Learn the basics of online marketing with these free tools and take your business from your local town to the world wide web.
In the past, the key to a profitable small business was staying close to the shop and treating the customers well. Today, it means spreading your wings a bit and taking your marketing efforts to the information highway: the Internet! The best thing about online marketing is that some of the best tools are free to use, and all it takes is a little time and persistence to make them work for you.
One of the easiest ways to market your business is by participating in online forums or message groups that relate to your industry. A quick search of Yahoo Groups will provide a good starting point. Prior to joining an online group, make certain to read the terms of agreement to familiarize yourself with what is allowed and what is not. Also, remember to ask a forum administrator if signature lines are allowed in posts (many forums do not allow this). If they are permissible, you can add a short message about your business with a link leading to your small business web site or blog. Start slowly by posting tips and advice on an as-needed basis. Learn the flow of the group and be as helpful as possible. In no time at all, you could be the go-to resource for the group!
Blogging is another free online marketing tool. Many sites offer free blog space, but many times the designated web address does not correlate with your company name whatsoever. It's important to have a blog domain name that is related to your company name or services in order to build name recognition. A domain name can be registered relatively inexpensively and is a great first step in building a web presence for your company. Two of the most preferred blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger. Neither requires a domain name, and the set-up and administrative panels are easy enough that even an internet novice will feel comfortable publishing a blog!
If a complete web site is more up your alley, Bravenet offers a complete set of web tools that make web sites a breeze for small business owners. Bravenet offers the option of having a free sub-domain or of purchasing your own domain. The web tools from Bravenet will help you build a web site, manage email campaigns, and much more. Their double opt-in email sign-up form will allow you to communicate regularly with people that have already shown an interest in your product. An email list is one of the most direct forms of targeted marketing! However, if you find that email marketing doesn't resonate very well with your target audience, you might want to consider a direct mail campaign that utilizes a promotional item such as a promotional magnet (mails flat).
Once a web site or blog is established, adding Google Analytics (a free tool from Google) will give you detailed information about your web site visitors. By analyzing the data found in Google Analytics, you will be able to target your marketing efforts and make them more effective.
Small business owners should always be on the lookout for cost-effective advertising and marketing. Luckily, there are several great online tools that are free and relatively easy to put into motion. Getting started with online advertising is the most important part of marketing for a small business owner. By taking the time to develop a web presence, the reach of your business has potential to expand and open up business opportunities from all over the world!
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