Home-Based agents: Get More from Low-Cost Web Marketing Resources
If you know where to look, there is a rich variety of resources out there that can simplify the workload for home-based travel agents like you. Working from home comes with a lot of perks, but also more responsibility for finding your own clients and building your business brand in a competitive market. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, and when you first started your home-based business, you may have found that trying to figure out how to efficiently set up your office is a job all on its own. What software will you need to organize your clients? How can you save time setting up invoices or managing your money coming in and out? How will you get the word out about your unique services?
Learn how you can save a little time and money with the effective Internet tools available to you. Below, you’ll find a few low-cost ideas that can help you better manage your business and find leads online.
Consider cheaper software program alternatives. If you’re looking at different ways to cut down on your operating costs, start by looking at the software programs you use every day. Google offers “open source” (meaning free for the masses) tools that have the same capabilities as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection, and you can do any number of things:
- Google Documents: Create and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations
- Google Picasa: Find, edit and share your photos online
- Google Calendar: Organize and share your schedule with anyone, anywhere
- Google Reader: Keep up with your latest blog and news feeds in one place
- Google Sites: The free and easy solution to building your own Web site
If you’re dishing out funds on packaged programs such as Microsoft Office and Quicken, do you find there are extra functions you don’t even use? OpenOffice is another suite of programs, similar to Microsoft Office, that provides many of the common tools you rely on. There is a growing number of open source programs out there on the Internet, which may be able to provide the right level of agency management you need. Instead, consider some of the alternatives out there that can help you market your business, manage your revenue and communicate effectively with your clients.
Consider your options for online advertising. Search the Web, and you’ll come across a variety of free or discount advertising possibilities. You may also want to consider a few low-cost advertising options on a broader scale, in case your free online ads aren’t getting enough pull. One cost-effective route is e-zine advertising. Depending on the size of the e-zine publications you choose, you could spend as little as $10 per Internet ad, and reach up to thousands of consumer readers. To get an idea of e-zine ad options, visit www.ezineadvertising.com
. These two sites contain their own databases of e-zines by targeted markets, and help distribute your online ads in multiple places.
You can also advertise online through pay-per-click or pay-per-lead programs, allowing you to only pay for the results you receive. The most popular choice is the pay-per-click search engines program sold through Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, MSN AdCenter and Search123 (the least costly). Visit PayPerClickSearchEngines.com
, and you can learn more about how pay-per programs work and the costs and benefits associated with the top search engines.
Create benefits just for visiting your Web site. What’s the most valuable ingredient behind a successful Web site? If you want higher quality and quantity in the volume of traffic coming to your Web site, you need rich content that will be beneficial and unique to your target audience. What are your specialties in selling travel? Find ways to show consumers that you’re an expert and can deliver the results you promise on your Web site. This could include publishing free travel tips, destination articles and related videos (check YouTube and tourism bureaus). For more ideas, read ASTA’s SEO article
Discover the power behind online networking. Are you LinkedIn? Do you have a presence with growing e-networking communities such as Facebook and MySpace? These Web sites that connect millions of people with long-lost relatives, old coworkers and classmates have an even more productive use for home-based businesses. You’d be wrong to believe that these social networking sites are only for teens and young adults. Now more companies are latching onto this type of technology, which can connect a network of complete strangers on the common topics they want to share and build together. By creating a profile on Facebook, you could quickly diversify your marketing strategy, reaching a broader audience with your services. These types of networking sites also offer online advertising that could be beneficial for integrating with your other various marketing activities.
Another great idea would be to tap into your existing business connections. You could draw more visitors by exchanging Web links with colleagues, partners or other related companies. This may not directly amount to double the traffic, but having other businesses link their consumers to your sites will greatly improve your search engine rankings.
Get a bigger response from your e-mail marketing. Opt-in e-mail marketing could prove to be a useful tool for you. There are a variety of online companies that sell targeted lists of consumers who chose to receive commercial e-mail messages. Purchasing e-mail lists can get expensive, so make sure that you shop around and also determine what consumer groups you want to reach. You can usually narrow down your list by consumer age, spending habits, interests or location, which will allow you to communicate on a more specific need – and the solution you can provide.
If you feel ready to take on the next stage of e-mail marketing, consider utilizing an e-mail management system to help you track the results of every message on your own. You’ll be able to track who opened the e-mail and how many individuals clicked a link. In addition, it will help you better manage bounce backs and update new contacts and more. Pricing varies by company, but you can opt for a monthly subscription or a pay-as-you-go program. However, no e-mail marketing program can achieve success without the proper preparation and knowledge. Check out ASTA’s e-marketing guide
to read about how you can improve your e-mail communications.
As a home-based professional, you’re never without options that will help you grow your business. In addition to these useful tips on low-cost Web resources at your fingertips, ASTA continues to provide its members with informative Webinars, articles and events to help improve your marketing skills.