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September 24th, 2014
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Online Marketing Basics for Small Business

Author: Santiago Sosa

As you might remember not so long ago we had internet connections via a telephone line, we happily browsed our favorite websites waiting oftentimes a couple of minutes for images and long paragraphs with funky fonts and colors to load. Back in those days we did not have many options, for most people the idea of buying online seemed like a 70’s sci-fi movie.

Because of the high costs associated with creating a website in the early ages of the internet, this was a luxury item of larger companies; it almost felt more as status symbol.  Nowadays as you already know many things have changed.

Today your website is probably one of the best sales tools your business can have, here’s why

It’s your best lead generation tool: in today’s market even the smaller companies can compete against the largest companies in the world for potential customers

It’s your most cost effective sales tool: forget newspapers, yellow books and old media, websites can take orders, accept new customers and much more 24/7 without having to have anyone waiting on the phone to take an order

It’s a fast marketing testing tool: with a click of a button you can change products name, prices, pictures, copy and much more to see what appeals more to your customers, “good luck trying that with a catalogue”

It’s your own retailer and sales person: setting up an e-commerce website today is not only easy but affordable, your website can take orders, payments and automatic process the orders and shipping if needed

Understanding online marketing and its process

Yes, your website is probably one of the most important assets in your online marketing efforts, however its far from being the only thing you need when creating an internet marketing campaign. Most small business make the mistake of believing that by just putting a 5 page catalog website together on the web will bring all the customers they had been waiting for. In today’s competitive marketplace this will rarely ever do anything for your company.

If you want to create a successful marketing campaign you have to create and follow a step by step process to run and grow your business online.

Step 1: Take charge and be consistent

You can achieve online marketing success if you put the time and dedication to educate yourself about the different online marketing strategies and take charge of your online efforts. If you put up a website, Facebook page and twitter account just to leave it alone and never come back to it, failure will soon follow you and most people blame some obscure evil internet god, where you think you got too late into the game, that you are not a 22 year old Harvard genius or that you are just unlucky. Believe me many people go through this, only to come back years later regretting all the success they would have had accomplished if they only had stuck with it.

Your online marketing needs a great image: starting from the colors you choose for your logo and the font you use in your website, your online marketing message has to be clear. Remember will all the clutter that most people see on the media everyday oftentimes less is more. Forget the flying color letters and loud funky music on your website, chances are its just going to get mixed with the sweet soft online radio station of your customer and you just made her close her browser as fast as she could. Remember to put the same creative elements on all your marketing materials as you do in your website so you can create what is called a business brand.

All about hosting and domains: today millions of domains are registered every day it’s not as easy as it used to be to find a good domain name for your business, keep in mind that there are many different online marketing strategies that can be improved by having a good domain name for example if you have a domain that includes the correct keywords for your business this will eventually help you with your search engine optimization efforts. Also keep in mind that hosting is very affordable nowadays back in the day I remember having friends pay over $50 a month for basic hosting service. Today you can get a great hosting service with all the necessary tools for your website at a low monthly cost.

Step 2: Establish your online brand

Website design: Don’t be fooled by some of the larger companies that tell you that web design is an obscure world of code wizards and design goddesses. With the advances in today’s online technologies is fairly affordable to have a great and effective website designed. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying find your 17 year old nephew to design your website as I’ve seen before, or to go to craigslist and find that $20 web designer that will create your online masterpiece, this will shortly result in online marketing failure. All I’m saying is that you don’t have to spend 5 or 7 thousand dollars to get a very effective and appealing website.

It’s all on the content: Don’t follow the same error of many small business owners when they start creating a website where they put all the time and energy finding the right colors, the perfect logo on all the awesome images for the website but they neglect to create the best copy and content for their customers to read, after all most people go online to find useful information. Not only this but shortly when you discover the wonders of search engine optimization you will rapidly find that the content on your website is a key factor in your online marketing efforts. If you don’t feel as creative as you were in your junior high poetry writing class, i highly recommend finding someone who can help you create compelling content for your site.

Communicate your offer: Many companies get distracted and use their website as a tri-fold brochure. Make sure you find the single reason why someone will visit your site and clearly give your visitors what you have to offer. It could be a simple contact form for more information, a sales video or a well put together sales page with an integrated online payment, whatever it is make sure you clearly tell your prospective customers what you offer and what action you want them to take.

Step 3: Build your audience

I could literally write 10 books in this subject and will definitely give you more detailed information later on, but this is how some say “where the magic happens”, here is where you could give up to have the best designed website, all the social media pages in the world and so forth if no one is finding you online there is just no point of losing your precious time and money on these internet adventures. Traffic=customers=sales

Search engine optimization: SEO or search engine optimization is probably one of the most important pieces of the online marketing puzzle. This is where if done correctly can take your business from a small pop and mom corner shop to a large online retailer. Basically millions of people search every day for services and products online trough search engines, SEO is what helps you beat the competition so more people will find you.

Social media: If by now you don’t know what Facebook or twitter is you must have been living under a rock for the past 5 years. As you know today almost everyone is connected online with their friends, family and colleagues trough some social media site. You need to take advantage of this by creating a social media campaign, just as I explained earlier about web design, you won’t do much by just putting up a Facebook or Google+ profile, you have to create a strategy to reach all those potential customers with which you can easily interact online.

Paid online advertising: Just as important as some other online marketing methods paid online ads can be a very effective sales tool. Between Google Adwords, Facebook and banner ads there are plenty of companies looking for you to spend your beloved dollars advertising with them, make sure that before you take your shiny credit card out of your wallet you analyze and understand where your money is going and how is it going to help your online marketing efforts.

There are plenty of other online marketing strategies to follow, for now I wanted to cover some of the most important basics that will hopefully guide you on the right direction. Please keep tuned for more tips and information to help you create or enhance your small business online marketing campaigns.

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