Increasing competition and an online Audience with a decreasing attention span, make it a challenge to find the best and most cost-effective way to market your business. Throw in the fact that many industries are dominated by large companies with huge marketing budgets and the task can seem overwhelming. But thanks to the internet, every business has an equal opportunity to share their story with people they are trying to connect with.
For many small and mid-size businesses, finances can be tight and marketing is often the first area that gets cut. But marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Some of the most effective strategies are things you can do on your own at little or no cost to you. Below you will find 75 creative online marketing strategies for your business. My hope is that you not only read this full list, but put a few of these into practice and watch your business grow!
Your blog is a great place for you to share your expertise with your target audience. The only expense blogging should really cost you is time. Use these strategies below to maximize the effectiveness of your blogging.
- Create a "How to" Blog: Develop a simple step-by-step post that helps your audience solve a pain point they are experiencing. Make it simple and enjoyable to read. For example, if you run an auto shop, a good "how-to post" may be: "How to quickly and safely change your tire after a blowout."
- Create List Posts: Kinda like the post you're reading right now. They are helpful and straight to the point without a lot of extra fluff. If you're stuck and need ideas, use Google to find examples and ideas. Read How to Find Blog Topics That Improve SEO to learn how to research seo-friendly blog topics.
- Create Visual Blog Posts: These posts are very impactful. Why? Because people process images 60,000x faster than text. Use Memes, videos, SlideShares or Infographics.
- Make Sharing Easy: Make sure each post has a share button! After all, you are trying to get more exposure.
- Write for YOUR Audience: Understanding who you are writing for is essential to successful online marketing. A great way to get to know your audience is by creating a “Buyer Persona”. In short, it’s a semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer. [Create yours today with this free template]
- Create Statistic Lists: Have a bunch of eye-popping statistics? Write a post about the importance of the statistics and what they mean to your audience.
- Use Graphs & Charts: Remember #3? Graphs and charts make your content easier for your readers to digest.
- Create “Ask the Expert” Pieces: Reach out to leaders in your industry and interview them on relevant topics and industry questions. Publish your findings on your blog.
Bonus: Ask the experts to share it as well for extra reach and visibility on social.
- Top 10 Lists: There is a reason David Letterman did these so much. People love top 10 posts!
- Quality Content: Take your time and create content worth reading and sharing. A good rule is, if you wouldn’t read it, don’t create it. Plus, Google hates junky content.
- Guest Post, The Right Way: While this was extremely abused over the last few years, doing it right is still OK. Reach out to those in your niche and offer guest post content. The worst thing they can say is no. Learn when and why to guest post here.
- Buy Content: You're busy, and content development takes time. You can hire great writers for a reasonable fee, through services like Text Broker. Just provide a few details and let a pro do the job for you.
- Spend More Time on Your Titles: Your Title is the first thing your audience interacts with. If it sucks, they will pass you by and go to the next item on their feed. You should spend just as much time writing your title as you do creating you content. Here is a great article from Hubspot that will help you write awesome titles.
- Pace Your Self: Rushing your blog post just to meet a deadline usually results in sub-par work. Be realistic about the amount of time you need for each piece you are putting together and take the time to do it right. Start slowly, get a feel for the writing process and develop your system.
- Be Flexible: Having a content schedule is great, but don’t overwhelm yourself. Sometimes the content you think is going to take off doesn’t. When that happens look back at what did work and shift your focus to more of the content your audience likes. Flexibility also allows you to cover more timely events. I like to think of content plans more as guidelines.
Social media gives you access to billions of people across the world. I realize that most of you may not be targeting the entire world (if you are, it's probably not the best use of segmentation), but with that said, social media is extremely powerful for building a loyal following for your business. Try these strategies to build a following that will share your story.
- Instagram Photo Contest: Instagram is a great tool because it’s 100% image driven. (See #3.) More than that, people love contests, especially if there are cool prizes involved. This is a great way to build brand awareness and get the early adopters to not only get on board, but also share your company with their followers.
- Join LinkedIn Groups: If you are a business owner or leader, and you’re not on LinkedIn, you need to be. Once on this B2B social network, connect. One easy way to build your connections is through joining groups and getting involved in the conversation. The more you invest in these groups, the greater return you will see! [Learn more ways to maximize your efforts on LinkedIn here]
- Create a New LinkedIn Group: Can’t find a group for your industry that meets your needs? Create one. Promote it and invite those who you are connected with and add compelling content and discussion questions.
- Reach Out & Connect with Local Businesses on Social: A great way to build community and cross-market your business is to connect with other local businesses on social. Engage with their content and build relationships. This could open the door for referrals and partnerships.
- Reward Customers Who Share Your Content: Your followers who take the extra time to share your content should be thanked, and those that do it often and effectively deserve to be rewarded. Whether it’s a discount, free item or something else, just make it worth their while. This simple gesture always goes along way.
