Small Business Professor: E-tools can help with marketing

Dear Professor Bruce: As a small business owner, I know there are many new online marketing tools out there. I read about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging and the like, but I’m not sure which are right for my business. Plus, I don’t have the time to invest all my energies into new efforts when I’m trying to run a business. Can you tell me what tools might work best for me?

Answer: Here is the good news — e-marketing has leveled the playing field. No matter the size of your business, you have access to the same set of e-tools and techniques as the largest players out there — which is a complete game changer. It is no longer the biggest companies, with the biggest budgets, who get heard. It is the smart companies.

Setting up conduits between communities, users and customers is of paramount importance as businesses try to reach their key audiences. The good news is the right e-marketing toolkit to develop these conduits can be assembled for little to no cost. There are service providers out there who can get you started on each of the five essential tools. These tools are the answer to your question and they won’t cost you too much time, money or effort.

These tools are professional e-mail marketing, company Web sites, community toolbars, blogs and social media. In this case, social media includes everything from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook. But of particular note is the Web site. The Web site acts as a storefront and all the other channels support that “headquarters.” Community toolbars are particularly effective at enabling access to the new storefront. Community toolbars sit in the browser and travel with a user wherever he or she may go. Anything that is on the Web site can be put into the toolbar, placing the best of a company’s offering right at your fingertips.

According to Adam Boyden, president of Conduit, “each of these essential distribution tools can be deployed effectively, and they work in tandem together to create a cohesive marketing strategy that pulls in the broadest and most appropriate audiences.”

Bruce Freeman, the Small Business Professor, is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, N.J., and author of “Birthing the Elephant.” E-mail questions to

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