The marketing expense is always a troublesome line item for small-business owners. While they know that they need to spend money to make money, they're never quite sure of the results of this expense. Many owners grumble that they know that “50 percent of their marketing is working, but which 50 percent?” This has all changed with Internet marketing, where every action is now “testable and trackable.”
Most small-business owners should be spending upwards of 10 percent of their sales on marketing. However, even if you have only $500 a month, there are several great options to get the maximum marketing results.
1. Practice organic search engine optimization (SEO). If customers can’t find a company when they're looking for a solution, it will never be chosen. SEO enables a company to target the keywords and links that can get it on page one and increase its traffic. Follow industry experts’ best tips and don’t forget to claim free listings on Google Places and Yahoo! Local. Use a reputable partner for SEO like SuperMedia to ensure that the content and the structure of your company’s website can be found by the largest search engines.
2. Execute a well-managed search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. This is not to be done alone, since a poor campaign can burn through $500 very quickly with little results. Learn the Google AdWords basics so you better understand how it really works.
3. Send 500 postcards to targeted customers. Direct mail is making a comeback, since there's more spam and less junk mail than 10 years ago. Use a vendor like Deluxe to design and print postcards. Repeat similar mailings to the same customers at least six times on a monthly basis.
4. Buy a plane ticket to see a key customer. There's still nothing that replaces face to face when it comes to building a relationship with a customer and landing the business. The best time to buy a ticket is on the weekend and fly on a Tuesday. Services like Kayak can compare fees across airlines and other Internet ticket sites.
5. Get PR. Get the company’s story in front of news people. Many businesses use the free service from Vocus called HARO. However, for the best results, check out Dan Janal’s PR Leads service to get more reporters and high-quality interviews.
6. Hire a content writer for the company blog. Many small-business owners complain they have no time to blog. However, the more branded content a company blog has, the higher it will be in the search engine rankings. Find a journalism student through a crowdsourcing site like Elance or get an article written for as little as $1.25 a post by a freelancer.
7. Get training. Many business books establish a marketing system. But authors like John Janstch, who wrote Duct Tape Marketing, and Mike Michalowicz, who wrote The Pumpkin Plan, have created a consultant network that teaches their methods one on one to small-business owners. Read one of these books and then get two hours a month of training from their experts to customize it to your needs.
8. Invest in an integrated email marketing and customer relationship management system. Having both functions in one system is key to tracking calls, follow-ups and behavior of each customer or prospect. Specific marketing paths can be designed based on an individual prospect’s behavior.
How have you used $500 a month for marketing?
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