Small business owners have a lot to gain from Internet Marketing. The Internet can help a business grow, and Internet Marketing will help you take full advantage of all the opportunities created in the online world.
How can Internet Marketing help small businesses?
What do we mean by small businesses?
When we talk about small businesses, we essentially mean any company that operates online or offline and may or may not have clients online. We tend to use the term ‘small businesses’ since large corporations most probably have dedicated departments that take care of their Internet marketing and online presence.
I have the opportunity to talk with small business owners daily, explaining to them how Internet marketing can help them expand and find new customers. There are a couple of questions that I am asked from people operating in different niches. I am sharing the questions below since I am sure that it will help other business owners understand a bit more about Internet Marketing.
I am not selling online; why do I need Internet Marketing? This is the top question coming from business owners who are not selling any products or services online. The answer is straightforward.
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Even if you are not selling online, you still need Internet Marketing because nowadays, purchasing decisions are influenced by online searches. People like to research a product or service before deciding to purchase, and if you are not found when they are doing their searches, you are missing great opportunities.
In a recent study by Nielsen and Google regarding the use of mobile for shopping, it was found that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their devices to shop while in-store. This is only a very simple example that shows the importance of having an efficient online presence (both web and mobile) for small businesses.
My customers are not on Facebook; why spend money on something that won’t give me any return? This is another question that is worth discussing. Internet Marketing is not only about Facebook or Google, as many people believe. As we will see below (and as it is shown in the picture above), Social Media is only one of the tools available in your campaign (see also: the difference between digital marketing and social media).
A good Internet Marketing campaign will cover a number of online technologies and will concentrate more on those that provide a higher ROI for your business. If your customers don’t use Facebook but search related items in Google, more preference will be given to Search Engine Marketing.
I am already into this but so far I haven’t seen any results? Another common comment I hear often is people telling me that they are already doing Internet marketing but have not noticed any good results. After we discuss in detail their particular case, we conclude that:
- They either hired a person or company that they don’t know what they are doing (besides taking their money)
- They don’t use metrics, so they don’t know if what they are doing is for the better or worse
- They concentrate on measuring traffic and not conversions – traffic is significant, but what is more important for a business is making more sales, finding new customers, exploring new markets, etc.
To take advantage of Internet Marketing, it is essential not to make the above three mistakes i.e. to hiring the wrong person or company (read this: How to outsource SEO without paying a fortune ), not having statistics before, during and after each campaign and giving more value to traffic than to actual conversions.
Benefits of internet marketing for small businesses
I have mentioned many times above that Internet marketing can help a business grow, but this is only one of the advantages or benefits to small business owners. In summary, Internet Marketing can help you:
Find new customers from the different online markets. As you are reading this, millions of people search Google, Yahoo, and Bing for content or products. Thousands of people use the Apple Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon AppStore to download applications on their mobiles. Millions of people use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and a dozen other social networks.
A well designed and efficient Internet Marketing campaign will penetrate all those markets and get your company to monitor every potential customer.
Get you in front of the competition – Take the example I mentioned above from the Nielsen / Google study where users use their mobile for research before making a purchasing decision. If they don’t find your website (either because you don’t have one or because it is not optimized) and they find your competitors’ website, what will happen? Most probably, you will be losing customers to your competitors.
On the other hand, if you have a good website optimized for all devices and users, you can get those customers. The investment you are making in Internet Marketing will keep you in front of the competition.
Get to know your customers better, what they prefer and need – I am sure you have read about customer engagement before, but let me give you a real example of how Internet Marketing can help you achieve this.
One of my clients is BezAmbar.com (designer of innovative jewellery for men and women), and they are using Facebook to get their customers’ opinions about new designs and products. Check their Facebook page and look at the comments. It is a fantastic example of how companies can ‘hear’ their customers and get their product feedback even before they are released.
Internet Marketing Tips for businesses
Now that we are all in sync about what Internet Marketing can offer to businesses, let us examine below how you can do that in practice.
