My top 5 Internet Marketing tips for fighting the credit crunch.

The economy may be turning ugly, but the Internet offers small businesses opportunities to survive, and even thrive, during this recession we are all calling the credit crunch.

Businesses are looking more carefully at budgets, making sure we can squeeze every penny of profit out of our investments, and looking for the most cost effective ways of delivering our products and services.

And our customers are doing the same:  but they are still spending money.  They may be spending less, but we need to figure out what they’re spending their money on.  And they don’t want to risk wasting a penny.  They want to buy the right products, from companies they can trust.

And our customers’ use of the Internet will continue to grow – after all, it is free.

Marketing budgets may appear to be a soft target for businesses looking to make budget cuts.

But canny business owners will be taking advantage of the opportunities the Internet has to offer.

Here are my top 5 top Internet marketing tips for fight the credit crunch:

1.  Work Smart to Retain your Existing Customer Base

Out of sight means out of mind.  You need to keep in touch with your customers or you risk losing them.  And it is always cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.

  • Email marketing is the cheapest, easiest, and most effective way keeping in touch with your customers.  I’m not talking spam, and I’m not talking about marketing to get new customers.  You need to be sending out personalised, targeted messages to existing customers who want to hear your news.  And well crafted email messages make sales.
  • Blogs are another free and easy way to publish information anbd keep in touch with your clients.  I am of the personal opinion that the majority of the UK population doesn’t know what to do with an RSS feed, but they sure know how to read blogs.
  • Getting Social means engaging in conversations with your customers.  Qype, Facebook, Twitter:  these are places where you customers are reviewing your products, discussing their purchasing decisions, exchanging views on your business.  Use these tools to listen to your customers, hear what they’re talking about, learn more about your market.  And remember it isn’t about advertising, your contributions ot the conversation need to be valuable and appropriate

2.  Get Even More Visible in Front of Your Potential Clients

You have to get visitors to your website to make the sales.  And one of the best times to get found by potential clients is when they’re searching for what you’re selling.  You need to get found on the Internet, which means Google, but also means a range of other places on the Internet that your customers visit.

Spending on online marketing is continuing to grow, competition is getting more intense, and as a result it is becoming more expensive.

Now is the time to review which of the visibility tools are going to give you the best return on your investment.  Put together your plan of action for building your visibility on the Internet.

Your Tools Checklist:

  • Search engine optimisation, pay per click advertising, banner advertising, classified advertising, online press releases, affiliate marketing, videos, sponsorship programmes

3.  Make Your Business Transparently Trustworthy

You an do all the advertising you want, but consumers trust each other more than they trust your carefully crafted marketing messages.  I have previously written about the importance of customer reviews in building trust.

If you’re selling business to business, then recommendations from colleagues, friends, accountants, and business advisers all have the greatest impact on building trust.

  • Case studies and positive stories about your business form an essential part of the content on your website
  • Plain speaking in the words you write may look easy, but it takes time and effort to write well.  Make your web copy and email messages sound genuine, and not hollow marketing drivel.
  • Cultivate customer reviews.   Sites like Google Local Business Centre, TouchLocal and Qype are platforms for customer reviews and ratings.  I know businesses are scared of negative reviews, but remember even bad reviews contribute to the sense of honesty and trustworthiness.  Keep an eye on your reviews, and listen to what your customers have to say.

4. Measure, Measure, Measure

If you don’t measure, then you can’t manage.  And if you’re not managing, then you could be pouring money down the drain.

Measuring means accountability for your marketing spend.  You need to be measuring against your success criteria.  You may want to measure sales, or email enquiries, or phone calls, or visits to your website.

  • You may be using low-tech ways of measuring, like a clipboard near the telephone, and making a tick every time a person says they found you on Google.
  • You might be using a dedicated telephone number that is associated with your Internet marketing activities, and when that phone rings you know the web is working for you.
  • Or you might be using a web statistics package like Google Analytics, and set up your Goals and Conversion Tracking to see who well your website is performing.

If marketing budgets are tight, then knowing what works makes it easier to make the decisions of where to invest your cash.

5. Test, Learn, Test

And finally, there is no one size fits all answer to the Internet marketing puzzle.

You need to try something new, experiment with a technology or technique you haven’t used before.  Measure your success, and learn from the experiment.

  • Experiments should be quick, cheap, and easy to deliver.
  • If it works, then well done, and more of the same, please.
  • And if it doesn’t work so well, then kill the experiment and move on.  No harm done.  Be quick and be ruthless.  You will have tested something, learned from it, and moving on to test something new.

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