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How do you explain the advantages of local online marketing to a layman? More specifically, how do you explain the intricacies and advantages of a local online marketing campaign to a small business owner that does not know the difference between a server and website? How can you explain that a website alone is not efficient at driving new business? These are the questions that have been plaguing me for the past six months, and I still don’t have the answers.

It is clear that the Internet is here to stay and many small business owners are accepting the idea that online marketing is important. Unfortunately, it seems the general consensus among people with limited online experience is that all they need is a website. This misconception makes it even more difficult to explain the importance of local search engine marketing. Moreover, it seems small business owners tend to rely on information they hear “around town” from people with equally limited knowledge about online marketing, which further complicates the problem.

Typically, I try to change their mindset with this reasoning;

Standing alone, a website is a great source of information for a current client base and anyone that may have been referred directly to the website, but how is anyone else going to find it? It is essentially a needle in a haystack unless you actively drive users to it. And you do that with “search engine marketing,” or “SEM.”

Developing a website already seems like a giant leap into an unknown realm for many small business owners. The idea of taking the next step and marketing that website can be downright scary unless the return on the initial investment is realized. Unfortunately, when a website alone does not produce the expected results, as is often the case, many small business owners get discouraged from spending any more money to market online.

I have had people explain to me how disappointed they were with the performance of their website – some even considered going back to the yellow pages. In case you don’t remember, the yellow pages is that thick yellow book that sits on your desk and never gets used. There is no question that local search engine marketing is quickly becoming the most popular form of search used by people searching for local services.

For these reasons, it is key to bind website development and local search engine marketing together when explaining online marketing. It is important to present them as a single idea – an online marketing solution. Although launching a website and SEM campaign together may seem daunting and expensive at first, the combined effort dramatically increases the potential success of an online campaign.

While presenting a website and SEM campaign together is clearly a step in the right direction, it is still difficult to break the mindset that online marketing is a risky investment. I suppose I could develop a study that would dig deep into the psyche of small business owners to better understand how to market to them; however, I’d like to ask your advice first. What do you think? Any thoughts?


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