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small business marketing methods

50 Ways to Get the Word Out About Your Small Business

You’re here, you’re ready for customers! Now where are they? Getting customers through the front door (or to your website) can be one of the biggest challenges of owning a business. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you get the word out about your small business. This page can help give you some ideas on marketing methods like social media, printed materials, networking, and more.

  1. Print up some business cards. Fancy or not, you need these for networking, pin up boards, your desk, and during impromptu conversations that might involve your business. These tips on handing out business cards can help get the word out.
  2. Create your own Facebook page. Post often, invite friends, create giveaways, and cross promote on your website and through email for maximum results. Also, comment on other posts AS YOUR PAGE.
  3. Pin your content and images on Pinterest. This can create a good traffic flow, especially if you have elements of your business that are highly visual. Here’s an in-depth Pinterest for business guide that’s worth reading.
  4. Create a YouTube video. YouTube can drive traffic to your website, and also increase your brand recognition. A link can be added to video descriptions, as well as on video cards and annotations, as well as your YouTube channel. Keep in mind, YouTube rewards videos that keep visitors on their site as opposed to sending them away, so decide how this fits into your strategy. YouTube videos are ranking very well in search engines (which makes sense since they are owned by Google).
  5. Post an advertisement on Craigslist about your business. Just like you would on Facebook or through email, include important information, compelling visuals and images on your Craigslist ad.
  6. List your product on Amazon. Not only could you see a boost in sales, but if your item is branded and unique, it could boost your web presence. This how-to will walk you through creating your own product listing.
  7. Join your local chamber of commerce business group, or create your own group. If the fees are too steep or you want to network with more specific individuals, consider starting your own group meet up at a local restaurant or cafe and invite everyone on Facebook (be sure to post in a town FB group to maximize exposure).
  8. Send an email announcement to friends and family. Not only are emails likely to be forwarded to interested individuals, but not everyone uses social media, and others are more likely to interact privately through email.
  9. A personal Facebook page update, kind of like your email newsletter, is a personal way to let friends and family know about your new business venture, promotion, or whatever it is that you are trying to achieve with your small business. This is different from posting on your business page, because your post will be seen by different people, and you may receive different engagement that you normally wouldn’t.
  10. Promote your business on Instagram. Like Pinterest, Instagram is highly visual, so if your business involves very visual elements, this is perfect for you.
  11. Use LinkedIn for networking within your niche. Sharing tips, strategies, and methods can help build camaraderie, while networking locally can help others remember your brand/name and potentially refer business to your down the road. Think of this as a long-haul strategy. Hubspot has lots of tips on creating a good LinkedIn profile that will work for you.
  12. Attend networking events and breakfasts, for both local businesses and in your profession. Face-to-face meetings can leave a bigger impression than online relationships, so be sure to use both methods.
  13. Offer free classes to teach people about your area of expertise. Establishing yourself as an expert can help build credibility and relationships, not to mention you’ll be doing a big favor to the community that others may feel compelled to reciprocate on, whether that’s through referrals, business or more connections.
  14. Offer a free ebook online for signing up for your newsletter. This way you can stay engaged with a targeted audience that’s already interested in your content and products. Learn how to create a free ebook to give away here.
  15. Give away your products in a contest. Yes, this whole free thing can seem a bit much, but they really do work. Giving away a product in a contest can increase your readership, social likes, overall exposure and shares. In the end, it’s worth your time and energy, and it’s low cost.
  16. Set up a forum. A forum on your website or on a social network can provide a great number of benefits. One, you establish yourself as a community person. Two, you can meet lots of new people in your niche. Three, There will always be an ad of sorts for your business, whether it be in your signature line on forum on your website, or simply in the name of the social group you create (for example, “Pittsburgh Cafe Local Connection”).
  17. Comment and become active on a local Facebook page. If a page is already established in your town, which most have, become active on that page. Don’t spam, just comment and interact. Only drop your own promotion once every week or so, and be genuinely helpful within the group to build trust.
  18. Create and send coupons via direct mail. Yes, people really do still read and use those! In certain industries, you’ll find an even greater return on your coupon ad investment. Usually, service and home based industries do well.
  19. If you don’t have a blog, you should start blogging. You don’t have to do it yourself, either. You can hire someone to do it, or invest time of your own in good posts. With blogging, quality is key, not quantity. Short posts are okay for announcements and quick ideas/thoughts, but for the most part, well-researched, in-depth posts will perform better than short ones, and will be shared more socially.
  20. Blog commenting should be part of your marketing strategy as well, especially if you have a blog. Commenting on blogs in your niche can drive traffic to your blog, and build connections with other bloggers if your comments are noticeable and helpful.
  21. Feature other businesses, locally or in your area of expertise, on your blog in a post. This could be by simply linking to them within a sentence when it makes sense, or mentioning them by name. Be sure to let that business know that you’ve featured them, and who knows, they might link back to you or remember the favor down the road.
  22. List your brick and mortar on Google Business. Listing is simple. With quick verification, you can have your business listed on Google Maps/Google Business and prominently in search results with Google’s official listing.
  23. Use free ad credits on Facebook, Google, and Bing. All of these at the time of writing this have free credits you can use towards creating your own ad campaign. Even a small campaign can deliver results. If the effort is worth it, it may be worth it to pay once your credits are used up.
