The Small Business Owners Internet Guide to DIY Marketing: 5 Resources to Save You Time and Make You Look Professional

The Small Business Owners Internet Guide to DIY Marketing: 5 Resources to Save You Time and Make You Look ProfessionalBy Jennifer Calero, MBA

With limited financial resources and limited time, many small business owners handle their marketing in-house. The key to successfully taking on marketing tasks yourself is to make sure the finished product is professional enough to share with your current and potential customers.

Here are 5 of my favorite internet resources that are user friendly and that produce professional marketing pieces if used properly.

1. Vistaprint

Many people associate Vistaprint with business cards, which they do create and I have seen some that are nice. In addition to business cards, they can help you design and print everything from brochures to company branded merchandise. I recently used them to design and mail a direct mail campaign. You can design your mailer, I did a postcard, on their site using a template or by uploading your own design then they will print it and mail it for you! All you have to do is upload your mailing list in an Excel file. You will get a professionally printed piece AND mail services, saving you time and effort!

Tips: I would suggest hiring a freelance graphic designer to design a custom piece for you and then upload it to Vistaprint. If you use their mailing services, put yourself on the list so you know when your mailing reaches your customers!

2. Picasa

Picasa is a free download from Google that is great for enhancing your photos. For my blog, I take photos of things then use Picasa to improve the photos color and add text. If you take your own photos and use them in your marketing pieces or on your website, Picasa could be a valuable resource in helping your photos look like they there were taken by a professional.

Tips: If there is something Picasa can’t do, there are other free photo editing sites, such as fotoflexer.com, that can do a lot of advanced photo editing while saving you the money of investing in a program like Photoshop.

3. Free Blogging Sites

Blogging is a great way to engage your current and potential customers. It can help position you as an expert in your industry and having a blog associated with your website can help improve your placement in search results. I use blogger.com, I found they had nice templates that were easily customizable and professional.

Tips: Like any other marketing initiative, if you decide to pursue blogging, have a plan. If you build it they will come, is not true when it comes to blogging. I am still learning about blogging and I can tell you from experience it takes time to gain momentum with your blogging efforts. Do some research and be sure to use your target key words in your blog content to maximize its effectiveness.

4. Constant Contact or Mail Chimp

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers on a regular basis without spending a ton of money. Constant Contact and Mail Chimp are both sites that allow you generate professional email marketing messages and distribute them to your client database. You simply collect your client’s email addresses and upload them in an Excel file. I personally use Constant Contact but they charge a monthly fee. Mail Chimp is free up to a certain number of email addresses in your database. Both have templates that you can work off of to build your emails.

Tips: Plan your messages ahead of time. Don’t email too much, once or twice a month is usually sufficient depending on the nature of your business. Some businesses need more frequent contact to communicate timely offers. In each email message, have a call to action. Also, make it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe at any time if they feel your content is not relevant to them. You don’t want to turn a customer off by “bothering” them with too much email.

5. Wix

If you are really daring, Wix.com is a free website builder site that has some great templates to work off of. Now, if you already have a professionally designed website, chances are you would be better off sticking with that, but if you have no web presence and a minimal budget to get one, using Wix.com could be an option. The templates are very nice and easily customized, plus they help you with search engine optimization. I like Wix because you can create an account and play around the templates before actually purchasing anything.

Tips: The free sites will have banner ads on them. I would suggest upgrading so the ads are removed. You should also pay to get your own domain name that is relevant to your business.

These DIY resources are great for small businesses but keep in mind, whatever you put together will be seen by your potential customers. It may be your only chance to make a good impression, so if you are working on these sites be honest with yourself as to whether or not your project is professional quality. In my opinion, a DIY project is only a success when someone thinks you paid for it!

Jennifer Calero is the author of Pin or Pass, a blog devoted to exploring Pinterest and a freelance Marketing Professional. With over 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry Jennifer is an experienced marketing manager that knows how to create a strategy and implement it while working within a reasonable budget to reach your target audience. Jennifer lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband and two children. To connect with Jennifer about Pin or Pass, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/pinorpass, on Twitter @jenncalero or on the web at pinorpass.blogspot.com. To connect with her about marketing find her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/jcalero/ or on the web at jcalero.com.

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