For small and independent businesses with a single or several locations, Internet marketing may not sound like the most direct route to reaching customers. Yet research shows that the vast majority of consumers start their purchasing process online – by searching and researching, then finding and shopping at a physical location. Also, as the techniques to further engage customers through social media and the web improve there is an increasing expectation among consumers to connect to their retail brands through the web. This increased engagement with your customers “in the know” creates opportunities to create real fans in your customer base while increasing revenues.

Even if your business does not do e-commerce through your web site, there are many benefits to being found in online searches and in social media. To make the most of your Internet marketing efforts, consider these steps:

Maintain a frequently updated web site and social media. Relevant, frequent, and consistent activity is the key to the growth of your web presence, enhancing and driving site and media traffic, and increasing your web-based leads. Updating the sites look with seasonal colors and new images keeps your site from looking stagnant to return visitors. Potential customers do not want to see customer reviews and testimonials that are not dated and don’t look recent. Use a vendor like RatePoint that automatically delivers reviews of your business from real customers.

Remind customers about your website. Social media tools like; an email newsletter, blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are great ways to interact with customers, remind them of sales and specials, and drive them back to your web site.

Make your web site and social media worth visiting. Just having a web site or social media page no longer cuts the mustard. Your customers expect Internet media outlets worth visiting. If you supply a satisfying experience your customers will look to you as an expert when they need something that you do or sell. 

Draw customers into the store. Once you’re communicating with customers, use your website, email newsletter, and social networking to drive them into your store. Provide incentives, updates and even tips to make consumers feel valued and “in the know” with the business. It’s also a great way to fill open appointments for service businesses.

By putting the web to work through site updating, web marketing activities, and online contacts with your consumers, your business can draw new customers into the store and become a trusted source for repeat business.