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Just because you build it doesn't mean they will come! [Ask The Experts]

Friday, January 18, 2013

Posted by Gene Fairbrother (NASE Lead Small Business Advisor) - In today’s age of "Internet mania" it is hard to envision any business that doesn't need a presence on the Internet as a marketing tool. The problem for many small-business owners is the thinking that just because they have a website, Facebook page, or LinkedIn presence that customers will be knocking down their doors.

An all too common scenario that the NASE consultants get is a member calling telling us that they have been on the Internet for several months but they are not getting any response or sales. A few questions and conversation reveals that the member commonly took the most inexpensive route and built a site themselves using an online template where you put in some basic information and get a site for free. Or, if the member did hire a web designer, their decision was made on the person who would charge the least amount of money or did the website as a friend. These are two of the top reasons many websites don’t produce.

This is not to say that someone might not be able to do a good job building their own website or that you have to pay thousands of dollars for a web designer, but unless you are talented in marketing and web design, the money you save in taking the least expensive option might be more costly in having a site that doesn't produce results.

A critical key to a successful Internet marketing is to understand that the Internet is first and foremost a marketing tool and not much more than an electronic brochure. For the majority of small businesses, their websites are
static and the primary purpose of the site is to offer information on the business and its products and services. With a static site, unlike e-commerce, the marketing message is not to convince someone to buy anything. The primary motivator is to get someone to contact you for more information and a chance to close the sale.

If your primary purpose of an Internet presence is e-commerce where products are displayed and can be purchased on line, marketing needs to be distinctively different and you need a strong
call-to-action selling message that will motivate the viewer to make a buying decision. For the e-commerce website maintenance and marketing will take a great deal more effort and expertise to make it successful.

Making your Internet presence more successful means understanding how to develop a marketing and strategy plan. If you don’t fall into this category you should get professional expertise to help create a solid Internet marketing plan that is going to achieve your objectives and make sales.

Regardless of whether your website is static or interactive, there are few
basic tips to drive business to your doors.

  • Give visitors reason to return. Update your Internet presence often by offering new products and services, fresh graphics and copy, fresh links to other sites, blogs, and content that’s interesting to read.
  • Capture as much information as possible about prospects when they visit you online. Then use that information in your company’s promotional and marketing campaigns.
  • Use visitor information to set-up a regular e-communications program with customers and visitors so that you can promote future business.
  • Market your Internet locations to customers just as you do using other marketing. Promote your URLs on every business collateral piece you have from business cards to vehicles.
  • Don’t overburden viewers with massive jumbled information. You have 15 to 30 seconds to get someone interested in going deeper and then you have only a couple of minutes to convince someone to do business with you. If you don’t excite or interest them on the first page you are probably going to lose them.
  • In most cases, the purpose of your Internet presence is to inform visitors and motivate them to contact you. Unless you are an e-commerce business, don’t provide so much information that viewers don’t feel there is a need to contact you direct. For example, if you are not directly selling online, be cautious about putting pricing information on your products or services where you lose the opportunity to personally sell a customer on the value of your business.

Just like any other technology, the art of marketing your business on the Internet changes frequently. From optimizing your position on search engines, to using banner ads or pay per click. Unless you are an expert in the complexities of the Internet, include some dollars in your marketing budget for a professional to help you drive people to your Internet identities.

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