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4 Tips to Make the Most of Even a Miniscule Marketing Budget

4 Tips to Make teh Most of Your Miniscule Marketing Budget

 

Most companies don’t have the marketing budgets of Microsoft or Apple.

But you don’t need a multi-million—or even a multi-hundred-dollar budget—to effectively market your small business.

These days with the growing success of inbound marketing strategies, any size business can attract customers in spite of a meager marketing budget.

It just takes a little creativity, hard work, and patience.

Here are four easy and affordable tips you can implement today to get the word out about your small business:

 

#1 Get a Web Presence

 

OK—this is priority numero uno. It should be pretty obvious that if you don’t have a web presence in this day and age you‘ll likely be going nowhere fast.

A study by GE Capital Retail Bank found that over 80% of customers research online before making a major purchase. You’d hate to be left out of the running because your potential customers can’t find you online.

If you have a website, potential customers can research your products and services at any time. Your website is your virtual business card and is always out there hustling for you 24hours a day, seven days a week.

Many companies spend thousands of dollars on their websites, but don’t let that discourage you. Your website doesn’t need to be perfect before you get it up and running. In fact, all good sites are constantly evolving. The key is to make it look professional and provide your visitors with the information they need.

 

These days, WordPress powers about a quarter of all websites. You can head over to wordpress.org, to get your domain name,   and get started on setting up your site.

If you have a small budget, you can piece together your site fairly easily by using one of the many free WordPress themes.   Now— we’re not talking about putting together a huge, complicated eCommerce shop, but you’ll at least have a presence where people can get to know who you are and what you offer.

Another option is to try your local community college to see if someone is looking to add to their portfolio and is willing to make a site for you on the cheap. And of course, once you have a larger budget, you can hire a web developer to put together a fully-optimized, beautiful site for you.

But don’t delay. Even a basic site will help promote your brand and keep you from losing out on potential sales.

You can further augment your web presence with a blog and social media accounts.

 

#2 Customer Referral Program

 

There’s no doubt that customer referrals can pump up your business, and often they don’t need to cost you a dime.

Just check out these stats:

 

 

Obviously you need to give your customers a reason to recommend you. So do what you do best. Provide excellent customer service at all times and to everyone. And if you happen to make a mistake,   own up to it. And try to make it right.

But even stellar customer service may not be enough to get that referral.   Often people need a little prodding to give you a referral. A study by Texas Tech found that “83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services. But only 29% actually do.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for that referral. There are many options you can experiment with—whether it’s giving a referral card to each customer, or leveraging social media to have your customers spread the word. You can even implement a more complicated referral program, using a service such as ReferralCandy.

You can also offer small incentives to your customers to get them to refer their friends.

 

#3 Offer a Free Trial or Sample

 

This simple tactic has been around forever and for good reason. Take some your customer’s risk out of trying your product or service, by offering a small part of it for free.

If you’re looking to market your hand-squeezed lemonade, infused with fresh organic mint, try offering samples to boutique grocery stores, or give away your product at your local farmer’s market.

It’ll get people thinking about your product and hopefully clamoring to buy more.

 

#4 Guest Posting

 

Sure, having your own blog should be an essential part of your marketing strategy. But it can be discouraging if no one is reading it.

So, why not make use of someone else’s bigger and more popular blog, until you can get yours going?

This is where guest posting comes in.

Remember this is not an excuse to neglect your blog, but rather a way to build your brand, and get links back to your blog, website or social media profiles.

As with all of your blog posts, make sure you’re providing valuable, well-written content. Look to guest blog for reputable sites in your niche. You’ll reach a wider more relevant audience.

Try to get on high authority sites for your industry. They won’t accept any old post, so you’ll have to put some work into researching and polishing your post.  You may even need to pitch the blog with your idea first.

 

Wrapping it Up

 

You can’t afford not to market –no matter how small your business.   There are many affordable options. So, no excuses. Get busy building a platform to grow your business today and you can add to it as your resources increase.

5 Things to Consider When Setting Up Your Home Office

5 Things to Consider When Setting up Your Home Office

 

Do you work from home?

If so, you’re not alone.

By some counts, as many as 30 million Americans work from home at least once a week and 3 million of them work from home exclusively.

Working from home is full of benefits, such as huge savings in commute time and flexibility– but perhaps the most fun argument in favor of working from home is you get to set up your own office space.

Unlike in a stodgy corporate workplace, you can infuse your space with your own personality.   Of course, it’s not all fun and games; you still need to be productive and meet your looming deadlines.

