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How Has Online Technology Changed Small Business Marketing and Advertising?
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Online options not only provide new channels for small businesses to communicate and market their products and services, but also offer the capability to deliver customized, one-to-one messages. Channels such as the Internet and email also provide a vehicle to receive instant feedback from customers, which can be extremely valuable.

In my experiences, there have not been many small businesses that have unlimited marketing budgets. Most of these organizations are held accountable for each and every dollar invested to deliver a measurable return. Key word sponsorships on search engines and online ads are cost-effective and extremely targeted. They offer a "per drink" model where most traditional, broadcast-centric channels require a larger investment and may not yield qualified leads because they span a more diverse audience.

Small businesses should first start with developing a compelling Web site, blog, or both. Search engine optimization should also be part of this process. These offer cost-effective tools to communicate your company, products and services, and update customers and prospects on new developments. Adding e-commerce functionality to your Web site also creates a new sales channel open to a global audience.

The Internet has made the world a smaller place, and online options are changing how we reach new audiences. Leveraging these dynamic tools will help you find new customers and retain existing ones more effectively.

—Domenick Cilea, President and Founder, Springboard Public Relations.

There are many ways small businesses now can promote their products and services due to the changes in the options available in the online world.

First, businesses can now create the perception of being much larger and more prestigious than they actually are. Producing a high quality website is the first step to increasing a company's image. Using high end graphics, pictures and colors along with compelling and diverse text distinguishes a site from its competitors. Creating prominent relationships and expert status placements with a multitude of online partners will increase a company's credibility and prominence in their genre.

Second, businesses can establish a multitude of storefronts in different online venues, appealing to a broader base of potential clients. Companies can now duplicate their website products and content, easily reaching a global network of customers. Working with destinations such as EBay, Yahoo, and other online malls who provide ongoing exposure and automated order processing from virtually anywhere in the world, possibilities are limitless for new business. Through affiliate relationships, products can be sold directly from the manufacture, eliminating the need for purchasing, warehousing and shipping.

Third, businesses can reach out to their targeted marketplace for little to no cost, due to several new options for promotion that previously didn't exist. Utilizing email, Blog postings, Podcasting, online community forums, co-op advertising options, and other viral marketing strategies, millions of potential buyers can be reached with minimal costs. Creating word or mouth 'buzz' campaigns can bring attention to websites and their products and services in an exponential manner. With the initial costs and effort put in motion, the campaign can multiply and sustain the ongoing exposure necessary for repeat sales with out new output of cash on an ongoing basis.

—Anne Leedom, Senior Publicist and Founder, Net Connect Publicity.

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