A wide reach is possible on a startup budget

A wide reach is possible on a startup budget

Many marketers will agree that one of the best parts of Internet marketing is the budgeting versatility. While there are plenty of organic options to build a brand, there are also paid options that can boost the effectiveness of your efforts.

You can pick and choose where you want your money to be spent, which is great for companies with a limited budget, especially startups.

Here are 6 ways you can achieve maximum online exposure without having to spend a fortune.

1) Focus On Your Target Market

The first step to creating online exposure on a limited budget is to hammer down your target market. When you’re bootstrapped for resources, you can’t afford to focus on everyone. You have to focus your marketing efforts on the customers that will help your business grow the most in the short term.

It’s not bad to have lofty goals of reaching a bunch of different audiences, but if you want to get the best bang for your buck, you need to find a way to reach the most important people.

Here are three things to consider when narrowing down your target market.

Who They Are: What are their demographics? What kind of blogs do they read? What social networks are they on? What sites do they visit? How are they buying products (online vs offline)? Get to know them and their online habits.

How They Search: What kinds of keywords do they use to search for similar products? The keywords in your content should match the keywords they’re familiar with.

What They Need:  When you find out what your target audience needs you can shape your online content around fulfilling that need. Inversely, when you find out what they don’t need (or want), you can eliminate that from your content.

Action Steps:

– Get to know your audience by finding out who they are, how they search, and what they need.
– Tailor your content to appeal to your target audience.
– Focus on reaching that smaller market before expanding to other audiences.

2) Leverage Email Marketing

e-mail symbol

Spend what limited resources you do have on email marketing. Nearly everyone you are trying to reach uses email. As of 2013, there are 3.6 billion email accounts, and 94% of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 64 send or read email.

91% of consumers check their email daily, 74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email, and 66% of customers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message.

To fully leverage email marketing, consider these tips:

Make Subscribing Easy: Make that signup box big and bold on your homepage, blog, Facebook, or wherever else your customers are active.

Tell Readers What To Expect: No secrets here. Whether it’s a promotion, a company update, or a how-to, tell your readers exactly what to expect from your emails.

Send Welcome Emails: Welcome new subscribers to remind them why they are on the mailing list and to reassure them that you’re not a spammer.

Make Them Scannable: Format your emails with headers. Highlight important terms so your readers can quickly scan through the information. They’re more likely to read something scannable than something that is dense with text.

Keep It Consistent: Have a posting schedule, and don’t let your readers forget about you.

Action Steps:

– Experiment with your email signup box using an A/B testing tool like Optimizely.
Format your emails with mobile in mind.
– Understand what spamming is and isn’t.

3) Do Social Media Engagement Right

The Art of Social Media

Of course, social media is must for any business on a budget.

Almost 58 million Americans visit social media networks every day, and 66% turn to social media to learn about new products and services.

It’s not enough just to be on social media though. You have to engage, and you have to do it right for your social media marketing campaigns to be effective.

Limit your social media platforms to only the ones that will be most beneficial to your business. With so many platforms available, you can’t possibly build a strong presence on each one. Focus on 3-4 that will best reach your target market.

Share quality content that’s both insightful and entertaining. Be active with your users by commenting and sharing, and don’t be afraid to give back. Contests are a great way to quickly gain followers and create exposure.

Visuals and video can also be powerful ways to communicate. Both help to build your brand by giving users a glimpse at the “human” side of your company.

Action Steps:   

– Always develop your social media goals.
– Research popular content by your competitors using tools like Social Crawlytics and SEMRush.
– Consider using YouTube to create a greater reach.

4) Reach Out To Influencers

Find influencers in your market and reach out to them. Having a relationship with just one or a few influencers can have a dramatic impact on your online reach.

There’s a reason consumers look to these people for information and advice. Influencers tend to have dynamic personalities, and they have built reputations that allow them to impact consumer decisions.

Luckily, many influencers are accessible and open to your contact.

To get your name out there and to start building a connection, it’s okay to stroke their ego a bit. Quote them in a blog and then tweet at them to let them know. Comment on their blog posts. Ask to connect on LinkedIn or invite them to join a circle.

When you directly reach out to influencers, don’t just say hi. Go the extra mile right away and do something memorable. Ask them if they would want to grab coffee or chat over Skype so you can pick their brain and ask a few questions about the industry. Frame it like an interview.

During that initial conversation, look for ways you could bring value to them. If they’re looking to redesign a blog or if they can’t seem to fix a bug, offer to help for free. Do anything you can to extend the conversation and create a connection.

Action Steps:

– “Gently” reach out to influencers without being too pushy or too over-the-top.
– Keep it about them, not you. It’s about forming a relationship, not selling an idea.

5) Ask And You Shall Receive (Crowdsourcing)

Crowd

Until recently, marketing was a one-way conversation. Now, you have the power to leverage user opinions to make decisions. After all, they’re the ones buying the product, aren’t they?

Crowdsourcing is a great way to encourage engagement and attract a large following on a limited budget. If you don’t have the funds to perform extensive market research, why not ask the market what they want and allow them to help make decisions?

Here are three words you should remember when you’re trying to crowdsource.

Brevity: Be clear and to-the-point. Tell your customers exactly what they need to do and exactly what you want from them. Ambiguity is your worst nightmare in this situation, because the moment your message hits the Internet, all bets are off. You’re at the mercy of the users. Make it easy to understand.

Incentives: While you can crowdsource for free, dangling a carrot tends to provide better results. Offer a prize, something that will get users excited to participate. Offer 2nd and 3rd place prizes if you can. Some people like to play the odds and might participate knowing they have a better chance of going home with something.

Preparation: Ideas are going to pour in, so be ready to handle them. Sifting through the hundreds of different ideas can be the most difficult part of crowdsourcing, so have a plan in place.

Action Steps:

– Use crowdsourcing software like Crowdspring and PopTent.
– You can crowdsource the odd, time-consuming jobs like transcribing audio, optimizing keywords, and customer support.

6) Form Strategic Partnerships

Two is usually better than one.

Forming strategic partnerships with others in your industry opens a lot of different doors and comes with many different benefits.

When you align your brand with other well-known brands in your industry it helps you build credibility. The anchoring effect comes into play.

Customers have a tendency to use reference points or “anchors” when making decisions. Associating with the right partner gives consumers a reference for your own brand, and they will begin to relate the attributes of your partner to you.

For example, if your partner is known for having quality products, aligning with them will help customers perceive that your products are just as nice.

On the more practical side, partners can help you do things you can’t. They can help you reach a wider audience. They can help with market research. They can give you a jump-start on your social media marketing with just a few mentions.

You don’t need to take everything on yourself. Find a partner to help you out.

Action Steps:

– Identify trustworthy partners that you know you can work with.
– Be clear about your expectations for them and understand their expectations for you.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t have a big Internet marketing budget, don’t worry. The most creative marketing solutions tend to develop out of necessity, not when you have a lot of financial padding. The creative juices really start flowing when the funds are limited.

Some days, the versatility of the Internet still surprises me. I encourage you to get creative and to start developing unique online marketing solutions that cost less and perform better.

How has your company leveraged the Internet in an affordable way?

Share your story in the comments.

Image: Budget
Image: social media
Image: Crowd
Image: Email