Adding to the Conversation03/01/2012
Small business owners often wonder how they can cost effectively market their business online. Buying online ad space is one solution and can have a positive impact but for a start up the cost can be prohibitive. Due to the wide range of internet viewers even an experienced small business owner may balk at spending money to promote themselves online. Local online ads have proven to be very productive and offer the ability to change ads quickly. However, there is a simple inexpensive way to promote your business online.
A small business owner has an asset that can be leveraged for nothing more than a few minutes of their time. An in depth knowledge of his or her product or service is a valuable commodity that when utilized correctly can be worth thousands of dollars of advertising. So far this seems almost too good to be true but by simply using that expertise to help others a business owner can generate good will, promote their website, advertise their business and gain new customers.
Seek out forums, bulletin boards and blogs that discuss products and services similar or complementary to your own. Answer questions and offer expert advice in a professional manner and you may be surprised at the advantages you receive. Most forums and blogs allow you to add a link to your website which can help drive traffic to your site. Some business owners develop a following by offering periodic discount codes on forums that can be used on the business owner’s website. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the forum before posting, some boards don't allow solicitations. Become an active member of the online community before offering any discounts.
Of course you should avoid posting offers on competitors sites but don't be afraid to join in cordial conversations regarding your industry. Intelligent posts only bolster your reputation and the links to your site can be very helpful in attracting new qualified visitors. Keep track of where you post and return to answer questions or refute misstatements. Visiting a few forums or blogs each week won't take long and can have huge benefits. Think of it as the modern day version of going for coffee.
Mark Twain once said, "Brevity is the Soul of Wit" in other words keep it short and to the point. Remember your manners and expect that a few people will attempt to draw you in to an argument no matter what you post. Ignore these people if you can but always be polite no matter what the circumstance. Promoting your business online can be as simple as adding to the conversation.