Internet Marketing on a Budget

For those who want to start up an online business, one of the biggest challenges is controlling expenses. One of the biggest reasons that people fail when creating an online business is spending too much money on trying to promote the business. Without proper planning, the result is often that a marketing budget gets cash strapped and the website project and plans die before it even has a chance to get off the ground with serious traction.

While there is no such thing as “free” when it comes to marketing your products or services, there are ways to promote who you are and what you do for far less money. What follows are some good, proven tips that will help you manage your expenses while getting the type of promotion needed to sell your products.

Research your Potential Customers

Before you spend one dime, you will need to understand your potential customers. Every business has a customer base that is clearly defined in terms of the following;

  • Age Range
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Financial Situation

You don’t need to hire a research firm to find out these four facts, all you really need is enough time to do the proper research to get the information. Profiling your future customers is fairly straightforward as you can start with the blogs and websites where they purchase products similar to the ones that you offer. See what the typical customers are and make notes as to their general age, gender and interests. Their financial situation can be discerned to a large degree by the items they tend to purchase. Plus, where your potential customers hang out is very helpful as well. For example, do a lot of them have Pinterest accounts? Perhaps they can mostly be found on blogs? Knowing where they are at is immensely helpful.

Once you have created a general profile, you now have the basic information needed to properly plan out your marketing campaign. You may even want to seek the advice of those who have succeeded in terms of what they offer their customers as incentives.

Set a Budget and Create Goals

You are not ready yet to spend any money as once you have completed researching your target audience as the next step is setting a proper budget. You need to account for all the money that you are willing to spend and keep accurate records as well so that you don’t find yourself without any money.

While you may sell a few items early on, it is best to plan your expenses as if you don’t sell any for the first few weeks or even months. What you do sell during this time should be added to your expenditures in terms of marketing so that you can maximize your efforts. Basically, you are trying to get your business to become self-sustaining which can take a little time, so prepare yourself by allocating enough funds to get you through the early phase.

Now that your budget is in place, the next step is creating both long term and short term goals. The long term goals are where you want to be while short term is how you get there. Your goals in terms of marketing should generally start with increasing the awareness of your business and then gradually focus more on creating profits. The more people know who you are, the easier it will be to generate profits.

Set Up Your Website

Now that you know what you’ve got and where you are going, it’s time to get started. You’ll want to purchase a website that is relatively inexpensive, but provides your online business the ability to grow. Fortunately, there are many options for your website design and we even offer a line of web hosting solutions that have these features built into the websites that we offer.

Be sure your business name is attractive to potential customers and create a simple, easy-to-navigate website free of glitz and glam and emphasizing a customer friendly experience that will help your sales conversion. This will cost a little money, but most hosting services are very inexpensive.

Build Your Brand

In order to sell products on the web, you’ll need to emphasize your brand first to build up the trust necessary for people to purchase from you. This means separating your company from the competition through name recognition and offering good products, timely service and money back guarantees so that customers will be satisfied with what you have to offer.

Once you have determined how customers should see your business, stick to that strategy. This means engaging them on social media and centering your marketing efforts on the image you want to create for your online business. Effective promotion and particular interaction are not expensive and much of it is free which can save you money while building up your profits.

The Magic of Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best form of passive marketing on the internet. SEO is essentially using keywords or key phrases incorporated into the content you create in order to be seen by more people looking for what you do on search engines.

Using keywords, backlinks, and most importantly creating good, interesting content will help more people find your online business. However, it is time consuming and somewhat complicated and will absorb a significant portion of your budget. Still, the results are well worth it if you keep focus on your target audience and publish new content regularly.

Blogging & Social Media

The two basic means of communicating with your audience is through blogging and social media channels. Each has its advantages and both are exceptionally cheap. In fact, utilizing social media is free while blogging can be a part of your inexpensive website.

Blogging is how you place more content on your site so that it can be picked up by search engines, generate new leads and even links back to your main site. With the emphasis shifting towards creating high quality content, you will need to produce good, information articles that attract those interested in what your business offers. While this takes a little effort, it doesn’t cost you anything in terms of expenditures.

