By now, all small business owners have gotten the message loud and clear how critical it is to have a great website.  We’ve been told to focus on clickthroughs, vistors, page hits, and how to use search engine optimization (SEO) to make those numbers as big as possible.  We were then encouraged to start sending email newsletters to maintain our customers’ interest and keep them coming back to our website.  Next we heard that we should invest in “pay-per-click” or “pay-per-impression” advertising to drive more visitors to our website.  While it is important to have a professional website that reflects your business and your brand, and to use search engines and email marketing to increase visibility and traffic, that is only the starting point these days.  Your website is merely the ante that gets you in the game.  Your goal shouldn’t be simply to get as many people to your website as possible, it should be to connect and engage with your customers wherever they may be.  There are many ways to accomplish this that are inexpensive or free.

There are many cyber-places to interact with your customers these days other than your website.  Think about where your customers are spending their time and go to them.  Of course, every business is different.  Do you sell products or services?  Do you sell through the web, actual stores, or other channels? Are your customers local, national, or international?  Do you sell to consumers or businesses?  Here are some places to consider as you begin increasing your online presence:

  1. Blog It. Have an informative blog that can be added to people’s RSS feeds on Yahoo or Google, and can by syndicated through other related websites.  It shouldn’t be just advertising, it should have useful information that you customers would value.
  2. Set up pages on “social media” outlets like facebook, twitter, youtube, and linkedin where people can connect to you and receive updates.
  3. Establish a presence on websites and forums that are specific to your industry and customer demographics.  You can provide advice, submit articles, even sponsor areas that most applicable to you.  The more targeted your efforts, the better!
  4. Go viral.  Sometimes creating an interesting video, cartoon, or article can catch fire and be shared amongst millions of internet users.  So, be creative, and make it easy for people to link to and share your content.
  5. Freebies.  Nothing has more viral potential than free stuff.  Whether it’s an ebook, coupon, software application or widget, or even something tangible sent by mail — it’s been shown that a marketing dollar goes much further invested in giveaways than in advertising.

The bottom line is that it’s important to have a good website, but you have to interact with your customers in other ways.  An effective internet marketing strategy, just like your overall marketing strategy, should be a multi-faceted approach.  And when it comes to the content and information you are sharing, don’t just advertise – be useful and interesting.

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