Whether you are just getting started in your businesses, or have been in business for decades, knowing how to market your business can often feel like you are spinning your wheels. Getting a dozen sales calls and emails a month (or more!)from companies that can guarantee first page of Google, or the next best listing service, or a certain review website that shall remain unnamed, all seem to have the answer as to how you should be spending your marketing budget. And next thing that comes after the budget is the outcome of campaigning. Here at Odd Dog Media we have some opinions on how to best utilize that budget of yours, and our litmus test is always going to be, “Will it bring you business?” But before you even think on spending a cent, know there are many things you can be doing for free, right now (yes, now!), that will help either increase your websites authority and thus improve your rankings, or of course that all important one, bring you business!
If you’re not sure where to start with your online marketing efforts, here are some high-impact steps you can take for your business – FREE of charge!
1. Get Listed
Claim important digital real estate for your business. Some of the top sites being:
Google My Business
Make sure each of these listings are claimed and verified. Verification is easy and can usually be done with a phone call or postcard to your business. Having each of these listings claimed and verified sends signals to search engines that your business is valid. Make sure that your Name, Address, and Phone number (or if you’re a marketing nerd , your NAP data) is consistent across all of these sites as well.
2. Create AWESOME Content
It will only cost time if you do this yourself, because when you visit SocialFirestarter.com for content curation, the costs charged would almost be nugatory in contrast to the benefits. Come up with a plan to publish a post a month to start with. If that’s easy, then you can post more often, but consistency is key. One post a month is only 12 posts a year. You don’t have to create the next viral post, just content that is relevant and of value to your customers.
Some content ideas – create a series of posts around your most frequently asked questions, publish a tutorial (BONUS if you create a Video!) around your product or service, top ten lists, check lists, anything that you think your perfect client would love or find useful. Remember, quality is key.
3. Have a Referral Program
Happy customers are the best advertising you could possibly get! Have a referral plan in place that will give your customers incentive to share your business with their circle of influence. It could be a coupon they can give out to friends and family, a percentage off their next service for referring someone, or a bring a guest in for a free day. Depending on your business, there are a lot of different ways you can encourage referrals.
4. Get Reviews
Speaking of happy customers, don’t be afraid to ask for reviews! From a search standpoint, your Google My Business page is one of the best places to gather reviews. Have a system in place to make it super easy for your clients to find.
While we always aim for Google My Business reviews first (because we like the shiny and higher engaging stars you get from Google) your industry may have even better places to gather reviews, like Avvo for lawyers, Trip Advisors for the tourism industry, or Zagat for restaurants. Look to see where you could use more reviews and focus your energy there. Most importantly, have a plan and don’t be afraid to ask.
5. Use Your Email List
Email marketing is far from dead. Even if you have a small list, it’s worth reaching out to them on a regular basis. Whether it’s past customers or people that once expressed an interest in your goods or services, make sure you stay top of mind when they are looking for what you have to offer. Opt-ins on your website, such as coupons for a service you provide or a handy digital download are great ways to grow your email list. Make sure any opt-in provides relevant value to the person who’s email address you are asking for.
6. Network, network, network!
There. I said it. I said Network. I know networking can be scary, time-consuming, or just annoying, especially if you’re not a big people person. But, it’s a great opportunity to invite people to know, like, and trust you. Which after all, is what business is all about. While many networking groups have a fee attached, there are often free events or open houses that are easy to attend. Ask your local Chamber of Commerce – they may have some great ways for you to get involved for free. We also just discovered Townsquared, which is an online networking community for local businesses. We are loving the local connections being made there! We have no affiliation with the online community, we just really like it! Check it out and let us know what your thoughts are.
7. Get Links
Now, this doesn’t mean to start nagging a bunch of websites asking for links – that’s just shady. Don’t do it. Instead, find a site that you would like a link back from and look for what they need and what you can provide. Can you write a guest post for them? What about trading your services for a link back on a resource page from them? Think of getting links like building relationships; Get to know them and what their goals are first, then offer to help them out in exchange for them helping you out. Some examples:
Any organization you may already be a part of.
Donations you have made in the past – Auctions, schools, etc.
Nominate yourself for a “Best Of” competition – like Best of Washington by King 5 or Best Places to work by the Seattle Met
Directories of organizations you work with or COULD work with.
Sponsor a Meet-Up group – Meetup.com is a great site to get links back from and of course you can make great connections within the groups.
Create outstanding content that likes to be shared, like this above Moz post (see what we did there?)
8. Add Schema
This one you may need to call in a favor if you’re not too technically savvy as you need to know a bit about your website and how to drop script. Schema is important to have on your website. Schema is a script that helps search engines identify and categorize important details about your business. This includes your geographic location, type of services or products you offer, business hours, and even reviews. If you use WordPress, there is a handy plugin you can use and we’ve even created this handy tutorial previously as a guide: How to easily add Schema markup to WordPress pages and posts.
9. Get Social
In addition to making sure important profiles are claimed and verified, like your Facebook and Google My Business page, take it a step further by showing up in the social networks where your customers are. Are they on Facebook? Make sure you are publishing regular content and engaging with your fans. Facebook advertising may also be a great fit for your company (when you’re ready to spend money, of course). Maybe your customers aren’t on Facebook, maybe they’re on LinkedIn. Publish content there, and get connected with other influencers in your industry by contributing to conversations.
Remember Social Media is a two-way street. Don’t just post and walk away. Engage with your followers and find new connections. Never before have companies had such the opportunity to get to know so much about their customers as we have in the time of social media. Listen, contribute, and learn.
Want an easy boost for your business? Start getting those reviews! Having trouble getting people to your Google My Business listing?
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Hey, we just added another free thing you can do for your business!