Affordable Internet marketing has a particular appeal for small business owners. Aside from what can be done online for free, marketing on the Internet is no longer "cheap and easy" for many businesses.
Owners of smaller businesses would like to think that it really can be affordable, but they've also been disappointed too many times to really believe that it's possible any longer.
The good news is that, yes, Internet marketing can be affordable and the better news is that you don't have to do it all yourself.
A Cost-Effective Strategy for Affordable Internet Marketing
The truth is that the term "Internet Marketing" is so broad and so vague that it can - and does - mean many things to many people. And to make it more frustrating, even the term "affordable" is relative since what might be considered affordable to a 100-employee company grossing a million dollars a year would be unthinkably extravagant for the mom-and-pop sandwich shop located across the street.
Because Internet marketing is such a broad field, it tends to be a bewildering jungle of tactics, options, and strategies that can leave an average business owner simply frustrated. The questions can seem to be endless:
- Do I need to buy advertising?
- What about a business blog?
- Should I be sending emails?
- How do I find customers online?
- Does my type of business need to be online?
- Will I need to update my website?
Five Tips for an Affordable Internet Marketing Strategy
First you need to know where you want to start. If we were to view the marketing realm from, say, a 30,000 foot vantage point we would see that there are essentially two approaches: the more traditional "outbound" marketing approach and the more recent "inbound" marketing.
Outbound marketing can be effective still. Even on the Internet. However, because it typically involves paying for advertising, space, time, etc. it is rarely considered "affordable". And, many would argue, it pits your business head-to-head with every other business fighting for attention on the Internet space. The reality of outbound marketing is that, more often than not, those with the biggest budgets win.
So, what is inbound marketing anyway? Unfortunately, it is still a somewhat fuzzy concept to many business owners and even a few marketers. For a great synopsis we can look to Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, the company that coined the term "inbound marketing". He once defined it this way:
Inbound Marketing is the opposite of traditional outbound marketing (advertising, direct mail/phone, trade shows, etc.), where you interrupt your way into your people's lives. Instead of interrupting, Inbound Marketing pulls prospects into and down through your sales funnel in a new and natural way based on how they search for information and make purchase decisions today.
Another way to look at the difference between inbound marketing and the classic outbound approach is to see inbound as simply a new approach to Promotion.
Outbound promotion is usually comprised of print and broadcast advertising, publicity and public relations, and other types of sales promotion marketers use to provide information about their product. . And it usually means trying to interrupt your audience from whatever they happen to be reading or watching in order to get their attention.
An inbound marketing strategy, on the other hand, takes a bit of an indirect approach to capturing the attention of your prospects. By providing great content that helps to solve their problems and answer their questions, the inbound marketing approach "promotes" your product or service by drawing your visitors to your website.
What should you consider when developing an affordable Internet marketing strategy?
1. Make Use of “Cost-Efficient” Content
While there are many options to choose from when developing content, blogging is the foundation for most Internet and content marketing efforts:
- According to research by HubSpot, marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to attain positive ROI.
- HubSpot data also indicates that B2B companies that maintain a blog produce 67 percent more leads than those that don’t.
- Another statistic from Demand Metric shows that 59 percent of B2B marketers consider blogs the most valuable channel.
In addition to blogging, using social media can be cost-effective. The top social media platforms being used by most marketers today Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Just after that you will see many businesses using Instagram, Pinterest, and maybe Google+ but marketers are still most likely to invest their time and money into the top three social media channels.
Why is this? Because of the sheer size and breadth of their audiences. As a business, you should use social media to promote one-on-one customer engagement and to distribute content that resonates with your target market on each networking platform.
2. Apply a Strategy of Quality Content (Not Quantity!)
While many social media and Internet marketing "gurus" still push quantity and frequency as a cornerstone of effective strategy, the reality going into 2016 is quality over quantity! When it comes to content such as blog posts, Google is rewarding depth, relevance and readability.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout.com has this to say about how to create quality content:
But be smart, remember the 80/20 rule: When you’re dealing with a small budget, it’s always about getting the most bang for your buck. In this case, it’s possible to take “high quality” too far. What the 80/20 Rule says is that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. In this case, it means that 80% of the value of your content will come from 20% of the effort you put into creating it.
The main takeaway from this principle is that each extra bit of effort has diminishing results. By the time you’ve put in a solid amount of effort (say 80-90%) of what you’re capable of, you’ve pretty much maxed out the level of quality that you can get from a piece of content.
Resist the urge to go overboard by doing things like:
- creating custom images that don’t add much value to the post
- messing around with the layout even though it’s already easy to read
- changing sentences over and over again so that they’re “perfect”
If you do those things, you’re spending time with no real return, which means you’re wasting part of your budget. Aim for very high quality, but know when a piece of content is about as good as it’s going to get.
