You can have the most fantastic business on the planet, but if nobody knows about it, then you will never reap the rewards of your hard work and creativity. So how do you get the word out? And more specifically, on a tight budget? How about NO budget?
While I have been utilizing Google's AdWords campaigns for my face painting business, I have yet to pay for any advertising for my two other businesses. Yet, my Junk Mail Gems website for instance, receives an average of around 300 unique visitors and over 8,000 hits daily. How is this possible? Well, besides the fact that I'm cheap, or maybe because of that fact, I've utilized quite a few strategies via the web to get myself out there for free. Here are some of them. I'll continue using Junk Mail Gems as my example...
Find other websites and blogs frequented by your target market that allow readers to post their own unique finds on the web. Being a green business, I sought out other green websites with message boards and forums and posted links about my site. One was Treehugger...they have a place where anyone can post links to green stuff. I simply went in and posted a link to one of the products on my site. Readers could "hugg" their favorite posts. I became one of the "most hugged" links that week, and was then featured in their green e-newsletter. From there I was picked up by blog after blog, and links to my site spread around the blogosphere. After doing this on just a couple sites, visitors from external links started rolling in from all over the world.
Write a Press Release
Getting yourself out on the web is cool but there's just something about seeing yourself in print and being able to hold it in your hand. Even if you haven't been featured in any articles yet, create a "press" page on your site. If you think you've got an interesting story behind your business, write up a press release and send it to your local newspapers. Many have business sections that feature entrepreneurs. Here's a nice summary of how to write a press release. Include photos! You can submit them online as well to many places and include links to your site. Find magazines that publish in your field and send them your press release. If you're lucky, they'll either print your press release as-is, or a reporter will contact you to arrange for an interview. Google "press release submission" and you'll find many sites where you can submit a press release too. At minimum, put a link to contact you "for press inquiries" on your press page, and copies of your latest press releases so reporters can find you. Here's my Junk Mail Gems press page, and my Paintertainment press page, full of exposure that I've gotten for free!
Create a Blog
Creating a blog can really drive traffic to your website. Make sure stick to a specific subject matter that is of interest to your target market. My Junk Mail Gems blog brings dozens of people to my site every time I post something. I've had over a thousand unique visitors this month alone, and have only posted 5 times. (a very slow blogging month for me!!) Most of my postings somehow mention my business name with a link back to my site. I also have a widget along the side that always links to my business site. If you can find enough interesting things to write about, you can get a nice group of followers who will visit your site often, and you'll keep your business at the top of their mind the more you blog. Blog postings create many more opportunities for you to pop up in search engines as well. I use Blogger but there are others out there as well!
Utilize Other Social Media & Networking Sites
Facebook allows you to create pages for businesses for free. If you're already a Facebook member, Just go here and click "Create Page" to get started. Be sure to include links to your site. Once you have a page established, you can click "suggest to friends" and send out messages inviting your friends to become fans. Also on Facebook, join groups that consist of your target market and post there where appropriate. For example, I'm a member of several face painting groups. When I see someone asking a question about what type of paint people recommend, or where they can find a good silver paint, I of course can give a recommendation and direct them to the perfect site to purchase it from. I have yet to venture into the Twitter world but it can also be valuable! Also, some of the more business-minded sites like LinkedIn & Plaxo can help you keep track of your business connections, and greatly increase your network by connecting you to people that your friends and colleagues know. If you're in the creative field like myself, be sure to get your work up on Coroflot too.
Create an e-Newsletter
I use wufoo, a free web form company, to make a spot for people to sign up for my e-newsletter via my website. When someone signs up, I get an email with their address and add it to my list. I now have a list of almost a thousand people all over the world who have literally asked me to send them stuff to their inbox. This is very valuable. I don't do a ton of newsletters, just a handful per year, but when I do I try to make them interesting and include coupons for my products. If it offers something of value other than just advertising to your customers, you'll get more people to sign up. There are also many other services online that will help you manage your e-newsletter subscribers and the creation of your newsletter for a fee.
If you have a physical location for your business, you can list your business for free on Google's local business directory. This way people will be able to find you if they search for you. Do a Google search for free business listings in your field as well. I've found some green business directories that allow you to list for free, as well as kids party entertainment listings for my Paintertainment business, and have been contacted many times through them.
These are just a few of the big ones that I've utilized for my businesses. If you're a fellow MOMtrepreneur and have more ideas that have worked for you, do share! We'd all love to learn from each other! Once your business begins to grow, it still becomes necessary to put money into some advertising to keep up the growth. But, hopefully some of these tactics can help you give your business a little kick start to bring in a little cash to put toward more exposure. By utilizing these ideas, my business has been featured on blogs, on the local news, and in several magazine articles. My products are now for sale at several online retailers, as well as physical retail stores across the US, Canada, and England. And all without spending a dime! Of course, it does take some time to find the right sites, do the blogging, and keep up with the social media sites. But, if you weren't willing to put some time into this, you wouldn't be a momtrepreneur now, would you?! ;-)