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Jumpstart Your Local Business -- Get Online
by: Sharon Fling
If you're not marketing your local business online,
opportunity is passing you by. So many people focus on the
Internet's global reach that its potential benefit to local
business is often overlooked. Global information is great,
but people's day-to-day lives are local. Now that so much
information is available online, more consumers see the
Internet as something useful instead of a passing fad.

Here are 5 ways that consumers are using the Internet:

E-MAIL

According to Messaging Online, there were around 891
million email addresses at the beginning of 2001. By now
there are probably 1 billion or more. Almost everyone has
an email address, or knows someone who does. It's fast
becoming as common as the telephone, and just as necessary.
Even if you don't have a website, you can use email to
communicate with your customers. Send them useful
information, coupons, and special offers. If you don't,
someone else will.

PRE-SALES RESEARCH

For many consumers, the internet has become the great
equalizer. They no longer have to take the word of a
salesperson -- all the information they need to make an
intelligent decision is online. Consumers can research
everything from products to retail services, and make sure
they get the best deal. But unless your business is online,
it's unlikely they will find you.

ONLINE SHOPPING

U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2002
were almost $10 billion, and will top $44 billion by year's
end. Clearly, plenty of Internet users have gotten
comfortable with spending money online. Top picks include
books, travel, music, clothing, Computers, movies/videos,
consumer electronics, and health products. But if your
business isn't online, you won't get any of those e-
commerce dollars.

COMMUNITY & LOCAL INFORMATION

Community information is like a magnet -- it draws locals
online. People care about their communities and want to
know what's going on around them. They're also looking for
weather forecasts, local headlines, entertainment listings,
and sporting events info. Savvy business owners recognize
this and revamp their websites to include local information
and real-time content, available from companies like
www.moreover.com and www.yellowbrix.com. Content is the #1
reason users return to websites.

INTERNET AUCTIONS

An estimated 22 million people in over 100 countries are
flocking to auction sites such as Yahoo, BidBay, uBid.com
and the granddaddy of them all, eBay. The listing fees are
a small price to pay for the kind of exposure businesses
can get. About 1.4 million items are up for sale every day
on eBay, in every imaginable category, including services,
cars, and houses. Consumers can also search by region and
category at http://pages.ebay.com/regional/hub.html - "eBay
Local Trading", where major cities are setup as regions. If
you're selling anything at all, especially consumer
products, you should definitely check out eBay.

These are some of the ways consumers are using the Net.
For local business owners, the message is clear: your
customers are online...and so is your competition. How much
longer can YOU afford to wait?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local
Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic
newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and
resources for targeting local customers. For more
information, visit http://www.geolocal.com or send a blank
email to: subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART

 



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