In a recent Capital One study, 64% of small businesses named marketing as one of the top challenges that they face. 

Why is this? Perhaps it is because they don't have the staff or resources to focus on their strategy. 

Here are a few low and no-cost marketing ideas to promote your business.
  • Write a blog for your business. Your employees all have expertise that can lend a hand towards your blog. Also, your customers can provide testimonials and case studies for your blog.
  • Give something away. Host a contest or sweepstakes for your fans. 
  • Say thank you. At one position, I sent $5 Starbucks cards and thank you notes to customers. The response I received was overwhelming. People love to be appreciated. This goes for your employees too!
  • Send an email newsletter monthly and talk about one big idea or announcement. Link to helpful industry resources.
  • Get involved in the community. Give back and have a day of service with your employees. Support local business partners and get to know your neighbors.

There are so many things you can do to boost your marketing on a budget. 

If you need more ideas or help getting your marketing going, contact me!

Small businesses may not have full time marketing and public relations people on staff. 

As they grow, the need for someone to help the business owner or staff with the marketing campaigns and tasks will become apparent.

What are some tasks that a virtual marketing assistant like myself can provide?
  • Online research - staying on top of online company reputation, keeping up with competitors, researching industry knowledge, looking for industry events to exhibit at or attend and much more.
  • Email newsletters - writing and creating newsletters to stay in touch with customers, partners and the like. Articles and helpful tips add value.
  • Social media management - writing and posting relevant content and linking back to the company website. 
  • Blog posts - writing and uploading blog posts to bring prospects to your website. 
  • Web site updates - keeping the company website updated with news and details on new products.
  • Press releases - writing press releases, working with local, regional and national media, pitching bloggers and media.
  • Presentations - creating Powerpoint and Slideshare presentations, researching companies for new business development.
  • Vendors/Partners - ordering promotional products, working with designers or agencies for campaigns, etc.
  • Trade show booth exhibit management - managing trade show booth logistics, ordering booth electrical, internet, carpeting, etc.
  • Conference registration - registration for conferences, pitch for speaking opportunities.

There are many things you can outsource to a virtual marketing professional. I can help your business and serve as an extension of your marketing department. 

Whether it is a project for a few hours a week, I can help to build your brand and generate leads and publicity.

 Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marketing is a key driver of sales and is important for your business. If you are too busy with the business you already have, you need assistance. 

Marketing, public relations and social media support can be outsourced to freelance marketers or agencies, depending on your needs. Virtual marketing professionals can free you to focus on running your business on a budget. 

Marketers can help you develop content for your blog and website, create email newsletters, develop media pitches, manage leads and more.

Don't know where to start? Jason Falls created The Marketing Pricing Guide to give you an idea of whether you need an agency or whether to go the freelance or virtual route. 

This marketing pricing guide gives you solid information from large agencies to marketing consultants. It not only includes an idea of pricing but also what to expect in the services that you will receive. It is an excellent guide to determine what works best for your business.

If you need a marketing consultant, public relations consultant or social media consultant, contact me today. I can help with projects as needed or a more comprehensive marketing strategy and execution.

Content marketing is growing and becoming a larger part of a company's marketing strategy. Instead of broadcasting messages out to an audience like traditional marketing, brands are bringing customers to them through inbound marketing and the use of content marketing.

Content marketing could be something as simple as creating a blog and posting information to help prospects as they conduct internet research. It is also a way to communicate news about your company and tell your story. All of your materials at your company can be produced as content marketing. 

Take a look at all of your sales collateral, web site, email newsletters, presentations, press releases and all materials that you currently send to customers and prospects. 

Now create bite-size pieces of information to post on the blog and share out through social channels with links back to your blog and website. 

The information is there - how will you share?

Small businesses are the heart of America. American Express provides excellent tools to market your business for Small Business Saturday on November 29, 2014.

AmEx provides a map that you can add your business to for Small Business Saturday as well as marketing tips and tools to help get customers in your door and to your online store.

Shopping local has always been important and small businesses power America. Get going and join in on the fun this month!

Need help marketing your small business? Reach out and let me help you get started.

Social Media Explorer recently wrote "How to Get Started with Visual Content Marketing" and lists visual content marketing tools to create compelling visual content. 

Check out their tips and the great tools for creating effective visuals on the go or on the desktop, no designer required!

Many small businesses do not have a marketing plan and are operating in a reactive way with their marketing activities. 

Proper planning is key so be sure to put pen to paper and identify your goals. It doesn't have to be complicated, but once you have your plan in place, you can take a better look at your business and how to make it stand out from the rest. 

Some items to have on your plan outline:
  • Who is your target market? Do you have one or many different audiences? Prioritize them.
  • Where do they get their information? Poll your customers and find out where they go on and offline to get business information.
  • Who are your competitors? What are their marketing activities? What sets you apart from them? Create a competitive analysis and track their activity online with Google Alerts.
  • What are your goals? Is it to renew previous customer business or attract new customers? Have a strategy for current/past customers as well as prospects.
  • What is your budget? What funds do you have available?
  • What resources do you have? Do you have marketing staff or do you need to outsource? 
  • How will you measure your marketing? Put some targets in place and be sure to follow up and do a review every few months.

These are just a few topics to have in your outline. Pricing, partners and product details may also need to be addressed. 

Once you have your plan on paper, it will be easier to focus on your marketing strategy and stay the course.

Image by smarnad from freedigitalphotos.net

Facebook's recent changes signify The End of Free Facebook Marketing, especially for small businesses. It is estimated that businesses will only be able to organically reach about 3-4% of its fan base. What does that mean for your small business?

First, take a look at your website. Does it need an update? Is it easy to read and navigate? Is your messaging clear? Are your contact information links and social media links present on the home page? 

If you have built a Facebook page, keep engaging with your customers. You may find that you will have to start spending a few dollars a day to boost your post visibility. WIth Facebook's detailed demographics, it is still cheaper than many other alternative.

Just remember, your website should be your central hub of your business online. Everything should point to it including your social media channels.

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, is offering The Best of the Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week 2013 on her website as a free ebook that I highly recommend. 

She includes many tools that help public relations professionals save time and money such as the social media image maker that helps you resize images for all types of social media accounts.

She also gives out valuable tips that are hard to find elsewhere. The tips she shares are hidden gems that PR pros would usually pay money to acquire.

Here are some of the neat tips and tricks that are in the free ebook:

—Where to find a huge directory of freelance writers

—Where to find a giant list of local and regional magazines so you know all your pitching opportunities

—36 places to publicize your startup

—Where to find a free 39-page report on how to research and pitch bloggers, step by step

Check out this wonderful ebook and start using her PR tips today.

I recently wrote about retail promotion tips for the 2013 holiday season. If you are a small business, there are ways you can stand out from the competition this season.

Start promoting now. The holiday season is shorter this year and the retail outlook is lower than last year. Email newsletters that share what's new and spotlight promotions

Offer stand out promotions. Get creative. Make your repeat customers VIPs and give them the star treatment. Start a referral program. Find ways to stand out and draw in new customers.

Customer service is tops. Above all, make sure your customers experience a positive, helpful environment. Going above and beyond expectations will ensure they return.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net