How to Bring in Customers without Breaking the Bank

In a sea of online businesses, how do you persuade those elusive customers to visiting your website, particularly when you can't afford a marketing expert to employ a net? Teach a man to fish, they say. We'll teach you how to market!

Most of the things that marking experts streamline are easily doable yourself. The effort costs a dedicated amount of time and a little money, but the gain is invaluable for your business in experience, skills, and networking.

Blogging & Content Marketing

Cost: 1-2 hours a day

Break out of the stale monotony of business with a blog. Blogging gives your company a voice within your industry and for your product. Blogs provide a more personal touch, allowing a brand to speak to a consumer, instead of just at them. Posts generally touch upon topics beyond one's products, but reflect the interest of the target demographic.

Blogging adds more site pages to be indexed by search engines, allowing more people to find you and ultimately, generate more leads.

Blogging goes hand in hand with content marketing, which is a vital step. You can't write a post without promoting its existence. Be sure to share your post links on social media pages and message boards. Consider guest blogging within your industry; post a piece on like-minded sites or blogs and vice versa. Writing for other sites while representing your company expands your audience reach.

To put the importance of blogging into perspective, check out this excerpt from this Huffington Post piece:

"If there is one thing that I regularly hear from small business owners, it is that they blogged a couple of times and they didn't get the return they are seeking. Imagine saying this...I went on a couple of sales calls and nodiv bought my product or service so I stopped selling. Sounds dumb, right? Well so does the first statement."

Social Media - Facebook

Cost: 15-20 minutes a day

Facebook is the most well-known social media platform in existence - its user base is a massive 1.4 billion active users. There's no question that you need to have a voice in a place where everyone is talking.

With a brand Facebook Page, fans can be exposed to your content daily within their feed, without having to search. However, be mindful not to use Facebook (and any other social media platform mentioned) as a sales channel. In fact, think of the network as a way to generate trust and provide a service to your customers.

Facebook has become a main source for customer service. Consumers search for a brand's page to issue a complaint or comment with the company. Your Facebook Page provides a direct connection and dialogue with your consumers, so it is imperative to pay attention. Reward frequent visitors by providing special coupons or deals exclusively for Facebook fans.

Don't limit yourself to text posts, too. Create infographics, videos, and share photos within your brand's genre to market content in innovative and shareable ways. The more exciting and interactive a post, the more shareable it can be, widening the eyes on your page and feed.

As a final note, don't share only your content. Share any useful, relatable content that your fans may find interesting. The best way to sell a product on social media is to not sell it. Instead, use social media as a way to build your brand onto the forefront of minds.

Social Media - Twitter

Cost: 5-10 minutes per day

While Twitter may not be as effective as Facebook or Pinterest for driving sales, it shouldn't be excluded from a marketing strategy. Twitter is great for sharing content and driving traffic to blog posts.

When you share something on Twitter, you have the option of linking another Twitter handle in a post, which may be retweeted onto their own Twitter page, extending the tweet to the feeds of their followers. Leverage brand mentions from big names in your niche, which will expand your network exponentially, even if you yourself don't have a large following.

Twitter is also effective as a means of customer support. Also, customers can search for brand mentions on Twitter to see what people are saying about a particular company - if you search your company, you'll either find some testimonials, or you may find some ways to improve your business.

Not every tweet is public, however, since you can also have a private conversation with someone that follows you. Irate customers are best dealt with through the direct messaging system and carried on through email.

Social Media - Pinterest

Cost: 10-15 minutes per day

Pinterest is unique among social media platforms because by nature, it is more visual than textual, while Facebook is a mix of both and Twitter is primarily textual. Pinterest is much like a giant pinboard where users can "pin" their favorite images onto their visual "boards," separating each by genre, subject, brand, and/or style. One could follow a Pinterest page or specific boards, and other people can "like" or "repin" a board onto their own.

Don't think of Pinterest as just a place to dump images of your products. Allow Pinterest to become a creative place to visually create your whole brand's culture. Lowe's Hardware, for example, doesn't pin any of their own products. Their boards are filled with ideas for DIY projects - something that would appeal to a range of people, including those who are unfamiliar with the Lowe's brand. Lowe's also has a board repinning images from customers using Lowe's products, increasing brand interaction and community feel.

Pinterest represents a huge opportunity for companies, but especially those that sell visual products like apparel, accessories, and decor. You can also pin products with price tags, which actually have been seen to convert better than pins without price tags, as this infographic from Shopify shows.

Reddit

Cost: 10-15 minutes per day

Reddit is a democratized social bookmarking site where people vote positively or negatively on submissions, so posts that are closer to the front page are more popular. Reddit is also broken up into many sub-categories, or subreddits - and chances are, there is a subreddit for everything. There are subreddits for people interested in multi-rotor helicopters, people interested in beards, and anything else you can think of.

Redditors are very sharp and will pick up right away if you are trying to spam - and kick you out if that's all you are doing. Like any social network, focus on providing value, joining the conversation, providing expertise advice and experience on the given topic, and when appropriate, dropping a link here or there to a product.

Sean Ogle of Location 180 has put together an excellent guide on driving traffic with reddit, which is worth evaluating.

SEO - Link Building

Cost: 1-2 hours per day

With all the hype about content marketing and social media, we can't forget about good old-fashioned SEO, can we? White-hat SEO still works and is a great tool to evaluate marketing.

Link building is still powerful in SEO, if you do it right. Don't spam article directories and blog comments - build links where they matter. Email webmasters that have dated resources and request them to link to your new, updated resource. Find websites that have broken links and offer to link to your live page instead. Find resource pages that link out to authoritative pages and ask to include your page as well. For more methods, check out this resource on how to build links to an online store.

Instagram

Cost: 10-15 minutes per day

Instagram is another powerful way to reach your customers and develop your brand. Instagram, like Pinterest, is a platform to upload images that people can share, comment, and 'like.' The major difference between Instagram and Pinterest is summed up pretty nicely by GetBusyMedia:

"Instagram lets users share what's happening to them, or what they're seeing in the world. Pinterest, on the other hand, lets users share what they wish would happen to them, usually in the form of places to visit or live, clothes to buy and other aspirational lookbooking."

There's also a stark difference in demographics: Women are more likely to use Pinterest than men, and most Instagram users are between 18 and 29.

Yotpo has put together a nice guide on how to use Instagram to increase online sales.

Cheap PPC - StumbleUpon, Amazon, & Facebook

Every tip provided thus far can be executed for free. Here are some paid methods you can use for a fraction of the cost of Google AdWords:

  • StumbleUpon for paid stumbles (5 cents per click or "stumble")
  • Amazon product ads: inexpensive and high-converting
  • Facebook ads: inexpensive, offer targeting, and are great to drive email opt-ins, page likes, and small, impulsive purchases

Implementing these strategies should keep your marketing plate full for quite a while. Once your methods are streamlined, be sure to document the workflow to eventually hand off to freelancers and assistants, freeing up more time for you to work on the creative and visionary aspects of your business. Handling your own marketing may open your eyes to new ideas and angles on navigating and expanding your business in ways unimagined before.

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