Online Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

by Hollis Thomases,

If you're reading this newsletter, chances are, you already know that email marketing is one of the most cost effective elements of your marketing mix. But, what about other creative and profitable ways to promote your company and its products and/or services?

If your tight marketing budget has you at the end of your rope, try marketing on a shoestring with these suggestions from our friend Hollis Thomases from WebAdvantage.net.

"Online Marketing on a Shoestring Budget"

by Hollis Thomases

Businesses large and small have embraced the Web as a place to have a presence. Fewer, however, have really figured out how to cost effectively market online. While there are plenty of ways to spend your marketing dollars, if you really know what you're doing, you can do a lot of online marketing on a fairly limited budget.

Here's a handy list of "shoestring" marketing initiatives you ought to consider:

 

Search Engine and Directory Submittals

Search engines are the #3 way people find websites and are the source of up to 85% of all site traffic. Aside from Yahoo & LookSmart, most search engines allow you to submit your website at no charge.

 

Paid-For Search Engine Listings

Several search engines, the granddaddy of which is Overture, now allow you to pay for top placements through advertising and bidding programs. Costs vary by search term.

 

Site Linking

Getting other websites to link to yours is not only free, but can also help with your search engine rankings, as many search engines now factor "link popularity" in the relevancy of their search results.

 

Email Signature File

"Sig files," which automatically appear at the bottom of every email you send out, are like little text billboards, helping you promote your company.

 

Participating in Discussion Lists, Forums, Message Boards, and Newsgroups

An excellent way to build your credibility and awareness of your company. Don't forget to use your sig file!

 

Auto-Responders

These automated emails can be a very helpful (and dirt cheap!) way to send out follow-up information and customer communications. AWeber and GetResponse are examples.

 

Co-Registration

When users can subscribe to more than one email publication at a time, this is called co-registration. Use a co-registration service, or recruit your own partners.

 

Ad Swaps

If you publish your own email newsletter, you can swap ad space, content or other types of prominent placements with other newsletter publishers.

 

Low-Cost Classified Advertising

Even if you don't publish a newsletter, you can still buy relatively low-cost ad space which can work well when placed in email newsletters targeted to your audience.

 

Remnant Ad Buys

Websites that don't sell out all of their ad inventory might be willing to sell you a mish-mash of locations, sometimes called "remnant space," on the cheap. Ask!

 

Pay-Per-Performance Ad Buys

Pay only when you get a click (CPC) or a sale (CPA). Ad networks like Advertising.com and ValueClick are examples, but they still have minimums, so be prepared.

 

Content Placement

Re-use or write articles and content that you offer to others to publish. You and your company get exposure through your byline.

 

Contest & Sweepstakes

If you're trying to appeal to the masses, contests & sweepstakes are a great way to attract people. You can even give away something you already own, manufacture or produce, that others will find valuable.

 

Co-Branding/Partnering

Work with other related websites to cross-promote one another or share the cost of advertising and promotions.

 

Affiliate Programs

A kind of partnering where one website compensates another for traffic, leads or sales. There are inexpensive do-it-yourself software programs as well as outsourced services that can help.

 

Press Releases

Do you have REAL news? (by this I mean the kind that journalists, not just you, find interesting and relevant) Spread the word by writing and sending out a press release. You can even use services like Bacon's, Business Wire or PR Newswire to help select target areas to send to. The website PRWeb even allows you to post your press release for FREE!

Whew! This is some list, and I bet I even left out a whole slew of ideas. Send them my way and I'll add them to my list for next time!

Hollis Thomases is president of WebAdvantage.net, an emarketing agency that creates and implements response-driven Internet advertising and promotional strategies. Reach her at hollis@webadvantage.net.