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Basic Internet Marketing Tips

We're Locals, Urban Picnic @ Sweet Auburn Curb MarketI recently read an article which gave a statistic that shocked me. It said right now, about 7 billion dollars a year is spent on local internet marketing. This number will reach 30 billion by 2013. I’m no genius, but the way I read that is there will be a huge push over the next few years. This means you will see a lot of businesses like yours all scrambling to catch up and get a piece of the pie.

A luxury of being a small business is you are more flexible than the big guys. You can try things without needing to convince board members, marketing and the 17 tier management structure that the wording on your Google ad will work. If something new comes along, you can see if it makes sense to you and business. If it does, you can give it a shot.

I have worked for and with many places who have had varying views on marketing. Many struggle to market themselves because they don’t know where to start. This problem plagues many small businesses, yet each feels like they are unique in their needs.  Below are a few tips to get you started.

Define your ideal customer

Marketing to everyone does not work for small business; you have probably seen this many times before. Geographic direct mailing gives you a 1.5% return rate if you are lucky. Billboards, yellow page ads, newspapers and many other mass media ads can work, but how do you know what your return is?

Defining your perfect customer will let you target your internet marketing towards the right people. Do you like to deal with more tech savvy people? Do your ideal customers have a common hobby? The more you narrow down these customer, the easier it will be to laser focus your marketing to them.

Take myself for example. I rarely watch television, the radio once or twice a week on my way to work and recycle anything that looks like junk mail. However, I AM online all day everyday whether on my Blackberry, netbook or desktop. I frequent quite a few of the same sites every day and I am almost always listening to Pandora or Last.fm.

How to reach them

Your customers are getting more and more information thrown at them as time goes on. The majority of them have no filters for all of this information, so everything gets shut out; ads, mailings, pop-ups or anything else you can throw at them. So how do you reach the unreachable?

If your pay attention to the trends of your customers, you will be surprised at all of the chances and how low the cost is to market on the internet. Many of the websites I frequent have ads on them. I have no problem clicking on a banner ad to see more information on the service being endorsed. If I can justify what they are offering, I am glad to give them the affiliate commission for telling me about the product or service.

Banner ads

In many cases, you can get a banner ad for under $50 a month. It is not always the best route to go because the number of people who click on banner ads is much lower than well worded ads and links. Banner ads however have the same effect as a TV commercial, they let put you in front of more people’s eyes.

Google ads

Google ads are a really great way to break into internet marketing. You have a lot of control over your ad campaign. If you are creating an ad to be displayed locally, you can get very specific. For example, you could have an ad run only for Spanish-speaking females 25-34 in Madison, WI who are using an iPhone.

You have several ways to control your spending with Google ads. I was testing a couple of ads recently. The two ads combined were placed in front of almost 64,000 viewers over the course of 2 days and it cost me $50.08. I not only saw an increase in traffic to my site, it helped me identify what wording worked best for a Blackberry training course.

local marketing - adwords

Email lists

Whether or not they bring back a large number of visitors to your site or to your store, email marketing to targeted customers is very cost-effective. It allows you to A/B test ads, send out coupons to people who have not bought anything in a while, keep them up to date on new information.

You want to make the newsletter useful, not just a sales pitch every month. The idea is to make it something they want to keep.

Using a newsletter is a fantastic option to give out information to your subscribers if you do not have a blog. I use Mailchimp for my newsletters. It offers everything I need and the layout, reports and scheduling is simple to use.

Local search

As I mentioned earlier, local search is huge and only getting bigger. Many people I have talked to and articles I have read list there is a rise in local advertising, local search engine traffic and Google searches involving a specific city or state.

Aside from the options listed above, you also have location-based applications and check in applications which can draw in web traffic and real world foot traffic. Foursquare is one of the most popular right now (3 million users have used it). Foursquare and other apps like it offer businesses the change to reward loyalty. If you are the “Mayor of Sam’s deli” they may choose to give you a free sandwich.

Here is a good article about using Foursquare for local business.

Other applications similar to Foursquare are:

  • Gowolla
  • Scvgr
  • Facebook Places

Another way to interact with local clients is to use local search sites. Some are geared toward reviews of local businesses and products, while others give business owners more flexibility to engage the public.

Yelp is one of the most popular local business site search engines. It allows for real reviews run through a fancy filter they have come up with. The filter helps deter a company from loading up their listing with lots of great reviews when they are not deserved.

Other sites are entering the scene all the time and are worth a look. Google Places, Twitter Places, Facebook Places all offer different ways for businesses to engage your customers. Once you figure out who your target customers, you can track down where they hang out.

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Trevor

I am a small business tech consultant. I know the title is vague so here is the quick and dirty about what I do. I help small businesses be more productive through the use of technology; be it building or maintaining a website/blog or training people to be more productive while mobile. For a more in-depth list of services, check out my services page .

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