The Big Picture Of Online Marketing For Any Local Business
As a local business owner, you likely are too swamped to take the time to study the nuances of internet and online marketing. In my experience with talking to hundreds of business owners, it appears that most do not even know all of what internet marketing can do for them. If you have not actively studied the industry on a consistent basis for the last few years then you may have a similar “a ha” type of moment when you discover what online marketing can do for (and to) your business. I hope that this short article gives you some insight as well as reassurance, especially if the volume of business has not been what you would like in recent months.
Before we start, let’s assume a few quick things:
1) You run an ethical business: You would be surprised at how many less-than-ethical businesses exist which try to gain new business through social media. In an era when an angry customer has multiple outlets to vent their frustrations, it is imperative that you run an ethical business. I am assuming that you do so for the rest of this article to benefit you.
2) Your product or service has actual societal value: I have run into many small business owners, including those in direct marketing/sales operations, who see only THEIR OWN benefit in terms of financial gain; and they fail to verify, cross-check, or otherwise give the end customer actual benefit. In addition, many people join a business which does not offer any value versus the other options easily within reach of the target audience. I am going to assume that your product or service truly offers value to the end customer, especially when in consideration of your prospects’ other alternatives.
3) You have all infrastructure in place to support more business. Many small business owners complain that they want more business, yet their businesses would crumble with even a slight increase in new customers. Please make sure that you truly have the capacity to support new business as a result of proper online marketing.
With that out the way (!), let’s go through the “Big Picture” elements of good online marketing and how they can benefit you:
You can gain new customers
This is the basic goal of most local business owners when they pursue online marketing. While new revenue streams, improved reputation, and getting compliments on their websites are all nice to have the local business owner, at his or her core, simply wants more business. This can be in the form of walk-in traffic, phone calls, appointments, online orders, or referrals.
This can be done through search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, social media campaigns, helpful videos which “go viral”, being found on GPS services, and much more.
You can improve your reputation
If you run a good business then chances are that you have customers or clients who are willing to give you a review. Some even give you kudos at local business networking meetings such as Chamber of Commerce events.
The problem is how to take that person, who is willing to compliment and refer you, and get his/her willingness to refer you to boost your online marketing efforts. There is an art to this, and it is worth studying now that more and more people judge your degree of being “trustworthy” based on what is found online. They do so because it is tougher to creat a facade online if your business has poor business practices versus what can be manipulated in the physical world.
You can have an outlet for your creative side
Should you have a creative side, or if you are really good at conveying helpful information quickly and easily, then you may do so with online marketing. For example, if you are comfortable with being on camera then consider showcasing your ability to show fast solutions to problems on video-sharing sites like YouTube. You also can do the same thing through audio marketing such as giving away MP3 files on your website, hosting a weekly online radio show, or putting your podcasts on iTunes.
The trick is getting out of “content creation” mode and into “marketing mode”. In today’s business climate, having good content is NOT ENOUGH! You need to have an infrastructure in place to deliver that content to your prospective audience for many months or years. This could be in the form of a huge e-mail list with responsive customers, a social media page with thousands of people who really are “fans” of your business, or some other list you have created.
If you do not have a large, responsive list then no problem! You just have to understand the laws of supply and demand as they apply to the online marketing world. There are ways to quantify/estimate actual “demand” in the search engines. If you know how to cast your content in front of those people then you can build trust and, ultimately, lead to new sales. You also can “jump into” conversations online and offer helpful value. This can be on sites like Twitter, local forums, or online groups.
There are many ways of getting helpful content (text, images, audio, or video) in front of new prospects. You just have to be accurate in assessing how much influence you currently possess; and then you can make intelligent next steps to increase that influence.
You can gain MULTIPLE competitive advantages
Remember that most competitors are NOT doing intelligent internet marketing. Some industry categories are very savvy in their internet marketing skills, even at the local level; but even these industries are not so challenging that you cannot get new business. Odds are that your competitors are confused about a fundamentally-sound internet marketing strategy, and this is a good thing!
If you take the time to understand how to content helpful/trust-building content in front of an actual number of qualified prospects, then you likely will gain a competitive edge in your local market. You then can gain multiple advantages by using intelligent internet marketing in multiple avenues. You even may be able to expand your geographic reach, should that be your aspiration.
There are more elements of online markeing which you can study and master over time. Just remember that the ones I listed should help you keep the big picture in mind and, therefore, make intelligent decisions and purchases which bolster your business’ efforts in those areas.
If you have any questions then please contact me and I can point you in the right direction; and you are welcome to share this article with any colleagues, friends, or your social media pages.