Independent businesses in the Midlands need a digital strategy to compete in the global economy.

As the internet becomes the dominant way to acquire customers, it’s crucial that independent business owners understand the importance of the internet and take a strategic approach to growing their business online.

One business owner wants to ensure businesses have the right knowledge and skills to succeed.  Susi O’Neill, Director of Nottingham-based Digital Consultant, is an expert in digital strategy and digital marketing, delivering services designed to meet the needs of small and growing businesses.  Through a Business Link funded programme, businesses in the East and West Midlands with 5-249 staff can access up to £1,000 of support towards developing their digital strategy.O’Neill advises: “The facts speak loudly: the internet is doubling in size every five years; by 2010 £39 billion will be spend globally online.  But it’s a crowded marketplace and Midlands businesses are jostling for position against other regions and lower-cost international competitors.

Deciding what to do online confuses many business owners, who understand their market but struggle to keep on top of frequent changes in web technologies, and the cost of implementing web marketing or design can be daunting.  This is where a digital strategist can help: by showing you how your existing website and e-marketing can be improved and what methods and tactics should be used, whilst measuring your return on investment.

Getting your web presence right is critical: bad website design can lose 50% of potential sales but using the right words can direct thousands of prospects to your website for free.  Email marketing is an area many businesses overlook: a successful campaign grows your customer database, consistently trumping all other types of marketing for sales conversion – 63% of people respond to an offer by email.

‘But uptake in online marketing tools by independent business is low: just 2% of UK businesses use Twitter and 6% have blogs ” two powerful ways of reaching customers for free.”

O’Neill believes using social media is vital for independent businesses:”The days of Yellow Pages ads are over: the new ”Generation” graduates are active creators, contributing to discussions on channels like Facebook ” which has a membership including a staggering three in four of all internet users. If Facebook were a country, its population would be the fourth largest in the world.

”Social media for business is about actively engaging in the conversations people are already having online about problems and needs which your business could solve.  It can lead to smart wins and increased customer engagement and retention, reducing the cost of acquisition and leading to better customer satisfaction too ” all crucial ways for independent businesses to beat the recession.”

Sender Name:                    Susi O’Neill

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