Does small business online marketing really work?

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Answered by: Kevin, An Expert in the Small Business Marketing Category
The goal of small business online marketing is simple - leverage the Internet to expose your brand to more consumers and increase sales. It's easier than you think and the results are astonishing. As consumers continue to focus their attention more and more on electronic devices, businesses are beginning to realize the value of establishing a strong online presence. Here are six compelling ways online marketing can help your small business.

1. Your customers are searching for you online. This may sound obvious, but it's true and important. In the past, if you wanted to find a local plumber, you'd look one up in the Yellow Pages or ask a neighbor for a recommendation. Today, more and more consumers are turning to search engines like Google to find local businesses. Sound familiar? According to a May 2014 study on consumers' local search behavior, 4 out of 5 consumers search for local products and services using Google. Furthermore, the study found that a whopping 88% of all web searches are made from smartphones. Bottom line: Lots of people are asking Google for information about small businesses and if they're lucky enough to find yours, they'll most likely be viewing it on a mobile device. Having a modern, mobile-friendly website that consumers can easily find is absolutely essential for your small business to succeed in the Digital Age.

2. Online advertising is highly affordable and effective. Newspaper and radio advertisements are great, but they cost more than many small businesses can afford and don't typically reach very many consumers. More importantly, there's no way to track their performance so it's difficult to know whether they're even working. Social media advertising, search engine optimization, and email marketing all provide real returns with measurable results that help business owners reach more of the right customers and gain valuable insights into the performance of their marketing strategy.

3. Your competition probably doesn't have an online marketing strategy. Many small businesses view marketing as a waste of money and allocate very little if any of their budget to these efforts as a result. This is a huge mistake as the results of an effective marketing strategy can pay huge dividends, both for your brand and your bottom line. There are likely thousands of small businesses in your market and many of them don't last more than a few years before an economic downturn wipes them out. Invest in your brand's online presence now and ensure your business thrives for decades to come.

4. Technology is your best friend. The PC is 30 years young, the iPhone only hit shelves 8 years ago, and Tesla is building a self-driving car as we speak. It's debatable whether all of this progress is a step in the right direction, but one thing's for sure - ground-breaking technologies are affecting our lives more and more every day. For most small businesses, the thought of adopting a new technology can be frightening. Having witnessed several small businesses bravely transition to these technologies with great success, I assure you it's well worth the effort. Online reservation systems help hotels book more rooms and restaurants seat more tables. Peer-to-peer websites like Etsy allow local artists to sell more things to more people around the world. And crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter help local bands create their next album. So ask yourself, how can technology help your small business?

5. Easily reach your target customer. Smart business owners put a lot of time and energy into identifying and reaching their target customer. For the majority of small businesses, that customer is either a local community member, an out-of-town visitor, or another local business. Several efficient marketing tools and techniques exist today to help help get your message directly to the right audience.

7. Consumers love shopping online. According to a recent report from the US Department of Commerce, web sales have nearly quadrupled in the last 10 years. Total web sales in 2014 were $300 billion. Get the picture? Small businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity if they're not showcasing their products on the Internet. Payment processing, shipping logistics, and tax calculation, can all be easily incorporated into an online store to make your products available to all of your customers, all the time, no matter where they are.

The Age of Information is upon us. As a small business owner, you have a myriad of options when it comes to reaching your target customer and advertising your products and services. Certainly you've found several effective ways to accomplish this, otherwise you'd probably be searching for articles about liquidating your assets or filing for bankruptcy. But are you getting an acceptable return on your marketing investment? Thanks to the Internet, small business online marketing has never been easier.

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