online marketing for local businesses

Online Marketing Basics 101 – Why Online Marketing Works for Local Business

If you want to grow your business, how do you get the word about your product or service? By going where your market is – and these days, that’s online.

This article will give you a straightforward, easy to understand overview of online marketing and why it is perfect for your business.

Like any form of marketing, your starting point should be your marketing aims and objectives. ..in other words what you want to achieve from your marketing.

Read on for a crash course in online marketing strategy and also discover some key principles of social media that will enable you to get a flood of new customers and create customer loyalty.

Online marketing in a nutshell

There is no great mystery to online marketing. It does a lot of the same things that traditional marketing does, but it does them more cheaply and effectively to a much wider audience.

There are literally billions of people online. Some of these people are your ideal clients or customers. If you can reach even a tiny fraction of them you will have a thriving business.

The Internet has changed the way companies market their business for the better.

Here are some examples of how the Internet makes it easy for you to market your businesses:

Websites: Your website is like a virtual store that is always open 24 hours a day without the need of employing dozens of staff.

Emails: Your emails can reach a highly targeted audience notifying them of news, updates and special offers.

Blogs: Your blog provides regular information for customers and prospects which also allows them to engage with you by leaving comments.

Social Networks: Social networks enable you to make direct connections with people who are interested in what you have to offer.

No matter how specialised your niche, there is a global market for it on the Internet. Online marketing not only helps you to reach these people but, by increasing your online visibility, they will also come looking for YOU.
Why online marketing will work for your business

Online marketing is perfect for your business because it is:

Affordable: Because it is much cheaper than traditional marketing you can reach out to a wider audience that normally would have been beyond your marketing budget. Not many small businesses can afford national and International marketing in the traditional press and media.

Effective: People now spend more time online. You can use online marketing to reach your target audience.

Personal: Online tools such as blogging and podcasting are personal media. As a small business owner you can use them to gain instant credibility and offer the personal touch that larger businesses would struggle to do.

It makes perfect business sense for you to take your business online because most of your customers spend more and more time online, particularly on social media sites.

Here are some specific reasons why online marketing would work for your business:

Drive traffic to your site: A website is the hub of any online business and the aim of online marketing is to drive traffic to it so that potential customers can find you and buy from you.

New and effective ways to connect with your target audience: By establishing a presence on social media sites you will be able to become more visible, not only to your existing clients who are there but also to a brand new set of prospects.

Build Trust: It doesn’t matter what business you are in, people always prefer to do business with people they trust and know. Your clients and customers can get to know you through your online presence.

Start a conversation: This strategy alone is what makes traditional marketing so old fashioned and less effective. You can easily have a two way dialogue with your customers and prospects online which is much more effective than a one-way broadcast of your marketing message in a traditional advertising campaign.

Create value: Part of the secret of online marketing is creating useful content and giving it away. If you can create useful resources or interesting content targeted at your niche audience they will keep coming back for more and will become loyal customers by buying from you. (For some top tips please contact us and we will give you brilliant suggestions).

Build Communities: Think of your market as a community and build your business with your community in mind. This will ensure customer loyalty.

Provide quick up-to-date information: The internet makes it so easy for you to get your news out there. You can easily and quickly inform your audience about your new services, products, special offers and promotions. Twitter is particularly good for this.

Data capture: Building a database of potential customers is a core aim of your email marketing campaign. Social media makes it very easy to convert passive followers to sign up to your mailing list.

Market Research: This is another very useful strategy. You can use social media to ask customers for feedback on your products and services or even create online questionnaires. It engages your customers and the feedback you receive will only improve your business.

Low-cost, Low risk and effective: Most of the tools are available for free or are quite cheap. The investment generally comes in the amount of time you need to run your online marketing campaign which is why so many small businesses outsource it to experts who can speed up the whole process. The risks of using social media and communicating openly with your market are low (so long as you follow the online etiquette expected in social media communities. Follow our simple tips in this article and again, give us a call as we can guide you through the process). The benefits of online marketing far outweigh the time and investment needed to run a successful campaign and will result in much bigger profits.