Social media is arguably the best way to be interactive with your target audience. This means promoting your website and blog posts while communicating with your customers. You’ll want to add something special to your social media efforts such as discounts, coupons or extra information to help build up this area of your marketing.

All of these methods are very inexpensive and are limited only by the amount of effort that you put into promoting your business. With only a little money, you can greatly expand your marketing efforts and create a successful online business.

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Website

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Website

Proper web design is the backbone of your online business. That means in order to translate web traffic into sales, your web design must be attractive, easy to navigate and provide information that potential customers can use so they can purchase the products or services that you offer.

Unfortunately, too many online business owners do not have the proper web design to convert the maximum amount of sales potential from the web traffic they generate. The result is that a lot of marketing effort and expense gets wasted because potential customers are turned off before they would otherwise make a purchase.

Here are five simple mistakes that online business owners can avoid which will help them make better choices when it comes to their web design.

Keep Things Simple

Arguably the biggest mistake that online business owners make is creating a website that is difficult to navigate. You want to make it dirt simple to go from the landing page to the product to the checkout and make the sale. Any complication along that route may prevent a potential customer from becoming a real customer. So keep your website navigation as simple and straightforward as possible.

Don’t Use Flash Animation

Here, you’ll want to avoid using flash animation, sparkly graphics and odd color schemes that are designed to attract attention, but usually wind up pushing away potential customers who can’t view the animation on some devices. There are places to use flash animation for example, but especially not on your home or landing page where interested customers are seeking information.

Get to the Point

The biggest enemy for online sales is time. The more time a customer has to spend on your website trying to find the product they want to purchase, the less likely it is that you will make the sale. This means that your website should start by being easy to download and view. So avoid using a lot of images, photos, videos and files that take time to download. You will need to reduce the size of these large files and eliminate the ones that do not apply so that customers can download your website quickly.

Don’t Use Unfamiliar Fonts

Basically, this means sticking to the tried and true fonts that most people are familiar. For example, Arial is a simple, attractive font that is easy to read. Using unfamiliar and exotic fonts that try to separate you from the competition only attracts attention to the odd font itself and not what the message is saying. So avoid using unusual fonts.

Do not “Be All Things” to All People

If you are trying to sell to everyone you may wind up reaching nobody as your website should be about a focused product. Unfortunately, too many web designs are cluttered in their approach to cover all the bases and wind up not appealing to the right demographic of customers for your products or services. So, your web design should be focused, professional and targeted towards the type of people most likely to buy your products or services.

By avoiding these web design mistakes you can create a website that will boost your sales conversion rates.

Top Five Alternate Internet Marketing Strategies

Running an online business and competing against dozens or more businesses can be quite tiring, especially when everyone is using the established techniques. In essence, everyone is on the same playing field each fighting for a share of the market, yet they are all using the same methods to get there.

This means that you can create an advantage for your online business by separating it from the competition. You can achieve this by using alternate techniques that can help push your business to new frontiers and reach more customers. Setting yourself apart from the competition is paramount to establishing your success. By embracing alternate internet marketing techniques to compliment the standard practices that you have been using, a new crowd of visitors may come to your website to see what you have to offer.

What follows are the top five alternate internet marketing strategies that have been used with some success in helping to separate businesses from their competition. It is arguably best that you limit your initial strategies to one or two at the most to fully test out what will work for you.

Expand Your Social Profile to Include Opinions

The old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is true in internet marketing as well. By using your social profiles to their fullest advantage by expressing your opinions on the subjects that fall within your online business, you can help generate more interest in your efforts.

Many of your competitors say the same thing day in and day out, so to reach new customers you need to cut through all of that noise by making some of your own. By expressing your opinions about the industry in which you thrive, you can generate some attention for your business. Plus, the better and more creative you can offer your opinions, especially if you inject them with some good humor, then the more attention you will receive.