  24. Try guest blogging to bring in new readers, subscribers, and potential new clients. Why stop at just your blog? Widen your reach by offering to guest post on blogs within your profession.
  25. Create an infographic. These are highly shareable, Pinterest worthy informational graphics that convey important information in an easy to read, visual format. If you can’t create one yourself, a designer on Fiverr may be able to help for cheap.
  26. Direct mailings to targeted potential clients can pay off. If you’re going local, you can even target specifically residences or businesses that might be in need of your service. For example, a house that needs a fresh coat of paint would be ideal for a painter to send a postcard. A newly seeded development of homes may be in need of landscaping maintenance. You get the idea!
  27. Redesign your website to keep your online presence modern, relevant, and competitive. A stale, outdated website is likely to underperform next to a competitor’s sleeker, more user friendly website.
  28. Reevaluate your “wow factor.” What is it that sets you far apart from the competition? If you are just like the rest, what is that you can offer that your customers want, be you are not currently offering?
  29. Get customers to review your website. There are many review sites, but Google Reviews, Yelp, and TripAdvisor tend to be some of the biggest ones. Don’t forget other platforms also have the latest word about your business, including Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
  30. Get listed on Yelp. Eventually, your business will likely find its way on to Yelp anyway, so why not set up an account first, and then manage all of the commentary on your business? You can reply directly to customers, so quick replies show that you are responsive and concerned with the happiness of your customers.
  31. Offer up a discount on Groupon. Groupon can be an effective way to bring in new customers that would not have found  your business otherwise.
  32. Answer questions about your field on question and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers. If a page on your website happens happens to be a source “answer,” you can include that URL at the end of your answer.
  33. Give away samples of your product. Gift bags, door prizes, booths at a local fair, or samples to friends can be ways to increase your exposure at a small cost. Just be sure that a way to reorder or visit your store is including somewhere on the packaging and/or included printed materials.
  34. Get on Twitter to provide customer support. Like Yelp and Facebook, people will often publicly air their grievances about a business on Twitter. With Twitter, it’s as easy as “@” mentioning a @business_name to get their attention. Quick responses are key, and remember, everything here is public. Present a customer-friendly image and choose your words carefully!
  35. Set up an email subscriber list with a free email newsletter and a free digital gift as an incentive for signing up. Make their signup worth it for them to sign up, and they will be more likely to open your emails and take what you have to say seriously.That will come in handy when you want them to act on your sales pitches.
  36. Evaulate the SEO of your website and improve all posts/pages, or have someone do it for you. Setting up a website is one thing. Optimizing it for Google is a whole other project, and it’s worth it. Doing so can increase your rankings in search engines, and increase your traffic numbers by including all types of content within your niche/profession.
  37. Get on Snapchat to connect with an entirely different demographic. If your business is centered around a younger crowd, Snapchat can work wonders. Use Snapchat to make your business visible to a whole new crowd.
  38. Invest in good signage for your business in the right spot. A sign for your business should be visible, but consider if you can add signs to other areas around your business that can let people know you are nearby. Here are some ideas on color combinations, signs, and visibility to get you started.
  39. Set up a Google Alert to see who is talking about your business. Also use Mention for further results on social media (which can give you results on competitors as well).
  40. Host free webinars to get more email subscribers and site visitors. The more you have to offer for free, the more interested parties that will be visiting your site that can then be targeted for purchases.
  41. Break your audience down into smaller segments and target them one at a time, niche by niche, or micro niche by micro niche. While larger niches may be too competitive for small businesses starting out, conquering smaller niches one by one and building up to larger niches can be a more realistic strategy.
  42. Utilize video marketing, which is completely free. You can embed it in your email newsletter, post it on YouTube, create blog posts centered around video content, and post it to your Facebook page.
  43. Offer a referral when someone refers customers to you. Remind customers of this in person and through email correspondence. Learn how to get more referrals for your business here.
  44. Win some awards, and then brag about them. Put your new award emblems, logos or photos in blog posts as credibility boosters. These are often used as additions to a site footer, and can ease the mind of a buyer looking for signs of trust. Here’s a few ideas.
  45. Focus on excellent printed materials. Take the time to assemble a brochure that’s worth sharing, and can offer information on every aspect of your business.
  46. Charity donations of your items can spread recognition of your business. People are also more likely to support a business that supports a charity over a competitor that they know nothing about.
  47. Car magnets or sticker for your business can be cheap guerrilla marketing techniques that will pique interest. A single, simple domain name, Twitter handle, or Facebook page and quick message is more effective than loads of information.
  48. Sponsoring a local sports team or advertising on placemats at restaurants can be brand recognition boosters. If you’re locally based, then the exposure here can be great, and at a low price.
  49. Find out what your competition isn’t doing in terms of marketing. Scope out what their preferred marketing techniques are, and see what they’re missing (see our list above). Focus on these holes starting with the ones that you think your core clientele would be most likely to frequent.
  50. Don’t delay in response to potential clients. You work hard to find new clients, so why let them slip away? If you have a response from a client, waiting can cause you the sale. While you wait, they are researching competitors, may have second thoughts, they might get talked out of it, or they might just lose interest and be on to the next thing. Strike while the iron is hot and get back to them right away!
  51. BONUS: If you don’t have a website, you really need one to maintain a complete web presence and to further your brand. We can build a website for your business quickly at a reasonable cost to you. Contact us to get building!

