Cofrin Park

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Internet Marketing for Your Small Business


Why should a small business use the Internet for marketing?  Well, for one thing, a small business has little clout these days and therefore must scramble for every piece of business it can get. In the old days business survival meant outdoing the competition. These days business survival has shifted to include the competition and even partner with them. For example, the same or similar businesses affiliate, yet maintain a healthy capitalist mindset necessary to motivate entrepreneurs to improve products, services and business practices. All this entrepreneurial activity takes places on a playing field recently leveled by the Internet. The Internet provides a platform for businesses large and small. Ironically, small businesses can benefit most from barrier-free entry into an international, online marketplace. However, the vastness of that marketplace poses both a unique challenge in its enormity and an opportunity in its ability to provide connections between a business and its customers.

Although large corporations may have an advantage in the capital department, allowing them to spend thousands of dollars on marketing, a small business has the advantage of being lean and keen. The small business owner can instantaneously make decisions and act on those decisions. Consequently, change takes place rapidly and that fact gives small business an edge over large corporations. For example, start-up companies have been able to topple large companies, often redesigning the turf:  Netflix made Blockbuster obsolete by quickly taking the lead in technology advances, providing its customers with unparalleled service. Blockbuster slowly tried to follow, but kept their “big business” decision-making methods, evolving much more slowly than nimble Netflix. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Where many small businesses fall short, however, is when they fail to form a marketing plan and create a budget for implementing that plan. All too often, small shopkeepers, although brilliant at what they do, treat marketing their business as an afterthought, “I’ll get around to it.” This thinking is especially dangerous when business is good. However, business is cyclical by nature, rising and falling with the tide. If a business cannot survive low tide, it dries up. Realizing this fact, in the wee hours of the morning, the enthusiastic business owner decides to get up to speed on the Internet thing. He or she single-handedly creates and launches a website, and thinks “I’m done!” A few months later, almost no one has visited that website.

The website failed to attract the attention of visitors because the website is neutral. The website needs an introduction. It needs to woo its visitors and then ask them for a date. This is where the Internet Marketer comes in. The Internet Marketer sets up the introduction and oversees the courtship. The courtship leads to marriage when a mutually beneficial relationship is forged, and both parties, the business owner and the customer, agree on the terms of the relationship.

INITIAL INTERNET MARKETING EFFORTS FOR SMALL BUSINESS


Set a budget to hire technology and marketing talent. Hire the best you can find and afford. Your marketing budget should allow for set-up fees and ongoing monthly maintenance fees. These fees can range from low (outsourced to India, for example) to high (thousands per month) and everything in between. It all depends upon the scope and nature of the work, and with whom you feel comfortable working. LinkedIn.com users discuss consulting fees for website designers and Internet marketers. Some examples of what Internet Marketers charge range from between $40 to $200 per hour for general marketing tasks, to $500 to $1000 for creating a Facebook page, to monthly fees of $100 to $500 per month for daily posting and monitoring.

Marketing your business is an ongoing endeavor, and changes as the Internet and technology changes. Marketing is “business maintenance,” and that includes constant reassessment of the results. In order to determine whether your marketing efforts are effective, you must set goals and track the results. One way to track results is to use free tools such as Google Analytics or use the tools that may come with your web hosting package. Analytics helps you determine whether your marketing efforts continue to do their job—attract users and create customers, thus allowing you to close the deal.

5 ELEMENTS OF A SMALL BUSINESS INTERNET MARKETING PLAN INCLUDE:

1)  A website, designed for ease of use. Decide what you want the website to accomplish. The website is your storefront, your virtual calling card, your virtual business. Your website is the starting point, the hike of the ball, the pitch. It sets the rest of the play in motion, so it must do its job. A poor pitch, and the play dies. Many poor pitches and you lose the game.

2)  A viral loop that establishes your web presence and leads visitors logically to your website:

 3)  Blogs are a great place to begin, because a blog forces you to craft your message, identify your niche and interact with visitors via the comments section. The blog offers you an opportunity to start a dialogue with users who get to know you through your blog posts. Your blog post must add value to users' lives. You want them to say “hey, I visited your blog and website and it answered a question and solved a problem, and I like that.”
The blog should link to:

4)  Your other online business profiles, such as LinkedIn (you are on LinkedIn, right?) Facebook, YouTube,  Twitter and your website, of course!

5)  Traffic Generation. This includes search engine optimization (SEO), back links from high quality websites and blogs related to your business, email list building for use in marketing free content like a newsletter, guest posting on other blogs, answering questions on LinkedIn and becoming an expert in your niche, to name a few.Traffic Generation also includes paid methods like Google Adwords. (Traffic Generation is the current darling of Web based courses and coaching.)

Although crucial to marketing your business, Internet Marketing success multiplies when combined with traditional marketing methods. A successful small business owner circulates, joins the industry associations, and often initiates the dialogue. A successful small business owner focuses marketing efforts on their ideal customer: Learn where they hang out (Associations? Forums? Websites? Blogs? Trade Shows?) Find out your ideal customer's needs and address them by answering questions and offering solutions.

Internet Marketing allows you to build your business by adding value, building relationships and trust and finally turning “looky-loos” into paying customers who then tell their friends. Internet Marketing offers you an opportunity to work with your friends.

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