The limitless opportunities of marketing online


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Today's nimble small business owner has a special advantage. Thanks to the Internet, entrepreneurs have a unique ability to learn new ideas and immediately apply them to their companies. Here are four Internet trends that small businesses can leverage to their advantage.

e-commerce is booming

According to the latest Internet World Stats, 78 percent of Americans use the Internet. IT facts reports that the average American spends nearly 33 hours online every week. But most Internet users aren't just surfing the Net. Almost 60 percent of Americans watch TV and surf at the same time. This means that if you have a project or idea to sell, the Internet is a prime marketplace for distribution.

It also means that a strategic marketing mix is essential to reaching prospective customers.

e-marketing trumps traditional marketing

Many savvy small business owners are moving marketing online and realizing extraordinary success. Consider that small business advertising is a backbone of Google. The medium has been a boon to small business owners who pay only for qualified leads or clicks. The upshot is that e-marketing tools can quickly connect and help build relationships while saving precious marketing dollars.

Consider this compelling statistic about email marketing: EmailMarketingReports.com shared in November 2011 that the Direct Marketing Association puts email marketing's ROI for 2011 at nearly $44 for every one dollar invested.

The new consumer face

Today's 85 million baby boomers and 50 million Gen Xers are giving way to the Gen Y group -- the boomers' 76 million kids who are sophisticated, computer savvy and independently minded.

The Pew Research Center survey cited above also found that 90 percent of Americans 18-30 are Internet users.

According to a 2010 article in the Washington Post that referenced a Census Bureau report, Hispanics accounted for about half the growth in the U.S. population since 2000. Half of this market is comprised of young Hispanics under the age of 27, making this another Internet-savvy group. It is estimated that number of Hispanic Internet users will surpass 29 million users by 2012.

Social media make everything personal

Facebook and Twitter provide personal paths for businesses to engage directly with their customers and make a brand more approachable. A business can create buzz through online events, videos, tweets or blog entries that attract attention on a one-on-one basis.

When engaged effectively, social media can drive brand awareness, grow a customer base and increase website traffic. Over time, these supporters can become advocates for your business.

Now is the time to incorporate new marketing strategies, tactics, and ideas. New online tools, when paired with the courage to try something new, provide limitless opportunities to grow your business.

Peter Marsh is vice president of business services for Comcast's greater Boston region.

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