Gini Dietrich

Using the Internet for Business Growth

By: Gini Dietrich | June 14, 2010 | 

This article originally appeared in Franchise Times, a monthly publication focused on the start-up, growth, and sustainability of franchises in North America.

A couple of months ago, I moderated a panel on social media for the Public Relations Society of America Chicago. Along with some local big hitters, Jack Monson from eNR Services was on the panel. I tell you this because eNR plays in the small and local business industries and we had a conversation about using the Internet for business growth.

As the moderator, I had the privilege of asking the questions and taking the conversation where I wanted it to go. So I relayed some stats from a survey that Citibank did about social media use among small business owners (thanks to Jason Falls for blogging about the survey initially).The survey found that:

• 81 percent of small businesses surveyed are not using social media;

• 37 percent are not using their websites to expand their businesses;

• 84 percent don’t sell their products or services online; and

• 65 percent do not use online advertising.

I posed the question, “As PR professionals, what kind of opportunity do we have to help small businesses understand how using the web can help them grow their companies?”

What I found interesting was the variety in responses. One panelist said his PR firm doesn’t work with small businesses so he couldn’t answer the question; another said he felt like the web was too overwhelming for small business owners. I completely disagree with this … and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

And then Jack piped in and said that not only can small businesses use the web to grow their companies, they can use it to localize their messages and get involved in their communities at a different level than ever before. I agree.

The opportunity you have before you is huge. Ever heard of David and Goliath? You suddenly can compete with a great, big global competition because:

• You are using social media to build a community of people who care about your brand, your products, or your services and they tell their friends and family.

• You are creating one-off products that allow people to buy from you online.

• You are developing a robust e-mail database to whom you can market.

• You are using search engine and social media optimization to attract new customers.

And, because most of the tools are free, the opportunity costs are so minimal it doesn’t make sense for you not to be changing the way you communicate, market, and sell.

Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? So Jack and I ask you, what is one thing you are going to do to use the Internet for business growth?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Good post Gini! Now we need to “take it to the streets.” LoL

  • I really like a post which has data to back up the points. This was an excellent pieces.

    I think that one reason people with small business don’t leverage the power of the internet and social media, is that they don’t know where to begin.

    Once this fear sets in, the next logical step is to create a list of reasons why it isn’t for them, thus helping asuage their fears, and justify their inaction.

    Jeff Bezos was told by a group of ventur capitalists that nobody would ever use their credit card on the internet and so his idea for an online book store wasn’t of interest to them.

    We live in Social Media, so it is hard to imagine people who don’t get it, or worse, are still afraid of the internet. But one must remember, that there are early adopters, the masses who come later, and then the stragglers. I would guess that for Social Media and small business, we are still in the early adopter phase.

    But I may be wrong…what do I know…I am up reading blogs at 2:39 am, when I should be sleeping.

  • If I were less tired, I would have spelled venture with an ‘e’, and mentioned that Jeff Bezos founded So I left out the punchline on my previous post, and exposed my horrible spelling. Off to bed.

  • @Gini, This is awesome!

    One of the things I find small businesses struggle with is the entry costs to working with an agency. If they don’t have a designer, someone to tweak their SEO, they often struggle to get going.

    If you’re a small business reading this (and I hope you are!) I would suggest you attend a training day in your area or hire a bonafide online marketer for a short training session to bring you up to scratch with what you need to know.

    Start small, learn about how to get started, and then grow.

    A blog is my preferred starting point for small business clients because it gets you noticed quicker by Google. Twitter is great for 1×1 contacts but it’s hard to be followed by people unless you’ve got a website of your own to back up your business.

  • Gini Dietrich

    Brian, LOL! Even with your misspelled word, you made your point. And a good one at that.

    Steve, take it to your new adventure!

    Jon, you are 150% correct! When I speak, I tell business leaders to choose one platform (after they’re sure that’s where their audience already is participating) and go from there. Usually, with blogging, they see an instant return so it’s easy to convince them they need to take step two. Heck, that’s how I started!

  • Agree with you completely. Have lived all over the world for 22 years. Am now spending some time at home in Sweden. A university student called the marketing departments of Swedish companies and 9 out of 10 said they don’t use social media.

    And worse, new staff are told not to do so.