When it comes to solopreneurs (one-man show types of businesses), digital marketing is the must-have tool to generate leads and spread the word for their business. On a basic level, there is a lot you can do to advertise your business online, and today we are going to see how you can do it on your own. At least at first.
How to Set up Your Digital Marketing Strategy
There are five must-do things once you have decided to start marketing your business online:
- Create Social Media Accounts
- Submit Your Business into Online Directories
- Make a Website
- Invest in Pay Per Click Ads
- Use Email to Reach Clients
Before you do anything, however, you need to start reading. Read as much as you can about digital marketing in general. Learn from the experience of other solopreneurs and how they did it. There is plenty of material online which you can access with a quick Google search.
After you have a good foundation of knowledge about what digital marketing is and how it can help you, you can proceed with the steps.
I. Create Social Media Accounts
Many will argue that you need to start with a website, but that usually takes more time (especially if you lack skills), and it has certain costs associated with it. On the other hand, setting up an account on social media is free, and it is something you can do immediately.
Of course, you have to post daily and be committed to it. It is not a one-time effort.
It is best to research the types of social media platforms your clients are using and start by making a company profile there. There is no need to get on every platform you find because that is not efficient. If your target and current clients aren’t on Instagram, why should you? Maybe you can join Instagram at a later stage to attract new clients, but it is good to pick your fights (so to speak) in the beginning as there is a lot of work to do and just you to handle it.
The main social media platforms you will probably have to consider are:
II. Submit Your Business into Online Directories
It may seem like a lot of work, but it is an effort worth making, especially if you are not planning on getting a website soon (or simply can’t afford one at the moment).
Online directories, in general, are websites where local businesses can create profiles of their companies. Business owners can add basic info about their service area, list of services, rates, photos of their work, and other relevant data. People can then search for businesses within a specific niche, industry, location, etc.
The benefit for you as a solopreneur is that there are some directories that require you to verify the business is yours. And, who can better do that than you, the sole owner? Examples of such directories where you have to claim the business are Yelp (in the example below), Homeadvisor, Superpages, and Yellowpages.
You have most probably heard about the BBB (Better Business Bureau). It is deemed as a trustworthy platform by many people, and that includes your clients. Even if the BBB doesn’t give you accreditation (and a rating), you can still list your business on their website. It would look something like this:
A good idea for an online directory if your service is somehow connected to the tourism industry is Trip Advisor. You can list your business as a local attraction under “Things to do” for your location with details about your service (like in the example below).
The bottom line when it comes to online directories is you need to pick which ones to join. Trying to enlist your business in all of them would take up too much of your time, and you most probably don’t have it.
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III. Make a Website
If you can’t get a friend to help you and all your cash is going toward developing other areas of your business, you will have to make a website yourself. There are free (and paid) platforms you can use to make the design with various templates to choose from.
Once you have the site up and running, you will have to think about optimizing it. You can find more detailed information about that in this blog. However, the essence you need to know in the beginning is that optimization is about making your website and the content on it good enough so people can easily find you when they search for your services online.
That process is intricate and you can’t do it alone.
BUT, if you are on a strict budget, you can leave the website to the pros at a later stage. In the beginning, it is a smart idea to focus on using social media and online directories to connect with customers. And, once your business picks up, you can hire an agency to help you with your website and optimizing it.
IV. Invest in Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Those are the ads you see before all other results when you start looking for things on Google. They have a little square that says “Ad” which indicates this is a PPC ad. They can be text ads, display ads, and shopping ads. Below is an example of a text ad.
The way PPC works is you assign a budget for a campaign with specific goals (e.g., you want to advertise only one of your services). Once the ads are live, you essentially lose money each time a person clicks on them. Ergo, you need to make sure only interested people click so that they are most likely to call and book you.
The downside, when dealing with PPC ads and managing entire campaigns, is that you are paying for it. And, like with everything you are paying for, you need to see something in return. PPC can be intricate to maneuver and profit from because there are many things you need to account for and include in your strategy. So, yet again, you might find yourself in need of professional help.
