You have a great product. You have researched the relevant keywords. You have invested time and money in a website and optimised it for search engines. But still the visitors don't come. And without marketing measures, you will have to wait a long time. What is the most effective way to advertise on the Internet? Which online marketing measures are really worth the money and effort? How can you generate lasting traffic with a small budget?
Online marketing tips for start-ups and companies with a low budget
We develop content and content marketing strategies for smaller companies or start-ups that cannot or do not want to spend a five- or six-figure budget on online marketing. Therefore, with increasing experience, we have been able to select the methods that generate more traffic in the long term, even with a low budget.
Online marketing for the healthcare sector
I am specifically addressing the healthcare sector. In the healthcare sector, the marketer's scope for development is restricted by legal requirements. For this reason, some methods commonly used in online marketing cannot be implemented in the healthcare sector, or only to a limited extent. In this article, I will only discuss methods that are possible in the advertising of medical products, food supplements and OTC medicines in compliance with the legal regulations. (Some of these methods would also work for RX, but conversion to the product is much more difficult here).
What isimportant in content marketing is always the added value for your target group (user/customer/reader/consumer...) and:
Added value means: the content is interesting, meaningful, new
interesting, meaningful, new, useful and valuable.
1. increase traffic with blog
Let's assume you have put a website online - according to the usual criteria of SEO, usability, responsive design, etc. - and filled it with enough content about your product. Of course, you have carried out keyword research and created a content strategy based on this. So your website contains content that is fundamental and changes little - let's call this the "core area" of your website.
Now you should definitely set up a content area that is updated and supplemented at regular, short intervals. This is where you publish additional, current, further texts or special and niche information. You can call this area "Blog", "News" or whatever you like. However, it should fulfil the following conditions and tasks:
- with qualitatively sound, comprehensive texts
- Regular update
- the texts should cover your keywords (also long-tail and secondary keywords)
- the articles must be well linked to the turnover-relevant pages in the core area (e.g. shop, product pages, not in the opposite direction!)
- Meaningfully categorised and easily accessible for visitors and search engines alike
- A regularly updated and high-quality blog is perhaps the most costly method of all the measures presented here. However, it is also the content marketing measure that has the most long-term effect, boosting the ranking of the entire
- site improves in search engines and without which all other measures discussed here will have less success.
At some point, the blog section can exceed the scope of the core area of your website and attract a significant share of the traffic. To do this, of course, the blog must be continuously maintained, i.e. populated with fresh material. How often? The more often, the better?
How often should you update a blog?
Somewhere on the net I read a study according to which you can increase your traffic by 18 % with a blog frequency of five times a week. Unless you want to compete with Spiegel online, I think that's unrealistic. You shouldn't update just for the sake of frequency. The frequency with which you can bring something new depends, of course, on how much time you want to invest, but also on how much your topic yields without the quality suffering.
Only valuable content is effective content!
So don't overdo it, but don't bring something new too seldom either. A blog article every six months is definitely not enough! It's not difficult, because in contrast to some other sectors, you will usually find interesting and useful topics for your target group (and your product) quite easily in the health sector.
How long should blog articles be?
This depends on whether the texts mainly serve to increase access (i.e. to generate search engine traffic or social shares). In this case, the longer the text, the better (according to one study, texts with 3,000-10,000 words achieve the greatest reach). However, if you want your visitors to actually read the texts, I think short to medium-length texts are optimal, i.e. no more than 3,000 words. (This text has about 3,200 words and I find it almost too long).
No blog possible or desired?
Some companies do not want to have a blog on their own website for legal or internal reasons. In such cases, you can of course run it separately, under your own URL, and then link the blog to your own website. However, I usually prefer integration, if only because otherwise you have to advertise two URLs.
2. generate traffic with newsletter
An e-mail distribution list is indispensable for reactivating visitors to visit your site again. It should therefore be set up as early as possible, even if the generation of e-mail addresses is very slow at the beginning (with little traffic). Nevertheless, you should try to get your visitors to sign up for your e-mail distribution list right from the start.
Advantages of email newsletters
- They build a base of readers who are actively interested in their topic/product.
- You can supply them regularly with the content of their website/blog.
- They show expertise.
- They gradually build up trust and a willingness to buy.
Email marketing - done right - can be highly successful and, because it is relatively cheap, offer a significant ROI. Unlike social networks, where Facebook and Co. keep cutting organic reach or getting paid, with email marketing you determine who gets your messages, how often, and your costs are independent of reach.
Tips for successful newsletters
- Position the registration form conspicuously on every page of your website, but do not annoy visitors with pop-ups, rather offer incentives (see point 6).
- Make sure you have a balanced ratio of advertising and added value.
- The subject line is important for the opening rate of your newsletter. It should provide an incentive to open, but should not be worded too luridly.
- The content of the mails should be short, simple and easy to read. Just long enough to arouse the reader's interest. Then direct them to the detailed article on your homepage with a "Read more" link.
