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Ooma Blog

How can I market my business on a small budget?

By Team Ooma|Tuesday January 12, 2016

Ooma_chat_1024x512_Twitter_v3The problem many small businesses face is how to market their business without breaking the bank. Marketing on a small budget is a constant concern for small businesses. To answer that growing question, we partnered with Ebong Eka, CPA, small business expert, to provide the answers to the Top Ten Ways to Market your Small Business on a Budget in our Twitter Chat (#OomaBizChat)!

1. What’s the best social media platform to use for marketing?

Depends on where your audience is and where they spend the majority of their time. However, live streaming apps like Periscope and Blab.im have become game changers for the business world!

2. A mentor suggested Facebook ads, what if my customers aren’t on Facebook?

Facebook is the #1 platform for business in terms of impact and users. Use paid ads and start off with a small budget like $3- $5/day. Build strong content marketing assets to share with your audience. Also remember, “Likes” don’t necessarily turn into dollars.

3. I wear many hats at my company. How do I find time to market to my customers?

You either market to your customers or your competitors will market to them. Social Media is cheaper than traditional forms of marketing. Here are some steps:

  • Spend your time and effort where you want to see a return on investment.
  • Designate an hour a day towards marketing- and add more time as you see needed.
  • Join networking groups that focus on Facebook and social media.
  • Hire interns/outsource

4. If I have $200 to spend, what are the best platforms to market my business?

Use Facebook power editor to create dark (sponsored) posts and target it to specific audience (interests, zip codes, income levels, etc.) or even model your ads after your competitors.

5. TV is expensive, are there other areas that I should focus my marketing efforts on?

  • Social Media has an unlimited reach.
  • Original or sponsored content on YouTube depending on your audience and how they consume content.
  • Blog about solutions to problems that your potential customers may be facing.
  • BIG 5 Social Platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook – You can also throw Pinterest in the mix!
  • Youtube and Facebook video ads
  • Video tutorials

6. What are 2 quick ways to get media and marketing attention for a small business for less than $200?

  • Create Facebook ads for $5/day and mirror your competitors’ audience using Facebook Editor.
  • Create lead generation campaigns including free ebooks, workbooks or resources in exchange for a customer email address.

7. Why should small businesses do email marketing? Isn’t email marketing dead?

  • Email is the best way to connect with prospect clients and customers
  • Use auto responder software like Aweber or Mail Chimp to manage your email list
  • Offer targeted specials to your email list in order to incentivize new customers to act too

8. What are the Top 4 mistakes small businesses make with marketing?

  • Focusing solely on one marketing platform without data to support the decision or researching the social channels their customers spend most of their time using.
  • Not staying committed to the marketing process and wanting a quick return on investment
  • Not willing to spend money on advertising and not understanding the platform where marketing dollars are spent.
  • Not paying attention to the analytical data from their marketing efforts. For example, not knowing the cost of customer acquisition in relation to the marketing dollars spent.

9. Are blogs still a great way to market for cheap or should small businesses focus on social media?

  • Blogs are great to tell a story
  • Do both – social media for presence and blogs for personality and trustworthiness
  • Re-purpose content that you’ve seen do well online. For example, re-purpose (reuse) the content that gets the most engagement, shares, likes and comments.

10. What are the best tools to brand your business with a small budget?

  • Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (It depends on your audience and where they are spending most of their time.)
  • Phone system: Ooma Office – includes features to make you sound like a big business without the big costs. You can forward incoming calls to your mobile phone with the mobile app. You can also create separate phone lines for others members of your company.
  • Websites: WordPress – This content management software makes it easier to make changes to your site.
  • Email Campaigns: You can use email marketing software like Aweber or MailChim

Marketing is the lifeblood to any business. Without marketing, you won’t get clients and without clients, you won’t grow your sales! Even if you’re not a techie, social media is a great platform to grow your business and your brand, which leads to growing your sales!

 

Written by: Ebong Eka, CPA
Ericorp Consulting, Inc.
Levyti Consulting, LLC

www.ebongeka.com

 

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Is Google Voice heading to the Google Graveyard? The calling app has been around since 2009, and yet it seems as though it’s always been on the verge of being discontinued. The uncertainty has many people looking for a Google Voice alternative. 

It’s important that your calling and texting platforms are reliable, full-featured and can support the way you want to communicate. Let’s review the predictions about Google Voice’s future and what you should look for when choosing a Google Voice alternative. 

Google Voice’s Uncertain Future

Headlines about Google Voice comment that it’s “not dead yet.” That might be as optimistic as we can get about the calling app. It spent years being neglected by Google, and it’s not clear if Google is fully committed to it as a priority app.

The Verge said in 2019, “Voice’s interface is a bit old-fashioned (despite a relatively recent update).” It added, “and (this being Google) there is always the chance that the company will suddenly decide to get rid of it.”

The path of Google Voice has never been clear. For a while, there was talk that Google Voice would move to Google Hangouts. However, Hangouts is currently in its sunset, and Google is expected to retire the app in June 2020 or later. Users will be moved to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.

Ars Technica reported earlier this year that Google may be working on another iteration for communication tools. “Google is working on yet another messaging app,” said the article. The new app would merge the functions of apps like Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet and Google Voice. 

“If this service launches, it would be Google’s tenth messaging app,” said Ars. “Google’s inability to stick with a single messaging platform and its penchant for shutting down services has left its users very suspicious of any new messaging app from the company.

