Local Small Business Internet Marketing Made Easy for Local Entrepreneurs

Before the advent of Internet marketing, local businesses used print yellow pages, direct mail, business cards, and trade magazines to boost their sales and increase customers. While these mediums were proven to be effective, they were also expensive especially for those budding entrepreneurs. Today, Internet marketing is the new wave of product advertisement, and it became even more crucial when it gave birth to local small business Internet marketing to answer the marketing needs of local small business owners.

I am writing this article to give you all a brief run down on what is available out there. Essentially, there are a number of local small business Internet marketing options already available these days. And because they are localized marketing strategies, they are not as costly and as complicated as those used by larger corporations.

If you’d like to start on an easier ground, your first stop is to get your business listed on local directories like Yellowpages.com and SuperPages.com. Local online directories provide you opportunities to introduce your business to your local consumers. Most of these online directories offer free sign up, and all you have to make sure is provide updated information about your business. Keep in mind that these online directories are frequented by hundreds and thousands of people daily, looking for local businesses within their area. With that, you want to make sure that you’re giving your potential customers the correct means of contacting you.

Another strategy that has been made easy for local business owners is social networking. Unlike in the early stage of the Internet where social networking is all about finding friends, social networking nowadays is about connecting with old and new friends and promoting a business interest in a specific location. In the case of Facebook, you can create an official page for your local business to communicate with customers and fans. To make your official page localized, you will be given an option to choose city restrictions and age restrictions. These settings make your local business page only visible to the cities you selected.

Local search engine is also another local small business Internet marketing option for local small entrepreneurs. Google Local and Yahoo Local are two search engine giants that offer the system of connecting you to local searchers. Just like online directories, local search engines will require you to provide accurate business information as they will be visible in local listings on specific categories. With some search engines you will be required verification via phone or email. Local search engines, in general, helps you bring your local business to where your customers are.

How to Focus on Customer Value For Business and Marketing Success

Successful businesses create value for their customers. Successful marketing should always clearly articulate the value of your product / service / solution within the customer’s context.

But what does value within a customer context really mean and how do you define it? James Womack & Daniel Jones who popularized the Lean Enterprise business approach, define 6 attributes of customer value in their book ‘Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together’. Because these attributes of customer value are defined from the customer’s perspective, they can provide valuable insights for how you should position, message and market your products / services / solutions.

The 6 attributes of customer value defined by Womack & Jones along with my marketing perspective interpretations are:

  1. Solve my problem completely – clearly define the customer need, challenge or opportunity your product / service / solution addresses, the extent to which it does, how it does it and how it works from a customer perspective. Don’t leave the customer in doubt or searching for additional information.
  2. Don’t waste my time – get to the point and don’t make the customer have to do things you want in order to get the information they want. Remember that their buying process takes precedence over your marketing or sales processes – they’ll go somewhere else if you waste their time by making them jump through hoops.
  3. Provide exactly what I want – your product / service / solution should have packaging / delivery flexibility according to how customers want to buy, not how you want to sell. Make it easy for customers to buy just what they want right now. Make it easy to buy more subsequently.
  4. Deliver value where I want it – clearly define how your product / service / solution delivers value. Overly broad or vague claims of applicability and functionality don’t connect with specific customer requirements, needs or benefits.
  5. Supply value when I want it – not all your prospective customers are ready buy at the same time or immediately. The important issue here is to gear your marketing programs to the various time frames your prospective customers have for buying. Help them make the decision to buy within their time frame.
  6. Reduce the number of decisions I must make to solve my problems – customers buy something to fulfill a need, solve a problem or pursue an opportunity. Offering too many choices, options and alternatives only makes things more complicated for customers to make a buying decision. Communicate with prospective buyers in their context and avoid unnecessary complications or decisions they need to make.

Consider these 6 attributes of customer value for your business strategy and marketing plans to connect more effectively with your prospective buyers. The interpretations for each attribute are just my generic views for this article – think about how you would interpret these attributes to your circumstances.

The Impact of Internet on Business and Marketing

An Internet Marketing program has two sides. One is the part devoted to individual customers. The other is the business to business component. E-commerce programs as well as advertising, sales support, customer service and public relations are all elements of an internet marketing program.

Similar companies compete against one another while being only a click of the mouse away. In other words, a buyer can locate numerous sellers offering similar merchandise, similar prices and similar offers in a very short time period. As more people and businesses become comfortable with the internet, the marketing landscape will continue to evolve quickly in the coming years.

Use of the internet has exploded during the last few years in both the consumer and business-to-business markets. Although the experts still debate the future of the internet, no one doubts it is having an impact on how business is taking place in the twenty ‘first century, even with all of the – - dot crashes – - of the late 1990s. Here are some facts about the internet that highlight its tremendous growth and presence in society:

- The most common products consumers’ research online and purchase off-line (at the store or outlet) are: automobiles, computer, hardware, travel, electronics, books, appliances, music, sporting goods and clothing.

- Over 25 percent of all business-to-business purchases are placed through some type of internet connection.

- The five top business-to-business e-commerce products are computers and electronics, motor vehicles, petrochemicals, utilities, papers and office products.

- In 2004, 10 percent of business-to-business advertising dollars were spent on the internet. The total amount spent was $8.7 billion.

- About 54 percent of the e-mail users have responded to an e-mail advertisement. Almost half purchased a product.

- Internet retail sales account for almost 2.5 percent of all retail sales.

Business-to-business marketers were among the first companies actually to make profits using the internet. In today’s marketplace, the web is becoming the communication tool of choice for many business-to-business companies. The internet provides opportunities for communication, customer service, sales support, collaboration and e-commerce.

Some companies use the internet for every aspect of their business including taking orders, inventory control, production scheduling, communications plans, sales programs, service departments and support programs. The change from traditional communication channels such as salespeople, telephone and – - snail mail – -to the internet and e-mail happened quickly in some companies and more slowly in others.

Now, convincing top management of the benefits of internet marketing is essential. There is still a lack of internet expertise in the business community. As a result, many companies are turning to marketing agencies for guidance.

To conclude, the influence of the internet on various businesses and industries has been clearly noted in today’s world. The presence of the internet and e-commerce is so sweeping that the various applications of web technology are now essential elements of a fully integrated marketing communications program.