Sunday, April 6, 2008

A new marketing reality

Marketing for small business is a unique and challenging thing. Small businesses all have one thing in common. They have a limited budget. While this is true of all businesses to some degree, for small business owners, it is attached to very real short term consequences. If a corporation has a marketing strategy flop, there will be some explaining to do. If a small business owner makes a poor marketing decision, it could very well bring the auctioneer to the door.

So with that in mind, we know that a small business owner will not be saturating the marketplace with billboards and primetime TV ads. Small business owners need marketing strategies that pay them back with new customers. Once they accept that, it is all about return on investment.

Consider the options: Print ads like newspaper, magazines and flyers; Direct Marketing like mailers, door hangers and cold calls; Or, internet marketing like Websites, Paid ads and the notorious spam mailings.

I have had experience with most of these as a paying customer. I can tell you from experience that each one performs completely differently depending on what it is you are trying to market. If I was a local Pizza joint, I would place my bet on door hangers or even direct mail. If I were a big box retailer advertising a sale, I would put an ad in Sunday's paper. However, if I were a small business providing any type of local service or specialty merchandising, I highly recommend a strongly optimized website.

Websites and small business are like peanutbutter and jelly. And, this is for good reason. Consider some typical small businesses like these: Realtors, Attorneys, Insurance Agents, Construction Contractors, Auto Repair and specialty shops like pool supply stores. The reason these businesses are perfect for internet marketing is because these are the kind of businesses people go looking for when they are in need. And, these business owners know that the best possible consumer to reach is someone who is actively looking for your services.

Once upon a time when people needed something locally, they looked it up in the phone book. These days, people go online. Why? The reason is simple really. Consumers are more educated than ever and they want more information to make their decisions. The internet offers endless sources of potential suppliers, other people's product experiences and opinions and tons of in-depth information on product options, history and pricing.

Unlike paid advertisements, a well optimized website also builds in value over time. If you buy an ad in the paper or send out a mailer, when the ad is gone, it is over and you have to buy another ad if you want people to see your business. Conversely, if you have a well optimized business website, it is always there. And, if it is managed properly, it will continue to create more and more exposure for your business as it gets older and more established.

I am amazed at how powerful it can be for local businesses. I have watched a well optimized website completely turn around a struggling local business. You will never see a happier business owner and it is the true reason that I do Internet Marketing and Website Optimization.


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