Here are 5 things to consider when setting up your home workspace:

 

#1 Your Style

This is the fun one.  Your home office is by definition in your home. So you probably want your office to fit your home’s aesthetic.  Fortunately inspiration is everywhere these days.  And if you’re looking for some home office eye candy, look no further than Pinterest.  Type in a couple of key words and  enjoy what pops up.

 

I could spend hours drooling over the gorgeous workspaces some people have carved out for themselves.  Here’s my board dedicated to home office inspiration:

 

Follow Content Angle’s board Home Office Design on Pinterest.

Unfortunately, my office looks like none of these spaces.  Sadly, many days I’m perched on my couch with my laptop heating up my lap. But one can dream.

 

Here are some other great sources for inspiration to get you started:

  • Apartment Therapy— You can scour this site to find original home office ideas for even the tightest of spaces.
  • Houzz— A lot of the offerings on Houzz are pretty upscale, or for those with plenty of space, but there are many beautiful offerings.
  • This Old House— This is a great resource if you’re looking for ways to squeeze a home office into your existing space.

 

#2 Organization and Storage

I don’t know where you fall in the perennial argument about who is more productive– people with messy desks or neat.   But I can’t stand clutter (though with three school-age kids, heaps of papers are inevitable), so I side with those who want an organized workspace.

In your home office it’s imperative to have everything close at hand and easy to find.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to spend precious minutes searching for a working pen.  Shelving goes a long way and you can even squeeze a printer or other tech devices into a bookshelf.

Numerous different-sized containers are a great way to corral clutter.  Also a large whiteboard or bulletin board will ensure you keep track of important appointments.

Obviously you can buy office supplies at numerous big box stores, but if you’re looking for something a little more stylish, check out seeJanework or Poppin.

Although it’s tempting– don’t go overboard with the office supplies.  A good suggestion is to just have on hand what you can use in a year’s time.

 

#3 Make it Comfortable

Even if your office space is pretty and organized, you probably won’t be that productive if you’re uncomfortable.  Probably the most important purchase for your space is an ergonomically correct office chair.  It doesn’t have to be an Eames Aeron chair, but you don’t want to skimp here.  Your back will thank you.

Here’s a helpful infographic from OfficeChairsUnlimited.com on what to look for in an office chair:

 

Choosing a New Office Chair

 

Good lighting is also essential for any properly equipped home office.  If you’re constantly staring at your computer screen in a darkened room, you’re going to strain your eyes.  Natural light is awesome, but not available in all office spaces.  Try to go for a combination of ambient (overhead) lighting and task lighting.

 

#4 Your Technology Needs

In your home office you need much of the same equipment as if you were working in a larger office.   Many of these devices –shredders, copiers, computers, scanners, and the like– need to be plugged in.  So you’ll have to make sure you have enough outlets.

Some other questions to consider:

  • Do you need a landline?
  • Will your internet access work properly in your office space?
  • What are your software needs?

Also, remember there’s no IT guy down the hall, so if you run into technical glitches at home you may be on your own.   If you’re not especially technically savvy you may want to consider finding a local IT support that will make house-calls when you run into trouble.

 

#5 Add Some Greenery

Plants add a little life to your office.  And plants provide benefits beyond looking pretty.  One study found that putting a potted plant in an office reduced fatigue, stress, dry throats, headaches, coughs and dry skin among workers.  NASA even found that plants help remove toxins from the air.

So green thumb or not, try sticking a plant on your desk.

 

Wrapping it Up

You’ll likely be spending a lot of time in this slice of your home, so the key is to design your home office space so it’s comfortable for you.  Let your personality shine through and you’ll have a pleasant, inspiring place to eke out your living.

 

Like what you read?  Are you looking for a blog post or other article for your company?  Well, I’m for hire.  For more information or a quote on your project, please contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.

5 Tips for Writing Effective Copy for Your Small Business

5 Tips for Writing Effective Copy

 

Do you break out in a sweat at the thought of filling a blank page with words?

Yes, it can be intimidating, but written copy is an essential part of any marketing agenda.

Whether you decide to outsource the writing to someone else or go it alone, it’s helpful to know what constitutes good copy.

Here are five tips to write effective copy, so you’ll have those prospects knocking on your door in no time:

 

#1 Know Your Audience

 

Before you start churning out your copy, you need to figure out its purpose. Ask yourself a couple of questions. Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to accomplish?

Most importantly you want to give your reader a reason to care. You can do this by letting them know what your company can do for them.

 

#2 Determine the Best Writing Style

 

Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to figure out the right style and tone to use for your audience. Decide whether you want to keep it casual or more formal and if you need to keep it short and sweet, or is more in-depth the way to go.

Here are some of the ways you can approach the more common types of marketing copy:

 

• Web Copy—It can be daunting to look at a giant block of words on the computer. Do your readers a favor and use short sentences and paragraphs.

