Jumpstart Your Local Business -- Get Online


by Sharon Fling

If you're not marketing your local business online, opportunity is passing you by. So many people focus on the Internet's global reach that its potential benefit to local business is often overlooked. Global information is great, but people's day-to-day lives are local. Now that so much information is available online, more consumers see the Internet as something useful instead of a passing fad.

Here are 5 ways that consumers are using the Internet:

E-MAIL

According to Messaging Online, there were around 891 million email addresses at the beginning of 2001. By now there are probably 1 billion or more. Almost everyone has an email address, or knows someone who does. It's fast becoming as common as the telephone, and just as necessary. Even if you don't have a website, you can use email to communicate with your customers. Send them useful information, coupons, and special offers. If you don't, someone else will.

PRE-SALES RESEARCH

For many consumers, the internet has become the great equalizer. They no longer have to take the word of a salesperson -- all the information they need to make an intelligent decision is online. Consumers can research everything from products to retail services, and make sure they get the best deal. But unless your business is online, it's unlikely they will find you.

ONLINE SHOPPING

U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2002 were almost $10 billion, and will top $44 billion by year's end. Clearly, plenty of Internet users have gotten comfortable with spending money online. Top picks include books, travel, music, clothing, Computers, movies/videos, consumer electronics, and health products. But if your business isn't online, you won't get any of those e-commerce dollars.

COMMUNITY & LOCAL INFORMATION

Community information is like a magnet -- it draws locals online. People care about their communities and want to know what's going on around them. They're also looking for weather forecasts, local headlines, entertainment listings, and sporting events info. Savvy business owners recognize this and revamp their websites to include local information and real-time content, available from companies like http://www.moreover.com and http://www.yellowbrix.com. Content is the #1 reason users return to websites.

INTERNET AUCTIONS

An estimated 22 million people in over 100 countries are flocking to auction sites such as Yahoo, BidBay, uBid.com and the granddaddy of them all, eBay. The listing fees are a small price to pay for the kind of exposure businesses can get. About 1.4 million items are up for sale every day on eBay, in every imaginable category, including services, cars, and houses. Consumers can also search by region and category at http://pages.ebay.com/regional/hub.html - "eBay Local Trading", where major cities are setup as regions. If you're selling anything at all, especially consumer products, you should definitely check out eBay.

These are some of the ways consumers are using the Net. For local business owners, the message is clear: your customers are online...and so is your competition. How much longer can YOU afford to wait?



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About the Author

Sharon Fling wrote "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and publishes the ezine "Local Business Today." Subscribe and get a free ebook on local marketing. Visit http://www.geolocal.com or email subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART.



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