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Three Effective, Budget-friendly Ways to Advertise Your Small Business Online

A well-placed Google advertisement and active Facebook profile may not get you the same attention as a $4-million Super Bowl spot, but it will help your business to grow and establish strong relationships with your customers.
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Super Bowl commercials are now nearly as important as the game itself - in fact, this past January research firm Lab42 surveyed 500 people and found that 39% of respondents said the commercials were their favorite part of the game, versus the 28% who said they were more interested in football than ads. Now more than ever, people watch the game specifically so they can see these commercials, and flock to YouTube to watch their favorites over and over again. But with that captive, engaged audience comes a major price tag - a 30 second spot, in some cases, can cost $4 Million. Corporate America tends to dominate Super Bowl advertising, but Intuit wants to change that for one lucky small business. The software company recently launched Small Business, Big Game, a contest where small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can enter their story to be voted on and shared. The winner gets a commercial spot on Super Bowl Sunday and advice from Intuit on how to handle all of that newfound attention for your business.

This promotion intrigued me because I'm always looking for new ways to help small businesses advertise. Advertising can cost a lot of money, and only a handful of small businesses are able to afford something as simple a local television spot. However, the internet has made great strides in breaking down a lot of marketing barriers including, at least for one lucky business, the multi-million dollar barrier that bars most businesses from Super Bowl commercial glory. But whether you're the winner of Intuit's contest or not, there are still plenty of resources available online to cheaply advertise your business.

Pay-Per-Click Ads

I'm always surprised when a small business doesn't take advantage of pay-per-click advertising. Usually they reason it out of their budget by saying that it's only useful for big companies with a widespread brand -- that couldn't be more wrong. Google AdWords, for example, is one of the most targeted forms of advertising you can buy into. They even recently launched Google AdWords Express, which automatically determines the most common search phrases for your type of business and plugs your ad anytime those phrases are searched for by someone who lives close to you. If nothing else, it increases awareness as people begin to see your business's name pop up in their search results. It is also cheap, and the analytics are easy to digest, so there isn't any reason to not test it out at least once.


Cross-blogging remains one of the best ways for people to find out about your business, especially if your business is based online. You send in a couple of articles to different media outlets related to your industry from time to time, and people will begin to see your name, your picture, and the name of your company popping up all over the place. Remember, though, that you can't just write advertisements and expect the readers to only want to read posts about how great your brand is. We cross-blog with a few different businesses, and while the majority of our blogging partners are great, there are a few who think assaulting readers with a blatant advertisement about their company is a good use of a blog post. When you do blog remember that what you write needs to convince the reader to trust you enough to take your opinion seriously. Look to writing up posts on how-to topics, stories about your successes and failures, and lessons learned in the business to start building up trust and a distinctive voice for your company. If all your post amounts to is 'BUY MY STUFF NOW BECAUSE WE'RE THE BEST!' that trust will not be built.

Social Media Marketing

And that doesn't just mean using Facebook, even though Facebook is an important part of any good social marketing strategy. Small business owners sometimes struggle with social marketing, unsure of what kind of content or message they should be posting, or even where they should be posting it. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are the main three sites your business should have a page on. Facebook and Twitter have a strong user base, and Google features Google+ profiles in local search results, making it easier for your business to stand out from the competition. As for content, it is okay to occasionally advertise specials and sales - these deals are one of the main reasons people follow the social accounts of businesses - but mainly social marketing should be used to better connect with your customers and keep your business at the forefront of their mind. If you constantly advertise, they will either tune you out or unfollow your accounts. They are doing you a favor by following you and allowing your business to maintain this ongoing conversation, so treat that relationship with a bit of respect.

Unless you outsource or hire someone else to handle them, the biggest expense that cross-blogging and social marketing accrue is time. Pay-per-click advertising, especially if you are a smaller business, costs very little. But all three of these new marketing channels can really help new customers find your business, as long as they are used correctly. A well-placed Google advertisement and active Facebook profile may not get you the same attention as a $4-million Super Bowl spot, but it will help your business to grow and establish strong relationships with your customers.

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