Using Online Marketing to Find Local Customers in Orange County
Your Online Marketing Campaign can Cost as much as you want it to Spend
We are still working on this article. Your comments are welcome.
Online marketing does not have to be expensive. There are many ways to get free exposure. And some of these options actually work better than paid options. Many businesses advertise on Craigslist rather than the newspaper’s on-line classified ads because it generates more results. And it’s free. They argue that you would have to spend hundreds of dollars to get the same result by advertising in the newspaper classified.
While your business does not need an online presence not having one sends a message. When a business person says “I don’t Do da internet” or “I don’t got a computer” you are really saying that either you are not serious about your business or that you are really behind the times.
You will be providing information about your business, and you will need a contact point for your potential customers.
- You will want to get a separate e-mail account for your online campaign. Advertising online generates a lot of SPAM e-mail. And you do not want to use an e-mail account from your service provider. They all make sure you are set up with an account. Why? Because you are locked into that service provider if you want to keep getting your business e-mail. Google mail, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Hotmail and AOL all offer free e-mail accounts with updated spam filters. Even if you get a website with your business name, you can still have mail sent to your account forwarded to a free account.
- Consider your phone number. If you put in your cell phone number or home phone number you can expect telemarketing calls and people calling at inappropriate times. If you don’t have a business phone number, consider a system like Vonage, Ooma, or Google Voice. Google Voice is currently Free. You can have calls forwarded to your cell, business or home phone. And you can send calls to voice mail when you are not “in the office.” Calls coming through voice mail can be converted to text and sent to your inbox. And the cost of these services is a lot less than the phone company’s rates.
- Webpage Putting up a basic webpage is not that big of a deal anymore. And unless your business is webpage development or advertising, it does not need to be fancy. People need to find out more information, and it helps you save time. If you get the same annoying questions all day long, just put the answers up on your webpage. (See below.)
Get an Online Marketing Campaign for Almost Nothing
Whether you have a big budget or no budget, the key is to get exposure. Advertise in as many free publications as you can. People will find you on the internet, and it does not really matter how they find you. The more people who are informed about your business, the more sales you will have.
Exploit Free Advertising
You might as well take advantage of free advertising on the internet. Even if people don’t go to an free ad site like craigslist, it will sometimes show up in searches like Google.
- Craigslist.org http://orangecounty.craigslist.org Post in their orange county edition. But be careful. If you re-post too often, your ad will get “ghosted” which means that you can see it but no one else can see it. Every week or so you will need to repost your ad
- OCBusinessForSale.com This is a new Business-to-business site. The nice thing about this site is that you can post an ad for a long time–about six months. The site admin keeps out the spam. If you post the same thing too many times, you will get spammed out–which means that you will not be able to post to this site again. But the ads could show up in search results and boost the ranking of your website.
- OCSmallBusiness.com This site allows you to publish positive stories and news articles about your business. You can have a free Internet Business Profile with a story, photos, map, and even videos. It’s a brand new site, so you haven’t heard of it, but people might come across your business profile when they research your business by doing an internet search for your business name, phone number, address…
- Backpage http://orangecounty.backpage.com/ And it only costs a few bucks to make your ad a featured ad. You may need to re-post every month.
- And don’t forget to get a free Facebook page for your business. You can include your website and contact info. The deal is that your competitors, unhappy customers, and weird people will spam your page with comments like “this business sucks.” Check out this video to stop people from doing this: Stop Bad Comments Video
- Linkedin.com http://www.linkedin.com Be sure to include call your contact information including your webpage. Video Instructions.
- Myspace http://www.myspace.com My space is still alive. Even though most people are on Facebook. It’s good to have a free myspace page because it might come up on top of other pages when people do a search. They are going for a younger, hipper, more urban user group than other social media sites. If you are in the music or entertainment business, it’s worth a shot.
- Google Maps. This is The Most Important free service you can sign up for. You can just find your business on google maps, and there should be a link that says “is this your business.” Or you can go through the google places interface. This video shows you step by step how to do this. You may also need to verify this by responding to a text message or enter a code that’s sent to you in the US mail. If someone has already claimed your location. Be sure to add your business anyway. This is the youtube Chanel for Google Places that has videos that show you instructions.
- Google Merchant. This is currently Free, but it takes a bit more skill than playing with facebook. The key point is that it gets you into google shopping results. Your products will pop up when people search for the name of the product in the little google shopping area of their search, or when they actually click on google’s shopping site. This nice chap explains the basics here; and you can sign up for an account at www.google.com/merchants You will need to have a verified site with google webmaster tools, a special number that they give you. Google does not pull your product info directly from your site, you will need to up load a data-base in spread sheet form. (Excel or the spread sheet in google docs will work fine.)
