Is online marketing a necessity for your small business?
The short answer is yes. A definite, resounding yes.
But the thing is, you might have your own reservations about pouring your resources into internet marketing. Maybe you tried it once a few years ago. You set up a social media profile or created a website and unfortunately, it didn’t work out for you.
You may also say that only the big companies with big budgets can expect an even bigger return from their digital marketing efforts. Well-established brands such as Oreo have the consumer base that could ensure a high reach or even “virality” of their creations.
Another reason is the target market. These big brands are national and multinational companies targeting a large chunk of the population. You are a brick and mortar business, perhaps a local cafe or bistro, and your customers are offline and local.
Time. Money. Customer base. For traditional business owners, all of these are valid arguments against digital marketing, but this is far from the full story. Investing your marketing efforts even if you are a small player in the industry is more than just a necessity. It is a reality.
But first, let’s address your concerns.
I did some internet marketing once and it didn’t work out for me.
Marketing is a gamble. This is true for every marketing effort, online or offline. Some can give you a drastic increase in your sales and profits while others would only incur you costs without providing a significant return. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the internet is at fault.
One reason why you failed is the time. If you were one of the early adopters, internet marketing was in its infancy at the time and everyone else, even consumers, are still adapting to the new channel. Today, the digital landscape has become acclimated to marketers and consumers alike, providing a non-intrusive but effective channel for communicating your product or service.
Another possible reason is the marketing plan itself and its execution. Internet marketing is substantially different from traditional marketing channels. Even the biggest companies can commit marketing fails. You are no exception. The best response to failure is to increase your data and review your plan, not disregarding the marketing channel.
I don’t have the time and money to have effective marketing on the Internet.
Time and money indeed are the most important resources of any business and they would have to be strategically distributed towards different aspects of the business.
But the fact is, you can just allocate one hour each day for your online marketing and get it for free. That’s right. You don’t need to write posts or engage your potential customers in real time to get the response that you want. Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress allow you to schedule posts to any time that you prefer. And did I mention they’re free?
There are a lot of ways that you can take advantage of the internet and social media without spending a single penny. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look and what ideas you should pick up.
I’m satisfied with my local consumers. They don’t need me online.
I think this is the greatest deterrent for business owners that discourages them from engaging in internet marketing. Most of the patrons of small businesses are locals living in tight-knit communities that have personal relationships with the owners and employees. Customers coming in and servers asking “The usual?” is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in customer relationship management. If you are satisfied with the status quo, then it would be hard to change your mind.
But hear me out. All business owners would like their ventures to grow and that can only be achieved by both customer retention, which you have now, and customer acquisition. This relationship with your locals is not only an end goal but an opportunity to attract customers. While word-of-mouth is effective, nothing can facilitate this cycle of recommendations better than the internet. Review sites such as Yelp are integrated into social media and could easily give your current consumers their thoughts on your product or service.
This leads me to the ultimate reason why your small business needs digital marketing. All of the reasons mentioned above are indeed valid points of contention but the rebuttals have one unifying reason:
Consumers are spending a huge chunk of their time online.
The marketing landscape today is different. Consumers not only spend their time in radio, television, and print but also in the internet as well. Their purchasing decisions are well-researched and influenced by their peers and experts. If they’re looking for a particular establishment, they don’t search in the phone book, but rather search for it online. Your legitimacy as a business can be determined by the way you market yourself. The right combination of internet presence with the more traditional marketing channels is vital for the success of any modern business. With the fast-paced nature of technology, you need to constantly remind your customers that you still exist.
Consumer expectations have changed, thanks to the Internet. And that is the definitive reason why you need to question your assumptions and challenge your perceived notions on internet marketing. You no longer have the choice between online or offline. Consumers have made that for you already.