Internet Marketing on a Budget

Savvy business owners know that success depends on exploring the variety of marketing opportunities available. But in order to maximize promotional budgets, these business owners must increasingly choose the right marketing opportunity based on their skill and knowledge level as well as their promotional budgets. While you may already be reaping the rewards of advertising in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, television or radio, or even using door-to-door mailers, marketing your products and services on the Web provides greater reach into your prospective audience and a more cost-effective way to secure mind-share and profits for the long-term sustainability of your enterprise. That’s a marketing opportunity that you simply cannot deny.



Online shopping seems to get more popular every year, but people still love to get out of the house and go shopping–and they always will. What’s changing is how shoppers prepare for their excursions. For example, a recent analysis by comScore Networks reveals some important numbers about local search. The study states that 63 percent of U.S. Internet users (approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July 2006, a 43 percent increase from July 2005. What’s more, during the second quarter of 2006, 47 percent of local searchers visited a local merchant after their search, aided by the fact that many local search engines offer location mapping as well. Simply put, those taking advantage of local search will see more customers than those who do not.



The following are some simple suggestions that you, as a brick and mortar business, can employ to get the word out about your product or service immediately and do it by only investing your time, your most precious resource as a small business owner, and not the dollars that keep your business profitable. While you should at least have a modest Web presence that users can use to learn a little more about what it is that your company actually does, the following tips do not require that you have a website at all and instead focus on how, along with some creative thinking, you can market your products, services, or solutions on the Internet by spending a few hours of your time each month and without breaking the bank.



Build An E-Mail List To Build A Business:

E-mail changed marketing for the better. As a direct response medium, e-mail enables you to keep prospects interested in what you are offering and informed about what you are doing or offering at a fraction of the cost of postal mail. While many people will tell you that you will need lots of bells and whistles to market effectively through e-mail, the truth of the matter is that there are several services and resources online to help you manage communications sent by e-mail while simultaneously building essential relationships with your client base that you need for long-term success. For example, anyone can set up an account on either Yahoo! Groups or Google Groups and have a ready-made platform to share messages (sales or marketing messages, too). If you are a plumber in Topeka, you can set up one of these groups and share information on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule about how to maintain a plumbing system or current discounts you are offering on sink installation. When someone needs a referral, chances are excellent that it will come from one of the e-mail subscribers who trust you because you are the one providing valuable information. The real benefit besides the free price tag is that all the hard work (coding, e-mail delivery, etc.) is done for you. All the group owner has to do is promote the group to their customers. The referrals will come over time as long as you are dedicated to its success.



Social Networking:


There has been an influx the past few years in social networking on the Web. Destinations such as MySpace.com and others enable you to set up a presence on the Internet and network with those people using your products and services. Marketing your business on MySpace is effective as it enables you to build a relationship and network with your users and prospects. For example, a florist might want to use a site like MySpace to keep in touch with customers who use their services regularly. Business owners can get valuable feedback from these users to improve their services or get insight into why some use their solutions while others don’t. (Are the roses fresh? Are the lilies expensive?) In addition, as referrals are usually the lifeblood of any enterprise (large or small), MySpace users frequently search for and find recommendations from those in their network.



There are also some other important services on the social networking scene which you should investigate including Yelp.com and JudysBook.com. It is free to create a profile at both of these services and add information about your company. What makes these Web sites so important to your Web marketing is that the members of these communities routinely and actively share their experiences with other members. Asking your existing clients to share a review will ensure you receive exposure and in the end may just generate some new business.



Local Focused Search Sites:


When your prospects use the Internet, chances are good they will use it to search and find something – ideally your business and not those of your competitors. Most of these users conduct their searches at Google, Yahoo!, Ask.com, or MSN, and lucky for you, these companies all offer you a free way to list your company. In addition, several of these companies enable local business operators to provide additional details such as hours of operation, area of focus (zip codes, neighborhoods, etc.), and, in some cases, details about their products and services. You can learn more by visiting your preferred search engine and conducting a search for the term “local business listings.”



Keep in Mind:


While many of the aforementioned services are complimentary, there is still some cost associated with marketing your company online – namely time. If you can set aside a few hours each month to generate some exposure through the free methods above, you’ll see the increase in new sales almost immediately if done correctly.



Also keep in mind that establishing stringent controls about your business information will play an important role in your success. Ensuring the consistency of your brand across various distribution channels will mean that all prospects will receive the same information and will not be mislead. In the end, when consumers trust you they will be back to spend again and again.



Small business owners would also be wise to track the results of their Web marketing. Being informed on what works and what does not will save you time and money. As a business owner, you can only lose if you do not engage in Web marketing. Now is the time, so get involved today.

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Reader Comments


Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 3:33 AM
SEO Services says:
Social networking and email marketing are very effective ways to market your business. This technique was proven by many marketers.
Friday, October 24, 2008 at 1:45 PM
Sandy says:
Great Article
Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 11:54 AM
Eugene W< .Montrose says:
Great article. Promises kept worth many times those promises offerred. Customer service =referrals and retention.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 1:34 PM
Christopher M. Kato says:
Thank you for this iformative article. I am looking forward to working with any company that is willing to hire my services on line.

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