 

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The Best Free Ways to Promote and Market Your Website or Business

How to Generate Interest in Your Website Through Marketing Techniques

If you own a small business, you’ll likely be looking into every sort of free advertising method that’s out there that can be cost effective and deliver results. While TV commercials aren’t going to come your way for free unless you are doing business with Saul Goodman, there are still plenty of ways to spread the word and promote your website… and that would be through marketing. Marketing is, for the most part, free, or almost free. It’s about as low budget as you can get, and it can often work just as well as paid advertisements. People also tend to trust them over traditional paid advertisements (though paid ads have their place as well).

Does Advertising Work??

We’ve all been exposed to advertising. TV, radio, billboards, pop ups, banners, video ads, and social media paid promotions…it’s everywhere, and you can’t escape it. Now stop and think for a second…how many times have you clicked on an advertisement online, or heard a commercial on the radio that has made you run out and buy something?

Chances are you haven’t all that often. Is this a cost-effective way for businesses to promote themselves? Free advertising (aka marketing) can be a better way to promote your business. It can be more effective, costs much less, won’t ruin your reputation if done correctly, and won’t siphon money from your savings like high cost ads can. Here, you’ll learn some of the techniques you can use to market your website for free.

Does Paid Advertising Work? – Advertisement Myths

advertising mythsWhen consumers make purchases, they most often are influenced by something someone said to them much more than any advertisement. Many people ask around about a product before they purchase to see if their friends or family have purchased the item, and to get their recommendations on who to buy it from. Why don’t people listen to advertising?

Because they don’t trust advertising.

Why not? Advertisements are everywhere. They’re constant. They may promise one thing, and deliver another. We’ve all become so numb to advertising, people for the most part ignore it! The advertising world is changing constantly, and new advertising methods are becoming more effective, cost-efficient, and sometimes, free. Viral videos, while not new, are something even big brands have gotten behind. And they work! A well planned out social media strategy can also yield big results. The best news here of all might be that YOU are on an even playing field with all of the big shots. You, more than ever, have the opportunity to be seen if you create something truly great. And, while the big guys might have the money to spend on Super Bowl ads, it really is an equal playing field in the marketing world.

In other words, with the right marketing tactics and delivery, you may never have to spend a dime on advertising.

Pepsi commercial

Billions of dollars are spent on advertising by large corporations, small businesses, not for profits and sole proprietors.

From the biggest of corporations to the smallest of mom and pop shops, word of mouth has the biggest affect on a business. Businesses are relying on different advertising methods that are much more economical and fresh. What are some of the new, effective ways businesses advertise?

  • Social Bookmarking
  • Blogging
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Forums
  • Email Marketing
  • Email Signatures
  • Classified Ads (Craigslist)
  • YouTube
  • Blog Commenting

Methods That No Longer Work in Marketing Your Website or Business

What worked before isn’t going to necessarily work today. In fact, engaging in some of these formerly accepted “best practices” may even make your business worse off. Social bookmarking, for example, is not what it used to be. Even low quality links used to be viewed by search engines as links, but not any longer. If you have dozens or hundreds of links from social bookmarking sites, it won’t help your chances with organic search traffic. While del.icio.us may have been your go-to years ago, Reddit has taken its place. The “new” social bookmarking era thrives off of interesting content and commentary from the community, not just upvoted links.

Is social bookmarking even a necessary part of your marketing strategy? No, it definitely does not need to be. However, becoming active at a couple of these and very occasionally dropping your own link seems to be acceptable.

Here is a list of ideas that were acceptable in 2009 for promoting your website. These used to work! Now, not only are some of these methods defunct, but they can hurt you. Again, this is a list of what was acceptable in 2009, not today:

  • Social Bookmarking (think de.lici.ous, Reddit, StumbleUpon)
  • Article Marketing (sites like EzineArticles which allowed a link at the bottom of the article to your content)
  • Online Directories – These were once a place to leave your link and run. Essentially they were spam mills, or they turned into that anyway.
  • Blogging – Adding a blog to your website can enhance your website in ways only limited by your creativity. When they say “content is king,” they really mean blogs, because that’s where most of the content is.
  • Squidoo – Now defunct, a multi author blog site which was rolled into another site called Hubpages, no longer allows promotion of your own website through linking. If you used to use a site like Squidoo or Hubpages, consider starting up your own blog by repurposing your old content to start.
  • MySpace – Low traffic levels and interest today, but back then it was the top of the social media heap. How quickly things can change!
  • Facebook – Grown considerably since 2009 and a must for promotion. Keep in mind Facebook is often an EQUAL source of traffic as Google. That’s crazy to think about if you have been writing online for a long time and can remember when Google accounted for 90% of most traffic.
  • Forums – Not much has changed with forums. This is great news, because it’s reliable, and won’t be going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
  • Email Marketing – Grow a subscriber list and stay in touch. Like forums, emails are also not going anywhere soon.
  • Email Signatures – Make sure it’s a good one. Effective email signatures should link to all of your major points of interest.
  • eBay – No longer a valid traffic source, but Ebay used to allow links from your About Me page. Not anymore.
  • Classified Online Ads – Can still be effective for traffic, but not for SEO value.
  • YouTube – Even better than it was in 2009, YouTube has grown as more people consume video content. Text links can appear in videos and underneath in the description.