It is true that you will receive some criticism and harsh judgment, usually from your competition but also from people who simply disagree with you. It is more than worth the effort at getting new potential customers for your business. So grow a thick skin and be sure your opinions are valid and strong.

Be Personal

One of the most difficult aspects is revealing a bit of yourself when marketing the efforts of your company. However, people who show a little vulnerability by revealing what they have gone through to start their own business or perhaps a true story about something that happened in your industry can go a long way towards bringing in new visitors.

This is because people are very prone to like, refer or “re-tweet” your story to others. You’ve probably seen it all the time on your own social media site where a friend has re-posted a story about someone struggling, making it big or something heartwarming that you see has many likes or re-tweets associated.

You can do the same thing, as long as the story is true, by posting about your own struggles or finding a true story about something in your industry that is heartwarming. This type of story can reach people you would never hope to see with traditional marketing efforts.

Write Off-Page Content

Basically, this is writing content that can be found away from your webpage. Such content can be crucial in finding you new customers as they can help generate more traffic for your website. Off-page content can be written for other blogs, article directories and the like. It should naturally be informative, to the point and apply to something in your industry.

Many of the best off-page content pieces are lists, tips, techniques and other very useful information that is relevant to your potential customers and demonstrates that you are willing to share this knowledge on sites away from your own. This is an excellent way to drive customers to your website, but you must be persistent and set up a schedule of writing that helps build momentum to get people’s attention.

Also, writing off-page content on a regular basis helps set you up as an authority in the field, something that many customers respect which means that they are more likely to trust your business when purchasing products.

If You are Stuck, Re-Branding Can Work

If you still cannot find an audience after putting in the work, perhaps your branding is simply not enough of an attention-getter. However, you can simply re-brand and start all over again if you want. By changing your logo, images, graphic designs and all things that are related to your branding, you can start anew and go from there.

Re-branding is not quite as radical as it may seem since after all, both college and professional football teams seem to change their uniforms and colors on a regular basis. However, your re-branding should not be as cavalier as that. Instead, this should be something that is researched and decided upon rather seriously so that you can establish your footing once again.

A re-branding effort can work especially well if there have been changes in the industry in which you are selling. By taking advantage of these changes, you can re-brand your company to help establish a new footing for your sales efforts.

The Viral Video

Last, but certainly not least, having a video going viral is obviously one of the dreams of many thousands of online business owners. However, for every attempt that succeeds there are many that fail. Fortunately, many videos that have gone viral are incredibly cheap to produce and some of them have been made on typical smartphones or tablets.

What you need is a subject that is funny, interesting and gets to the point. Whether you are sarcastic or seriously cute, the point is that investing in a viral video marketing strategy can pay great dividends with a minimal investment. Here, you will probably need some help in identifying some funny or humorous areas of your industry and exploiting them with a video that taps into some truths as well.

Whether you succeed on your first or fiftieth attempt, the good news is once a video succeeds it generally boost the popularity of the other videos that didn’t quite make it. Furthermore, it brings an entirely new audience to your online business.

These tips to alternate internet strategies can really pay off for businesses that need to separate themselves from the competition. Just remember to be proactive and aggressive in pursuing the one that you choose.

The Host Business Marketing Strategy

For online businesses and especially brick and mortar stores that have an online presence, finding new customers can be a difficult task even in the best of times. While traditional internet marketing tactics can bring in a base of customers, there are still a substantial number that you will even with the best efforts you put forth.

However, there is one tried and true marketing strategy that has worked for decades in finding new customers, the host-business marketing strategy. This particular tactic is one that can build up your profits by finding customers who otherwise might overlook your marketing efforts.

What is the Host-Business Marketing Strategy?

Basically, this is where you find another business that is different than yours, but has the same target audience. Once you find that business, you contact the owner and offer to provide one of your products or services as part of their sales program. This is especially effective if the other business deals in higher priced merchandise such as electronics, car dealerships, jewelry and so forth.

