For small businesses, every decision is based on how each valuable, and of course limited, dollar will be spent. Marketing is an especially important area where many dollars from a business’ contribution margin will be spent, and for businesses to thrive, they have to find marketing channels that are high sales converters and come at low cost. Ultimately though, it’s just important for businesses to know which channels are profitable and scale those.
Since finding quality marketing channels isn’t the easiest thing to do, here are some affordable, and dare I say it, cheap, ways to market your business without breaking the bank. These are also great places for business just beginning their marketing strategy, testing the waters out.
1. Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO and SEM)
The fact is, ranking well in the organic results for Google, Bing and (the slowly dying) Yahoo isn’t easy, but if you’ve built a brand that is generating a decent amount of searches, it’ll be helpful if you allocate some efforts to ranking well on your branded terms, which shouldn’t be too hard even if you have a generic brand name because almost all the links pointing to your homepage will have your brand name in the anchor test.
Another way to capitalize on easy SEO opportunity is by creating content to target long-tail keywords which are much easier to rank for than broader terms (i.e. search engine marketing company in housing vs. SEO). With long-tail keywords, you find low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the taking and plentiful. On the SEM side, for your branded terms and long-tail keywords, you are likely to find cheap Cost-Per-Clicks (CPCs) due to less competition bidding for those terms. CPCs will range for SEM, from a few cents to a few dollars, and all of that depends on the competition of the keywords you’re bidding for, but for the type of keywords that were suggested, you can assume a few dollars per click might be excessive. Also, your investment in SEO shouldn’t be too high unless you go with a really expensive SEO firm or you hire a bunch of cheap SEO consultants who never produce quality results because you can easily do it in-house since you’re not doing anything as complicated as trying to rank for one- or two-word combinations with large corporations competing against you in the search engines.
2. Facebook ads
Facebook has been known for being an incredibly cheap source of traffic and is especially great because of how specifically you can target your ads and your audiences. You can target your audience based on geographic location, gender, age range, education, work experience, brand preferences, interests, and more. When you get down to the nitty-gritty details of who your target customer is, you can target them aggressively with Facebook.
The Facebook advertising platform is simple and easy-to-use, allowing you to place ads and pay based on CPC or CPM (Cost-Per-1,000 Impressions) allowing you to effectively manage your budget. CPCs and CPMs can cost as little as $0.01 if done effectively, but you could probably be really happy with anything less than $0.50 with is more than achievable.
3. StumbleUpon ads
While advertising on StumbleUpon isn’t like advertising on other platforms and networks, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to guarantee traffic. The tricky thing here is that you can’t create targeted landing pages, or do much audience targeting either, which may make some advertisers hesitant to pull the trigger, but considering how cheap it is to advertise on the platform, throwing a few good marketing dollars on a campaign is more than worthwhile just to see the outcome. Also with nearly 15 million members frequently stumbling through sites, it’ll be about time when one of those users who’s interests align with your offering stumbles upon your sponsored stumble.
StumbleUpon has a fixed rate of $0.05 per view to your site, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than almost any other distribution channel you will “˜stumble upon.
4. YouTube videos or sponsorships
Creating a YouTube video is easy. All you need is a video recorder, a few interesting people and props and a dash a creativity. Of course, it will be hard to develop a large group of subscribers to your YouTube channel and even harder to just see overnight success with a viral video, but YouTube is one of the underused channels for small businesses and its distribution potential is immense. Plus, if you’re just getting views from people that already know about you (i.e. those already in your community and customer list), at least you’re engaging them in another, more interesting way.
Another way to really leverage the power of YouTube is by sponsoring videos on other YouTube channels with YouTube video bloggers that have larger followings than you, to reach their audience and sponsoring a video can be an inexpensive thing if you know how you negotiate a good deal. Some deals with smaller and even medium-sized YouTube channels can cost a few hundred dollars while ones with more people subscribing to their channel may ask for sponsorship payments in the thousands or even tens of thousands.
You don’t have to start with the big YouTube video bloggers though. Start small with a few hundred dollars and see where that takes you.
5. Affiliate Networks (basically cost-per-action or cost-per-sale channels)
What is really great about affiliate marketing is that you work with publishers to agree on a cost-per-action or cost-per-sale, so understanding your economics, you can properly budget how much you want to pay for certain things like an email sign-up or a sale, pretty much ensuring that your goals are met within your cost constraints. For example, if I were a site selling t-shirts, I could go to a blog about t-shirts and make a deal with them, agreeing that for every customer that converts on my site coming from their site, I pay the blog $10. If my shirts normally sell for $20, and my cost of making and shipping the shirt is $9, then after my initial costs of production and fulfillment plus the affiliate fee of $10, I make $1 profit, which is a guaranteed $1, when nothing is guaranteed in the risky game that is general advertising.