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5 Ways Small Business Can Use Internet Marketing

So you’ve heard of Web 2.0, but you’re not sure what it is. Do you need to install it? Nope. Web 2.0 is what you’re using right now to read this blog. It’s the interactive factor of today’s internet. (I say this as if I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m actually still learning!).

Remember when the internet was a place you sent the occasional email or tried to look up information (only to be disappointed with the results)? It’s hard to remember those times, but the ability to find virtually anything we need online is only a recent phenomenon. I know that even just three years ago, I probably could not have run an internet-based company! People would have thought I was crazy to market to people across the country!

Today, the internet is completely interactive. You participate in chats and forums, you blog, and you get to decide what news stories are important to readers. It’s been called the “democratization of media.” It’s an exciting time! And what better time to implement these interactive tools to promote your small business?

Where in the past, your marketing efforts might have consisted of a television commercial, radio spot, or billboard, today’s technology lovers and entrepreneurs are putting stock in online advertising, which is more affordable and more effective.

Enough said. You’re sold. But what can you do right now to join the Web 2.0 revolution and market your company online?

Blogging

1. Start a blog. I’m not just saying this because I have a blog. Well, actually, I am. I wasn’t sold on blogging until my husband started this blog and I saw that people were actually reading it! I realized that today’s media offers something for everything, and ever piece of content has an audience. With an unlimited potential of readers, why wouldn’t you start a blog for your company?

The blog should relate to your business. I have a marketing company, Egg Marketing and Public Relations, so my blog relates to marketing. Make it enough to entice the reader to learn more about your company (you’re enticed right now, right??) and to build trust in your skills. It’s about building relationships. The next time a reader needs the product or service you provide, you can bet they’ll think of you first. If you want more information about the act of writing as a marketing strategy, you can check my previous post.

Press Releases

2. Use press releases effectively. Note that I did not say blast out press releases helter skelter. I personally don’t believe in throwing out press releases just to boost your ratings. In fact, you won’t find a press release about Egg anywhere out there. That’s because I haven’t had any newsworthy events I feel should be announced.

When you do have something newsworthy (your grand opening, launch of your website, major client secured), don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. And do it right. There are press release services that send your release to hundreds of websites, both well-known news sites like Yahoo! and Google, and smaller niche websites and publications in your genre.

What this does is not only get you in front of hundreds of pairs of eyes, but also boosts your SEO. Try it for yourself. When you distribute a press release, do a search for your company name on Google. I guarantee you’ll get multiple listings just from all the places that published your press release. The higher you are in your search engine results ranking, the more people will find your website.

Digg Digg Digg

3. Get Dugg. Huh? Digg.com and del.icio.us are just two of the social bookmarking websites available. What they do is allow readers to decide the relevance of articles, news, press releases and blog posts. Say MSNBC.com has the cover story on Saddam Hussein, and waaay, buried in the back is an article on the Postal Service changing their fee structure (see my previous post). Now, I realize that Saddam is front page news, but I think this Postal Service article is a big deal too, especially for marketers.

There is a little icon at the end of the article that says ‘Digg’  and another that says del.icio.us. By clicking on these icons, I have essentially voted for these articles to move up in importance. The more people that click on your press release or blog, the more people see it, and then more people click on it. You get the picture. It helps you gain more viewers who will end up on your website, buying your products or services.

You can even Digg your own articles so that they make it into Digg’s list!

Newsletters

4. E-Newsletter. While your electronic newsletter isn’t exactly online, it’s a great place to give access to all your online components. You have a newsletter, right? You’re sending it out every month to your contacts, right???
In your newsletter, on the sidebars or at the bottom, include links to your website and blog. Give teasers for your most recent entries on your blog: Giving Away Free Information as a Marketing Strategy. If you have a recent press release, include a link to it. If you have coverage in local media (i.e. news program or radio) include a link to that. Give your newsletter audience every opportunity to connect with you.

Leverage Other People’s Eyeballs

5. Advertise. Guess what? You don’t have to advertise on the big players’ websites. It might not even be effective for you. There is a niche group in every genre you can think of (work at home moms, cat lovers, people who love Barbara Mandrell and toast). Find your target market online and advertise on smaller, more targeted websites. It’s much cheaper, and you’ll find that communities are very supportive of their own. So take the time to become part of online communities in your market, and you’ll see a big payoff.

Advertising on these sites can come in the form of banner ads, text ads, or mention of your product in a blog. Get creative and find your own ways to get your product name out there.
As you can see, the sky’s the limit when it comes to marketing your company online. The great thing is there’s usually not a long-term commitment, so you can quickly pull out of any channels that aren’t beneficial for your company!

-Susan

An Interview with Marketing Guru Kim T. Gordon

I recently interviewed marketing guru Kim T. Gordon. Gordon is the author of what I consider the best book on shoestring marketing that I have read (Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars). She is also the president of National Marketing Federation, Inc., and provides marketing consultation for businesses (smallbusinessnow.com).
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Part 2: You Could Learn a Lot from a Fairy Godmother: How Disney Renewed my Faith in Loyalty and Marketing

I recently was fortunate enough to sit in on a Disney Institute session on loyalty. Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked and delighted when a fairy godmother descended on the room (or rather burst through the doors) and began spouting off interesting information about Disney.

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Of all the meetings I have ever attended, I have to say, this is the one that I will always remember.

But aside from all the wing and bling she spread around the room, I learned a lot about how Disney does marketing. My respect for the company has grown tenfold since the meeting.
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Part 1: ATTN CEO: 4 Signs Your Customers Hate You, and How you could learn from a Fairy.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when it comes to your relationship with your customers:

1. Are your most profitable customers those who have the most reason to be dissatisfied with you?

2. Do you have rules that you want customers to break because doing so generates profits?

3. Do you make it difficult for customers to understand or abide by your rules, and do you actually help customers break them?

4. DO you depend on contracts to prevent customers from defecting?
If you answered “yes” to any of the four questions, your company may be engaged in what an article, “Companies And The Customers Who Hate Them” in the Harvard Business Review calls “adversarial value-extracting strategies.”

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