Q I am looking to target small businesses with an easy-to-use Web design service in which they can edit the pages themselves, get a great design and benefit from world-class hosting. Where do you go to find small business customers and how do you reach them? Social media might be the wrong method.
A You are asking for a way to target and communicate with small business owners and to host their Web pages, and expense seems to be an issue. There are several ways to reach small businesses at little or no cost, but each of them requires an effort on your part. Names and addresses of small businesses are easy to obtain, but e-mail addresses are more difficult.
You can, at little cost, make use of local reference libraries. Dun and Bradstreet has several published lists of business, and the James J. Hill Library is a local reference library of national stature that can offer help in addition to other reference libraries at local universities. In local libraries, the reference work ReferenceUSA shows the line of business and employee count, and can be accessed at no cost.
An online reference of similar scope is DataUSA. There is a cost for the names, but they are machine-readable, saving the tedium of copying.
Another option available is calling local chambers of commerce for membership lists. These are geographically targeted, free and rich in small businesses.
An excellent option, if you have a small budget, would be to call a list broker. List brokers, found in the Yellow Pages, can access thousands of lists of businesses and can provide a wealth of information and consulting about how best to proceed.
I presume that your task is to get prospects to visit your website and, if they are interested, follow up with you. You might consider an initial mailing with a request that interested businesses visit your site or call you to discuss their needs. Once they have qualified themselves, you have an indication of the level of effort you might profitably put forth.
PROFESSOR OF MARKETING
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS
OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS