You have researched and chosen your home business, freelance or online income idea. You have obtained all necessary permits and licenses. Now you need customers.
Many new business owners are disappointed to discover how long it can take to generate clients and customers, and therefore income. Nevertheless there are many free and low-cost, effective ways to get the word out about your business.
In Marketing 101, you’ll find your first steps to marketing cheaply, yet effectively, plus marketing tactics you can use.
Make a Marketing Plan
Promotion, publicity, marketing, advertising…whatever you want to call it, it works best if you have a plan. Haphazard marketing will only get you haphazard responses. The following ideas should be put together with any other marketing ideas you have into a marketing plan that also includes a budget and method for evaluating how each marketing method is working.
As you choose your marketing methods, always have a goal result in mind. Don’t Tweet just to make noise. Tweet for a result, whether that is to build your email list, have people check out your latest blog post, or boost engagement by responding to a question.
Know Your Market and What It Wants
Marketing works best if it speaks directly to what your clients/customers want or need. You can’t deliver that if you don’t know and understand your market, or how your product or service will benefit it.
Think about this…
There is a reason why beer commercials aren’t run during daytime television and feminine hygiene products aren’t run during football games. It’s not that daytime TV watchers don’t drink beer or that women don’t watch football. It’s because advertisers understand the wants and needs of the market as they watch those programs. People drink beer when they watch football, so that’s a better time to promote beer, chips and everything else that are associated with football (including trucks!).
The first steps to marketing 101 is to answer these three questions about your market:
- Who are they? Age, gender, socioeconomic status, location, wants, needs, and especially what problems do they have that your business will solve.
- Where can they be found? This is the football versus day time television question. Your market may theoretically be everywhere, but you want to know where they are when they’re looking for solutions that you provide.
- How can you entice them to check you out? Have you ever loved a commercial, but can’t be sure what it advertised? You don’t want that. While you do want people to notice your marketing materials, you want them to do it in a way that makes them want to visit your website or give you a call. The best way to do that is to focus on the benefits your business can give them to them. Will you help be smarter, sexier, richer, happier, less stressed…etc.
As you choose your marketing methods below, keep these three questions in mind. Will these ideas help you reach your market in a way that will attract them to you?
Free and Low Cost Marketing Ideas
Again, choose your ideas below based on what will be best in reaching and attracting your market. If you’re market isn’t on Twitter, you probably don’t need to Tweet.
Also, you’ll notice offline as well as online methods. Both can work for all businesses. If you’re online, there are offline opportunities that can help you grow your business. If you’re an offline business, you absolutely need an online presence as that’s where most people go now to get information and resources.
Online Marketing Ideas
While you don’t want to rely on search engines alone to bring you attention, you shouldn’t ignore them either. SEO has become extremely complicated, but the basics are to provide information on your website that your market wants using keywords they would use in a search engine to find you.
The tools I use to help me with SEO include:
Yoast: I use the paid version, but there is a free option as well. Yoast not only offers a WP plugin to put in your title, description and keywords for SEO, but also, it provides feedback on the quality of your keyword, tools to research keywords, help to boost your SEO (i.e. providing a list of your on-site links you might want to use), and frequently emails with tips and tutorials.
Most new entrepreneurs put off starting an email list, but this is a huge mistake. I know one online entrepreneur that has completely given up blogging and social media in favor of email because the majority of her income comes from email. That’s how effective email is.
Email isn’t jsut about sending offers, but also one of the best ways to build a relationship and trust with your market. Email requires a higher level of commitment from your market. Someone who gives you their email is committing more than someone who simply hits the follow button. Your market is more likely to see your email than they are social media.
The challenge many people have is in coming up with ideas of what to email and setting a regular schedule. The answer to that depends some on your business, but regularly sending your market tips, ideas, resources, freebies, and a few offers, is a great way to keep you in their minds when they need what your business offers.
Tools I Use to Email :
Aweber: I’ve been with Aweber forever. I considered moving when many bloggers switched to Convertkit, but Aweber offers many of the same perks, multiple lists as well as segmenting lists, and over the long run is less expensive.
