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How can I spread the word about my business (without breaking the bank)?

man roaring into a megaphone trying to spread the word about businessPhone books. Newspaper ads. Mailings. Those tools may have worked in the past, but this is the world of smart phones. Tablets. Laptops.

It’s also a world where a company can feel overwhelmed by the time, terminology (optimization what?), and budget needed to conquer the modern age. How are you supposed to effectively get results—without blowing your budget? (Especially when you don’t have the time?)

Just like anything else in business, the first step is to identify what you want from your marketing. Do you want to drive customers to your website? To your door? Do you want more submissions off your website? Once you’ve decided on a specific goal, set a deadline when you will evaluate your results.

Optimize your website.

If you want to drive traffic to your website, make it optimal for your target audience (and the search engines that drive them there). Optimize any content on the site for search engines with relevant phrases and topics. One note of caution: make sure that everything you write and include is readable for your audience. Include images, both photos and video (preferred by search engines) on your website. When you include images, make sure you add an alt tag that describes the item with relevant keywords.

The plan: If you feel like we’re speaking another language, talk to an optimization firm about optimizing your website and using optimization technology to reach customers within 10, 20, or 50 mile range of any location. Contact a reputable firm that can provide you data-based results reports about the ranking and amount of website traffic resulting from the technology.

Use social media.

Note the operative term here: use. If you want to reap the benefits of social media, you need to do more than just start up a social media profile and sporadically post to your profile. It’s free to sign up, and there are major benefits to creating and maintaining social media profiles.

Social media profiles gives your audience a convenient place to screen your company reviews and send messages (here’s how promptly you need to respond to those inquiries). It gives your company a way to connect and engage with customers and potential customers. To reap all those benefits, you need to invest one thing: time.

The plan: Choose a social media site that is utilized by your customers (for audience demographic information and social media options, use this chart). Don’t over extend yourself by setting up a site on every social media site out there; instead focus your efforts for optimal results. Schedule a set of regular, engaging posts that fit with your marketing goal. Experiment with times and days to determine when is the best time for your followers. If you don’t have time, outsource your social media efforts to a marketing company that offers an affordable plan. Send them graphics and information for future social media results.

Send regular e-mails.

E-mail marketing has one of the best return-on-investment track records in marketing, if you execute it correctly. Today’s e-mails aren’t the blasts of the past. They’re carefully planned and carried out legally and utilizing some of the best modern practices.

The plan: Collect e-mails from your customers legally (tips on how to build your e-mail list here). Don’t steal e-mails or ask for e-mails on a false pretense. Coordinate your e-mails so they use the same messaging as some of your other channels (social media, content marketing, etc.) but give your e-mails more of a personal feel to achieve results. Legally, you always need to provide a means for your e-mail recipients to opt out of receiving e-mails.

Start writing content.

Companies that add content to their website (such as via a blog) benefit in a variety of different ways: 1) fresh, quality content is crucial for an optimized website that ranks in search engines; 2) offers customers 24/7 answers to their questions; and 3) gives them content to add to their social media calendar.

The plan: Create a calendar with regularly scheduled content. Assign the content to a staff member (or contact a company that can create relevant content). Make sure you add the content to your social media calendar and as the subject of future e-mails for a coordinated, efficient marketing plan.

Seek positive reviews.

Reviews may not be a company’s favorite way of getting the word out about their company (partially because reviews are out of their control), but it is a major factor in consumers’ decisions to contact and use a company. Fact is, 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). It would be foolish not to add asking for reviews (and responding to negative reviews) as a significant part of a company’s marketing plan.

The plan: Create a company-wide plan for asking for reviews. Ask satisfied customers to leave a review of your company. Give out cards with information on where to leave a review or add a link to your next e-mail. Monitor review sites for negative reviews, and respond with excellent customer service to try and resolve negative reviews. If you don’t have the resources to monitor all the sites, contact a marketing company that has an automated service that can alert you to any mentions (positive or negative) about your company.

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