As we enter 2012, the question on every business owner’s mind is how I will I be successful this year. With the economic challenges faced by many businesses last year it has become harder than ever to break even much less make a good profit. Let’s look at some key internet marketing challenges every business needs to focus on in order to succeed in 2012.

Be Found or Be Left Behind. The simple fact it is that the number one way consumer’s find what they need today is by using search engines like Google, Yahoo & Bing. A website and strong website visibility should be the number one priority on any marketing list. Why? Because it will be the single most utilized method for finding your business. Example-you have a billboard. Did the customer have time to right down a number while driving-No. So, if they are interested how do you think they are going to find you? According to research over 70% of them will use the internet to search for your business! Ok-so to reach 70% of customers you need a website and they should easily be able to find it on search engines. If they don’t find you-they will find your competition instead. This is why this item is first on the list! If you don’t have a good SEO marketing plan get one soon.

Make Way for Mobilization: In a world of Smart Phones, iPads and Tablets marketing will need to be mobilized. So what does this mean? People better be able to find your business in search – and even more to the point local search. With mobile devices changing search habits, people are looking for information on the fly. They want to know what is close to them (now), where they can find something (now), and what’s available at a place (now). Having a mobile marketing strategy is crucial, in fact smart phones and mobile devices like the iPad, are predicted to outnumber computers within 5 years! This is happening now. People are already searching on mobile devices, using location based services to find it now. If you aren’t found in mobile search you are missing a lot of customers! Start with a mobile website, that loads quickly and that is optimized to fit any device. Mobile users want a mobile experience-they don’t want to pinch and zoom and scroll to navigate your regular website. Give them a mobile version and you will see a dramatic difference in conversion and time spent on your page from those customers.

Monitor and Manage Reputation: Everyone has a voice and today they are sharing it with the world by talking about everything they do; the lunch they just ate, the plumber who just fixed the leaky sink, the dentist who whitened their teeth, the shop where they bought those great shoes…the list goes on. Now, what happens when that customer had a bad experience? They posted a terrible review of your company with a laundry list of all the things wrong with your business. Are you prepared to quickly address and limit the impact of negative streams of publicity such as complaints before they hurt your business or brand? If not you could have some trouble. Why? Because what other people say about a brand is more important than what a brand says about itself. People trust peer recommendations and reviews because they know most advertising is not candid and is designed to promote the business. They believe what other people say-so you want to be sure you are monitoring what is being said and then managing anything negative to keep your brand or business reputation positive. Don’t let bad reviews or even worse fake reviews from your competitors drive away potential customers. Find a reputation management program that works for you.

Marketing to a New Attitude: Today, people more empowered and more informed than ever before, but they also are far less trusting of businesses. People are tired of gimmicky marketing and unethical advertising tactics. They are looking for businesses they can trust. So what does that look like to a customer? They want to see a business that is authentic, candid and open. One way you can do this is by engaging your customers and actually opening communication with them. Have conversations instead of marketing pitches. Using social media like custom Facebook Pages or Twitter you can develop a community with your customers and then have conversations, retain customers and even have them promote you on their networks when they recommend your brand or business. People believe that businesses should have a presence on social networks; they are willing to interact with your business and even share it with others if you are willing to be candid and authentic with them. Do you have a social media marketing strategy for 2012?

Marketing basics like Brand Awareness will be important. With new businesses and more brands popping up every day the competition is stiff. Strong brand awareness matters now more than ever. As more competition fragments the market…only the strong survive. The science of marketing, in particular finding the right audience, at the right time, and then delivering the right message will be the key to building your brand and succeeding. Fortunately we have amazing new technologies and target marketing strategies that help you target the right customers online to build your brand. Building brand awareness on-line takes an integrated approach based on your business you can do several things to make sure you are constantly visible to your audience. Ideally you want to be visible when they search by using SEO to get high natural rankings, but with stiff competition you can also use Pay-Per-Click or Display Ads to maintain high visibility.

With these new search habits, and attitudes people want information differently than they did before. Having a plan to succeed is crucial to make sure you adapt to meet these new marketing challenges. So here are some things you can do to Succeed in 2012:

Have a website design that works for you with a strong presence. Be found by having strong visibility on search engines. If you don’t have a website or a strong SEO strategy then work with an internet marketing consultant to get one now.

Google Places account (claim yours if it is already out there) or create one for yourself.Correct content on local social sites (aka Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc – this is different for every location) Make sure your business is listed correctly. To make this easier you can use a service like this one which includes business visibility monitoring. Always make sure you provide clear ways to connect with you (phone number, email address).

Monitor your Reputation. Use alerts or sign up for a Reputation Management service.

Get a Mobile Website (for all those searching via mobile devices).

Create Great content (think of something that they’ll want to share with friends…this will help you promote your online brand.)

If you aren’t doing so already…Get going with Social Media Marketing. To save time you may want to consider a Social Media Management program to keep all your profiles and updates easily controlled from one place.

Consider Building your Brand Awareness with a pay-per-click campaign or display ads. This strategy keeps you stay in front of the customer even when competition is tough in your local market. Not sure how to handle a campaign like this-then check out this pay per click management option.
Megan Faust is currently a Digital Marketing Consultant for LocalEdge, a division of Hearst Media. With over 6 years experience, she specializes in developing digital marketing strategies that generate a high ROI. She helps businesses large and small overcome barriers to success by providing support and solutions to their marketing challenges like website and mobile site design, SEO, pay per click management, reputation management, social media marketing, video marketing and more. As a consultant she also performs coaching, speaking and training events. To learn more about how she could help with your marketing challenges visit her website at