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Marketing Online: Basic Strategies Any Business Can Use

6 Ways of Marketing Online

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man online shopping with credit card

Online Marketing Can Boost Your Sales

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Want to get into marketing online but wondering what the options are and what online marketing strategies will best fit your business and your marketing budget? This marketing online primer presents an overview of strategies for you to choose from. I recommend choosing and implementing at least three; successful marketing online depends on diversity and persistence for most small businesses.

1) Have a Blog/Website.

The first step to successful marketing online is to have a home base on the Web. It doesn't really matter if you have an official website or a blog or a combination of both. Either will give you a Web address where people can find you and a convenient way of referring to you, two things that will facilitate your marketing online efforts. So even if you don't sell anything online directly, you need a website.

I encourage business people to have a blog on their website or serving as a website because if you blog regularly and have something relevant to say, you will develop a following - and some of those people will help your marketing online efforts by spreading the word about you and your products and/or services.

Getting Started on the Web

2) Online Advertising

Many small businesses in particular bother with this marketing online strategy, I suspect because they don't want to shell out for it. They only want to do free marketing online. I say, there's absolutely nothing wrong with free marketing online strategies - as long as you realize they're not. All the 'free' online marketing strategies I'm aware of take a considerable time investment, meaning they're only free if your time is worth nothing.

Traditional online advertising, on the other hand, takes relatively little time and can be a very effective marketing online strategy. The first thing you need to know about it is that there are two cost models, CPM and CPC.

CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand Impressions. With this type of marketing online, you basically buy space on a web page and pay for a certain number of impressions, or the number of times your ad is going to be displayed. Many of the banner ads you see on various websites are being paid for on a CPM model.

CPC stands for Cost-Per-Click advertising. In this model, you pay only for the number of times a viewer clicks on your ad, not on the number of times it's displayed.

Google AdWords is perhaps the best known Pay-per-click marketing online program. When you're marketing online with this program, you choose particular keywords that you want your ads to be associated with. When people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results. The theory is that these people are much more likely to be interested in your products or services.

Another online advertising strategy you may wish to try is creating and posting an online video (either to your own website or to a popular video sharing site such as YouTube). An online video can be marketing online gold if it becomes popular.

3) Directory Listings

Adding your business to appropriate directory listings (local directory listings, business directories, etc.) is another way of marketing online that takes little time and is relatively inexpensive. Whatever local business groups you belong to, such as your local Chamber of Commerce, probably have websites where they allow members to list their businesses online and perhaps even place ads on the site at special rates. Search out other local sites, especially those related to tourism, and make sure you're listed there, too.

Then there are the professional sites. Are you a Virtual Assistant? A CGA? A Canadian retailer? Whatever your professional affiliations, chances are good that organization has a site with a directory of members. There are also a lot of specialized online networking groups/sites that promote marketing online. A Business Advertising package on the Canadian Women's Business Network, for instance, costs only $36 CAN.

4) Participating in Social Media

Joining the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and forums, posting on Flicker and YouTube, commenting on other people’s blogs, are all opportunities for marketing online.

Marketing online through social media requires a much more subtle technique than marketing online through advertising or directory listings. With all social media, the trick is to participate intelligently and actually attempt to converse rather than just advertising your products or services. Comments such as "Good point. See my site www.worldsbesttamales.com for the world's best tamales" are just spam, not conversation. For more on how to do successful marketing online on social media See:

Why You Need a Facebook Page for Your Small Business

A Guide to Using Facebook for Business

How to Create a Fan Page on Facebook

How to Promote Your Business on Twitter

The downside of marketing online through social media is that it's time-consuming. If you want to do it well and see any real benefit from it, you have to work at it. The upside is that it's free and can really generate a lot of buzz about your products/services if something that you've done online ( a post, a video, an article) becomes really popular.

5) Online Networking

LinkedIn deserves special mention in any discussion of online networking. Its stated purpose is to help the world's professionals connect with one another to accelerate their success. As of this writing, LinkedIn has over 40 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world. It's a powerful tool for marketing online, giving you the opportunity to connect with potential customers, partners and colleagues.

And don't forget the "older" online groups such as Yahoo Groups. Canadian Entrepreneurial Women is one such group that I’m a member of. Doing a Yahoo groups search on "small business" brings up almost 40,000 different groups currently.

Besides being a great source of support and information, groups such as these also provide some marketing online opportunities. Other members may be potential customers or referral sources as they get to know you and what you do.

Like social media, online networking requires taking a subtle approach to marketing online. The same basic rule applies to online networking that applies to networking face-to-face. Give, give, give and don't worry about receiving; you will, likely in bigger, more powerful ways than you ever imagined.

6) Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the best and most powerful ways of marketing online, in my opinion. For one thing, once you've developed an email list, (notice the word developed, not bought), you are, in effect, preaching to the converted, sending your marketing message directly to people who have already indicated some interest in your products or services.

For another, email is an excellent tool for building a relationship with your customers, letting you build both repeat business and good word-of-mouth through your marketing online efforts.

Newsletters can be sent to the email list you've built from the people who provided the necessary information on your website, for instance, providing these potential customers with news updates about your company, upcoming events and/or special offers – and, of course, reminding them that your business exists and that maybe it's time for another visit.

Email programs such as VerticalResponse and Constant Contact allow you to customize your email to your potential customer so you can send selected customers messages specific to their interests and actions.

Marketing Online and Offline Are The Same in One Way...

Just like any offline marketing, your marketing online efforts need to be planned. So don’t just post something here and place something there and consider that you're marketing online. Create a marketing online campaign and plan and measure your results just as you would with any other marketing.

And remember too, that targeting still matters. The more carefully you have targeted your potential customers and the more carefully you have chosen and placed your marketing advertisements or your conversations, the more successful your marketing online campaign will be.

The thing that's different about marketing online, however, is its incredible reach. The Internet gives your business the chance to reach thousands and perhaps even millions of people who would never hear of your products and/or services otherwise - making marketing online a marketing opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

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Brian Price, executive director of marketing

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