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April 28, 2009

Small Business Survival – Market Online or Die

A recent report by Borrell Associates predicts that small and medium sized business will triple their non advertising spending online in just 5 years. That means a cool 1.63 billion dollars for online marketing that does not include PPC, Banner ads or other advertising. It is also expected that during this same time offline advertising will shrink to 19% of a marketing budget. With all that money going into the internet what will businesses be buying and how will it affect your business?

Non- advertising spending = web marketing to small business

Part of this phenomena is becoming clear; many small to medium sized businesses consider any money they spend on the web to be “marketing”. Unlike offline budgeting which divides budgets into categories like: advertising, building maintenance, PR, marketing and sponsorship a new majority of business do not distinguish between web related expenditures.  To them it is all “marketing”

The best way to market online is not to market at all

On one hand everything you do online can be marketing while on the other the most effective tactic is not marketing. This makes measuring the success of online promotional programs nearly impossible for the average business owner who is used to putting out an ad and waiting for customers to call or walk in the store.

This attitude is indicative of a widespread lack of understanding about what really works online. There has been a fundamental shift in marketing that has accompanied the internet. This shift is simple but profound. You cannot sell anyone anything online they have to want to buy it. Why? Because online – the user is in complete control – period. Your customers can compare prices, features and plans in seconds. It is literally easier to click away form most pages than to navigate them.

Consumers are accustomed to landing exactly on the information they seek and have less tolerance for confusing navigation and irritating shopping carts. This means that money spent on creating a customer buying path or streamlining your shopping cart process can pay off.

Websites are not books plus nobody reads the table of contents

Website visitors are entering your website on pages other than the homepage which means that your primary message needs to be clear throughout your website. No matter what your business is, people are searching for relevant information. They have a problem and want to know if you can help them solve it. This concept is nothing new, yet the vast majority of business websites still continue to focus only on themselves or make visitors jump through hoops to find a contact number.

How do you know what your visitors really want -start with the questions people in real life ask you. Write down the top 5 questions, problems or concerns your customers have. Now write the answers just like you are speaking to a real person. Be specific and substantiate your claims.

Make sure the content is clear, simple and not full of jargon or sales speak. Give examples like: “A client came to us with ____ and we helped them _____. ” “Our pricing programs are individual and based on _____ , ______, and ______. ”   Always include a call to action and whenever possible make it personal. These examples would be: “We would love an opportunity to answer your questions in person, please call 123 234 6789 and ask for Mike Williams.” Or “Are you finding what you need? If not, one of our operators would be happy to help you find the item you are looking for and answer any questions. We look forward to speaking with you, just call 123 234 6789”

Your customers expect to find the information they want online and businesses large and small are finally wising up to this fact: without an effective web presence – your company might not exist. The good news is that standing out online can be as simple as providing more specific and relevant information that people really want.

Jan Riley is the CEO and founder of LeadMastersUSA, a website marketing company founded in 2004 and based in Atlanta, Ga. Her entrepreneurial spirit and internet experience along with a talented staff has made LeadMastersUSA synonymous with innovative marketing tactics, increased ecommerce profits and business websites that build relationships. We believe that the true power of the internet is NOT technology – it is communication. People buy from people. Discover how your website can connect, capture and convert visitors into customers with our 3 minute weekly video series at www.LeadMastersUSA.com You can contact Jan at 678 318 7515.

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