Break these up further by using plenty of whitespace and throw in some images. Don’t get too wordy. Try to avoid using a bunch of text that forces your reader to scroll down the page.

If you have a lot of information to convey, link to other pages within your website so your reader can get more details if they wish.

• Print Projects—The internet is great, but sometimes you need physical media to share with your prospective customers. Brochures, company literature, direct mail, and newsletters all fall in this realm.

Print is way less forgiving than online. It’s permanent and size matters. You can only fit so many words on the page, so choose your words carefully.

Design also plays an important role. With print media, it’s helpful to separate your copy into sections with attention-grabbing titles for each. To add emphasis, you can pull out quotes and stats.

• Blogs—These are a biggie with inbound marketing. With blogs keep it casual and don’t be afraid to interject a little more of your personality. Blogs are not the place for a hard sell. You want to set yourself up as the expert and provide educational content.

• Email—You need to grab someone’s attention quickly with the subject line. Otherwise, even the best-crafted email will go unopened. Make your meaning and intentions clear early on.

• Press Releases – These are written in the style of news stories and often fit on one page. Press releases usually have a set formula. The first paragraph is a summary of the entire release, and you end the release with a brief paragraph that provides an overview of your company (called a boilerplate).

To add authority to your press release, you can include quotes from company representatives, clients, and industry figures.

 

#3 Use a Variety of Words

 

Even if it’s a dreary subject, you’ll want to spice it up a bit. Try to use the clearest and most precise words you can. The English language is robust, so there are plenty of words to choose from. Be diverse in your word choices. A dictionary and thesaurus are your friends.

Also, ditch the buzzwords and jargon. As a business owner, you’re no doubt immersed in your business and its culture. But make sure a potential customer knows what the heck you’re talking about.

 

#4 Include a Clear Call to Action

 

Don’t lose sight of your purpose—you want to get new customers. Every piece of copy should include a clear call to action.

Keep the message brief. But make sure your potential customer knows what you want them to do—whether it’s downloading a free eBook, signing up for your newsletter or requesting more information on a product or service.

 

#5 Edit and then Edit Again

 

Yes, grammar still matters. Casual writing doesn’t give you free reign to use poor grammar. You can write in a conversational tone, but you still need to sound professional. Misspellings and typos will detract from even the most interesting story.  Here are 21 common writing mistakes to avoid.

But things have loosened up. Sometimes you may want to use a fragment to add a little punch, or end a sentence with a preposition, and that’s OK.  You can bend the rules, but it has to look intentional.

If you’re going to be writing a lot, it might be worthwhile investing in a proofreading program such as Grammarly, which is more comprehensive than Word’s spell-check.

 

Bonus Tip: Try to Have Fun

 

Writing doesn’t have to be a drag. The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Sure, you may not be the next John Steinbeck or Harper Lee, but business writing is a craft you can learn. So get out there and write some copy!

Like what you read?  Are you looking for a blog post or other article for your company?  Well, I’m for hire.  For more information or a quote on your project, please contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.

12 Places to Find Awesome, Affordable, and Even Free Stock Photos

12 Places to Find Awesome, Affordable, and

 

Woo-hoo, you just finished writing that 1,000-word blog post.  You’ve polished your prose, double-checked your grammar, and your links are all in order.

You’re all done.  Well, not quite.

Now comes the hard part– finding that perfect image or images to grab your reader’s attention, so they’ll read your content.

We’ve all heard how important a quality image is to your content.  90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and the brain processes this visual stimulus 60,000 times faster than text.  So, it’s no wonder that, on average, articles containing relevant images are viewed 94% more often than articles without images.

But as a small business, it’s doubtful you have the budget to hire an in-house photographer, or shell out big bucks on stock photography.

Well, fret no more.  Here’s a comprehensive list to get you on your way to effortlessly finding that perfect image to complement your written content:

7 Free Photo Sites

Here are seven sites chock full of free professional-looking images:

 

  1. StockPhotos.io

    Stock Photos
    StockPhotos.io has only public domain or Creative Commons images that are allowed for commercial use on its site.  Even though the photos are free, you still need to give credit to the photographer.   A website designer, who was always in need of photos, started the site. Today, it has around 27,000 high-resolution images for you to peruse.

  2. Gratisography

    Gratisography
    All of the high-resolution photos on Gratisography were taken by Ryan McGuire and are free from any copyright restrictions.  His photos are eye-catching, quirky and memorable, which may be a slight downfall if you use one of his more popular photos.  McGuire adds new photos to his site weekly, so check back often for new material.  It’s fun to look through his photos even if you’re not sure of exactly what you’re looking for.  But you’ll know you’ve found it when you see it.

