Lean Business Tips: Marketing Channels on the Cheap Mike | July 13th, 2015

Startups and small businesses face a steep learning curve when it comes to online marketing. The options are rich, the ROI can be cruel, the capacity investment can be significant, and the results can often be questionable. At crowdSPRING we have experimented with virtually every online marketing strategy and tactic available, often with negative results. The rule of thumb is to experiment in small batches and, as quickly as possible, identify the losers and stop the experiment.

Numerous studies have shown that online marketing can be a financial loser for many companies. Does this mean that you should avoid online marketing and social media channels? Absolutely not! Many companies see excellent results and gain meaningful traction through the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and the like. In fact, entire businesses are marketed solely using using social channels, and a huge industry of consultants and agencies specializing in these tactics has developed over the last five years. Have a look at these five channels, none of which will strain your marketing budget, although each will require a commitment of time and capacity. Dip your tow in slowly to determine which will work for you and, remember – set goals, design your experiments carefully with measurement in mind, invest in the winners and n=banish the losers!

Twitter. As an ad platform, Twitter can be a powerful and modesty priced option for many businesses. With a pay-per-click model and the ability to set your budget at a level that makes sense for your business, ROI can be easily measured and analyzed. In addition, data has shown that, as measured in clicks and posts, the average Twitter user engages at a rate almost 5x that of the average Facebook user.

YouTube Reviews. 90 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth referrals from friends and even strangers, compared to only 14 percent who trust an advertising message. This is the primary reason that businesses try so hard to encourage and enable their customers to write reviews about your offerings. YouTube is one of many sites that allows users to leave reviews. but also have a look at Reseller RatingsEpinionsCNET and others.

Company Blogs. Establishing yourself (and your brand) as an industry or topical expert is a great way to promote buzz, unearth speaking opportunities, and generate media placements. By creating relevant content that can be syndicated across multiple platforms, companies like yours can leverage significant marketing opportunities.

Pinterest. One of the fastest growing social networks, Pinterest is also among the largest referrers of traffic to thousands of online businesses. A friendly interface makes it easy to use and a built in audience of consumers makes it easy for many businesses to advertise their products in a user-oriented manner. Promoted Pins can targeted specific audiences and conversions can be measured and analyzed for ROI.

Instagram. How can you go wrong marketing with a startup that has been valued at $35 billion? If your target audience includes millennials, Instagram may be the next platform your testing. Engagement with an audience on this photo-sharing site can be accomplished if your posts include clear calls to action, leverage relevant hashtags, and interact with other users and their content. Again, I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of setting goals and starting with modest experiments to gather data and measure results (clicks, traffic, conversions).

An old school channel selector: Wikimedia Commons

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