Advertising / Marketing Strategies
Advertising can be an art and if done wrong, the consequences for a start-up business can be disastrous. Here are a few things to keep in mind before trying to get the message out.
• Is your site search engine optimized?
• Have you tried marketing to your local market or are you just trying to use the internet?
• Have you submitted any press releases?
• Do you have anyone linking to you?
• Do you have any banner advertising?
• Are you actively marketing your site/business DAILY?
• Are your prices to high or to low?
• What is your target group?
Local advertising is often a much better and a much more affordable way to spread the word. Get your website listed in local business directories and the Yellow Pages for your area. Check the advertising rates for local newspapers. Go to Networking groups, Lead groups and/or to your local Chamber of Commerce and become a member. Get a sign for your car that shows your domain name and/or what kind of business you have. Bumper stickers are another good way to promote your business. Give them to friends and family to get your name out on the streets. Dress up a little bit, pack a stack of your business cards, make a flyer, and visit small businesses in the strip malls in your area. Introduce yourself and try to make contact. Don’t push things – call them back a few days later and ask if they have any questions about your services. Go back a few days later and visit them again. Through the U.S. Postal service you can buy mailing lists and even send out postcards to these lists. Business card style advertisements in local newspapers are also a proven way to drive customers to your website or to get you a call from a customer who noticed the ad in the newspaper.
One thing to keep in mind – the biggest mistake businesses do in advertising, is contacting a customer just once. Be persistent and follow up on sales leads whenever you can. 60% to 70% of what you spend on advertising is most likely a complete waste of money.
Advertising for almost no cost – is that possible at all? Yes, it is. Word of mouth can be very effective to promote your business. Give away a few accounts for free to friends, their friends and to your relatives. Make sure they all experience the best service possible and motivate them to tell everyone about it. Become a contributing member in online forums. Don’t SPAM the forums – deliver content and use the signature part under every posting to discreetly show what you are doing. Yes, you could visit web hosting forums like WHT, but in most cases you will meet your competition – not customers. Visit forums of other interests. Do you have any hobbies? Search for forums related to your hobby and become a contributor there. If your postings and contributions are of good nature and provide solid information, you will get sales inquiries from other forum members – sooner or later. Be persistent. Be pro-active and be prepared.
Should you use SPAM to advertise your services? No, the local SPAM laws are getting tougher every year anyway. Also – most people are annoyed by SPAM emails. A business that does SPAM advertising might see a short spike in sales inquiries, but in the long run it will destroy the good reputation that you are trying to build. Stay away from SPAM.
How about Google Adwords? Does it make sense for a startup business to use it for advertising? Using Google Adwords for advertising a web hosting business can be very expensive. If you are on a budget, there are certainly better ways to spend advertising money for your business. If you are willing to spend a significant amount of money and your target group is not the local business – give it a try. It can be very effective if done right.
Business Cards: It’s always good to have at least 2 different sets of business cards. If you need to impress – hand out the one that says you are the owner, CEO or President. If you talk to a client and do not want to make the impression that you are a one-person shop and do it all – hand out the business card that says you’re the Technical Director – Web Hosting or that you are a “Hosting Specialist”. You get the idea. As long as you do not lie to the customer, you will be fine.
Define your target group. Don’t even think about considering “Everyone” as your target group. It won’t work and you will be disappointed by the results if you still try. In marketing there are two approaches – the “shotgun” approach and the “rifle” approach. I am not sure how familiar with guns you are, so I will assume not very and explain it a little.
A shotgun fires many little balls/bullets that spray in a pattern that fans out. When you fire it, you can only aim in a general direction and hope to hit the target.
A Rifle shoots a single projectile at a clearly defined target. You need to focus in on this target (market).
Rifle marketing or niche marketing is what is best for a company when it is a small business.
Shotgun marketing is similar to what big companies do, like Coca Cola or McDonalds. They have the money to skim people off the top – you don’t. Find a small group to target, specialize in the group, focus on them. Eat, sleep, and breathe always thinking about how you can better serve that group. You have to have a clearly set goal – do not stray from that goal. (Note: Thanks to Derrick for providing part of this article and that I am allowed to use it here.)