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Making the free thing work

Last week, I criticized BusinessWeek for an article that told small businesses to steer clear of Web 2.0, which I think is bad advice. Thinking about it, I do understand that Web marketing can be frustrating, but small businesses with small budgets might need to put up with some frustration. They may need to “make the free thing work.”


Making the free thing work is something my wife and I talk about a lot. We’ve got four growing children and things can be expensive, so we spend lots of time living with the limitations of the free thing.
Yes, private school would be better, but public school is free, so maybe we can supplement what they are getting. Sure, hiring a tutor would be nice, but maybe we could tutor them at home based on what we know.
I have a 28-year-old TV in my office. Why? Because it still works. When it conks out, then I’ll find out what high definition is all about. Until then, I don’t miss what I don’t have.
I bike a lot in the summer, but my bike cost $10 at a garage sale. And I like that because I can park it anywhere without stressing about it getting stolen. Geez, the lock cost more than the bike.
You get the idea. There are lots of areas in life when you can make do with the free (or at least the cheap) thing. But sometimes you have to put in a little effort to make it work.
It takes time, effort, and patience to tutor your own kids. (Did I mention patience?) That TV has a problem with the volume control, so I’ve had to futz with it a lot to make it work. (Now, no one is allowed to adjust the volume except through the remote for the cable box.) That bike is a steel 1970 Schwinn that is a lot heavier than any bike made today, so it takes more effort to ride. (I tell myself I get a better workout.)
What’s this have to do with marketing? Plenty.
Check out my Skinflint Guide to Internet Marketing for a bevy of ways to make the free thing work. Free tools and free techniques are exactly what small businesses need to do. Yes, they are more work. Yes, they can be frustrating. But small businesses must decide to put in the time and deal with the frustration to make the free thing work. If they try a few things for a while, they’ll eventually land on a couple that work, which will give them an edge over all those that lament about how Internet marketing is too hard or costs too much.
What about your company? Do you try what’s out there for free? Or do you just complain about what a pain it is and how you can’t afford it? That’s not what successful small businesses do with the Internet.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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