The year before I closed the doors to my company, HHB Advertising, I called all my retainer clients together and our staff gave a presentation that would hopefully empower them to take over most of their own advertising. We promised to be on hand to help them with the transition, but I had been studying how social media marketing -- which was basically free to use -- could make a decided difference in leveling the playing field for small business promotion.
The caveat, however, was that only a limited window of time existed if a business was to be successful using these new tools. My clients needed to begin immediately if they were to have a leg up on their competitors.
That day, and in several columns here in The Telegraph, I cautioned that soon the social media landscape would be bloated and saturated and eventually become passé as a successful marketing medium. Small companies needed to take action immediately or else their businesses could be lost in the fray.
What HHB Advertising predicted back in 1999 has happened.
Here is an overall view from where I stand today on Do-it-Yourself marketing opportunities for small business:
Start to blog. Use keywords in your postings so your content can be found easily online. For example, if you are selling sheet metal, know who the potential buyers are and write your posts geared to them. Use the industry lingo they use. Write in a colloquial tone as if you were writing to a good friend.
Give your readers and (hopefully blog subscribers) important information they cant get many other places. For instance, if you are offering acting lessons, add a post on your blog that instructs readers on how to audition anywhere. If you are selling colorful hand-sewn diaper covers, add posts that offer the latest parenting information.
You neednt write every post yourself; connect to similar blogs and feature guest bloggers who have something to add to the conversation. Be consistent by posting on a schedule. Keep postings short and use graphics. Make posts compelling enough to print out or otherwise save. And end each post with a compelling question that will encourage comments. This will increase your blogs visibility.
Use targeted display advertising on blogs and websites that match your market. For example, the sheet metal manufacturer might run an ad on a hobbyists or a roofers website.
Look into emerging Facebook and Twitter advertising opportunities. These are continually evolving and are worth checking out and allotting budget money for.
Google Adwords are text-only ads that appear alongside info that apply to specific keyword or key phrase searches, such as: diapers, diaper covers, soggy baby bottoms, baby fashions, etc. The spaces for these ads are auctioned off to the highest bidder, so you would obviously pay more to win the popular keyword diaper or diaper covers than you would to the less-searched phrase soggy baby bottoms. Adwords has a bit of a learning curve but all the resources you need to learn about it are in place. Google will hold your hand along the way.
Online advertising and promotion takes time, know-how and a budget (whatever your business can afford at any given time). Make no mistake: all the windows of opportunity havent been closed completely.
Paige Henson is a new media consultant for small businesses. She specializes in inbound marketing and content management. Her email address is email@example.com.