The internet presents significant benefits for firms of every type – even those with no obvious online element to their offering. The internet is a hugely important marketing and communications tool that should be embraced by companies of every size and in every sector.
Businesses serving a small local area have been traditionally slow on the uptake when it comes to online marketing, which many local business owners presume has no value for their firms. But there are a number of very good reasons for local businesses to get online.
1. The world is moving online
Many of those who would, in the past, have found a plumber or plasterer by picking up their copy of Yellow Pages are now heading straight to Google for local business details or visit a local classified ads site. Only last week this writer was sat in a Soho pub listening to three builders having a conversation about the importance of Search Engine Optimisation to their respective one-man businesses.
It is a simple enough equation: if you do not make your presence known online, you are significantly reducing your potential customer base. Of course, yours might be one of those incredibly lucky few businesses that need not market itself at all – but the fact that you are reading this suggests that is not the case.
The internet is becoming increasingly focused on hyper-local publishing, and is fast becoming the first port of call for almost every consumer looking for information. If you have ever had a listing in the phone book or taken out an ad in your local paper, you need to market yourself online.
2. Voucher schemes
Many of the business directory websites now aim to draw in consumers with exclusive discount vouchers. This can be a particularly effective way of increasing your footfall. Offering a voucher to customers that found you online will differentiate your business and is likely to increase new trade.
Online vouchers can also be significantly more efficient than those found in local papers or other print media. The internet offers the opportunity for highly targeted marketing; it is possible, for example, to offer vouchers tailored to the search term typed into Google by your potential customer. This is an immensely valuable marketing tool.
3. Increase your ROI
The ability to target your marketing activities towards specific customer types means that you can get a far better return on your investment. Rather than placing standard-format ads in print media, with no reliable way of tracking engagement, try placing some (cheaper – or, indeed, free) listings and ads in online directories, or trying out services like Google Adwords. You can set your own budget and will be presented with detailed information on visitor engagement and tracking.
4. Piggy-back on existing services
Many business directories and other online services provide utilities that can be hugely beneficial to your business. A good example is the restaurant booking service provided by sites like Lastminute.com. This provides a great way for restaurant owners to increase their visibility amongst potential customers, while outsourcing a time-consuming element of their business – all for free.
There are numerous equivalents of these services for businesses in many sectors, plenty of which are available at absolutely no cost.
There is nothing to lose!
One of the most attractive aspects of this new generation of online services is the fact that much of it is completely free. It might take you a couple of hours to sign up to the major business directories and, if you so choose, this is as much work as you need to do. Even this small amount of input on your part can yield significant results, so why not give it a try?
Online marketing is a vast field, and one from which businesses can pick and choose the elements that suit them best. However, you may well wish to take the important step of setting up your own website and getting your business listed in the major search engines. Take a look at our free guide to creating and promoting a website for more information on this important process.