August 28th, 2010 Archive

Going Local on the World Wide Web

August 28th, 2010 by Ric in Financial Freedom, Sharing Success

Source: GettyImages.com

There was a time when advertising or marketing meant putting up a sign on your front window, giving out fliers to people on the street, or placing posters on bulletin boards around town.  If you were lucky and had cash to spare, it meant buying some space in the local paper, or some air time on the local radio and TV stations.

And then came the Internet.

Now, your website, not your front window, is probably the first thing people see.  Fliers that used to be handed out to people on the street can now be emailed to people all over the world.  And when people talk about you and your products, it isn’t just happening in the salon, in the lockers, or by the water cooler – it’s now happening on blogs, forums, and social-media sites.  Almost everything that used to be limited to your locale can now happen anywhere in the world.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you forget your local customers.  Yes, the Internet helps you reach out other markets, but it is also a great way to establish your presence in the local marketplace.  Dorothy Dutch has an article up on our Small Business CEO Magazine called Local Internet Marketing and Advertising for Small to Mid-Size Businesses – 10 Tricks of the Trade explaining how.

She gave 10 tips, but I’ve grouped them together into a few, more general tips:

Get your site seen

Your website is your storefront, sales brochure, and virtual receptionist rolled into one.  The people who visit your website can learn about your business and your products, the causes you support, and many other things.

Of course, your site is no good if nobody knows about it.  Make sure your business cards, signs, stationery, and other materials have your website address printed on them.   You should also put your website in your email signature, and if possible, on your signatures for blog comments, forum posts, and other online interactions.

Dorothy also stresses having a smart website, which in her words is “one that uses SEO techniques to tell the search engines like Google what your site / business is about so that when potential customers search online for a business like yours… your business comes up first.”

Basically, a smart website is one that can talk to computers and other websites just as well as it talks with your customers.  This, along with the right keywords, allows your site to climb up Google and other search engine results.

Reach out to your market

Dorothy suggests using Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to your advantage.  She also suggests utilizing blogs, and forums.  These sites are like the online equivalents of coffee shops, salons, and other places where people can talk to you and about you.  There are always several discussions going on, and getting on these sites lets you join these discussions.

By joining these communities, or even by building a community around your business, you can learn about what people like (or don’t like) about your business and your products, and even learn what they want that you can offer.  More importantly, interacting with your market  helps you build relationships with them – and makes it more likely they will become loyal customers.

Of course, social sites, blogs, and forums aren’t the only ways to build relationships with your market.  You can reach out to them through e-mail – but you need to know their addresses first.  Dorothy suggests:

Have a place on your web site that encourages customers to provide you with their e-mail addresses. Keep your lists up to date and even begin to categorize the lists for your records. Start a newsletter to send to your e-mail list to keep them coming.

E-mail campaigning over the internet to let local folks know who you are and what you are offering is one of the key ways to implement a successful local marketing campaign. Ask for new customer e-mail addresses at every opportunity. Have a place on your web site that encourages customers to provide you with their e-mail addresses. Keep your lists up to date and even begin to categorize the lists for your records. Start a newsletter to send to your e-mail list to keep them coming.

Mix old school techniques with new technology

Coupons, sales, and special offers are meant to pique interest.  A tempting enough offer will get customers to walk in, call in, or order online.  They can also get prospective customers to think about future sales and offers, and get them to keep coming back.

Another traditional sales technique is the referral.  It not only helps you get new customers, which is always good, but it also strengthens ties with your current customers.  By offering your best customers incentives for recruiting new customers, you get to do two things: you show them how much you value them and the business they bring in, and get them to work for you and advertise for you.

Now you may be wondering, where does the new technology come in?  For one thing, you can inform people about these offers online through e-mail, social media, or other channels.  Doing so lets you use tracking codes and other techniques that will also allow you to track these offers and see how well they work.

Get others to work for you

A referral program like Dorothy mentioned gets your customers actively advertising and supporting your business.  Getting involved in social media, forums, and other online discussions also gets people working for you by talking about you.  These, however, are not your only options to getting others working for your business.

Dorothy suggests article marketing, which entails writing (or finding somebody else to write) articles featuring your products or your services and submitting them to article-sharing sites.  These sites can spread your articles to several online publications, and consequently, get your products featured on several sites.

Of course, another way to get others to work for you is by hiring them.  There are companies that can help you with Internet marketing and incorporating the techniques that Dorothy mentions.  These companies can help you make full use of the Internet for your marketing efforts.

With all the advantages that Internet marketing offers over more traditional marketing techniques, it would be foolish not to learn how to use it.  Yes, the Internet allows you to market globally, but it also allows you to strengthen your presence in your local market.  The fact is that the Internet gives you another way to connect with your customers – and the best part is that you can connect with them even when they’re nowhere near your store.

Until next time,

Ric