LocalNet360- In 2011, Local Businesses are about to begin a new period in how they conduct building and sustaining relationships with their customers. Until now, the Internet has largely been the marketing domain of large Corporations and Niche marketers. However, recent changes in search engine algorithms starting with Google are pushing the marketplace towards more relevant local search results. While this is only one influencing factor as to why 2011 will begin the new age of Internet marketing, it is perhaps the most necessary influence for everything we discuss in this article to matter. This article will touch on the top seven trends that we expect to impact the local marketplace over the course of this year and beyond as millions of small businesses actually begin the journey to begin conducting business on the Internet.
Local Search Improvements-
Back in June 2010, Google announced changes in its algorithm to help promote improved search results for end users. In September, Google further enhanced their desired search results by introducing "Google Instant" which helps direct users to more defined results including those based on location such as "Restaurants in Los Angeles." Later in December, Google made an unsolicited offer to acquire Groupon for roughly $6 Billion Dollars. While the reasons for Groupon's Board of Directors not accepting Google's offer are better suited for another article, let's focus on the primary reasons why Google would make such an offer and more importantly why Groupon has recently announced that it now intends to raise $950 Million Dollars through a new private equity capital raise.
Local Market Potential-
You probably know about the Fortune 500, 1000, 2000 or even the Inc 500 business lists. However, do you know about the significance of 27 million small businesses in the USA? Today, an estimated 55% of US small businesses have websites and most are nothing more than electronic business cards offering general information. However, as access to the internet via mobile solutions increases as discussed below combined with the efficiency of better local search results, the volume of daily searches will ultimately increase by 6-10 times what it is today in as little as 3-4 years. Furthermore, as more small businesses start to go online and/or upgrade their websites and other forms of internet presence such as articles, blogs, videos, social media and more, the internet will finally become an effective marketing tool for the nation's 27 million small businesses to start conducting true Internet Marketing activities intended to drive traffic to their websites and convert site visitors into paying customers. The size and scope of the local market potential will dwarf what has been achieved to date and the volume of daily searches will also increase dramatically since small businesses and consumers will begin to be connected to the internet at all times through both mobile and fixed location access.
Mobile Access & Smart Phones-
The first three generations of mobile cell phone service freed America and most of the world from having to be at a fixed location such as home or work in order to make a telephone call. As a result, today there are nearly 275 million cell phones and/or other mobile devices active in the USA compared to about 150 million land lines. The number of calls made from cell phones when compared to landline calls made by the average person is nearly six fold. However, when text messaging and internet access are factored in the numbers exceed 10 fold. While this is impressive, the daily per usage numbers are about to become substantially higher.
The fourth generation of cell phone service called 4G just beginning to enter many US markets will offer internet access at speeds comparable to broadband. As a result, more small businesses will begin to use smart phones to access solutions that will help them to reach and/or support their customers, as well as manage their businesses. The reason is that more consumers will be on the internet using 4G mobile solutions. Within 3-4 years, it is possible that up to 90% of Americans will be accessing the internet via 4G mobile access as they renew their service contracts and upgrade their 3G phones for 4G phone service options. According to a recent study conducted by Forrester Research, just under half of all cell phone users currently have internet access via their cell phones, which with 3G is limited, but 4G will create ease of internet access comparable to computer internet connections now. The businesses that start developing Internet Marketing solutions in 2011 will be ahead of the curve and in position to dominate their local market niche(s) for years to come.
Virtually everyone with internet access has contributed to some form of e-commerce shopping whether they have bought a book on Amazon, purchased an airline ticket, reserved a hotel room, bought or sold something on ebay or simply paid a credit card invoice or utility bill. The question is will e-commerce work for small businesses? The question has already been answered, which is why Google offered roughly $6 Billion for Groupon. Groupon's business model is to pre-sell discounted products and services to consumer groups in behalf of mostly small local businesses that have no clue how to conduct business online. The result is that Groupon has rapidly expanded across the USA filling an obvious niche that the only thing missing on the internet is small local business. Moving forward, Groupon is probably a good short-term, but not a primary long-term solution for most small local businesses looking to reach their customers online. The best solution will be for the nation's 27 million small businesses themselves to learn how to conduct business online and then invest in the tools and/or expertise that will help them achieve their objectives and that starts with developing e-Commerce solutions for their business.
If you are still wondering if social media has any potential for small business owners consider this: Beginning with Facebook, there are over 500 million members. If Facebook were a country it would be the 3rd largest country in the world behind only China and India. Additionally, while most people believe that Yahoo or Bing is the number 2 search engine on the internet behind Google, the truth is that YouTube is number 2 and if Google's recent predictions are correct, Video Advertising will soon represent 50% of all paid advertising online by 2015 and that makes YouTube an important social media marketing channel too. Of course there are other social media channels and each business will need to learn where their customers are, but if nothing else, Facebook, YouTube and maybe Twitter are good places to get started, if for no other reason than to just get started.
Most importantly to small businesses, why will social media be so important to their Internet marketing efforts? The answer is that each business needs a reliable way to get the word out about their business and continue to reinforce all year long why potential new and existing customers should do business with them. The other benefit of social media is that businesses can reach out to their customers with promotions and other incentives and those customers can help spread the word to their friends, family, neighbors and work associates. As a result, small businesses need to think of social media as a form of word of mouth advertising for the 21st century.
What is cloud computing? Depending on whom you ask you'll get responses ranging from a simple answer to something worthy of how someone might define how a search engine algorithm works. The short answer as it applies to a small business is that cloud computing allows them to store information somewhere other than having to download software and data onto their computer hard drive or more importantly going forward their cell phone or mobile device. This means that as more data is stored at remote locations combined with increased mobile internet access speeds comparable to broadband, millions of small businesses and end users will be able to receive information almost instantly that not long ago required the use of a computer hard drive and software to be able to open an application. With cloud computing anyone will be able to view this same information in secure environments via mobile devices almost as easily as switching from one channel to another on Cable TV. As a result, business and consumer groups will be able to be connected at all times 24/7 at home, work and play, just like we can all make cell phone calls from virtually any location today.
There is no single solution that will work for all small businesses when it comes to Internet Marketing. However, every small business has to begin somewhere. The first place to begin is to understand that the days of print advertising as the primary source of advertising are coming to an end. Print usage pertaining to everything from Newspapers to Yellow Pages is in serious permanent decline. They are being replaced by electronic solutions all of which are available on the Internet in one form or another. As a result, small businesses must adapt to these changes in order to remain competitive in 2011 and the years to come. This article is intended to create an awareness that the future for small mostly local businesses survival is to get started by developing an Internet Presence, learn how to generate traffic and then how to monetize that traffic successfully. Throughout 2011, LocalNet360 will discuss some of the ways small businesses can begin the journey from brick and mortar marketing and business solutions to ways to they can begin the transition to solutions that will increase and sustain the way they will do business for the rest of this decade and possibly beyond. Implementing several Internet based solutions over the next 12-24 months will be critical to the long term success for virtually every small and local business in America.
Internet Marketing by LocalNet360
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