BY Marcia Layton Turner On OCT 31, 2016
Think that it takes lots of money to market your business effectively? Nope. There are a number of online marketing tools now available to help you attract and sell to more customers without costing you a dime.
Here are five of the most effective marketing tools your business should be already using:
Facebook groups are free, they’re easy to create, and they provide a way for you to talk directly to your biggest fans – your customers. Facebook groups are communities, unlike Facebook pages, which are essentially public bulletin boards. Since you can control who is allowed in your group, you can monitor the information that is shared and set the tone for discussions. Groups are a very cost-effective way to inform prospects and customers about your business and to start building a relationship with them.
You can use your group to share news of the latest inventory to come in, as NTY Clothing Exchange does with their videos of designer purses now available. Share photos of holiday decorations you’ve set up, to entice shoppers to stop by and see them. Or start conversations that help you better serve your customers, such as through polls or fun prompts. Clothing retailer LuLaRoe uses Facebook groups as a sales channel, supplemented with Facebook Live video chats.
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While some business owners may be reluctant to jump on the video bandwagon because they don’t like seeing themselves on camera, statistics show that consumers are rabid for video content. They don’t care what you look like if the information is useful or entertaining or interesting.
Video is another effective and inexpensive way for prospects and customers to get to know you. Use your smartphone to record yourself, upload it to YouTube, and then share it with your customer base. You’ll probably be surprised by the amount of people who watch it.
If you have no idea what to talk about on-camera, here are some ideas to get you started: talk about and showcase your new inventory, demonstrate how to use a popular item in your store, address the most common question you’re asked about your business or help customers deal with a common problem. Videos can be as short as two minutes or as long as an hour – whatever length you think your audience wants. You can use them to position yourself as the expert in your field, by offering a helpful tutorial on a subject your customers want to know more about. All at no cost.
Help a Reporter
Even if you have no budget for advertising, you can certainly invest time in pursuing publicity opportunities. Publicity involves persuading the media to write about you, mainly in articles and blog posts. Success is being quoted in an article in a newspaper, magazine, or on a website your target market pays attention to.
So how can you get the attention of busy reporters and writers? Pay attention to the articles they’re working on and the types of sources they need. To find that out, all you need to do is subscribe to HelpaReporter.com, at no cost.
Successful companies know a lot about their prospects and customers, including who they are, what they buy, why they buy it, and more. Without a massive market research budget, how can you gather some of these insights? By using SurveyMonkey, a free tool for creating short online surveys.
You can create a simple questionnaire using SurveyMonkey and share it with your Facebook group; include a link on receipts, perhaps with a small incentive for filling it out; mention it in a customer newsletter or email your entire mailing list to ask that they complete it. Specific questions are best, such as, “What day are you most likely to shop with us?” Or, “What product or service do you wish we carried?” Or even, “What one change could we make that would cause you to buy from us more often?”
Then use the responses to make adjustments and earn more of their business.
One of the best tools for competitive intelligence, blog post fodder, and market research rolled into one is Google’s free alert service. It’s useful for staying on top of particular companies, issues, products, or topics of interest, simply by setting up an alert that triggers an email to you whenever keywords you’ve entered appear online.
Given the ongoing need for social media content, Google Alerts can be a lifesaver for coming up with new ideas to write about. Create alerts for subjects your customers are interested in or that are related to your products and services. Then, when related emails arrive in your inbox, set them aside to use as inspiration the next time you have to pen a blog post, draft a customer newsletter, or share a Facebook or LinkedIn update.
Marcia Layton Turner writes frequently for and about small business. She is the author of The Unofficial Guide to Starting a Small Businessand many others.
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