Someone once said that marketing can be the one thing in your business that sets you apart from your competition. While you may not need to entertain your customers, you do need to have a presence. That presence is what builds familiarity and trust in the mind of your prospects, and turns them into paying customers. Without it you’ll remain a virtual unknown, working for less than you’re truly worth.
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Here are ten useful tips to creating an effective online presence with a low-budget.
Creating a consistent image is paramount in marketing and costs you nothing. Consistency is equated with quality and reliability in our society; it’s unspoken yet universally assumed. You can experiment with your message, but too much creates uncertainty in the mind of your prospects, making them harder to convert into clients.
This is an easy and inexpensive way to establish yourself as an authority. In fact, I answered a question about writers and PR people last summer and the author of a book on that topic contacted me for an interview. (For those of you who don’t know, I used to work in PR, so I’ve been on both sides.) I always look for questions that have been posted recently so I can be one of the first people to weigh in. No point in being the twentieth person to say essentially the same thing about the future of publishing.
When you leverage your efforts, the work that you do has a multiplying effect. Reusing or reworking existing content is one way you to achieve that end. Spend time putting together or reviewing your existing resume. Keep this information in one document to re-use as needed, ensuring you present a consistent image.
Education and prior employment are basic information, but make sure to spend some time developing your elevator pitch. That’s a short 140 character sentence that describes yourself. Maybe you’re a “Budding young graphic designer looking to prove himself to the world,” and that’s fine. The key is to be consistent in saying who you are. Make sure to update this as your level of experience and reputation expands.
Log out of Google, if you’re on it, and type your name into the world’s most famous search engine. What do you see? Whatever it is will be the same as your prospects see, when they Google your name to find out more about you. Ideally, the first page of results should reflect the hard work you’re putting into building your reputation.
Most likely you’ll see a mix of results including pages from people that share your name. Hopefully there are no embarrassing images or other questionable content associated with your name. Don’t worry if you’re not dominating the first page, you’ll have that fixed in a few weeks with some minimal effort.
Spending time optimizing social media profiles for your name is a high return investment. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the easiest to rank on Google, according to Brand Yourself. It doesn’t take a lot of work on your part and helps control first page results. The key to optimizing social media profiles is making sure the url, name and headline all have your name in them. When filling out your bio, speak of yourself in the third person because that gives you another opportunity to put your name in your profile.
There are approximately twenty other social media profiles that can be optimized for your name, such as Tumblr, Vimeo, Vizify, and Delicious. Although these are not portfolio sites such like Behance or Dribble, they’re strategically important from an SEO perspective and can be used to link to your portfolio sites. Again, these are simply efficient ways of ensuring that you appear on the first page of Google, instead of someone else with the same name.
There’s a lot of talk about building relationships within your niche on social media sites and shaking hands, making friends, ect – but why not step out of your niche and find friends elsewhere? The benefits of this is that you can help them help you and you’re not competing with them for clients. If you’re a web designer who creates website designs for musicians, why not team up with a cd publishing company and co-promote each others services? Think outside the box and get some business cards from people you normally wouldn’t talk to – it’ll definitely pay off!
Active participation in an online community is always helpful in elevating your online presence. There are two types of communities that you should consider joining; those of your peers and that of your target market. Don’t have a target market? Pick one, get online and join the conversation.
Google+ seems to be very open and receptive to people jumping in on conversations, making it an ideal place to start. You don’t need to restrict yourself to only one market, but having a target allows you to focus your efforts and message more clearly. Joining a community of your peers is a longer term investment that will pay off in spades when they start mentioning your name and eventually providing referrals.
Forget the grandiose marketing plans that take 6 months to a year to roll out. They’re great for large corporations with significant resources. Instead, focus your efforts on smaller experiments that you can quickly execute and get feedback within a week or two. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to spend more than 15 minutes daily on these experiments.
For example, if you join an online community, spend the first couple of weeks getting a feel for the environment and figuring out the key players before jumping in. Some communities can be a virtual gold mine while others are major time-sucks. Spending smaller chunks of time over a longer period is a time-efficient way to conduct this type of evaluation.
There are no mystical marketing secrets or insight that will propel you to overnight stardom. Building your online presence requires effort on your part. The trick is to doing it efficiently so that you gain the most benefit from time invested.
I recently blogged about business cards becoming passe, but I’m starting to rethink that post. Last weekend I visited a friend in DC and we went to a St. Patty’s Day party. One of her friends mentioned that he’s coauthoring a book, and that led to a discussion of the publishing industry. Later, when he asked if I brought along my business cards, I was able to dig one out of my wallet. Who knows if this will lead to anything, but it pays to be prepared.
How about you? What marketing strategies have you tried? Any luck with direct mail campaigns or custom t-shirts? I’m considering both of those, so I’d love to hear your thoughts!