest, but by no means the only search engine. There are others that draw large volumes of traffic so even though I focus on Google, many of the principles would work on other search engines as well! Google is the most obvious example to use here I guess!
Now that we have the background info we need, here are 5 cost effective ways to promote your business online.
1. Compete for less popular keywords
Perhaps you’ve noticed this already, maybe even ages ago!
When you type in a search in Google, up to four ads appear above the search results and sometimes up to 3 appear below the search results. Organic, or unpaid listings, appear in between the ads and there are ten of these per page.
Brands bid for certain ‘keywords’ and phrases, and those that win the bids have their ads displayed on the Google search pages. This is the very basic premise of SEM (Search Engine Marketing).
Clearly, a huge company such as Skyscanner will be bidding a huge amount for keywords such as ‘flights’ or ‘cheap’.
If you have the budget of a multi-million, multi-national company then go for it, compete for these keywords! But this isn’t a realistic option for most of us, we can’t spend thousands and thousands of pounds on keywords that cost a fraction of the budget for other companies.
There are two key ways you can appear on the first page of Google’s search result.
1. Rank Organically
When it comes to this, content is king.
“Many websites use their blogs to improve ranking as it attracts visitors and elicits engagement”
If the content on your site is relevant to people’s searches, it compels them to stay on your site, and is of a seriously high quality, Google will reward the site with a higher ranking in the search engine results.
It takes a lot of work to produce quality content, but it’s a good way to get a higher ranking in Google. If you do this well, people will see you as an authority on the subject and the go to site for useful information.
If an article does well or goes viral, it will continue to draw in more and more of your target audience.
“It’s really worth investing the effort into posting regular articles.”
Keeping your material fresh and updating your site with more articles is a good way of showing Google you are an active and engaged member of the online community. Guess what it does for those active and engaged members? It rewards them with higher rankings.
We’re touching the tip of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) iceberg here, the method of growing your site’s outreach with organic, non-paying methods.
There is a huge amount you can learn about SEO, and when exploited it can help you achieve really impressive results.
2. Paid Ads
The ads that appear on search results pages had gone through a bidding process for a specific keyword or search term. As mentioned earlier, the more competitive the keyword, the higher the winning bid will be.
The ads with the highest ad ranks will be displayed.
Ad Rank is determined by relevance of the ad for the search term, what you’re willing to pay, the quality of the ad and the quality of the landing page it directs visitors to.
The most competitive keywords or search terms are the most expensive to bid for, and this space is generally dominated by companies with sizeable budgets.
You can however be competitive when it comes to what are known as longtail keywords. These are search terms that consist of 3 or more words and are generally quite specific in nature.
Longtail keywords are three or four words long, used to target niche demographics rather than more generic searches. For this reason, they are much cheaper to bid for than generic keywords.
You will have to do some research at this point, finding what longtail keywords are often used and which ones are a reasonable price for your budget. Some useful hints for choosing keywords are:
- Use locations. If you are a company based in Nottingham, for example, then bidding to use the ‘running shoes nottingham’ will mean your site will come above any that don’t include this specific location.
- Be specific with your product. Doing this will mean you are more likely to rank highly with searches from customers at the latter stage of the buying cycle. Someone who knows what they want will search specifically for that product, and if it matches yours, you will appear on that holy grail of a first page.
- Bid for voice searches. People are increasingly using voice recognition technology to search for things online. Consider bidding for longtail keywords such as ‘where can I buy cheap running shoes in nottingham’ as these searches are very specific and uncompetitive.
- Load your content with keywords (within reason). Including keywords in your content tells Google that your site is relevant to the search. And guess what, this method is organic and
- Use keyword research tools. Using things tools like Google Trends and Google’s Keyword planner to ascertain what topics are trending and worth bidding for.
Use Google My Business
Google My Business, formerly called Google Places, lets you list your company which then appears when people search for your type of business in your area. It’s displayed on Google Search and Google Maps.
This provides you first page coverage that is relevant to the person conducting the search while at the same time, attesting to the legitimacy and credibility of your company. Listing is absolutely free, so there’s no reason not to use it.
2. Facebook Marketing
Facebook, with its 2.2 billion users, is a marketing platform just waiting to deliver your brand to the screens of the masses. Crucially these masses include your target market. Posting is free, but the days of increasing brand awareness and driving traffic to your site by posts alone is unfortunately over.
Paid ads are the way to go these days, but fear not, they are still unbelievably cheap for the exposure your brand gets.
You can also target your ads at the people who matter, your personas.
Of course the first thing to say is that making sure your ad content is of a high quality is key, eye-catching ads are indispensable to a successful campaign.
Facebook can target its ads with unprecedented accuracy. You can ensure an ad only appears in front of people of a certain age, gender, economic status, education, with particular hobbies, interests, in a specific location.
This means your ads will only be delivered to people who want your product. For example, your ad for running shoes will only appear in front of men and women aged 18-45, in Nottingham, who are interested in fitness and/or running. Scary, but extremely useful for you.