- Check the open and unsubscribe rates after each mailing. If the unsubscribe rate is too high, the newsletter is too uninteresting (or too promotional or too frequent).
Most of the time you will need separate email distribution lists for different target groups (such as end customers and professionals) or influencers (such as professional and lay journalists).
3. videos bring traffic via Youtube
You may be wondering why I am including the topic of videos in an article on cost-effective online advertising. It's simply because videos are very effective on the web and are very popular on YouTube, Facebook and especially on the mobile web. The younger target group in particular no longer likes to read, but prefers to watch video clips. That is why the money for a good online video is well invested.
Video is the type of content that can attract the most attention. Of course, professional-looking videos are expensive to produce and require at least four-figure sums. You can get a professionally produced animated explainer video (30 sec - 1 min) from us for about 2-3000 €,
. But you can also create effective Internet videos with a smaller budget. All you need is an inexpensive video camera (perhaps a webcam or smartphone in the beginning), a person with a pleasant voice (to add sound), possibly a lighting source and inexpensive editing software. If the video is well made, it will work. Especially on the net, something that doesn't seem quite so professional may even seem more genuine and authentic. You may now be thinking of the radio commercials for Seitenbacher Müsli. But something like that also works if you make it with added value and less annoying.
Tips for successful internet videos
- As always with content marketing, the basis is a meaningful video with valuable content that offers the user added value.
- Normally the video should not be longer than 1-3 min. If you have more material, it is better to split it into several videos.
- Put the video on your own website as well as on YouTube and other social media sites.
- Make sure you have a meaningful title, an interesting thumbnail and a good description (keywords).
- If possible, include a call-to-action at the end of the video and in the video description.
4. social media as a source of traffic?
It is quite easy to create profiles and company pages on Facebook and Google+ (if you are active in B2B, also LikedIn and XING), which should be linked to your own homepage in both directions. You can maintain these with relatively little effort. After a while, they can become important traffic sources and are of course also useful for SEO. You should therefore create these pages early on and maintain them regularly, but you should not expect dramatic effects after a short time...
- It's getting boring, but here too, of course, always pay attention to the added value for the readers.
- The frequency of postings can be higher than that of your blog, because they can also post short articles or pictures and now and then also suitable links to other sites. It just has to fit the topic and the target group.
- There are Google+, XING and Facebook groups on a wide variety of topics in which you can participate and join in discussions or post your own contributions (but don't spam, offer added value and help). CAVE: pure advertising groups are useless!
And another CAVE: Don't focus on Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. at the beginning. Concentrate on your homepage and your blog and make an effort to gain more readers, i.e. generate more traffic. Because remember:
Many followers are the consequence of a large readership, not the cause!
This is true at least at the beginning, later on social media can create a positive feedback effect, but by then you are already out of the woods.
5. build a network - influencer marketing
"Go where your customer is".
This marketing wisdom also applies to the internet. You should find out early on where exactly your target group is and who the spokespeople are there. You can use them as multipliers or influencers.
How do I find suitable partner sites and unfluencers?
Research relevant websites and influencers using search engines (don't forget Google Alerts!), SEO tools, web directories, YouTube and social media sites, and numerous other sources. But don't forget books, magazines and brochures.
Of particular interest to you are topic-relevant blogs, portals, forums, news sites, tips and questions sites, i.e. all the sites where your target group can ask questions and make comments.
How can you use pages that are relevant to your topic or target group?
- Offering guest articles on the external site
- Offering topics, for example product tests (not for medicines)
- Invite influencers to guest post/interview on your site
- Commenting on and adding to articles
- Initiate discussions
- Answering readers' questions
- Depending on the topic, one can also think of more
But please, not with spam!
Please note that you should only ever offer high-quality content on the external website that is relevant to the respective topic (added value!) Under no circumstances should you engage in clumsy advertising or link spamming. (You should only link to your own site if this is desired on the external site or if you have a valid reason for doing so (apart from advertising your site). In this case, link directly to the appropriate sub-page of your website, not simply to the homepage.
It is best to keep an eye on all relevant pages, blogs, forums and Google Alerts on your own topics regularly so that you can react promptly and effectively.
Good content is rare and in demand!
Certain target groups, such as doctors, pharmacists, private bloggers, product testers, self-help groups or associations are usually interested in good, free content for their own websites. Especially if you can offer something of high quality that is not purely promotional, or where the content predominates and is clearly separated from the advertising. This can be, for example, background information, product samples (not medicines), free usable image material, information material or infographics, professional support or similar.
Influencers on your own page
You can also give foreign experts a forum on your site, for example by inviting them for an interview or a guest article. This does not necessarily have to be about your own product, but it should of course be a topic that interests your target group and that has a certain product reference. In this way, you strengthen the authority and seriousness of your Internet presence and, as a practical side effect, this expert will probably in turn set a link to your page.
Controversial topics are particularly effective. Provocation generates attention, discussions magically attract people. In terms of corporate policy, of course, this is not always desirable.
