The best thing about the Internet is, you can do almost anything and it can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Nothing can compete with the web when it comes to reach, exposure, and marketing in general.
While the Internet itself can be a great, stand-alone medium for your business, your brick-and-mortar stores can also benefit from creating a smashing, formidable, and respectable presence when used strategically – Your business gets exposure like never before, brands get credibility, and customers can interact and/or engage.
In the new digital economy, it doesn’t require much from you to succeed except passion, zeal, and commitment. If you have an idea, no matter what it is, you are ready to go if you have those elements present.
Having said that, this isn’t an urge to scrimp on necessary business costs – going cheap won’t get you far. When you aren’t spending money, you are putting in effort and your hands might fail to work in the next 10 years. For the purposes of this article, we’ll consider any work that you provide as “free” but you know it isn’t really free because of its opportunity cost. It just eases your profit and loss statement and helps you avoid expenses when you’re starting out.
All you need is a web presence that works for you. Here’s how to start a formidable web presence for less than $100:
Think of it as the first essential step for your business. You’ll need a hosting account to house your website. Depending on the kind of business you want to run – a blog, an online store, a web service or a charity – you’ll have options. Proper research and due diligence will get you the right type of hosting provider for your business, and save you many hours of downtime over the years. Read reviews, evaluate and compare web hosts at popular sites such as WhoIsHostingThis and SitePoint where the resident experts have already done your homework for you.
Estimated cost: $50 – $72 per year for domain name registration and web hosting.
Set up your website
If hosting made up for most part of your $100 budget, your website will take up the rest of the cash available. You could run your website on an open source CMS such as WordPress or Joomla. You might want to stick to HTML5 and CSS3. In any case, you’ll get tons pre-made, paid templates for your use at market places such as Themeforest or CreativeMarket. Wade through the never-ending lists of themes or templates available and make a purchase. Make sure you make a list of features and setup styles you’ll need for your business before finalizing a theme.
If your business involves ecommerce or online retailing, also explore options such as PrestaShop and Magento Go. If you have a good open source development team, you can try free ecommerce platforms such as Magento, OpenCart or OSCommerce.
Create your own logo for now – you could use the free trials available for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. There are heaps of photo editing alternatives with desktop and web versions if you like.
Estimated Cost: $10 – $35 for a theme or site layout.
Launch social channels
Creating a presence on all social networks is free. Create a Facebook page and a Google+ account for your business. Fire up your accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn (also includes a company page). Along with your logo, use a free image editor and stock photos to create custom graphics and photos for all your accounts.
Once your social accounts are set up, all you need to spend is sweat, ingenuity, and hard work.
Estimated Cost: $0
Produce content across platforms
It’s now time to dominate your industry. Content is your single biggest chance to make a difference to your customers, to establish thought leadership, to generate trust, and to build a brand. Here’s what you’ll need as a part of your content marketing plan across channels:
Main content: Blogs, reports, newsletters and email marketing will be your staple content. You may also decide to syndicate your content or guest post on other blogs in your niche or on partner sites.
Social content: Your thoughts need to be broken down in chunks to be used on social media networks. Each social network demands its own formatting and style, but social content is an inevitable part of your campaign.
Peripheral content: Producing content for third-party platforms such as Flipboard and SlideShare will keep you in good stead. You might also want to create custom and device-specific content Kindle eBooks.
Community-based content: You’ll want to establish credibility and build your authority on niche forums, LinkedIn groups or Quora. You’ll need highly customized content, based on users’ questions, for this.
Estimated Cost: $0
Set up analytics and monitor metrics
There’s no point in working past your bedtime for ever and ever only to realize that you have no idea how your content marketing and social media efforts are working. You’ll need tools to help you track how your marketing is performing over time. Go for free tools available for analytics and metrics. Here are some good ones you should start with:
Google Analytics: it’s free, it’s powerful, it has everything you’ll need, and it’s a no-brainer.
Social media tools: LinkedIn company pages have “analytics and insights” reports. Facebook fan pages have “Facebook Insights.” Numerous third-party tools exist for your Twitter account. Sign up for all of those and keep a pulse on your numbers. If you’d like all those metrics and analytics on a single dashboard, give Cyfe a try. You can sign up for free with limited dashboards and widgets.
Estimated Cost: $0
Rinse and repeat
Once you are done with the mandatory setup, create a content marketing schedule since you’ll need to produce and publish content with regularity almost as if you were running a major publishing company with multiple magazines in the portfolio.
The only thing you’d have to do from this point on is to produce and distribute your content indefinitely. You may use a combination of multiple tools available to help you distribute your content or one of numerous social integration tools.
Stick to your content marketing plan. Produce content that’s hard to find and that provides value for your customers, build an email list, and leverage the power of social media.
These are the only steps you’ll need to create a formidable presence on the web. When you have enough budget to pay for your marketing, it’s a whole new story altogether.
Are you up for the $100 challenge?