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updated: 9/10/2012 7:07 AM

Who's your best sales rep? Probably Google

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Google may well be your best salesperson. The ubiquitous search engine's job, says John Fox, is to get people to your website, which means, he adds, that it's your job to "develop an online presence so Google can send you the business."

Fox can help. President of Venture Marketing, Naperville, he is a veteran marketing adviser to small and mid-size businesses. Fox isn't a typical marketing consultant, however:

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• Fox's www.freeseoscorecard.com, for example, is a useful DIY primer on search engine optimization -- and a way to test your website's SEO attributes.

His latest book, "The Marketing Director is THE Hope of Small Business," seems to speak to our discussion, but that's hard to tell. Fox is writing and releasing the book chapter by chapter on The Huffington Post, the online news and commentary aggregator that is part of AOL Inc.

• Venture Marketing is a B2B consulting business, although the web concepts Fox discusses fit any type of business.

• Venture Marketing's focus is developing partner channels -- the distributors, independent reps, resellers and others that, the firm says, can work for you when your business can't afford a full-time sales staff.

Fox may not fit the marketing adviser cliché, but it nonetheless might be a good idea to pay attention when he discusses small business websites:

• Your website must have some relation to what people -- most often using Google -- are searching for, what they want and need. According to Fox's free SEO site, more than 90 percent of potential product research is done online -- not at the store, on the phone or through a brochure.

Your site "must be more than a brochure," Fox says. "You should get people involved."

The involvement could be a purchase directly from your site. It could be contact information that allows you to connect with a prospect who has searched for a product or service and found you.

Or the involvement could involve a calculator that allows site visitors to determine the value of the product you're selling.

• Don't worry about site content. Most business owners have "all the (web) content they need," Fox says. "The problem is that it's trapped between their ears. Look on your hard drive.

Do an archaeological dig" that will turn up the information you need to get your message out to the people you want.

• Not every small business needs a website. In fact, Fox says, about half of small businesses don't have one. Depending on the business, not having a website may be OK.

"An attorney with specific skills" who sells his capabilities to four other (law) firms probably doesn't need a website to increase business, Fox says. "Anybody who works by reputation may not need a website," he adds.

The rest of us, however, need our websites -- and Google.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com. © 2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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