A new year is upon us – a time that energizes us and strengthens our resolve to do something more with this coming year than we did with the last.
For web hosts and other small businesses it’s a time for renewed commitment to advertise products and services, get new customers, and maximize revenues.
But like all New Year resolutions, sometimes the truth of the situation doesn’t meet your ambition – how are you going to get more customers with hardly any money in the advertising/marketing budget?
This is the ultimate problem solving exercise – how do you get more bang for the buck when there’s barely a buck to be spent?
When the going gets tough, it’s time to get creative.
Here are some possible ideas that will help you spread the word about your business in 2016 that cost very little, or nothing at all.
1. Press the flesh – get REALLY social
In a world of social media and online marketing there is an assumption that being social means getting on the computer and posting on Facebook. There are a considerable number of opportunities in every community that will allow you to get out there and meet real people who might want to use your services.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce and get to know the members and the people who run it.
Check the local press for business-related events where you might be able to attend and network with people.
As a local businessperson, and an expert in your field, people might want to hear your story.
Offer to give insightful speeches to local clubs and groups that might be interested in what you do and what you have to say.
Offer to give speeches at local colleges and universities.
It’s only going to cost you the time you would probably have spent watching House of Cards!
2. Get some press - send press releases
This will give special interest websites and bloggers the information they need to fill the white space on their pages.
At the same time make sure you send your release to the local newspaper, and to local radio and TV stations – they are as hungry for content as everyone else, and if its local, its justified – they might just make something big out of it for you and that will give you free advertising.
3. Reach out to bloggers and websites
Don’t just stop at sending out a press release – contact specialist blogs and websites and ask them if they would be interested in you producing an article for them on their topic.
An article could be anything relevant to a blog or website’s readership and if you have expertise in their area being covered you are offering you are offering everyone involved considerable value.
4. Set up a blog on you website
Many business websites are entirely static affairs that contain the same content year in, year out. This year, add a blog.
If you have a website that uses WordPress or Joomla! then adding a blog capability to your site isn’t going to cost anything – just choose a module and add it.
If you have a programmed site adding a WordPress or Joonla blog as a sub-domain costs very little.
A blog keeps your website fresh in the eyes of Google and in the eyes of your readership – it gives both a reason to come back to your site, and that’s good for SEO and potentially good for business.
5. Join Internet forums for SEO purposes
This is a bit of a black hole in that it can suck all of your time away from your core competencies, but the basics of SEO are still the same – links, keywords and visitors.
Join forums where you can add your links in your signature that lead to your site.
Make valid contributions to the forum and not only do you get the link but you might entice someone to click on your link... and if they like what they see, you have a customer!
6. Run a contest
This might sound like it could be expensive, but if it only means you give your product or service away to a few people free of charge, the actual cost is minimal – again, a contest can be something you can notify the world about by press releases.
Perhaps your competition can involve people writing a story or an article which can be added to your website (adding content – again, good for SEO).
Get your visitors to choose the winner so they are involved.
7. Sponsor other contests
All that stuff you see as prizes on a game show, well it’s all there free of charge for advertising purposes.
Perhaps you can offer your products and services to newspapers, blogs, etc. who can run competitions and offer your what your company’s product or service as the prize!
8. Get reviews
If you are confident what you are offering is quality, find websites and blogs that cover your area of expertise and encourage them to review your products and services.
But think about this one – you don’t want a negative review!
9. Find partners
Look around to see if your product or service is a match for another organization’s offerings.
If you can find someone to work with who is big enough, their marketing machine will promote you as they send out press releases, etc. describing your partnership.
10. Work with charities and non-profits
Giving you products and services free of charge to a charity or non-profit not only generates good will, it’s a marketing opportunity.
If you appear on a charity or non-profit organization’s website as its sponsor, people will of course click to your site and see what you might be able to do for them.
11. Get registered
It’s surprising the number of companies that fail to register to industry directories and industry-related websites.
For instance, if you are a web host, register to HostSearch.com and add your details. When people find your company they will come to you for your web hosting services.
Similar directories appear in every area of business.
12. Get classified
It’s also surprising the number of companies that don’t bother adding themselves to the multitude of classified advertising websites on the Internet.
Again, free of charge... Why wouldn’t you? That’s what they are for! Try Craigslist and take it from there!
13. Ask your customers for referrals
If your customers are happy with what you do, and they have friends who need what you offer, why wouldn’t they refer you?
Don’t sully it by offering commissions, etc. – send out a genuine email speaking to your customers as though they are friends.
Despite this being an age of social media, most company’s social media accounts just sit there as an extension of their website – all information and no interaction.
Add a picture of a kitten to Facebook and see how many people share it!
15. Make a video
Promotional videos require experts and cost, but putting together a standard video only costs time.
Consider your area of expertise. If you are a web host, make a video on setting up a server – something people can learn from.
It wouldn’t have to be perfect, so long as it did the job people would appreciate it and perhaps pass it on to people they know.
Add it to YouTube of course!
16. Set up loyalty rewards
Whatever your business, you can set up loyalty rewards for your customers.
Give long-term customers discounts or other benefits – these are the things that get people talking about your services.
17. Cold call
Cold calling has got a terrible reputation, but it can be a useful tool.
For instance, let’s say a competitor closes down leaving customers stranded and without a service.
Don’t you think they would be happy to receive a call from you when they need help?
It doesn’t mean you are a vulture – if you approach such a situation with genuine compassion, lifetime customers are only a phone call away!
Other situations might also warrant cold calls.
18. Anything else you can think of
As I said, this is the ultimate problem solving exercise. Now you have read a few ideas, do a brainstorming session will family, friends or staff.
See what else you can come up with – you might be surprised what ideas you come up with!