Advertising Your Business Online, Part 1

So, here we are in this 6th installment, weaEUR(TM)re half way through and now youaEUR(TM)ve got your website up and running, itaEUR(TM)s got a great design, itaEUR(TM)s optimized for search engines, and it has all the information a prospective customer could ever want.

So now what?


Well you have a couple of option. The first is to just allow it to sit there and do nothing else. This is the path many take. If your website has been well optimized for local search, then you should see some traffic start to come in from Google, Bing, etc.
This is what you call organic search traffic. Its traffic that found your site through search without any outside influence, and this is a great kind of traffic, but it isnaEUR(TM)t the only kind.


You donaEUR(TM)t just have to let your website operate on a proverbial island removed from any extra assistance on your part. Why not advertise your unique selling proposition online and drive some traffic to that shiny new website?


Traffic that, if obtained correctly, should result in extra revenues!


Welcome to the wonderful world of online advertising!


Advertising online serves the exact same purpose that advertising on television, radio, billboards and bus stations serves. The goal is to generate business. Ideally, people will see your ad, follow up on it in one way or another, sooner or later, and in the end, put money in your pocket. But as weaEUR(TM)ve discussed in previous chapters, online advertising comes with the added benefit of being incredibly measurable. So really, if youaEUR(TM)re advertising in the offline world, you owe it to your business to examine your options in the online world, because you could stand to profit handsomely from reaching out and touching those online prospects with an ad or two.


If youaEUR(TM)re still living in the age where you associate online advertising with aEUR~SPAMaEUR(TM), then itaEUR(TM)s time to realize that advertising online is a completely legitimate medium and one that some of the biggest companies in the world make use of. While those companies spend millions and millions of dollars to advertise on some of the most popular websites on the internet, you can just as easily make very good use of online advertising with the kinds of budgets that most small businesses have available.
In fact, because of the exceptional targeting potential of online advertising, along with the detailed metrics that it provides, advertising online is actually often significantly cheaper than advertising through other popular mediums.


So if well designed and well delivered online advertising campaign can generate as much or more business than offline campaigns, at a significantly lower cost, why isnaEUR(TM)t your business making use of this great medium?


Well, the fact of the matter is that most small businesses and small business owners just donaEUR(TM)t quite understand the power it has, or exactly how to utilize it. In the following sections weaEUR(TM)ll look at the ins and outs of online advertising.


By the end of it, youaEUR(TM)ll almost certainly have some ideas about how you can use it to further your own companyaEUR(TM)s success. But first I want to speak frankly about how the world has changed. The fundamental task of marketers is to spread the word about their products and services in order to get people to buy them.


To accomplish this task, marketers use a combination of outbound techniques including e-mail blasts, telemarketing, direct mail, TV, radio, and print advertising, and trade shows (or expos) in order to reach their potential buyers.


The problem with these traditional marketing techniques is that they have become less effective at spreading the word as people get better at blocking out these interruptions.


Ten years ago, buying a large e-mail list of aEURoetargeted namesaEUR? and sending newsletters and offers to addresses on this list worked well. Internet users now routinely employ spam filters, and the National Canned Spam Act limits a marketeraEUR(TM)s ability to send aEURoeunsolicited messagesaEUR? to people with whom the company does not have a relationship. According to the research firm Marketing Sherpa, the average open rate for an e-mail blast has gone down from 39 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2008.
Ten years ago, hiring your own internal sales force or contracting with an external telemarketing firm worked well. More recently, Caller ID has become a standard feature on home, work, and cell phones, and increasing numbers of people are signing up for the national Do Not Call Registry. A well-trained telesales rep can go a full day without having a decent conversation with a prospect.


Ten years ago, sending a piece of direct mail to a large list of people was an effective way to get businessaEUR"just ask the credit card companiesaEUR"because people looked forward to opening their mail. Mailboxes are full of junk mixed in with a few bills, so people pay less attention to them.


Ten years ago, spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV advertisement was a guaranteed way to reach a large audience. More recently, people use TiVo/DVRs to skip advertisements, and in addition the plethora of available TV channels and the rise of great video content online, make choice the advertiseraEUR(TM)s enemy.


Ten years ago, radio ads were heard by people in their cars, homes, and workplaces. Today, the emergence of XM/Sirius radio has dramatically lowered advertisingaEUR(TM)s reach, and the emergence of the iPod and iTunes has dramatically lowered the amount of radio people listen to at home and at work.


Ten years ago, a trade show was a surefire way for businesses to reach a business audience. Today, many trade shows have either gone out of business or have seen a significant decline in attendees due to people preferring to not spend money on flights, hotel costs, etc. Many people visiting trade shows now are job seekers and other vendors.


Ten years ago, the trade publication was subscribed to and carefully read by most of your marketplace. Today, trade publications have been losing subscribers and laying off staff. These highly-qualified people are now starting blogsaEUR"some of which have become more popular than the trade publication.


The bottom line is that people are sick and tired of being interrupted with traditional outbound marketing messages and have become quite adept at blocking marketers out!


Who Moved My Customers?


People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction. People now use the Internet to search and gather information, but where on the Internet do they goaEUR"and how do they use the Internet for these activities?


We can break the Internet down into three main areas.


People primarily search and gather information through search engines, such as Google. The average searcher conducts dozens of searches per dayaEUR"and, rather than listen to a sales rep, read a spam message, watch a TV ad, or fly to a trade show, most people find it easier to sit at their desks and find the information online through Google.


In order to take advantage of this new reality, marketers in the Insurance Industry need to change the way they think about marketingaEUR"from the ground up.


Another place people use to gather information is the blogosphere and its over 100 million blogs (as of this writing).
Virtually every industry and consumer niche you can think of has a cadre of online pontificators, many of whom are quite good. Your target audience is no longer reading the trade publication, and instead is searching Google and subscribing to blogs written by the folks who used to write for the trade rag.


The third place people learn through search is in the social media sphereaEUR"the name for the collection of social aEURoemediaaEUR? sites such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit, YouTube and others. These sites started as niche techie sites, but are becoming mainstream.


The Bottom line is simple: To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects search about and shop for your products and services.


And you do that by accepting the fact that aEURoesearchaEUR? is your new business strategy!


John McGovern is currently the Managing Partner of AOA Market Solutions and Founder of an Internet & Marketing firm based in Central NJ. Having extensive experience in identifying; designing and implementing risk management solutions for businesses, he now focuses his attention assisting businesses to strategically manage their business in an online environment. Highly regarded for consistently creating business solutions for brokerage firms in the industry, he also helps those companies develop strategic business development & marketing plans to grow specialty niches into their firm. Mr. McGovern can be reached at 732-523-1456 and at
johnmcgovern@agentsofamerica.org

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