When you think about it, 30 years ago your marketing options were fairly cut and dried. You had print, radio, television, and those sweet airplanes that had the long signs hanging off the back of them. God, they were cool.
So, obviously, everybody with half a brain chose to put an airplane banner in the sky as well as going with one or more of the other options. You could pat yourself on the marketing back – you’d nailed yet another year of advertising brilliance for your organization. Tick.
I don’t like to reduce the realities of the old days to a word like “quaint.” I also don’t particularly like referring to a time 30 years ago as “the old days.” But in comparing the current marketing environment to the one of that era, the old days were freakin’ quaint, guys.
Online marketing has blown your classic ’80s marketing strategy to smithereens. If you chose to spend your hard-earned on a combined marketing assault of an AM radio ad with an airplane banner, there is no doubt that I would high five you, but there is the equivalent amount of doubt that you wouldn’t be tying your marketing budget to a brick and throwing it into the grand canyon.
The online marketing options of this day and age are endless. Banner ads, YouTube commercials, pop-ups that make you feel certain your PC has got a terminal virus; having a few options is great, having too many options can be overawing.
If you’re just starting your online marketing journey, it may seem like a complicated maze of marketing strategies. Where do I turn next? What is a fair price for ad space? What platforms do I need to engage with? For first timers, it can be an assault on the senses.
There are a few basic starting points for online marketing, however, that should be the first to get your attention. Here are just five online marketing avenues that will form the perfect platform for your eventual web domination.
A comfortable place to start for any small business owner, if my senile, 87-year-old grandma can do it, you can too.
Email has a personal feel to it, and it’s the most direct and often the most engaging option you have in your online marketing arsenal. Someone has (presumably) trusted you with their email address, so be sure to reward them with legitimate, usable material. Customers can smell a spamming rat miles off, so keep it personal, friendly and relevant.
Email customers should feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Throw them an email-only deal every once in a while – “25 percent off if you enter this code on checkout” style offers can make a customer feel validated in signing up to be on your email list.
You can also use email to tie in with your other online marketing efforts. If you’re running a competition on a social account, for example, send your customers a heads-up that it’s happening. And speaking of…
If you’re active on the World Wide Web, you’re more than likely personally active on Facebook. And the network that you’ve built with old school chums that you had hoped you’d never hear from again can be matched by your small business. Hooray.
But seriously, social is a vital piece of the online marketing puzzle. It’s a way to humanize your business, showing that it’s built by real people who have real personalities. You can use it to share all sorts of things, from stories of customer satisfaction to the goings-on in the backrooms of the office.
You can even use it to directly advertise. Throw up a deal on your page for your Facebook subscribers. Facebook can work like word of mouth, as a post can show up on friends and family’s feeds when a person engages with it. “That kid I hated in school 20 years ago likes this post? I’m interested”, someone might definitely think. But seriously, it does work. Just remember to keep to the 80/20 principle. Eighty percent fun and engaging content/20 percent direct advertising.
Paying for Facebook advertising can be a terrific way to expand your marketing on the cheap. If you’ve got a particularly popular post, you can spend as little as $10 to have it reach thousands of specifically targeted people. Now that’s the sort of bang for your marketing buck that not even a super awesome airplane banner in the sky can achieve.
And why stop at Facebook? Social media channels are free to use, easy to set up, and popular as heck. Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube; the options are seemingly as endless as their marketing potential.
Start a Blog
Do you feel like you’ve become somewhat of a well of knowledge in your chosen field? Do you feel like that knowledge would be of interest to other people? Strap yourself to the keyboard, we’re going blogging.
An informative or entertaining blog is what’s known as content marketing. Content marketing is almost pure goodwill. You’re giving the audience something without asking for anything in return. The hope is that your name will start to become synonymous with expertise, reliability and capability.
If your blog is a constant source of pertinent knowledge and insight, you’ll start to get spoken of as a “thought leader” in your field – someone to go to if you’re not sure of what to do. With that respect comes business, and your blog turns into a real source of income for you.
A regularly updated blog is also an indicator of a quality site to the major search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing. If you curate your blog consistently, you’ll see that you start to rise up the search result rankings for the appropriate keywords. Higher up the results = more business.
Be aware – blogging is not a short-term fix. You’ll have to commit yourself to playing the long game, and produce a swathe of material before you see it materialising into a good return.
Give Pay-Per-Click a Go
If you’re growing impatient that your blogging efforts aren’t reflecting in a good Google search ranking, you could give pay-per-click (PPC) advertising a go.
Small businesses, by their nature, have a very finite marketing budget to play with. You want to get as targeted and as effective a campaign as possible for your hard-earned. PPC campaigns offer a cost-effective answer to the online marketing question and give you the flexibility to dip as much of your business body into the murky marketing water as you’d like, whether it be a toe, a shin or your entire torso.
The PPC option delivers exactly what it says on the packet – you pay for every click that is made on your company’s ad. In Google’s case, the system is called Google Adwords, and you’ll see examples of them showing in the first few spots of any search query you care to type in.
The beauty of these systems is how targeted you can be with them. It’s unnerving the amount of data Google and the like have on us, but in this case, it can be used to your own advantage in a BIG way. After selecting the keywords that apply to your business, choose a particular postcode to target, or an ideal age range.
The Achilles heel of this operation is one of its main features. We’re all super familiar with the fact that ads will pop up when you search something, and most people have developed a complete ignorance of the fact that they even show up. Who clicks on ads when there are actual, legitimate results to click on? Thankfully, with PPC, you only pay for those that do.
Run Your Own PR
For a direct channel to major news and blogging sites, a PR campaign is unbeatable. Press releases give a sense of legitimacy to a story that nothing else on the internet can match. And they can be surprisingly cost-effective.
While there’s no guarantee of the story getting picked up by a main outlet, with prices to send out your own piece of PR starting at $200 or so, it can be a super cheap way to bring some real brand recognition to your business. Just make sure the material you send out is interesting, relevant, and reflects well on your business.
The Future Is In Your Hands
Online marketing can be an intimidating prospect for even the most seasoned of surfers. But by starting with the basics and familiarising yourself with a few systems, you are setting yourself up to exploit a system of marketing that just cannot be matched.
Yep, I’ll say it. Not even by banner planes.