- Push Your Handles: Are you speaking at an industry event, conference or seminar? Push your social media handles! You’re taking the time to create and share your content and knowledge so don’t be afraid to tell people how to connect with you!
- Use Hashtags: You know that symbol “#”? Yeah, the one we used to call a pound sign? Use it! This allows people searching for content, using these tags, to find your content as well.
- Piggyback and Join in on Popular Hashtags: Use popular hashtags in your industry or that your personas connect with and get involved in the larger conversation. [Check out more on Hashtags Here]
- TikTok: This social service lets you create quick, short-form videos. With a little work and some fun creative content, you could grow your network on TikTok. So get in on it before everyone else in your industry does!
- Pin Your Images: Did you create some great images for your blog or make an infographic? Pin them on Pinterest! Make sure you also share other related content as well. You want to be seen as someone who pins great content even if you didn’t produce it. This builds trust with your audience and positions you as helpful and informed in your niche. Learn how to leverage Pinterest for your business here.
- Follow Your Competition: Did you know that Facebook lets you follow other accounts with their Pages to Watch feature? Follow your competition and keep tabs on what they are doing. See what works and if you can learn anything from their strategy.
- Be Your Biggest Promoter: Why not toot your own horn? I mean, if you’re not willing to share your own content, how can you expect anyone else to. Don’t just sit back and hope it will work. Reach out, engage, interact and don’t be afraid to ask for the follow, like or connection.
- Use a Social Media Management Tool: I totally get that by this point you may feel as if your head is going to explode. The great thing is there are tons of social media management tools that are free or pretty cheap. Check out Hootsuite. The free version lets you manage 3 accounts with a ton of great features that will save you a bunch of time! Oh yeah, you even get some analytics to better understand what is or is not working.
- 10-4-1: Knowing what to post can be pretty overwhelming. Using the 10-4-1 rule, you can break up your posts, so you don’t annoy people. Here's what the rules say, for every 15 posts, 10 should be pieces of other people's content, 4 should be your own blog articles, and 1 should be a landing page.
- Use Zoom Web Conferencing: Zoom is a great, free way to video conference. There are a number of industry leaders who use this as a way to connect more intimately with their following or to record their screen and produce screencast videos to share on social.
- Share Industry Related Content: The worst thing you can do is to only promote yourself. Choose content that adds value to your audience. Share links to relevant content found in trade journals, business publications and newsletters in your customers' areas of interest and always make sure to give credit where credit is due!
- Connect with Leaders in Your Niche: Finding influential leaders in your industry and then connecting with them via social is a great way to find awesome content to share and learn from the best.
Your website is probably your most important online marketing asset. Using it to its full potential is like having a 24/7 sales and marketing team that never takes a break and is always on task. Here are few ways to boost the marketing potential of your website.
- Use a CTA Above the Fold: Creating calls-to-action can be as simple as hyper-linked text asking your visitor to take some sort of action. (FYI: But CTA Buttons or images work better.) Make sure that your CTA is above the fold (or scroll) and that you don’t have too many per page.
- Optimize Your Content: Make sure each page is optimized for search and that your content is focused on one long tail keyword phrase and includes semantically related keywords. Learn On-Page SEO best practices here.
- Optimize Your Images: This is one of the most common SEO mistakes I see and it’s so simple to fix, especially if you're using Wordpress. Adding Title and ALT attributes helps your audience if they are sight impaired and cannot see the images. Also, the text will be displayed in place of an image if an image file cannot be loaded. There are SEO benefits to adding keywords to your image alt text. Theses tags tell the crawlers what your image actually is and help your image appear in image search.
- Audit Your Own Content: Run an audit of the current content on your site to see what is working and what isn’t. Then write, reformat or remove the stuff that just doesn’t connect with your audience.
- Mobile is a Must: According to Google, more people search on Mobile than any other device. Having a mobile or responsive site is essential. Depending on the platform you are using this can be a relatively inexpensive fix. This will not only please the Big G, but your visitors as well. Want to know if your site is mobile friendly? Use Google’s Free tool here.
- Use Forms to Capture Leads: Building and adding your own forms on your website is a cheap and easy way to add conversion elements to your site. Keep them simple and make sure you always have a mandatory email field. This way you can nurture your new leads. Don't ask for too much info, just what you need.
- Use Simple Language: This simple strategy goes for more than just your website's content. The public and even many of those in your target audience don’t get your industry jargon. Your content should read in a very conversational way. Simple rule: Write like you speak.
- Pay Attention to Your Color Choices: Everything communicates. Using colors that engage and add to your audience’s experience matters. Take time to think about what the colors mean and how they a make people feel. Check this out -> The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding.
Creating content that people want to engage with is extremely important. But content is far more than just blog posts and press releases. Check out these great ways to market your business and your content in a more exciting way.
- Create an Infographic on Industry Trends: This is a great way to merge the statics you find in your research into an easy to understand visual presentation. Check out this list of well-designed infographics for inspiration.
