Banner ads and print ads can be expensive. And they are not necessarily the best way to advertise your small or mid-size business. So to find how to get the greatest return on your advertising investment, Small Business Computing surveyed small business owners. Below are 10 of their top suggestions for how to advertise on a budget.
“AdWords and PPC [pay-per-click] can give you crazy amounts of traffic if you are tight with your campaign and run niche ad groups,” explained Andrew Riker an SEO specialist at WordStream. “Focused, long-tail keywords that are specific to your industry will cause the highest possible click-through rate and in-turn conversions.”
Riker adds that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of traffic. “A small daily budget — $10-$20/day — can provide you with a large amount of traffic and in turn qualified leads, as long as the ad is relevant,” he said.
“We tried print ads and banner ads, but for our money Facebook ads provide us with the most focused consumers,” explained Chris Knollmeyer, Web manager for Carolina Rustica. “Being able to target specific demographics lets us pinpoint people we have not reached yet and provides us with a platform to reach out to them. This kind of targeting allows us to minimize extemporaneous clicks from consumers [who are] just browsing or searching for information and gets us the most for our money.”
“Facebook ads have definitely been the most successful overall,” concurred Megan LaBant Abrahamsen, the owner of Blue Star Bazaar. “I can set a small budget (less than $10 per day) and target specific customers – [by] age, gender, education and interests similar to my product categories.”
Even if people don’t immediately make a purchase because of the Facebook ad, many of them wind up “liking” her business, she said, which lets Blue Star Bazaar create a database of potential customers.
“One of the best ways to advertise and get traffic to your website is by using StumbleUpon ads [StumbleUpon Paid Discovery],” noted Chris Wise, the online marketing director at CustomerRave. “They cost as little as $0.05 a click, so for $5 you can get 100 unique visitors to your site. While the bounce rate is more often than not higher when using these ads, it’s a great way to advertise contests, giveaways and big promotions,” he said.
And if the content you are promoting proves to be popular and receives a lot of “likes,” you will start receiving free traffic from Stumbles, which can go on for months, even after you have stopped advertising.
4. Get Published Online
Another great way to advertise your business is to “submit articles on topics your customers may be interested in to reputable websites, such as Ezinearticles.com, Articlesbase.com or TheFreeLibrary.com,” said Matthew Kostanecki, a marketing specialist at Archon Systems.
“In exchange for the content, they allow you to include a couple of back links to your website. Not only does this provide you with potential traffic and leads to your business, it also helps establish you as an expert in your related field,” said Kostanecki. Can’t come up with a subject to write about? He suggests asking your customers about their biggest pains and problems.
5. Donate Products or Volunteer Services to a Worthy Cause
“I got the equivalent of $1,000 in advertising by building the website for the Rhode Island Rally for Recovery,” explained Benjamin John Coleman, founder of The Origami Bonsai Company. And his investment of time really paid off — resulting in $5,000 in new business. That’s because when other vendors who participated in the Rally saw what a great job his company did building and maintaining the Rally website, they hired Coleman to help them with their websites.
6. Cultivate Bloggers
“Find influential bloggers in your industry and ask them to review your product or service,” suggested Daniel Weaver, the president and owner of Daniel’sPromise. “Many will be happy to do so if you give them free product for them to use.”
That’s what Juppy, the maker of the Juppy Baby Walker, did. “When we started out, our company we didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to spend on advertising,” explained Mayra Sotelo, the COO for Juppy. “So we decided to seek out mom bloggers who would review The Juppy Baby Walker. This worked out great for us…because there is no better [endorsement of] our baby walker that fits in a purse than by a real mom who loves our product.”
And if you can’t find a blogger who will review and write about your product for free, there are also bloggers “who will write about your site/product/company in exchange for a fee,” noted Mike Scanlin, CEO of Born To Sell. And even with a fee, that kind of endorsement is typically more effective and less expensive than a banner ad.
7. Claim Local Listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local
“You’d be amazed at how many small businesses forget to sign up for services like Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local even though it’s free!” explained Mandy Boyle, the SEO manager for Solid Cactus. “Claim your local listing, fill out the information and take advantage of people searching for businesses in your area,” she advised.
8. Use Community Sites and Local Directories
“Community-based online networks [such as Thumbtack and Quentin’s Friends] are a great way to cost-effectively get the word out about your business to a more targeted group,” explained Dana Leavy, CEO ofAspyre Solutions.
Leavy uses a site called Quentin’s Friends, an invitation-only network where members can post recommendations and offers for their products and services for a very small fee ($15). “The service is location-specific, so my ad is going out to thousands of people who are specifically in my geographic area, New York,” she said. And Leavy’s return on investment has been an impressive 6,500 percent.
If you own a B2B company, a good way to reach your target audience is through LinkedIn advertising, “We are a small business and our target market is small business users,” explained Damian Raffele, vice president, marketing, AnyMeeting.
LinkedIn Ads has worked well for the company, because it allows them to target a specific audience by geography, demographics, job title or LinkedIn Group. “Being able to target users who belong to specific LinkedIn Groups… allows us to design ad copy that is tailored for them, which has resulted in great conversion rates, providing us with a great ROI on our marketing spend.”
10. Distribute Flyers
“If you have a small business that focuses on a particular area, flyers are a great way to advertise,” said Nathan Letourneau, co-founder of CampusBooks4Less. And they needn’t be expensive. Chances are you have someone in your company, or a friend or family member, who can help you design the flyer inexpensively (or for free) – and you can print the flyer in house or find an inexpensive printer.
As for distribution, “hire some high school or college students and have them put the flyers on parked cars, attach them to house entry doors and distribute them inside area businesses (to employees and on any bulletin boards, if allowed) and apartment complexes,” he advised. “We saw huge increases in traffic after having students distribute flyers on parked cars in our target areas.”
While not every method will work for every business, each advertising strategy is inexpensive enough that you should be able try a few to find out what works for you. Also, many of the sites mentioned, such as Google AdWords and Facebook, periodically offer advertising credits or discounts, which small business owners should use to their advantage.
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