Internet Marketing IS For Every Business… Even Yours

Have you spent a tremendous amount of time, effort, or money (or all of the above) trying to make Internet marketing work for your small business, but have nothing to show for it? Do you look at the web and scratch your head wondering what all the fuss is about? Do you have an “unsexy” business (are you a plumber, an electrician, a tree trimmer, etc) and think that Internet marketing is just not for your kind of company?

If you fit any of these descriptions, then this post is for you.

I know that there is a lot of frustration, confusion, and skepticism floating around among business owners when it comes to all things Internet marketing. At best, you see Internet marketing as a needless distraction, at worst, a bottomless money pit.

I really don’t blame any of you. There are a lot of conflicting messages, changing trends, technology, and platforms to sift through. And, hey, at the end of the day, you’ve got a business to run. Shouldn’t that be your priority?

I hear you.

But realize, you may be making a very big mistake by not including the Internet in the way you market your business and communicate with your customers, and this mistake can be costing you a lot of potential sales.


Because the way people are making purchasing decisions has changed, and it has really changed for just about any kind of purchase a person could make- whether it’s a product or a service, a big ticket item or a small accessory. 

Are Your Customers are Leading Connected Lives?

Even if you personally don’t spend much time online, it’s hard to deny the increasing prevalence and reliance of the Internet. How many people almost instinctively turn to the Internet for an answer they have simply forgotten, or asked for directions, or gotten a review for a product or service?

But, people aren’t just looking for information or entertainment, they are literally uploading their lives one picture and video at a time. They are also using the web for their sensitive data (think: online banking), their work-related documents and files, and their music collections.

I know all these examples may seem random and unrelated. But that’s my point. It’s the ubiquity that small businesses owners of all stripes cannot afford to ignore. Because most importantly, consumers are using the Internet and relying on their social networks in various ways to decide what to buy, when, and from whom.

You have to be where your customers are so that they can find you. That’s just common sense. It’s Marketing 101. If you don’t make yourself accessible in this medium, at least in the most basic ways, then you can’t expect your connected customers to even know you exist. 

What Are the Essentials In Internet Marketing for a Small Business?

That said, I know that many businesses have looked into Internet marketing but then walked away either because they couldn’t “figure it out,” and/or they couldn’t afford to pay people to help them with their campaigns. So, I’m going to go through the most basic elements that any small business will need for their online marketing:

1. Local Search. If you run a brick and mortar business, make sure you are listed with the local online search directories and that the information listed there is accurate and current. Here’s a post with some good local search resources. Just make sure that your local search includes a Google+ account.

2. Put Up a Decent Website. I’m not going to go into the essential elements of a good business website. Here’s a post that does a pretty good job with that. Just, please realize that in almost every case, you do need your own site (it really doesn’t cost a lot of money to set up and maintain. We’re talking about $50 to $60 a year). Try to stay away from the free website services. It just makes your business look cheap. Also, don’t rely on social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Google+, to be your blog. If you do something they don’t like or if they make a major platform change, you could end up loosing everything.

3. Pick ONE or TWO Social Media Platforms. Don’t buy into the hype surrounding all the social media platforms out there. You really don’t have to be on all of them or even several of them. BUT, you should pick one or two places where you feel comfortable AND where you can likely reach your customers. Don’t just jump into a platform, either. Take some time to look around and figure out what will be the most appropriate for you and your business, and  start building up a following.

I know that this is a very short list. I’ve left out things like content marketing, other forms of online advertising, such as PPC, email marketing or building up an engaged subscriber list. But, before you can even get to these things the three elements mentioned above have to be in place. You can, and in many cases, should expand your Internet marketing strategies beyond these three areas. They are initial stepping stones to give you some foundation as you branch out. Internet marketing is for every business, but you have to approach it correctly to get the results.

Small Business Owners Still Fumbling Online

According to research by SMB Digital Scape, the majority of small business owners are still fumbling when it comes to their online presence, and we’re not just talking about maintaining social media accounts. Many small business websites are missing the basics. It seems that though many businesses have an online presence, they still aren’t investing enough time, money, nor attention to optimizing it, and this is likely costing them a lot of business.

