I am happy to provide another great guest article, this week by James Lee, who is a promotions and marketing analyst for small businesses.  Please provide any comments below and I hope you enjoy his article!

 

My mom was a huge fan of the late, great Gourmet magazine, a culinary monthly full of complicated recipes that took time to prepare and cook. Her favorite column in Gourmet, though, was Gastronomie Sans Argent or, translated from French, “Cooking Without Money.”  Its recipes involved only fresh ingredients prepared by simple methods. These recipes did not include expensive ingredients like saffron and truffles!  Communicating your telemarketing list message is the same way. You don’t need to spend a fortune as long as you keep the message fresh and simple.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up through research and experience and from clients to get your message to the table sans argent. You can try them a la carte or pair them with an event you have spent money on — a trade show, an opening, a open house, a giveaway — to extend the life of your event, for nearly free.

Write

If you are like most business owners, you have a website (a good example of hand-crafted table pads website) and may even have started a blog, but you update your blog a few times per year, if at all. Why? Because although blogging is free, writing takes time and time is money – more so than ever when you are running a business. But we know that a regularly updated blog can help to bring traffic and interest to your website – and consequently your business. One of our clients alerted me to a simple solution: write shorter posts. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Keep your posts short, sweet, and daily. If you can’t think of anything to write about, post a quote of the day, or a picture of the day. You can even make these posts on the run, from your phone. WordPress has a mobile plug-in (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobileadmin/), and so do most other blogging platforms. Or post via email using Posturous (https://posterous.com/) or your blogging platform’s email protocol (here is the one for WordPress: http://codex.wordpress.org/Post_to_your_blog_using_email).

A quote of the day sounds silly. But if you also tweet it (Buy Twitter Followers), and share it on your Facebook page, you’d be surprised how many Twitter followers and Facebook likes you’ll get just by sharing quotes that people find either funny or inspirational. People will print them out and tape them to office bulletin boards.

Writing an e-newsletter will also help to keep your business name in front of subscribers. But if you try this route, don’t overdo it. One newsletter a month is usually enough to remind subscribers that you exist, without irritating them into unsubscribing. Also, be sure to give your subscribers a reason to open your emails. Try including a coupon code or special deal in every newsletter.

Microblog

If your blog posts will always be super-short, you might want to try microblogging instead. Microblogging sounds complicated, but if you use Twitter, you are already microblogging. You may want to branch out, though, into Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com), or even smaller microblogs such as Plurk (http://www.plurk.com) or Jaiku (http://www.jaiku.com). Microblogging is easy to do on the run, from your phone. Tumblr will even let you phone in an audio post. You can also microblog by email with Posturous. To build up an audience for your microblog, follow other microbloggers – they will tend to follow you back, and their followers may follow them to you.

One caution: there are a plethora of microblogging sites these days – but not all microblog networks reach the same demographic. Choose your microblog venue or venues carefully, choosing the one that best suits your customer base. There are even microblogs geared to specific geographic areas, such as Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site.

Shoot

Video. With your camera or your phone. One option is to shoot video at community events that your business participates in – that way, suddenly, anyone who attended the event has a reason to visit your website. Or make videos about your expertise or experience in your niche. Provide a link to the video in your e-newsletter or e-blasts to keep your message going. You may want to post the video to YouTube as well. Or sign up for your own free YouTube channel.

Another creative option that works well for certain kinds of businesses is to add a live webcam feed to your website. This works well if your business is often mobile. For example, some cruise ships have webcams mounted on the front of the ship. But even if you are not running a cruise line (let’s face it, most of us aren’t), you can still put a webcam in your place of business. For businesses in locations that are big tourist destinations, a fun option is to train the webcam on your view of the local scenery: mountains, a local park, whatever is scenic and can be seen from your workplace. (I wouldn’t focus a webcam on the inside of your business – that just makes customers edgy, as if you think you are about to be robbed.)

Connect

For some people, using social media becomes a second job. Some people (Charlie Sheen springs to mind) hire social media interns to promote their businesses. But we can’t all be Charlie Sheen, and some of us have enough to do just running our businesses. Do connect, but find ways to do it that don’t cause social media to eat up your entire day. Set up your blog to automatically tweet or otherwise microblog itself, and post itself to Facebook. Or save time by writing a day’s worth of tweets or microblogs at once, and use a tweet scheduler such as Autotweeter (http://www.autotweeter.in) or HootSuite (http://hootsuite.com) to set up the tweets for certain days and times (11 a.m. and 4 p.m. are good, high traffic Twitter times). If you want to tweet a business event or sale, you can set up all your tweets for weeks in advance, if you choose to – after all, you know what date you have chosen for the event.

Free advertising

Advertising doesn’t have to cost a fortune. First, there are the old standbys, the free listings you can get in directories that are all over the Internet starting with Yellow Pages. Make sure your business is in them all, with up-to-date address and phone information, a map, and, most important, your URL. Yahoo offers free classifieds, and you can always advertise on Craigslist. It’s not only free. It’s popular for people looking for a specific item, or sometimes just browsing in the miscellaneous section.

But don’t stop with the old standbys. Try making an effort to comment at all the websites and blogs that you visit regularly. Each time you comment, include your website URL (most comment forms will ask you for it, but they may not publish it with the comment, so add the URL line under your signature). Make sure that your comment is worthwhile, so that it stays up and is not flagged as spam. You’ve just created a link that will drive traffic back to your website!

James Lee is a promotions and marketing analyst for small businesses. James has been researching and writing for Amsterdam Printing’s Small Business Promotions for the past several years. He has owned small businesses and his work with Amsterdam Printing is focused on assisting small businesses use personalized promotional materials such as apparel, pens, calendars and mugs for marketing purposes.



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