Not to be off-putting, but this is important: None of these are going to help you at all, if you don’t have something to say.
Know who you are talking to. Provide them with something they are looking for. This guide from Hubspot has really wonderful cues to help you craft your message, and for understanding marketing strategy. Remember: Your goal is NOT likes and retweets. Your goal is sales. Thought provoking quotes and bunny pictures will most likely get you audience interaction. Those things will not get you sales. What does your customer need? What problem do you solve for them? This in-depth guide from Growthlab has more on content building.
#1 Create a Google Business Listing.
You know that business that shows up on the side when you search in Google?
Once you have created and verified your google listing, use it! Keep your hours and info updated! Use their posting tool to market events and promotions.
You can also use their website builder to create a free site. My understanding is that this is basically a detailed business listing and customizable options are limited. Awesome review of Google sites.
Note: Google listings are free and they only verify through the mail. Anyone trying to charge you or verify over the phone is scamming.
#2 List your business as many places a possible.
The obvious places are Google, Yelp, and Bing. This is a great list of less obvious places to list your business for maximum exposure. Check out their great tips and the end of the list to get the most out of your listing! It is not intuitive that your listings should be super consistent across platforms.
#3 Free Websites
I am a firm believer in having a solid website that works for you. This is why I get excited about making sites for entrepreneurs and small business owners, to drive the success of their goals. However, we are all at different places at different times, and not all online needs are created equal. Sometimes, you just need your own little corner of the internet, and you need it to be free, or very inexpensive.
Here are a few of my favorite current options.
Wix: Create a free site using this crazy versatile site builder. Your free site will be Wix branded and have wixsite.com in the url. Use of their free sites is unlimited.
Upgrade: for $10/month you can get your own domain name and an ad-free site. I love Wix, and use it to build most of the sites that I build. You can definitely edit yourself, but if you are serious about your online marketing, you should start with a professional web designer. More on Wix pricing.
Jimdo: has a similar free plan, with jimdofree.com in the url and unlimited usage.
Upgrade: I have not used Jimdo, but here is a comparison of the most popular online site builders free and paid.
Wordpress.com: I have to mention it here, because it powers 25% of the internet, and it is versatile and powerful. I don’t use Wordpress.org or wordpress.com because the learning curve to do much, is pretty steep and the average joe can’t easily edit a wordpress site. Here is a great breakdown of both Wordpress.org and wordpress.com.
Bonus: Personal Landing pages. These can be great if you really just need a simple landing page, and don’t want to maintain a full site.
There are lots of other free website builders that come and go. Just google “free website” to find more. I have not used them. I have no idea if they are great.
#3 Email Marketing
Having an email list is the very best of “permission marketing.” People who have signed up for your email have given you a way to talk directly to them! You can create an opt-in email list with free services such as MailChimp (free for up to 2,000 users) even if you don’t have a traditional website. Check out how to create a list here. Keep in touch with your customers with newsletters, seasonal greeting and promotional offers, and get as technical as you like with multiple lists for varying types of customers. Before you start with an email service, you might want to research a few providers, as it can be difficult to change over later.
#4 Social Media Presence.
There are so many social media platforms, and everyone has an opinion about which is the BEST! It can be very overwhelming. Don’t let it be. Think of Social media platforms as a place to get your message out. These are places where your customers are already spending time. Meet them there! But, do it in a way that is comfortable and authentic for you.
Don't forget: It is a mistake to build your business exclusively on someone else’s platform. If your business depends on facebook, and they change their algorithms yet again (as they recently have, and will again) you have to start all over. Use social media to direct people to YOUR content.
To avoid overwhelm, keep it simple and just choose 2 to stay active with.
Here is a little cheat sheet.
Main Demographic: 16-55
I recommend having a facebook business page if you are at all interested in online marketing. A facebook business page is a free place to list your business hours, contact info and business information. It is an easy place for people to find you AND leave reviews. Be sure to keep it up to date, and if you are not going to use it regularly, turn off messaging! You don’t have to worry about having a huge following, or a billion active users unless you love doing it.
You can create free event listings and promote them to friends and followers; and easily let people know about sales and offers. Facebook groups are another way to get people involved if you have an ongoing community to promote.
Main Demographic 16-34.
Much younger demographic but growing.
Instagram is hot right now, and can be used in some really inventive ways. This platform is best for you, if you have really beautiful images to share. It is wonderful for interacting with a young and trendy audience. Experiment with overlaying images with text using free tools like Canva. Insta users are accustomed to seeing promotions on Instagram, and will follow their favorite brands like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Bodyworks, to keep up on new products and trends (provided that the brands provide value by keeping their ads visually interesting.)
Main Demographic 16-44.
Oh, Twitter. So many mixed feelings. Use Twitter if you have a lot to say - in a very few words. This is a great place to play if you are very opinionated, and if your opinions are part of your sales strategy. It is easy to get caught up in the drama here, so remember that your goal is sales. Best used to direct people to your content, or if you ARE your brand (actors, comedians, writers.)
Main Demographic 16-44
Posting videos is the new posting pictures. Great for how-to videos! This can be a really fun way to expand your reach, if you are willing to put in the effort. Careers have been made Live-streaming video games, so what could you do with it?
Main Demographic 16-44
The beauty of Pinterest is that Pinterest users actually go on there to shop! They “pin” things that they would like to buy, and often go back to buy them. This platform is also based on beautiful images. Take the time to make eye catching “pins” and direct buyers back to your content and products. Find some great Pinterest tips here.
Main demographic 16-24
This is a mobile only app. It is great for direct contact with a younger crowd.
Bonus: If you have a physical location, create a Snapchat geotag for your business or create a special Snapchat filter and spread branded images of events across Snap stories
Niche specific social media.
Think about other places where your target market might hang out. Ravelry comes to mind for knitters and Flickr for Photographers. What other niche social media platforms can you think of?
I know, this one is tough. But, it is oh-so important. Reviews on Google lead to higher rankings. Higher rankings lead to more contacts. Social proof is key to sales.
Once you have your online presence set up with your Google listing, a Facebook business page, and there are multiple ways set up for people to find you; you have to show them why they want to do business with you! There is lots of advice online about how to get more reviews. I am not going to repeat it here. Here are is a good one from reputation stacker. And this one with tips on how to ask for reviews.
Check out this idea for getting reviews on facebook without asking!
The deeper you go into online marketing, the more intense it can become. This list is a meant to be a start, and you a few key ideas to build your online presence. I hope that it sparks more ideas and most importantly - action. Please feel free to share your thoughts, arguments, ideas, and successes in the comments.
"Do not wait for clarity to take action. Use action to find clarity."