- Youtube. Youtube is actually a very popular search site. People search youtube because sometimes there are less irrelevant results than on bing yahoo, or google. You can add in the location of your video, add commentary, and “tag” it with words people might search for. Also, Youtube is the go to place for “how to” videos. Putting up a How To video will make you the expert whom people go to when they have a big problem. It can be a simple video for a couple of minutes. For instance, if you are selling surfboards, you might put up videos about “how to clean and wax your board” and videos about the different kinds of boards–of coarse these will be commercials for your shop. You can make videos for next to nothing with a simple camera that costs less than $100 and free software that comes on a mac. It will no larger than a few inches in size, so you don’t have to have a professional quality HD video with great editing. The ones that seem to get the most hits are videos that explain “how to” do something that’s not already on Youtube.
Facebook Advertising We found this instructional video. It’s basically a class. It’s very detailed and goes step by step. Facebook instructions part 1 The second part of this video goes into geographic targeting with facebook ads Facebook Instructions part 2. This is another 1/2 hour video class that goes into targeting and creating ads. The key with facebook is that if you know who buys your stuff, you can target them directly by location, age, gender. And also what they like and what groups people have joined. For instance if someone liked the US Open they might be a surfer. So by targeting people who into the surfing contest you will hit a lot of surfers. If you want to target people who are up between the hours of 11:00PM and 4:00AM, you can do that. The targeting possibilities are almost endless. But that’s if you know who your target customers are.
google Ad words, Google’s videos You can target with google adwords by a geographic area. The advantage of google ad words is that it shows people ads based on what they are currently looking for. You pick “keywords” that correspond to what people type in the google search boxes.
Google Places/maps/Boost You can have your business featured in google places. The advantage of this is that the people searching on google places are probably your target market. They are looking in your area for your type of business. You get a blue pin on the map so that customers know your business is special. This was known as google boost, now it’s google adwords express local http://www.google.com/awexpress. This is becoming more important as people are doing map searches on their phones. See the google video. Unlike google adwords, a salesperson may help you set this up.
Bing http://advertising.microsoft.com/small-business/bing-and-get-noticed-online-now? Microsoft and Bing are now working together to build a search platform to rival google. (We couldn’t find this page on bing so we googled it. But they are improving.) Apparently you have to go through a sales person to advertise. If you know how to do ads on bing let us know. Bing is important because it is the default search on many windows based phones and built in as the default search on new cars.
Yelp Many people believe this website is free because content is user generated. But this is a paid advertising site, and your business will look better if you pay–or at least that is what they have been accused of. And that’s what has been reported in the news. See the opinion blog yelp sucks. But the fact is that people trust Yelp because the reviews are user generated. Yelp has become so powerful that some customers demand extortion fees not to write a bad review See this East Bay Express article which seems to have ignited the controversy. The one thing we can say for sure is that they have a PR problem, whether a few bad cases or overly-aggressive salesmen represent what Yelp is all about is hard to say. Nobody would care except for the fact that it seems to drive business through the doors of small businesses. Advertise on Yelp As with google an google maps, you are hitting local people who are making a buying decision so a good showing on yelp can be very valuable.
Daily Deal Websites
We only have a couple because it seems like we are at the tail end of this fad. See this interesting nyt article. The OC Register, Google, Amazon, and many smaller startups have all tried to get into this business with limited success.
Groupon This is another controversial option. From what we have read, Groupon and all the other daily deal sites get people in your door. The basic way it works is that you mark-up the price a little bit and call it your “regular price”, and the daily-deal site sells it for half. They keep half of that money, so you get around 25% of your “regular” price. Groupon works with consumers because it’s the best known site, and they believe that Groupon vets the deals so that the customer is really getting a bargain. But there are tons of these sites popping up as former Groupon sales people leave to form their own company and others get in on the act. The down side is that most of these people will never return because they are price sensitive. And if you are doing this as a loss-leader, be careful. Some businesses have become overwhelmed with customers and have had to take out loans to cover their losses. Once you have made a deal with the daily-deal site they will try to sell the heck out of it because they get 1/2 the money. Some businesses have become so frustrated with those who show up with the coupon they are rude to them. And consumers are opting quitting the sites because they are not finding any bargain. There is even a website UnsubscribeDeals.com to make the e-mails stop and to vent about your daily-deal experience.
LivingSocial http://www.livingsocial.com It’s kind-of the same deal as Groupon.
