In today’s business world, online marketing isn’t just effective; it’s essential
At one time, business essentials were limited to business cards, yellow page ads and brochures. Newspapers, radio and television were used by cutting-edge businesses of yore and still reap huge rewards for big-businesses today. Mass media are generally just not cost-effective for most local businesses. In the 21st Century, it’s clear that the impact of these tools is diminished by the world wide web. We search for products and services online from our desktops, laptops and cell phones. Yet most local business owners don’t take advantage of the affordability and profits available through online marketing.
Like a business plan and a budget, an Internet marketing strategy is essential for modern-day small business success. While a website provides a good starting point, online marketing requires more than a couple of static web pages. Instead, a successful internet approach requires a dynamic and well-rounded web presence that builds relationships in addition to sales, fans in addition to customers.
A comprehensive Internet marketing strategy replaces newspaper ads with banner ads, yellow pages with search engines, snail mail with e-mail, town squares with social networks and sales letters with custom content. The technology is as evolutionary as it is revolutionary, and smart businesses are taking advantage of current environment to trounce their competition.
Tools and technology aside, there are dozens of reasons to engage actively and often in Internet marketing. Here are a few of the most persuasive:
1. When they need information, modern-day consumers go online; your successful internet marketing program will make sure they find you when they are shopping for your product or service.
2. Online marketing has tremendous research potential; if nothing else, companies should engage in online marketing research in order to collect data about their customers, prospects and competitors.
3. By marketing on the internet, companies can reach a highly targeted audience; what’s more, they can reach it quickly, intimately and more cost-effectively online than traditional marketing approaches.
4. Online marketing lends itself to instant conversions. Customers can quickly and easily find what they want and immediately click through to purchase it.
5. Compared with many traditional marketing vehicles, Internet marketing services are both more affordable and more effective.
6. Internet marketing provides marketing power to local business owners; by marketing online, your company can enjoy big-business marketing exposure on a local marketing budget.
Action Steps. Some contacts and resources to help you get started with your online marketing:
Search engine marketing strengthens your online marketing strategy.
Once you have a website, Internet marketing via search engines will help your customers find it. Consider search engine optimization, which will improve your search engine rankings, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which markets your company via relevant, targeted search engine queries.
ACTION: Before you build a web site, use Wordtracker’s free keyword suggestion tool to choose keywords; use those keywords in your descriptions and meta-tags, PPC advertising via Google AdWords and Yahoo! Sponsored Search in order to build search engine traffic.
Select appropriate display advertising and leverage online marketing tools
Display advertising, including banner ads, is a basic form of online marketing. Because you’ll pay for impressions – banner ads are usually priced using CPM, or cost per thousand impressions – make sure you place ads only on websites that your target markets visit.
ACTION: Yahoo! Advertising provides Internet marketing services to design, purchase and place your Internet advertisements
Public relations promotes your online marketing image
Marketing on the internet includes more than advertising; it’s also about public relations. Generate publicity online and continually monitor, build and maintain your online reputation.
ACTION: Include Google Alerts in your online marketing strategy. Use them to keep tabs on mentions of your name, your company and your products online; search Technorati for mentions in blogs and social media. And, when you write press releases, distribute them via a newswire service like PRWeb, which allows you to tag your release for exposure on social bookmarking sites like Digg and Del.iciou.us.
Engage e-mail marketing to reach your online market
Promotional e-mails, including targeted messages and periodic e-mail newsletters, are effective, opt-in tools for one-to-one marketing. Send news or send coupons, but whatever you do, don’t spam.
ACTION: VerticalResponse is a popular e-mail marketing vendor that can help you develop and execute a one-on-one marketing strategy; browse its resources page for e-mail marketing research, tips and advice.