The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.
There has, of course, been a rapid rise in the number of ecommerce enterprises selling goods online. Some operate solely in the online sphere. Many others are bricks and mortar businesses that are also offering products and services via their websites.
But many other business models are using the internet to promote their business via websites, blogs, email, social media sites like Twitter and networking sites like LinkedIn. What's more, internet marketing enables you to carry out marketing activities that range from market research to improving customer service.
Ecommerce offers many advantages over traditional business models - not least lower overheads and the opportunity to reach wider audiences. You can also improve customer service by allowing customers to make purchases directly from your website. But it’s a highly competitive world out there and to be effective, small firms have to be on top of their game. Everything from website design and search engine optimisation to pay-per-click advertising and safe payment methods must be spot on.
At the very least, a website can help your customers find you, providing contact details and showcasing your work. But the marketing opportunities that the internet presents go much wider and deeper than this.
You can tell visitors about your product or service and promote special offers. You can improve customer service by giving useful information and enabling customers to offer feedback.
Your website is no use if nobody visits it. Simple steps like choosing a memorable name, promoting your website and driving traffic to your site via email marketing campaigns and including your web address in printed marketing materials and company stationery can all help.
Social media marketing is now routinely used by many businesses to promote their businesses online and engage with customers and to build their reputation and brand. Establishing a presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can allow you to communicate directly with exisiting and new, target markets.
You can also use online equivalents to traditional marketing methods - advertising on other websites that your target customers are likely to visit, for example, or setting up affiliate marketing relationships with other companies.
But one of the best ways to get visibility is to appear high up in search engine rankings. Search engine optimisation and pay per click advertising are generally considered the best ways to get people to your site.
Email is a convenient and cost-effective way to tell existing and potential customers about offers, to respond to queries and provide customer support. Email messages can be used to highlight special offers and new products and can help drive traffic to your website.
Email marketing has the benefit of lower costs and higher response rates than traditional marketing mailings. It is also easy to track responses so that you can easily test what works and tweak your emails to increase response rates.
But you can also use other forms of online communication as part of your internet marketing strategy. You can write a blog, post comments on discussion forums, write articles for industry websites and use social networking to build relationships.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are crucial tools to help you reach out to your target market online. They allow you to set out your stall, demonstrate your expertise and build relationships with customers, prospects and suppliers. Above all they enable you to promote yourself and your business widely, drive traffic back to your website and ultimately boost sales.