An Open Letter To Small Business Owners – Help With Online Advertising
Dear Small Business Owner,
This letter is being written to help you understand the changes that are occurring that will have an effect on how you run your business and specifically on how you promote your business. The Internet is here to stay, historically small business has relied on legacy media such as newspapers and radio to promote their business as well as advertising only mediums such as billboards. These media types focus on one thing and one thing only, eyeballs. The question you have to ask yourself now is this: Are their better ways to promote my business on the Internet? Is there something other than eyeballs I, as a business owner, need to think about?
You are likely very comfortable advertising with your local newspaper, Yellowpages, and radio station, the same salesperson has been visiting you for many years and you purchase month after month and they talk about the number of houses delivered too, the number of listeners, etc. Have they mentioned anything about the 92 percent of newspapers that have reported a drop in readership or the major drop in print Yellowpage usage?
Now, before you think that you have a business that is immune to the shift or that since you do not sell a product online that promoting your business on the Internet is not for you I would like to give you an example case where a business has grown their business by promoting online effectively.
This specific small business, a 3 person pet grooming salon in rural Missouri, had never had a website because they had never thought that a pet grooming shop would need online promotion, the Yellowpages and Newspaper seemed the obvious place to advertise, everyone has been doing it for years, right????
After someone came into their shop to discuss a small website and targeted promotion on the web they decided that having a website might be “neat” but the company working with them also explained the concept of building the site to allow for targeted traffic that allows for higher customer conversions. This was a new concept to them, advertising had always been about viewers not necessarily only getting visitors that actually convert to customers.
The pet grooming shop decided to move forward and purchased both advertising and a website. The advertising was targeted by community and also very important was the targeting of the website that was developed for them. It was developed specifically to receive traffic for pet grooming customers in their specific rural town.
The results, after just one month of being live the customer contacted their supplier and let them know that they had several new customers that let them know they found them on the web. What does this mean? It means in even small towns people are searching for offline businesses instead of going to the newspaper or flipping through the Yellowpages. This is a group of customers that you, the small business owner, is missing.
For many years small businesses have complained about corporate America ruining community businesses. The same thing has the potential to happen on the Internet. How can you tell? First off you have to ask yourself how you use the Internet or think about how your potential customers use the Internet. If the first thing that you thought after reading that was that this does not matter since you do not use the Internet, the thing you actually need to think about is the second part of the sentence, “think about how your customers use the Internet”. One of the major mistakes many long time small business owners make is thinking that since they are not users that their customers are not.
Anyway, back to corporate America, they have had budgets to do marketing online for years, in many cases if you search for a certain type of business online in small and large towns the large corporate companies show up in the search results. Why? Because they know how to play the “Internet game”. They understood that people are using the web for finding services and products locally. As a small business owner you need to think about this as well. The topic that seems so technical is actually your marketing today. No longer can you think about your website as a technical item but it needs to be looked at as a marketing tool. It is about finding customers not just having a website because it is “neat”.
The next thought many small business owners will have is my town is too small no one is searching for services here. That is also not true and will be changing rapidly. The US government has approved a 7.2 billion stimulus package to drive broadband Internet access into rural America. This means the way people access and use the Internet in these areas will change drastically and if your business is not prepared those “corporate guys” will take business away because they show up in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Being small and rural does not matter any more. Whether you are in New York City or Kearney, Nebraska the Internet is the Internet and people can find your competitors without having to drive to their doorstep.
So, if you have read this far I want to give you items to think about as you realize that maybe having a presence online that actually draws targeted viewers looking for your service or product is important:
- Targeted Traffic – Here is the best analogy to explain this: Shotgun Vs. Rifle. Think of newspapers and radio as the shotgun approach and targeted web traffic as a rifle. How you get that targeted traffic is the more complicated part. But it has been proven many times that targeted traffic converts at a much higher rate than traffic received from the shotgun approach
- Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the typical way this is said. SEO is the process of building your website in a way that draws the targeted visitors to your business presence online. Think about this, if the front door to your business is locked no one can get in. If your site is not optimized the front door might as well be locked.
- Domain Name Selection – This is VERY important, it is not as simple as just going to Godaddy.com and picking a name. It is important to select something that describes your business and if possible be rich in words that describe that you are doing. This helps gain the targeted traffic that is discussed above. In many cases it is worth the effort and money to acquire this domain name from a third party who may own the name currently. You selected your physical office location based on location, shouldn’t you also choose the best possible location for your online presence?
- Call To Action – Once they get to your website you need to make sure they take action to contact or buy your product. Your site needs to be developed in a way that urges them to do this. This is most often the piece that is overlooked when developing a site (right up there with SEO).
After spending time with small business owners in both large and small towns and cities I have found it very common to hear the comment “My (insert family member here) is building my website.” In almost all cases the site has been done in a way that is not optimized and will never have a visitor because the site was not used as a marketing tool but simply as an item that was “neat”. It is important that you understand that your website is as important to your business presence as the sales people you have working with customers or the office space you have. It is your face to the public, but if no one ever sees it because it is hidden in a crowd and is never seen then it does not matter if it is “pretty and nice looking”. You must optimize your web presence starting at the selection of your domain name and ending at the call to action to act once they get there.
For more information feel free to use the contact me button at the top of this page to get more details on what can be done to help your business prepare.