While performing some much needed inspiration reconnaissance, we came across the title of this article as a search term in our analytics. What an interesting thought – the idea that a business owner might want internet marketing without a website. How odd, and yet, how enticing an idea to explore!
Usually, people that come to us either have a website and want to market it, or need a website and want to market it. Either way, a website is involved. Whoever was searching our site for internet marketing for brick and mortar businesses gave us a whole meal of food for thought.
Today, we’re going to explore the possibilities, based on the current sites and technologies available to anyone. Follow along, if you will. You may find some ideas of use to you that can be adapted to fit your own business!
Are Websites a Thing of the Past? Er…
As soon as this thought crossed our minds, the obvious answer followed. No, websites are very much a necessary part of many businesses. However, there are some drawbacks to owning a professional website presence:
Cost of hosting: While you can use a free hosting service, and those services work well for hobby sites, they aren’t recommended for business entities. Therefore, the cost of hosting is a factor, and it can range from as little as $60 a year to as much as $200 and up (depending on your business’ online needs).
Cost of site development: If you aren’t using a content management system (CMS), the upkeep on a site can be extremely expensive through the year. A CMS takes initial development costs for the design, but usually doesn’t take a lot coding upkeep after that. Still, you’re paying for the cost of professional content development to make sure your site is ready for converting visitors.
Cost of maintenance: This could be time, money, or both. A website takes a lot of work to maintain, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to take care of that maintenance. If you hire someone, you better make sure you have a well thought-out budget set aside for this work.
Creating a “Website Free” Online Presence (Phew!)
We don’t need no stinkin’ website! But how are we going to market our brick and mortar without one? Well, like any good SEOs, we’re going to look at the search engines first. What are search engines offering the business owner?
Google Places for Business: As the number one search engine, it behooves business owners not to skip over the Big Daddy Google. Happily enough, the search engine provides an online business card just for your business.
Enter your name, address, and phone number (NAP), upload photos and videos (if you have a YouTube account), enter the hours you’re open, and business categories. You can also enter additional details, such as whether parking is available and what brands you carry, etc. Google Places for Business is very easy to set up, and quick.
Bing Business Portal (BETA): Yes, Google is big, but leaving out other search engines and putting all your eggs in the G basket would be a large mistake. It’s not as easy to get into the BBP as it is to set up a Google Place page; you’ll have to jump through some hoops. However, the results are worth it.
One of the things BBP offers that Google doesn’t is a mobile version of your business page, where you can offer your products and services with individual services and ratings. This offering includes a QR code. People take a snapshot of your QR code and have your business information instantly available in their phones.
Yahoo! Local: Yahoo! offers business listings much like Google, with a slightly different layout. With Yahoo!, however, you’ll have to upgrade your listing to “paid” if you want to add images.
With just these three places, you’ve already gone a long way towards building a “website free” online presence.
One of the great things about the Internet, in a business sense, is that there’s no end to the number of places you can input your business information and have it posted. Think of these places as “online business cards”. Most of them are easy to set up and get going. Such places might include:
Internet Yellow Pages (IYP): There are tons of these, so go for the bigger ones. To find out which local engines are best for you, try search for service and/or product terms in your city. For example, kundalini yoga Kansas City brought up Yellow Pages, Citysearch and Yahoo Local. Dentists Kansas city, on the other hand, brought up Super Pages, Yelp and Yellow Pages. It might take you years to hit them all; doing a little bit of research ahead of time can save you lots of work!
Vertical Directories: AKA niche directories, verticals give you ample opportunity to display your business listing without needing a site. Thanks to current technologies and social networks, these directories are reaching out to more individuals in more ways.
The problem with vertical directories is that they’re a dime a dozen. As with IYPs, you could spend a lifetime submitting to all of the directories out there and still have some left. –And, more are coming every day. So, how do you find the right ones for you? A post on SearchEngineLand, How To Find the Right Local and Vertical Sites for Your Small Business, goes a long way toward explaining the process.
Classifieds: This may be an online world, but that doesn’t mean the classifieds are out. Don’t forget that there’s an online version for just about anything in a brick and mortar world. Examples of online classifieds, just to get an idea, include Craigslist, Oodle, OnlineClassifieds and more. Be careful of the email you use to post your classifieds, however; a lot of places like these are an open invitation to scammers and spammers.
Moving Into Social
Of course, you can’t leave out social networking. We’ve written tons of articles in the past about using social media for your business. The difference is, you’re not pushing traffic to a website; you’re pushing traffic to your business pages and your brick and mortar place. Because of this, you’ll need to look at other sites we don’t always mention.
Check-in sites, are an excellent example of mingling business savvy with social media. Places like Foursquare, Bright Kite, Loopt, and Gowalla give you the ability to reach out to consumers. Those consumers can reach out to each other, as well as find, talk about, share and visit your business. These multi-phone platforms also allow you to share coupons and deals – and, you can specifically share them with users on these sites for extra incentive to come to your brick and mortar.
Yes, You CAN!
You CAN have an online presence without a website. You really can. In fact, there are enough business listings out there – legitimate, frequently visited ones – that you can do very well with them. The only problem with a non-website online presence is the lack of control. Unless you’re using paid listings, these places can yank your information at any time.
After thinking outside the box for a while, we’re glad to be back in it. We like our website and all it entails – from the amount of time it takes to keep it maintained to the interaction we’re able to have with our readers. If you own a brick and mortar business and don’t have the time or money to keep a site going, we hope the above helps get you started with online marketing. For us, however, we’ll take keep our website and continue building her into her own, warm, friendly, yet somehow bossy, personality!