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
- 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.