When you start your own business it quickly becomes evident that you’re in a ship, and in that ship you’re the captain, the navigator, the quartermaster, cabin boy, carpenter and passenger all rolled up into one confidently helpless entrepreneur who knows it will all somehow work out in the end. In short: you’re on your own. It’s hard to come across a helping hand and get the necessary funds to get growing. Because of this the only option often becomes to bootstrap your marketing efforts to acquire new clientele. The good news is there is a few ways to bootstrap your digital marketing efforts on a budget, and they all work.
Digital marketing offers the best ROI for a small marketing budget by far. It consists of Search Engine Optimization(SEO), Videos, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, and it’s all tied together with Content Creation.
Let’s get into what each one is and how to do it right.
What You’ll Need to Get Started:
You can use a service like WordPress to create one without spending thousands on web designers who are going to do the same thing.
Now let’s get started, first up….
Search Engine Optimization(SEO)
SEO is by far the best Search Engine Marketing(SEM) technique when it comes to bootstrapping your efforts. If done right, it provides the best long term strategy that requires nothing more than sweat equity and provides the best return on investment.
What is it?
SEO is optimizing your website for the algorithm of search engines so that your website will rank on the first page of organic search results for specific topics. Organic means that they are right below the paid advertising that you see on the top of the search results. Here is a picture to illustrate it easier. This is a #1 ranking on organic search of one of my companies, InsureChance Inc.
It doesn’t take money to rank on the first page of organic search, only a near perfect SEO strategy. Because Google has over 60% of market share as a search engine, most marketers optimize their website based on Google’s guidelines.
To rank on Google’s first page, you must take the sustainable approach to your SEO typically called the White Hat approach. This means that you do not try to manipulate your websites rankings with spammy techniques that are built to trick the algorithm. The spam approach is called Black Hat SEO and in some cases, Grey Hat SEO. Here is a simple breakdown.
White Hat – consists of following Google’s best practices and guidelines to rank your website for specific topics. This includes things like creating infomrative content that earns traction online and gets cited on other sites and social media pages. Content that goes viral is a good example of this. Essentially, its online marketing without the dirty tricks. This is by far the best, and only approach you should take if you’re building a long-term business.
Grey Hat – this falls into a grey area. It’s a technique that if caught, will be penalized, but because it is in the grey area it is harder to catch. This involves things like guest posting purely for building links or paying for advertised posts to build links. You are trying to manipulate your rankings, but you’re being very sneaky and erring on the side of caution.
Black Hat – this has been out the door and ineffective for a long time. Google has updated their algorithm many times to eliminate black hat practices. This included writing one word repeatedly on a page and then cloaking it into the color of the background or building links with a software on many different websites that aren’t relevant or of low quality. Anyone who has practiced the black hat approach is now in the abyss of search engine rankings. Therefore, it isn’t recommended to take the Grey Hat approach. It’s only a matter of time before Google catches on and they’ll suffer the same fate.
How to Do SEO the Right Way
There is one way to build a sustainable SEO campaign and that is by doing marketing the old-fashioned way. A good SEO campaign consist of three things: keyword research, content creation and link building. In order to do SEO successfully, you will have to become very familiar with these 3 and know how to do them well. Let’s briefly describe them here.
Keyword research is how you will determine what clients in your industry are searching for and how many of them are searching for that very thing. Whether they are looking for rates, certain colors, sizes or just more information. Usually some keyword research will determine what you should focus your content on. Many blogs you will read about SEO will recommend that you “just write” and forget about keywords and they will come. That is a lie. Google’s algorithm is far from human and it uses bots to determine what your content is about. If the title of your content and the content itself does not include the keywords that your clients are searching, Google won’t know to include it in the search results. The best place to do keyword research is Google’s Keyword Planner or tools like Long Tail Pro.