V. Use Email to Reach Clients
“If you are not building an email list, you are leaving money on the table.” –Harsh Agrawal
When it comes to using emails as a way to reach and re-target clients, your main priority is to save the email (and phone number if you can) of every lead or visitor you get. Of course, for this to work, you need to have a website. Or not.
Let’s look at both scenarios.
1. Email marketing WITHOUT a website
You can use platforms like AWeber to create what is called a “hosted sign-up form.”
Basically, this is a sign-up form that lives on its own, which means it has its own unique URL (link). It takes a couple of minutes to create it (or more if you’re picky), and you can share it anywhere.
If you don’t have a website, you’ve probably chosen social media as your main means to connect with clients. Share the link on your Facebook cover page, in posts, on Twitter (as a pinned tweet), on LinkedIn, Instagram, anywhere really.
While you are collecting emails, you should start thinking about your newsletter. The main goal is to make people feel appreciated and welcomed. Be sure to respond to any inquiries you get from them promptly, and be strict in sending emails regularly. Don’t lie in your emails, as that is not how you will get loyal clients!
2. Email marketing WITH a website
This is certainly the easier (and faster) way to generate a list of emails that you can later approach with your tips, tricks, special offers, limited discounts, seasonal promotions, etc.
Has it happened to you, landing on a website where a small page will pop up asking you to fill in your email in exchange for something? Those are called email sign-up forms.
Sometimes, all you need is a form like that, promising a free guide, discount, or something else that would encourage your clients to leave you their email.
For example, here is one of our own pop-ups:
You get a free e-book, and we get your email for our email list. It’s a fair deal!
So, once you have a list of emails, it is time to follow your newsletter strategy. Remember, the main goal is to provide value with your emails. Don’t abuse their trust in giving you their email address by shamelessly advertising your product/service.
Everyone has email, but that does not mean every email is the same. People are nine times more likely to prefer you over a competitor if your email address is professional.
This means, stay away from email addresses like:
Unless those are your company name or related to your service, it is best to stay away from them. A good example of a professional email would be:
Basically, anything related to your personal and/or company name is a good idea.
This is not efficient for every type of business, but we’ll let you decide if it is a good idea for you. In a nutshell, cold emailing is sending out emails to people you consider to be potential clients without prior communication with them. Yep, it is the same as cold calling!
If you want to apply that strategy, you need to carefully research those potential clients and be sure you have the right email address.
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When Should You Turn It over to the Professionals?
For starters, there are some obvious downsides to advertising your business yourself:
- You don’t have the time
There are only 24 hours in the day. Let’s say you sleep for 8, go to work for another 8, spend some time with friends and family, and engage in your hobbies. You are suddenly out of extra hours to monitor your campaigns and online outreach.
- You lack experience
No one was born with the universal knowledge of the world, that is true. However, even if you put in some time to your digital marketing, you still have your actual job to attend to, and that means your experience with digital marketing is not complete.
- You might be missing some things
No one is perfect, but when you’re on your own, it is a bit difficult to brainstorm ideas and find things you may be missing in your strategy. It takes at least two brains for that, and it is best if those brains belong to industry professionals.
So, the question of when is an open one. It could be once you feel you have the funds for it, or it can be a natural decision stemming from the fact you can’t do it yourself. Different sources will tell you different opinions. What we tried to do with this blog is to give you the basics which you can try and do yourself until you manage to get your foot in the door. From then on, it is up to you to decide if what you are doing is enough or it is insufficient to cover your needs and meet your business goals.
Managing a one-man show type of a business can be extremely overwhelming and tough, especially when you are just starting out. Thinking about how to get more clients and advertise your business can make things even crazier. However, it is perfectly fine for you to want to get things going without paying with money you don’t yet have.
We have outlined the basic things you can start doing today to spread the word for your business in the online world for free. The top 3 solutions we covered in the blog are:
- Join Social Media
- Submit to Online Directories
- Engage in Email Marketing
Once you can afford to do more, you need to get a website and consider PPC ads. Aside from design, your website needs to stand out with quality content as well. To get optimal results, and if the competition is high, it is best to turn your digital marketing strategy over to the pros.
Is it an investment worth making? With the right Internet advertising agency, it is!