There was a time when if you went into business for yourself you bought some business cards, put out a sign, and walked door-to-door to meet your neighbors, invite them over for a cup of coffee and ask them to send their friends over to see you. You were in business.
Today, it’s not so easy.
While the principles haven’t changed much, the tools used to act on them have. New businesses still must attract customers some how and the methods for attracting new customers are pretty much the same today as they’ve always been.
- Location, location, location
- Advertise, advertise, advertise
- Network, network, network
- Give great customer service and they’ll be back
Well, location is still important. Advertising is still a great way to get new business, but it’s expensive. Networking is essential. And, of course, we all know about customer service.
Word of mouth is still the best way to advertise. One happy customer is worth an army of marketing reps beating the streets. But today those marketing reps may be beating a superhighway – the Information Superhighway.
Has Marketing Changed That Much Really?
Marketing has always been about telling your story. Telling it in such a way that your target customer knows who you are, what you do, and where to find you. That hasn’t changed.
But in today’s fast moving marketplace you are as likely to do business with someone from Timbuktu as you are from two blocks down. That doesn’t make location any less important.
To succeed in the 21st century you’ll need to think about business in a new light. If you don’t have a website yet, you’re not only behind the times but your children and their unborn children are behind as well. Life is moving at a breakneck speed and you’re stick in the quicksand of reality TV. But virtual reality is where it’s at.
If all of this is cryptic to you, relax. I’m don’t mean to be brutish. I am simply pointing out that the way of doing business is online. Not that you can’t still get customers offline, you can (and you should). But you must have a presence online even if your customers are likely to call you or stop by for a visit. In other words, those four principles mentioned above have a direct online equivalent and if you plan to do business online in even the most minimal way then you should be doing those things.
Location, Location, Location
It’s all about location, isn’t it? Some people have gone so far to say that if you have a great location then you don’t need to advertise. I think it depends on how quickly and how much you want to grow your business. I’m of the opinion that there is never enough.
I have known some business owners, however, who never advertised. They relied on word of mouth, a great location, and excellent customer service. It worked for them. But I wouldn’t count on that working for the new media. Not completely.
Your location matters. Online, your location is your URL. Domain name. It means a lot. When you choose a domain name try to stick to these principles:
- Short as possible
- Brands your online business
- Easy to remember
Advertising Online Is Important Too
Online advertising refers to paid models of seeking business through marketing – pay-per-click, banner ads, paid text links, etc.
Some people think this kind of advertising isn’t necessary because ranking in the search engines is free. Well, even if you have the No. 1 spot on Google you’d better spend a little money on advertising. Here’s why:
80 percent of your customers will come from organic search listings (non-paid sources). Twenty percent of your website traffic will come from other sources. It’s well known in pay-per-click circles that 20 percent of searchers will click on the paid sponsor ad. If you don’t have a paid sponsor ad then you’re missing out on that 20 percent.
You may think that’s small potatoes, but it isn’t. This is especially true when you consider that about 80 percent of all website visitors back out of a website without really exploring it. They based their decision to leave on that first five seconds of impression. If you get just 1,000 visitors per month then you are losing 800 of them without even having a chance to pitch them on your product. How many of the remaining 200 will purchase anything?
Organic search traffic is good. Don’t get me wrong. But pay-per-click traffic is better because it is more targeted. That 20 percent of the people who will click on the paid sponsor listing will do so because they are really interested in your product or service. In many cases, they are ready to buy right now. But just like any form of advertising, your pay-per-click ads must be well written and written to encourage the click through. If they do their job right, you’ll have excellent targeted traffic at a good price – not free, but a good price nonetheless.
Networking For Dollars
Networking is still an essential part of doing business. Online, it’s as essential as it ever was. You just go door to door and invite your neighbors over for coffee.
Don’t think that just because MySpace is the most popular networking site online that you have to go there and set up a profile. The truth is, MySpace is popular among a certain age demographic, but most businesses won’t get much response there because it isn’t the right neighborhood.
Think about it: If you ran a doughnut shop and a national association for meat lovers came to town for the largest convention in food products in the world, would you set up a booth? Probably not. Because while some meat lovers may also love doughnuts, those meat lovers are not going to the convention to find doughnuts. You’d be wasting your time. But when the pastry convention comes to town you’d better rush to get you a booth because you’ll have a targeted audience there.
Social networking is just like that. Find the right forums, blogs, and networking sites and you’re in business. Are you a photographer? Put your photos up on Flikr. Are you an independent movie maker? Post some of your clips on YouTube and Google Video. Are you a horseshoe maker? Find a forum where people who own horses hang out and join. Add to the discussion. Invite them over for coffee.
Always Remember, Your Customers Are Your Lifeblood
You can do all the marketing in the world, but if you don’t give your customers what they want then they won’t be back. And they’ll likely tell their friends too.
What do you want your customers to say about you? Treat them as if they already have and they’ll be back. Nuff said.
The Old Man