Once you’ve done your keyword research you will have some direction as to what content you should create. The one absolute must with the content is that it is informative. Make sure that your blog posts and articles aren’t just talking about how great your company is. You want to make sure to include your contact information, but let them decide if you know enough to earn their business. Make sure the publications teach them something about your industry that they never knew before, teach them the process and only then include a call to action. By the time they’re done reading they shouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
One of the best sources of advertising online is a company blog. The modern-day customer wants to know everything about their purchase before making the call. Make sure that all the information necessary is right there for them so they don’t have to go anywhere else. If you can educate your costumers, you will earn their trust and their business. Make sure that your content is targeted and has over 1,000 words. In the world of the internet the phrase “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply. For the articles you publish to be read you must do thorough keyword research and optimize your article appropriately. If you’re an expert in your field this can often happen naturally but make sure the titles of your posts are something people are searching for online.
If you don’t already have some ranking power in search engines, then unfortunately all your new content will go unseen. But how are you supposed to earn links from other sites if you can’t show up on the search engine rankings until you have links? That is the double edge sword most SEO’s face and the answer, again, is good old fashioned marketing. You should reach out to other content creators and people of the internet to earn links. Make sure you’re using all the social media platforms to advertise your content to your following. The other way is to reach out to industry leaders and share your content with them. Ask for their input and hope that your post provided enough value to be quoted in their next post. You can also quote experts and send the final pieces to them so that they can mention your posts. Everyone loves sharing a story they’ve been published in. Be careful with buying links on other sites or exchanging links as Google can see this as a manipulation tactic.
The costs associated with SEO are mostly a lot of hard work. Most of your money should be spent on books and if you already have a website then you know the costs associated with having one are minimal (if you did it yourself). Today there isn’t a reason to pay thousands for a website that there are WordPress templates for. Also, if you’re trying to bootstrap your marketing efforts, I would discourage you from buying links or advertorials on other sites. That can not only run up the costs, but get you penalized. Writing articles yourself is also a better idea as some information can only come from an expert who does the work rather than someone who simply researches. If you decide to hire a writer, your costs can range from $25 to $200 per thousand words, depending on the quality. Essentially, how much your SEO efforts end up costing you is up to you.
Here are some of the resources I used to learn SEO.
- The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization – beginner or expert, every SEO should read this book at least once.
- MOZ Blog – A community of experts, all with great SEO advice.
- Web Marketing for Dummies – One of the most simple reads on Web Marketing available.
- Lynda – the courses here on just about any subject offer incredible gems.
Outside of that the best way to learn is always by doing, so get to work!
Not everyone likes to read, most people that browse the web want to be entertained, even when they’re attempting to be more informed. Give them both in the form of videos. Videos are a good way to present information in a way that drives the point across and prevents your consumers skipping the most important information. Most article readers are article skimmers. Most importantly, though, adding videos as part of your content marketing allows you to reach a wider audience and cast a larger web (pun intended).
How to do it Right
Making videos is one of the most exciting things to engage in because you either get to show your awesome extroverted personality or exercise your introverted creativity muscle. Whichever you are, it sounds fun and is an attractive endeavor to get into. However, it isn’t as easy as pressing record. Making good videos that are engaging is time consuming and requires a decent amount of effort in comparison to other forms of content marketing. So here is what you should do before you turn on the lights and the camera: take action.
The last thing you want to happen is to spend days creating a script, shooting a video, editing it, putting blood sweat and tears into an amazing video that in the end, no one will watch. Like any business endeavor, every branch of digital marketing will require research prior to action.The opportunity cost of not doing so will result in wasted energy, resources and time. To avoid this, make sure you do the something you would do for Search Engine Optimization and that is a little gem called Keyword Research. Essentially YouTube is the Google of videos; they’re a search engine for video content and should be treated as such. They offer their own tools and analytics so make sure you research the potential topics that you wish to cover. In addition, you want to do keyword research in Google and Social Media platforms as well because your video content can be marketed through those channels. A video posted alongside your blog article makes your content that much more engaging, and that much more likely to be shared.
For your videos, I recommend YouTube because it’s the largest audience for an online video marketing platform. If you need more encouragement than that, here are some interesting statistics for YouTube. Just in case you don’t want to click over, here is a highlight:
- 6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV
- In a month, 8 out of 10 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube
- On mobile alone, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any broadcast or CABLE TV network
- YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and third most visited site after Google and Facebook
Once the research is done its time to create the videos. There are a few things you can do to make them better. As mentioned earlier, people want to be entertained, give it to them, but people also want to learn something without falling asleep, give them that too.
