When I talk to many small business owners about the Internet and ways to use it to grow their business, I often encounter this response, “That’s just for people trying to sell stuff to people all over the world,” or “I tried that and it didn’t work for me.”

Whenever I hear that type of talk from small business owners, I cringe.

Let me get to the point. You must be on the Internet. You must find ways to use Internet-based tools such as email to enhance your marketing efforts.

Most of the Internet resistance that small business owners harbor stems from a couple of places. First of all, they may have bought into the initial Internet hype that made it sound as though any business could set up a web site and start raking in cash.

The other perception that keeps businesses off of the net is the belief that since they are only trying to do business in their community, or maybe even in their tiny little neighborhood, the Internet and Internet-based tools have nothing to offer.

Let me say it again: “You can use the World Wide Web even if your market is the Guy Next Door.” The cost of developing a web site and web hosting have become so inexpensive, there is no excuse to pass on this form of marketing.

The first thing you must understand is how most people use the web. While there are some folks who fire up their computer to go shopping, most people use the Internet as a tool to gather information. Now, they may use that information to make a purchase decision, but first they will gather.

So it stands to reason that as increasing numbers of people turn to their computers for research purposes, the businesses that are ready and waiting to provide that information stand to gain over those who fail to meet this need.

I know many people, myself included, who use the Internet like a giant phone book. It is easier for me to locate a local business or service with a few clicks than to plow through a phone book.

As regional web directories and search portals grow in popularity, gaining listings in them will be more important than a Yellow Page listing.

Most businesses should look at their web sites as a way to provide information and customer service first, and as a way to generate leads and perhaps sales second.

A web site also allows you to enhance your advertising efforts by placing free detailed information, reports, and beneficial content in a place where anyone can retrieve it. The web lets even the local neighborhood store deliver information on things such as special offerings, coupons, and client previews.

Smart marketers will use a web site to get customer feedback. A web site is a great place to store all of your company’s printed sales and technical literature.

The ways to use a web site in your business are endless.

A web site is not the end-all of marketing; it is simply another very powerful marketing tool. To ignore it is to limit the ways in which a client or potential client can build a relationship with your firm…and that would be a costly mistake.