SEMA Member News—November/December 2012
Marketing for Small Businesses, Part II
Internet Presence on the Cheap
By Regis Finn
We discussed the importance of attending consumer-based shows and events in the May/June 2012 issue of SEMA Member News. In this issue, we’ll look at inexpensive ways to promote your business on the web.
Website Option 1: Build a business website using a free template from a company such as www.sites.google.com or www.intuit.com. The templates supplied by these companies are easy to use and great for those wanting to save some cash.
Website Option 2: Design a site yourself. Designing your own site will require at the very least some knowledge of HTML or PHP along with graphics-design programs, such as Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator. Other Adobe products such as Frontpage might be helpful, too.
E-Commerce Store: If you have a retail store, you will most definitely want e-commerce on your website. There are some great sources that offer free basic packages, such as Magento.
Forums: There are forums specific to just about every automotive year, make and model. You can be a major forum sponsor with your logo on every page, or you may choose to sponsor a specific category of a forum, such as a brake or suspension segment. You may just want to display your ads on a per-click or per-impression basis. Either way, be sure to build a landing page that caters to your segment of the market.
Negotiate the price of getting involved with a forum, even providing products or services in exchange for the right to advertise. There are also great services, such as PostRelease, that can put your message across a range of sites for the cost of advertising on a single one.
PPC: The idea behind pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is to pay for ads using searchable keywords. When customers enter terms in the search box, they receive a list of related links along with ads at the top and right-hand side of the page. Paid ads and search-engine marketing drive these search results. Google, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo and others offer such programs.
When picking keywords to drive traffic to your business, take the time to look for words and terms that the other guys aren’t using, and keep costs down by constantly reviewing and updating your keywords. Google Analytics is an excellent tool to see what is working and what is not. When the price gets too high for a particular keyword, drop it and find another. Over time, the new word will go up in cost and the other one will likely fall. That’s when you switch back to the original keyword.
Search-Engine Optimization (SEO): Google and other companies rank websites and pages based on links and relevant content. To optimize your site’s chances of appearing in keyword searches, have quality links to pages with pertinent information, articles and blogs with words that match those on your site. You also need good content on each and every page of your own site.
eBay: Customers often turn to eBay to find good deals, and I recommend that you put as many products as possible there. Include a customer-service number in each ad so that customers may call to order other items. (Regular sales phone numbers are prohibited on eBay.) Use a rotating banner within your eBay ad featuring other items you make or sell. List expensive items with a $1 starting price but set the reserve price high. Include a “more information” link to send customers to your website.
Amazon: Using Amazon is a great way to let people know about your products and bring brand awareness to your company. Amazon is the number-one threat to Google because its internal search engine bypasses Google. Amazon also offers a service similar to Google Adwords to help drive traffic to your products.
Blogs: These stories or discussions posted on the web can provide information relevant to your products or services and can be linked back to your site.
Social Media: Popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. While free, social media require work. To collect an audience—post cool pictures, informative articles, press releases and controversial questions. Have contests, and give away items or services to drive traffic to your site.
The ideas above are only the tip of the iceberg. There is no reason to spend a ton of marketing dollars to have a decent Internet presence. It just takes a little time and patience.