StumbleUpon

For a minute, let’s talk about StumbleUpon. While this site will not make or break your site, it still delivers traffic consistently after all these years. StumbleUpon works as a simple thumbs up/ thumbs down voting system on every webpage. Install the app or use the toolbar to thumbs up/down any content that you come across. StumbleUpon will deliver fresh links based on what you have liked (thumbs up). By continuously using StumbleUpon, you can occasionally add your own content into the mix (try to do this very sparingly). This will increase the likelihood of your content being seen by other stumblers.

Reddit

As the most popular social bookmarking site today, Reddit has risen above the rest, with over 164 million visitors . While Digg, de.licio.us, and Diigo have fallen in recent years, Reddit thrives off of unique content that you can’t find anywhere else. Reddit thrives off of its “subreddits,” which are smaller communities within the larger Reddit site. And by smaller, that may mean big. For example, the Game of Thrones subreddit has over 1 million members, while the “funny” subreddit has 17 million members, and gaming has 16 million.
So where does Reddit fall into your content marketing efforts? You can post your own content, but Reddit users are going to be very wary of you if you overdo it. The wise rule of thumb when posting your own content here and elsewhere on similar bookmarking sites is keep it to less than 1 in 10.

Blogging

Blogging can also be a very effective marketing tool. It’s also free, and you can earn money from your blog by including AdSense ads, recommended Amazon products, digital products, or your own products for sale on your site. Provide fresh, relevant content on your blog, and be sure to link it to your personal site or what you’d like your reader to do most (sign up for a newsletter, visit your Ebay store, buy an ebook, or whatever it is you’d most like your visitors to do).  Search engines also value blogs that are updated with high quality content. While quantity doesn’t trump quality, the intersection of both is where you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

How exactly do you market your website or business with a blog?

That’s a good question, and it’s easy to get caught up with writing content that won’t benefit your site in any way. Always have your end goal in site when you write a post, but keep in mind what types of content your readers will find helpful. Start by writing out a dozen questions that your readers might have, and center your first posts around those. Flesh out more posts as you think of more questions, and field questions from communities. You might even find some in your blog comments, Facebook page, or forums. Google search suggest is also a good tool for finding popular searches in your niche.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell designer brands on Ebay, and you want to market your store through blogging. Setting up a blog where you talk about each designer brand, focus on new product lines and individual products, and highlight ways to match products together can be an interesting way for readers to get to your content. Link to individual items within your Ebay store to accomplish certain styles to direct potential buyers to your store, and you’ll see an increase in traffic and conversions. Not only that, but you could see a boost in social media and search engine traffic.

Facebook

Facebook, which offers paid and organic posts, is a complex beast. While anyone can succeed with persistent posting and engagement, Facebook is a commitment that can pay off. The reach of Facebook is undeniable today, as it shares almost an equal share of referrals to popular websites as Google. While you may not be in control of how Google perceives your website, you can entirely be in control of how your website is promoted and seen on Facebook.

“To create an audience for a book I wrote, I mailed out free copies to beauty and nail salons across the United States. My reasoning was to try to get the product into the hands of the people most likely to use it. It didn’t lead to any direct sales as they already had the book but it has allowed me build an audience and over time sell books. This has worked far better than Facebook ads or Digg(completely filled with spam now), although StumbleUpon is pretty decent. No short cuts, it takes time and then even more time.”

Email Marketing/Subscriber List

Capture a list of interested potential clients

Email Marketing is one of the best proven ways to retain customers that have already purchased from you, and to to keep a visitor interested in your content once they’ve visited just once. Instead of having the majority of your visitors to bounce from your website never to be heard from again, building an email newsletter campaign that they can subscribe to will help retain some of those initial hard-earned visitors.

Former customers also will likely want to hear from you again. If they were interested in enough to make a purchase, they could be interested enough to become a repeat customer.

When composing your campaign, This is where most email marketing campaigns fail.

Email marketing is not just a spammy email with some simple links to products or pitch to “come buy my stuff!” People want to be information, and they want to see your expertise. Provide good content to your email, some interaction, some graphics, even a giveaway, along with a punchy, effective headline, and you’ll see traffic flowing from your sent emails.

Set up an opt-in subscriber email list. If you’re using a third party website to sell products, those sites may have email marketing campaigns built in for you (think Ebay, CafePress or Etsy). If you have your own site, try using MailChimp or any one of the top recommended email marketing companies. They should provide a good email service that’s easy to customize and appears very professional. Often times, they’ll allow you to send a certain number of emails per month for free, so that should get you going for a little while.

