It’s a 21st century cliché: more people are using the Internet more frequently and for more reasons than ever before. As a marketing and sales tool, the Internet can be the most cost-effective avenue for reaching millions of potential customers.
But does that mean that every business needs to have a presence online? The answer is no, depending on the industry you’re in, at least for now.
If you’re going to use precious marketing resources to build an online presence, the results should add to your bottom line. Don’t feel pressured to “put up a site” just because everyone else has. It’s a business decision: if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs, use the resources elsewhere.
But how do you evaluate the benefits your business might reap from having a website?
- Start by researching your competitors, understanding your customers’ buying preferences, and learning from the best practices used by others in your industry.
- Do a keyword search on the major search engines to see which competitors are listed at the top of the results. Are they getting customers that could be yours?
- Consider ways a web presence can help your business run more effectively. Medical and dental offices, for instance, often lament the time wasted sending out forms, giving directions, and answering the same questions repeatedly. All of these could easily be incorporated into a website, freeing up valuable staff time.
- Would your business be more competitive if it appeared larger and more professional? A web presence can add legitimacy and improve the perception of your organization.
- Be creative, and don’t limit yourself. Some very successful online businesses might not seem an obvious choice for the Internet. Poetry.com, for instance, has built a thriving business largely by sponsoring an annual poetry contest online. (Wouldn’t your high school English teacher be proud?) Hundreds of thousands of poems have been submitted over the past three years, and many of those people go on to purchase products from the website.
Though cliché, it’s true that people now use the Internet in ways they didn’t even a few years ago. Online directories and Yellow Page sites have been expanding as people head to their computers for even basic information like telephone numbers. The ever-improving ability of search engines to deliver targeted local search results will only accelerate this move online.
On average, roughly a quarter-million Internet searches are performed every minute. If some of those people are looking for your products or services, not having a site can be costly. The Internet can be a truly effective marketing tool for your business, but before building an online presence, you should assess its potential for adding to your bottom line.
by Rob Croll
President, Marlannah Group Internet Marketing