As a small business you may feel that you should be on the web but that it may be too costly or complex; while there is certainly an investment that needs to be undertaken the good news is that it may be well within your means once you realize the resources required; it is also something you need to be doing for the health of your business.
Investment in what? Ultimately the web can be used as a marketing tool to attract more clients and retain them better, which may be exactly what your company needs to survive and grow in times of a seemingly perpetual recession.
- If your local or regional customers cannot afford your products, you may be able to attract national or international customers.
- You may find that your expert knowledge of clients, their needs, and your products is something that cannot be matched by bigger competitors even if they have a cost advantage, as customers fail to find the exact solution they are looking for with them, which you may be able to offer.
- You could have specific skills which may seem very normal to you but may be uncommon and scarce, and which the customer is looking for.
Marketing? But we barely have money for the usual things available for small businesses, like leaflets and directories, if at all in times of a recession, how can we afford web marketing?
You can probably afford marketing on the web because most of the work hinges on the knowledge of your customers, which only you have; the web is only a set of tools which helps you do more with this knowledge. The need for an investment remains, but most of it will be your own time, which is usually the one resource small business have some flexibility with.
I would suggest that beyond working more hours, which is the usual reaction of a small business manager, you should allocate a specific amount of time, say one or two hours a day, and establish that as part of your marketing budget (so the price of your salary for one hour, times the number of hours per month): don’t let this work go outside your budget or go unappreciated, this isn’t a hobby but part of the business.
The decisions you need to take are:
- Establish a need for marketing in general, to attract more clients. Most small businesses rely on location, word of mouth, fliers, while traditional advertising is outside of their reach. The good news is that web marketing can be more efficient than any of these.
- Establish how the web in particular can help you (a web medium strategy): audience, specific opportunities and goals.
- Establish web solutions for each opportunity, which defines a content strategy. You will be generating this content.
- Establish the additional resources required: functionality, technology, interface design… This may sound daunting but if you think of the quickest, cheapest, most efficient way to get your content across to your audience, there are many resources available for free or at a price within your budget. The better defined a project, the easiest and cheapest it will be for a developer to help you.