Some ideas of things to add to your emails:

  • Seasonal recipes (think of how your target audience may react and add accordingly)
  • Coupons for your items
  • Live event, if applicable
  • Giveaways or contests, announcing the previous winner in each email (this will build buyer trust that this content is legitimate)
  • Graphics that relate to your products, especially sharable ones
  • Seasonal graphics, slogans and sayings
  • An interactive poll
  • Feedback from readers and buyers
  • News of any special that you may be running
  • Related articles, links or stories included in your email
  • Suggestions, product reviews, monthly tips, anything that your readers may find useful, entertaining or relevant
  • A limited time offer that expires within a certain timeframe, so readers will feel they need to act sooner than later

Fill Out All of Your Online Profiles

Your online profiles are a landing page for your business in Google, and that’s whether you set it up or someone else does. If you have a brick and mortar business, you will quickly find that Yelp, Google Reviews, and Facebook will all play a part in your success. If you don’t set up a presence on these sites, you will be partially out of control of how your business is perceived. On Yelp, you can add business information, and reply to complaints and compliments. Facebook gives you even more flexibility by allowing you to curate the content on your page. Google Reviews will give searchers much more information about your business, and even pin it to a Google Map for people to find.

Press Releases

Believe it or not, some people swear press releases have big pull, even today. While this sounds like an old fashioned way to market your business, it’s free, and it still has enormous reach. Think about this: the people that see press releases are the press. Media promotion can pick up on your website or business in unexpected ways. For example, a college student with access to a college university blog may interview a local business owner, and include a link back to the website. It happens more times than you may think, so don’t rule this strategy out!

Anonymous Blog Comment:

“After starting my own businesses, I began to appreciate the field of marketing and promotion. If you take on the task of marketing your business for yourself as opposed to hiring an agency, they you pick up so many skills from what’s effective to what’s not effective. What may be helping an individual in one industry may not help in your particular industry. Marketing helps you advertise your “why am I in business” speech as well. Crafting an elevator speech is effective as well. I am finding that creating a printable newsletter and getting in the public’s face to distribute them may be what I have needed. Now, to keep my potential clients from tossing the newsletters like junk mail, I included interactive activities and well as other helpful information that may cause them to post onto the fridge or cabinet for the future.”

Marketing Without Advertising – One of the best books on advertising I’ve found

I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone that owns a business, or if you’re thinking of owning one. Online marketers should listen to this advice as well. This book points out the faults of traditional advertising, but more importantly, gives specific real life examples to jumpstart your word of mouth advertising (the most important kind of advertising!).

Marketing Without Advertising: Easy Ways to Build a Business Your Customers Will Love and Recommend

YouTube Marketing – Get hundreds or thousands (or millions!) of interested people on YouTube

 Almost 5 billion views per day. Per day! That’s incredible. YouTube is really the only major purveyor of video content on the web. While creating a great video is a much different craft than written content marketing, it is still incredibly effective, as people prefer to digest their content in all different ways — videos being one of them.

YouTube can drive traffic to your website, but more importantly, you can establish a presence on one of the biggest websites in the world. Depending on your niche, YouTube may be the perfect fit for your marketing strategy. As a nice side bonus, you can also monetize your YouTube content, so you can earn while also marketing your brand.

“Some of the best free advertising will come from others. Generate some buzz, and see if any local newspaper would like to write a story on your start-up. It just takes one publication to establish a reputation, making the next much easier. My business was covered by a university news site and local newspaper. Someone from Entrepreneur Magazine saw the online article and ended up writing a full-page feature on the idea. Start small, but always keep the bigger picture in mind.”

Lure in Traffic with Forums

The great news about forums is that they are much the way they were in the 1990’s. There’s not much new to learn, and the etiquette remains the same. However old school as they may be, you may be underestimating how much traffic you can get from forums. Participating in forums requires some time and involvement. A random spam-by in a forum thread won’t bring any traffic (and could get you banned), especially in comparison to how much you can gain by genuinely contributing. Before posting, if the forum allows, create an avatar (a small picture that will appear next to your forum posts) along with a small, unobtrusive signature line featuring a link to your site. Again, make sure the forum rules allow signature links.

Start by entering the forum and answering posts about something that you might know something about. Adding something worthwhile to the conversation will be much more appreciated than a “thanks for the info” post. After becoming a regular in the forums, users new and old alike may start to follow your link out of natural curiosity…so make your tag line tempting for them to click!

“I created my first e-commerce business in 1999. In 2000 I created a forum around the topic of the business. Five years later I had 50,000 members, many of them customers. I also created a blog and an ebook about the business topic to drive even more traffic. After six years in business I was shipping 1,200 to 1,800 orders per month, and I never paid for advertising.”

Craigslist Ads – Post About Your Business and Services

Craigslist

Guest Blogging

Blogging is a vital way to market your business, but your blog is only one small place in the vast world wide web. Leveraging other people’s blogs can work with guest blogging, which can send new visitors to your website and social media pages. To get a guest post, you’ll need to offer something that the author of the blog will really want: an outstanding post the their readers will love. That’s it. If you can provide that for the author, they should allow an in-content link to your website, and usually to your social media platforms of choice.

Which Methods Should You Implement?