3. “Repurpose” Your Existing Content
Without that army of content creators you can't afford, it’s difficult to produce volumes of material every day. But the content you do create can be re-used on different channels and in different formats. This is known as repurposing content, which is just a fancy way of saying "using the same stuff in a different way."
You can find ways to repurpose content and extend the value and life of the content. For example, you can pull key sentences from a blog post, or article, and use them as Twitter posts throughout the week. Or use one large idea as a launching point for an entire blog series and then turn the blog posts into an eBook or webinar.
In addition, you could turn a blog post into the following types of content:
- Periscope broadcast
The main benefit is that all the research is already done. You can also often take images you created for the first piece of content and use them in the new pieces. This can cut your content creation time reliably in half for each piece of repurposed content. And it can also expose your content to a different audience, which is always a good thing.
4. Update and Re-Publish Your Older Content
Something that that eventually happens to every business using content for marketing is content becoming outdated. For example, you might write about labor laws for 2015. But after the 2016 legislative session those posts will be outdated for the most part. This true for many other industries. However, instead of creating a new post from scratch every time, you can often use your old content.
According to QuickSprout's Neil Patel, here are your two options.
"Option #1 – Update time-sensitive content: Things typically change incrementally over time. So, instead of creating a whole new piece of content, you can just update your original content to reflect that small change in your industry.
Option #2 – Republish old evergreen content: While you can update old content to keep its value high, you can also simply republish old posts. When you’re first starting out, you have a small audience. Once you grow your audience, the majority of it wouldn’t see a lot of your old good content. By republishing your old content, you’ll expose it to your new, bigger audience."
Although he cautions against doing it very often, you can also re-publish old "evergreen" content with a current date to your blog. Then, you essentially get a new post for nothing.
5. Leverage Quality Guest Posts on Your Blog
If you’re hiring writers to create content for you, it probably costs you at least a few hundred dollars per post. But there’s a way to get great content free. And that’s by accepting guest posts.
Remember though, just because you accept guest posts doesn’t mean you have to approve every pitch. You’ll end up rejecting 90% of them, but those 10% of good ones will be from quality writers who are willing to contribute in exchange for exposure (to promote their own site).
There are two ways to find these good guest-posters:
- Create a guest-post page on your website -they will find it when they research potential targets
- Manually reach out to good guest-posters – if you see a good guest post on a competitor’s site, you could email that creator and ask them to contribute to your site.
Your guest-post guidelines should have three essential elements:
Incentives for guest writers: How do you answer a guest content creator's first question: “Is it worth contributing to this site?”
What content you want: Make it clear that you’re only looking for exceptional content. Establish your expectations if you publish content in a certain way (a typical length, style, etc.)
How tp pitch guest posts: Let them know what you’re looking for in a pitch and avoid tons of emails with unnecessary information.
How Can You Get Quality Content?
The foundation and backbone of an effective inbound marketing strategy is content. High-quality, relevant, and consistent content is the key to attracting, winning and keeping prospects, leads, and customers. This content can take the form of blog posts, ebooks or white papers, video, email and even the pages on your website.
A big challenge for many business owners is how to best create and publish this never-ending need for fresh content? The next bigger challenge is how to best distribute and use the content in order to actually implement a real marketing strategy?
This is where another aspect of "affordable" comes into play when we speak of "affordable Internet marketing." It is certainly possible for a business owner or marketing manager to generate all of their own content, develop an inbound marketing plan, and implement it all by themselves. But the truth is that it takes time and it takes a number of skills and knowledge that most business owners don't have already, or don't have the time to acquire.
One of the best solutions for this challenge is to hire a local inbound marketing agency to manage and execute your Internet marketing for you. Because the plan can be custom fit to your business size and your particular needs, the cost to you for outsourcing can be comfortably affordable.
Find Your Local Inbound Marketing Agency
The best news of all, of course, is that as an owner or a marketer strapped for time and resources, you don't have to go it alone. In fact, it often is a much more cost-effective and strategically superior option to outsource your content marketing efforts to a professional agency that specializes in inbound marketing.
Achieving your affordable Internet marketing objectives with an inbound marketing strategy also takes time. And it won't happen with a few blog posts or great eBook. People will need to consume your content for a while before they contact you. But without your content compelling them to contact you, your goals may never be met.
Content and inbound marketing work day in and day out. Once you post a blog article or upload a Slideshare piece, it is always there, working to educate and compel people to become leads. And when they do come to you, they are educated, informed, and much more likely to make the decision to buy.
Get your Free Complimentary Inbound Marketing Session to help you make an informed decision or call BroadVision Marketing at 707-799-1238.
Jaco Grobbelaar is the owner and CMO of BroadVision Marketing. BroadVision Marketing works with business owners to put in place inbound and outbound marketing strategies that consistently secure new clients. The BroadVision Marketing Training Center is located in Petaluma, CA and primarily serves companies in the San Francisco Bay area.