Note: If you are confused about what you need to do or don’t have the time or staff to deal with Internet Marketing, your next best choice is to hire an Internet Marketing company to do the work for you. You can review our SEO packages and contact us to discuss how we can help you, always considering that the cost of internet marketing services is reasonable. There is an excellent return on your investment.
Internet Marketing (as shown in the above diagram) has several components. If you follow the list from the left, we have:
Web Site: It may sound silly, but Yes, you need to have a website to do Internet Marketing, and still, more than 50% of businesses in America don’t have a website. Once you create your website, you need to make sure that it is of high quality and based on best standards and practices.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing): When you have a high-quality website, the next step is to work on Search Engine Marketing. SEM has three parts that are very important for the overall success of any campaign:
1) On-page SEO – Optimizations to give your website better visibility in search engines but also to make it friendlier to use by people
2) Off-page SEO – techniques you can use to promote your website using legitimate white hat practices
3) PPC – Take advantage of the Pay per click advertising platforms (Google Adwords, Yahoo ads etc.) to bring your message to more people.
These three parts are independent of each other, but you need to utilize them all for optimum results.
Social Media Marketing: A very popular method to promote your online business. Recent studies show that there is an increasing rate of conversion from social media traffic, which is very encouraging for social media marketers. Read my social media marketing tips for beginners for more detailed information.
Content Marketing: People love content, and the companies that can provide their potential clients with the right content are winning in the end. This is not something new, but with the increasing number of people online and their continuous hunt for quality information, you need to invest in content marketing if you want to stay on top.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
If you are selling coffee makers, your website needs to have top quality content related to coffee makers, including product descriptions, technical characteristics, customer reviews, maintenance information, customer support forums, images, videos, comparison tools, etc.
Suppose you are not selling online but have a law firm looking for local clients. In that case, your website should have information about your company, staff, expertise, location, portfolio, ways to make an appointment, general advice about law-related matters, etc.
Email Marketing: Everybody has an email address and companies that can get valid email addresses of their potential, and existing customers have many opportunities to make cross-selling or increase their customer base. The success or not of email marketing depends on many factors, but it is important to use email marketing as part of your overall Internet marketing campaign and not as a standalone service.
For example, when you are about to release a new product or service or open a new store, you can email your customers and let them know by giving them a 10% discount or some other reward to make them happy for receiving your message.
If instead, you use email to send messages with no real value for them, they will probably consider it spam, which will gradually have a more significant impact on your business.
Mobile Marketing: Mobile usage is on the rise, and as more people get their hands into smartphones, the importance of mobile marketing is increasing. Google is already investing a lot of money in mobile research, and they believe that mobile marketing isn’t an option, but it’s imperative for every business.
The first thing you need to ensure is that your website is mobile-friendly, i.e. it is optimized for viewing on various mobile devices. Next is to ensure that your mobile-friendly website is SEO optimized. Google has started penalizing mobile websites that are not SEO optimized, so it is essential not only to have a mobile-friendly website but to have an optimized site.
Other than that, you can also invest in creating native mobile apps for the different mobile markets and find even more customers. Read this Mobile website Vs Native App if you don’t know the difference between the two.
Banner Advertising: Besides the above methods, the traditional option is to advertise on other related websites. If quality websites or blogs in your niche offer advertising space, it’s not a bad idea to run a couple of test campaigns and evaluate the results.
The biggest mistake that people make when buying advertising from other websites is not measuring the return on investment. In other words, you need to know what users do from the time they click on your ad, how much time they spend on your site, which pages they visit, what actions they take and how many of them convert, i.e. made a purchase. When you have all this info, you can decide whether or not to continue running the ads.
Internet marketing is a must of every serious business, even if it does not depend on the Internet to make sales. Whether you are selling a product or service, you need to invest in your Internet presence for all the reasons explained above and for the simplest reason: this is how business is done today, and you have no other choice than to follow the trend.
Internet marketing works, and there are many examples of businesses that have expanded because of the Internet, but you need to do it correctly and consistently in an ongoing process.
Finally, if you don’t know how to do this in-house, it is one of the most appropriate services to outsource and gain from the main benefits.
If you want to find out more information, make sure that you read: