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Leveling the Playing Field

Category: , Posted:19 Apr 2008 | 12:00 pm

There is a revolution going on around the world – one without guns, bombs or politicians. In this brave new world, small businesses and individuals have access to global consumers in a way that could not have been imagined 10 years ago. While the chords of these words sound similar to a corporate marketing pitch, even the smallest business now has access to a wealth of free resources.
Access to a globally diverse range of customers has long been the competitive calling card of international brands. These international brands were the ones with access to markets that small businesses could never afford… until the Internet came along and anyone with a modicum of intelligence, access to a PC and a product to sell suddenly had access to a mountain of resources that anyone could scale. For a property developer or service provider, casting a marketing net as wide as possible means tapping into a multitude of distribution avenues.

Let's start with public relations. While once only the elite could retain overseas, high-level public relations, firms today can use pioneering websites, such as www.prweb.com and www.prlog.com, that allow businesses to write their own press releases, determine target distribution, access international news wires and then have the press releases picked up by search engines. With online samples and the ability to source professional advice, anyone can write a press release, provide a photo caption and then distribute the end product.
Moving on to media, the pay-per-click and banner-advertising industries have become important consumer-marketing avenues that are key to creating sales conversions. Google's Adwords (www.adwords.google.com), key-word listings and online ads, and Yahoo's ad engine (www.overture.com) are fundamental tools available to everyone, no matter how large or small a company's budget is.
Banner advertising is another way of reaching a target clientele. Take a look at the banner ads on www.phuketgazette.net as an example of businesses looking to convert clicks into customers.

Now that we've tapped into online PR, advertising and pay-per-click, how do you quantify and analyze the return on investment of that marketing spend? Every businessperson wants a return on their investment and today's Internet tools allow you access to information that can create detailed operating metrics and analysis of the cost of customer conversions.
Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics) offers a free tool that can compile a sensational amount of data about any website you own. Not only are small businesses using analytics, but large, international firms have also been attracted to the product's dynamic offerings. The search engine optimization (SEO) function is a key way of understanding web success and failure, as well as being a central tool in developing new strategies. Do a quick exercise with your favorite search engine: Type in "SEO" and see the variety of web-based options out there.
New online developments are being released before the dust has settled on the old products. The ability to capture video feeds of products or projects has become an increasingly powerful tool. YouTube.com is now the leader in international communications media, with big and small businesses alike now posting ads and teasers and looking to hit a wide range of consumers.
Anyone with access to a video camera can post content for free, link to their websites and increase clicks to their commercial offerings. YouTube recently unveiled a tool that allows users to track information about who is playing their videos, enabling metrics on the source of these potential clients.

As we move deeper into the realms of Web 2.0, the volume of resources available may seem overwhelming. But anyone with patience, a little knowledge of computers and a reasonable marketing approach can now start to level the playing field once dominated by high-brow, international brands.
Put yourself out there, hit your search engines and look at how technology can lead to new customers. In this new age of technology, the success of a business may be just a mouse-click away.

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