There really is no better, easier and more fun time to market your business than today. Granted, the economy isn’t participating, and dollars are tight, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating a marketing plan that will start generating new business.
I’ve pulled together some marketing activities that you can do when you have more time than money, and then as your business grows, I’ve got marketing activities you can do when you’ve got more money than time!
When you have time
1. Develop your message and an offering
Resist the temptation to get out there and sell without having a clear marketing message and an offer. You will look desperate and people will run away from you instead of running toward you. Take time to identify specifically who your ideal customers are, what’s important to them, and the frustrations that they encounter when they are thinking about what you’re selling. Then create an offer based on solving their specific frustrations.
If it helps, create a marketing kit that serves as a new customers’ startup kit. Once your offer is more concrete and exists outside your head, you will feel more confident and your customers will be able to experience what it will be like to work with you and buy from you.
2. Write a blog article at least twice a week
I’m not advocating writing a blog because it’s hip and cool. I’m encouraging you to do it because it’s a full page, keyword-rich advertisement for your product or service. Tip: Be sure to have a place for readers to give you their e-mail addresses in exchange for information that will help them be better consumers.
3. Comment on blog articles written by your customers or industry experts
Take the time to visit industry sites and blogs and leave intelligent and informed comments on their posts. Leaving a comment is like a mini blog post and encourages interaction and communication. Ask a question of the author or contact them via e-mail. Get a conversation started about your industry, product or service. Look for ways to help the author.
4. Write endorsements for customers, suppliers and experts on LinkedIn
Reciprocity is a powerful trigger. Leave endorsements and testimonials on the profiles of customers and suppliers. This will prompt them to do the same for you. Use the opportunity to start a conversation about them and what they have been up to. Always lead with asking how you can help—they will respond in kind. And this is when it pays to reference the offer you developed earlier.
5. Answer questions on Quora and Focus.com
Everyone is familiar with LinkedIn questions and answers, but I love Quora and Focus.com as well. Simply click over to either of these sites and search on a topic of your interest. Take the time to form a great answer and follow up with the person asking the question. These sites are also a wonderful source of content that you can use on your blog. Simply collect the answers to a question and include them in your article along with links to the people who answered the question. They will be honored that you referred to them.
6. Look for industry sites, magazines or blogs where you can become a contributor
This is an ideal activity when you have more time than dollars. You will reap the benefits after you are busy with clients. In the meantime, connect with editors and journalists from industry press and see what ways you can contribute and help. Most publishers are starving for good content and will be open to chatting with you. Once your business grows, they will be a valuable PR asset.
7. Get listed on outsourcing sites
If you are in a service business, consider putting your company on oDesk, eLance, Guru—or if your business is a retail location consider the new site, Thumbtack.com. These sites aren’t just for individual freelancers, a wide variety of organizations and teams participate as service providers. These sites serve as referring directories who match you and your company with customers who are looking for someone just like you.
When you have money
8. Conduct webinars/teleseminars
Leverage your connections to create an audience and a referral stream for webinars and teleseminars. You can provide free content and use the Webinars as a lead generator or actually charge for content and make it a revenue generator. If you’ve ever given a speech or presentation—or trained someone how to do something—then you have all the skills you need to do webinars.
9. Do Pay Per Click advertising
Most SEO experts will tell you that generating leads and traffic comes from a balanced approach between organic search (that you create with your blog) and pay per click advertising that targets and attracts customers that are most interested in what you have to offer.
10. Get Pro versions of automation tools
If you’re already using tools like HootSuite, MarketMe Suite or SocialOomph, then now might be the time to invest in the professional versions of these tools to help you manage your social media accounts in one place.
11. Invest in image and design
Design and image matter. Customers will form opinions about your company based on how professional you look. (Check out 99Designs.) For a fixed price, you post your projects and designers submit their design concepts.
12. Hire SEO professional
If you have less than 5 percent of your audience signing up for whatever you’re offering, it’s time for getting help from an SEO professional. Before you talk to a pro, be sure to have a clear call to action on your site that leads to a sale so that you can get the most from their advice.
13. Outsource the administration and management
If you’ve used the outsourcing sites to get customers, now you can use them to keep customers. If you’ve followed this checklist, you will have developed a system for getting it done right. Now you can transform these tasks into instructions and delegate them to virtual assistants, writers and SEO experts.
Don’t be afraid to invest in the time intensive activities. It’s the old “sharpen the saw” philosophy. By investing the effort up front, you’ll gather data and experience what strategies and tactics are most effective for your business. In the end, both your time and your money will be well spent.