A few days ago a young insurance producer from a small town in Midwest Ohio left a very powerful comment / question on Part Two of my Why Small Business Needs a Business Blog post. As soon as I read his comment I knew that my response would have to become a blog post. Small town businesses throughout the US are beginning to consider online marketing as a legitimate tool for building a larger customer base.
But they’re nervous… Maybe nervous isn’t the right word… These small town businesses are uneasy or better put they lack confidence the time spent online will yield the results they seek (I know there are some small town businesses killing it online but this statement is true in more cases than not).
Here is the comment by my new friend:
“Ryan: I’m a new, young producer in Midwest Ohio. I’ve been following some of your stuff for about 6 months now. This post is scratching my itch to FINALLY get something (namely, a blog) going with the whole social media thing. My only questions is this. You’re an NY guy; I’m in small town Ohio. Do you think that there’s just as much of a need for blogging-type activity in small businesses set in rural America? In other words, if I set sail on the S.S. Social Media, would it amount to a small-town agent pretending he was a urban agent?”
So question has been thrown out:
Is there a need for blogging and social media in small town America?
My opinion is that small town businesses have a GREATER NEED for blogging and social media than urban businesses and here is why:
1) Your competitors are certainly NOT blogging
Can you say Competitive Advantage? This is probably the only reason you should need to start blogging. I don’t care how rural your town is consumers of your product or service are going online to find solutions to their problem.
The question you must ask yourself is do you want to be the one supplying that solution or would you prefer your competitor down the street? There is a decent chance that if you start blogging about your business today, you will be the only business in your industry in your town producing content that your potential customers want to read.
There is a lot of value to being an early adopter.
2) Google loves local
I mentioned this in my SEO experiment, “Google Search is about providing solutions to problems.”
If someone in small town Midwest Ohio types “Should I drop collision coverage?” into Google Search, Google prefers the results to be as relevant as possible to that person. So what does relevant mean?
Google would prefer (notice I use the word prefer) the top result is a webpage with the specific answer to the question from a business in the same geographic locale as the searcher. Now I know this extremely simplified but the premise is solid.
Google wants to connect your business with consumers in your geographic area.
3) Your online presence does not have to cost $10,000 to be powerful
Gone are the days that you needed a second mortgage to pay for a new website. My insurance agency’s website (The Murray Group) runs on WordPress. We had a little bit of design and coding work done but in round numbers the entire cost to go from zero to completely functional was less than $2,000.
You don’t need professionally done movies and flash video and don’t need some expensive content management system for your blog posts. If you wanted to have a blog tomorrow it would cost you ~$120 (which is hosting).
The potential customers of your product or service want solutions… They want personality… They want to know that you are going to get them exactly what they need and look out for their best interest. They could give a rats ass about a $10,000 HTML website with flash video and god knows what else.
The expense, time and effort barriers to creating an online presence no longer exist.
BONUS REASON – Online presence is the fastest way to expand market footprint
You’ve always been a small town business, but that doesn’t mean you always HAVE to be a small town business. Before the Internet, expanding your geographic footprint meant adding new salespeople, purchasing property in adjacent towns and increasing your marketing budget to gain traction in new locations.
Today, all you need is a blog and desire. Because Google loves local you can easily expand your business presence by creating content that provides solutions to the people in whatever town you want to do business in.
Expansion is no longer hindered by the physical restrictions of creating a new location.
My new friend put it perfectly in his follow-up comment, “I suppose it could be argued that successful online networking may be the surest way to “localize” much of the business that seems so far out of reach.”
Read that statement a couple times and let it marinate… Let the power of what he said sink in.
The solution to online success in small town America is no different than the big city, deliver value first… Use the power of personality… and ASK for the business.
What suggestions would you give to small town businesses trying to succeed online?
I am Ryan Hanley