By Kara Mulder
Small businesses-- with limited marketing budgets-- are competing with national brands when it comes to advertising. Due to the online nature of commerce in this era, local businesses have no other option but to compete with corporations that have marketing budgets much larger than merely a couple of years of revenue. The online attribute required of companies demands that small businesses compete on a larger scale, but how do entities do remain competitive?
Small businesses can best stay relevant through online marketing. Thanks to the rapid growth of the internet, small businesses are better positioned than ever to compete alongside big companies through the utilization of an online marketing strategy. However, many small business owners believe that online marketing is ineffective and useless. Many owners will say things like "My customers aren't online," or "Online marketing is a fad." Some go as far to say that, "Online marketing doesn't work for me."
The truth is, a company will never gain new online customers-- and even in-person consumers-- if the business does not have a strong online presence. There are close to five billion Google searches a day and over one billion active Facebook users. It's hard to argue that at least some of those users won't be interested in searching for a local products or services. With online advertising alone, small businesses can target specific demographics and geographic regions; reaching hundreds of potential customers online.
The rapid growth of online marketing can be most evidently seen in the retail sector. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, online retailers were found to be the overall drivers for retail sales for more than a year, while traditional department store sales declined.
Online marketing is, in fact, a necessity. Here's why:
1. Consumer expectations have changed
When most consumers hear of a new business, they immediately look up the website and social media accounts to learn more. To find you, they plug your address into their smartphone and use Google maps to get there. People expect you to have a website. If you cannot be verified digitally, individuals searching out information doubt your existence and legitimacy. Also, more consumers are increasingly searching for products and services on the web and these trends are expected increase exponentially.
2. Your competitors are online
You might not have launched an online marketing campaign yet, but your competitors mostly likely have. Michael Priyev, manager of new york web design agency, Toggle Web Media, explains that, "The reason why online advertising doesn't work for so many small businesses is that their websites do not engage or connect with potential customers online. It's not a question of how pretty the website is designed, but rather, how effective it is in converting online visitors into customers." Priyev adds, "Providing a unique brand value proposition, user experience (UX) design, and click-to-action (CTA's) buttons on a site are key to a successful digital marketing strategy."
Online marketing is essential for small businesses today and is a cost-effective way to increase revenue, customers, and brand presence. Consumers are now online, and online marketing is only growing more important.
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