  3. Freerange Stock

     

    Freerange stock photo

     

    Freerange Stock has thousands of exclusive high-resolution photos.  In-house photographers take many of the photos, so they have some unique options.  They have an easy to search database and tons of different subjects that would fit nicely in a business blog.

  4. Morguefile

    Morgue File stock photos
    Don’t let its name fool you. Morguefile is crammed full of free, relevant photos for your content needs.  Its website touts being “by creatives for creatives.” As a bonus, Morguefile has a virtual classroom section so you can improve your photography skills.  There are ten lessons covering everything from composition to using different lenses.

  5. StockFreeImages

    Stockfreeimages
    StockFreeImages is powered by the stock photo powerhouse Dreamstime.  It claims to be the largest collection of free images on the web.  You need to sign up before you can start downloading.  But once you do you’ll have access to over a million free images, including a lot of clip art, which may come in handy depending on your project.

  6. PhotPin

    PhotoPin free stock photos
    You can use PhotoPin to search through millions of Creative Commons photos.  The site makes it easy for you to figure out how you can use the photos and what kind of attribution is required.  If you’re using the images for business purposes, be sure to search for commercial use.

  7. Pixabay

     

Pixabay stock photos
Pixabay has over 450,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations.   The quality of photos does vary, but depending on the subject matter and how deep you dig, you can find some real gems.  The cool thing about Pixabay is that you can use any of the images on their site without attribution, even for commercial uses.  That makes it easy.

 

5 Affordable Photo Sites

You don’t want just any image for your content; you want one that fits in with your message.  Sometimes that can be elusive with the free photo sites.  Another problem with free photos– especially the distinct ones– is if you’re on the web enough, you’ll see the same photos over and over again.   Images subsequently lose their punch.

Sometimes it makes sense to splurge a little.  Here are five great options for when you’re willing to throw down a little extra money to get that perfect photo:

 

  1. PhotoSpin

    PhotoSpin
    PhotoSpin has millions of images broken down into easy-to-navigate categories.   Subscription plans start at $49/ month for 500 downloads,  or you can purchase single images starting at $2 for a small JPG.

  2. Fotolia

     

    Fotolia

    Fotolia, which was acquired by Adobe last year, boasts a huge royalty-free library with 43 million images, vectors, illustrations and even video footage clips.  You need to buy credits to purchase single images.  The more you buy, the cheaper it gets. Credits start at $14 for 10.  There are various subscription plans available with the cheapest being $25 a month for 5 images.

  3. Death to the Stock Photo

    Death to the Stock Photo
    Death to the Stock Photo has a definite style with a slightly hipsterish flare.  You can sign up for their awesome free plan, where they periodically email you a packet of photos on a particular subject, or you can opt for their affordable subscription plan.  For $15/ month, you get full access to all of their archives plus an additional premium pack they send out monthly.

  4. iStock

     

    Stock Photos

    Getty Images runs iStock, so you can bet the quality of images is top-notch. iStock has millions of royalty-free images, videos, illustrations and music clips.   It’s a little on the pricey side, but high quality.  Credits start at 3 for $33, or you can buy a subscription plan for $199/month, which includes 250 images.

  5. Bigstock

    Cheap stock photos

     

    Bigstock, which was acquired by Shutterstock in 2009,  has over 27 million stock photos, vectors and videos.  If you only need a few images, you can get 10 images/month for $29.  The larger monthly plans start at $79/month for 150 images (5 a day).

 

Remember to Play by the Rules

You’ve searched through hundreds of photos and have finally found one that’s just right.  But slow down– don’t just slap it up on your blog and call it a day.  First you need to figure out how you’re allowed to use the image.  Even free images have restrictions.

A few things to look out for:

  • Is there a copyright?
  • Is attribution required?
  • Can I use this image for commercial purposes?
  • Do I need a model release?

You may want to check out this cool flow-chart The Visual Communication Guy came out with that helps clarify the very confusing world of copyrights.

Why Not Teach Yourself a Skill

One way to not have to dance around the potential copyright infringement issues is to take your own photos.  Sure, you may not be the next Ansel Adams or Edward Weston, but why not learn the basics of photography.

Sophisticated  DSLR cameras have dropped in price and make it easier than ever for even a beginning photographer to take decent pictures.  There are several classes available online to hone your skills, and it would make sense to brush up on some photo-editing skills.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you end up getting your photos.   Just make sure they’re relevant to your written content and add something to the story you want to tell.  Because as the old adage goes, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

 

Like what you read?  Are you looking for a blog post or other article for your company?  Well, I’m for hire.  For more information or a quote on your project, please contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.