No matter which website builder you are using, the odds are you will be offered a URL (branded with their domain). However, before you start to promote your business, you must get your own URL.
For example, if the name of your business is “Chicago Massage”, Weebly will give you the URL http://www.chicagomassage.weebly.com In your marketing efforts, you’ll find it MUCH easier to use your own URL. Doesn’t it look (and feel) much better to post www.ChicagoMassage.com?
Here is a summary of benefits of using your own URL:
Where to get a URL:
I strongly recommend you use www.GoDaddy.com to buy your URL. GoDaddy.com is known for always trying to up-sell you (so say no to everything they try to toss in your cart along with your URL), BUT their customer service is excellent! If you experience any trouble, you can easily call them and they’ll walk you through whatever you are trying to do. They periodically even call you to see if you need any help.
A URL (aka domain) will cost around $12, but before you check-out go to Retailmenot.com and see if there are any promo codes you can use. Often you can get the cost down to $3 or so.
How to get a custom email (now that you have a URL):
Now that you have a URL, it means you can get a matching email address. I recommend you ONLY use Google Apps. The cost is $50 a year per user (you should only need/want one email address), but worth it as you can then use Google Apps for your calendar, Google Drive, Analytics, and so many more tools that you will need as your business grows.
The reasons for having a custom email address are pretty repetitive with the reasons for obtaining a custom domain. It’s more professional, you will have it posted all over the Internet, etc.
Do not spend time publishing your business all over the internet until you have a URL. When you switch platforms (aka you move from Weebly to Wix), you do not want to lose all of the people who find your online postings AFTER your move.
Sure you can buy an ad in the paper or pay for clicks via Google AdWords, but why pay when you don’t have to? There are ways to recruit Members for free, or at a very nominal cost.
1. Hand Out Flyers and Hang Flyers (low cost)
If your business is focused in a specific geographic area, handing out flyers may work for you! Stand at the local bus stop or train station during the morning or night rush, put flyers on cars at a public park, hang flyers in your local library, etc. Figure out where your potential customers may be and get your flyer in front of them. Concerned about cost? No one says your flyer needs to be glossy and printed in vibrant colors. When I first started a business, my flyers were black and white and were printed on standard white printer paper. Remember, you have to start somewhere! But if you do have a budget and you want some cheap postcards, check out VistaPrint.com. They even have a deal where you can get business cards for free (I used this the first 2 years when I had a $0 budget). Disclaimer: Make sure you abide by all laws when passing out or hanging flyers.
2. Use Social Media (no cost)
This is a no brainer! Not only should you have a Facebook Business Page and/or Group Page but you should also take the time to post about your business whenever and wherever you can. Again, figure out where your potential customers are and go there. Looking for moms? Post to the local breastfeeding group. Want to find Young Professionals? Then maybe post on a popular bar page (especially do this once you are hosting an event at that bar). Beyond Facebook there is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and so on. I can’t tell you how many customers have found me through my postings on LinkedIn. And Facebook? Customers find me daily based on FB sightings!
3. Submit Press Releases (no cost)
Often local newspapers will print your press releases at no cost. Use any excuse you have to submit a press release to ALL the local papers (remember to include online papers too). Topics can include: Website Launch, 1 Year Anniversary, 2 Year Anniversary, New Employee, and of course ALL events can (and should) be submitted via press releases. Consider even submitting press releases (complete with pictures) after an event has occurred.
4. See if Living Social or Groupon will run a deal for you (no cost)
If you are selling a product or a service Living Social or Groupon may run a deal for you! Keep in mind they will first cut your normal price in half and then they take half of the profit for themselves, however, they will give you incredible exposure! The first time Groupon ran a deal for me I had more hits on my website in one day than I typically get in a month. So even though I knew very little revenue would come in via a deal, I knew that the value a new customer was worth it. New customers tell their friends about you (often after the deal is over), and they will also most likely spend money in other ways (on future products or services).
5. Start a Meetup Group (low cost)
Do you have a community (you probably do) then start a group. Imagine you are a yoga teacher, start a Meetup Group called Julie's Yoga in Kansas City. Are you a professional designer? Start a group called Designing 101 in San Francisco where you'll hold meetups where you teach your Members little design tricks. Meetup is GREAT at promoting it's groups, from SEO to new group announcements.
Laura Occhipinti is on a mission to point people to websites, apps, and products that they MUST know about!