If I ask this question in a room full of business owners and executives, I’m willing to bet there’d be very few no answers. if any. That’s because the one thing businesses always need more of, is new customers.
A pretty standard method of attracting new customers in business is through advertising. You call up the newspaper or ad agency, they create a graphic ad and place it in the paper for you… at least I think that’s how it works.
You see I’m an exclusively online guy. Everything I do is online which is one of the reasons I started this site. But I know most of you are not really comfortable online and are just getting your feet wet trying to attract new customers on the internet.
So I wanted to look at some online marketing options available to local businesses and share my opinion on what you should use.
But before I share these 6 online marketing options for local businesses, lets talk about why you should be online in the first place.
Why Every Local Business Should Be Online
You’d had to have been living under a rock for the past 5 years not to take note of the emergence of social media. When I started this site back in 2011, there were very few local business fanpages on Facebook.
Over the last year and a half that number has increased tremendously. It seems everyday another business starts a page. The driving force is simply the large number of Bahamians who are now on that network.
The last I checked, there were 176,000 Bahamian users on Facebook. Don’t believe me? Well just think about it; BTC and Cable Bahamas has made it simple for everybody to have internet in their home and a smart phone in their hand.
The number one activity of internet users? Social Media.
Comscore, a leading internet technology company that measures what people do as they navigate the digital world has found that social media is the most popular online activity.
Another study found that the number one activity for smart phone users online is visiting social media sites.
Who do you think these online and mobile users are? They’re your potential customers, the people you want to reach and convince to purchase your products and services.
It’s something small business have realized all over the world and in the Bahamas. Which is why more and more businesses are going online to attract more customers and increase sales.
Online Options To Market Your Business
1. Create A Profile With An Online Directory
Directory listing services allow you to create a profile for your business and link out to your website or social media profiles. There are many local and international sites offering free directory listings. If you do decide to list your business on these services make sure you completely fill out your entire profile completely. put up a nice photo of your business, describe your services, really take advantage of it.
I see so many profiles that are half assed, you have to remember that people visiting that profile will judge your business by that profile.
My opinion of these sites is they won’t hurt. But don’t believe that having a profile on some random directory listing will drive you tons, if any business.
Two things to look out for;
i. Make sure you link out to your website (preferably)or social profile. If the site doesn’t allow you to link out, don’t waste your time.
ii. Don’t pay for these services or pay for advertising on these sites (more on this later). You don’t pay for this service simply because there are so many free options out there.
2. Buy Ads on a private site
There are many sites out there that get a lot of traffic and so they often try to monetize that traffic by selling ads, which is fine. But it’s not necessarily the best investment for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. There are a few things you should consider;
how much traffic do they receive
What is the demographic of their visitors – you need to make sure they are getting quality visitors that are likely to click on your banner
Cost per click (CPC) or Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) or flat rate are three different ways you can pay for your ads on a private site. You need to figure out which is best for you. But there are really two main reasons that I don’t recommend buying ads on most websites
- You don’t know the placement of your ads
- You don’t get a good return on investment
There are better, simpler and more effective ways of advertising online. and you won’t get nearly as much clicks as you think
E-blasts are really popular with local businesses and there are many eblasts services to choose from. With Eblast you basically pay someone or a service provider to blasts your ads to as many people as possible. You may be familiar with eblasts from Phils foods which were really popular because they offered incredible deals.
These are a good option for certain types of businesses and products but the problem I have with eblasts is that they can pretty much be spam. And a lot of them do end up in the spam folder. But if you have the funds then you can send regular eblasts to your customers.
4. Social Media Business Pages
Social media has exploded in the last few years with thousands of Bahamians joining social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. With so many Bahamians on social media it only makes sense for your business to be there as well. The great thing about social media networks is you’re able to create a connection with people that you are not able to make by advertising on other mediums.
The not so great thing for some businesses is that you have to invest time and resources into developing a community/relationship with your customers, which most businesses are not a requirement of traditional advertising. Of course, if you get it right the payoff in terms of new customers and sales can be massive.
A simple way to develop this kind of community relationship is sharing relevant and timely information, tips tricks and photos about your product or industry. I personally believe this is something every local business should be doing, it only makes sense. It’s the future of marketing and customer service. Your customers will expect you to be there or they will go with your competitors who are.
5.Your own Website/Blog
A blog can be a very powerful marketing tool for small businesses. I believe it is perhaps the most underused and underrated advertising tool by Bahamian businesses. Unfortunately, not only do most businesses not blog, very few have their own websites.
When you don’t have a huge marketing budget finding creative ways to get your message out is critical. A website and blog are two easy ways to do this that don’t have to cost a ton of money. A website is your base of operations online, its your digital realestate, therefore it should be something you own and have rights to change as you see fit. This is important because there are many sites including social media sites that allow you to create your web presence on their network. But at the end of the day they control what you do and put on there. Don’t fall for this. You must have your own home base.
A blog is key because it allows you to share information that will attract traffic to your website. Most local businesses seem to believe if they build a website people will magically show up. Never happens like that. Instead you have to give people a reason to visit. Posting interesting and informative articles about your business or industry are a great way to attract them. once they are there you can then start the process of turning online visitors into customers.
6. Online Ads
This is not to be confused with no. 2 above, buying ads on private websites, I’m referring to buying ads on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Ads.
Google Ads have been around the longest and can get your message out to a large audience with a lot of placement options. I’ve never ran Google ads because it just seem like the learning curve was too steep. You need to do keyword research etc. Despite not ever running them I still think they are a great option for local businesses because there are so few local businesses using them and therefore the competition is virtually nil locally.
Facebook Ads on the other hand have only just come around and are incredible easy to use, In addition Facebook as built one of the most powerful advertising platform in history. You are now able to very easily set up ads to reach your target audience based on a wide range of criteria.
However despite the ease at which you can set up Facebook ads there are still some best practices you want to follow to get the best result and not waste your money. At the end of the day Facebook is interested in increasing their ad revenue so just because the ad options are easy to access doesn’t mean they’re the most effective way to get results.
However at the end of the day the most important thing is a business can advertise on Facebook and see results with very little effort and cost. Something definitely worth looking into for businesses on a budget.