No matter the appeal or popularity of services you offer online, there is always a battle to be fought with the competition. However, customers are keener on buying both products and services online rather than locally.
According to recent reports, 36% of an average US household budget goes into online shopping exclusively. This is a hefty portion of the population which can potentially buy services from your storefront. The constant worry lies in the budgetary limitations of a newly launched business, however.
You may not be able to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into online advertisement simply to start selling your services (hopefully at that). Luckily, there are several ways in which you can jumpstart your online sales even on a shoestring budget. Let’s take a look at some tips and guidelines which will set your services on the right track to meet their customers successfully.
Count Your Blessings
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to distinguish products from services in online sales. Since you are about to launch your services for sale, you will inevitably exclude much of the costs connected to product sales.
For example, things such as shipping, handling, storage and processing should be the least of your worries since your services are based on online services (pun intended). As such, they are delivered directly to your customers’ emails or from the site itself depending on the nature of your services.
The point we are trying to get across is that you could face an even worse situation in regards to marketing budgets if you chose to launch physical products. You would have to find one way or another to ship them to your customers in the exact state as presented on your website or storefront. As we’ve seen in the e-commerce industry and entertainment, such plans can easily backfire and cost your brand much more than several hundred dollars of marketing efforts.
- Set your Milestones and Goals
It’s a good idea to approach any marketing campaign with a plan in hand. Don’t make the mistake of spending whatever little money you have on a single advertisement channel and hope for the best. Instead, set concrete goals for your services for the next several weeks and months.
It’s good practice to use a goal-setting methodology such as SMARTto set specific, time-limited goals for your upcoming advertisement efforts. That way, you will always know where you stand in terms of your success and the overall budget available to you. Once you know what it is that you want to accomplish with your services and their sales figures, you can approach some practical steps to achieve those numbers.
- Create a Website
Don’t be afraid to look into the idea of creating your own website. After all, there are numerous free and low-cost options available around the web. WordPress offers free domain and maintenance of rudimentary websites, meaning that the CMS won’t cost you a dime if you only need the basic options. Platforms such as SquareSpace also offer web design tools which are user-friendly and don’t require any coding knowledge to be used correctly.
A content marketing specialist at PickWriters spoke recently: “A website is the first and last line of defense in terms of marketing a brand online. If you don’t have a website dedicated to your products or services in today’s day and age, you will be hard pressed to achieve any form of tangible success.”Since you will sell your services and process these orders on a daily, your website should be equipped with the options to do just that.
- Create a Social Media Presence
We are all guilty of using social media platforms on a daily basis. In order to create dedicated pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, you won’t have to spend a single penny. This is a great way to introduce your services to billions (quite literally) of potential users across the globe.
Your social media pages will allow you to not only post-marketing content (such as images, quotes and discount deals) but also communicate with your audience directly. You can chat with anyone who has a question or concern in regards to your services, ensuring that people know what it is that you are selling.
While it is possible to boost your popularity on social media artificially through paid ads, this is not a necessary step, especially on a shoestring budget. Rely on organic content creation, status updates and hashtags in order to reach your audience in a natural, unobtrusive way.
- Work with Influencers
In short, influencers are popular internet personalities with large follower bases. These individuals will more than likely promote your services (or even test them out live) for their audiences to see.
While you won’t have to spend a lot of (if any) money on influencers, you will still have to provide some sort of incentive for them to work with you. This can be anything from free services for X amount of months, their faces and quotes on your website or something third entirely.
Make sure to be open to suggestions and negotiation when discussing terms with influencers. It’s also important not to rely on just words in your collaboration and opt for contracts and legal documents instead. Be professional, respectful and positive in your communication but don’t let anyone take advantage of your low-budget situation. The right influencers are out there, waiting for you to reach out.
- Take Advantage of SEO
Working your way through search engine rankings organically is one of the best and cheapest ways to place your name on the proverbial online market. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a large role in the way you are perceived by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Best of all, SEO doesn’t cost anything apart from your time and some patience.
You can use tools such as Google Adwords and SEM Rush to determine which keywords, phrases and trends are currently active in your niche. In doing so, you will be able to shape your website’s content and marketing to fit what the audience expects to see. It costs nothing to manually optimize your content for better search engine ranking and it can pay off in spades if done correctly.
- Offer Varied Payment Methods
Any income you start receiving from your service sales can be redirected into marketing (if need be). However, in order to get to that point, you need to make sure that your services are easily purchasable. To that end, make sure to offer as many payment methods as possible to your customers. The now standard Visa and MasterCard options should be accompanied by PayPal and cryptocurrency payment channels.
Even if you can’t cash out bitcoins as easily as other currencies, you can spend them on digital marketing and further placement on the internet. Don’t limit yourself to one or two payment methods if you want to attract a large audience. Be forward thinking and start growing your budget from the moment someone approaches your services and is interested in a purchase.
- Localize your Website & Descriptions
A good way to add to your SEO efforts and make sure that people from across the world enjoy your content is through localization. You can translate your site into numerous global languages such as Spanish, Chinese and German in order to attract as many customers as possible. That way, people will be incentivized to purchase your services even more given your professionalism and catering to their needs.
You can use plugins or third-party translators to localize your website’s content at low or no costs. However, it’s important to note that you should never opt for DIY translation since it can lead to some problematic results. You may not only confuse your visitors but also unintentionally insult them by confusing cultural, regional or lifestyle wording for something else.
- Email Marketing Still Matters
Believe it or not, people still use email on a daily. You can make the most of this fact by introducing a marketing campaign into your service advertisement plan. Once you collect a mailing list (through influencers, social media and other means), you can plan your approach accordingly. Platforms such as MailChimp are perfectly adequate to not only automate email marketing but also track its performance.
You can write creative messages for your audience and send them exclusive offers via email in order to start selling the services as soon as possible. These can be personalized so that they don’t come off as generic, robotic or unappealing. Write your messages as you would write to an old friend or an acquaintance and your conversion rates should reflect those efforts.
The Long Road Forward (Conclusion)
Some would argue that a shoestring budget influences the marketing efforts positively. After all, if you had unlimited funds, you would pour them into paid advertisement and call it a day. All of this serves to prepare the groundwork for your sales of services.
Your problem-solving skills and improvisation will develop as you create more interesting and creative ways to approach your audience. Be open to new and unorthodox ways of marketing your services and you will see a great response from the online audience no matter the niche or industry you operate it.
Elisa Abbott is a freelancer whose passion lies in creative writing. She completed a degree in Computer Science and writes about ways to apply machine learning to deal with complex issues. Insights on education, helpful tools and valuable university experiences – she has got you covered 😉