Internet marketing is no longer something anyone in business can ignore if they hope to prosper. I have been marketing online myself since 1995, so I converted long ago. However, I still marvel at statements made by small town merchants who say “Everyone knows me, so I don’t need to advertise”, or “We’re too small to need the Internet”, or best of all, “Our community is too small for us to have to worry about Internet marketing.”
I have been hearing variations of these 3 objections put forth as excuses for not switching focus to online marketing for almost 20 years. Ironically, better than half of the business owners who voiced such objections are out of business. Most of those that remain have come to realize that the Internet is a market unto itself and now participate.
The Internet is global, and therefore appears to be the realm of big players with outlets around the world. However, the Internet reaches every corner of the planet, pulling sales from large communities and small alike. Regardless of where your business is located, your competition is no longer restricted to the brick and mortar retailer down the street. Your business also has to compete with respected retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot, or Macy’s even when they have no outlet anywhere near you. Big box stores may not have an outlet in your community, but they do have massive online sales departments selling to your potential customers. Then there are the host of virtual stores that have no physical presence at all, but sell to the family living next door to your store. Just because you don’t see a throng of your neighbours shopping somewhere else, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing so. By not marketing online yourself you have no hope of replacing the business the Internet has taken and continues to take.
There is virtually no other marketing media with the speed, efficiency and reach of Internet marketing. Plus, the variety of Internet marketing strategies is as wide as the technology used to access the Internet, and it’s growing. Some of the basics to compete for a share of the global, Internet market are…
1. A website with eCommerce capabilities. If you do not have the skills required to build a professional looking, and fully functional online presence, spend a few dollars to hire someone to do the work. Design, ease of navigation, and functionality are necessities when marketing online. I hear all the time that retailers can’t afford a website. I usually respond by pointing out that the old school method of increasing market reach was to open another outlet, which was a huge expense. A top notch eStore costs less that the amount needed to firm up a lease, and the annual management of an eCommerce website costs less then a single month lease payment on a storefront.
2. Use videos. Print is virtually dead as an advertising media, and will be within a very few years. Likewise, textual advertising online will not be far behind. If you intend to market online, look to video marketing. It isn’t expensive to create a professionally looking video presentation for your product or service. In fact a decent 30 to 60 second, quality video presentation, costs less than $100 when purchased from someone with decent video editing software and reasonable editing skills.
3. Embrace mobile technology. Just as print is in its death throws as an advertising media, so is immobile computer technology. Mobile devices already number in the billions, but within 5 years that number will double. By comparison, desk top computers for personal use have already started down the road to extinction.
4. Social Media should make up a good portion of any business’ Internet marketing focus. Billions of users now get their news and entertainment, and communicate via social media. The number is only going to increase with time. If you’re already marketing online, or plan to, and you are not focusing a significant amount of effort on social media do so or be left behind.
5. Email marketing, the opt in kind – not spam, will remain an Internet marketing tool. However, it will mostly be for business to business products and services. This is because email will eventually be replaced completely by texting in non commercial applications. Email volume is only maintaining itself now because the number of online users is still growing, and therefore email accounts are still being created and used. It will or already has peaked, and will decline as texting, video chatting and social media messaging increases for personal use communications.
Internet marketing is still a relatively new media, so it is constantly changing. However, it changes to be able to more quickly and easily reach potential customers. Those customers are as likely to be your next door neighbour as they are the Nigerian exchange student attending university in Paris, France. Both may visit a website and buy a product you have on the shelf of your retail store, costing you as sale. On the other hand, if you’re focusing on Internet marketing then both may visit your website. Your website is naturally selling same goods you have on the shelf of your retail outlet. Your neighbour you may sell to in your store as easily as you do online, but the Nigerian exchange student in Paris is a sale you would never have made if your focus was on your local market. Such is the reality of Internet marketing.
Len Bowcott has been an online marketer since the 1990s and is a business consultant at Nica Investments in Granada, Nicaragua. Len also consults clients on Internet marketing strategies, SEO and the set up and management of affiliate marketing programs.