Make it Funny
Unless humor would be distasteful in your industry, then funny almost always work. You may not always get sales, but you will command attention. Funny makes us happy, and humans are always drawn to the things that makes us happy. Funny also makes your content much more likely to be shared, which means you will get in front of more eyes, which is always the goal with good marketing. When you make someone laugh, you occupy real estate in their mind and good vibes are associated with you. If you need further convincing to be funny, here’s a great article on it that links to this Harvard research study about humor.
Make it Informative
Most sales and marketing books talk about a Unique Selling Proposition(USP). Yet so many well-read business owners seem to ignore this advice routinely. When it comes to content marketing and digital marketing, your USP is information that you can provide that isn’t available elsewhere. When creating content online take your consumers deep into your industry and teach them not only how they can get the best of the best, but also how you make sure they do. Drop gems about your industry that they haven’t heard already, and they will pay their gratitude in the form of trust. You’re the expert, act like one. If you’re not, become one before you market yourself as one.
Plan Your Shoot
The quote “the harder I work, the luckier I get” couldn’t be more true for creating videos. Its possible that you grab a camera, start shooting and magic will happen. However, it is highly, and I mean highly unlikely. Unexpected magic CAN happen while the camera is on, but that is usually after careful planning has been done for an already well crafted, and well planned video. Make sure you spend some time creating an outline for the video, and a short script that leaves room for a natural flow. Don’t overdo it and read everything word for word. It’s important to let your personality shine. Unlike standing face to face with someone, reading your personality on camera may be harder. Because of this you should turn it up and exaggerate yourself to a few degrees. This will make the video livelier. If you’re doing purely animations, you don’t have to worry about this, however, you should still focus on making your videos informative, funny and noteworthy.
Post Video Shoot
After the video footage is compiled, the work finally beings. This is where you want to take the due diligence and edit anything that is questionable, if you’re unsure, take it out, if you can’t stop being excited about it, leave it in. Also, make sure to get rid of any hiccups and gaps in conversation to prevent the viewers’ attention from waning. Including breaks in the form of clips or images helps keep the viewers focus on the video to prevent them getting bored. You want to make sure your videos are long enough to be informative, but short enough to not take too much of their time. Unless you’re literally entertaining in the form of movies, keep your videos short, fun, and to the point.
That is an overall guide to videos but far from and in depth guide. The key to crafting great videos, or great anything for that matter, is a lot of learning followed by a lot of trial and error. Here are some great learning resources and tools to shoot great videos.
- How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck – a simple book with a few hints on how to shoot good video.
- YouTube Channels for Dummies – with anything I learn, I always pick up a dummy version of the subject.
- Phillip DeFranco – I include his channel here because he is funny, informative, and super successful on YouTube. If you’re going to do some face time in your videos, he is a good guy to watch because he keeps you interested with the camera simply pointed at him the entire time.
- ASAP science – when it comes to animating videos, these guys do it right.
- Browsing Google and YouTube is also a great place to start to learn from some experts who share their secrets.
You can use different tools to fit your own way of doing things, but here are some I’ve used with success in the past.
- Cannon Rebel – This camera is on the low end of cost but shoots great video.
- Backdrop and Lights – Not always needed because you can use nature or the inside of your home/office. If you will be including yourself in the videos, the green screen can help.
- For editing there is no need to buy software unless you really want to. Usually Windows Movie Maker if you have Windows or IMovie if you have Apple, will do the job.
What SEO and PPC advertising was back in the early 2000’s(a gold mine), social media advertising is today. Because most small businesses and even big brands have no clue how to do it right, it remains largely untapped. Social media as a place of business remains a mystery, and yet, it’s probably the what mirrors the real world the most, of all digital marketing efforts.
When it comes to social media marketing you can pick one platform to focus all your efforts, or attack all the most popular networks and squeeze all the juice you can(recommended). All social media pages, however, aren’t created equal. In his book “The Social Media Guru” David T. Price breaks down the most popular social media platforms as such:
- Facebook to foster a community
- Instagram to build the brand visually and tell a visual story
- Snapchat to Vlog and take visitors behind the scenes
- Twitter to chat with your audience
- YouTube as your own TV station
These aren’t the only platforms but by far the most popular. For most small businesses, this is where you want to start your focus. Before I move on here are some encouraging facts to do so.
