If you are already in business and you are thinking of promoting your products or services online, one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is “Do I have a product I can sell online?” This question is at the very heart of the decision whether or not to try online marketing and reach local customers.
Most of the problems with products are the result of delivery issues. Either your product must be delivered within a narrow time frame (like pizzas and fried chicken), or it is too fragile or too large to be economically delivered, or there is not enough profit margin built into your pricing to allow for delivery. Most local businesses address these issues by a combination of strategies. Either they do not provide delivery, or they charge for it, or they will deliver only within a narrowly defined geographic area.
This question will take different forms for different products and services. If your business is selling specialty household items like custom made candles, the chances of modifying your current sales approach to reach a broader online market are pretty good. But if you sell a service like pool cleaning or home renovations, your online objectives will probably be different. Unless you are prepared to travel hundreds of miles to perform your services, you are probably only interested in reaching local prospects.
What Products are Suitable for LOCAL Online Sales?
Think of all the plumbers, home renovators, auto refinishers, pool cleaners, landscape suppliers and so on in your community and ask yourself if it is feasible to market these kinds of products and services online.
For instance, say you sell landscape products such as paving stones, top soil, crushed stone and so on. And say you already have an established business in your local area. Your geographic market area is roughly the area you can reach with your trucks in less than, say, 30 minutes. In other words, your target market area is any place within about 25 miles of your shipping depot. Dealing with customers beyond this radius becomes too expensive because of the shipping costs.
Would it be worth marketing your landscape products online specifically to this narrowly defined LOCAL target market area?
Well, it depends. Obviously if your marketing efforts were free there would be no question. You should just go ahead and do it. But your marketing efforts will not be free. To do effective online promotion you will have to create a website, create some sort of online marketing program, and then have the response system in place to answer customer inquiries and take online orders. None of this is free. Most of the costs will be in designing and creating the website. But there will be ongoing costs for regular marketing efforts and online advertising.
Regular marketing efforts? Online advertising?
Absolutely! It is important to realize that you will be wasting your money if you just set up a website and expect customers to flock to it. It just won’t happen. You need an ongoing marketing effort that includes, as a bare minimum, Search Engine Marketing and probably Pay Per Click Advertising.
Thinking about other products in this way will very likely lead to the same conclusion. Say you are a chiropractor and you are wondering about promoting your service online. Is it worth the effort?
Probably not in the short term. You will probably not gain instant recognition or instant clients. But a concerted, sustained effort over a 6-18 month period will help you create a web presence in your community and establish you as one of the leaders in your area. And that will result in sustained and lasting results which should eventually translate into sales. Remember, users are using Yellow Pages less to search for local businesses, and instead are turning online to find the businesses they need. You need to be online if you want them to find you.
Virtually any product can be marketed online to a local market if you are prepared to put in the time, effort and expense necessary to make an impact. You may be able to get relatively fast results with some products. But generally speaking because you are dealing with a confined geographic area the number of prospective customers looking for your product at any given time will be relatively small. So the response will usually be slow in coming.
But if you are planning to be around for the long haul, persistent online marketing efforts will eventually pay off. And the best time to get started is right now.
Recommended Books on Reaching Local Customers With Online Sales:
- Local Online Marketing: Small Business Online Advertising For Retail And Service Businesses
- The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising
- Marketing Your Local Business Online: Key Strategies to Increasing Sales and Profit Using the Internet
- Secrets to Local Restaurant Marketing: Profitable Offline and Online Marketing Strategies for Restaurants
- Smart Marketing for Local Businesses: A practical guide for driving customers to your door, not fans to a page.