Online marketing is vital for small brokers

Online marketing is a vital tool for brokers, especially as it allows small businesses to compete on a level playing field with their larger rivals.

But in talking to smaller brokers, it seems that they don’t always realise that a few simple and inexpensive online marketing techniques could focus their business leads and improve their bottom line.

A good website can make a huge difference. It should include information about what a company does and contact details. The ability to data capture will allow brokers to offer added value to clients by finding out more about their needs.

As smaller brokers are unlikely to have the budget for expensive advertising they will need to rely on search engines to attract customers. Paying for search engine listings can be a sound investment. An advertiser only has to pay when their listing is clicked.

This delivers the hottest leads from an audience that has already expressed an interest, and return on investment is easy to measure. Small businesses will probably not be able to afford the top placings but by targeting niches and selecting creative key words it is possible to grab a piece of the action.

Many websites fail because an essential element is missing. For instance adding an ‘about us’ area to give customers a flavour of the business builds confidence. A ‘contact us’ link on every page manages client support. Testimonials in a ‘what our clients say’ section es-tablishes a reputation and adds credibility.

Publishing a privacy policy lets clients know that they are secure and a guarantee section should spell out a company’s policies.

Finally, if the website has more than a few simple pages, a search feature allows visitors to find the information they need quickly and easily.

Content and presentation will vary according to the nature of a broker’s business. For product-based firms, clickable images with bullet points of features can speed users to the section of interest. Service companies should focus on the benefits they can offer and the features that differentiate them.

Media analysts suggest that by 2010, online sales could reach 60bn – a staggering 20% of all retail sales. Small businesses ignore this opportunity at their peril. Effective communication and the development of meaningful relationships with clients is critical to success. Brokers who use technology to achieve this will thrive.