It's no secret that the trend of advertising spend is moving to the internet (as struggling newspapers and commercial TV stations are well aware). This isn't to say that offline marketing doesn't work, but moving marketing to the internet is about more than just following the audience. Web marketing has several advantages which especially favour the small business.
Timing. When someone searches for your product or service and clicks on a free or paid link on a search engine, you are in the unique and powerful position of presenting your business at exactly the point someone is looking for it. Most advertising is a numbers game, where only a tiny portion of readers or viewers are actually interested in what they see, but with search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising, everyone is interested.
Information. Probably the most important marketing tool because it tells you what's working and what's not. Email marketing tools can tell you who's read your email, when they opened it, and even what links they clicked. Google Analytics tells you how your web visitor found you and what actions they've taken. You can decide how to spend your money, and importantly for small businesses, you can start with a low budget and only increase when you know it's working.
More "touches". Successful marketing means contacting your customer a number of times, so they'll remember you when they need your product or service. Online marketing is incredibly integrated and allows you to communicate with the right group of people. When someone visits your website, they can also sign up to your email newsletter, connect to your social media accounts or subscribe to your blog updates. All of which allow you to keep in touch.
It's real. Done right, online marketing and especially the use of social media gives potential customers a real view of the people and personality of your business. This kind of online marketing is about communicating with people who could become your customers, giving them free information and resources if you can, and being there when they want to buy.