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Promoting Your Internet Home Business on a Shoestring

Aug 17, 2007
When you are starting out in a new home based business and no one knows who you are, one of the supreme challenges you will face is how to stimulate new business.

If there were no prospects in your sphere of influence or marketplace that you knew needed your products or services, you probably would not have started your business in the first place. But, once you have contacted those whom you personally know who needed what you have to offer, then your next task is to find other potential buyers who will help keep your business viable.

Many people know that they must pursue advertising at some point in the future, but they hope that day will be a long way down the road. For some, this idealistic concept will become a reality. But for the rest of us, the real world masses, we must come up with resourceful solutions for accomplishing our home business advertising needs while working within our budget.

Most people have a misconception about having to spend lots of money in order to advertise their home business. When you start out, you most likely will not have much money available for marketing and advertising. Even if you do, you should still spend it wisely.

Before you jump headlong into the wonderful world of advertising, let me share some of the lessons I have learned relating to this most important topic.

Plan, Test, Learn - in that order.

It does not have to cost an arm and a leg to advertise your home business, unless you fail to plan and fail to test.

As much as is possible, you should always test your advertising. If you jump in and start dumping tons of money into an advertising campaign without first testing it, you might find yourself flat broke and still without sales at the end of the road. Most people who commit this error write-off their failure as a result of the home business they chose or the economy or any of a thousand other excuses. But, if they are reluctant to take responsibility for their mistake, they will never learn from their mistake. Don't let this be you.

Test individual advertising campaigns and track the results of each.

All testing should be done in blocks. If you begin to advertise concurrently in newspapers, radio and television, how will you know which advertising campaign is delivering buyers to your check-out page? You won't. All you will know is that something might be working, but you will not know what is actually delivering the results.

Even if you ask prospects to tell you how they found you, my experience shows that fewer than 10% of the people will ever tell you anything. And those people who do may not even get the facts straight! You cannot rely on your customers to tell you what advertising campaign is working for your home business. You must put forth the extra effort to know for yourself.

More is not always more.

Only when you have a verified and concrete advertising portfolio should you venture into dropping big bucks on an advertising campaign. Even then, you should be careful to collect and analyze further metrics to determine what the maximum advantage of an ad would be. Sometimes you might be able to reach ten times as many people, but depending on the kind of media and other factors, the added exposure will only generate twice as many sales. Be constantly aware of situations like this to get the most from your advertising dollar.

To spend, or not to spend.

As the above lesson illustrates, sometimes your best advertising investment may actually cost you less money. When you are starting out, whether you are running a home business or a business outside of your home, you must be able to get people talking and thinking about your business and what you have to offer.

If you are busy testing ads in media such as the newspaper, magazines, radio, and television, you must simultaneously craft ways of promoting your business that do not require large cash expenditures. A few examples would be word of mouth, business cards, press releases and non-primetime ads on radio and television. There is an interesting new company called SpotRunner that helps you craft your ad then, depending on your budget, allows you to pick and choose TV networks and time slots that will get you the best exposure and the biggest bang for the buck.

Here is some additional information on each type of no/low-cost advertising:

WORD OF MOUTH: This of course is the cheapest kind of advertising in the universe --- it does not cost you one penny. Ask your customers if they know anyone who could also use your products or services. When they are happily involved with your products and service, they will be most willing to tell you whom you may contact, and they will preach the word for you.

BUSINESS CARDS: You can usually pick up 500 business cards for about $20. When you do, hand them out. They don't do you any good in your pocket. Having to buy more cards is a good thing, especially if they bring you a new customer from time to time. Do not give more than a couple of cards to each person. If they need more cards from you, they will ask.

Some people are famous for networking with others on a regular basis. Some of these people are also known to frequently be looking for an extra few bucks. With these people, you can offer them an affiliate link to your site which they can write on the back of one of your business cards and earn a commission when their referral makes a purchase from your web site. Look at this way; it might be a sale that you never would have gotten without the referral.

PRESS RELEASES: Press Releases are a good source for generating news about your home business. The business editor at your local newspaper is always on the lookout for a good business story to fill the business news section of the newspaper. With an Internet business, the Internet is the platform of choice for press releases. Look at www.prweb.com for everything you need to know about writing a press release and having it distributed on the Internet at no cost to you.

If you have a brick and mortar business, then traditional, local venues for your press release should be considered as well. Of course, the business editor understands the economics of running a paper and is more inclined to run your story if you buy advertising in his/her publication, but will still print stories for special events and openings.

The important thing to remember about Press Releases is that it must be constructed in the form of a news story. Even if you are a sole proprietorship, quotes from you should be written in a third person format: Joe Buck said, "Your quote here." PRWeb has templates and instructions for creating a good press release, whether it's for use on the Internet or a local newspaper.

A Press Release should pack the most important information at the beginning of the copy, and leave extra details towards the end.

You should always provide the reporter who gets assigned to you a simple and easy way for him/her to contact you directly. Often the reporter will want to call you to get details that will enhance their interpretation of your story.

NON-PRIMETIME ADS ON RADIO AND TELEVISION: Believe it or not, some of the best rates for radio and television are on the overnight and non-primetime venues. These target times are not a total waste as they can easily keep the infomercial folks in business. These off-hours are just less populated than the primetime hours.

Don't be afraid to check your local radio and television rates for non-primetime hours to see what bargains may exist. With television, primetime is 7pm to 10pm. With radio, primetime is 8am to 5pm. This sure leaves a whole lot of hours available to advertise your home business at discount rates!

In conclusion, when it comes down to it, there is a lot to understand about advertising, but when you have an understanding of the basics, everything will fall into place and bring more dollars to your bank account.
About the Author
Don Resh is CEO of WebForce, Inc. A more detailed bio is available at:

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