The unwritten rules of social media

There are specific unwritten rules of using social media. It is important that you become familiar with them straightway as people get very upset if your break them. It is vital that you understand the culture of social media so here are some core principles that you need to know before you start. If you follow these rules you won’t go far wrong:

Be authentic and open: Don’t big yourself or your business up by pretending to be something or someone that you are not. Always behave in a professional way. Be yourself, be authentic and people will trust you.

Never go for the hard sell: Most people use social media to relax and for entertainment, so don’t focus too much on selling products. Instead, provide useful content that your community will value. Your content will ‘warm up’ your prospects for a later sale, particularly if you are selling something related to the content you are sharing.

Build social currency: What does that mean? It means that you have to establish your social media presence first which will eventually give you ‘permission’ to use it for marketing. Once you have been on social media sites for a while, you will have more credibility. People will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say. If you simply join a social media site and start giving the hard sell, you will be ignored and seen as a nuisance. However if you share valuable content and are informative and helpful you will gain peoples trust and they will be much more interested in what you have to offer.

Don’t view it as just another marketing channel: A lot of small businesses don’t fully understand social media. It requires a totally different approach to traditional marketing. It is not a quick fix for instant sales. It requires commitment and investment of time and energy. If you don’t have the time to do this yourself use a company like ours who can run your social media sites for you.

Don’t treat it as a one-way broadcast medium: If you just use it to blast messages out, you are missing the point of social media. It becomes far more interesting and effective when you use it to start conversations with members of your community. Make a point of replying to some of your Tweets, retweet others and comment on their replies. Remember, it is not just about you. It is called ‘social media’ for a reason. Be social.

Be patient: As mentioned earlier, social media needs a long-term approach. For example, a new blog takes a good six months to establish itself and build a following. You will need to spend time and effort building and maintaining your online presence before it translates into sales. Your investment will be worth it because that online presence, once established will continue to build and provide you with an essential source of potential clients and customers.

There are so many tools and marketing strategies….where do you begin?

It’s true. There are a lot of online marketing tools out there that help with your marketing campaigns and enable you to build relationships with your prospects and customers but where on earth do you start?

The first thing you need to realise is that you don’t have to use everything. You can pick and choose which tools would be best for your business.

Many of your activities on social networks will be aimed at driving traffic to your website or encouraging people to sign up to your email newsletter or mailing list. These things work best when used together.

New tools and resources crop up all of the time which sometimes makes social media harder than ever to keep abreast with. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and Google+ have been the biggest successes in recent times but there will always be something new that will be hailed as the next big thing.

Instead of trying to get to grips with all of the new tools at your disposal it is much more important to stay focussed on your marketing plan than the tools themselves.

If you have a sound marketing strategy in place, you can apply the same principles to any new tools that come along. Don’t be distracted by the hype that surrounds all of these new sites.

Focus on using proven online tools and social media networks to reach your customers. By all means keep an eye on new platforms but make sure you ask yourself if it looks like an interesting way to connect with your community and most importantly if your customers are using it. If not then you don’t need to be distracted by it.

Help is at hand

You don’t need to be particularly tech savvy to use social media. Neither do you need to know the details of every single tool you use. The important thing is your business, your passions and your ideas.

It is more important to have a message, some compelling and engaging content and a bit of creativity. You can learn the rest as you go along.

However, if you already run a busy offline, bricks and mortar business you might not have the time to invest in running a successful online marketing campaign as it does require time, effort and patience.

We have been able to help many companies just like yours to successfully take their business online and reach out to a huge global audience.

We work well together because are able to tap into online communities and engage with the people within them and direct them to our client’s websites.

If that is something that you would like us to do for you or to give you some useful hints to assist you with your own marketing campaigns please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to share our extensive online experience and knowledge with you.