Tools You May Want to Consider:
I usually know what I’m going to send, but if you’re stuck on ideas, here are two done-for-you resources, one that includes affiliate offers, that might help you.
Affiliate Marketing Master Swipe File: I grabbed this resource the minute I saw it because it not only gives you emails that you can use as your own, but also, it includes affiliate links. Just put your affiliate link in the email, and send to your list!! This resource was put together by Jim Daniels is one of the original Internet entrepreneurs. It’s only $17! It’s the best $17 I’ve spent this year.
Email Ramp has nearly 1000 emails (999 to be exact) that you can use in your email marketing. It includes a variety of email types including list nurturing, pre-launch, story telling, offers and more. Plus it has emails in a variety of areas including Internet marketing, beauty, self-help, health/weight loss, and more.
Somewhere between social media and email list lies push notifications. You’ve probably notices that some websites you land on have a popup that asks if you want to receive notifications when new content is added. People who say “Yes” are then added to your push list. When new content is added, you can send a push notification that will pop up on their computer.
It’s fast and easy for your market (like social media), but a little higher level of commitment like email.
Tools I use for Push Notifications:
Subscriber.com: I currently use the free version, but will likely upgrade because it offers a few bells and whistles, such as scheduling.
I have a love hate relationship with social media. I love how I can connect with my readers at a more personal level, but it’s time consuming and there are too many to manage. Further, it’s risky to put too much stock in social media because you don’t own the platform. Facebook really annoyed businesses that used the platform and then changed the rules so that not all “fans” would see the page’s updates.
With that said, many people use social media to stay up-to-date, get resources, learn new things, and more. The trick is to be on the platforms your market uses, and use them the way the market does to find out about you. The good news is that you don’t have to have a presence on all platforms. The bad news is that you should be on more than one or two. The worst news is that everyone of them is different in how you engage with people, size of graphics, use of hashtags or not, and so on.
Social media is really where have a plan and goal is key. Make your posts have a purpose and a goal.
Tools I Use for Social Media:
This is actually an ongoing issue, in that I’ve been making many changes. My current tools are:
Hootsuite: I use the paid version to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook page, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I can integrate Tailwind for Pinterest, but I do that through Tailwind instead.
Tailwind: I love this for Pinterest, which is the number one source of traffic to WAHS. Tailwind lets me schedule my pins, as well as pins I share. I’m still figuring out Tribes, but that has had a boost to my traffic as well. It has a new feature it’s been testing in which you can choose your best evergreen pins and they’ll automatically repost at the time frame you give.
Social Warfare: This is a WP plugin that lets me set up the messages and graphics associated with each message. For example, I can have the mentions and hashtags for Twitter. It offers floating social media links on your site, but I’ve found this doesn’t play nice with some aspect of my site and often pulls the wrong graphic, so use the stagnate buttons at the top and bottom of my post.
Canva: I use Canva to create my social graphics (and other graphics as well). I have the paid version so I can use the resize feature to change from Facebook post dimensions to Twitter and Pinterest.
Tools I’m looking at Switching to:
Smarter Queue: The feature that has me taking a serious look at changing is that you can select evergreen posts to repost again in the future. If you’re short on posts, it will automatically take a post you’ve tagged for reposting and use it. This is ideal for posts you do over and over. In my case, I can post about my free job report or free job board. I don’t think it will replace Tailwind for Pinterest, but it does work with Facebook (pages and groups), LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram (thought I’m not sure it allows for scheduled posts or if you get a notification to post).
As the Internet becomes increasingly visual, video has become a large part of marketing. Many computers and most smartphones come equipped to take video, and Youtube, the third most visited site in the world, is free. Plus, you can live stream directly to YouTube and Instagram.
Video offers a great way for your market to get to know the authentic you, and you an opportunity to provide them with valuable information in a different format. Videos can cover the same topics you would cover on a blog or in articles, such as how-to, reviews, tours, updates, resources and more.
Tools I use for Video
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: This is a great, affordable webcam that connects via USB to your laptop or computer.
Blue Microphone Yeti Studio: I’ve “borrowed” this from my son and hope he won’t want it back. It offers a good quality audio for videos and video conferencing.
