Are you a young entrepreneur going into business for the first time? If there’s anything you don’t have a lot of at the outset, it’s money. In terms of cash flow, “Startups need to do whatever they can to keep track of their cash,” says Gene Marks, a certified public accountant who provides financial services to small business clients. “Running a small business is all about cash.”
There are a multitude of expenses, from product development, to finding and leasing a quality brick-and-mortar location, to hiring and training staff, to paying consultants and accountants — the list goes on.
Understand Tax Deductions and Capital Expenditures
Thankfully, many of your first-time expenses are tax deductible. You can deduct up to $5,000 in your first year of doing business. After that, deduct your remaining expenses in installments over a period of 5 years.
Things like property, vehicles, and inventory aren’t expenses — they’re capital expenditures. Over time, you can write off the cost of tangible items through depreciation. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that you have to invest money in capital expenditures at the beginning. The same applies for expenses; you could spend well over $5,000 at the beginning. With both capital expenditures and expenses, you have a year during which you’re on your own, and you may not see any return on investment (ROI) unless you do some high-quality marketing.
That’s where this guide comes in. If you lower your marketing spend, you may be able to write off all of your marketing expenses in the first year. A great place to start is right here, on the internet.
Understand Google and Internet Advertising
If you’re planning on drawing in customers, invest in a website. There will be costs, such as web hosting fees. If you want to minimize your overall spend, check out a free course on how to make a website. You can DIY and achieve awesome results. It’s purely a matter of how much time and effort you put into your site.
Once you have a site, consider the matter of making yourself visible online. There are several ways of going about this, but let me just get straight to the reality of the situation: You can spend plenty of money on advertising and still not achieve any results. When it comes to display ads, publishers and advertisers have to cope with the fact that 80 percent of North American adults use at least one ad-blocker, and banner ad click-through rates are less than 0.1 percent.
As a first-time entrepreneur, you’re nowhere near the point where you’re a publisher who can prompt people to whitelist you on their ad-blocker extension. The best and most inexpensive way for you to gain visibility online is to rank as high as you can on Google.
There are two ways to do this. You can buy AdWords, meaning that if you pay Google for certain keywords related to your business, you’ll show up at the top of the page when someone enters that particular search phrase. The unfortunate thing about AdWords is that if someone clicks on your ad, but doesn’t buy anything, you still pay for that click. Also, if you’re looking to compete on a national level, the competition for your keywords will be incredibly fierce unless your product is so niche nobody else is selling it. Fierce competition equals expensive keywords.
The second way to rank in Google is the organic way, otherwise known as content marketing. Organic can also be the least expensive. Start a blog on your website and create informative content related to your product or service. Put the keywords you want to rank for in your posts, but don’t overdo it. Make sure the meta structure of your site is also in good shape. Send clear signals about what you want to rank for. Next, guest post on high-authority blogs and create backlinks to your content. Particularly since you’re the business owner, many different sites will want to hear from you.
This is all part of the complex and competitive world of
Understand Social Media Marketing
Social media is a great tool for valuable, inexpensive marketing. You’ve probably seen plenty of it during your personal time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media sites you might use. There are entire websites devoted to the topic of social media marketing; it’s an art, just as content marketing is to Google.
This is a huge subject, so here’s a digestible, step-by-step intro:
- Set up your business page on Facebook, which is the social grandaddy.
- Decide on your Twitter handle, and start your business Twitter account.
- Sign up with one or two other platforms on which you’d really like to see some engagement; i.e. you’re appealing to a young audience, and they’re all over Instagram and Snapchat.
- On your website, provide social media buttons for sharing content and liking your company.
- Consult these four social media rules for businesses:
- Along with promotional content, provide valuable information related to your niche.
- Pay attention to your brand message by using the right words, images, and other media.
- Post at good times; e.g. Facebook users prefer 1-4pm, Google+ users 9-11am.
- Create conversations that evoke emotions.
- Learn how to tailor Facebook videos to mobile screens; about 80 percent of Facebook’s traffic comes from the mobile app.
- Investigate free tools for social media marketing; even just looking at these will help give you an idea of all the different things you can do.
- Respond to your audience as quickly as possible when they reach out to you.
Overall, your reach on social media can be huge and you can get started on most networks for free. Link up your content marketing efforts with your social media efforts. Think about who your customers are and what type of customers you want, then design your marketing messages accordingly. Put your heart into this, and you’ll get great results for a very small investment.