(NC) — Today's small businesses face more challenges than ever before. There was a time when a plumber, contractor or auto mechanic would be the go-to resource for nearly everyone in the community. With a handful of local businesses offering similar services, there was limited competition for attention in the yellow pages.
The Internet has created an entirely new competitive world for small businesses. Customers now go online to find services for just about everything, so having a web presence is a must for businesses, big and small. Without the skills or the time to build websites or run an online marketing campaign, small, community-focused business owners can be ambivalent about getting online.
Fortunately, it's easier than ever for small businesses to create a simple, easy-to-maintain online presence. Here are some practical, simple tips to help small business owners get online:
Start a Blog
While a blog might seem like a large undertaking, it can be an easy and affordable place to build an online presence. Sites like Wordpress and Tumblr are free, so there's no cost associated with basic accounts. For time-pressed small business owners, there isn't even any need to maintain a blog with lots of written content. Instead of writing traditional blog articles, try creating short, simple posts about upcoming discounts and deals, or upload pictures of ongoing projects and work well done.
Create a Facebook Page
This page is free, easy to set-up, and a great way to interact with customers. Unlike a blog that needs updating, a Facebook page can easily serve as a small business' only web presence, complete with company address, contact details and service information. Importantly, it can also serve as a basic customer service platform, where customers can ask questions and receive answers. And don't forget, with one billion people on Facebook, people in every community—regardless of size—around the globe are already on the site.
Take Advantage of Online Classifieds
Online classifieds are a great way to connect with customers. Sites like Kijiji.ca host free local ads, so skilled tradespeople and business owners can offer services in nearby communities. With community listings in more than 100 cities and towns across Canada, more and more businesses are turning to Kijiji's Services section to advertise online.
Scott Neil is the head of vertical business at Kijiji Canada. He is responsible for the strategy, operations and development of vertical businesses at the company, including Kijiji Autos.