Now’s Your Chance to Beat Your Local Competition Online
In a 2009 VistaPrint study of small businesses, it was discovered that 46% of small businesses don’t even have a website for their business. And, to make matter worse, a Discover Small Business Watch survey found that 45% of the entrepreneurs interviewed didn’t think they needed a website either.
This is a huge window of opportunity for local businesses that truly catch the vision for online advertising! For years, advertising locally meant putting an ad in the local paper or phone book. If you had the money, you might produce a radio or TV commercial or program. But now, you can quickly an easily reach your target audience at little or no cost…and you can get a head start on the 45% of your competitors that don’t see a need for it.
Paid versus Free/Low-cost Advertising
There are two broad categories of advertising. Whether you’re talking about offline, traditional ads or online ads, your choices are free and paid. The difference is in the online world, free advertising can be as good as or even better than paid ads. The drawback in the past was that free online advertising took longer to take effect. There was no way to begin advertising this week and see a result next week. But that’s changed. And you don’t have to be an internet marketing expert to take advantage of it.
You should think of local online advertising as a funnel…just like your offline advertising efforts. The point is to be in as many places as possible and to provide your potential customers the information they’re looking for so you can begin building a relationship with them. Once they know who you are, you can continue building the relationship to the point they decide you’re the best company to meet their needs.
Maximizing Your Leverage
To be most effective, your free or low-cost online advertising funnel be based around your own web site augmented by thorough, complete profiles in each of the local search engines.
To have an effective local search listing, you need to go into Google Places, Yahoo! Local, and Bing Local and make sure the information they have for you is correct. If they don’t have you in their listings already, you can easily add your information. You’ll want to make these profiles as accurate and complete as possible. That way your customers will be able to get most of their questions answered even if you don’t have your own web site to drive them to.
In addition, you should go back to check your local listings in all the search engines periodically to make sure they stay correct. They have a tendency to change over time because Google and the other search engines find what they call ‘citations’ for your business all over the internet…and sometimes those citations are wrong. In other cases, one of your competitors might be trying to highjack your listing. By periodically checking the profiles, you can catch both of these situations easily.
You Site Can Be a Lead Generating Machine!
If you have a website, you need to turn it into a direct response, lead generating machine. If you don’t have a website online right now, you need to get one quickly or your online advertising will suffer. The biggest mistake most small businesses make regarding their website it trying to make it pretty rather than functional.
When it comes to websites, functional means it’s useful for your customers and effective for you. Customers need to be able to get information about you, your business, and your products or services. But you also need to give them specific, relevant, timely information that helps them solve problems in their lives and not just info about you or your products/services. Keep the site’s focus on the customer and their problems, not your business or products.
Functional for you means you need it to generate and collect leads so you can follow up with them. The easiest way to do this is to make sure each page on your site has a single goal. Before you write each page, you need to decide what it is you want your customers to do after they read that page. And then maintain that focus as you write.
By making your website the central focus of your online marketing efforts and supplementing it with a thorough local search campaign, you’ll be on the first page of Google quickly and (relatively) easily; without worrying very much about search engine optimization.