- SlideShare: This awesome platform is now owned and run by the peeps over at LinkedIn. Re-purpose your PowerPoint presentation in a more engaging way. SlideShare now even has a lead conversion feature at a pretty decent price that you can enable in your posts.
- Create and Distribute an eBook: This can seem pretty overwhelming, but if you're blogging, you already have a ton of content. Re-purpose what you have and create a guide or industry related eBook that you can distribute and use to attract visitors. See #38 - create a landing page and form on your site to capture leads that are interested in downloading your eBook.
- Polls: Use a site like http://www.poll-maker.com/ and ask a target group of people some questions and report your findings on your blog or in a case study and share on social.
- Memes: This is a great way just to have fun and use some humor. People love memes and for a good reason. It gives them a break from the mundane while showing that your business has a lighter side.
- Comparison Guides: Have a product similar to your competition? Creating a comparison guide is great way to show your audience how you are different. Make sure you state the facts, are objective and fair. Remember, the customer has a ton of choices, but authentic companies win way more than the ones who aren’t.
- Offer Trials: Allowing someone to test your product risk-free is a great way to get them in. More likely than not, if your product meets their needs and during the trial period the product has a large impact on them, you may have a new customer.
- Webinars: This is great way to teach, give more insight on an industry topic, or give a detailed inside look at your product or service. Partner with another business to double the bang for your buck. This is great way to produce business leads.
- Intro Guides to Your Industry: Are you in a relatively new industry or branching into a relatively unknown part of your industry? Beginners guides are a great piece of content that typically have very high engagement rates. It also makes the reader feel like an insider.
- Create an Online Magazine: Producing your own virtual magazine is a great form of content marketing. For a quick and easy way to accomplish this, make your own online newspaper with Paper.li.
- Record Your Own Podcast: This form of content has increased in popularity over the years. To start, all you need is good content, a format plan and a mic. Don’t just copy what everyone else is doing. Think about what your audience actually wants to hear and learn about.
- Videos: Customers who view product videos are more likely to convert. With the amazing cameras available via smart phones, creating video is easier that ever. Not to mention YouTube is one of the most searched sites in the world. Video is also great for educational content. Check out how to turn blog content into engaging videos.
- Make your Own Comic: Believe it or not, online comics are very popular. Create your own internet comics that relate to the surreal aspects of your industry. Try free tools like Pixton or Strip Generator to get started. This is even a great way to create a caption contest.
- Pay Attention to the Masters: Look at the leaders in your industry and how they are marketing themselves. Then look for things you can take and adapt to your strategy. Don’t copy verbatim, but use it as a guideline.
- Cover Industry Events: Going to or been to an industry event lately? Creating a guide, overview of the event, or even doing real-time updates on Twitter is a great way to build your audience.
- Pop-Up Opt-In: Adding a pop-up opt-in as someone is leaving your site works very well to convert as viewers are exiting. It helps lower the bounce rate of your site by giving the visitor one last chance to engage with you.
- Get Interactive with Quizzes and Calculators: People love doing online quizzes or using an online calculator to figure out how much money they will save. These are easy to create using free online tools, so give one a try as a lead magnet for your website.
Conversion & Nurturing
It’s not enough to just drive traffic. To grow your business, you need to convert and nurture your prospects into leads and customers. Check out some of these simple and cost-effective bottom of the funnel online marketing strategies.
- Use Email to Boost Your Content: Have a list of emails? (Not ones you bought but earned!) Share with them what you’ve been up to, content you’ve published or even some of the new offers you have created. They already gave you their email so engage. But don’t overload them. Be respectful and add value to earn their trust.
- Add Landing Pages: Having dedicated landing page for each of your offers is essential to converting. The goal of a landing page is to get your visitor to fill out a form where they share some of their information in exchange for some of your awesome content.
- Segment Your Audience: Not everyone in your audience is interested in the same thing or is at the same stage in the buyer’s journey. Don’t just mass engage blindly. Segment your contacts into smaller lists, so you engage at the right level.
- Branded Tools: Create awesome tools that your audience will find useful. You can use parts of the tool to push towards your product offering, but make sure the tool itself is really good. (Important: Don’t just make it a glorified sales pitch.) If you’re not a developer, many companies offer white label tools you can purchase at a low cost and brand around your company.
- Build Trust with a SOAP Sequence: A SOAP sequence is a series of emails that welcome a new contact to your business through by sharing the unique story of how you started your business and where you are today because of the challenges you faced and choices you made. Learn how to use a SOAP email sequence and download our free template.
These are just some of the many online marketing strategies you can use to grow your reach. The best part, most are 100% free and a few have very low costs associated with them. If you’re on a tight budget, there is no excuse not to market yourself. We hope you found this list helpful, but more, we hope you try a few out. Take action and make growth a priority!
We’d loved to hear your feedback on any of the items in the list and how they’ve worked for you! Comment below and let’s start a conversation.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published November, 2015 and has been edited for accuracy and completeness.