On the surface, Internet marketing for a small business can seem fairly simple. You assemble an email list, you put up a website, you create a Facebook page, and people will come flooding into your business. At least, that’s the picture many small business owners have in their minds. So, they jump in, expecting great returns for relatively little effort.
The reality, of course, is very different. The Internet is a tremendously competitive marketplace. To be successful, you need to be able to connect with prospects faster and more efficiently than your competition.
It’s easy to make mistakes along the way. Here are some of the most common small business Internet marketing blunders we’ve seen:
1. Creating a static site
Some small business owners get excited about creating their website. They spend weeks tweaking and designing, just to get everything in place. Then, once the site is launched, it sits unchanged. This is a big mistake, for several reasons. First of all, the search engines like fresh content. If you’re not regularly publishing something to your site (for example through a weekly blog post) your rankings will fall. In addition, there tends to always be at least some timely information on your site. If a potential customer visits your site and sees a listing of monthly specials for six months ago, she’s not coming back to the site again anytime soon.
2. Testing too little
Just because you think a site looks good, is easy to navigate, and will increase sales or leads doesn’t mean that’s the case. You need to be smart about testing out your site’s various elements. The same holds true for a given marketing tactic. Simply purchasing pay-per-click ads for some random keywords isn’t nearly as effective as testing out various keywords to see which offer you the most positive results.
3. Keeping design and content creation in-house
Design and content creation can be expensive, there’s no doubt. However, the fact is that there are verifiable advantages to relying on experts to do what they do best. Just like you hire a reliable accountant to handle your books, you need to hire reliable developers to help frame your Internet presence. Fortunately, with outsourcing sites abounding, you have many options when it comes to finding talented individuals to hire on a contract basis.
4. Spreading social media marketing efforts too thin.
Social media is one of the hottest areas of Internet marketing right now. It’s easy, however, to just fire a barrage of ammunition at all of the various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A small business should have a presence at each of those sites, but you need to concentrate your efforts where they can do the most good. For example, some businesses will want to focus almost exclusively on LinkedIn, especially if you’re mostly a b2b endeavor. If your business has lots of products and images, you’ll probably want to utilize Facebook. Those who are in a service-related business might have the best luck with Twitter. You can experiment with the various sites, but ultimately you want to focus in and concentrate your efforts on one or two sites.
5. Paying for ads
Pay-per-click advertising isn’t always a bad thing. That said, there are so many other more effective and less expensive Internet marketing models. Ad campaigns can be a part of an overall Internet marketing strategy, but they should never be the centerpiece or the only piece.
6. Ignoring local search
More people looking for local businesses turn to Google today than turn to the phone book. Your small business needs to take advantage of that fact, and the best way to do so is via local search optimization. Even if you have a business that doesn’t rely primarily on business from a single geographic area, you can still benefit by targeting some larger geographic markets.
7. Forgetting to evaluate
You need to keep all of your marketing efforts (not just your Internet marketing efforts) under constant scrutiny. If you can’t demonstrate verifiably that your Internet marketing efforts are increasing your bottom line, then you probably need to change strategies. Internet marketing, just like offline marketing, should always keep ROI in mind.
The Internet offers all sorts of opportunities to businesses, and not just large corporations. Avoiding these common mistakes is the first step in putting the power of the Internet to work for your business.
About the Author
Benji Hyam is a Social Media Coordinator at Vistage International, an executive coaching organization that helps CEO members build better companies through unique business coaching and executive development opportunities.