Should Small Business Owners Still Use The Internet As A Marketing Platform?

There has no doubt been many people who have had tremendous results from marketing their business online. 

More calls, sales, leads, growth, expansion, profits, higher ROI, and more money!

Work less, play more!

Early retirement!

But the truth is that most small and local business owners still have not achieved great success to this extent with their digital marketing efforts.

Most still don’t even have a website and are so frustrated with it all they’ve just thrown in the towel when it comes to the internet.

So, who are these businesses having success online?

When looking at the type of businesses that really have big returns online we see that the disconnected, quick turn over or online shopping businesses are the clear winners.

These are those that can easily capitalize on our weaknesses as humans by leading us down a funnel to a super easy to use purchase page followed by up-sell after up-sell that we can’t seem to resist.

And if we do resist, they just follow us around the internet with advertisements, tempting us until we break!

And of course, their market pool is huge because it’s usually a digital or shippable product with subscription and payment options so they can sell massive amounts in a short amount of time.

It’s all about the sale. How can you optimize every aspect of the sale for the most amount of profit?

And they’ve gotten really good at it.

What does their success have to do with my inability to succeed online?

People have also gotten really good at marketing these very tactics to unbeknownst small business owners as irresistible eye candy that will be the secret to growing their business.

I mean who doesn’t want a thriving business.

But these types of tactics fall short with service-based and local small businesses and are hard or expensive to maintain without ongoing support. Creating a legitimate online sales funnel is not just something you stop into Walmart for.

Furthermore, when done incorrectly those tactics will actually do more to turn away local customers than attract them. No person likes to feel like they’re only a sale when hiring or partnering with a local company.

Even the platforms that make things easy and affordable, like ClickFunnels, ParkBench or many others, while they offer an extremely valuable service, are only one of the many tools available to small business owners. But that doesn’t mean every small business owner needs or should use those tools, despite what their marketing tells you. 

So, with all the spam, noise, and overwhelming barrage of advertising, new tips, tricks, tools, strategies, platforms, and more, is digital marketing for a small business even worth it?

Is digital marketing for a small business still worth it?

Yes, because the internet is truly ingrained into our lives in so many ways, some type of managed online presence(digital marketing) is going to be very beneficial to your business. The majority of people use the internet and search engines many times throughout the day to find local businesses, hire companies, perform research and do many other things.

The internet has truly just become a way of life for us and will only continue to become more ingrained into our everyday lives. It’s truly getting to the point where a business could easily be overlooked if they don’t have some type of online presence representing their business. 

By looking at the age ranges of the people who are making the majority of purchases and hiring the majority of businesses, we just might be nearing the point(if we’re not already there) where it is absolutely necessary to have some type of online presence. That is because those same people making the majority of purchases grew up online in some capacity or another. Whereas the gen x and baby boomer generation and those even older really never got to experience or understand the value behind having so much information at our fingers. But I don’t say that to take away from them or dog them in any capacity because if it wasn’t for them and all their hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

The point is that having some type of managed online presence is just something that has to be done these days, similar to creating signage for your local storefront. But the reasons behind why you are doing it are more important than the tools you use to do it. 

Are you coming to the internet for selfish reasons, or are you actually looking to provide value to your customer base throughout their entire customer journey, which often starts online these days? Ask yourself this question and then ask yourself how you can provide value through your online presence. Taking this approach will create an online presence that simultaneously serves and attracts customers or clients.  

What Does Small Business Success Look Like Online?

This might seem like a dumb question, but there are so many misconceptions about what the internet is here for, what the search engines are here for, and what it all means in relation to a small business that defining what success with your online efforts looks like has become needed.

And because every business is going to define internet marketing success differently in the form of business goals, it is really just the understanding of the intersection of small business and the internet, including how the internet works in general, that will empower you to take back control of your online presence and make the right decisions for your business consistently over time. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the internet for small business is first and foremost customer service in a digital world. It’s not about getting more calls, sales, leads, or making more money for doing less work. In fact, it’s the opposite as those are only potential outcomes of following the right approach to marketing your business online.

