Not long ago, our top options for marketing our business were to buy space in a newspaper, a static billboard, or a 30-second commercial spot on television. Now, we have the opportunity to push our brand out in front of a greater audience than ever before…at a fraction of the cost.
Think about what the internet has done for business. If you owned a business 20 years ago, you relied on your sales force and your marketing team to travel, make phone calls, knock on people’s doors, or whatever it took to let people know your company existed.
Fast forward to 2012, and there are almost too many marketing methods to keep up with. This is a good thing though, people. It can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s about finding what works for you and your business…you don’t have to use all of them.
The main thing is to make sure that you have a website. I don’t care what industry you’re in…you need to be online. This is your “billboard”. Except, instead of only being seen by commuters gridlocked on the interchange (and hoping that they remember your brand and contact info), you can be seen by any one of the 2.3 billion internet users in the world (according to http://www.internetworldstats.com) on a given day. That’s nearly one third of the world’s population versus one third of your city.
Ok, so your local bakery business may not care if people in another state or on another continent, for that matter, find your website. However, the internet has become the new phone book as well. Is there anyone that actually references the phone book anymore (aside from my parents)? When I see that 5-inch thick mess of pages outside my front door, I kindly pick it up off the ground and properly place it into my recycling bin. I think we have finally reached the point in time where there are more people in the world that consult Google, than flip through their local phone book…and that number will only continue to grow.
Ok, enough of my rant. My point is that instead of paying a good chunk of money for a your name, address and phone number in a size 6 font to be listed in a book, a website allows you to have all of that, and more. You have the opportunity to include a map to your business, hours of operation, a write-up about your company, pictures, a menu of your products or services, and even some reviews from past customers.
You also have access to free social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest to expand your reach and have a more personal connection with your audience.
Having your website found is another obstacle, and outsourcing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be costly, but know that there are plenty of low-cost avenues out there as well.
Look at the internet for what it is. We have the ability to shift from an undesirable location to prime virtual real estate, without “physical” relocation. It allows us to expand our marketing efforts, connect with our customers and personalize our brands. Learn it, use it and (try to) love it.
John Ehlenbeck is a small business owner, and contributing writer for Aprimo Marketing Automation Software.