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The Local Business Owner and Web-based Marketing. What Are They Waiting For?

By Tim Charles
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2004

Way back in the 1990's, (your remember) during the spectacular growth and hype of the Internet, one group in particular learned to doubt they needed the Internet as a new marketing tool - the local business owner.

While many simply ignored it as a game for larger businesses, there were those who bravely set out to explore the possibilities. Unfortunately, many of these local business web-marketing pioneers ended up wishing they had
ignored it too.

What happened? Why do many who tried web-based marketing for their local businesses feel burned, or at best, skeptical?

For starters, somebody forgot to tell them it required marketing. The "build it and they will come" theory prevailed. Instead of being a marketing driven, these early attempts were frequently, and solely, put into the hands of web

Now don't get me wrong. The designers did their job. Many sites were built. Basic functions performed smoothly. Even the site email worked… and a few local business owners could be heard bragging - "I got a web site."

Then… nothing. Neither current nor potential customers were visiting, let alone taking any kind of buying action at these web sites.

The business owner, likely applying the same thinking they used about the Yellow Pages (put it out there, and they'll find me), grew frustrated, then angry. Problem was, consumers had long ago become accustomed to using the phone book as a source of information about local businesses. Using a web site was a different story.

"Web site? " they might ask, "How do I find it?" Such comments often conveyed the gap between having a site that could fulfill its promise and having a site that did nothing but add an expense.

While much of this happened just a few years ago, a lot has already changed. Many more consumers have grown comfortable using the Internet as a source for local information, and these numbers will grow. Unfortunately, the residual 'bad taste' lingers among many who operate in the local business arena today.

The irony is, more than ever, this market could benefit greatly from what the Internet can deliver… more customers, less expensively. So how can those of us who carry the daily 'torch' of how-and-why-web-based-marketing-works - help?

Local business owners need to be re-wired on what the Internet can do for them. They need to consider new statistics, new insights and new capabilities. For instance:

· 48 million adults in the U.S. went online looking for local business information in the last year. (How many found a competitor?)

· It's now possible to target consumers by city, even down to zip code - the areas local business people KNOW they get a majority of their business from.

· They need to learn why many web sites don't have a chance to sell anything, and how they can change this problem quickly.

· They need to learn who is most likely to buy from local web sites, (and why this usually surprises the local business owner.)

· They need to learn the proven formulas for building local customer relationships that lead to sales.

· They need to understand why local, web-based marketing can increase profits, lower expenses and increase their customer base.

Specific facts and strategies are much more accessible today. More and more local businesses ARE seeing benefits from web-based efforts - these aren't just theories anymore. Still, the majority have only outdated or partial knowledge of how they can drive new customers to their business using web-based tactics.

Like all technology-driven trends, there will be those who adapt early and those who will adapt later. THAT choice is now staring the local business owner in the eye, whether they recognize it or not.

Recently published reports predict that local online spending will reach $50 billion by 2006. The exact amount remains to be seen, but the local business owner CAN be sure, it WILL grow, and they need to be thinking about the local competitor who might do it sooner and better.

About the Author
Tim Charles is an Internet marketing consultant and writer, based in Connecticut. He is the owner of IMC (Internet Marketing Communications), providing services to local, regional and national companies. For immediate information AND web site links about "How to Promote Your Local Business on the Internet" send an email to


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