For example, for every particular type of vehicle that is sold, the customer will get a free item or huge discount from your company. All they have to do is drop by your store or website to pick it up. While this can work for online-only businesses, it is especially effective for brick and mortar stores that want to pull in more customers.

The customer then takes comes into your store and picks up the product. Quite often, they will also shop around at your store and buy more items, but the effect is even greater than that as your business brand is being built up considerably.

How to Initiate the Host-Business Marketing Strategy

In order to get this strategy working for your business, there are a few things that you need to accomplish first.

Find your Target Audience: You will need to know exactly the main type of customers that shop at your store. This means understanding their general age range and gender for a start, but any additional information is important to knowing who your products and services will appeal.

Locate Businesses with the Same Target Audience: Once you know who buys at your store, then you can see where else they shop. From this, you can then identify the best type of businesses for your needs.

Pick a High Level Host Business: Car dealerships are always a good start since different target audiences prefer different types of vehicles. By identifying the car dealership that sells the type of vehicles that appeals to your target audience, then you should choose the one that best suits your needs.

Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse: Basically, you will need to make a formal offer of one of your products that they can then use to sell their items. Such incentives are a “win-win” for both you and the host business because they are offering something that cost them nothing to sell their items while you can reap the benefits of having new customers come into your store.

The host-business marketing strategy can really work for your business if you do a little research, find your target audience and where they shop.

Advanced SEO Tips for Small Business

Advanced SEO Tips for Small Business

A website blog is actually one of the most effective marketing tools for online business owners of all types, from one-person operations to large companies. Furthermore, the ability to write your own content and publish to an audience interested in your products or services is quite powerful when it comes to drawing in potential customers. Quality content on your blog can engage your audience on a more direct level and help influence a customer to purchase a product. SEO is an important part of your blogging efforts as it can bring in more potential customers to your website from external sources such as other blogs, social media websites and of course search engines. For those who already have some experience with SEO, knowing the basics can help launch your efforts to new heights.

However, there are some more advanced tips that can help you reach an even wider audience and make your blog posts better at sales conversion. What follows are a few advanced SEO tips that can help you make the most out of your blogging efforts.

Craft your Content for Searches

While targeting keywords and key phrases are essential in having potential customers find your website, the real key is creating content that people actually want to find. What this means is that your keyword search should be geared towards what people are looking for and writing good content based on that information.

This means writing content that is not time sensitive and providing answers to information that is frequently searched on your topics. You can mix in posts about new information or news about your niche, but the bulk of your content should center on providing information that customers want.

Build more Static Pages

While blog posts can do quite well, static pages can perform even better. This is because the time or date that a post is published can cause it to fluctuate on search results when similar, newer content is published on other sites.

By creating independent static pages for your more extensive posts, guides or useful information, it can actually help protect their status in the rankings because it will be seen as timeless. You may have noticed this when searching on particular subjects, so copy their efforts and put your most valuable information that is timeless on a separate static page.

Build on Successful Posts

If you have posts that have received a considerable amount of back links, then focus more of your efforts on producing similar content. Remember, you don’t want to duplicate your most successful posts as much as you want to build upon them by adding new information. By building on success, you will create even more successful posts that people will link and share.

Be User Friendly

You want your blog to be as open and friendly as possible, so be sure to invite others to write posts, make it easy to line or share what you have written, link your work to sources that can be trusted, cut down on ads that interrupt reading and encourage your readers to comment. Good conversation can help you build up your blog.

By following these tips, you can increase your overall audience and better sell the products or services that you provide.

10 Effective Tips to Great Web Design

If you are starting your own online business, then your web design needs to attract and hold the attention of potential customers. It takes more than fancy graphics or dazzling displays to build your customer base.

The secret to success when it comes to effective web design lies mostly in providing what customers want in terms of easy access, intuitive navigation and interesting content. Naturally, you will have to select a niche area where your website can be seen as an “authority”, but that is backed by having the right support to ensure that visitors become customers.

