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Before You Dive Into Online Marketing, Get Your Feet Wet

By: Sharon Fling


My children took swimming lessons this summer. Actually
they're called "water confidence" lessons, designed to get
non-swimmers comfortable with being in the water.

At 5 years old, my kids have a healthy fear of the water, and
didn't want to get in the pool at first. They liked the
*idea* of learning how to swim, but the reality of getting
into water up to their necks was scary. They wanted to have
their lessons in the wading pool. I tried explaining it's a
little hard to swim in 12 inches of water, but try reasoning
with three 5-year-olds. It was a slow torturous process
getting their entire bodies into the water. By the time they
got all the way into the water the first lesson was almost
over.

What does this have to do with local online marketing? As I
listened to the instructor try to coax them into the water,
it reminded me of conversations I'd had with small business
owners about getting onto the web.

"C'mon, just stick your feet in."

"See? That's not so bad, is it?"

"Now, let's do little bunny hops down the steps. Hop! Hop!
Hop!"

Little by little, they got used to being in the water. Then,
getting their faces wet. After a few lessons, they were
jumping off the side and having a great time. I had to
practically drag them out of the water.

Getting online is often like that. It can seem overwhelming
-- choices to make, lingo to learn, all for something that
may or may not bring customers through the door. After
awhile, what sounded like a good idea begins to feel like too
much work. And with too many things to do as it is, it's
easy for most business owners to put online marketing on the
back burner... indefinitely.

But just like learning to swim, getting a brick-and-mortar or
any other type of business online is best done one baby step
at a time. There's no reason to rush out and get a website.
There are already way too many deserted websites, sitting
like abandoned cars on the super information
highway...gathering dust. The last thing the world needs is
another boring website whose only purpose is to sell
something.

Here's what every business owner must realize: most people
do not go online looking for something to buy. What web
surfers crave the most is INFORMATION. If you offer free
useful information, you will draw a crowd. But if all you
can offer is an order link and a payment form, don't expect a
lot of visitors.

Think about how you can use the technology to get to know
your customers and prospects. Because just as in real life,
it's all about relationships online. Putting up a website is
only 10% -- the other 90% is marketing, building trust, and
cultivating relationships.

Once you have that straight in your mind, get your feet wet
by looking at what your competition is doing. Find out where
your prospects might look for the information they need. Then
figure out what free information or services your target
market would find useful. Decide how you can give it to them
at little or no cost to yourself. Then take the plunge and do
something. Start small, then add on.

Remember the formula: Attract people to your website. Give
them free stuff. Build credibility and trust through repeated
contact. Then sell them something. This has worked for online
businesses for years, and it will work just as well for
brick-and-mortar business.

 

About the Author

Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local
Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic
newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and
resources for targeting local customers. For more
information, visit http://www.geolocal.com or send a blank
email to: subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART


 

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