How to be a web wonder on a budget, the third part of our advice series. Read how to get social and get customers, quickly and cheaply.
Andy Yates, entrepreneur and director of Huddlebuy.co.uk gives Real Business readers regular top money saving tips to help business owners save thousands of pounds.
This week: Customer service on budget level.
It's the third part of our Website on a Budget series! Today, we'll talk about how to win new customers for nothing and keep them with you for a long time, but little money.
Tip 1: It's good to talk
Good client feedback and recommendations can be like gold dust for business. The good news is there are plenty of cost-effective or free online tools that can help you get a sprinkle of great customer communication.
Olark is a live chat application offering a variety of plans, including a free option, which includes up to 20 conversations a month. Zendesk offers an alternative to live chat, using a ticket system that allows you to quickly identify and respond to high-priority customer issues. Tools provided by Get Satisfaction let you get feedback from customers and interact with them. Desk.com allows you to prioritise your customer support requests, get staff members to work together to resolve your clients’ issues and provide analytics on response times.
Tip 2: Get social
Socialising online can boost your online presence and traffic. Social media is now an established and cost-effective way to grow your business. Yes, it can appear to bit baffling for the uninitiated - but it doesn’t have to be.
The golden rule for any social media channel is to give people useful content that they will use and share with their friends and colleagues. Don’t just bombard potential costumers with the same old 'sell, sell, sell' messages.
The key to Twitter is listen, learn and connect. Use tools like Twellow to find people and businesses with lots of followers. Follow them, engage with them, share with them. Get them to follow you and share your information with their followers. Services like Sprout Social help monitor what people are saying about your industry or sector. You can use Hootsuite to organise and schedule tweets – so you don’t have to be glued to your computer to keep up a strong social media presence.
In Facebook the social currency is ‘likes’ – and the clue is in the name. Users need to like what you are doing and what you are offering. Providing exclusive discounts or promotions to Facebook users or access to free videos, guides or introductory products can work wonders. Take a step back and ask yourself: if I didn’t know my website or brand, what you would I want from it and what would I share about it?
Tip 3: Make sure your advertising adds up
If initial Facebook activity goes well and you hit across a message or promotion that works, you may consider paid-for advertising.
Some top tips if you do:
- Target as much as possible and try an initial test budget to see if it works as you expect.
- Link the ad to a page within Facebook and your cost per click will be lower, because Facebook wants users to stay within the site.
- Try different messages and offers. Compare and contrast the results.
- Don’t be afraid to get a bit scientific and remove your emotion or affiliation to a particular campaign.
- Use Facebook’s “Friends of Connections” targeting option, increasing your market reach.
Tip 4: Affiliate to accumulate
Social media aside, affiliate programmes can also be a cost effective way to spread the word about your business and get in sales. You pay by performance - if another website or partner promotes your products. This can be done on a one-to-one basis with partners you want to target. You could use affiliate networks where you set up an account, let third parties know about your products and what ‘cut’ they can get if they promote and sell them for you. Aflite and Zferral are examples.
Tip 5: Lead the way
LinkedIn is the professional within social networks. You can send direct messages to your contacts and ask them to spread the word to their contacts. You can also set up groups through your LinkedIn profile and encourage people to join – and use this group forum to share the latest news and information about you and your website.
If you are selling to other businesses or professionals, you may consider LinkedIn advertising. You can target by occupation, so it can be a useful way of getting the right decision makers to decide to take your product.
Tip 6: Some other online goodies that are good for any business
The bottom line is that a new breed of cost-effective online services can help your bottom line.
Nobody and no website is perfect. Optimizely is a good tool for determining what you need to do to…well, optimise it. You can make multiple versions of web pages to find out which one works best for you.
Unbounce allows you to tweak and modify landing pages without being a tech wizard.
Contractual.ly helps take the pain away when it comes to creating, negotiating, and signing contracts online and storing those all important documents.
Venture Proof is disrupting the stuff old world of patents by offering cost-effective fixed priced packages to help protect businesses assets and intellectual property.
Bringshare allows you to identify the things that are bringing the most traffic to your website, such as social media activity, links in emails or searches, so you can track what is working and what is not.