You’ve been relying on your friends and your happy clients to spread the word about your business. But what happens when your word-of-mouth referrals dry up?
I suspect this is the fear of every small business owner who relies on referrals. Fortunately, the internet has made it possible for us to get clients another way, without relying too heavily on referrals and without paying for expensive advertising in print, on billboards or on TV or radio.
Internet marketing – or digital marketing – allows the small business owner to both better target their marketing efforts and to handle these efforts ourselves, if we’re willing to spend the time.
There are four main types of digital marketing:
- Content Marketing
- Pay-Per-Click Advertizing (PPC)
- Search Engine Optimization (the infamous SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
No matter which methods you choose, all of these methods are cheaper than conventional media advertizing and all can be handled by you, the owner, if you are willing to commit the time to learning how. When done properly, they will also provide you with leads on a far more consistent basis than word of mouth referrals.
Content Marketing is basically the use of “content” – blogs, videos, podcasts, reviews, and other internet content – in lieu of traditional advertizing. This blog post is an example of content marketing – I give you some information for free in the hope that you will not only like the information but come to trust me as an expert and a person you can trust.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is the most famous kind of digital marketing – it includes both the ads you see when you use Google or Bing, and the banner ads you often see on websites. Think of PPC as the ability to have an online billboard, but have that billboard shown only to people who are looking for words related to your services, and this billboard doesn’t stay in one place. Also, you only pay for the billboard if people look at it.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the basic, ground-floor building block of digital marketing but the industry is jargon-obsessed and so understanding what it is and why you do it can be hard to figure out. The short version is that SEO is all about compliance of your website with the best practices dictated by Google (and Bing, to a lesser extent). That’s all it is. It isn’t a secret sauce for huge traffic and leads. It can be done well and poorly and the effects of either aren’t always apparent. But it is necessary in the long run so that you will get “organic” (i.e. unpaid) search engine traffic to your site. There are both technical and non-technical aspects to SEO, and the technical stuff will require a developer.
Social Media Marketing
The trendiest form of digital marketing is also the most misunderstood (well, outside of SEO) and most time-consuming. You should engage in social media marketing only if your product or service can fit into one or more social networks and you can spend the time to perform it consistently. If you can’t do both of those things, there is no point whatsoever.
I will be covering all of these topics in more detail in the future but know that you do not have to rely on referrals. You can become a master of some or all of these marketing techniques which can support your referral marketing efforts going forward.
This is the intro to my complete guide to putting your small business online.