The internet is a virtual bonanza of potential customers and clients if you know how to advertise your business. And there are plenty of companies online trying to get into your pocket by offering services to promote your business.
Fortunately, you can do most of this promotion yourself at low cost, or even for free.
Owning a website
It may seem like common sense, but it needs to be said. Your business needs a website to be competitive online. Without a website you face a constant uphill battle. A site will only cost you a few dollars per year for hosting and a domain name, and with that you can generate customers and sales.
Any business can get a massive amount of exposure using online classifieds such as Craigslist. You can place free ads for your business online every day, and targeted people will stumble upon them. You can advertise anything from a one-day event like a garage sale to a service like photography.
Search engine optimisation
Free search engine traffic is tantamount to winning the lottery. If you can convince the search engines that your website is the most relevant site for your targeted keywords, you will experience a consistent flood of traffic. This traffic will naturally convert into revenue. You can do the optimisation yourself for free, or you can pay someone to do it.
A successful article marketing strategy will drive traffic to your website and help with search engine optimisation, and it's completely free. It can be a labour-intensive method though, writing many different articles for many different sites.
Some businesses are perfect for social media traffic and some are not. If you believe that your business will be buzz-worthy, consider creating a Twitter profile and a Facebook page. These accounts will allow you to interact directly with your online customers. You can let them know of promotions or events, and they can give ideas and suggestions to improve your business. Social media will also help your business to grow virally through word of mouth.
Online video sharing sites
If you are able to produce a few interesting videos that are related to your business, posting them on sites like YouTube and Vimeo could send you a steady flow of website traffic. These sites are free to submit to, and the potential traffic gain from them is astronomical. Make sure that you submit more than one video to maximize exposure.
Online photo sharing sites
Online photo sharing is like online video sharing. If you have some photos that are relevant to your business, don't be afraid to share them on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. This will increase your website visibility and send more targeted visitors to your site.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is rarely thought of as cheap, but it can drive a massive amount of high converting traffic to your site. You have to find a balance between cost and revenue to make the best use of PPC advertising. While it can be very helpful for your business, it could also be a major drain on your budget if you aren't careful.
You can purchase PPC advertising on almost all of the major search engines, as well as sites like Facebook.
Email marketing has been stigmatised as spam. While much of the email marketing you receive is indeed spam, your campaign doesn't have to be. The difference between a legitimate marketing campaign and spam is that people will actually request emails that are legitimate.
So how can you make your email marketing campaign legit? All you need to do is create a massive email list of interested parties to send weekly emails to. Creating that list is a little more difficult. You need to give something away for free in order to entice people to provide their email addresses to you. This can be something as simple as a small report or document that is related to your business.
After you have created your list, you can begin email marketing without the stigma of a spammer. It is important to allow your recipients to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
Local business listings
If you are promoting a bricks and mortar company, you should be taking advantage of the search engines' local business listings like Google My Business. This will place your website on the front page with similar local services when someone does a search within your operating area. This can be a great way to get a fledgling business in front of thousands of potential customers.
It's true that most online directories are losing their usefulness when it comes to search engine optimisation, but you can still make use of local directories that target your specific area. You may get a small boost to your page rank and some traffic from the directory itself.
You shouldn't waste any of your time or money with a paid directory. They won't provide enough traffic to make their service valuable.
There are many different ways to get your business name out there on the internet, and you should use all of them. For cheap, or free, you can drastically increase your customer base by tapping into the internet. New advertising methods pop up every day, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook chat programme Chit Chat for Facebook