For consumers, the internet just works, but for business owners sleeves must be rolled up and work must be put in and for the right reasons. Just like with every other aspect of your business. It’s about providing the best customer experience throughout the entire buying or customer journey.

The Internet is like a Bridge

I like to think of the internet as a bridge. A really awesome bridge that connects people with problems, wants, and needs, to solutions, ideas, and things; to businesses that can help. But the issue is that we can’t actually cross this bridge alone. We need help from the search engines. It’s why they were born back in the early ’90s, to help people navigate through and use the internet to find websites. 

So the search engines are the gatekeepers and our guides across this magical bridge of the internet. This means that everything a small business does online is to provide value to the search engines and consumers. Because if you don’t please the gatekeeper, he isn’t going to guide anyone across the bridge to you. 

Referral-Based Searches

Because the majority of people prefer to hire or buy from a business based on some type of referral the first thing your online presence must accomplish is being able to be found when searching for your business by name.

When a person is referred to your business the first thing they will likely do is type your business name, or some half-remembered version of it, into a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It goes without saying that they should easily be able to find your business online. Furthermore, your online presence should be optimized in a way that does not put up any barriers between them reaching out to you. It should break down those barriers and empower them to reach out to you.

The great news is that the majority of what is needed to accomplish this can be done by the business owner or employees and can be done for free or very little cost. I call this optimizing your online presence to be heard, once found. 

The even better news is that doing this correctly and consistently over time is what will bring your business the second type of success we can have online. The first type of success is success through referral-based searches. The second type of success is success through problem or solution based searches. 

Problem or Solution Based Searches

A problem or solution based search is when a person searches for an “XYZ” Type of Company because they already know they need to hire or buy from a company or when a person searches to perform more research on what their problem is, why they’re having it, and what potential solutions exist for it. 

This can be as simple as searching for “pizza near me” because I want to order pizza and am sick of ordering from the same pizza place all the time and want to see what else is out there. It can also be as advanced as searching for a certain symptom I’m having so I can research why I’m having it and how to fix it which could lead me to seek out a local chiropractor or something else similar. 

The point is that as consumers we know we are more likely to find success online by starting with some type of referral-based search. But there are always going to be those times where we are kind of forced to start by doing research first. 

When a small business optimizes their online presence to be heard once found they ensure that the search engines will be able to understand and show their business for the right searches. We’re first providing value to the search engines so they can do the same for their users, which just happen to be our current and potential customers and clients.

Potential Start-Up Costs For A Managed Online Presence

There will usually be some one-time costs and then there are recurring costs. On top of that, there is the upfront and recurring time it takes to learn a little bit about the internet and how to best use it for your business’ marketing needs – do not skip over this step. There is so much information out there about how you should market your business online, but it is the understanding of all of that information in relation to your specific business that empowers you to consistently make the right decisions surrounding your digital marketing efforts. 

Most business owners should be looking to invest at least $0 to $5000+ in one-time costs and at least $10/month in recurring costs in order to have a managed online presence to help them serve and attract their customer base in today’s digital economy.

The one-time costs are to cover the business listings, directories, and citations creation and for potential website costs to include planning, content, design, and development. 

The recurring costs are for web hosting(cheap hosting is around $10/month), domain registrations(roughly $30/year) and maintenance costs for your website.

The point of this little section isn’t to try and pin down your exact costs, but let you know that you can do it all for free or utilize partners or platforms to help as well. 

Getting Started Online

Whether you are first taking your business online or looking to identify problem areas with your website or online presence, the best place to start and focus on is the fundamentals.

An expert at anyting is merely and expert at the fundamentals of that thing.

When it comes to the internet and small business the internet is first and foremost customer service in a digital world.

Start by checking out these online customer service tips your small business can implement right away and for free or very little investment.

  1. Make sure you have accurate and consistent business information listed in the correct places online.
  2. Have some sort of small business website that:
    1. is mobile
    2. fast
    3. secure
    4. conversion-optimized
    5. search engine optimized
  3. Embrace online reviews
    1. ask and guide customers or clients in the review process
    2. place reviews on website and other marketing channels
  4. Be consistent

Tap or click here to read the full blog post titled: Online Customer Service Tips for Your Small Business.