How to Make the Internet Work for You: Change Your Bait.

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Internet Marketing Advice from a Company With Over 30 Years in the Promotion Industry.

Your business can no longer afford to be mediocre, because you are no longer just competing with the local businesses in your town, but global businesses online, and unless you have a great deal of money to throw at it, the internet will never make you rich. Oh sure, everybody says, “But Amazon did it, and Google did it, and Facebook did it….” Again, look at the big picture. The Big 5 got that way by not only falsely representing the internet, and themselves a wee bit, but by being in a position to throw a ton of money and time at doing it. Something the average business owner does not have.

We will apologize for all the clichés about to come, but they happen to be the best way to describe the false euphoria that has always surrounded the internet since its inception. Of course, the BIG 5 (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon, and now we can add Pinterest to that mix) all want you to think that the internet is this wonderful LaLa Land of fantasy where all you have to do is slap up a website and the money will fall into your lap by the millions. This get-rich-quick notion is what spawned the internet in the first place. It was all clever marketing, and, somewhat deceptive, as many people are now realizing. The Big 5 started launching the internet by spreading all these stories of businesses that had become million-dollar successes because of the World Wide Web. And of course, millions of people with their heads in the clouds bought it, and wha-lah, the internet took off, but now that they have had time to experience the reality of the internet, business owners are left spinning their wheels trying to figure out why it isn’t working like The Big 5 said it would.

Regardless of all the false hopes and dreams trumped up by internet promoters, the internet has now become the basis for all our communication these days, so how can a business or individual actually compete against all that stiff competition in a hugely over-saturated market?

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Everybody has jumped on the internet bandwagon making it ineffective for everybody because it is now so flooded with “wanttabees” that nobody stands out. It’s like putting a worm on a hook and throwing it out into the ocean expecting a hit in 5 minutes or less. You may get lucky with a one in a million shot, but there’s a 99% chance your worm won’t even be seen by a fish for miles and miles.

The customers that come to Redstone for advice the most are the Mom and Pops who are finding that the internet is not working for them. Or at the very least, it’s nowhere near meeting their expectations as the Big 5 internet promoters promised them. Just how does a business compete within the enormous internet? You don’t. You can’t “compete” with it, and thinking you can is like beating your head against a brick wall. Do you really want to keep doing that? Therefore, you have to change the way you look at the internet pond.

How can a small fish in a big pond ever do anything other than just get eaten alive? First, you must start thinking of the internet as nothing more than a tool, a resource, and stop thinking you are ever going to be one of those internet success stories.

So, as a tool then, how can you make the internet work for you instead of against you? Realize that it is just another medium for your business; another location or storefront if you will. If you literally built another location or store for your business, you would not simply slap up a building and expect people to just show up to buy your product now would you? Yet people do that very thing daily with the internet and their website. Just like any business location, you first build it, then you promote the heck out of it to get customers to know it is there. But with the internet, even this strategy does not work for the majority of websites. Smart businesses have learned to use the internet as an extension of their already existing business, but by no means is it their primary target or their main strategy. If you are an internet-only business, then you really have your work cut out for you, but as a retailer, many are learning to use the internet as just another business tool or location. They offer their website as nothing more than an online shopping convenience for that anti-social consumer market that would rather click a button to purchase than drive to a store. Really savvy business owners have discovered ways to use their website above and beyond just another place for consumers to order stuff.

Some retailers have even started to use online shopping to their advantage to drive traffic to their physical stores by offering a solution to something most online shoppers abhor: shipping fees. You are probably seeing more and more retailers offering “in store pickup” to avoid the ever-increasing cost of shipping for online shoppers. Even online retailers are trying to address this issue by offering free shipping over a certain purchase amount. This is extremely smart, because it offers a solution to the consumer to the one big problem of internet shopping which is paying for high shipping costs, and, for businesses with local store pickup, it gets consumers coming back to a physical store location: the ultimate goal for retailers, and, they offer something to consumers the internet will never have – security by ordering from a more trusted, local, supplier with a physical location shoppers can relate to.

shutterstock_124904114-1We offer a few tried and true alternatives below:

What Would You Do if the Internet Didn’t Exist?

You would find some other way to promote yourself. Exactly!

For some reason, now that the internet has become our way of living, people have forgotten that there was ever any other way. The most direct way to go about becoming a big fish instead of a small fish is to reduce the size of your pond – promote yourself locally and stop wasting money trying to compete globally online.

There has been a sudden increase in promotional product companies in the last 2-3 years. This is because savvy small business owners are going back to promoting themselves by any means other than the internet because they remembered that is was once a tried and true form of promotion that everybody dropped by the wayside to go online, and that by going back to other forms of promotion, they will stand out among the crowd (become a bigger fish in a smaller pond). Direct mail, believe it or not, is making a small comeback for this very reason. So is the use of visual communications or promotions like T-shirts, hats and jackets with a business logo on them. Putting something physical in the hands of your consumer instead of expecting them to remember you in a 2 second encounter on the internet is a much better ROI (return on investment). Businesses that are dumping the internet advertising and going back to the old-fashioned promotional methods are discovering it is much more rewarding, efficient and successful.

