Today most but not all businesses have a Website. Their sites vary from excellent to poor, and most small businesses do not yet know what makes a Website effective at gaining new customers and retaining existing ones. Many website designers can make an attractive site, but few have taken the time to understand what separates an effective site from one that is merely attractive.
In addition to just having a website, there are old and new marketing strategies that can help to transform market share for those that take advantage now. Marketing has always been around, but advertising methods remained the same from around 1920 through 1990. After 1990, websites and electronic marketing began to be used, first by the largest businesses and by the year 2000, small local businesses and professional practices started to get Websites.
Compare if you will, the marketing practices and the corresponding behavior of consumers in the 1950′s through the 1980′s. Every small local business and professional practice had a clear and straightforward method of advertising and marketing to ensure that they got the market share that their performance and reputation deserved. The first step for a small business was to design a logo either as a graphic or as stylized text or a combination of these approaches. The business would then call AT&T’s Yellow Pages Advertising department and place an advertisement in the appropriate section matching their business. The terms were per year, as that is how often the Yellow Pages were published and distributed. Small businesses would have to maintain their ads every year to maintain their local market share. The first place that consumers at home and in business or government would look for a business of any kind was in the Yellow Pages. People trusted businesses that were listed in the Yellow Pages, and if one’s business did not have a listing that year, consumer confidence in that business would be decreased. Most new business in every field came from the consumer finding them and liking their listing in the Yellow Pages. The second tactic that new businesses and sometimes existing ones would use is to hire one of their local public relations firms to craft and publish a press release that would appear in the most prominent local businesses. Consumers selecting businesses were looking in the Yellow Pages but not the news paper, so the effect of the press releases was not for immediate gain of new clients. The press releases did serve to inform people about new businesses that were starting in their area, and what consumers read does make a lasting impression. Appearance in the newspapers in press releases and as advertisers was shown to improve brand trust, and all kinds of businesses that were intelligently run made sure to make their media appearance last. When a consumer did finally pick up the Yellow Pages and look at the lists of comparable businesses, they would see your business listing and advertisement right next to your competition, and then their prime consideration was their confidence in the business in question. Businesses who built consumer confidence in the media were the most likely to be selected because of this recognition. Ongoing advertising in the local papers and applicable trade journals was the final tactic employed by small businesses during that time. Small businesses with over twenty employees also employed billboard advertising, radio advertising, and the most successful could afford television advertisements.
People still do read, but much of their news is read online. Often the papers and magazines they once subscribed to, they often still do but now use the website edition more. People have stopped using the Yellow Pages and now use search. Most recently, search is starting to reflect location, and once again you are listed alongside of your competitors just as you were in the Yellow Pages.
Many businesses just have not changed their methods for getting new business, and they stand to lose out if they are wasting their money on Yellow Pages advertisements and other outmoded forms of advertising.
If you are now thinking about a proper web presence strategy for your company, this is the best time to grow your local market share despite the condition of the local economy. Making people aware of your brand the right way today is something your competition might not have thought of yet, and if they did you may be able to expose your brand better than they can by careful strategies conforming to current best practices for marketing.
Here are the five most important strategies for marketing your business today and maximizing local market share:
Surprisingly, Google, Yahoo and Bing are no longer the only place that people search for business. Increasingly facebook has been providing new business when consumers search directly in facebook. Some consumers are looking for consultants and small businesses in LinkedIn as well. In addition to those benefits, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines give a higher ranking to companies based on a number of factors, and one of the most important of these factors is that mentions and links to your business exist on social networks. Businesses in the Fortune 500 are in all of the major social networks, and they even employ staff or consultants to manage their social network presence. A social networking presence is a crucial part of the strategy of any business.
Advertising Online: Beyond Google Pay-Per-Click
Search engines, social networks, and other sites offer advertising to suit any budget. If you have a large advertising budget and the competition in your business is suitable to benefit from paid advertising, you may be able to gain a short-term boost in clients through advertising that you pay for based on either the number of clicks or the number of times it shows. Generally, it is more important for large businesses to use these forms of advertising. Small businesses often find that the advertising costs are too much compared to the business that is brought in. There are exceptions to this general rule, and it is important to discuss your business with a qualified consultant to find out if online advertising is right for you. A smartly designed advertising campaign can bring new clients for less money than Google Pay Per Click.
Press Releases: A Traditional Advertising Method Still Vital
Press releases used to be offered through wire services such as Reuters and Associated Press among others. They would be offered as optional articles to newspapers and magazines that subscribed to their service. As a local small business, your press release would most likely be picked up by your local paper, and the publicity would increase awareness of your business in important ways. The press release would consist of a very stiff and formal description of the business with reasons for public confidence and the possible mention of key clients.
Today, wire services still exist and Reuters is still the best way to distribute a press release. Press releases through Reuters are usually published in online news sources and blogs. A traditionally worded press release will be picked up by your local news only, and perhaps a few blogs.
However the approach of the traditional press release is not the best way to write a press release today. Offering professional opinion in the form of an engaging article which offers value and is not self-serving might be picked up by forty major newspapers around the Country. The link to the related service or product on your site at the end of the article is what counts. Reuters offers valuable guidance to help you write a press release for today’s market. If you hire consultants to write this kind of Press Release, make sure they have an excellent success rate, which can be measured by the number and quality of publications that accepted and published their press release. A well-written release properly submitted will gain your business exposure and a back-link in over 40 respected publications as well as numerous blogs.
Websites for Small Businesses
A Website for a small business is very important but not for the reasons that many think when contemplating getting one for a small business. The most important thing about a website and your local presence is that it has keywords indicating the type of business you have and your products and services, and that your address and telephone number is available on every page. Clear descriptions about your products, services, and policies should be easy to access and conform to accepted standards. Minimalist design actually sells best and increases consumer confidence, rather than over-designed “pretty” Websites. Most small businesses that do get a Website are still too worried about having it be too pretty, and they ignore the true goals of a Website: making good and useful content as well as the business address and telephone number to both the consumers and the search engines. There are no standards or licensing involved in becoming a website designer, so the field is full of under-qualified consultants who will lead businesses down the wrong paths.
Automation can be an important cost-saver for small business as the labor savings from automated systems not only puts time back in the hands of your workers as well as providing a framework for more effective teamwork. Projects involving the implementation of automation schemes provide an excellent opportunity to start measuring results and using the data for making better tactical decisions. Social network automation ranges from PingFM or similar products that syndicate content to multiple social networks. Some paid tools are very helpful including Social Oomph which has a variety of useful ways of managing facebook and twitter accounts. A Pingler Professional account will submit your website to over 180 search engines worldwide. Some search engine optimization firms like ours offer services in setting up this kind of automation. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a great program to help you manage and qualify leads, marketing schemes, and communication all around. Dynamics CRM will provide you useful reports and graphs showing the health of your sales and marketing channels, and the consumer confidence generated by a consistent customer relations experience with your firm helps turn leads into clients consistently, so you can concentrate on improving your conversion rate. Online records management with SharePoint Server is another great form of automation that will save time and by extension money as well. You can link a multi-function printer (MFP) so that it scans documents and automatically sends a copy to your document library, where you can impose order in a number of ways, search for documents instantly, and have copies available for immediate printing when you need them. Faxing can be automated by replacing your fax machines with cloud fax services, allowing you to quickly fax from your PC, tablet, or phone, making it easier to fax for targeted marketing.
The Web and I has engineers who make following the shifting sands of small business marketing a primary professional endeavor. Call us today for a free consultation and marketing plan at 646-853-0573.