Here is a rundown of the most telling omissions:

  • 78% of small business websites do not provide an email address on their homepage. Even if the business technically has a contact email account, visitors to the site have to search to find it.
  • 90% do not provide either a map or directions on their homepage. Interested customers either have to search for the information elsewhere on the site, or they have to make the effort to access a third party service, such as Google Maps, where they can be exposed to local competing businesses.
  • 94.5% of websites provide no means of conducting a transaction online. There is no way to make and pay for an order. This can turn away people who would otherwise do business online.
  • 76% of websites do not have a privacy policy. Visitors to these sites have no way of knowing what data is being collected from them and how that data is being used.
  • 98% of small commercial websites have no spam protection. There are no captcha fields included in the site’s web forms.
  • 92% of websites do not have a blog. This means there is very little new content being uploaded on to the site. This can affect how the site gets ranked in the search engines.
  • 98% of websites are not optimized for the mobile web. This fact alone can be cutting off many potential customers. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 35% of American adults own a smartphone and 44% of them use their phones to serf the web.
  • 74% have no location in their meta-title. Putting location data into a website’s meta-title improves website visibility among potential customers looking for locally based businesses.


10 Top Trends for Small Businesses in 2012

Now that 2011 has passed (and what a wild and crazy year it was!) and 2012 is well under way, it’s time to look at some trends that will shape the upcoming year for small business owners. Taken as a whole, in 2012 you can expect to see a lot of maturing and fine tuning of some repeatedly trending topics, such as Internet marketing, the use of social media in business, and the proliferation and usage of mobile technology. The result: small businesses now have a more defined path to success both online and off.



Here is a rundown of some top small business trends:


1. Daily deals to build loyalty. Daily deals sites, such as Groupon and Living Social may have garnered a lot of attention last year, but not all of that talk time was so positive. The Internet is flooded with the stories of small businesses that ran a groupon or daily promotion with very little to show for it at the end of the day. The new year will certainly not see the demise of these sites, but rather their evolution. Look for daily deals sites to become more sophisticated, targeted, and local. Simultaneously, small business owners will seek to increase their follow-up efforts so that their daily offers and promotions will lead to more loyal customers.


2. Local search drives local business. In the new year, the importance of maintaining a local search presence will only increase, with local online directories, business pages, and review sites, such as Yelp! dominating the screen. Aside from helping Internet users access information on a local business, peer reviews and referrals will be big factors driving traffic and sales.


3. Personalized, real-time response. These days “service with a smile” is no longer enough when it comes to customer service- at least not when it’s online or over the phone. Consumers are looking for an instant, helpful, and personalized experience. This may take the form of a live web chat session with a customer service representative or a prompt response to an emailed inquiry or tweeted comment. Expect the continued usage and development of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions and other customer service platforms, such as ZenDesk among small businesses.


4. Bringing in the right traffic. Gone are the days where the goal is to bring as many people to your site as possible, such as with a viral video , article or social media event- especially if these activities are not directly related to your business. In the new year, businesses will be focused on bring in targeted traffic and then guiding their visitors along a carefully conceived sales funnel.


5. Mobile web. In November of last year, Nielsen reported, reported that almost half of American cell phone users (a full 44 percent) now have smartphones, and among those aged 25-34, that percentage jumps to 62 percent. Tablet computers and ereaders are also seeing a spike in sales and ubiquity. That said, this is another trends that small business owners cannot afford to ignore. At least, small business owners should make sure that their websites are mobile device ready. At most, some companies may stand to benefit from mobile-based marketing strategies, such as QR Codes and other forms of mobile advertising.


6. Mobile payments. The use and prevalence of mobile devices is not exclusive to consumers, many small businesses owners have been using smartphones and tablets in particular for businesses transactions and communication. Expect that number to increase in the new year along with an increase in mobile payments setups, such as the inexpensive Square or Intuit’s GoPayment


7. Email is still hanging in there. Far from being an outdated dinosaur when it comes to customer service and other forms of business communications, email is still where it’s at. Spamming people’s in-boxes, however, is not. The most successful use of email is in building long-term relationships through the delivery of quality content. With that relationship in place, email is a direct marketing conduit. Some email marketing tools popular among smaller businesses include: Vertical Response, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp.


8. Pain killers. The best selling point for 2012 is being able to convey how your product or service will solve problems, make life easier, and reduce one’s level of pain and discomfort.


9. The importance of trust. Consumers are looking for authenticity and honesty from the businesses they frequent, and they are getting adept at “smelling a rat.” Relationships and suggestions from within their social circles are also influencing their purchase decisions, sentiment, and ultimately, their ability to trust the quality and value of a company’s products or services.


10. Small businesses crunch big numbers. The new year will also see an increasing number of small business relying on robust, low-cost cloud-based data and analytical tools. These online tools allow small businesses to organize, mine and analyze vast arrays of data from market research, their website, customer behavior, marketing campaigns, and social media activity.