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Online marketing for time-strapped businesses

Online marketing is absolutely essential to the success of most internet-based businesses. The difficulty is that most startups have very little time to get their hands dirty with tools like search engine optimisation (SEO) or social media. Most want to cut straight to the quick: what’s the most essential way of marketing a business online, and how can you make that happen with as little hassle as humanly possible?

Getting your brand seen online is always going to take more time than you appear to have, but some marketing tools are more time efficient and effective than others. The following is an outline of which ones are most worth your time.

Social media

Much has been said by marketers on the value of social media. While it is arguably very important, the time required and lack of measurable return on investment (ROI) mean that this approach should take a back seat for time-strapped businesses trying to get their names out there. This doesn’t mean your business should skip social media altogether. It simply means that you have to be a bit creative with how you manage it.

“To make the most out of using social media, you’ve got to know, first of all, who you’re really trying to talk to,” says Amy Ward, director of On Tap Marketing. “This is a trap that people fall into. They just think that by using social media, it’s a bit of a magic tool that is magically going to get their word across to everybody. That’s not really the case.”

While it may only take 10 minutes a day to update your Facebook page and Twitter feed with content, if the information you’re sharing isn’t relevant to your target audience, they won’t pay attention, and you will have wasted your valuable time. For more on how to make content that your target demographic will want to see, read How to make marketing content.

Social media can also become very time consuming. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of monitoring and updating every five to ten minutes, and this kind of activity is a real productivity killer. Ross Fastuca, CEO of marketing agency Locomote, advises businesses to set aside a limited period of time to plan and program each week’s social media updates.

“Set aside a period of say two hours of one day, and actually set up what posts you’re going to do throughout the whole week,” he says.

Programs like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow users to schedule the time and date of posts for most major social media sites. Having laid out a plan for content and status updates, you can set these applications to update your business’s accounts independently, thereby bypassing any workflow disruption.

“You’re maximising your time efficiency by doing it all in an hour or two hour session, but it actually posts periodically throughout the week,” says Fastuca.

SEO

Search engine optimisation – the process of tweaking the words on your website to make it appear more relevant to search queries – is a valuable exercise for any online business to spend time on.

The main problem for small businesses is that SEO is a time-consuming process even when there’s minimal competition. Trying to elbow larger competitors out of the first spot in natural search results could take as much time as all of your other business responsibilities combined.

“It’s very hard to do if you’re time-strapped,” says Fastuca. “The best way to get SEO rankings higher is through link backs, but obviously to create that, it takes a lot of time, and it’s constant. If you have a month where you don’t keep up with SEO, your ranking will drop.”

It helps to target smaller, more specific search terms, rather than trying to attract traffic for broader, industry-wide keywords.

“If you have a niche market, then SEO will work a lot better for you,” continues Fastuca. “If you’re trying to compete against the big guys, you’re going to struggle. You need to pick your niche. If they’re offering something broad, maybe pick a section or part of what they offer and target that with your business.”

Most SEO centers around the content that appears on your website, in the form of things like landing page copy or blog posts. On Tap Marketing’s Ward claims the use of sites that can aggregate this content are a good way to make the most of a small business’s SEO efforts.

“There are tools online that help you get articles submitted in different places that then propagate your content across the internet,” she says. “Sites like E-zine Articles, Content Churner and Traffic Geyser. Some of them are free, some of them are paid. You usually don’t have to spend a lot of money, even on the paid ones, to get your content out there.”

To learn more about how to start with search engine optimisation, read How to get SEO right the first time.

Sponsorship

Michelle Allan, director of central coast marketing agency Webstuff.biz, finds the marketing practice of sponsoring organisations to be an effective, lateral way of marketing her business.

“I source my target market, and then I look for organisations that my target market is involved with,” she says. “For example, one of the organisations I sponsor is a company called B2B With A Twist, which is a local networking group on the central coast. I sponsor them, and in return, I get in the publication every three months, I’m on their website.  Every time they send a newsletter, my logo’s there.”

While seeking out and sponsoring organisations is a time-effective way to increase your brand’s exposure, it does come at a considerable cost, and is best suited to more established businesses with a steady cash flow.

Email marketing

Even though email can fairly be described as ancient as far as internet technology is concerned, it still provides a remarkably effective way of marketing your business. Fastuca points out that there are similar time management applications for email as there are for social media.

“We use a product called Mailchimp that will do a similar thing to Hootsuite. In that same period that you spend on your social media marketing, and set up your email marketing for the week, as well,” he advises.

Although it’s a useful tool, email is unlikely to yield new leads and sales very early on in the life of a startup. Compiling a database of customer email addresses takes time, as does creating content to provide fodder for emails. Given this, it’s best for startups to prepare for using email marketing further down the track – namely, by collecting customer contact details – rather than to focus their marketing efforts on it early on.

To read more about marketing your business with email, read 5 steps to getting customers with email marketing.

Pay-per-click

For a time- and cost-effective way of getting your business into people’s web browsers, you can’t go past pay-per-click marketing. Pay-per-click refers to the purchasing of a text and image advertisement alongside relevant content, either in a search engine or on a social media network. Instead of paying for each time an advertisement appears, businesses are charged every time someone clicks on it.

“Once you set it up, and you get it working correctly, it just works in the background,” says Webstuff.biz’s Allan. “You can set your budget, whether it’s $2 a day or $100 a day, depending on your business size, and it just brings you leads without you really having to do anything.”

The most direct and popular method of pay-per-click advertising is search engine marketing (SEM): the process of paying for a search listing above or to the right of natural results in a search engine like Google.

“If you’re talking about time efficiency, then SEM is probably the quickest and easiest way to get yourself to number one, but that comes at a cost,” says Locomote’s Fastuca.

Although PPC does much of the work for you, it’s important to carefully consider your target market and the keywords they’re likely to be interested in when browsing Facebook or searching on Google.

“It’s very important to get your keywords right in the advertising,” says On Tap’s Ward. “You’ve got such a small number of words that you can use in a basic AdWords campaign that you’ve got to be very smart about the way you do it. Usually, when you sign up for AdWords with Google, you’ll get a free consultation from Google to get some initial advice on that. I would advise people in business who have never done it before to take advantage of that.”

Further to choosing the right keywords, it’s essential to make sure each ad directs to a dedicated landing page on your site so that the cost of the click isn’t wasted if the visitor doesn’t buy something or pick up the phone.

“It’s definitely very important to make sure that your website’s set up, number one,” says Fastuca. “Because you can have all the ads in the world, but if they link to a terrible website, that’s not going to work out very well for you.”

To read more about pay-per-click and search engine marketing, read Why you need SEM.

Want to get more customers online with Pay Per Click advertising? Make it happen with Netregistry’s AdManager.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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The term small business marketing encompasses many strategies and ideas, however the skill lies in knowing which ones are most suitable for your small business. Generating small business sales is the ultimate goal of any business and learning the different ways in which small business marketing can assist will help increase your overall sales. NETT features compelling articles covering all angles of small business marketing from SEO and SEM to email campaigns and social media.