When it comes to building a company, small-business owners face a common conundrum. Getting the word out about services and products is vital, but advertising can strain the business bank account. For this reason, small-business owners, like OPEN Forum community member Laurie Dollner Mathews, are cautious about where they invest their advertising dollars.
The owner of LDM Executive Services, which offers executive assistance, graphic design and event coordination virtually and locally, asks: “What was the one place you paid to advertise that you feel was most successful with a limited budget? I’m just starting out, and if I can scrape together enough money for some advertising I want to spend it in the best place possible.”
Fortunately, today’s business climate offers the best of times for small-business owners who wish to promote their services and products with customers in an affordable way, says Ebong Eka, CPA, a tax and small-business expert with Levyti Consulting, LLC.
“In the past, advertising was akin to throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks,” says Eka, who is also the author of Start Me Up! The No-Business-Plan Business Plan. “Now there is social media and the ability to inexpensively test advertising campaigns and target customers who will most likely buy your products and services.”
How can you market your business without draining your bank account?
1. Digital Ads
For a relatively inexpensive investment, well-placed digital ads can help you effectively target potential customers, says OPEN Forum community member Shawn Shutts, chief operating officer of Fuwak Connections. “For services such as executive assistance, Google Adwords and/or Facebook Ads are a great place to start,” Shutts says. “You only pay out based on clicks, and you can market to certain regions, people and so on.”
2. Facebook Advertising
OPEN Forum community member Kosio Angelov is a big fan of Facebook paid advertising. “You can get really targeted, and the cost is relatively low compared to Google Adwords,” he says. “If you know the demographics of who you are targeting, you can literally cherry pick only the best prospects and show your ads only to them. Or even better, if you have a competitor who already has a good Facebook presence, you can target that company’s audience directly.”
Sponsored posts on Facebook are particularly effective, says Eka of the posts that are built around user activity. With these posts, advertisers pay to highlight actions already taken on the network or within a connected app.
“You can learn what people are specifically interested in and tailor sponsored posts geared to your customers' searches and interests,” Eka says. “For example, if you know that your customer is a 35-year-old woman who lives within a particular zip code, has a certain income and recently purchased an expensive blouse from Macy's, you can create a sponsored post/update that says: ‘If you like blouses from Macy's, you'll love this belt and purse combination from XYZ Store. And if you click today, you'll get a 30 percent discount!’"
3. Google Adwords
Although Adwords have become costly because businesses have bid up keywords, Eka says there is a way to make this advertising method less expensive. He suggests using the keywords at the bottom of the first page of a search. “For instance, the word 'plumber' will come up first and be expensive, but further down the page are plumbers supply and plumbers jobs. Those will be effective, yet less costly,” he says.
Target marketing is also important with Adwords, says Jared Kugel, director of business development at Full Scale Media. “Narrow down your market, rather than shooting in the dark," he says. "For instance, if you do business signage, don’t try 'Business Signage North America,' which is way too broad. Narrow it down to a particular area of interest or geographic region.”
4. Social Media
While social media is technically free, many small-business owners are simply too busy running their companies to maintain effective social media campaigns, says Kugel, who suggests hiring a local college intern or high school student to inexpensively manage your various platforms.
“If you’re too busy, reap the benefits of an active social media campaign by paying someone a nominal wage for a couple hours a day to set up your various channels, come up with engaging campaigns and communicate with customers online,” he says.
Considering that many people check out reviews before trying a product or service, it makes sense to set up free accounts on directory sites such as Yelp and Citysearch. To take full advantage of these cost-effective advertising platforms, Kugel suggests paying someone a reasonable fee to develop the best looking pages possible with tempting pictures and descriptions of your products and services.
Do you have another suggestion or channel you've tried with some success? Please share n the comments below.
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