Editor’s Note: April Groves mentioned on Twitter that she was working on an article about internet marketing in small towns. Although she wrote about Bryan County Georgia, her thoughts could apply in any small town. She was kind enough to grant us permission to reprint that article here.
By April Groves
I had the wonderful experience of attending the 2nd annual BlogSavannah UnConference on Friday. I had the opportunity to run into a few other folks from Richmond Hill. They have businesses, and they are on the web. This got me to thinking – do businesses in Bryan County need a web presence to compete effectively in today’s commercial market?
Let’s consider this for a moment. A quick internet search shows that the major agencies in the county have websites. You can find tons of information on emergency services, education and government. You can pay property taxes, and the City of Richmond Hill has a new online water bill payment system. This tells me that our community does look for information and will do business online.
Another quick internet search also reveals that many local industries have a web presence. Health and Wellness, Real Estate, Non-Profits, Financial Institutions, Attorneys and a host of other businesses have a web address. Through folks that I know, I can also tell you there are some businesses that function entirely online. There is no brick and mortar structure – only a web address. This tells me that if you are in business and not online, your competition probably is.
I go one last time to the internet search. Not everybody is there. In fact, a few very successful businesses have not gone the way of internet marketing. This tears me into two directions. Either they are missing an opportunity for business growth or they really would not benefit from online exposure. I can’t help but believe it is the former and not the latter.
Recent statistics show that roughly 20% of media consumption comes from online activity. I am a bit surprised the number is that low. There is a major industry in town that has 80% of its prospective client base looking online before they ever step into an office or pick up a phone. We are in an age of email and eBay. Ask around to find out how much of last month’s Christmas shopping happened online. Find out where people go to order their favorite coffee, barbeque sauce or shoes. Are you surprised to learn that “Google” is a verb and not just a website? Do you know what a “Google” is? How about a “blog,” “PayPal,” or “Amazon”? While this terminology may or may not be your everyday vernacular, you can bet a large segment of the purchasing public knows just what I am talking about.
Why online? I can’t speak for everybody, but I can speak for a lot. Online offers an “in your pajamas at midnight” opportunity to search, shop, compare and buy – and then wait for the “on your doorstep” delivery which can be as fast as overnight in many cases. No gas, no carts, no lines – just a mouse and a credit card. Some are going there to make purchases, while others are going to investigate establishments they are planning to do business with. Shopping on the internet has become easier and safer, and more consumers are going there.
During the holidays we talked about “buying local.” It is an idea I believe in with a deep passion. However, I am like most folks with a busy schedule, kids to coordinate and not a lot of time to leisurely peruse through a shop or check out local service providers during normal working hours. I spend a good deal of time online with a cup of coffee early in the morning searching for consumer information so I can either buy it online or run a quick errand to pick it up. Can I find your business there?
Granted, I am only one voice. I would love to hear what you think about it.