Promoting your business online offers many benefits and few drawbacks. If used optimally, you can reduce your overall promotional budget. What you cannot afford now, you can bootstrap towards, when revenue allows. Here are just a few of the benefits, and some drawbacks.
- No printing holdups.
No longer do you have to worry about a printing service that’s backlogged, messes up your order, or simply holds it because your check didn’t clear.
- Fewer distribution costs.
While you might use an e-newswire service or e-newsletters to announce your offering, there are no printing costs, so your cash outlay is relatively small compared to offline/ old media promotions. If you use a copywriter, you could strike up a percentage royalty deal with them instead of a flat rate. Pay only if and when a digital sales letter works.
- Easier split testing.
If you want to run two or more variations of a landing page – the web equivalent of a sales letter – it’s far easier to do split testing online. Google Analytics offers a complex set of features, several of which facilitate split testing. If you teach yourself how to use these Analytics features, you learn a powerful skill and save the cost of hiring an Analytics guru. You can still consult with one for a few hours, if necessary.
- Data mining potential.
With the Web, the world is your… well… oyster. Anyone anywhere can see your web pages, unless yo block their access. Likewise, if you’re running a web tracking service such as Google Analytics (or PMetrics for blog stats), then you can see where your visitors are coming from. Maybe there’s a geographic market you hadn’t thought of, and it’ll be revealed in your site metrics.
- Email subscriber list.
Being online means you can give your web page visitors the option of subscribing to future emailings. It’s easy for them, and if you have a proper bulk emailing service that respects opt-in/ opt-out protocols, it’s easy for you too. Some such services are free, others have a monthly, flat or per M (Mille = one thousand) rate.
- Easy tie-in to web services and rich content.
If you want to utilize content such as online spreadsheets, PDF documents, mindmaps, dynamically-generated images, podcasts, video, etc., there’s simply no way to do so with paper. At least not until e-paper is inexpensive and widely available, and can wirelessly connect to the Internet.
- Persistent contact info.
An email address has the chance of being more persistent than a street address. If someone on your subscriber list moves, they probably will not change their email address. Of course, this isn’t always true, though it’s more likely to be.
- Easy payment collection.
Integrate a PayPal button, even for monthly recurring subscriptions, and you have immediate payment, as well as simplicity of billing.
- Missing demographic groups.
Not everyone is on the Internet. Some people never will be in their lifetimes. So being online means missing out on exposure to several demographic groups. For these people, you will probably have to use traditional promotional methods, aka old media such as print, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail.
- People have to come to you.
You are not direct mailing out to people. That means you have to draw them to you instead. This is probably the primary drawback of online promotion. As noted above, some people are not online at all. Others are online infrequently. But for those who are online, you need an SEM/ SEO (Search Engine Marketing/ Search Engine Optimization) campaign, in hopes of drawing readers via search engines. Unless you school yourself in these skills, this may be your most significant promotional cost.
- If you build it, will they come?
Just building a website doesn’t mean you’ll get visitors. Even SEM/SEO takes time to take effect. Search engines take to time index your web pages, and if you’re in a competitve market, it may take time and money to become “visible” in the search engines. That is, to show up in the first two pages of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for your prefrerred keyword or keyphrase. There are large firms who spend $50,000 per month in online promotional costs including SEM/SEO. That does not mean your small business has to, though for very competitive keywords, it may make the difference between staying in business or folding.