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.