It’s generally accepted small business internet marketing is now one of the most important marketing activities for businesses of any size, and that includes small local firms which have generally relied on local newspaper advertising and flyer delivery as a way of bringing in new business.
The importance of small business internet marketing is reflected in studies which show most people now turn to the internet first to find a local supplier of a product or service. It’s no coincidence the Yellow Pages is shrinking (although it is a great source of revenue for some businesses).
Small business Internet marketing under the microscope
So which internet marketing strategies should a small business use to get the best return on investment? One of the most profitable types of small business internet marketing — if not the most profitable – is email marketing. The great thing about using email as a marketing tool is you have direct access to your customers and prospects, and can communicate regularly to send them offers or tell them about new products and services. Being able to contact your customers and clients whenever you please gives your business a huge advantage over other businesses which rely on prospects replying to a newspaper ad, a flyer, or a piece of direct mail.
Follow-up until they buy, die or cry for mercy
Small businesses can take advantage of email marketing by simply building an email list of customers and clients — whether they’re based locally or further afield, including worldwide — and then keeping in regular contact. The internet has no boundaries, and a small business can use internet marketing strategies like email no matter how close or far away its customers are. Most business owners are far too timid when it comes to email marketing, though, which is to their own detriment. Regular emails sell. End of story.
Internet advertising — Pay per click, remarketing and banners
Another powerful technique when it comes to using the internet to generate new business is online advertising, and of all the small business internet marketing tips this one is well worth taking note of. Why? Because most business owners think it’s just for the big players, especially banner advertising. Not so.
The cost of banner advertising has come down tremendously. putting it well within reach of any small business’s internet marketing budget. Couple this with Google’s remarketing service and you have a winner (no joke: your local corner shop can advertise on big websites like the national newspapers’ sites for just pennies, and they don’t even pay that until someone actually clicks on their ad).
The big advantage of some online advertising systems is that the ad appears only in response to a search query, meaning only those prospects looking to buy – or at least gather information about a certain type of product – are shown the ads.
On top of this, the online advertiser pays only when a prospect clicks on the ad, making this type of online advertising a highly-effective and profitable marketing channel. The most popular internet advertising system by far is Google Adwords. Signing up for an account takes just a matter of minutes, and ads can be appearing in the search results and generating business in just a few minutes more. You do need to take care when using Adwords, though, since getting it wrong can cost a big chunk of money – and without any sales to show for it.
That said, mastering how to use Adwords is one of the best things a small business-owner can do, since a well-planned, well-structured campaign – along with a professionally-produced website tweaked for direct response marketing – can bring in huge amounts of business and generate large amounts of revenue. Even better, once the online ad campaign is working well, the leads and sales can be largely automatic.
But it all comes down to a numbers game and watching your ROI. Adwords and remarketing are definitely not “autopilot” online strategies for small businesses, even though the process of online lead generation itself is automated.
Social media advertising
Another online advertising system that should be part of any website marketing strategy is Facebook Advetising.
It’s nowhere near the size of Google’s ad network, but Facebook advertising can be highly-targeted, both in terms of geographical area and the likes and interests of the prospects. This makes it ideal for small business internet marketing, as it’s possible to advertise to the exact type of prospect who would make the ideal customer.
I don’t want to say too much about this here because it’s changing pretty much daily. But watch this space: I suspect when they get it right (and they’re getting there), Facebook advertising could be the Google killer – small business internet marketing on steroids.
Good old search engine traffic
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about small business marketing and the internet without mentioning search engine optimisation, or SEO as it’s known.
In effect, SEO consists of various techniques to make a particular site – or more accurately a particular page on a website – appear high in the search results when someone searches for a particular product or service. Some businesses will want their web pages to appear high in the search results on a national level, while others – businesses selling in a local area – will be content with good positions for locally-based searches.
One of the many professional SEO marketing companies floating around out there can help your web pages achieve good positions both on a national and local level, though of course getting your site ranked on a national level is a far more difficult job, and consequently a much more expensive one.
A good SEO consultant who understands the importance of internet marketing for small business will also know how to get the best from local search techniques, including how to get high positions within Google Local, the local search index.
Choose wisely: there are a lot of “snake oil” salesmen out there, and you can pour a lot of money down the ‘black hole’ of SEO with nothing to show for it. Even if you don’t want to do it yourself, learn how it works and familiarise yourself with best practice so you don’t get sold a lemon! My advice is to start cautiously, invest a little at a time and continue only if you’re getting measurable results.
These local search marketing services are becoming increasingly important, and will only increase in importance as time goes on, especially as they integrate with other more general small business internet marketing services such as email marketing. In short, the web really cannot be ignored as a marketing channel, and to get the most from the strategies it can be a good idea to hire a small business internet marketing consultant.
But… again… choose wisely!
A good small business internet marketing consultant will know exactly what effect the internet has had on small business marketing. He or she will also be able to integrate old-fashioned offline marketing techniques – such as newspaper advertising and direct mail – with the latest technology-based marketing ideas, especially email marketing, to bring real results for those businesses ready to make the most of what’s available.
Whatever you do, don’t fall for the hype. Ask to see references and follow them up. You’re looking for evidence of results not testimonials about what a nice guy he is.
Think in terms of building an integrated small business internet marketing system and there’s a good chance you’ll reap big rewards in terms of increased numbers of leads, revenue and profits.