Small Business Online Marketing – 5 Guiding Principles

Online marketing isn’t for the wishy-washy. There’s a fairly significant learning curve to many aspects of it. To make matters worse, the online ecosystem changes just about every week. And in 2010, you have to harness its potential for your business to thrive.

You probably don’t have time to make that happen by yourself.

Now that you are properly broken down, allow me to build you back up with some nuggets of hope. Here are five guiding principles that will bring clarity to your online marketing and empower you to effective action:

Be a human being.

It’s been said countless times – “People don’t buy from businesses, they buy from other people.” One of the great benefits of online marketing is that when your company gets talked about, you can be a part of the conversation.

Everybody slips up sometime. Try as you might, your company is going to drop the ball here and there, but most people will be forgiving when you remove the company façade and talk with them as a person.

This used to be an impossibly inefficient task, but search and social media tools (most of which are free) make it simple and easy to have a human conversation with your customers.

It’s easy to hate a faceless company that didn’t deliver my daughter’s birthday present on time. It’s much harder to stay mad when a human being responds to my angry email, forum/blog post, or tweet, then goes out of their way to restore my confidence and compensate me for my negative experience. This didn’t actually happen (recently, anyway). Just sayin’.


Right in line with the above, part of presenting an authentic human quality to your customers is first giving them the chance to communicate with you and to others about your company.

I cringe every time I see a Twitter feed with line after line of “Blog Post: We’re awesome because…”

The Internet is not intended to be your personal megaphone. At least, if you use it that way you can expect to be ignored or reviled.

Instead, recognize that your target market and customers use the Internet as THEIR personal megaphone and they have important things to tell you. You’ll learn a lot about how your company and products are perceived, and it will be more candid information than you’ll get from a focus group.

Focus on delivering value.

As you approach your online marketing strategy, let your first question NOT be, “How can we make more money from this?” Even though this is the overarching goal of your online marketing efforts, you have to unglue the dollar signs from your retinas if you want to be successful.

Success online comes when you focus on delivering value to your current and potential customers. Don’t wait until they buy from you to provide the added benefits, figure out what information/sample/trial/experience you can provide that would motivate people to then buy from you. Do that. Paul McCartney, one of the greatest rock…er, living legends, gets it:

Put your customers before yourself.

It’s the Internet Age. That means your customers hold pretty much all of the power. What does this mean for your business?

First, it means that when problems arise with customers, you can’t dig in your heels. You must give your customers the benefit of the doubt, even if you suspect that you are not in the wrong.

There will be the bad apples that take unfair advantage of their position of power, exploit your return policy, etc. In most instances, you’ll be better off giving in to keep people happy. It’s the difference between a brand-crippling Internet firestorm and a brand-boosting viral wave of sugar and rainbows.

Be honest.

One of the mixed blessings of the Internet is drastically reduced barriers to entry for micro-businesses and small business. Consequently, the marketplace is flooded with low-value, flash-in-the-pan enterprises grabbing cash from less-informed consumers.

Want to know how you can rise above that morass and prosper long-term?

  • Be honest and transparent.
  • Be clear about what you offer.
  • Be clear about what you don’t offer.
  • Don’t inflate your promises beyond your ability to deliver in full.

If you over-promise, bait and switch, or misrepresent your value in the slightest bit, you’ll win some sales. You’ll also turn people against you and fuel negative word-of-mouth that spreads exponentially faster online that it does person-to-person.

Conversely, when you deliver exactly what you promised to a customer, that satisfaction forges loyalty and creates fans instead of just customers. Do this consistently, and your customers will start doing a lot of your Internet marketing for you.



Great thoughts! Someone once told me another one–‘be present.’ When you’re interacting with the customer, give him your full attention and be present in the conversation/sale.

Charles Yan

Well said. Because of the online nature, words can spread very fast in the internet. It is very important to be honest and focus on deliver value to the business and to the customers.


Great stuff man! Local internet marketing is really something that is way interesting. It’s cool that you can use the internet in so many ways now to get more business to your small business. cool cool stuff

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