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October 23, 2008

Almost Free Ways to Market Your Business Online

If you have a website, chances are pretty high that you spend a lot of time looking for ways to market your business online. Paying for advertisements can be quite expensive, and today’s Internet user is so desensitized to online banner ads that advertising in this manner can be highly ineffective. However, there are many ways that you can advertise your business online without paying much or without paying anything at all! You just need to know where to look.

Develop an Online Newsletter

Do you have an online mailing that you send to your customers? If not, you need to develop one. When your customers make a purchase online, have them sign up to receive “future offers” or an informative newsletter. You can also leave a form on your website for them to sign up to receive your newsletter. You may want to offer something free for this, such as a discount code, free tip, or a free gift.

Once you have your customer’s email address, put it to good use. Make your newsletter as good as it can possibly be. If you already have an online mailing in place, make it better. No one likes spam, so make the newsletter informative, helpful, and interesting. Throw in a coupon or two from time to time to keep the customer interested in reading the newsletter. Avoid using too many graphics, as this can keep some users from receiving the letter depending on their spam folder settings.

Become an Expert in Your Industry

Chances are you already are an expert in your industry. Use this to your advantage as you market online. Join forums that relate to your industry. Then, post useful comments. Do this often. Soon you will have a small online “following” that comes to you for advice. You can then point them towards your website for more information.

As you post in forums, make sure you follow the posting guidelines. Some forums will allow you to link to your website in your signature line. Others will allow you to link in actual discussions. Others do not allow any links at all, but may allow you to put a link in your profile. Since your time is valuable, choose forums that allow links, at least in your signature.

No matter what the forum rules may be, make sure that your posts do not sound like an ad. Give genuine, helpful advice to the people on the forum. Become a part of the community. You will be surprised at how much your bottom line increases with this strategy.

You can use this same rule to market using blogs. Comment on blog discussions relating to your industry whenever you can, and make the link take the reader back to your site. You can insert a link in your name field, but do not say, “you can find out more at my site.” That will be a turn off to most readers, but if they like what you have to say they will be willing to click on your name and visit your link.

Create Your Own Blog

As you are working towards making yourself an expert in the field, you might want to set up your own blog. You can discuss newsworthy items that relate to your industry, and you can include a link on the toolbar to your ecommerce site. You can link to your blog in your forum posts and blog comments as well. If you do not have time to write blog posts on a regular basis, you can hire someone else to do it for you.

As you work to create your blog, make sure it is interesting. People who read blogs are looking for entertainment as much as they are looking for information. Do not be afraid to discuss something a little controversial. The more people that link to your blog from theirs, even if they are saying how crazy your idea is, the more traffic you will eventually generate for your ecommerce or business site.

Use YouTube

Believe it or not, the popular video site YouTube is a great way to market a business, and posting a video is completely free. Now, like your forum and blog posts, you do not want to post a blatant advertisement on YouTube. However, you can create an informative “how to” that relates to your industry, and then link to your website at the end of the video.

The key to successful marketing with YouTube is not creating a fancy video full of special effects. It is making a video that is appealing to people. You want people to want to watch your video, email it to their friends, and post it on their blogs. Do not be afraid to do something a little crazy and fun, but make sure that it does not detract from your business.

Use Online Business Directories

Online business directories are another way to market your business online. Keep in mind that there is a wide range of prices for these directories. Some charge high fees for listings, while others have free or low-cost listings available. Choose a directory that gets plenty of traffic but does not charge too much for your link. Make sure you can have some control over what is said in your listing. Also, make sure the directory is well laid out with an easy to understand organizational structure. Remember, your potential customers are not going to stay on a business directory site that is confusing or difficult to navigate.

That being said, list your business in as many free business directories as possible. After all, if the listing is free, it cannot hurt your business, and it will probably draw some traffic to your site. Some of these directories make money off of other types of ads, such as pay per click ads, so they allow businesses to create listings for free.

Jay Gaulard writes for a wide selection of websites on various topics. He is a veteran of the internet and has come to be respected in his many areas of expertise. This article was written on behalf of BizLeeg, a popular business directory website.