Realistically, you won’t be able to tackle all of these methods, not by yourself at least. If your time spent on marketing is limited, then you should focus on the methods that you will do best with. If you write well, blogging may be best suited for you. If your a social person, Facebook can work wonders. The point is, do what you can, and chip away at the stone slowly but surely. Massive traffic gains won’t happen overnight, but built slowly over time. Persistence will pay off, so choose a few different methods and keep at it. Good luck!

  • Introduction photo of Times Square, New York, woman looking away from an out of focus, blurry background of ads. Kind of symbolic of how most people treat advertising around them! Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 by vonSchnauzer on flickr.

A pat on the back:

“This is the most useful information I have found to help me and my little website and I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I am just a beginner and this really has given me some excellent pointers (it is now starred as a favorite on my ‘puter as I will definitely be re-reading this)thank you, thank you, thank you. oh and Merry Christmas.” Cathi

**The quoted excerpts listed here are from the former home of this post, but we lost all of the blog comments. These were some of the best that we have decided to feature on this page. If you have a question, idea, or something you’d like to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Also be sure to visit our page featuring more ideas on marketing your small business

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Where to Find Inventory for Ebay

Finding inventory for your Ebay business is no easy task. Sure, once you know where to get it, it can get easier, but where do you start?

Keeping a wide range of sources for your inventory allows you to adapt to changes quicker, and not rely on strictly one source. In addition, it can open up new opportunities by broadening the range of products that you sell. The more types of products that you sell, the more you can become familiar with and better at selling. While it can definitely be advantageous to become an expert in one field, becoming an expert in more than one can open up a whole new world of opportunities.

To get started, you should try to exhaust all of your possibilities on things that have worked for you prior, and start to look ahead. For example, if you currently source your inventory through one single thrift store, the next logical step would be to find more thrift stores. Once you’ve thought about expanding in this direction, you can also look into other ways to source inventory for your Ebay business. Here on this page, you’ll find plenty of new ways to find inventory, as well as some methods that can save you money on your inventory purchases.

Yard Sales

One of the tried and true sources for inventory can be, yup, the old fashioned yard sale. Yes, you drive by these and probably mouth the word “crap” as you drive by most of them, but there are a few diamonds in the rough of the abyss of personal items for sale.

As an Ebay seller, knowing the value of an item can be to your advantage. A lot of yard sale sellers simply don’t know the value of an item, and are willing to negotiate on whatever price they’ve set. This is how the majority of big ticket items are found, otherwise, the seller would be pricing them much higher.

In addition, some used items just aren’t worth as much in a yard sale setting as they are professionally photographed, described, and offered up for sale on Ebay. The unflattering top of a banged up folding card table doesn’t scream quality or scarcity like your top notch photos can convey. Think beyond the scratched up surface or out of the dusty old bin and imagine the item on display in all its glory in your studio setup.

Craigslist

Craigslist is like the half-way point between a yard sale and Ebay, only it’s free for both the seller and the buyer, and shipping isn’t involved. As a way of sourcing new inventory, Craigslist is perfect. If you sell in a certain genre, simply search the site for your desired items, and move through the list. Sellers are often willing to negotiate, and may offer discounted lots. Asking extra questions is also a good way to find inventory they haven’t even listed yet. Where there’s one item, there’s likely many more.

Ebay

The answer to increasing your inventory could be sitting right under your nose. Ebay itself has the largest inventory for just about any genre you could be selling in. You might be thinking, how could that be? Doesn’t every item sell for fair market value on Ebay, in other words, selling for exactly what it’s worth? Not exactly…

Not every seller will list an item “in all its glory” like you can. While to you, you can’t imagine someone taking a picture of a vintage Prada wallet on top of a dingy old comforter, that seller might not have the item, means, or knowledge to make their listing as good as it can be. You, armed with knowledge, can see the item’s potential, and realize how valuable that item is, and that it’s just poorly marketed. Look for poor quality photos, misspellings of brands, sizes, and keywords, poor descriptions, low starting bids, and items that might be ending at odd times (like in the middle of the night on a Friday, or on a holiday weekend). Any of these miscalculations on the seller’s part can result in an item that ends cheaply with few bids, which means you will have found an item that you can sell for much higher.

Facebook

Like Craigslist, Facebook is now a massive online marketplace. There’s a difference though. People’s real reputations are attached to the items that they are selling, which means it adds one layer of protection to would-be scammers. That doesn’t mean you are in the clear, though. It’s still easy to set up fake accounts with fake names and fake pictures. Don’t ever send money to someone you don’t know, because this isn’t Ebay, and you aren’t protected.

You can find just about anything on Facebook, so try searching their marketplace tab on their website/app, and see what comes up for you. It’s the luck of the draw on what you might find, so persistence is going to be key here.

Word of Mouth

Have you ever sold someone else’s items for them on Ebay? This is where word of mouth can come into play. If people know you are the go-to person to sell of their old merchandise, this can turn into a big source of inventory for you. Whether you want to market your Ebay store, your services through business cards, or just remind clients that they can get a referral fee for referring clients, word of mouth goes a long, long way. Don’t forget about email signatures, your own website, an email blast to friends/family, or your own Facebook page, all of which will help you promote yourself as a way to sell their old stuff on Ebay.

