FORTUNE Small Business:

How do we reach our target market?

FSB helps a business owner connect with customers through search engine optimization and other web strategies.

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Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: We have a website ( that is designed to help retail and wholesale business owners reduce or liquidate excess merchandise. Although our traffic has been growing of late, we haven't been able to target likely customers as precisely as we would wish. Any suggestions?

- Paul Santino, Fort Pierce, Fla.

Dear Paul: Start by taking a hard look at your website, suggests William Rice, President of the Web Marketing Association. "Optimize your web pages so they're search engine-friendly," says Rice. "Make sure they don't have a lot of Flash animation, which blocks search engines."

"Another easy way to reach your specific audience is by key word advertising through companies like Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) and Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500)," Rice adds.

You can also hire a company to build you an email list of potential customers, just as they would build lists of physical addresses for direct mail pieces. "Be sure to buy the list from a trusted source," says Rice. "Make sure that the lists are opt-in, or double opt-in, meaning that the people on the list really want to hear from you. Spamming people can really put your brand in jeopardy."

There are other options. "Look into purchasing banner ads on websites within your targeted industries," says Marla Schrager, Executive Director of the Business Marketing Association of Chicago, the largest chapter of the national Business Marketing Association.

One of the biggest mistakes small companies make with their web marketing is "not having analytics on each page of their site so you know where every user is coming from, what's driving traffic and what's converting into sales," says Rice. "You can do this by installing a very simple program."

"eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) might be your silver bullet," adds Gary Slack of Slack Barshinger, an integrated marketing communications agency with a specialty in b2b clients. "Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people earn their livelihoods selling wholesale lots on eBay," says Slack. "Their biggest challenge is finding stuff to sell. You could reach them by advertising on, the business-to-business portal of eBay. It could work like magic." To top of page

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