The uncertainty of Google Voice may have you looking for different solutions. Luckily, there are plenty of great VoIP options available that offer strong sets of features and reliable service at little to no cost. 

Here are the top seven things to consider when choosing an alternative to Google Voice. 

1. Does your Google Voice replacement have 911 Service?

It’s easy to assume that 911 will always be there when we need it. However, an emergency 911 call made with Google Voice will fail. 

This lack of emergency access has been a major drawback of the service. When looking for a Google alternative, prioritize a digital phone service that supports 911 calls

Keep in mind that there is usually a required government fee for consumer access to 911 service. This varies based on location, but it’s commonly a few dollars per month. While avoiding all fees is preferable, paying a few dollars a month is worth it because it could quite literally be the difference between life and death. 

When seconds matter, you should be able to easily get help. You may also find that some providers go beyond traditional emergency access. For example, advanced 911 service from Ooma can automatically notify your chosen emergency contact if a 911 call is placed from an Ooma-connected phone. You can also connect Ooma to your smart home so that Alexa or Google Home can call 911 via a voice command if you’re unable to dial.

2. Does the Google Voice alternative offer free U.S. calling?

Google Voice isn’t the only app that offers free unlimited calling and texting with U.S. phone numbers. 

When choosing your service, look for an app that isn’t limited to calling other users. A better choice is a VoIP service that gives you free access to other phone numbers. Functionality should include free talking and text messaging with any landline or mobile phone, rather than only the ability to connect with other users. 

Also, look for device flexibility that lets you use the service on any mobile device via an app. Providers typically support mobile apps on both iOS and Android. Make sure you look closely at the details to see what type of calls you can make on the app. For example, the Verizon Digital Voice app is only for account management, not for calling and texting. 

Google Voice worked with Obihai to allow you to use a phone handset similar to a landline. Some VoIP services also offer the same type of access via a home phone or desk phone. With the right provider, you can access your phone line via a mobile device or a home handset. 

Also, prioritize a contract-free phone plan that gives you the service you want without any commitment. If you’re managing multiple phone lines, look for providers that let you forward your calls so you can update your settings as needed. 

3. Is customer support available with your new service?

Another key downside of Google Voice is its lack of direct customer support. For individual users, your best option to get help with Google Voice is to post to the community forum.

At best, this means that troubleshooting is inefficient. At worst, you could be left with unresolved problems that you can’t resolve. 

Some providers have limited customer support. For example, magicJack’s basic phone service limits support to chat and email support. It’s funny that users could be getting phone service from a company that you can’t call for help. 

Your Google Voice alternative can fix this. Your phone service should offer full customer service access across a range of service times that include nights and weekends. 

4. What’s the reliability and voice quality of your new service? 

An advantage of Google Voice is that you’re using a service from a well-known company. You may not be aware of the reputation of alternative VoIP providers. Even if you’ve heard of companies like Skype or Vonage, you may not fully know their service quality. 

A good approach is to look for a VoIP provider that has consistently been ranked highly. Reviews and rankings from publications like PC Magazine can help. Not only does it provide overall rankings, but you can review scores on individual factors such as reliability, call quality and ease of use.

5. What are your phone number options with your new VoIP provider?

Today’s VoIP providers offer options for getting a new local phone number or porting your existing phone number to the provider to continue using your current number. For businesses, there’s even the option to get a toll-free number. 

With the right provider, all of these phone number options can be free. 

Some companies will use these phone number preferences as a way to add on fees. Even though we may be willing to pay to get the phone number we want, it’s not necessary. Google Voice isn’t the only provider that offers free phone service and a free local number. 

Some VoIP providers will link your new service to your existing phone number. This can be a short-term solution if you want to add-on a second line to your current devices. However, you can run into problems if you change devices. It’s also problematic if you’re looking to cut the cord and use your VoIP service as your primary phone number. 

To avoid these problems, look for a standalone service that is portable and can be used any way you want. 

6. How does the VoIP provider handle international calls?

For U.S.-based VoIP providers, it’s common to have free unlimited U.S. calling paired with low-cost international calling. However, if international access is a priority to you, it’s important to double-check the rates and access parameters. 

Some providers may not offer any international calling, which is the most limiting option. Other providers have plans that require a long-term contract or options like Grasshopper require an up-front deposit before you can make international calls. 

VoIP providers typically have low-cost international calling with rates that are lower than traditional phone providers. However, there can still be a wide variety among providers. A rate comparison can help you clearly see which is the better deal. Why should you pay eight cents per minute to call Italy when you can pay two cents per minute? 

7. Are small business VoIP options also available?

You may be only focused on residential phone service now. However, it can be helpful to know if the provider also offers small business options. 

There are two reasons why this is helpful to know.

First, if a provider also offers business phone service, it shows their level of commitment to communication technology. A lightweight provider may only offer small residential service. As a result, they may not be investing in the R&D needed to provide high-quality business phone systems. This means you could have lower-quality service.

Second, today’s startup culture means that you may be interested in a small business phone in the future. If you’re already using a great provider, it’s easy to add on a small business line. This can make it easy to launch a part-time catering service, shadetree mechanic company or digital services brand. 

Small business VoIP can offer smart technology at a very low cost. A virtual receptionist (sometimes called an auto-attendant) can provide callers with pre-recorded messages with information like business hours or today’s menu. You’ll have the ability to make conference calls, get an 800-number, record calls and more. 

 

Learn more about Ooma’s free home phone service to discover if it can help you replace Google Voice.