How The Internet Can Benefit our Towns and Businesses

The University of Minnesota Extension Service was in Northfield earlier this week to talk about the importance of the Internet and social media for small towns and businesses. For retailers, the Internet provides an opportunity to reach new customers and generate global interest. For towns, ensuring that businesses have a strong online presence creates an image of vibrancy. With so many people relying on tools like Google Maps for directions, it’s important that local downtowns and main streets look as lively online as they do in real life. From the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation:

According to Muessig, 80% of people use the internet to research purchases.  While 42% of businesses have a website, 33% of these are essentially unusable; they are static pages without basic contact information.  Bad websites fail quickly, research indicates that your website has 45 seconds or fewer to secure the potential customers’ interest.

Among Minnesota tourism attractions, only 59% are on the web, yet potential visitors are increasingly using their computers, and their smart phones, to make travel and entertainment decisions.  Muessig stressed the importance of communities having a single web portal that leads to all of the community’s offerings and options.

Muessig noted that residential and commercial location decisions are also increasingly made based on the community’s quality of life, package of amenities, and internet connectivity.  What the community communicates about itself, on the internet, can greatly contribute to its economic success.  Muessig reminded the group that most economic growth comes from existing businesses and so supporting these businesses must be a priority.

When thinking about your internet-based marketing plans, Muessig suggested studying your competitors.  However, the first priority, he advised, is getting your business on the Google Places map.


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