Outlet Stores

The fine art of outlet shopping can produce varied results even for the most veteran shopper. Sales can be unpredictable and confusing to the newbie outlet shopper, but knowing where and when to look isn’t so difficult once you’ve visited an outlet mall or store a few times.

Outlet malls, in theory, offer up discounts on name brand products that usually cost significantly more. The discount on items could be 50%, 20%, and sometimes none. Seasonal sales will offer some of the biggest discounts, and they often happen at the same time of year. Signing up for their email subscriptions may also result in notifications of sales, and also discount coupons that you can bring to the retailer for additional savings. Also, search the web for any extra coupons you might be able to bring with you. If they have a clearance or markdown section, also be sure to shop that section.

Knowing your product line can also increase your profits, since some items that are rare, retired, or hot at the moment may sell for above asking price or for full price on Ebay.

If the outlet clerk asks why you are buying so many items, you may want to say that you are stocking up for Christmas gifts, depending on the attitude of the clerk and the store policy. Not all clerks or businesses will be helpful or understanding of your Ebay business, even though you are doing them a favor by shopping with them. This can be especially true of high value fashion items that the brand may not want on Ebay in the first place, which they may feel “degrades” their brand.

All of these coupon and outlet savings will add up to a very low price paid per item. Add to that that many outlet stores offer styles and product lines that may be not current, which means it could be harder to find for many online shoppers, putting you in a great position to make some money.

Clearance Sections

Just about every store has a clearance section. This is where you can find items that are being marked down to get them out of the store fast. Clearances can be a huge source of inventory, and yield high profit margins. While some stores have a dedicated clearance section, some are interspersed with regular items, which may see at Target or Wal-Mart.

Clearances often have cycles, so the item will be continuously reduced in price until it is at its lowest weeks or months later. Buying these items low and selling them high, at a time when the inventory is often low online, can result in higher auction prices. For example, buying bathing suits at the end of summer on clearance and holding on to them until December through March, when bathing suits can be hard to find, is a good strategy. While the big box retailers won’t have bathing suits, you will, and you can sell them off quickly with little competition.

Online Stores

While brick-and-mortar stores have clearly defined clearance sections to shop from, online stores have the digital version on their clearance page. The advantage here is that you can not only save yourself a trip out, but find a steady source of inventory by keeping an eye on brand name websites popular in your genre. Don’t forget about discount retailers, too, not just brand name specific websites.

Be sure to enter any promo codes that you can find applicable to your order, and sign up for email newsletters that may contain additional savings or sales notifications to extend your savings (and profits) even further.

Small Businesses

A small business in your area may not have the time, manpower, or expertise to increase their sales by offering up some of their inventory on Ebay. Whether the seller wants to unload old items that aren’t selling, or wants to stage a permanent online presence through a store format, you can have a constant source of inventory by initiating a relationship with a small business. Strike up a conversation with your local business owner to see if they might be interested, and be sure to post around town about what you do. Word of mouth might come your way.

Liquidation

Liquidation websites and companies can offer large quantities of cheap merchandise that ranges as much as you can imagine. Liquidators want to unload as much product as quickly as possible, for the most money. Be wary of generic items, questionable photos, and place of origin. Do your homework, ask plenty of questions, and search, search, search for the right fit for your product line. The right fit for you may not be on page one of Google, so keep on looking, and vary up your search terms to find new results.

Auctions

Auction houses can have a wide variety of items that can range from overpriced to way undervalued. Attending a local auction is the only way you’ll be able to find out! Do some Google footwork and find some local auctions in your area.

Wholesale Distributors

Like liquidators, wholesalers can offer up products quite cheap. The key here is to keep digging until you find what you’re looking for at the price you’re looking for. You know what price you need to sell an item for to make a profit. So, be sure the buying price is well below that, and use that as your starting point. Wholesale distributors can be as easy to find as using Google, or, through email communication. Don’t forget that not every opportunity is advertised online. Make your own connections and see if a local wholesaler, who may not necessarily be putting themselves out there for small purchase individuals to step foot in, may have large amounts of leftover random stock that could be an option for you. Try to set up a conversation through email or in person and see where you get. Be wary of knock-offs, items that aren’t discounted enough, and damaged items.

Make it Yourself

Sometimes, the best thing to market is you. What can you offer that no one else is or can on Ebay right now? Is it a service? Is it a product that you can make yourself that is in high demand, but no one else is selling? Thinking customized can be key here, too. For example, I recently purchased a light switch cover on Ebay from a store that printed their very own light switch art. These were printed, cut, and applied with adhesive to the light switch cover, making instantly customizable products in any image imaginable. I was looking for a specific type of dinosaur art for my son’s bedroom, and I found it. This seller had thousands of options available, and had little competition. Can you carve out a niche in a similar way by offering something no one else can?

Photo by Emma Jane Hogbin Westby.

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The Top Five Best Alternatives to Ebay

ebay alternativesOnline Alternatives to Ebay – Supplement or Replace Auction Sales… Can you Ditch Ebay Altogether?

Ebay got you down? While it may seem that you have no other option, that just isn’t true. Replace your current sales from the world’s biggest marketplace to other ecommerce sites using some of the suggestions on this page. Some of these are auction websites, some are classifieds, while others use completely different methods to find online traffic direct it towards your products. Take a look at these recommended alternatives to Ebay and see if one of them suits your needs!

