As a small business owner, marketing your business is simultaneously both the lifeblood of the business, and something that most owners dread and avoid. After the costs of starting up and maintaining your small business, you may find little time and money left to actually market and advertise your business successfully. Don’t let this discourage your efforts, however, because thankfully, the online world has made marketing easier that ever before. Although professional marketing companies certainly know how to optimize marketing for your business, those unable to afford such services can make due with some free or nearly free online marketing techniques. Here are three simple cheap online marketing tips any small business owner on a limited budget can utilize. #1. Leverage Social Media Social media is one of the easiest and most available methods to market your business online. But if you plan on marketing your business online via social media, the first step to take isn’t what most people do, which is set up a social media profile on all of the major platforms. Instead, it is identifying your target market. For example: men, women, age group, consumer interests. No business is everything to everyone, so be realistic and attempt to discern where the bulk of your business will come from. Being able to identify your audience will ensure the likelihood of success in your marketing strategy, and will help you determine the best method for reaching customers. Once you have determined your customer’s profile, choosing a social media website to reach these prospective customers is easy. Of all the social media platforms out there, the most commonly used are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+. Although you may certainly choose to market your business on each of these sites, you will likely make more efficient use of your time and efforts by choosing to market on sites your target demographic customers engage with the most. For example, Facebook has the highest male engagement, whereas Twitter concentrates among college educated users. (For a detailed demographic analysis, read this). Small businesses can also market their products or services online through Facebook or Twitter by integrating popular social media trends into their online marketing strategy – the most popular trend being hashtags. Hashtags have been prominently used across social media and appear to effectively link topics and people using keywords. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try popular and cheap online marketing techniques on social media. #2. Update your Website If you plan on marketing online, you should first confirm that your website appears up to date technologically. This not only includes how your website appears graphically, but also whether it’s been optimized for alternative screen sizes. Long gone are the days when your website visitors were all using a desktop monitor. Rather, today’s visitors are using a variety of different screen sizes, from mobile to televisions, and your website needs to accommodate all of them seamlessly. Nothing is more frustrating than entering a website that has not been configured for mobile access. And with the number of searches being made on mobile devices recently surpassing desktop searches, it is crucial for you to make your website easy to access for potential customers. With respect to design elements, make sure your website doesn’t appear stuck in a time capsule, and that it conforms to a layout with natural eye flow. There are a number of free or almost free web conversion optimization tools available on the web. No matter how great your website looks, if no one can find it, it doesn’t really matter. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of getting search engines like Google and Bing to rank your website highly in their search results. Search Engine Optimization can be complicated and time consuming, but if done correctly it can generate new customers at no additional incrimental cost. Specifically, by using some of the free SEO tools available online, you can create better targeted keywords and customized descriptions on your website’s pages to make your site appeal more to search engines. Additionally, by creating content that is engaging and unique, which hopefully attract quality backlinks pointing to relevant content on your site you can, over time, improve your website’s rankings, all with no out of pocket cost to you. #3. Leverage Existing Customers You don’t always need an outside marketing company to generate new business. In fact, some of the most effective forms of new customer generation is via your existing customers. Create a customer referral program that offers existing customers rewards for referring a friend. An easy way to do this is by adding a “refer a friend” feature on your website that allows customers to effortlessly email friends with your business information in a prewritten email. Another great way to attract new customers is to conduct online contests. This can easily be hosted through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Create contests that incorporate the ability for contestants to post links for your site on their social media platform. This will in turn result in new traffic on your site and potentially converted customers. Conclusion Small businesses typically don’t have the luxury of having a separate marketing and operations team, but instead must constantly seek to balance both the building and running of their business. Unfortunately, in a world of compressing margins, small businesses often find that most of their time and money is spent on the latter, with little left over for marketing and growing their business. Thankfully, online marketing has dramatically reduced the cost of reaching potential new clients, touching existing clients, developing brand allegiance, and improving conversion rates. And many of the tools used to leverage online marketing are free or nearly free. Whether it be actively using social media sites to spread the word about your business, encouraging brand awareness or allegiance through new contests, or maintaining a user friendly and interactive website to improve conversion rates, implementing these simple online marketing tactics can have your small business growing and reaching new potential customers all at virtually no cost to you Images: “Businessman pointing at On line Marketing word for On line business concept/ Shutterstock.com“ ________________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.