Internet Marketing is Back to the Future for Small Local Business

by Joanne Steele on October 11, 2011

back to the future

Back to the future!

There is a good reason that so many small local business owners are coming late to the internet. It isn’t just about broadband access problems, and it also isn’t just about time.

Small local business owners are coming late to the internet because of lack of trust.

Let me summarize where this insight has come from and then dig into why I’m working so hard to connect small local business owners and the internet. HINT: small local business owners live the future of internet marketing everyday.

I just finished watching a video of an interview with Brian Solus of PR2.0 and John Battelle, co-founder of Wired, Founder of Federated Media about our digital society in the next 30 years.

The twenty minute interview provides a thoughtful description of where the web is now and where it hopefully will move to in the next 30 years.

Battelle describes the past 10 years on the web as a refinement of finding a signal in all the noise on the web through search being distilled down to keywords.

He reminds us that we have gotten where we are on the web in only 10 years.

He then shares his hope and vision for the future as a place where we each have control of our own personal online operating system rather than having to rely on the Facebooks and Googles.

With that personal operating system, we would be able to seamlessly reveal ourselves or not, just as we do in our daily lives.

He talks about the dissatisfying feeling now, of having some brand or platform determining our online identity based on the scraps of information we purposely or accidentally disclose.

Why small local businesses are living the future of the web everyday.

We  “optimize” our personal, face to face relationships with our customers based in meaning rather than keywords.

John at his store in Goldendale WA has a bigger selection of suspenders than Walmart, because he knows that is what his customers depend on him for.

Nick at Thriftway Grocery in Dunsmuir extends credit to the guy down the street whose bank account is empty and credit card maxed, because he knows the guy’s story personally and understands that his kids won’t eat without that credit.

Michael and Kathy at the Commodore Hotel in Linden, TN keep their restaurant open for as few as two or three hotel guests on nights where the closest open restaurant is in the next town, because it’s the right thing to do.

John Battelle talks in the interview about the future being about optimizing on the internet for meaning.

That is what small local businesses do every single day. You optimize for meaning.  Your business represents a great deal more to you than a way to make money.

Now, in my efforts to drag you kicking and screaming onto the internet, I talk about marketing to your Perfect Customer.

I suggest that if you look deeply at the people you serve, they fall into one, two or maybe three Perfect Customer types.

This is hard for small local business owners because you see each customer as a unique identity. You “optimize for meaning.” But the web isn’t there yet.

You are used to being “customer driven.” If your customers want suspenders, you stock suspenders. If they prefer vegan lunches on their guided adventure, you serve vegan.

Right now, being customer driven means getting on the web and using the internet tools available to you to reach the people who are your customer.

Focusing on the generalities of a Perfect Customer Profile will help you make that first connection.

Now, in the early internet age, it’s is the first and most vital step to getting a customer’s attention. Then you can build that personal, face to face authentic relationship that is the hallmark of small town life.

Internet marketing is far from perfect, but it is the only way back to the future.

Photo on Flickr by Rob and Stephanie Levy



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