Every so often, Ebay will make some changes in the way that they run things, prompting sellers to look for new Ebay alternatives to use instead. While there have been many, no other auction website has come close at all to being competition with the world’s biggest online marketplace (yeah, we’re talking about the big E-word). However, there are other websites that you should consider for selling your inventory as well. Some you may not have thought of, some you’ve definitely heard of, and some are like Ebay, but with lower fees. Scroll down and read about some of these alternatives and how they rate!

Amazon

Amazon.com is Ebay’s number one competitor. They have been steadily increasing the amount of sellers that offer goods in their marketplace, without having to worry about the tedious auction format.

Pros: You can sell almost anything and you’ll get the money right away. You won’t have to deal with deadbeat buyers, auctions ending, or even questions from buyers for the most part. It’s an easy way to at least supplement your Ebay earnings. Items also seem to go for a higher price here than on the bargain hunter’s website.

Cons: The fee to be a seller here is steep, at around $60 per month. That means you’ll need lots of inventory and turnover. You also can’t add to specific categories of their website, with some categories like “clothing” being off limits for sellers. You also cannot create your own listings, you can only “sell one like this,” meaning, you piggyback off an existing listing and sell one just like it. Approved merchants do have the ability to create their own listings, but it’s not as simple as Ebay.

Craigslist

While Craigslist isn’t the first place you’d consider as a competitor to Ebay, you shouldn’t rule out the possibility to make sales through their classified ads. If you have large items, lots, or high dollar value items, it’s totally worth it to list on Craigslist. Don’t underestimate the amount of people who are willing to purchase from this site. In it’s nature, it seems people expect a deal from this website, but that’s not always the case.

If you’re already well versed in selling on Ebay, Craigslist should be a snap. You’ll have the advantage, too, of providing content rich descriptions with professional photographs, which really enhance the listing and stand out from the other ho-hum Craigslist ads.

Since there really aren’t many cons to this website, we aren’t going to bother listing them. Besides, it’s free! A great way to save money on fees.

ioffer logoiOffer

iOffer isn’t an auction website, but allows people to put in their offers for the items you are selling. It’s more direct, and you can produce a big turnaround fast. This website is small, but the potential for earnings is big. The fees are also nothing compared to what you’ll pay on Ebay. They say traffic is on the rise on this website, so getting in now might be a good idea.

Pros: This site is really cheap to operate on. You can drag over your Ebay information and listings if you’d like, but it just might be easier to copy and paste it all. This is a great way to boost your income and pay less fees. It works especially well with fashion items and items you have multiple quantities of. Just relist the item and be on your way. Stores here are also free.

Cons: Obviously the exposure isn’t as great as Ebay. The site also doesn’t have as much activity or the resources of the bigger alternative, but they’re growing, give them time.

ubid logouBid

This is probably Ebay’s number one auction competitor (and we mean distant competitor). Some people do make some money on uBid to supplement their Ebay earnings, but levels of success can vary. Some might make more than they were on the other site, some might make far less. At any rate, with free listing fees, it’s worth a shot. The web traffic here seems to be stable.

Pros: Free listing fees, with a lot of promotion on other websites of uBid.

Cons: Nowhere near the traffic of Ebay, plus they hold your earnings for 15 days.

prostores logoProStores

Get away from the competition by giving more money to Ebay? Yes, exactly (ProStores is a part of Ebay). When you think you’ve had enough of their site, just remain calm for a second and think again if the best Ebay alternative is really to leave for good. There really aren’t many other places to sell with the exposure they can provide. The better option might be to supplement your own income first with outside sources, relying less on their site and more on the alternatives. There is one solution that will allow you to utilize Ebay’s exposure, plus create your own identity separate from their website.

ProStores is owned by Ebay, but allows you to host your auctions on a website outside of the Ebay Stores domain. That means you can add as much content to your own site as you’d like, add all of the customization you could possibly dream of, and start linking to your own website instead of Ebay.

Huh? Yes, you’ll still be using Ebay itself, but you’ll be increasing your sales by not relying on their storefront or auction format to propel your sales numbers. You will be in control of that, and ProStores makes it easy to drag your Ebay items over to your new website.

How does this benefit you?

  1. You create your own individualized marketing campaign, your own web presence, and create content you keep on your own website, thereby increasing your branding, findability, and authority.
  2. You provide customers with all of the information they are looking for in one static place. That means you’ll have a better chance of being found in search engines, not just on the Ebay site.
  3. It looks much, much more professional than Ebay Stores. Frankly, it doesn’t even compare, and the cost is pretty cheap. Also, they offer a free 30 day trial.
  4. Your sales will go up. Sales can only increase if you set up your own web presence. Just stay with it, keep building content, and then keep adding new merchandise to your website.
  5. You will be in control of your web presence. Ebay Stores rank horribly in search engines. The search page for that Ebay item is much more likely to rank higher than your actual store. With ProStores, it’s in your control, and you can create your own SEO campaign.

Are there are other alternatives? Yes! Depending on what you sell, Etsy is another now huge marketplace. Facebook has also grown considerably, now with their own marketplace area of the main app/site.

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