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Why Small Businesses Need To Revamp Their Online Strategy

My cousin has been working on a college assignment where they have been trying to understand the future of online media for small businesses. As part of this assignment, he has been talking to a lot of small time contractors and family businesses to understand their online customer acquisition strategy. As someone who has been in this industry for close to a decade, this seemed like an interesting project and I decided to make a few random phone calls myself.

The results are interesting. To most people who have been in business for several decades, the internet really is not a platform they are keen on adopting any sooner. An equipment rental provider in Canada told me that he is sufficiently networked to be able to find business offline and doesn’t need to find customers online. Another roofing repair contractor in Manchester, UK told me that while his business does get 20% of the customers from the internet, he would prefer word-of-mouth offline publicity over an online advertisement campaign any day.

The disregard for online strategy was a revelation to me given that all through my career I have only worked with businesses that were keen on adopting an online strategy. It was interesting to hear from the other bunch of businesses to whom internet is still some sort of gimmickry. However, what this conversation also did was re-emphasize on the enormous potential for a digital marketer that is still available - with a proper outreach strategy, you could be taking on new clients who have never understood the potential of the internet.

A couple of months back, BrightLocal, a popular internet marketing company conducted a survey of over 20,000 small and medium businesses in the US. According to their report, more than a quarter of respondents had a marketing budget of less than $100 a month. Over 70% of businesses allocated less than $500 per month. Of this, internet marketing took only a small portion of the budget with more than 50% of the busineses having allocated less than 50% of their marketing budget for online promotions.

In essence, what this report says is that at least 25% of small businesses spend less than $20 a month on online marketing. This is a huge opportunity gap for new businesses in the industry to cash in. Consider this: according to the Google Keyword Planner tool, there were over 6200 searches in New York for ‘plumbers’ related keyword. If you are a new plumbing business who does not have the traditional network to get clients, a great online strategy could be the perfect launchpad to get new clients. Given that a website allows potential customers to read about you and your services in great detailing before contacting, a greater percentage of enquiries end up as successful lead conversions. For a more reputed plumber with decades of experience, this is an opportunity lost in gaining a new customer. 

With smartphones becoming increasingly mainstream, people no longer use traditional ways to find contractors and service businesses. Consequently, it is important for any business to gain a foothold in this new medium before competition arrives. Unless you are a 50 year old who plans to shut business in a few years time, an online strategy is not only a good idea, but also a must-have for any small business opertating in the modern world. What do you think?