• 1.79 billion monthly active users
• 1.18 billion daily users
• Over 400 million active users
• 60% of users log in daily
• 48.8% of brands are on Instagram. Predicted to rise to 70.7% by 2017
• 150 million daily active users
• Snapchat’s daily video views have increased 400% Year-on-Year
• Snapchat’s ads are viewed up to a million times per day
• 60% of all smartphone users are now on Snapchat
• Snapchat has more users than twitter
• 310 million active users
• 120 million unique monthly visitors
• 80% of Twitter users have mentioned a brand in their tweet
If those numbers don’t show the fact that there is a market you can take advantage of then I don’t know what will. A fraction of that is in your industry, and if you can tap into just a percentage of that fraction, you can turn a lot of viewers into consumers. Most importantly, social media is the best way to create a brand.
How to Do it Right
Most small business owners have one thing in mind when it comes to all forms of advertising: “we need to sell stuff.” However, when it comes to social media marketing, plastering how great your product is with the same digital flyer across platforms will get you ignored and unfollowed. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when getting your social media campaign going.
Entertain and Educate
Avoid using a sales message at all costs. People are on social media to unwind from the day and see something that peaks their interests. If they wanted to be bombarded with ads they can watch daytime television. You either want to the content you share to be interesting or to be funny. An interesting fact about your industry can go just as viral as something funny. Which brings us to our next point.
Just not cliché. Many companies have cringeworthy attempts at going viral and it hurts to watch. Usually this comes in the form of imitation of something that went viral, and that never works. Going viral isn’t always something you can plan, it’s a lot like catch phrases in a movie, often you’ll have no clue that what you’re about to say will spread across an unpredictable amount of people. But there are ways you can up your chances.
The first is to make sure your content is unique. Don’t waste your time repeating the same old tired information that your competitors are giving out. Give your consumers something new, something interesting, something that evokes an emotion. If you make them feel something, they will share it, and if they share it, you earned yourself another brand ambassador.
Don’t simply be one of those brands that uses digital channels to shove product. Social media allows your business a unique chance to start a conversation with your clients. So, if a client shows you love, shouts you out or mentions you in any way, return the favor! Statistics show that people have a more positive outlook on a brand when they engage with their customers. Track those hashtags carefully and engage with your customers, you may learn something that can change your business forever.
It’s Like the Real World
To take the mystery out of social media marketing just remember you’re dealing with people, that’s it. People online are just like the people you meet in the real world: they want to be heard and they want to be valued. If a customer or a follower has a question, answer it, if there is a problem, solve it right then and there. Launching paid ads on social media is easier (and it works) however if you’re looking to budget your marketing efforts, engaging with your customers is the best way to have impact without impacting your budget.
Entertain, Educate, Reciprocate
Give people fun and informative posts and they will share your stuff and others will follow you for more. When social media shows you love, show it back! Keep in mind that if your social media efforts aren’t catching traction its either because your content needs more creativity, or you need to get in front of more people. Again, social media, is just the digital version of society. So if you want to be heard, you have to be within talking distance. If you need your posts to be in front of more people, then get in front of more people! Just make sure you’re targeting the crowd that cares about your conversation. Don’t go speaking paddle boarding to a biker gang. The formula for success in social media marketing is simple: entertain, educate, reciprocate.
Your Competition are Your Friends
In the olden days if you saw your competitor the gloves came off and it was on! These days, especially in the digital world, the leaders in your industry, or those at your heels, can be your best friends. Creating unique content with influencers in your niche and building relationships with them can help get you and your brand in front of more people. Use that to your advantage. Play nice, and people will play nice back. A mutual benefit only hurts those that aren’t willing to participate.
Don’t Stop till You Get it Right
Social Media Marketing isn’t something that works overnight. It takes time to get traction and figure out the beat that your crowd dances to. It is a process of learning followed by trial and error. Here are some great learning resources to get you on you’re A-game.
- The Social Media Guru – a great book breaking down each platform and examples on who does it right.
- The Art of Social Media – Guy Kawasaki doesn’t disappoint in this book with idea provoking content.
