Internet Marketing 101 for Home Businesses
What is Internet Marketing and How Can Online Marketing Work for Me?
What is Internet Marketing?
In the grand scheme, Internet marketing are promotional strategies and tactics you use online to reach your home business' target market. While at one time, a business could choose to be online or not as part of its marketing strategy, but today, most consumers search for business resources, get referrals, and seek reviews online before buying or hiring a business, and as a result, all businesses should have an online presence as part of its marketing mix.
Essentially, Internet marketing is using the Internet to do one or more of the following:
- Communicate a company's message about itself, its products, or its services online.
- Conduct research as to the nature (demographics, preferences, and needs) of existing and potential customers.
- Sell goods, services, or advertising space over the Internet.
- Connect with prospects and customers in an increasingly engaged and interactive business-to-consumer (B2C) society.
Types and Tactics of Internet Marketing
There are many ways to promote your home business and reach potential buyers online including:
- Website: Websites can be the Internet equivalents of offline brochures or mail order catalogs and they are a great way to establish your business identity.They can use text, images, and audio and video elements to convey the company's message, as well as inform existing and potential customers of the features and benefits of the company's products and/or services. The website may or may not include the ability to capture leads from potential customers or directly sell a product or service online.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM): SEM involves marketing through search engines, either by improving the site's natural (organic) ranking through search engine optimization (SEO), buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads, or purchasing pay-for-inclusion (PFI) listings in website directories, which are similar to offline yellow page listings.
- Email marketing: Along with a website, email is viewed as one of the best ways to maintain a connection between a business and potential and existing customers. Email addresses of customers and prospective customers may be collected or purchased, although results are best from emails you collect from your website. You can entice people to give you their emails through a quality free offer, called a lead magnet. Once you have the email, you can send a newsletter, special offers, and other information your target market would be interested in.
- Banner advertising: You can buy ad space on other websites that cater to your target market. Pricing varies depending on the the volume of traffic to the website, and the size and placement of your ad.
- Publicity: You can submit and post press releases regarding something newsworthy about your home business online or through an online press release distribution service. While press releases can work, they are time consuming and do often get ignored. One option that produce better results is by finding media requests through Help A Reporter Out.
- Participation on blogs, forums or discussion groups. Answering questions, posting comments, expressing opinions, or making announcements in a discussion forum is a great way to connect and help your target market, while showing off your expertise.
- Article marketing: Writing articles related to your business and submitting them to be published on other websites or email newsletters is another great way to reach your target market for free. Although mass distribution of a single article across the web doesn't have the same SEO benefits it once had, submitting exclusive articles to a specific site can still reap many rewards including SEO, boosting your credibility, and reaching a market that might not otherwise know about you. Plus, some website will pay for your article. Because article marketing is time consuming, you want to consider how you can repurpose the piece into other forms of content or towards new audiences.
- Social Media: In an increasingly connect world where consumers expect the companies they do business with to engage with them, social media is an ideal way to interact with prospects and customers. They key to social media marketing success is to choose the platforms your market is mostly like to use whether it's Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Further, because it can be a time suck, you need to develop a plan and use effective tools to maximize your results.
What Every Home Business Owner Should Have or Do Online
Internet marketing is effective and very affordable, and as a result, it should be part of your business plan and your marketing strategy. However, Internet marketing is so vast that it's nearly impossible for a single-business owner to do it all. But, there are certain online marketing tactics that all business owners should have. At the very least, a home business should have:
1) A web presence. Depending on your home business, this can be a website or blog, or as basic as a squeeze page. You need a central place to send all your prospects that you own. While many people have turned to sites like Facebook to create their web presence, because you don't "own" the space and Facebook can (and often does) change it's rules, you should have your own site.
2) Email list. Many new home business owners put this off, which is a mistake. While some people might think social media replaces email, it doesn't. People who connect with you through email have made a greater commitment and are more likely to see your messages, than simply following you on social media. Further, research shows that email marketing has one of the highest ROIs of marketing strategies. Email marketing gives you one of the best results for the cost in time and money.
Beyond the website and email list, you need to decide what strategies will work best for you. That starts by knowing your target market, where it can be found, and how to best attract their attention. For example, social media is a great free way to connect with people, but if your market isn't on Twitter, maybe you don't need to Tweet.
Some great free options that don't require a great deal of time but can offer results include:
1) Keywords and SEO. Whatever you have online, whether it's a website or social media profile, make sure you use quality keywords so that you can reap the benefits of search engines.
2) Social media. While social media can take too much time if you don't control it, with a good plan and the right tools, social media can allow you to find and connect with potential customers, as well as the opportunity to build a community around your business. Consumers like to know the businesses they work with and social media is a great way to show people who you are.
How much of your marketing strategy should be handled online and which Internet marketing elements you use depends on the nature of your business, your budget, your time, and your goals. Many home business owners do it all themselves in the beginning, but as their businesses grow, they begin to pay for services or outsource work to a virtual assistant that can help them with online marketing.
Using Offline Elements with Internet Marketing Strategies
Unless you transact business only online, for example, if you are an eBay reseller, you will probably want to include some traditional offline marketing elements in your overall marketing strategy in addition to the elements in your Internet strategy in your marketing mix.
But while online marketing is affordable and effective, no business, even 100 percent online businesses should ignore offline marketing options. Ultimately, your marketing should involve any tactic that allows you to reach the people who want to buy, whether that's through Twitter or a business card you tacked to a bulletin board in your community.
Cost of Internet Marketing
Many online marketing strategies, such as social media are free. However, some of the most effective and professional looking options aren't.
While you can get free webhosting, it's not recommended. Ideally you should buy webhosting and a domain name. Fortunately, you can buy both for less than $100 a year.
An email list service is another expense you should be open to taking on. MailChimp offers free email list management up to 2,000 subscribers, but you'll want to price out other options to see what might be the most affordable in the long run, and offers all the features you want.
Beyond that, you'll want to consider your market and budget for other marketing options. Paying for advertising, such as Pay-per-click advertising (PPC), like Google AdWords or Facebook ads, can be effective, you can write an ad that has people clicking and following through (clicks alone won't build your business. They need to buy too.)
Content marketing is very effective, but time consuming to create. In that case you can hire writers or buy private label rights to articles and other content to use.
Tracking the Results of Internet Marketing Strategies
Whether your marketing strategies cost money or not, they all take time. You don't want to waste time or money on tactics that aren't delivering results, which means you need to track what's working. There are many ways to determine what efforts are producing and those that aren't. You can study your website's analytics through your web host or by using Google Analytics. Most social media sites provide analytics (although you might need to use its paid options to get them) or you can use tools such as HootSuite to get your social media analytics. Your email list will provide you with information on the number of opens and clicks to your emails.
When you find something that isn't working, take some time to find out why before ditching it. For example, if people aren't opening your emails, can you improve your subject lines?
Marketing is a Marathon
While it is possible to see results from your marketing efforts quickly, the reality is that marketing, especially the type that generates long term results and referrals, takes time. You're competing in an increasingly crowded and loud marketplace. The better you can connect with your ideal market and develop a relationship with it, the better your results will be. And if you provide a great product or service, and are attentive to your customers, your customers will provide you with positive reviews, referrals, and testimonials that will help you stand out in the crowd.
This article on Internet marketing is just one in a collection of articles available in the Online Marketing Guide.