You have heard it over and over. Today’s connected world requires you and your business to be online. Nobody can ignore this truth.
An online presence is a far-reaching marketing opportunity for small-business owners. It also forms the basis when building a trusting relationship.
People of all ages go online when not that long ago, we turned to the phone book, newspapers or brochures. And while those methods still are valid, take a look around and see what people are doing. They are online with smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Vehicles are becoming online and even glasses (remember Google glasses – they may be gone for now but they will be back) allow you to travel the electronic, connected world.
The online world allows us to do practically anything, including ordering pizza or music, shopping, make appointments, filling prescriptions, mapping travel routes, finding restaurants and businesses, checking airline or ferry schedules, and even checking inventories at a store before going to buy a product.
The people online are growing in numbers and breaking the boundaries. And it’s not just the younger crowd. The U.S. Census Bureau finds women over 50 one of the fast growing online groups, with men of that age bracket right behind.
All of this makes it a must that online tools be part of your marketing plans.
Again, though, don’t forgo the traditional marketing tools and venues such as local newspapers, radio and brochures. And certainly keep printing those business card. Those tools have a role and can be used effectively. The key is knowing your audience and how they get information.
You can go online, of course to get such data. Both Pew and the US Census Bureau offer insight into what people are doing online. But an even easier, and perhaps more effective route, is to ask your customers what online tools they use and how you could best help them with your online presence.
Then sit down and do some planning. Think about your customers: Who are they? Where can you find them? What media are they using? Then decide what your marketing efforts will be for the next 12 months. Do not forget how you will evaluate each marketing effort to see what works. Bring in your local newspaper and on-air representatives to get their options.
Remember though, just as with traditional marketing, not all efforts will bring an immediate sale. Some efforts are done to build awareness and image, or your brand, through time.
Also, having others tell your story can be some of your best marketing. It helps establish trust for the customer, important in building your reputation.
If you are a small-business operator, being online is not an option today, it’s a requirement.
- About the Author
- Latest by this Author
Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.