My children took swimming lessons this summer. ... called "water ... lessons, designed to ... ... with being in the water. At 5 years old, my kids have a health
My children took swimming lessons this summer. Actually they're called "water confidence" lessons, designed to get non-swimmers comfortable with being in the water.
At 5 years old, my kids have a healthy fear of the water, and didn't want to get in the pool at first. They liked the *idea* of learning how to swim, but the reality of getting into water up to their necks was scary. They wanted to have their lessons in the wading pool. I tried explaining it's a little hard to swim in 12 inches of water, but try reasoning with three 5-year-olds. It was a slow torturous process getting their entire bodies into the water. By the time they got all the way into the water the first lesson was almost over.
What does this have to do with local online marketing? As I listened to the instructor try to coax them into the water, it reminded me of conversations I'd had with small business owners about getting onto the web.
"C'mon, just stick your feet in."
"See? That's not so bad, is it?"
"Now, let's do little bunny hops down the steps. Hop! Hop! Hop!"
Little by little, they got used to being in the water. Then, getting their faces wet. After a few lessons, they were jumping off the side and having a great time. I had to practically drag them out of the water.
Getting online is often like that. It can seem overwhelming -- choices to make, lingo to learn, all for something that may or may not bring customers through the door. After awhile, what sounded like a good idea begins to feel like too much work. And with too many things to do as it is, it's easy for most business owners to put online marketing on the back burner... indefinitely.
But just like learning to swim, getting a brick-and-mortar or any other type of business online is best done one baby step at a time. There's no reason to rush out and get a website. There are already way too many deserted websites, sitting like abandoned cars on the super information highway...gathering dust. The last thing the world needs is another boring website whose only purpose is to sell something.
Here's what every business owner must realize: most people do not go online looking for something to buy. What web surfers crave the most is INFORMATION. If you offer free useful information, you will draw a crowd. But if all you can offer is an order link and a payment form, don't expect a lot of visitors.
Think about how you can use the technology to get to know your customers and prospects. Because just as in real life, it's all about relationships online. Putting up a website is only 10% -- the other 90% is marketing, building trust, and cultivating relationships.
Once you have that straight in your mind, get your feet wet by looking at what your competition is doing. Find out where your prospects might look for the information they need. Then figure out what free information or services your target market would find useful. Decide how you can give it to them at little or no cost to yourself. Then take the plunge and do something. Start small, then add on.
Remember the formula: Attract people to your website. Give them free stuff. Build credibility and trust through repeated contact. Then sell them something. This has worked for online businesses for years, and it will work just as well for brick-and-mortar business.
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and resources for targeting local customers. For more information, visit http://www.geolocal.com or send a blank email to: email@example.com?subject=TRAART