Let’s say you have a small business, maybe a home-based company or “Mom and Pop” shop or café, and you want to promote your business on the Internet. You’ve searched for information about advertising your business online and came away with more questions than when you began. You discovered that while there is certainly no lack of Internet Marketing agencies, there is great disparity in their services and costs. Some offer a little for a lot, others offer a lot for a little. How do you know what will truly benefit you and who to trust?
With consumers changing their shopping channels from traditional to digital media, Internet Marketing has become a popular commodity for unqualified people who want to make fast money. There are several appealing factors. One is that digital media is still relatively new and an unfamiliar market to many business owners. When contacting businesses, a marketer doesn’t need to know much about what they’re saying to appear as an authority and elicit trust. The truth is they can cause your Internet marketing campaign more harm than good with improper practices.
Second, there is a good amount of money to be made in Internet Marketing, which accounts for why so many people are suddenly becoming gurus. The services of a credible and efficient Internet Marketing company may be viewed in one perspective as expensive. However, if they are indeed good, they will generate enough income for you to easily afford their services and return a profit for your business.
Let’s get back to your situation and say that you cannot afford the services of a “credible and efficient” Internet Marketing firm. What do you do? Perhaps the best thing you can do first is “nothing quickly”. If you have no knowledge of Internet Marketing, don’t make the mistake of falling for the first urgent, top-secret, totally guaranteed offer followed by a lot of $$$$.
Regarding urgency, you will certainly gain a nice head start in a lucrative market if you begin promoting your business on the Internet before to your competition. But chances are the urgency of the plan can wait a few days while you research its validity and credibility of the source. As for the latter two claims, there are no Internet marketing secrets and nothing is guaranteed. Even those reputable marketing companies can’t guarantee a specific return on your investment (much like your local newspaper or radio). If they do, there’s normally a catch.
But digital media, specifically the Internet and mobile phones, is a technologically powerful marketing tool. Eighty-three (83%) percent of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally. Eighty-two percent (82%) follow-up their online research with offline action such as in-store visits, phone calls and emails, and sixty-one percent (61%) make purchases.
So, if done correctly, digital is unquestionably a profitable media to market your business. It’s more cost-effective and produces a greater return on your investment than traditional media.
One way to gain knowledge for yourself and start taking advantage of Internet marketing is by attending training courses or workshops. Many local business groups also have regular meet-ups that include Internet Marketing. When searching for courses or workshops, keep in mind that many “training” events are presented by marketing agencies as part of their marketing strategy. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing depending on the cost and value of what you learn.
Using the rational that nothing is free, simply identify the angle of the marketing agency presenting the training and determine if it’s worth it to you. Will the information you learn actually benefit your business? How much will it cost you to implement what you learn? Is it only one part of a technique that you will need to hire a service (perhaps theirs) to complete?
You cannot learn how to successfully market your business on the Internet during a single workshop. To be of worthwhile benefit will require several courses. Successful Internet Marketing is often doing a lot of little things right to create a complete and efficient marketing package. Ideally, the training series should start at the beginning by teaching you how to select a good domain name and website host. It should include topics such as optimizing your website for users and search engines, and progress to effective off-page marketing techniques. Internet marketing is an evolving discipline, so make sure the information is current. Marketing techniques that worked well six months ago will not necessarily work today.
One of the best Internet Marketing training plans that I have seen is a series of monthly breakfast meetings for local small businesses. The meetings are free (attendees pay for their breakfast) and structured to benefit both novice and experienced Internet marketing businesses owners.
While these meetings are presented by an Internet Marketing agency, they do not include a sales pitch. The agency benefits from increased exposure and the fact that some business owners simply do not have enough time to personally conduct their online marketing campaign. Businesses benefit from receiving practical “how to” information designed to show quick results. It’s a win-win strategy. If business owners have success applying what they learn at the breakfast meetings, they are more likely to contact the same agency if and when they need to hire a service for their campaign.
If your goal is to dominate the first page of major search engines, then you will probably need to hire an Internet marketing company. But if you are a small business owner who can’t afford to hire a service, there are many things that you can do on your own to increase your Internet presence and promote your business. The key is to take the time and do the research to ensure that you are learning from experienced and credible sources.