Creative ways to grow your business: Small business opportunities online

Online ads aren’t just for big companies any more. Reduced costs and user-friendly options have made the Internet an effective marketing tool for even “Mom and Pop” businesses.

It wasn’t that long ago that most small business owners believed the Internet wasn’t right for them.

When asked about why they felt that way, most would mention cost concerns, a lack of time, a lack of knowledgeable personnel, or general confusion about their online options.

But what a difference a few years can make. Today, Ad-ology Research estimates that at least 80% of small businesses have a web presence.

That is definitely significant but, for many small businesses, that’s also where their Internet-related efforts stop. Websites become static, electronic bulletin boards that provide little more than general product descriptions and basic contact information.

That’s a very narrow view of what the Internet can offer your growing company. Even if your business isn’t seeking a “global presence,” you can, with some research and planning, promote your company online with measurable results.

Like any other marketing program, it makes sense to implement an online campaign in stages.

Creative ways to grow your business include these free online advertising services:

Small business opportunities at Yahoo! Local Listings

Yahoo!’s basic, free business listing displays your company’s address, phone number and website. You can also request to have your business placed in certain search categories and list your most popular products or services. A Yahoo! user searching for “tool and die makers,” for example, will automatically be shown a list of those businesses (that have requested the listing) near the user’s self-defined geographic area.

Ready for something more than free online advertising? An enhanced listing adds a business profile and the ability to add photos and coupons for about $10 per month.

Small business opportunities at YellowPages.com

Well, why not? The brand name is second to none, but probably still under-leveraged at this point. (Face it. With just a tiny but of vision these guys could have owned the online display advertising and category listing niches.) The format is more than familiar to any potential user, meaning finding your business will be easy. A free online advertising listing includes basic information – contact information, address, etc. Upgrades offer more, but you’ll pay for them.

YP.com is aggressively pushing its mobile app, so don’t count out “The Book.”

Small business opportunities at Bing Business Portal

Formerly “Bing Local Listing Center,” Microsoft’s Bing Business Portal is another way to enhance your company’s online presence. Registration is free, and you’re able to modify your free online advertising listing with an impressive amount of content including company logos, photos, product descriptions and price lists.

Another attractive feature – Bing lets you constantly add special promotions, coupons and deals to your listing, to attract new clients and better serve your current customer base.

And of course, there are also small business opportunities at Facebook…

Facebook, in case you were just rescued from a desert island, is the world’s largest social media network. The company is taking some heat because of the slide in its stock price since it went public earlier this year, but based on sheer numbers – about 800 million users at last count – Facebook is still a powerful way to reach an audience.

Facebook marketing fans say it’s an effective way to build brand awareness, start conversations with customers, and drive traffic to your company’s website.

If you have the time to provide localized content and track which updates tend to generate the most interest, regular Facebook entries can keep you “on the radar” of current customers and promising prospects. There are third party services, like Edgerank Checker, that can tell you the most productive days and times to post, and let you know which topics attract the most attention.

The current rage in Facebook marketing is in “Sponsored Stories.” There are at least four different formats, but the focus is always on leveraging the “buzz” or testimonial stories regarding your company and its services. If you have tons of happy, loyal customers, this is a great way to go.

Discover more creative methods of business growth at MP Star Financial:


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