Thi article was updated September, 2022.

As a local business owner, you might be used to various marketing agencies telling you why their chosen advertising medium is what you should be doing. It might be radio ads, television, billboards or print media. So what works? What’s going to give you the best return on investment?

Well, that depends on your type of business and there are definitely benefits worth exploring in these sorts of advertising platforms. Regardless of what other advertising you use, online marketing or developing your online presence is the most important part of advertising I’ll tell you why…

What is an online presence?

When we refer to an online presence, it means making sure that your business and your brand are able to be found easily online. Online visibility could be through paid advertising (usually text or banner ads), social media or video advertising on platforms such as YouTube. An critical place to put your attention is whether you are being found through search engines when people are looking up relevant queries that relate to your goods or services.

Why is online marketing so important?

Being found online means that you’re getting eyeballs on your business from people who are actually interested in it. Mass media marketing such as television ads are referred to as “push” marketing. You are essentially “pushing” your message onto an audience in the hope that they will want what you’re offering.

Appearing in search engine results can be described as “pull” marketing, because you are being drawn in by someone who is already searching for something relevant to your product or service.

Those mass media marketing strategies have their place, but in a world where less people are commuting to work (hello, remote working), there are less eyes on billboards. Withe paid streaming  apps such as Spotify, there are less ears on the radio and with subscription television there, people are paying for the luxury of watching less ads.

Even traditional print media is struggling as regional newspapers and niche magazines are closing down at rapid rates.

Another advantage of online marketing compared to other mediums is its’ ability to measure and adjust your advertising campaign’s effectiveness. Analytics programs allow business owners to see who is receiving their promotions, how they found it and what is or isn’t working, in great detail. It’s a big difference to spending big dollars on a 30 second TV commercial and hoping for the phone to ring.

Online advertising allows local businesses to develop credibility and trust by displaying reviews from happy customers. This can be much more reassuring for a potential audience that simply listening to what a business is telling them in a traditional “push” advertisement.

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A problem facing Australian businesses:

I’m still blown away at the number of businesses that don’t have a website at all. A study conducted by GoDaddy revealed that more than half of Aussie small businesses didn’t have a website at all.

The main reasons participants of the survey gave for not having a business website is that they felt;

  1. The business is too small (44 %).
  2. It costs too much to have a website (30 %).
  3. Not enough time to build or manage a website. (17 %).

The study also showed that men are more likely than women to think their business isn’t big enough to need a website. They are also more likely than women to feel like building a website is too hard to justify having one.

A website makes your business appear more real and trustworthy to potential customers. It gives you an opportunity to reflect the feel of your business branding and allows people to make the most basic of inquiries without having to engage formally. We live in an age where people (especially younger generations) are more reluctant to pick up the phone and would rather do their own research before speaking to someone. By answering the most basic of questions via your website, you can already start engaging your potential customer.

Where should you start with online marketing?

If you are unsure of where to begin, but want to start building an online presence, a good start is:

  • Get yourself a website. Even a one page brochure style website with your contact details is better than nothing. Once you have a domain name and a single page site, it can easily be developed further from there.
  • Create a Google Business Profile.
  • Create or claim listings for your business on relevant local business directories.

If stepping into the world of online marketing is just too much of a stretch for you, consider outsourcing it. If you aren’t thinking about building your online presence, there’s a good chance your competitors are.