Camtasia: I picked this up version 9 of for about really cheap during a special sale. I’d been lusting for it for years, but for some reason never bought. I’ve discovered it is worth the full price. It’s an all-in-one video software that will do screencapture, edit videos with tons of cool features and more.
Tubebuddy: Tubebuddy is to video what Google Analytics is to websites. It tracks views and subscribers, gives you information about keywords, audience demographics and more. It’s a must have if you want your Youtube channel to make money.
Publicity and Outreach
In the past, I didn’t have a whole lot of success with publicity. Today, there are better resources and I’m more strategic in seeking media exposure. Similar to targeting your market in your promotional plans, you want to focus on the media and other outlets that your market uses. Then you have to decide what to offer and what story to pitch. For example, I’m getting ready to relaunch the WAHS U How to Get a Work-At-Home Job course. My market are people who want to work at home in a job. My target media (blogs, magazines, podcasts, etc) will be sources that deal with careers, job hunting, telecommuting, flexible careers and working at home. Instead of pitching my course, I’ll pitch an idea that can help the media outlet’s market, such as 3-steps to getting a WAH job or scams to watch out for when looking for a work-at-home job. If the outlet is a blog, I’ll offer to write a post, as that is the best fit. If it’s podcast, I’ll offer to be a guest.
For publicity, I used to send press releases, but those are so hit and miss and require a lot of follow up for little return. Now I use resources that media outlets use to find people to interview, and respond to appropriate requests. For example, two request came through the other day on side hustles and the gig economy, both of which I can speak to.
Tools I Use for Publicity and Outreach
20 Markets that Pay Up To $100 per Article If you’re going to give away content, why not get paid? Here is a list of online markets that pay for articles.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO): This is the resource I use to find media requests for interviews. It’s also what WAHS uses to find success stories and experts for the tips feature each week.
Spreadsheet: This is where I keep a list of bloggers, podcasters, etc that I can contact when I have something I want to pitch.
Offline Marketing Ideas
Every business book recommends business cards, but it takes more than just having them for them to work. They need to be distributed. Too many people are stingy with business cards, but they’re too cheap and potentially effective not to give away.
To make your business card something that people want to keep, have your benefit statement or tip that helps the recipient. For example, I have a business card that lists common work-at-home scams to look out for. This is something many people hold on to as they search for work-at-home opportunities, as well as reminds them that I have tons of free information and resources to help them.
Hand your business card out to anyone and everyone that will take it (give them several so they can share them too). Include business cards in your bill payments and other correspondence. Post them on community bulletin boards. Leave them on the table at cafes or restaurants.
Tools I use for Business Cards:
VistaPrint: I pretty much get all my printable needs including marketing postcards (for my books), banners (for when I’m at events), and business and drop cards at Vistaprint.
You can and should network online with influencers via social media, but don’t ignore offline opportunities to mingle with your market and associates. Join the chamber of commerce and other organizations in which other business people can exchange information and referrals. My favorite way to network is in industry events. I spend a lot of time writing, so I go to many events for writers and bloggers. It’s nice to be with groups that speak your language and understand your world, as well as to get referrals, tips and more.
Write for Offline Publications
Just like writing online can gain you exposure, so to can writing for print publications. And you might get paid. It can take a long time to get published in traditional magazines, but if you target the market with a great pitch, it can be a great way to not only get more customers or clients, but to boost your credibility and expert status.
Tools I use for Offline Article Writing
Scrivner (windows) (Scrivner for Mac): Scrivner is most known for book or screenwriting, but it can be an excellent way to write articles. You can organize research (online and off), jot ideas, keep notecards, and much more. It exports into a variety of word processing docs so it’s easy to use in submitting articles.
All Indie Writers Markets: This site has a list of print and online magazines you can pitch your article to. Free to use.
Writers Weekly: Also has a list of writer’s markets. Free to access.
I’m a bit of an outlier in that I love to speak in public. Offering a course, being on a panel, or leading a workshop are all great ways to show off your expertise, and attract new business. Contact your local adult education, community education, or community college resources about teaching a course. Note, you can speak online as well through podcasts, online summits, webinars, and videocasts/vlogs.
Do you have a favorite marketing tactic? Let me know in the comments below!
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