What follows are 10 effective tips in creating the best web design for your business. Each of these tips is fairly straightforward, but together they make a great combination that will help pull in visitors and create customers.

1.) Keep Things Simple

The old saying “Keep it simple, stupid” is just as relevant for effective web design. You don’t want to overwhelm visitors with a myriad of colors, menu choices and glaring advertisements. A simpler, more straightforward website is actually appreciated by visitors because they are more interested in the information, products and services that you provide rather than how “pretty” your website appears

2.) Choose the Best Color Scheme

People associate certain colors with particular subjects. White and blue for example are often associated with medically-oriented information while bright reds, pinks and other “loud” colors are associated with punk rock bands. Whatever products or subject matter you are presenting on your website, it needs to be presented in an appropriate color scheme. This brings in the right atmosphere for your online business and helps to keep visitors coming back. Do a little research on your competitors to see what they offer.

3.) Highlight Menu Bar

This is one of those really simple steps that so many people overlook. By highlighting your menu bar in a color separate from the rest of the color scheme of the website, you make navigation that much simpler. Good, intuitive navigation is one of the key elements of all successful online businesses. The easier you make it for customers to find what they want, the more they will buy from you.

4.) Speed Up Load Time

Your web pages should load onto basically any computer, laptop or mobile device in less than 2 seconds, tops. Slow load times easily discourage visitors who will abandon your website and go somewhere else. So be sure to test your webpages on slower internet speeds and mobile devices just to be sure. By compressing css files, coding your pages to optimal speeds and using Google to host javascript files, you can speed up your web design considerably.

5.) Create the Proper Structure

Good structure is what you find in newspapers, magazines and periodicals where the reader is easily taken from one source of information to another. Your website needs to be logically structured so that visitors can quickly find the information that they seek. The structure of your website should be straightforward, such as the menu bar near the top, the latest news or information displayed in a headline, pertinent older information such as blog reports, coupons, discount and such lined up on one side and so forth. The more logical you structure your website the easier it is to captivate your visitor.

6.) Simplified Lead Collection

Getting the name and email address of visitors is standard procedure in obtaining leads, but you should not do anymore than that in terms of getting information. This is because for customers, spending time handing over information about them is an uncomfortable process. The longer it lasts, the less likely they are to participate. So just keep it to email addresses and names for your newsletters and other lead generating campaigns.

7.) Proper Font Size

This is one of the more interesting aspects of proper web design, the size of the fonts that you use. Not too large and not too small may seem somewhat generalized, but you should use only a single font for your content and then use different fonts for titles of pages and such for highlighting purposes. Plus, the fonts you choose should not be garish, tiny or unreadable.

8.) Enhance the Checkout Process

Many sales are lost when customers get confused about how to pay for an item, so all that work in getting them to your website is for naught because of a single hiccup in the purchasing process. Your website checkout center should be simple and inviting, making it easy to purchase the products that you have. Be sure to test this process to ensure that it is working smoothly.

9.) Regular Content Updates

Too many online businesses focus on getting people to their website in the first place, but do not offer a reason for them to come back. Since repeat customers are the main source of income for most businesses, your website design should incorporate that fact through regular content updates. This means regularly updating your content, adding new information, launching new marketing campaigns and so forth to keep people coming back.

10.) Use Plenty of Calls to Action

Perhaps your customers are not buying because you haven’t asked them. Calls to action are an important part of effective web design. You don’t have to overdo it, but effective calls to action helps convinced many customers to go ahead and make that purchase. If you use splash pages in particular, then calls to action are a must. However, good web design incorporates effective calls to action when needed, such as when offering new discounts or promoting new products.

These are just 10 ways your business web design can improve dramatically by incorporating simple, basic themes into the content. All of these tips will help your web design achieve the goal of greater visitor conversion to customers who come back to your website on a repeated basis. The better you tailor your web design to pull in and keep repeating customers, the more profits you will earn by selling more products and services. Effective online business web design means better customer service and higher sales as well.