Web businesses have a number of advantages over brick and mortar businesses, including a far lower startup cost, a broader audience, and a synergy that allows you to bring local customers into your business.
Depending on the type of business you hope to expand, your online marketing strategy can vary. For a retailer, the most common brick and mortar business, consider this case study:
One of my clients, a horse trainer and creator of a line of all-natural, chemical-free equine products (fly sprays, liniments, and such), was doing about $10,000 in gross sales per annum, primarily marketing by word of mouth. Upon receiving an endorsement from a gold medal Olympic equestrian winner, she decided to expand her business with local advertising but found that the product was too niche to deuce widespread success. The local marketing project was a flop. After considering the value of the Internet’s broad audience, she set up a site, which her Olympic endorser was happy to link to from her internationally-recognized stable home page. Along with the link, the client opted to participate in Google AdSense to increase further awareness of her products. We began by creating targeted content about fly spray, her highest margin product, and marketing it as an all-natural alternative to insecticide-based sprays. The targeted, professionally-written articles were able to receive a high quality score from Google, allowing her ads to run at a cheaper rate than her competitors. Within the first six months, her month-to-month gross revenue climbed by 300%. We leveraged this success to her other products and now her business has a large base of steady clients.
This strategy works beautifully for products that benefit from high margins but a small local customer base. It has been successfully employed by custom cowboy boot manufacturer J.B. Hill, a Texas-based, hand-cobbled, high-end boot maker. Since Hill’s products start at $825, the local market is extremely limited. Though they shipped products internationally prior to the Internet, the introduction of a Web business allowed them to compete with other premier shoe manufacturers which offer product catalogs, online orders, and order tracking to online customers. The business has been a booming success: the waiting lists for custom boot orders is approaching six months.
If your own experience in Web marketing is lacking, professional consulting services are available to help you get started, but these solutions typically require a budget upwards of $3,000. A cheaper alternative for a cash-strapped venture is to hire independent, freelance Web developers and Web marketers, which can bring the cost to develop a complete e-Commerce solution into the sub-$1,000 range.