Brand awareness comes from various forms of marketing. If you’re working with a slim budget, you need to step up creativity to get attention. Luckily, the internet provides many free or low-cost promotional avenues to experiment with, such as social media and email. Here are key ways to capture leads online without spending much money.
SEO and Content Marketing
Simply by having a website, it’s possible to show up in search engines, where most online traffic originates. If you own the only site in your niche and you choose the right keywords that correspond to your content, your site can get high search rankings. Chances are, however, you face some type of competition unless your business is based on a unique idea. The key to search engine optimization is to offer deep content that showcases your expertise.
Social Media Engagement
One of the easiest ways to get free exposure is through popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. Many other social media sites cater to specific industries or niches. Select networks most appropriate to your particular business.
Facebook is by far the most popular, with about 1.86 billion monthly users, as of April 2017. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. While you can control who gets to see your posts, Facebook can be a place where negative comments pile up. You may decide that LinkedIn has more professional engagement, depending on your business. Pinterest and Instagram have become popular in recent years because of their visual appeal.
Whatever platforms you decide to use for social media, keep them active. Provide an endless stream of updates without flooding news feeds. Three to four posts per day are a healthy number to keep followers interested. Try to mix up your posts so that they don’t fall into a predictable pattern. Photos and videos are popular, but mix it up with short posts with links like on Twitter. Sometimes longer posts work if you have an interesting story to tell. Above all, answer people’s questions and engage with your followers as much as possible.
An email marketing service is an efficient way to stay in touch with people on your marketing list. While purchasing email marketing software may be beyond your budget, subscribing to a monthly service, such as MailChimp, is affordable. This service will help you organize your contacts into multiple lists or one master list, the most cost efficient method. With this service you can send out newsletters to promote your products and online assets. You can also use it to send personalized messages to your followers.
Before you start sending out mass emails, make sure you have permission from recipients to do so. You must comply with anti-spam regulations established by the Federal Trade Commission. One of the most important rule: give recipients the option of unsubscribing to your messages. Ignoring these laws can lead to substantial penalties. That’s why you should avoid buying lists or scraping emails without permission to build your email list. Developing a list takes time, but you can accelerate the process by capturing leads from your own email and social media followings.
Your email campaigns can be key to generating leads and boosting sales. Build brand loyalty by communicating with your target audience on a regular basis. Here are some essential tips for successful email marketing to help strengthen your relationships with customers:
- Offer useful prizes or discounts in exchange for signing up for your email list
- Only ask for the most important information to encourage a fast signup process
- Respond quickly to people who request more information
- Pay attention to bounce-backs so that you can keep your email list current
- Check out email campaigns from successful firms and get a sense of what works
- Craft your messages based on a clear marketing strategy and set of goals
- Do not use vague, deceptive or misleading subject lines
- Personalize your messages by learning about each recipient or the sector they represent
- Think about adding multimedia effects to stand out from other emails
Winning the Attention of Authoritative Bloggers
Many people are introduced to new products when they are mentioned in popular blogs. Find blogs followed by people in your target market. One way to accomplish this route to free or low cost promotion: research popular bloggers in your industry and send them information about your solutions. If they like your product or service, they may mention it and link to your site, which can bring you substantial traffic.
Another option is to outsource blogger outreach services to agencies like MagFellow and Fatjoe, already connected with high traffic blogs. Either way, your brand will reach audiences of existing popular blogs. Google and other search engines give high rankings to authoritative, interactive blogs that get positive reviews. The more blogs mentioning your site, the more contacts and sales you may experience. When an authoritative blogger links to your site, Google views it as strongly credible, which can help your site’s search rankings.
Local and Global Directories
The most well-known local directories are Google My Business and Yelp. You should also consider both online and physical versions of Yellow Pages. Another popular directory is Angie’s List. Each of these sites allows you to submit free listings of your business description and contact information.
You shouldn’t stop there. Many other directories worth considering cover local or broader geographic areas for businesses. Some directories, such as associations, focus on specific industries. Getting listed on these sites helps both users and search engines learn about your business, its location and what you offer.
Reviews and Testimonials
Consumers have become skeptical of advertising in general. One way to highlight the popularity of your product is to post customer reviews and testimonials on your site. A more effective strategy is to encourage customers to post comments on third party sites, which seem more impartial. You can encourage these posts in your face-to-face communication and personalized emails after purchases. Offer free gifts in return for these reviews.
Don’t be afraid to let a few negative reviews slip in because readers will think that’s more believable than reading all glowing reviews. If you start to see too many negative reviews on sites such as Yelp, you probably need to rethink your product or service to boost customer satisfaction. Avoid manipulating reviews, because some consumers get suspicious when they see reviewers using marketing language or building up a product with grandiose verbiage as if it’s flawless. Tools that rate review authenticity are available, as marketers who hype products may not know that certain patterns or redundancy and hyperbole can give away disingenuous opinion.
Free and Low Cost Press Releases
One of the best ways to promote blogs and articles is by sending out press releases. Several services offer free publication and distribution of online press releases:
Those sites get significant traffic rankings in Alexa, while many PR sites don’t and aren’t worth the trouble, unless they are specialized for your niche. Even so, PR and SEO experts say that paid services deliver better results. In fact, marketers who have tried to use free press release sites for SEO purposes using black hat techniques have been penalized by Google. Make sure if you use these sites that the news is useful and not low-quality fluff. As a word of caution, Google generally treats articles on these sites as spam, not news. Paid services such as BusinessWire.com, however, have much higher authority in search engines.
When you cannot afford traditional media to build your brand, consider the various ways free to low-cost online marketing can benefit your site. In some cases, you can actually reach a more solid target market at a lower cost than what expensive traditional advertising delivers. By using various forms of online communication, you can build your brand on a limited budget.