Perhaps the only thing harder than marketing your small business is marketing your small business online. Navigating the maze of alphabet soup terms like PPC – SEM – SEO – is just the beginning of an arduous and ever changing path which is putting the internet to work for your business.
Until recently as a business owner YOU were in control over whether or not you used the internet to market your small business. You had the option to say “No thanks” to the confusion and expense that many business owners associate with online marketing. As the owner of your business -you had control and YOU could decide whether or not to invest the time – the money – and the energy into reaching out the connecting with consumers online.
That was then – and this is now.
Today – your customers are online. Google reports that 97% of consumers research purchase decisions online. That’s huge.
Your customers used to use the printed yellow page directories to find information about your business – and as recently as five years ago – few would dispute the value of maintaining a printed yellow page display ad for your business. Today – consumers are turning from the yellow pages to the internet in droves. They’re using their smart phones to go online to get essential contact information.
Your customers are using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to recommend local businesses to their friends, family and acquaintances. They’re also sharing their own personal stories – of customer service “heroes” – as well as customer service “villains”.
However, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only places your customers are communicating online. If your customers aren’t actively part of the growing numbers of bloggers – then they may find the blogs of their friends and neighbors and leave comments on their blogs. Those blog posts – the conversations on Twitter and Facebook- plus the hundreds of thousands of online discussions happening on online message boards across the web – are all being recorded online for posterity.
These conversations – good and bad – are taking place where they can not only be ‘heard’ – they’re also taking place where they are being indexed, cataloged and delivered to prospective customers via the search engines.
So if you think your business is NOT online – think again. If you have a yellow page directory listing – then your business probably has dozens of online local directory listings. Each of these listings offers your customers a quick easy way to offer their review of your business.
The first step to taking control of your online presence is to claim the most important local business listings. The good news is – for the moment – these online business listings cost you nothing – which means claiming them can be the most profitable time you spend this year promoting your business.