Thursday, December 16, 2004

Doing Local Business Online - Will My Product Work?

Can I sell my products online to my local area?

The question is whether or not you can reach your local market online. Forget about delivery problems for the moment. You don't have to ship your product a thousand miles. You just want to take the same product you are already selling in your current local area and promote it online. You want to know whether marketing your product online has any chance of generating new sales, or whether it might create more problems than it is worth.

Are some products suitable for marketing online and others not?

The "products" we are talking about here include both services as well as hard goods. Think of all the plumbers, home renovators, auto refinishers, pool cleaners, landscape suppliers and so on in your community and ask yourself if it is feasible to market these kinds of products and services online.

For instance, say you sell landscape products such as paving stones, top soil, crushed stone and so on. And say you already have an established business in your local area. Your geographic market area is roughly that area that you can reach with your trucks in less than, say, 30 minutes. So in other words, your target market area is any place within about 25 miles of your shipping depot.

Would it be worth taking this product online. Is your local target market big enough? Will online promotions reach a significant number of people in your local target area?

Well, it depends. To do effective online promotion you will have to create a website. Then you will have to create some sort of online marketing program. And then you will have to put a response system in place to answer customer enquiries and take online orders. None of this is free. Most of the costs will be in designing and creating the website. But there will be ongoing costs for regular marketing efforts and online advertising.

Regular marketing efforts? Online advertising? Absolutely! It is important to realize that you will be wasting your money if you just set up a website and expect customers to flock to it. It just won't happen. You need an ongoing marketing effort that includes, as a bare minimum, Search Engine Marketing and probably Pay Per Click Advertising.

I suspect that almost any product can be marketed online if you do it right. But it will be very difficult to predict the results. All you can say with assurance is that if you are persistent you will eventually gain some online "presence". And that should eventually translate into sales.

Consider some other completely different product or service. For instance, say you are a chiropractor. Is it worth taking your product online? Not just to create an online brochure, but to actually generate new contacts, new leads, and new customers? Will it be worth the effort?

My guess is it would be worth it, but you had better take the long view. There may be ways to gain instant recognition or instant clients, but I would not count on it. What you can count on is that a concerted, sustained effort over a long period of time will help you create a web presence and establish you as one of the leaders in your area. And that will result in sustained and lasting results.

In the next post I will discuss "how to make an impact".

Rick Hendershot is a marketing consultant, writer, and internet publisher who lives in Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He publishes several websites and blogs, including Trade Show Tips, The Linknet Network of websites, e_Marketing, SuperCharge Your Website with Power Linking, and many more.

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