SweetJack www.sweetjack.com This is like Groupon, but customers can win prizes and they have been advertising.
Advertise on Local OC Blogs
There are some well read Orange County magazines. This is a great way to connect with a segment of the population by advertising directly on the site. Most of these sites are supported by google adwords or similar services. The problem is that it’s hard to know what the actual circulation is of these publications.
County Wide Online Publications
OC Executive http://www.ocexecutive.com This is all about living the executive lifestyle. Looks like they have gone out of business
OC Moms http://www.ocmommag.com This reaches out to families with young children in Orange County. They have articles and interviews on a wide variety of topics. When we checked in these included and interview with a tv star, help with sex drive, amusement park story, cloud computing and info on how to save energy.
OC Standard Magazine http://www.ocstandard.com This is an online listing of restaurants, hotels, spas, and entertainment. It might be great if your are going after tourists visiting the OC
OC Reload http://www.ocreloaded.com A website all about the local music scene. Info on and reviews of local concerts.
OC Social Scene http://ocsocialscene.com is described as “The place to be seen in Orange County” – is the premier online magazine devoted solely to covering the social scene throughout Orange County, focused not only on the glitz and glamour of fundraisers and other events, but the substance behind OC society. They do the society reporting for the Newport Independent Newspaper.
OrangeCounty.com http://www.orangecounty.com This seems to be aimed at tourists planning a trip to the OC. It has lots of OC stuff for them to do, info on how to get into the OC lifestyle, and pics of all those sexy OC people.
City and Community Online Publications
Fountain Valley Patch http://fountainvalley.patch.com This is an online magazine/community events publication that accepts advertising.
Los Alimitos Seal Beach Patch http://losalamitos.patch.com This is an online magazine for Los Al, Seal Beach and the Joint Forces Training Base … It lets you know what’s going on and provides news and political insight. They accept advertising.
San Clemente Patch http://sanclemente.patch.com This is an online news/community events website. They accept advertising.
USMC http://www.mccscp.com/sponsorship The MCCS Community Services–Camp Pendldgon The base serves a lot of Marines who live on and off base. Their website got about 3.2 million hits in 2011. It is the place for Marines, their families, and visitors to find out whats happening on and about the base. Even though it’s a military publication, the Marine’s Community Services allows for advertising to help pay for the community services publication. You can also contact them about sponsoring events on the base. The base is also served by the an online publication called the Patch http://camppendleton.patch.com/
OCTalkRadio.net http://www.octalkradio.net/Pages/Sponsors.aspx OC Talk Radio is an opportunity to sponsor a local radio show, or host your own radio show for a reasonable amount of money. How much? Currently, you can sponsor a show for $250, become a station sponsor for $500/month, or host a weekly 50 min show for only $500/month. The Sponsorships come with internet advertising.
But it seems like the real value is to host your own show. This is a great way to get your business message out especially if you are an expert or the value proposition behind your business needs to be explained. Most of the shows are on business topics. The theme of your show could be you giving general advice and explaining how your business could help the listeners. It’s internet radio so there are not sensors to deal with so you can say what ever you want. Also, each show gets an an internet radio page with the ability to play back past shows and advertising. You can also link to your past shows on your website. The message this will convey to potential customers it that you are the expert in your field of business.
Websites for Free or Almost Free
Yes, it’s true. You can have a free website from Google. If you have a non-profit organization, you can get a free website from Dream Host http://dreamhost.com/web-hosting They also offer low cost hosting. Another low cost hosting company is HostGater. They offer plans starting at $4/month plus the cost of your domain name–about $14/year http://www.hostgator.com/shared.shtml Yahoo also offers a free website building service http://webhosting.yahoo.com/ps/sb/index.php. And if you want to set up an online store with ease, the website http://www.volusion.com/ can make that happen. Prices are based on the number of products you have for sale. If you have less than 100, it costs $20/month. They even have templates and can help you design your website.
And the newest Free Website option we have run across is the European company Wix.com. The deal with them is that you can have a nice webpage with a pre-made template, but you pay for extras. But they assume you will eventually want to pay them to have your own domain name, and to get rid of the ads running on your website, and for more storage and bandwidth When you factor in all those things, it costs a tad more than the same thing from Dream Host or Host Gator. If you sign a one year contract plans cost about $8.5-16.20 per month plus the cost of a domain name.
But if all you need is to tell a story about your business, or let people see where you are at, the free service from OCSmallBusiness.com seems like a great deal. Just send your story, and let them know what your business is about, along with pictures, and links to videos and they will put up a free business profile.
OC’s Top Print Publications
© 2012 OCBusinessStartUp.com