Online Marketing in Tough Economic Times

We all know in tough economic times we’re meant to continue to market and advertise our business. But when cash flow is down it can be easier said than done. However that doesn’t mean you have to stop marketing, it just means you have to be wiser with how you spend your money.

One of the great advantages of online marketing is that it is highly measurable. If you try a new marketing initiative and it doesn’t provide a positive return on your investment (ROI) then stop, or tweak the activity. If you find an online marketing initiative that works for your business increase your spend and watch your profit increase. There are also many online marketing activities that you can do in-house, again saving you valuable dollars.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways market yourself online. I’m going to talk about three options available to you but don’t let that stop you from trying others.

Pay Per Click Advertising

If you’ve heard of Google AdWords then you’ve heard of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. Pay Per Click ads are the sponsored ads you see on search engines such as Google or Yahoo! With Pay Per Click advertising you pay only when a customer clicks on your ad, regardless of how many times it’s shown. You select your keywords and set an amount you are prepared to pay if someone clicks on your ad. When a user searches for, or is using, a keyword you have bid for, your ad will appear on the right side of results pages under the heading Sponsored Links. If a user clicks on your ad you pay the amount you bid for that term.

Pay Per Click advertising is a great way to target hundreds of niche keyword terms for a relatively low cost. In addition it is highly targeted and the results are highly quantifiable. The benefit of this is targeted traffic to your website – i.e. the people visiting are looking for your services!

Pay Per Click advertising is also highly customisable. You can target specific geographic areas and set specific times (hours and days) for your ads to be displayed. You can also start with a budget as low as $1.00 a day.

Pay Per Click campaigns can be running within hours and is a great way to drive prospective customers to your website quickly.

Blogging

Blogging is a fantastic and cost effective way to promote your business and stay in touch with your customers and prospects. There is an initial cost in setting up a blog but once you’ve done that all it requires is time and effort on your part. There are many benefits of having a business blog:

  • Blogging is a great way to communicate with clients, customers and prospects. Whether it be talking about new products or services, company news or resolving an issue, you can communicate on a level not seen before.
  • A blog gives you a voice which in turn gives readers an idea of who you and your business are. Your goal is to then engage them enough to want to do business with you.
  • Blogging can help position you as an expert in your industry.
  • Blogs attracts links and can help you in your search engine rankings.

When setting up a business blog I always recommend incorporating it into your current website design. Integrating your blog into your existing website design ensures that it provides a consistency of your brand and identity. It also enables readers who enjoy your blog to wander into other parts of your website such as your services and how to contact you.

If you decide that blogging is for you then make sure you set aside some time each week to write posts as there’s nothing worse than a blog that’s not updated.

Social Networking Sites

Social networking is a more recent phenomena on the internet. A social network is an online community of people who share interests and/or activities. Most social networks are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact such as though posts, messaging and email.

If your target market is into social networking then communicating with them via this method is a fantastic way to interact with them, promote your business and get your message across. There are many ways social networking can benefit your business:

  • It allows you communicate with a far reaching audience and promote your business on a global scale.
  • It can help you build trust and promote yourself as an expert in your field.
  • It can help you connect with potential business partners and employees.

If you are thinking of using social networking sites to promote your business it’s important that you take the time to understand social networking and the right way to go about it. The internet can be a very unforgiving place and bad stories and promotions can spread like wildfire.

Two popular social networking sites are Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites online. Facebook can be used to connect with people, stay in touch, post pictures, share links and exchange information. It can be used to connect friends, family and co-workers. Used smartly it can also be used to promote your business and connect with your prospects and customers using the many applications that are being developed. You can use Facebook to:

  • Create brand awareness.
  • Engage with your customers and communicate promotions, contests and events.
  • Announce new products.
  • Generate leads and acquire new customers.
  • Manage your online reputation.

With the enormous market share and number of new applications being developed Facebook is one social networking service I highly recommend you familiarise yourself with.

Twitter

When it comes to social networking sites Twitter is the new kid on the block. So what is it? Twitter is kinda like micro-blogging – basically you can say (or tweet) anything you like in 140 characters or less. You can follow other people’s Twitters and others, in turn, can follow you. So why would you want to use it? Good question. Like all marketing initiatives you need to first look at whether it’s for you. If your target audience is likely to use Twitter then you should be too. Twitter can help you to:

  • Connect and network with others in your industry.
  • Share thoughts and ideas with like minded people.
  • Stay in touch with customers and prospects.
  • Test out new ideas and get feedback on existing products and services.
  • Monitor what’s being said about you and your business.
  • Monitor what’s being said about your competitors.
  • Monitor your competitors if they’re on twitter.

There really isn’t enough space here to delve into Twitter too deeply but hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought. I’ll post some resources on our website (http://www.thinkprospect.com.au/articles/resources/) that will help get you started.

They are numerous other social networking services that could be worth a look. They include: MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn and Friendster. It’s also worth researching your market and looking for niche social networking sites geared to your industry and target audience.

With all these ideas it’s important to measure and track their performance. Ditch the non performing, expand the successful, rinse and repeat.

Tough economic times may mean less dollars to spend on your business’s marketing but you can still find smart initiatives that can help you grow your business in a cost effective manner. And don’t forget that promoting your business and website now is helping you to establish your business and your brand for the long haul.

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sophie-wegat