In the business world, terms like internet marketing, online marketing, digital marketing, and e-marketing get thrown around a lot. But what do they mean?
Business owners know that marketing is essential. You can’t get customers unless they know your business exists. You have to tell them about your products and services. That’s what marketing is all about.
You can hire someone to stand on a street corner holding a sign depicting your logo. That’s marketing. Distribute coupons so customers can receive discounts. That’s marketing too. So is taking out a newspaper or magazine ad. Even handing out your business card counts as marketing.
Traditional vs. Online Marketing
Traditional marketing and online marketing for small businesses share a common purpose: to educate and inform the public about your offerings.
Ultimately, all areas of marketing strive to present your business in a positive light, to generate new customers and retain existing customers, and to make sure people are familiar with your business’s brand and products.
The primary difference between traditional and online marketing is that traditional marketing happens offline and online marketing happens on the web. There is plenty of crossover: traditional and online marketing campaigns should complement and reinforce each other.
Many small businesses benefit from combining traditional and online marketing, especially businesses that cater to a geographically localized clientele. A little café downtown might run an ad in a local newspaper and see a swell of customers. The same café is likely to see another swell of customers when they get a bunch of positive reviews online or when they promote their business on social media networks.
Added Benefits of Online Marketing for Small Businesses
In many ways, the internet has leveled the playing field for small businesses. Previously, only big companies could afford nationwide or global marketing campaigns. Now a website makes it possible for a tiny, unknown business to reach millions of people all around the world.
The web has also integrated marketing with the point of sale. In the past, you used a sign to get customers through the door (marketing). Then you showed them your wares and persuaded them to buy (sales). Finally, you shuffled them through the checkout line (cha-ching). With e-commerce and other technological advances, a small-business website can now function as your sign, salesperson, and cash register. In other words, a well-built website can take care of your marketing, sales, and transactions.
That’s efficient business.
Examples of Online Marketing Campaigns
Your website should include the most essential information about your business, and it should encourage visitors to become customers by making the process as clear and simple as possible.
Think of your website as your business’s home (or headquarters) on the web. In the real world, you might operate out of a shop or office. But online, your website is your storefront or your office. It’s a single point of entry for prospective and returning customers. Using your website as the central hub for your online marketing efforts, you can engage a variety of other techniques for drawing traffic to your site and bringing customers to your business.
There are many ways you can bring online customers to your business website. Get your logo, ads, and business information published in places on the web where your customers are likely to be hanging out. Launch a blog, email newsletter, or article publishing campaign. Or use search engine optimization (SEO) to capture prospects who are searching online for your exact products and services. Ads, mailing lists, and social media are all forms of marketing that can bring traffic and business to you.
Choosing an Online Marketing Strategy
Each small business should be evaluated to determine which online marketing strategies are the best match for its products or services and its customers. For some businesses, search engine marketing may not be viable. This could be due to high competition in the industry, insufficient resources for managing an SEO campaign, or convoluted search terms. Another business might see high returns by setting up a Facebook page and spending a few minutes each day sharing updates. Yet another business might acquire a large following through a blog that publishes useful or interesting content.
The online marketing campaign you choose should be customized not only for your industry but also for your customer demographics and available resources, as well as budgetary and other considerations.
Marketing and Metrics
Online marketing for small businesses presents a host of new opportunities. But one of the greatest perks of online marketing is metrics. Thanks to technology, tracking the performance of a website and its peripheral marketing campaigns is a matter of installing and running a few easy-to-use reporting tools and then assessing and analyzing the data on a regular basis.
For example, let’s say you find a popular website that sells ad space. It’s exactly the kind of website that your prospective customers would frequent. So you decide to purchase ad space on the site for three months. You can then check your website’s statistical reports to see exactly how many visitors the ad sent to your site. This can help you determine your return on investment (ROI).
Getting Results with Your Online Marketing Campaigns
The internet presents a host of opportunities for online marketing for small businesses. How will you use the Internet to market your business?
I provide online marketing solutions for small businesses and independent professionals who want to draw more traffic to their websites and increase sales. Visit my online marketing page to learn more and contact me to find out how I can help you market your business on the web.
Melissa Donovan is a website consultant and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward and the author of over seven books.