You own a small business, are in a smart market, the economy is weak, and you do not have a lot of money for marketing. What do you do?

First off, you need to spend some money. You cannot avoid that, but you can control some of it. In a recent article, SEO Marketing In An Uncertain Economy at Webpronews confirmed what I (and many others) have been saying all along. WebProNews spoke to Milind Mody, CEO of eBrandz Inc, an SEO and SEM firm, about online marketing and advertising.

“Mody said that local search is an important part of the overall mix. “Client reviews and customer ratings form an important aspect of local search SEO. These reviews also helps in branding and reputation management.

Mody says trends in SEO marketing in 2009 will focus more on local search and that companies will spend more on reputation management.”

At the DMS’08 conference I attended two weeks ago, the Yellow Pages industry spoke about the multi-platform approach. This is using a mixture of off-line and on-line marketing. In essence this is what I believe small business should do in a small market.

Here in Augusta, GA a lot of business still rely heavily on off-line advertising to promote. This is important but more and more folks are going on-line to  search and research. It is this growing on-line population that needs to be tapped into.  It is only going to get bigger.

So in a small market, continue advertising off-line but begin to get on-line.  What is the goal to advertising on-line? It is to increase your business’s visibility where people search-the search engines, Internet Yellow Pages, specialized directories, local search engines and so on.  To accomplish this, you will need to  approach it from many angles.

The beauty of the Internet is that it is a dynamic media and you do not have to do everything all at one time. Start small and build upon what you have done.  The Internet can be one of the best ROI out there and you, the small business owner, can do for many of these activities yourself, if you are so inclined.

Where to start? The basic on-line marketing plan usually will start with:

  • Creation of a properly optimized web site (content and keywords)
  • Submission of the web site’s url to major search engines, directories

Once this is done, how else can you promote that web site or business on-line? Some options are:

  • Optimize your web site for the local market (using local keywords, geo targeting)
  • Submission of web site in the local search engines, IYP, and specialized directories
  • Submission of web site in any locally owned directories (such as your local newspaper, chamber of commerce (if member), business networking groups, etc)
  • Creation of a business profile or landing page (this can take the place of a web site)
  • Creation of a blog about your business, area of expertise, and your community – hyperlocalblogging
  • Get on Facebook and create a personal and business profile and join your local network
  • Setup a way for folks to provide on-line reviews of your business via Yelp and similar directories
  • Use Zvents to promote your local events you might be involved in or sponsoring

This is only a partial list but provides a good beginning. In the small market, you might not see huge returns right away with these on-line efforts but you need to begin now.  On-line marketing can (should) be looked upon as an investment in the future. More and more folks are getting on-line and you want to be there when they do. Also in the small market, many of your fellow business owners may not be thinking about being on-line, so getting on-line now represents an opportunity to “beat your competition.”

So small business use a multi-platform approach; continue with your off-line marketing but begin to augment it with some on-line promotions.