How to Get Found Online with a Tight Marketing Budget

For many service professionals, especially if you’re just starting a new practice, marketing dollars are limited. But you know you need an online presence. Just about everyone who considers coming to your for legal advice, medical support, counseling, accounting services, or whatever your professional specialty, will go online to find out about you before they call.

Here are several low budget options, and their pros and cons:

Paid Profile in a Professional Directory
This is the equivalent of a yellow pages listing online, except you have more space to describe your services, include a picture and all of your contact information. Therapists, for example, can buy a profile listing on Psychology Today’s directory. Design options are limited to the site’s generic template, so the quality of your written profile and photo are key factors in attracting clients.

The advantage of listing with such a service is a boost in search from the main site’s SEO. The disadvantage is that you’re competing in a directory with similar professionals from your region, because site visitors will inevitably search by geographic location. Referrals are mixed, and often not qualified potential clients, just people fishing around for information.

Subscription Website on a Professional Portal Site
Here you’ll get a website template, hosted on the portal site, for a monthly subscription. Therapists.com, for example, charges about $60 per month; multiply by 12, and you’re paying more than $700 a year—over the course of a few years, you could easily pay for a custom site and get something much more effective and tailored to your needs. You get some search boost from the portal site, but your money can go farther with other options.

Free Website Templates
Be careful when choosing a free web service, as many will require you to post ads as the true price of admission. Weebly.com is the exception to this rule: its user-friendly interface enables you to build an attractive site using a nice selection of professional templates. Their free package hosts your site as a subdomain on their platform, but you can upgrade your package to an annual subscription to use your own domain name. As with all free services, there is a catch: You’ll have a link on the bottom of your site promoting Weebly.

While you can build a great looking site through Weebly, you still need the right copy. If you’re a good writer and understand how to write for the web, then you should be home free with a service like Weebly. But if writing is not your strong suite, you should look for a copywriter within your budget to help you create your content. Also, note that Weebly limits your ability to capture leads for new business, a key weakness of the platform if you don’t have the ability to write your own code, which is why you’d use Weebly in the first place.

WordPress.org offers thousands of free templates, and WordPress sites are favored by Google in search. So if you have some tech savvy, WordPress is the way to go. You can also pay a web developer $50 to $100 to set up a WordPress site for you. If you can use word processing software, you can use a WordPress interface.

Note that WordPress templates are designed with blogging as the homepage. Again, for a modest fee, a website developer can alter the settings so that the blog is part of your site navigation and your homepage is your main intro to your work. With a WordPress site, unlike Weebly, you’ll still have to pay for a web hosting service.

Facebook Fan Page
If you’re comfortable using social media, you can set up a fan page on Facebook that contains much of the information you’d include on a website. Basic info about your business, history, and your personal profile can all be included, and it’s easy to share pictures and videos in your timeline. And, of course, Facebook provides great options for sharing information about your latest business accomplishments, offering special deals to fans and networking to get more clients.

Just remember that your online business presence depends on Facebook, so if anything changes or goes wrong with Facebook’s platform, your online visibility can suffer. Also, if your client base is not comfortable with social media, then a Facebook fan page would be a hurdle and disincentive. So, know your target market.

LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the go-to site for professional search. You can include plenty of rich content in your profile, including references from clients, links to content that you want to share and that demonstrate your expertise, as well as your blog roll and links to your online portfolio (you know, the ones on your free Weebly site). Be sure to include a professional photo. For service professionals just starting out, buying a domain name for your business and pointing it to your LinkedIn profile is a simple, polished way to show who you are and what you do.

The downside of relying on LinkedIn is the same as Facebook—you’re counting on another platform to promote you, rather than having independent control of your own material on your personal professional website.

You Get What You Pay For
All of these options are low-budget ways to get your name out there on the Internet. But nothing substitutes for a professionally written and designed website. Yes, I have an obvious bias, given my own consulting practice. But I do this work for a reason—I’ve seen far too many business professionals completely undercut themselves online with poorly written and designed websites.

You can be great at what you do, but if you struggle with writing—online copy is an art form—and don’t really have a sense of what to put where on a web page, then your low-budget web solution will look just that: rank amateur. As with anything, you get what you pay for. As you develop your practice, build in a budget for marketing to look and sound your very best.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

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