Monday, May 30, 2011

Five Key Marketing Tips To Get Started With An Internet Business

It's a widely accepted statistic that 80% of new businesses fail within the first year of launch, and yet people are still hurtling towards the internet to begin an enterprise (often in a market they have little or no knowledge of). So, naturally there are more Internet failures than before because these budding entrepreneurs are forgetting that old Marketing practices still hold fast for new ventures no matter what people say about them being old-fashioned.
So, I put together this guide of just a few simple things you can do to increase awareness in you/your product/your service.
A website isn't just for Christmas
So, you got yourself a website on WordPress or forked out to have one made for you. Great. Obviously it's pretty essential, but remember that just having it sitting on the internet without doing anything is pretty pointless. You need to drive traffic to your website and to do that you are going to need the help of Search Engines.
Google, Bing, Ask, Yahoo are just some of the names you may find familiar but getting a high ranking on these pages isn't easy and it takes time. Get the help of a business that offers SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in order to submit your website to the directories and structure your website so that the SE's are more likely to consider your site relevant. This takes time, but don't be tempted by some firms who offer quick, cheap optimisation as they are likely using Black Hat Optimisation to get your website bumped up and Search Engines (Google, in particular) is very intelligent. They will know when a website has been optimised unethically and will penalise you (rank you even lower in results) or ban you completely which is devastating for large businesses not to mention new start-ups!
Another good practice is keeping your website fresh! This is pretty key for two reasons: 1) Search Engines love fresh content. If you have a steady flow of information always going through your site then they will reward you by bumping up your rank; and, 2) Your potential customers will switch off if they see that same old stuff everytime they view your page. Keep it up-to-date, even if it is just a weekly news story or send out a newsletter (always remember to update your homepage in accordance with the newsletter though, otherwise people may come looking for more on your site but just see outdated content.
Use your knowledge and experience to spread the love!
This is something that young businesspeople tend to overlook (or ignore entirely in some cases). By creating a professional image for you, you are creating a professional image for your business!
Get an account on LinkedIn and with your local business directory website. These directories and networking websites are usually free (I wouldn't recommend paying for listings unless you have your heart set on it) and allow you to keep up with your market. Another thing I would really advise is setting up an account with Yahoo Answers! If you are unfamiliar with it, Yahoo Answers is a place where people can ask questions across a wide range of topics and members can answer them based upon their own knowledge and experience. By signing up and providing clear, consise and intelligent answers to people's questions then you are beginning to build a reputation for yourself as someone who knows exactly what they are talking about. This will mean people will trust your judgment and you will become more reputable.
One last thing that I probably shouldn't advise on Yahoo is that there is a section after you have answered a question where you can list sources. I always put in a link to my Project D.E.I.A business site as a source. This is something that is frowned upon by members but as long as you are offering an unbiased and in depth answer to their question no one is going to mind if you stick a link to your website. This means driving targeted traffic to your website and building up your website rank by having more links to it.
Don't forget about the real world
I think setting up Internet businesses appeals to many people of a shy disposition. Makes sense as it is all done online over email, website processes or the phone but whether you are an introvert or not, I'm afraid it's just going to be something you have to deal with that going out and meeting people is a prettu crucial way of getting your business out there! Get yourself some business cards online as they are generally cheaper and printing shops. Go to Vista Print and get some free business cards. You get 250 and you just pay for the post and packaging, so there's no excuse not to have some! Then just go around your town, up and down your street, to some businesses where your potential customers may frequent and speak to them or just ask to leave some cards somewhere people can see them.
By meeting people in person they are much more likely to listen to you and remember your business. Make a point of starting a conversation with someone you don't know very well or just met on a bus or tube journey. Not everyone will go for it but remember psychology 101: Most people are generally conformist! This means that if you approach them a certain way or ask a certain type of question (most notably, one they can't say the word No to) they will engage with you. Try not to be to pushy or actively intimidate them though as it is generally bad manners and they will not be looking for more experiences like that by using your business.
Here is another golden one: Join a local business networking group. These are groups of business owners in a local area that meet up once or twice a fortnight and mix with each other. It is important to know your local area and who knows you might even drum some business-to-business trading which can have huge value for you! Plus, it's not unheard of for businesses to begin an informal partnership. Sometimes if they are in a similar market and get a customer that asks for a particular service they don't offer but you do...well you get the point that it could send a steady trickle of customers your way. Remember this would have to work both ways or the other business would just know you were taking advantage and stop.
Socialise to Monopolise
Using social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to promote your business may have a mixed opinion within Marketing authorities but if I may offer my a humble view it doesn't cost anything (except an hour or two a week) so why the hell wouldn't you do it?!
Get a page set up for you business on as many free services as you can and pull in as many followers as you can without spamming people. Send a quick message out to all of your friends and ask them to like or view or Tweet about your business and from then on, only contact those who chose to do it and leave the rest. This gives you a small target to spread your word so send out a update as and when you can to keep people clued in with what you are offering and what new things they can read about. Soon, you may find that you have a high number of followers/likers/or whatever they might be called that advocate your business or even become customers.
Promotion, Promotion, Promotion
Creating events for to showcase your business is a great way to have an interactive, hands-on presentation for your prospective customers, but be wary of the obvious risks. Without proper marketing of the event then how are people going to find you? If it is somewhere that people can easily see you from the street and come in then it will generally cost more. A way to boost your numbers and reduce costs is to include other businesses in your area in with the event and tie them all together (you may get funding or support if you are all new start ups) but then remember that your message and marketing efforts may become quieter amidst all of the other businesses competing for their attention.
No one knows your business like you do, so just weight up the pros and cons and think about whether you will be able to get enough people there, if you can afford it and if you have the time/capacity to organise it all (and remember, it need to be perfect!).
Be aware of falling into a trap that claims many young businesses! Pricing yourself out of a market is a quick way to go bust, and that works down as well as up!
To put it in context, if you had a knock at the door and it was someone that wanted to sell you their brand, spanking new car for �10 when it was obviously worth 20,000 times that, would you go for it? No. People say that they would love something for free but in reality we are all suspicious of things that appear to good to be true. Setting a price too low can put customers off just as much as extortion, because like you and the man's car, they are suspicious that the service that are being offered cannot be high quality for the price you are asking for.
So, with promotions and events, never lower your prices past 50% and always make sure it is clear what the original price was and exactly when it will return to that price. Otherwise you may find customers buy your stock or order your services at the lower price thinking that they will always get that value and be very upset when they realise that they can't.


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