5 Ways to Build an Online Presence on a Budget
Every modern business needs some kind of online presence, whether that’s a full-blown ecommerce platform with a heavy marketing strategy or a simple website to give your potential clients more information when they seek you out. In an ideal world, every business would be able to develop a powerful, integrated strategy to power their online presence, but the reality is, it costs significant time and money to do so. Major corporations can afford to appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to online marketing and advertising, giving them enormous and instantaneous reach, but what about the startups and small businesses with much more limited resources?
Fortunately, while a bigger budget can have some positive benefits for your brand’s visibility, it isn’t necessary to start building a meaningful online presence. Instead, you can rely on these budget-friendly strategies to help get your business off the ground:
1. Start with a minimum viable product
You don’t need everything all at once when you start a brick-and-mortar business, so why would you need everything at once for your online presence? Just like a storage unit can help you organize your excess furniture or products, you can set aside all the bells and whistles of your online presence, and instead focus on what’s going to get you started. For example, you may have a bold vision for an exhaustive resource library, or some game-changing app unlike anything else in the industry, but it takes time and money to build those things. Instead, start with the basics — even a simple landing page with a contact form — and scale from there.
2. Use a pre-existing web theme
It may seem like an obvious move, but too many entrepreneurs haven’t realized that today’s web themes and templates are incredibly diverse, giving you the ability to break away from the “cookie cutter” stereotype of web themes, and they still cost way less than a custom design and build. Depending on your needs, you can find a theme with a high degree of customizability to show off certain specific elements of your business, or opt for something with a more “out of the box” approach. Each theme will have its own advantages and disadvantages, so do your research and find the one that suits your business best.
3. Leverage the power of independent contractors
The two main options you have for building a web and marketing presence are hiring an in-house expert full-time or going with an external marketing agency. If you’re a budget-conscious small business, neither of these options are particularly appealing. By the same token, doing it yourself to save money will likely result in a product that reflects your inexperience. Instead, leverage the power of freelancers and independent contractors — they’ll have some degree of expertise, but will often come in at a lower price tag than a full-time employee or contracted marketing firm would offer.
4. Seek free sources of publicity
You’d be amazed how many opportunities there are for free (or cheap) publicity of your website and online presence. For starters, think about all the social media platforms with user bases in the hundreds of millions (or more, in Facebook’s case). It’s free to build a profile and engage with other users on almost all of these apps, meaning all you need to get started is a few hours of dedication and a decent strategy. Beyond that, basic-level content marketing and SEO, social bookmarking sites, and even guest posting strategies can all be done with purely a time investment.
5. Focus on revenue
Brand visibility, brand reputation, and a slick user experience are all great to have — and at higher stages of development, they become more important — but until you start to stabilize your online presence, your first priority should be revenue. Revenue is what’s going to keep your business afloat, so if you end up building a dynamic, exciting web presence that can’t convert audiences, you’ll be in the same boat as the entrepreneurs who did nothing at all. Prioritize your conversion optimization, maximizing the likelihood that a user will buy your products and services, and worry about the finer aesthetic points later on.
The best thing about these strategies is that they aren’t limiting; you can adopt them now, and if you change your mind or find yourself with a bigger marketing budget, you can upgrade to something bigger and better. Online marketing is a long-term, ongoing process, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities for reflection, adaptation, and overall improvement.