Go Back to Your Local Roots.

So…take advantage of the latest “go local” craze and do more with it as a business and you will get better results. In other words, you have been fishing with the wrong bait. Even though the internet has become a popular means of consumerism, it is only one form of it, and not a very trustworthy one at that; for consumers or businesses.

Going as local as you possibly can makes your pond considerably smaller. It’s better to be a noticed fish in a small pond than a small fish lost in oblivion in the enormous internet pond. Boost your business locally instead of globally. A small business will never be able to compete with the huge global chains, and your small business is just falling through the cracks on the internet. By all means, keep your internet presence, because you can use it and a large percentage of your market still prefers to click a button to get what they want rather than actually getting into a car to do it. But,  stop wasting your advertising dollars on pay per click (ppc) ads that generate very few real sales and attract mostly spammers. Everybody tries to use the internet for advertising because it’s so much cheaper than any other form of advertising out there; but, it is not effective either, thus you are wasting your money on something that is not producing effective results. Your ROI is rarely ever met with online advertising because the traffic you get is 90% from spammers just looking for ways to solicit your business, not shop it.

Become More a Part of Your Community Rather Than the Internet Community.

If possible, hold or sponsor local events. As big as Whole Foods is, and REI, and a few other rather large, successful retailers, you will see them still offering or sponsoring a great many community events. I was at REI the other day getting very frustrated because they were swamped and didn’t have enough staff to handle the extra traffic they were getting from holding a mock garage sale at their store. In their back parking lot (which just increased congestion for parking around their store unfortunately) they had a “swap” whereby anybody could bring in their used sports gear and trade it with somebody else at the swap. The only unfortunate part of the success of this store event was that REI did not make sure they had enough staff scheduled to handle all the extra traffic generated by this successful community gathering. Or maybe, they failed to realize just how successful it was going to be. However, I’m betting they continue this event for years to come and will improve the parking and staff situation greatly the next time.

Whole Foods constantly holds in-store events, or in their parking lot, and they will sponsor many local events. This not only keeps their name out there in the community but goes a long way toward their branding and improving their local image.

If nothing else, and at the very least, go back to promoting yourself locally by sending out direct mail (brochures, flyers, special discounts etc) within your community. Yes, people still use the mail, and you can take advantage of that fact locally whereby most global businesses cannot. Locally is where you have an advantage over the global competition.

If You’re Gonna Have a Website, Make it Work.

“If you build it they will come” is the WRONG philosophy to have when it comes to your website on the internet. When you realize that out of the billions of websites on the internet only a handful are really popular, that leaves a lot of small fish swimming around in a big pond and getting nowhere.

Again, you wouldn’t slap up a store location and do nothing to make sure people knew it was there. Too many businesses slap up DiY websites then sit back and just wait for the money to start rolling in by the bagfuls, then later start to wonder why it isn’t happening that way.

It’s because your website is just sitting there DOING nothing. It’s just a pretty face with no brains. Nice to look at, it gives the illusion of a website, but it doesn’t really function or benefit your business. People try to save money by building their own websites, but what they don’t realize is that any money you spend on having a website built professionally, the right way, will pay for itself ten times over (and usually more.) 70% of our website design business at Redstone comes from DiYers who finally came to realize that they didn’t really save themselves any money, and wasted a ton of their valuable time, trying to set up their own website. Oh sure, you may have a DiY website that you’re getting a few sales through, but it’s not producing nearly as much as it could be for your business, and that is wasteful time and money you are throwing away.

Just to be clear here, we are not suggesting you give up on the internet entirely. If you really cannot bring yourself to give up on those nasty, ineffective ppc ads, then try to be savvy about it. What we are suggesting here is that you don’t make the internet your business focus. Make your business your focus, which is using every means possible to promote it successfully and effectively; and that is not by using the internet.

If you have any doubt that what we are saying is true, just take note of what the Big fish are doing. Even Amazon, Twitter, Google and Facebook do not rely solely on the internet for their advertising and promotion. Twitter has managed to get their name dropped constantly by the NFL during televised football games. Amazon advertises their Kindle on television. Facebook uses “Likes” to get their followers to do their advertising for them and even Google, the King of the internet, advertises their latest toys on television on occasion. So there, even the Big 5 do not rely 100% on the monster they created to stay big. And remember the Yahoo commercials when they first started out?

Most small business cannot afford to promote themselves on t.v, but there are so many other ways to promote yourself that business owners seem to have forgotten about.

This all leads us to our next article which is “What Makes One Promotional Product Company any Better Than the Rest.”

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