by Neil Curtis on April 7, 2014
We can’t expect local brick and mortar businesses to use the internet effectively, can we?
It’s probably fair to say that a lot of small independent local businesses (like those found on our high streets) do not utilise the internet as much as they should from a marketing and promotion stand point. Today a lot of local businesses still do not have a website, despite the obvious benefits. To us (speaking from the point of view of someone in the web design/digital marketing world) not utilising the power of the internet is a real shame, and not having a website is just criminal. But we aren’t rushing around sourcing stock, dealing face-to-face with customers (well some of us aren’t), and sorting out all the other issues that brick and mortar businesses have. Before I go any further, the businesses I am referring to are the small independent ones we walk past on the street, such as knitting shops, small cafes, and local DIY stores, rather than digital agencies or larger local businesses.
Internet marketing for small local businesses – I don’t think so
If you run a brick and mortar business and have a website, the chances of you utilising your web presence fully is fairly minimal. Of course you know about Facebook and Twitter, and you may have even heard about Google Plus, but so what, how can these things help your business? You’ve already listened to the digital experts and spent a pretty penny (AKA a lot of money) on a website, which in reality is nothing more than a static page with your company name on it. To make matters worse this expenditure has yielded pretty much nothing. Are you going to throw even more money chasing customers on the internet? Probably not.
Do it yourself
You could do it yourself, why not? Here I should point out that this post was inspired by an article on Copyblogger by Eugen Oprea (direct link to this article: http://www.copyblogger.com/local-seo/). This is a great article and if a small local business wanted to make a bigger impact on the internet they should definitely follow the advice given. However, can we expect this to happen when there are so many other things a business owner needs to take care of? The article by Eugen covers 10 steps that a local business can take to improve their search ranking, and thus customers. These include keyword research, optimisation of site content, setting up and interacting with Google Plus and Google places, and much more. Again, this article has some great advice, but for someone with little experience in the online world (which is the case with many smaller independent shops), can we expect them to follow along and maintain the necessary content marketing and social interaction needed to really make any sort of dent on the web. Personally, I don’t think so.
What is the answer?
So, what is the answer? Well they could pay an expert to handle it all for them, but after spending a lot of cash on a website would they be willing to spend the same, or probably more, on a well-managed marketing campaign. I doubt it. Unfortunately it will likely go down as something they know they should probably do something about but other matters will always take priority. As times get harder and the businesses need customers more than ever, they will be even less likely to spend money on internet marketing or time learning how to do it themselves, which is a real shame because it may have been what could have saved them from going under (hypothetically).
Well, come on, what is the answer?
Again, what is the answer? Could people in the know reach out an olive branch and do some of this work for free. Hummmm, probably not. But what about using a paid-on-results model, where you (the expert) undertake the work and only when sales increase for the local business do you ask for some money. This would be extremely difficult to implement and judge. Some tasks are one-off, but others such as fresh targeted content and customer engagement on social media are continuous. There is no way a digital marketing expert could handle this, just as it is very unlikely a local business owner would.
Maybe it will never happen
So, should we just leave it there and forget about it. Expecting a small local bricks and mortar business to market itself online is just never going to happen, and it’s only those with deeper pockets or those in the digital space that will ever truly utilise the potential of the web to grow their business.
What do you think? I’m just thinking out loud here and I’d love your comments. Is it impossible for small local businesses to use the power of the web effectively?