Make your local business thrive with online marketing
When I started my local piano teaching business, I only had a faint idea of the power of online marketing. The truth is it took me years to understand the importance of marketing – especially online marketing – to running a local business.
The Offline Business Myth
Nowadays I get regular e-mails from teachers and other business-people asking me questions like: “How are you ranked so highly on Google?” – “How do you get so many students?” – “Can you help me improve my website?” and the like.
This wasn’t always the case. When I began teaching, I did the normal things we are all taught to do. I bought business cards, put up flyers, called the local music stores, asked around town for references, you name it. Perhaps this is especially true of music teachers, because we remember how our parents found our teachers long (loooong) ago. I’m not sure.
You know, I can count how many business cards I’ve actually given out to a prospective student on one hand. I guess at least they look nifty. The problem is they weren’t getting me any students.
Lucky for me though, I did one other thing: I started a very mediocre website.
Learning Through Necessity
It soon became apparent that I needed more clients! Not only was I not making enough money to feed myself, but I had just bought a new piano, moved into a larger teaching space, and my car was on the fritz. I needed cash bad.
If it weren’t for that first website, I probably would have thrown in the towel long ago. I’ve heard it said that 8 or 9 out of every 10 small businesses fail – I was about to become one of them!
But I started experimenting . . .
- I had a little bit of money I could use for google ads. I also started making some craigslist posts. I posted on teachers forums (with back links to my website). I even paid for listings in a couple professional directories.
- This was all before Google had the highly developed local business listings it does today, but still, I pulled as much as I could to show up in their local listings.
- I even started learning about how to optimize my site for search engines, which is why my little business shows up in the first two or three listings when you search for piano lessons in Austin.
- I made a blog that linked to my website. I learned the power of making yourself a person online instead of just another site.
- I learned to anticipate what my customers wanted, and market towards the students I want to have.
I learned so much, in fact, that I had to make a separate blog to share it all! (That’s what you’re reading now, by the way.)
So that’s my story in a nutshell. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it more dramatic for you. Now that I’m successful, maybe it would be better that I started out in a van with zero cash – or more entertaining at least.
But I can tell you this: without online marketing my small business would have failed. So that’s my advice to you: learn how to use online marketing to make your small business a success. If I can do it anyone can.
What do you think? Has being online helped your small business? Do you have questions or advice about marketing online or offline?
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