Remember the days when advertising your business mostly just entailed calling up the Yellow Pages, or putting an advert in your local paper? Yes, it was expensive, and yes there were hardly any options available – but at least there was little confusion over what to do!
Now though, there’s a vast array of options to promote your business online, but to the first-time user these can sometimes seem complicated and confusing, if not bewildering. Most small business owners like yourself are busy running a business and don’t have time to spend hours getting to grips with new systems. However, online advertising can be enormously valuable when done right, so it’s definitely worth putting in the hours with a platform that’ll generate new customers or leads for your business.
But how can you tell which advertising platforms are the best for your needs – and how can you ensure you’re using them in the most efficient way? Here’s an overview of four options to consider:
Facebook has over a billion active users globally – that’s a staggering amount of potential customers, and a great opportunity if leveraged smartly.
First of all, at the very least, all small business owners should set up a business page; not only is it free, it’s also a great platform to update your customers with news, tell them about upcoming events and special offers, and also to engage directly with them.
Once you’ve taken this step, you can choose to kick things up a notch by paying for Facebook advertising. Who sees your ads can be highly-targeted, letting you focus on people of certain ages, people who have certain interests, even people who have certain relationship statuses.
Bing and Google
It’s not really surprising that Bing and Google’s advertising systems are on our ‘most-important’ list. As the top search engines of choice in the world, they see vast amounts of traffic each and every day.
There are two pricing models. Pay-per-click charges you a set amount when people click on your ad and go through to your website, whereas CPM (‘cost per thousand’) charges you for every 1000 times your ad is displayed, whether it’s clicked on or not. Generally PPC costs more than CPM because it guarantees a certain amount of traffic to your site. However, it is slightly more complicated than that: pricing is based on the popularity of the keywords you choose to display your adverts against; you bid against other companies for the keyword and when competition is high it can get expensive. This is what it’s highly recommended to use a service like Searchbloom for managing your PPC campaign, because you can save your business a lot of time and money.
So, how can you get around the hefty price tag of high competition keywords? One option is to use keywords related to your business’s location. For example, rather than advertise “Cupcake shop”, go for “Cupcake shop Seattle”. You’re cutting out a chunk of the competition who don’t have shops in Seattle (which results in a cheaper keyword), and you’re making your ad more relevant to your target audience. Plus anyone searching locally is more likely to find what they’re looking for and make a purchase. A win on all counts.
The Wall Street Journal voted LinkedIn the most business-friendly social media platform – and with its range of networking features, business focus, and motivated users, it’s easy to see why. Like Google, Bing, and Facebook advertising, it also has a very targeted advertising functionality. You can select an audience based on industry, job function, seniority, location etc. and this enables you to push your message out to an audience that isn’t just highly relevant, but also business-minded and looking for opportunities. Plus, it’s comparatively easy to get to grips with and to analyse the results. It won’t be suitable for every business – it’s more geared towards B2B rather than retail and consumer focussed companies – but when done right can be very valuable.
Daily deals, vouchers and discount codes
An alternative approach to promote your business can be found on daily deal platforms such as Groupon. To participate in these schemes, you’ll have to provide a steeply discounted deal alongside a fee, but the publicity benefits can be brilliant. Happy customers who’ve used the vouchers will be likely to spread the good news via word of mouth or reviewing your business online. However, some small businesses have run into problems through getting their sums wrong or underestimating the costs; this can be disastrous, so make sure you go into these opportunities with your eyes open.
James Wilson is sales director at XLN Telecom, a specialist provider of broadband telephone, internet, energy and card payment systems specifically tailored for small businesses.