Online marketing isn’t a fad. It’s a space where local small businesses can compete and beat larger, national competitors. Internet advertising is second only to television in terms of spend.
While online marketing has become a necessity, it remains very confusing and risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. Where do I spend my time? What advertisements are worth my money?
I ask myself the same questions often. There are a large number of opportunities to promote your business online. The mediums with the highest return on investment are search engines, social media and niche websites. Focus on finding new business, however, not clicks.
Search engines replaced print versions of the dictionary, encyclopedia, and the Yellow Pages. If you’re looking for a local business, an online search is where most people start. There are two ways to get noticed through a search engine: either buy ads or earn a first-page ranking through search engine optimization.
Paid ads are an auction where supply and demand control cost per click. A front page ranking is earned through SEO via marketing activities like blogging, social sharing, online public relations and more.
Social media is another good source for referrals. Sites like Pinterest are great for small businesses that have a visual component to what they do. Twitter works for food trucks and other businesses that rely on realtime, short communications. LinkedIn is by far the best source of business-to-business referrals online.
Facebook accounts for one-eighth of the world’s population. In the Triangle, more than 7 out of 10 people use the social media site. It’s great for reaching a local audience; however, plan to buy ads as Facebook has all but removed free exposure for businesses.
Craigslist works well for realtors, car dealers and freelancers.
Other sites such as The Knot and WeddingWire help market photographers, bakers, venues, planners and caterers. HomeAdvisor is for anyone in the home services space while sites like Angie’s List and Yelp focus on nearly all types of local businesses.
Start learning these channels. Don’t be afraid to fail because there’s no one formula for success.
Watch do-it-yourself YouTube videos, take a class or contact an agency. If you want to compete for business, you have to be where your consumers are.
Jeremy Sisk is owner of Durham small-business marketing firm Xperience4Higher. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.