First Person: The Internet and Small Business Marketing

Yahoo Contributor Network

Does the Internet affect your small business? Because of the changes it has made for advertising and marketing, it is important even for brick and mortar companies. Fortunately, you can use it to your advantage. The Internet plays your strengths as it enable you to focus your small business marketing down on one niche where you can excel.

In ten years as a small business consultant, one of the toughest 'sales' I have had is getting clients to understand that not everyone is their prospect. Start by identifying those needs you address best. Concentrate your marketing efforts there to get momentum thereby growing sales.

Sales and Marketing Rule of Thumb

There's been a rule of thumb in sales and marketing for all 30+ years that I've been in the profession: it takes seven impressions to make a sale. An impression is where a prospect sees or hears about you and your products and services.

Because of the shorter attention spans today, many marketers feel that the number of contacts needed has jumped to between twelve and fifteen impressions. Your goal is for prospects to know, like and trust you. It takes a while and multiple contacts to build a relationship.

Use Both Offline and Online Marketing

Offline methods still work. You can reach your ideal prospects through direct mail, networking events, print ads in the right publications, and telephone calls.

But the Internet can give your small business marketing a real boost because of how easy it is to focus on your niche. You just need to identify where you ideal customers invest their time.

How to Connect through the Internet

One of the clichés in marketing is "give to get." People want to know that you care about them not just their wallet to buy your products. They also want to know you have the expertise to help them. Here are three options:

- Answer questions in forums

- Comment on other people's articles

- Tell stories that describe their pain

Answer Questions in Forums

When you answer questions on forums, avoid hard sell. Many people in forums are cynical and wary of sales people pushing their products instead of sharing. Serve first. If it is appropriate, you can refer them to an article for more information or even a product.

Comment on Other People's Articles

I have generated traffic to my site by commenting on other people's posts. The larger the online publication's audience is, the greater the likelihood someone will follow up on your viewpoint, particularly if you are politely disagreeing with the other position.

Tell Stories that Describe Their Pain

People search the Internet to find solutions to their problems. Most of them are lucky if they can define their problem. They might know that there is a solution but not what it is or which one is best for their needs and situation.

Use stories that describe their pain instead of pushing a specific solution. Let them know you understand them and what they are feeling. You can do that with blog posts, articles on other sites or through videos. Then you can talk about solutions and interest them in knowing more.

The Internet enables your small business, whether brick and mortar or online, to make a strong impact provided you identify and focus on the problems of your niche. You can use forums, commenting on other articles and writing blog posts as part of your small business marketing activities to reach your prospects. It merely takes time instead of a large advertising budget. Because people want to connect with a person, this gives you an edge over major corporations.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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