There is a plethora of other tools Facebook provides you with in order to make the most of its platform: retargeting with Facebook Pixels, lookalike audiences, marketing on messenger, custom audiences, split testing ads and much, much more.
It is without doubt the platform to be marketing on, and the ability to effectively do this can make or break a business in an online business world.
3. Email Marketing
Email marketing is highly effective because it allows you to engage directly with your personas. You know that your email recipients are interested in your products because they provided you with their email details.
“Someone offering up an email address is demonstrating a level of trust that you need to protect.”
You will nurture your relationship with your email audience through regular engagement possibly in the form of a weekly or monthly newsletter, notification of special offers and upcoming events.
So, it’s evident that you need an email list. You could purchase lists, but these could be expensive and there’s a great chance that it’s not quite the target market you’re after.
You could also use expensive apps that allow you to acquire the emails of people who meet your specific requirements. These can be effective but comes at a cost.
We will have a brief look at a couple of cost-effective ways to build an email list.
A lead magnet is an incentive offered to your prospective customer in exchange for the email or other contact information. For example, you may offer a free trial month, give away an e-book or give access to a video.
You could for example, have a quiz where the results will be emailed to those people who took the quiz. Alternatively, creating ads like this one below, offering services and deals.
Keep your lead magnets specific, any vague lead magnets may attract a wider number of potential customers, but the odds are they won’t all be interested in the service you provide.
Your visitor will come across your free offer either through a social media post or an ad and when they click on it, will be directed to a landing page. This page should give them a good amount of information about what they will receive and let them know that their information is required to access it.
“Make sure you design both the ad as well as the landing page in a way that will engage your audience and get them to take the action you require.
Also make sure that each of these have only one very clear call to action (CTA). Any other action or link will divert them from the primary objective of the campaign. In this case, the objective is to obtain an email address.”
When people sign up for free promotional material, you need to keep track of which item they signed up for. This allows you to provide them with information or offers for a specific product or topic that interests them.
There are email service providers that let you segment your audience, along with the many other functions they offer.
Don’t inundate potential customers with low-value emails. This will destroy trust rather than build it and your mails will be flagged as spam. Your mailing list will shrink very quickly so please be weary of this.
The Power of Remarketing
Google AdWords Remarketing and Facebook Remarketing are both paid services that are highly effective in getting your ads to appear in front of your target audience. The remarketing philosophy of both platforms are very similar. People who have come onto your site and then left again, normally without making a purchase, are tracked.
As they navigate to other sites or continue searching on Google, they are served with your ads.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say someone came onto your website from a Google search and looked at your running shoes page. Your site will can track the user and target ads at them for the very products they’ve obviously expressed some interest in buying.
They will also be added to one of your many audience lists, which in this case we’ll call ‘running shoes visitors’.
Depending on where in the buying cycle the visitor reached, perhaps they clicked on and immediately off the page, perhaps they browsed a few items, or even went to the check-out page and didn’t complete a purchase, re-marketing tracks the stage they were at.
This allows you to target your ads accordingly.
For example, when targeting a customer who only viewed products, you may want to simply send them a link to a blog post by your site, advertise an upcoming product launch, or a variety of different products you stock.
When targeting someone who made it to the check-out page and didn’t buy your product, for whatever reason, you may wish to offer a discount on the item they were interested in.
Maybe even telling them the offer will only last for a limited time (nothing like inducing panic to close a deal).
We’ve already discussed Facebook because it really needed its own section.
Now we’ll focus on the other major social media platforms, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, and how they can be used to grow your audience.
To get the most out of social media, you need to post quality content regularly.
Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users, Twitter, 336 million monthly active users, LinkedIn, nearly 303 million users, and YouTube has 1.3 billion active users. Facebook has a ridiculous 2.2 billion of us logging in every month.
In the past, social media was not seen as a serious place for marketing. That notion has changed for obvious reasons.
You have to market your products where your customers are present.
Podcasts and webinars are highly effective at attracting subscribers. Some of the most successful personalities produce mainly videos and often these are filmed with a mobile phone.
The recipe is simple. Grow your followers, service them with useful content, nurture the relationship and they will convert into paying customers.
The online community is extraordinarily large and with the right approach, you’ll find the exact customer you’re targeting.
There are many tools at your disposal, many of which are free. For example, Instagram stories are a really effective way of getting your ads on to the screens of potential customers.
YouTube is a platform that has huge potential with its number of visitors, and has a huge potential for effective re-marketing as visitors search for specific videos.
So, the benefit of paid tools and services? It’s that they allow you to extend your reach even further with even more accurate targeting.
If you have a small budget, investigate these options to see which will deliver the greatest return on investment for you.
Digital marketing is not a passive exercise.
It takes a sustained effort to generate results; to be successful you need to tweak, alter and constantly strive to perfect your formula. If you do apply yourself, the rewards can be immense.
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