How to Build Your Marketing Effort For Free or Next to Nothing
How to Build Your Marketing Effort For Free or Next to Nothing
Technology has advanced greatly in a decade while the costs of doing business digitally have plummeted, allowing anyone to create their dream startup, even without IT skills. But marketing and customer service still take effort, even though you can engage and support your customers for next-to-no outlay.
Many startups, sole traders, smart students or workers with a side gig or others hit by inspiration, have figured out their master plan or found a niche in their market and launched their own business to target it. However, not everyone in the world has the IT skills or budget to fund the whole plan, while many may not even have considered how to market themselves or provide customer support or to drive sales as they grow.
Handily, the ubiquitous cloud and free digital office, marketing and other services can help any size business grow at a minimal cost. All helping a busy business keep an eye on costs and running effective social media and marketing campaigns, while not drowning them in red tape.
Email remains the bread and butter of digital business, accepted by all customers or prospects as the first point of contact and helping keep customers informed and primed with updates and deals. There are plenty of email management services and tools to help businesses use email more effectively, rather than copying emails into a spreadsheet and sending messages manually.
First off, a business can use Gmail ($5 a month), Office 365 (£9.40 a month), Zoho (free) or other services to create a business-type email address for so firstname.lastname@example.org rather than the amateurish email@example.com.
Office 365 comes with Outlook Customer Manager to help build relationships right within the email app, keeping the tools stay in touch without spreading your concentration and limited time over multiple apps. If you want more flexibility, Google’s GSuite offer a range of customer relationship management (CRM) tools varying from free to top class.
Anyone can run their company’s social media operation in the spare time they have available, all for free. But TweetDeck (free), Hootsuite (from £25 a month) or Buffer (free with limited features to $15 a month) can help automate the posting of useful messages and manage engagement, perform analytics to show what posts or type of posts are popular and get the best response.
Learning how to use social media across Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms is a key way to grow business and help engage with customers, through promoting offers, telling people where you are and highlighting new products, all of which can be automated for when you’re busy, and measured to make best use of your time spent doing social media.
Chatbots for Marketing and Customer Support
The nature of business and work means you can’t be answering the phone or email all the time. But, customers increasingly expect to get instant answers about your opening hours, availability, services and other information whenever they need. And, when you’re asleep or off-work, there’s a gap in your business that others may benefit from.
The modern-day solution is the chatbot, an automated response that more useful than a voicemail and responsive than an out-of-office email reply. Chatbots are smart and can provide access to all sorts of information, help take bookings or appointments and even make sales.
Chatbots sound complex as vendors tout all sorts of AI features, but in reality, anyone can build one with sophisticated tools such as we provide. We provide a library of templates to help build a bot quickly for your type of business, and you can add extra information and make use of the AI natural language processing (NLP) tools as you become more proficient and understand how the bot can benefit the business. And it all runs in the cloud, 24/7 to help support your customers and boost the business.
Websites, social media and other engagements all need measuring to see what works, but much of the data hides in the back end of sites, portals and sound like dark arts to non-digital natives. Business and web analytics tools will help you understand how your digital efforts boost the business, or not.
Google provides free analytics tools for websites, through its Marketing Platform, helping you understand how good your search engine optimization (SEO) is, along with Adsense monitoring if you use advertising to generate revenue.
The more time you spend understanding analytics tools, the better grasp you will have on how to maximise your return on your online activities, and there are tools and information repositories like Semrush, that you can try for free, providing advice and tutorials on doing this well.
Most businesses, especially those with physical services, start with a local focus, appealing to nearby customers and regional prospects to form a base before expanding further. Local marketing is a distinct skill to the drumbeat of “think big” that most online tools encourage. There is plenty of advice for doing it yourself, using location-based marketing/advertising features in digital advertising/social media services to ensure your adverts are posted for local clients who are in need of your business.
If you have some budget, much of that local effort can easily be managed by working with a local partner for website or app design or pure marketing services. They can provide you with direct access to the right local advertisers, forums, trade bodies, free ads, local events and get your site and name in the all right places, including local papers and digital groups, saving you a lot of effort.
There are plenty of local companies that can build a site, but finding one with strong local marketing knowledge could be a huge revenue multiplier. One of the benefits of local marketing and awareness is that you can find local businesses with collaborative or related products or services, encouraging partnerships and cross-promotion to help spread the word and reduce the load on your shoulders.
The power of digital means a startup can appeal to the world on day one with its product or services. But to reach the world you need flexible tools, services and be able to communicate. That can all be done from one website, but modern tools like a multilngual chatbot can help bring the world to your doorstep without the fumbled conversations through phone or email.
There are very different approaches between the local/global approach with plenty of examples, good and bad to follow or avoid. Moving from local to global is a challenge in itself, meeting international standards and so on, but focusing on the needs of the business, and not the limitations of one particular globalisation tool is key to success.
Finally, you can either appeal to a single global audience, or internationalize your products or services country by country, meeting discrete international needs in a managed expansion. This is essential for some types of products where various trade/product/safety legislation can apply.
The key to launching and growing your business is being aware of the possibilities offered by technology and services across the web/cloud/smartphones. Choosing the right ones for your budget or the ambitions of your business, or doing it all for nothing can help get you started, but be aware of the tried-and-tested efforts that can save you reinventing the wheel or wasting time and energy.