Online marketing techniques

In the last article we discussed the importance of building an effective online presence. In this follow-up article I will look at three essential marketing techniques for promoting your business online.

Pay-per-click advertising:

"If you build it, they might not come" is very true for a website. You need to spend as much time on promoting your website as you do building it. This may start with some initial search engine optimisation and signing up to online directories to ensure you are found on Google, but consider also adding a pay-per-click campaign to your strategy.

There are many advantages to a pay-per-click campaign: it brings in immediate results and gives you the ability to see which keywords are performing and tweak the campaign instantly to make it more effective.

Using the Google Keyword Tool, work out what keywords bring you traffic and those to use in your pay-per-click campaign. You can also use Wordstream, which gives you more information and I think is better than Google's keyword tool.

The key tip for getting value for money is to set a very restrictive budget. Don't set the budget that Google tells you to set. Set something you are comfortable with. Then, monitor your campaign closely to see if it brings the results you want.

While Google dominates advertising online with Google AdWords, it is not the only medium. Now you can advertise using pay-per-click campaigns in LinkedIn and Facebook. Both are more affordable than Adwords and might be a more relevant medium depending on your audience.

Email marketing:

Email marketing is an important part of online marketing and often overlooked by small businesses. Customers need to be reminded you are out there, and email marketing is the way to do it. E-newsletters are not considered to bespam if a) they contain valuable information; and b) you always provide an opt-out or unsubscribe function.

To run an email marketing campaign you first need a list of contacts. You can start with your existing customers but often small businesses aren't in the habit of collecting names, emails, mobile numbers and so on. Note to self: it's time to start!

Include a form on the landing page of your website with an attractive offer that encourages people to sign up, and you will kick-start the lead-generation process.

Next, use a safe and secure email program such as Mailchimp to send out email marketing. Mailchimp offers great social sharing tools and analytics but there are many other tools out there, including some fully automated marketing software such as Infusionsoft or Hubspot. The important thing is make sure your email marketing campaign gets results by making the content stand out.

Social media marketing:

Social media marketing is the next level of online marketing for micro business owners. Many have started to play with Facebook, Twitter or blogging but without any real strategy. So how do you know which medium will work for you?

Facebook is more geared towards the consumer environment. Retail businesses can use it to make offers and run contests. Having said that it is a great engagement tool for local businesses to share content and build an online community.

Having a blog can position you as an authority in your industry and can gain you credibility amongst your peers and customers.

For service-based businesses, I find a blog combined with email marketing and a PR strategy very effective; while a Facebook, Twitter and social interaction strategy is more effective for a retail business.

The important thing in social media marketing is to monitor the conversation on every platform. This can be daunting for the micro business owner, so I suggest only engaging those tools you are going to manage and use every day and that are appropriate to your business. If your business is in human resources, for example, it is better to be committed to LinkedIn and leverage that as a forum rather than be on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Choose where your audience is and go there. I also recommend using social network monitoring tools such sproutsocial, which helps to track your brand on social media.

Rather than take on all of these techniques at once, start with one and do it well. The real measure of effective online marketing is whether your leads, contacts, new opportunities and returning customers increase.

-- Danielle MacInnis thinks like a customer and creates insightful, practical marketing strategies for small businesses.