Tuesday, June 8, 2010

7 Foolproof Ways to Build Your Business This Summer (Or Anytime!)

The written word has the power to educate and inform... as well as create buzz about your website, product, or service. That's why with all my clients one thing is common -- I circulate their e-zine articles through multiple delivery channels also known as content marketing which has been refined and developed into a systematic approach via my SONAR marketing method, http://www.precisionmarketingmedia.com/sonar.html.

Reaching potential subscribers this way helps me increase readership for my clients and, ultimately, revenues. I am a firm believer in leveraging the marketing message too. By circulating it in multiple channels - online, e-mail, print, direct mail, and so forth - I am able to touch prospects through whatever medium they prefer. And for those who like to receive their information through more than one medium, the message is re-enforced every time they see it in another channel. I strongly encourage you to take this multi-channel marketing approach with your own online business.

Here are seven of the best and most cost-effective channels to include in your marketing plan:

1. Paid Search Ads (Pay-Per-Click)
Google and Yahoo are the Titans of the paid-search ad world, with nearly 70 percent of market share. But there are other search engines that have a loyal following, such as Bing (formerly MSN.com) (with 16 percent market share), AOL.com (with 9.6 percent), Ask.com (5.1 percent), Infospace.com (1.1 percent), and Lycos.com (0.9 percent). Pay-per-click (PPC) ads with any of these search engines is a cost-effective way to target prospects looking for your specific product and get broad exposure. You create a text ad, then bid on keywords (the words or phrases your target audience will be searching for) to determine your ad's placement.

PPC paid search ads are perfect for acquiring new customers. That's because leads that come in this way are searching specifically for your information (via targeted keywords). This makes them highly qualified prospects.

2. Organic Search Results (Search Engine Marketing)
Search engine marketing (SEM) has a nominal cost. Annual fees with search engine networks or directories typically range from $25 to $95 per year, but many submissions to top sites like Google, Yahoo, Ask and Bing are free.

Some consumers give organic search results more "credibility" than paid search ads. And because they "trust" the results of an organic search more, they are more likely to click on an organic link. A recent survey by Jupiter Research illustrated that 80 percent of Web users seek organic search results. Their rationale is that organic results are un-biased. The marketer didn't pay for that ad space. So the link's appearance in the search results is based purely on various search algorithms and Web crawlers.

Your goal should be to balance your online presence with both paid ads and organic search results. You should make sure you have keywords in all the right places. That includes your title tags, URLs, and inside the published articles themselves.

3. Banner Ads
Running banner ads on other websites can be another cost-effective part of your online marketing mix. The pricing model for this is typically CPM - a specified price for every 1,000 impressions/views you receive (usually between $3 and $10). Since contextual space is limited in banner ads, your headline and visual elements are critical for success. And of course, your landing page should have strong, persuasive copy.

Your media budget for banner ads will vary by:

-the website you're running (the higher the traffic, typically the higher the banner advertising rate) ad unit size/type (300 x 250 typically performs best, so those are priced higher than other ad units)
-location on website (home page, inside pages) whether the ad is targeted to a specific page or is on every page of the site (a/k/a run of site)
-the time of year the ad is running

Blogs and online ad networks are a cheaper alternative. Their CPMs (cost per thousand) usually ranges between $2 and $6, and they have a wider reach, although some networks may offer a universe of, lets say 20 websites, when only 5 websites are really considered "top tier".

Networks to consider: Advertising.com, ValueClick.com, and FastClick.com.

You can find a full list of sites here: ttp://www.imediaconnection.com/resourceconnection/adnetwork.asp.

Editor's Note: If you'd like to learn more about how to buy online media for less...I just finished writing a 25-page comprehensive eBook where I go into all the tips and tricks to conduct high performance, low cost media buys. If you're interested in purchasing a copy, please email support@precisionmarketingmedia.com and mention "muscle marketing" in subject line.

4. Reciprocal Ad Swaps
Some of your best resources will be your fellow publishers. This channel often gets overlooked by marketers who don't give it the respect it deserves. In the work I do for my clients, I spend a good portion of my time researching publishers and websites in related, synergisic industries. I look for relevant connections between their publications (print and online) and my clients.

Let's say I come across a natural health e-letter about that has a list of readers similar in size to one of my clients, who is a supplement manufacturer. Since many of their audience share similar interests, cross marketing each other products (or even lead gen efforts) can be mutually rewarding.

Swapping ads will save you money on lead-generation initiatives. Since you won't be paying for access to the other publisher's list of subscribers, you can get new customers for free. The only "cost" is allowing the other publisher to access your own list. It's a win-win situation. This technique also opens the door to potential joint-venture opportunities.

5. Co-Registration
Co-registration or co-reg is basically a method of acquiring leads or sales on another publishers' website after another transaction or registration process occurs.
Co-reg ads use a CPL (cost per lead) payment model. You pay for the leads you capture. Your text ad and a small image of your publication appear on a webpage on another publisher's website after a primary transaction occurs. Your ad shares the page with other publishers looking to build their own e-mail lists with free subscriptions to their e-letters or free e-reports.

To make this work, I've found that you need to send special introductory "bonding" e-mails to the people who sign up for your newsletter before they get added to the general circulation. This helps them remember that they signed up for your e-letter. (So when it shows up in their inbox they won't think it's spam.) And it helps increase the potential that those subscribers will convert to paying customers.For more about this channel, check out Andrew Palmer's ETR article about using co-reg to attract customers.

6. Direct MailDirect mail is still a consumer favorite - and another good way to get your sales message out. It can be especially effective used in concert with another effort, such as an e-mail campaign. A recent survey published in DM News indicated that 70 percent of respondents preferred receiving unsolicited correspondence via mail vs. e-mail.

As with any marketing medium, though, you can end up paying a lot between production costs, list rental costs, and mail shop/postage costs. The most costly direct-mail packages are magalogs and tabloids (four-color mailers that look like magazines). However, 6 x 9 postcards, tri-fold self-mailers, and simple sales letters are three low-cost ways of taking advantage of this channel. Note that copy, list selection and geo-targeting an be crucial for direct mail success no matter which cost-effective mail format you pick.

Although 100 percent ROI (return on investment) is what you should aim for, many direct mailers are content with 80 percent. This lower figure takes into consideration the lifetime value of the names that come in from this channel, because they are typically reliable buyers in the future.

7. Print ads
This is another channel that's gets a raw deal. One reason is because it can be costly. To place an ad in a high-circulation magazine or newspaper, you could shell out serious money. But you don't need a big budget to take advantage of print ads. If you don't have deep pockets, consider targeted newspapers and periodicals.

Let's say you're selling an investment report. Try using the Internet to research the wealthiest cities in America. Once you get that list, look online for local newspapers in those communities. These smaller newspapers hit your target audience... and offer a much cheaper ad rate than some of the larger, broad-circulation publications. You end up getting quality rather than quantity.

I once paid for an ad in a local newspaper in Aspen, CO that had a flat rate of less than $500. My ROI on this effort turned out to be more than 1,000 percent. How's that for a positive response rate!

The seven marketing channels I've just described can help you reach more customers... and eventually add dollar signs to your bottom line. So start the New Year off with a marketing bang. By leveraging the seven channels of multi-channel marketing, I'm confident you will be amazed by the results.

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