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8 Reasons To Get Your Local Business Online

If you're a local business owner, you've probably been
wondering what to do about the Internet. Maybe you already
have a website, sitting out in cyberspace, dead as a

Or maybe you're thinking of getting your business online, but
you've heard it takes too much time and money. It's tempting
to ignore the issue and hope it goes away, but there are some
very good reasons to get moving - and here are 8 of them:


Geographic targeting, or geotargeting, is the ability to
target consumers by geographical location. Using a combination
of I.P. address and/or zip code, ads can be presented to only
those consumers to live in certain geographic locations.

Localized advertising allows is very targeted, and can be
used to quickly and cheaply test online campaigns. With
the increasing availability of demographic data, the
targeting capabilities and options are endless.


It's so cheap to have a website now, why wouldn't you? You
can get a domain name for $10, get a build-it-yourself
website (more about this later), and you're in business for
$20-25 a month.

Compare that to the outrageous prices charged for yellow
page ads, which can range in price from $1,000 to over
$100,000 per year.

Combine this with the fact that a growing percentage of the
population is turning to the web for information every day,
and you have a powerful marketing tool.

And as I mentioned earlier, there are tools available now that
will allow you to build your own website just by pointing and
clicking. These aren't tacky looking cookie-cutter websites
-- they're very professional looking, and actually look better
than a lot of websites built by "professionals."

So you no longer have to shell out hundreds or thousands of
dollars to get a great looking website. And as your business
grows, your website can too -- add new pages, a message board,
email marketing, ecommerce capability and more. You can add
any or all of these features quickly and easily...all at the
click of a mouse.


The Internet is the ultimate communications tool - fast and
cheap. You can use it to communicate with suppliers,
resellers, and of course, your customers. Some uses

- Send discount coupons by email, reducing direct mail

- Get customer feedback through email or feedback form on
website -- it's quick and it's easy, so you're more likely
to get customers to participate.

- Send product information or announcements via email or
posted on website.

- Send periodic newsletters with useful information and
special offers, or just to stay in touch. To follow up
with 1,000 customers through direct mail would cost
$340 or more for the postage alone ... but with email
it's virtually free. And being able to interact directly
with a customer on a regular basis is priceless.

- Put your brochure or catalog online, reducing printing

For some businesses, simply putting their catalog online
has saved them thousands of dollars a year in printing and
mailing costs.

Of course there will always be people who want printed
catalogs, and not every customer will have email. But in
terms of cost, you simply cannot beat the economics.


There are lots of business people online, including people
from your local community. People from the same communities
have a way of finding each other online... and as always,
it's not what you know, but who.

Just as you might pass out your card at a local chamber
meeting, you can do the same thing online with your
signature file - and a lot more people will see it.

It's also a lot more time-effective than face-to-face
networking. Rather than driving somewhere and sitting
another boring chicken dinner, you can get online and meet
prospects and colleagues at any time of the day or night.

Also, you can develop a reputation very quickly online,
adding to your credibility and opening even more doors for
yourself - all without setting foot outside the house.


A website can be a worthwhile investment even if it's just
an electronic version of the Yellow Pages: street address,
phone number, business hours, forms of payment accepted,
contact information. Put this same information in the Yellow
Pages, and guess what happens if you move or change your
hours or get a new area code? You know the answer to that

But a website is dynamic -- information can be updated at any
time, plus you're not limited to 2 or 3 lines worth of
information. And there are so many great ways to interact with
your customers, which is more interesting for them and
potentially very valuable to you. Here are some very low- tech
examples, very easily added to your website:


Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ, is a popular term on the
Internet. And in real life, there are always questions you
hear over and over from your customers. These are the
questions people have about doing business with you, and
you certainly want to make it as easy as possible. Why not
save everybody some time and post often asked questions -
and their answers - on your website?

- Visitor Polls

Invite your customers to give their opinion about something
of interest. For example, a business that caters to parents
who home school their children posed the question: "Which
question are YOU asked the *most* about home schooling?"
This question is relevant to the target market and
something they most likely have experienced. It invites
them to participate and along the way, give their opinion
about something.

But most important to the business owner, it can be a
source of incredibly valuable information about the
customer - and it's free. It also makes your website more
interesting (as long as the poll changes often enough).

- Discount Coupons

What better incentive for someone to visit your website
than to save money? Customers love getting a bargain, and
the great thing about coupons is the customer usually has
to buy something to get whatever goodies the coupon offers.

Your coupon will especially motivate the prospect that was
already thinking of doing business with you. If you're
using a website building tool, it can easily be added at
the click of a mouse, and unlike a yellow page coupon, you
can change it anytime.

These are a few simple examples, and this list can easily
be expanded: order status, press releases, product
information, a searchable product database. Again, the
possibilities are endless.


Every business needs exposure, and one of the best kinds is
media attention. If your business is something new and
different, send out a press release that includes your URL
-- you could get written up in the local paper.

Even an ordinary business can get media coverage if you can
come up with the right angle - perhaps a follow-up to a
previous article? A human interest story? The media is
always looking for interesting stories and if you're
creative enough, maybe yours could be one of them. And what
better place for the public to get more information than
from your website?

Perhaps you could sponsor a local event, or do some
volunteer work. Your business will get the credit, along
with a mention of the website URL.

The more places the public can find information about your
company, the better off you'll be. In our increasingly
wired society, having a website makes it easy for more
people to get information about your company. And they can
get it more quickly and easily online.


Did you know that 40-48 million adults went online last
year looking for local content? The average local user is
college educated, makes good money, and likes shopping
online. They are more likely to make purchases than
non-users of local content, either online or offline. This
demographic market is every business owner's dream.

As more local information becomes available online, people
are starting to look at the Internet as something useful
instead of a passing fad. Consumers are getting online in
record numbers, resulting in a critical mass of local users
in top markets, and spreading across communities of all

Chances are a number of your local prospects and customers
are part of this desirable demographic - and that number
will only increase.


Seventy-eight percent (78%) of all U.S. small businesses
are connected to the Internet, and nearly 50% will continue
to maintain active, purposeful Web sites this year.

Analysts at have predicted that 72%
of small businesses will engage in e-commerce by 2002, racking
up an impressive $230 billion in total revenues.

Maybe you think nobody in your industry is using the
Internet. But I guarantee you, whatever your business, one
of your competitors is online and using the technology to
promote themselves - perhaps not locally yet, but it's
just a matter of time. If your competition is there, you
should be too.


So there you have it - 8 good reasons to get your local
business on the Web. (Notice I didn't include the reason "to
sell something". Too many business owners have made that
mistake - putting up a website just to sell something. You
have to give before you receive. Nowhere is that more
true than online.)

If small business is to survive, business owners must learn to
harness the power of the Internet ... or risk losing their
remaining market share to competitors that "get" technology.
For those who choose to ignore the "elephant in the living
room", hoping the Internet will go away, it's only going to
get worse in the days ahead.

About the Author
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local
Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic
newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and
resources for targeting local customers. For more
information, visit or send a blank
email to: