The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what your business does, 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 online. Many others are bricks-and-mortar businesses that are also offering products and services via their websites (‘bricks-and-clicks’).
But many other business models are using the internet to promote their business via websites, content marketing, email, apps, search marketing, social media sites like Twitter and networking sites like LinkedIn.
Ecommerce offers many advantages over traditional bricks-and-mortar business models - not least lower overheads and the opportunity to reach a wider audience. You can also boost customer loyalty by providing an excellent online sales service.
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 great business website can help your customers find you, by showcasing your work and providing contact details for your offline store. 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 - perhaps with an FAQs section - and enabling customers to offer feedback.
Promoting your business online
Your website is no use if nobody visits it. Simple steps like choosing a memorable name, driving traffic to your site via email marketing campaigns and including your web address in printed marketing materials and company stationery can all help.
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.
Content marketing is also widely used to build your online profile - you could write a blog, post comments on discussion forums, or write articles for industry websites.
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 a relevant audience to your site.
Email is a convenient and cost-effective way to tell existing and potential customers about offers, 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 mailouts to increase response rates.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are crucial tools to help you reach your target market online. They allow you to build your reputation and brand, 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.