Contact influencers individually
Of course, you must not write to the website operators and influencers who are of interest to you by circular email. It is time-consuming, but only individual, personal letters make sense. Only with creativity and diligence will you have a chance of success.
Not only the number of followers is decisive
With this method, don't be tempted to look only at the number of "followers" an influencer has. The larger the target group, the more dispersed it will be and the less influence the influencer is likely to have on it. Sometimes, on the other hand, people with fewer fans/followers but who are fully in their target group can be more useful to you.
Creating win-win situations...
Another possibility is to cooperate with companies or websites that address a similar target group as you, but do not directly compete with you. For example, if you sell a ginkgo product, you could cooperate with a brain jogging website, i.e. exchange content and advertising. This way, both sides benefit.
Forum marketing still worth it?
Some may consider forums to be outdated and they no longer seem so significant from an SEO point of view. But here, too, you should take off your SEO glasses and see the whole thing from the customer's point of view. Especially in the health sector, many users first land with their health questions in the forums of the large health and news portals or on question and answer pages. So you should monitor the pages relevant to your topic and react if necessary. Depending on the topic, forum marketing may be somewhat time-consuming, but it is very sustainable. Posts in forums are virtually never deleted and are easy to find via search engines or the forum-internal search function.
All in all, the point of "building a network" is very worthwhile. Not only will you increase your reach and perhaps generate a few backlinks, but above all you will learn a lot about your target group. What they think about your product, what they think about your competitors, what problems and questions they have, and so on. This is not only important for your blog (finding topics), but for your entire marketing, possibly even for product development.
I would only like to talk briefly about press relations, as this is not a typical online marketing measure. But if doctors are your target group, then you won't get anywhere with online marketing alone. Because in our experience, doctors are still very hard to reach on the internet. According to a study published last week in PR-Report, only about 20% of all doctors frequently consume pharmaceutical industry information in digital form. However, if you do not have a budget for advertisements in medical journals, your only option is to go via the trade journalists - because they are 100% online.
In this context, it makes little sense to place a typical press release with the same wording in the well-known PR online portals. In our experience, it is more promising to send a really good, concise text that contains new and valuable information to selected journalists individually and personally. To do this, of course, you have to build up a specific and targeted distribution list. This can be done, for example, through social media such as Facebook, LikedIn, Xing, Twitter (in my opinion, one of the few sensible uses of Twitter).
Whether you distinguish between lay and trade press depends on the objective and the topic. In any case, you should supply both online and print editors, even with the same medium.
6. give-aways and freebies as a marketing tool
Guidebooks, eBooks, whitepapers, apps or similar for free download (or against an email address) are very popular. This is not new, but not yet very common in the healthcare sector. Such give-aways have the following advantages:
- they attract users via the search engines
- you can generate addresses for e-mail marketing (communicate before downloading!)
- they can generate social media signals (pay-with-a-share)
- they can generate conversions (not too strong, see below)
- they support the reputation of the site/author as an expert in the field
- they show commitment, interest in the client and build trust
Of course, you have to make sure that there is added value for the visitor. You won't get far with just a fancy layout and empty promises, the content must be convincing. The give-away must therefore not be just another sales element and should contain no or only little (labelled) advertising. The sales aspect must be clearly in the background and the information content or benefit must clearly predominate. The give-away does not have to be directly related to the product. However, it should definitely touch on topics that are interesting for the target group. A certain product reference is of course useful for targeting, so that you address the right target group.
What about SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook ads and other ads?
In this article I have presented effective online marketing methods that cause little or no external costs. Of course, it takes a certain amount of time for all of the methods presented to show their effects. But they have a long-term effect.
Continuous SEO is only worthwhile if the number of search queries is correspondingly high. Often the offers of start-ups and small companies are rather niche products and do not generate too many search queries. In these cases, any form of search engine marketing is not the ideal (most cost-effective) solution.
If you want to generate traffic quickly and immediately, then it is advisable to place additional(!) ads, e.g. on Google Adwords, Facebook or via platforms such as plista, Outbrain and Ligatus. How you do this depends on your company, your objectives and your resources.
However, you should be aware of the disadvantages of these advertising measures, namely:
- Adwords, Facebook and other ads are costly,
- they are mainly effective at the moment the ad is placed,
- they therefore have little lasting effect and
- they have little positive effect on your reputation.
Whether you place ads on Adwords, Facebook and the like or not, you should still take my six suggestions into account as a long-term investment.
Because these 6 measures are:
- effective in the long term,
- build on each other,
- offer your customer real added value,
- strengthen your reputation or that of your product,
- and the costs remain manageable.
But remember: these 6 measures do increase the number of visitors to your website. But whether these visitors also become customers depends on your website and your product.
Do you want to know more?
If you would like to know more about one or another of the methods presented, please write it in the comments. I will then go into more detail about these methods and describe the exact procedure with tips and tricks from practice.
And if you find all this interesting but don't have the time or opportunity to do it yourself: Just contact me, I will "make you an offer you can't refuse"...
Dr. Markus Numberger