A Simple Email
Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is far from dead. It works, but in today’s market its more of a supplement to an existing strategy, much like everything I mentioned above. When pursuing digital marketing, you will be spending a lot of time creating content. Not giving people a chance to follow up on that information or get a notice up when you have something new released, would be a shame. That’s where email comes in. Like any relationship, from romantic to business, it won’t last if you catch someone’s attention only once. You must court them continuously, usually with new and creative ways. Like all forms of digital marketing, you don’t want your emails to sound like a sales piece. It should be much like the emails you send your friends: “Hey, I thought you might find this interesting, check it out.” Just make sure it is, in fact, interesting. Don’t go emailing steak recipes to vegetarians.
How to Get Emails
Giving it out free information, think white paper or e-book, is one of the most common ways of getting your visitors emails. However, most of the time your online content can do all the talking for you. If they found you trough Google, YouTube, or Facebook and bothered to follow through to your site, they’re interested. At this point, all you must do to earn a subscriber is make sure your website is designed for conversions. In layman’s terms, that means make sure there is an obvious and visible space somewhere on your site that screams “Want updates? Leave your email.”
Make Sure to Follow Up, Just Not Too Much
Collecting people’s emails and not following up can make them nervous and cause them to distrust you. That is the last thing you want. Make sure you have drip emails set up to get in touch with your consumers to let them know about all the action, or even the lack of it. A good Customer Relationship Management(CRM) software can help you out with that. However, no one likes to be nagged, so in the case of emails follow the Golden Rule, send them emails as you would like them to be sent to you if you were interested in something: enough, but not too much.
If You’re Going to Do It, Do it Right
The trend continues, all of it is a learning process. If you hope to bootstrap your way to success you better get your reading glasses on and focus on acquiring the knowledge you will need to succeed. Here are some resources that helped me:
- The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing – great tips to get your head in the right space before you start sending out email blasts.
- Email Marketing Rules – Another book on emails that is good for a beginner read.
Everything is Content
In the end, the centerpiece to your digital marketing masterpiece will be your website and your blog. Make sure to include high quality content on your site that has unique information that people in your industry, both customers and competitors, have a hard time attaining. If you aren’t already an expert, then become one so that you can educate your consumers. One you’ve created high end content, use all the different channels to market it. At that point your content becomes your product, your marketing, and your sales, all at the same time. Your business depends on the content that you, the expert at what you do, can create. So make sure it’s always top notch.
To maximize your bootstrapping efforts, I always recommend you, your partner, or your key employee create the content yourself. This way your consumers get the expert point of view and not some researched combination of everything your competitors are saying that comes from outsourced writing. No PHD in English, no matter how smart or great at writing, can know the ins and outs of the business you’ve dedicated your life to. Nor can they break it down in a way everyone can understand. However, keep that industry jargon to yourself. Make sure everything the consumer needs to know is right there so that they don’t have to go elsewhere. The modern-day consumer wants to know everything before they make the buyers decision to even speak to a salesman or click that buy button. It’s your job to make sure they do.
In my many years of doing business in the digital space I have learned one absolute truth about digital marketing: If you educate your consumers, you will earn their trust and their business. I’ve been giving this marketing advice for a long time.
A few books to help with content creation:
- Web Copy That Sells – one of the few books that had a direct impact on the content that I create.
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook – An excellent guide to writing any kind of marketing pieces.
- Trust Agents – not exactly a how to guide, but an excellent read on the digital consumer.
- Everybody Writes – actionable tips on how to write good content.
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On – A must read for most marketers that explains how things go viral.
Get to It
As you can see Digital Marketing on a limited budget can be a lot of hard work. The upside though, is that this hard work can allow you to compete online with giants like Coca-Cola, Apple, MetLife or whoever the big kahuna is in your industry. This can be accomplished with nothing more than sweat equity. It’s hard in the beginning but once it gets going it all starts working in perfect harmony. Doing business in the digital world truly does follow the law of exponential growth. If you can stick through the rough beginnings, great things will come.
Nothing left but to get to work!
Feel free to drop a comment or contact me here whether you have a question or just want to say hello!
I’m Sean Dudayev, and this was my Tantrum.