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The Importance of Internet for Small Business

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The following is a guest post by Jock Purtle, President of Digital Exits, a firm that helps with the buying and selling of online businesses.

Small businesses usually have small marketing budgets. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Unfortunately, small businesses have to compete against national brands with their large advertising resources, which can make it seem like those small marketing budgets barely have any effect.

When it comes to the internet, these small businesses are forced to compete on an unfair playing field because these large brands have marketing budgets that often exceed a few years worth of revenue for the smaller business.

Knowing this, how is it possible to compete with these brands and still maintain profitability?

Is it actually possible for small businesses to remain competitive and relevant online, even with a small marketing budget?

They can stay competitive, and they do, with smart strategies and careful planning.

The truth remains that a business is going to find it impossible to compete, to gain new customers, if they do not have a strong online presence.

Right now, there are more than 5 billion searches performed on Google every day and more than 1 billion users active on Facebook at the same time.

With online advertising, you can tighten down the audience that you’re targeting to very specific demographics and local regions to help get in front of hundreds of potential new customers.

The massive growth of digital marketing can be seen easily when you look at the retail industry.

A great example of this can be seen in a recent article the Wall Street Journal published.

In that article, they found that a large number of online retailers accounted for the retail sales, while sales in more traditional department stores were on the decline.

For small businesses, online marketing is necessary. Here’s a couple of reasons why:

Expectations Have Changed Dramatically

When a consumer hears about a new business, they jump online and start searching for the business’ website and social media to learn about the company.

If they can’t find you, they’re going to doubt whether you actually exist and if your business is legitimate.

Also, more and more consumers will be trying to find services and products online, with trends expected to increase exponentially as the internet becomes an even bigger part of our lives than it already is.

Your Local Competitors Have Started Advertising Online

You may not have a digital marketing campaign in place yet, but chances are high that your local competitors have already developed a strategy that’s working.

A manager of a large New York web design firm, Michael Priyev, mentions that digital marketing and advertising strategies typically don’t work for small businesses because their website isn’t built on engaging and connecting with their customers.

Instead, these business owners focus on how “pretty” their website looks, instead of how effectively it can convert those visitors into paying customers for the business.

He adds that providing a unique user experience, showing the business’ value proposition front and center, utilizing calls to action and other direct response strategies are the key factors to consider for a successful web design.

Those factors also play a major role when it comes to running successful digital marketing campaigns. When each factor is in place, you reduce your average cost per lead to generate more leads for the same advertising spend.

How to Compete with Large National brands

If you want to compete with large national brands, the key is to stop trying to compete with them. They are always going to outspend small local businesses.

Instead of trying to compete with them, compete with your local market.

Dial in exactly who you are targeting, your specific customer demographics and utilize strategies that pinpoint those demographics with laser accuracy.

Focus on reducing your cost per lead so you can generate more leads with the same marketing budget.

One thing to consider with large brands is that they are trying to do everything and be everywhere. That leaves very little room for tightening their targeting to be in front of specific people at the right times.

They are building digital marketing campaigns with a shotgun approach, instead of approaching their campaigns with a sniper rifle.

If you can focus your campaigns with the scope of that sniper rifle, you will be able to compete without breaking your budget.

Security Matters More than Ever

You really need to look no further than the Equifax recent security breach to understand how important security is for your business, especially when you handle payment processing online.

Equifax was recently taken over by hackers, with more than 134 million people’s information being compromised.

Their lawyers have been in full throttle mode cleaning up the damage that has been caused, but for a smaller business, you probably won’t have the same resources.

Imagine what a data breach like this could do to your own business? Do you think it would survive if hackers took over your customer database and compromised their sensitive information? Could your business handle a large-scale identity theft lawsuit?

If you can show your customers that security is a large part of your business, you are going to build trust and loyalty with them, making it nearly impossible for a large brand to take them away from you.

Also, consider that these security measures will increase the value of your business should you ever decide to sell it.

When you’re trying to put your business on the same playing field as these large brands, you have to think deeper than just your marketing, customer acquisition, and retention strategies. Look at every aspect of your business and put the power of the internet to work for you.

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