When times get tough, the tough get smart. A recent article from the “Independent Street” section of the Wall Street Journal pointed out the trends – online marketing is no longer a second thought for small business owners.

According to the article, hard economic times are forcing more small businesses to become smarter marketers. Is it time to evaluate your marketing strategy and budget for online marketing? Marketing online is no longer a stale and static website, which are dinosaurs in today’s competitive environment. To compete for business, consider the trends and your competitions use of high ROI online tactics.

Kelsey Group, a Princeton, N.J., local search and directory research firm, estimates that the percentage of small and midsize home- and trade-services businesses with websites will increase to 60% by 2010, up from just 33% today.

When the housing market was red-hot there was no incentive for home-services businesses, such as painters, home-repair shops and landscapers, to worry about marketing online; the phone was ringing off the hook. But now many are struggling and need to be more strategic, which means a budget for the use of cost-effective online marketing tools readily available today.

For a complete list of online marketing tools small business owners should consider, please contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction. To name a few:

  • Use a content management system to run your website, as opposed to a static website that is nothing more than a glorified brochure;
  • Focus on local search engine optimization strategies (local SEO);
  • Get your company in the online directory listings (start with the free listings),
  • Consider email marketing as well as online invoicing, and related high ROI strategies.

Small business owners also benefit from paying attention to social networks (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, etc.) as well as reviews on consumer referral sites (Angie’s List, ServiceMagic and a host of others). Certain sites can result in a regular stream of referrals, which are qualified leads coming directly from business colleagues, friends and family members.

[Hat tip to the Greater Richmond Chamber Business Intelligence Report for pointing it out the WSJ article in their current business newsletter.]