The truth is that small business online marketing levels the playing field for you to compete against the big boys.

There are countless examples of small businesses that manage to take on much bigger businesses and succeed against the odds. Within my own client base, I have a travel company, optician, mortgage broker, accountant, heating engineer and many more who generate huge numbers of enquiries through the internet.

And they are beating the bigger boys they are in competition with, because the big firms don’t generally pay attention to all the details that make it possible for you to steal the business from under their noses.

In fact, internet marketing can produce growth for small businesses like nothing you’ll have experienced before.

Holiday firm Airworld Tours added millions to their sales within 12 months largely from online lead generation, along with other ideas you’ll find in the marketing plan template.

In fact, several of my clients have spread from being small locally based businesses to become national operators thanks to effective internet lead generation.

One client dealing in products with a four-figure price tag even receives orders from around the world now thanks to the strong Internet presence we designed together for his business.

But the challenge is that being successful online takes a great deal of knowledge.  Even selecting worthwhile companies to help you can be like an uncomfortable game of pin the tail on the donkey!

Most designers are so precious about the choice of fonts, colours and images that the exercise to create a new website becomes more like an art lesson than a business project to attract more customers.

What most designers don’t realise is that it’s the content of your site that will make the biggest lasting impression.  A pretty site is great for a first impression, but after that becomes largely a moot point if the content fails to impress.

Meanwhile the SEO and Adwords management services offered by most firms simply don’t work very well.  You end up paying over the odds to produce a small number of leads, while the few companies that master Internet marketing take the lion’s share of the business, leaving you with the scraps.

It’s very easy to blow £10,000 or more on websites and design without getting anything back that can produce leads and sales.

To help you, here’s a series of steps to put you firmly in the driving seat to building an effective portal for your business online.

Why Your Website Isn’t Working

Most small businesses throw up a website quickly and cheaply.  The home page shows some badly taken photographs and has text that starts with the headline “Welcome to our website”.  Nobody hangs around to read anything more, they go back to the search results and find somewhere that’s giving them a more useful result instead.

So the site (even if they’ve spent £10,000 or more) still doesn’t produce much, if any, new business for them.

That’s because it’s a blind stab in the dark – rather than being part of an overall strategy to produce new business, it’s simply a shop window without any passers by.

If youre marketing is going to produce results, you need to operate with a solid plan that gets results.

So let’s take a quick step back and understand the basics of marketing online.

How Internet Lead Generation Really Works

There are really three big elements to your online marketing strategy:

  1. Your website
  2. Your strategy to attract the right people to visit
  3. Your email marketing strategy to follow up people who don’t buy

If you build a great website with the ability to sell, but have no suitably targeted visitors, it may as well not be there at all.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a diabolical website with lots of traffic, you’ll get the same results.

Finally, if you don’t capture details of visitors and then follow up with email, the chances are that you’re losing out on and additional 30-100% of sales.

The secret is to build a lead generation website and to have a strategy for your traffic that will produce results.

Your Small Business Online Marketing Strategy

First, your lead generation website is designed to offer something attractive and useful to your visitors in return for their names and email addresses.

This lets you build a list of potential new customers and keep in touch with them via email marketing (also see my email marketing tips)

The plan looks something like this:

Website Designed with Quality Content and Lead Capture Forms

Design your website to have lots of engaging content.  It wil make visitors want to check out other pages and also make them far more likely to return.

On each page, include a box to offer people an enticing download in return for their name and email address.

For example, if you look in the sidebar, you’ll see I offer my download, “21 Ways To Increase Your Profits in 30 Days”.  It’s also offered at the bottom of the page.

A Follow-Up Marketing Loop

Once you’ve obtained their email address, you can ethically send them email on a regular basis.

The idea is not simply to spam them to death with promotional emails.  You’re far better off acting as an educator to help them become better informed about your products and services.

Over time they will come to know, trust and like you.  They’ll be comfortably with the idea of finding out more about your products and services when they are ready.

Your emails mean that you are constantly reminding them of who you are, without annoying them with the hard sell.

A Traffic Strategy

Your small business online marketing strategy is completed with a spread of several methods to drive traffic.

Depending upon your business, the most likely candidates to drive the best volumes of traffic will be Pay Per Click advertising with services like Google’s Adwords, LinkedIN or Facebook’s PPC services and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which you can learn to do very successfully yourself.

You can often also use direct mail to drive web traffic.  Direct mail is one of the most targeted media available for marketing today and is woefully under-used by small businesses.

Finally, for certain sectors social media for business can be a powerful lead source.

However, don’t go for social media first as a rule, unless you absolutely know that it is suited to your business.  It can be a real time-sink otherwise and shouldn’t stand as the central plank to your small business online marketing strategy.