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Jumpstart Your Local Business -- Get Online

By Sharon Fling
Posted Monday, September 13, 2004

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:


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.


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.

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 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 ( and ( Content is the #1 reason users return to websites.


An estimated 22 million people in over 100 countries are flocking to auction sites such as Yahoo, BidBay, 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 ( - "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?

Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and publisher of "Local Business Today", 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:


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