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How much should I spend on online marketing?

10 ways to use online marketing to grow your small business

The question of how much you should spend on online marketing is a tough one. The answer is – it depends. There are several factors to consider including:

• The industry your business operates in.
• The size of your business.
• How much you want to grow your business.
• Your business model.
• How ‘online-oriented’ your business is.

Depending on your business model, half of your marketing budget could be spent on offline marketing (print ads, brochures, telemarketing) and the other half online. The more important the online world is to your business, the more marketing dollars you should consider spending online. Properly allocating a marketing budget is often a determining factor in the success of small businesses.

10 ways to use online marketing to grow your small business:

1. Local listing and classifieds

Claim your business listings on sites such as Google Maps and other directories. Appearing in the “7-pack” of local search results is key to gaining the business of consumers searching for nearby businesses. Read Local SEO Best Practices to learn more about how to rank higher in local search results.

TIP – Encourage your satisfied customers to leave a review of your business on Yelp and other similar sites by offering discounts or coupons. Each review will help your ranking in local search results and many customers use review sites when looking to buy a product or service, so the more positive reviews, the better!

2. Search advertising
AdWords and/or adCenter can help you deliver a targeted message to potential customers right at the moment when they are searching for the product or service you offer. Choose keywords that most closely describe your offerings so that prospective customers find you.

TIP – For cost-per-click (CPC) ads, you only pay when somebody clicks on your ad.

3. Contextual ads
Contextual ads place your ad on sites related to your products and services – where the potential for conversion will be much higher.

For example – if you offer a cleaning service using only green cleaning products, your ads will likely be more effective on sites with an environmental and healthy-living focus.

4. Display ads
Great ad campaigns start with great ads! Google Display Network allows for various types of ads, including text, static and animated images, rich media (more complex design and possible interactive components) and video.

5. Geo-targeting
Have a business that caters to a very specific location or neighbourhood? geo-targeting allows you to advertise to potential customers in a specific location!

6. Group buying
Even if you’re not familiar with this term, you have probably used a group buying site at some point (eg: Groupon, livingsocial and many more). By offering a discounted product or service through a group buying site, you can quickly reach a large group of potential new customers.

7. Mobile marketing
Use the fact that people are constantly on their Smartphones and other mobile devices to your advantage – create creative promotions using text messages and location-based social networks.

8. Social networking sites
Do you have customers that love your products and services? Get them talking on social networking sites – it’s online word-of-mouth!

9. Affiliate marketing
Let other sites drive prospects to yours – you pay only when the affiliate leads a customer to your site. Some affiliates (eg: comparison shopping sites) may allow you to set up a store on their domain.

10. Online videos
Reach a broader audience by posting videos on sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. The best videos are short and sweet (under three minutes), and motivate viewers to take action by offering a discount or other incentive.

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