Small-business marketing used to be as simple as taking out advertisements in newspapers or purchasing a portable outdoor sign, but these methods are losing effectiveness as consumers boost their Internet use to get more information on companies. However, small-business owners are usually too busy interacting with customers and trying to grow their companies to spend time researching new ways to reach potential clients, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Between search engines, social media and online business directories, there are many ways to expand awareness and customer base on the Internet – methods that small businesses must now invest in or risk falling behind the competition.

Many local businesses are behind the times. According to Businessweek sources, around 25 percent of small businesses do not have a website and 90 percent of the ones that do are not optimized for mobile. More consumers are using smartphones to research businesses in the area before entering a store to make a purchase. Yet the vast majority of small businesses that do not put their phone number on their website are losing out on local shoppers.

Competition is everywhere for local businesses, and consumers could be seeking companies that are slightly farther away if they are easy to find in the places where people are looking, like the Internet.

Some small businesses are relying on word-of-mouth marketing, according to a press release from RolePoint, a social staffing company. While loyal customers can function as the most effective brand advocates, Internet marketing methods can amplify the power of referrals. Instead of telling friends and family members about a positive or negative experience at a local business, consumers are more likely to write a review on social media or a business site like Yelp. Online reviews can reach more people than just immediate family and friends of customers. If an individual had a great experience with a company, other consumers may be interested in the business and head online for more testimonials. But if a small businesses doesn’t have an online marketing strategy, they will miss out on such consumer interest.

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