This article has been updated to reflect changes in Google products.
The constantly expanding number of websites out there, the growing “noise” online of those vying for your attention, and the ever-changing habits and behaviors of your target prospects, all contribute to make Internet marketing more challenging than ever. Yet the opportunity to differentiate yourself and your business from others still exists, and the upside potential of doing so correctly is enormous.
Internet marketing is not passive
Long gone are the days when having a website for your business was sufficient. And gone, too, are the (not-so-distant) days when a simple investment in SEO (search engine optimization) would result in new leads from your website. Today, it simply isn’t enough to have a website that gets found.
Are you part of the “dialog”?
About ten years ago, I began telling business owners, “Your customers expect you to be part of the online dialog, and if you’re not, you are becoming increasingly irrelevant to them.” Those were harsh words for some business owners to hear, but those who failed to heed the advice are still in the same place they were when I spoke those words to them.
Nobody likes to face the fact that the rules of marketing have changed, and that they must either adapt, or perish.
So what’s working right now?
Here are the three (3) online tools that every business owner ought to be using right now — they work, they’re free or low-cost, and you can get started with them all by yourself, without any help:
- Twitter gives you the ability to monitor the conversations that are happening online — in any industry, about any subject matter, mentioning any company or competitor of yours — in real time. If you think Twitter’s not for you because you “wouldn’t know what to tweet”, you aren’t thinking about Twitter correctly. Begin by thinking of Twitter as a listening device — it is an extremely powerful tool that must be part of your marketing arsenal.
- LinkedIn has thousands of special interest groups where people meet to exchange ideas and find answers to their business problems. There is no better place than LinkedIn to join the dialog and offer advice on a subject in which you are an expert. Done correctly, you have the ability to differentiate yourself as a thought leader in your field and attract qualified prospects who need the service or product you offer.
- Google My Business is the best place to begin with Google, the search engine behemoth — it’s a free service that permits you to build an informative listing that tells all about your business (Description, Hours of Operation, Featured Products and Services, Photos, calls-to-action, and more) which may appear near the top of the page when visitors search on Google with the name of your business.
You can dig deeper and expand the results you get from all three of these if you have the time to spend or engage the help of a professional. Remember, Internet presence marketing is not an all-or-nothing proposition — it simply requires commitment and a willingness to share your knowledge with others.