Small Business? New Study ID’s Your Problem

By Michael Stelzner

The vast majority of small business owners have a real problem; finding new business. Or so claims a new study.

“A majority of small-business owners (59.1%) said generating and retaining customers is the toughest marketing challenge they face,” according to a study performed by the Yellow Pages Association and published in B2B Magazine. (Yes, some people STILL use the yellow pages).

There is one solution that small businesses can employ.

Try giving away a white paper and advertising it on the Internet (rather than in the Yellow Pages).

For example, if you sell garden tools, you could put a white paper together that talks about how to keep your grass green year round.  This will draw interest to your company and ultimately convert some of those folks into customers that purchase your unique grass-related products.

While it’s most likely true that small businesses that advertise in the Yellow Pages are very local and regional, this strategy works best for small businesses that sell products without a geographical limitation.

Are you a small business?  Have you been struggling to find new opportunity? Are you using white papers with success?  Chime in.

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  • J.D. Meier

    That brings up a good point … *where* on the Internet would you put your awesome white paper?

    Unless you’re already established or have a great flow of traffic and rank or a friend with traffic and rank, how would you spread your white paper like wild fire?

    J.D. Meier’s last blog post..Lessons Learned from Santa

  • Michael Stelzner

    JD – You put the paper on your website and pick up traffic by purchasing Google Pay-per-click ads. Works like a charm! – Mike

  • Erik | Taylor

    You could also indicate in your offline advertising that you’re offering a white paper for free on your site. Bring the two worlds together, especially if you’re already doing offline advertising anyway (business cards, yellow pages ads, that sort of thing).

    Erik | Taylor’s last blog post..Taylor Vaifanua

  • Stephen Abbott

    And don’t forget to mention it on Twitter, your blog and facebook and on other social networking sites, linking back to your Website.

    The White Paper sounds like an invaluable tool. Thanks, Mike for this great Website!

  • Mike Dalton


    You suggest Google PPC as a vehicle that works wonders to get people signed up for your whitepaper. While nearly everyone uses the web, PPC only works if your audience uses the web to search for material on your topic. If you sell to an executive client (CEOs, CFO’s etc) this is a very low percentage approach. In this case, you have to find another way to get your message in front them. I’ve seen suggestions that direct mail may work or trade journal e-newsletters. Do you have any other suggetsions?

  • Owen

    A free white paper is a great attention getter. However acquiring and retaining clients/customers requires much more attention to the details of good marketing.

    1. Check to see if you have something to sell that is wanted, needed, desired and craved.
    2. Determine who wants, needs, desires and craves your product or service now and/or in the future.
    3. Find out why it is wanted, needed, desired and craved.
    4. Focus on whether you are in a vibrant, growing, dying or dead business to determine if you need customers, an new strategy or are just wasting time and money.
    5. Develop a new focus and strategy to build synergistically on a solid foundation or repair/replace your foundation with a new look and a dynamic customer centric paradigm. This is not easy but it beats liquidation or tossing good money at a bad proposition in lean times.

    CEO – THE-Group

  • Jacques Seoman

    That is if you have a website! It is actually sickening when one realises how many small businesses haven’t got an effective web presence! Granted that my local market is South Africa, and we do lag behind more “developed” countries. What about the United States? Any idea as to what percentage of small businesses are online? Followed by what percentage of the online businesses have an effective online presence.

  • KS

    You have a typo – fourth paragraph – “while paper”…..

  • Michael Stelzner

    Thanks KS!

  • Robin

    The use of “article submission” services to write articles of interest to clients has helped increase my sales through my sites eg, where I sell my ebooks and affiliate products and advertise my consulting services.

    Places like, which is free allows users to submit articles that are read by hundreds or hundreds of thousands of people. I have over 80 articles (not all business related) and have had almost 300,000 readers. Each article has my details and link at the bottom. Take a look at

    Monthly facts sheets eg, as Michael suggests, about areas of interest to your specific client group can also be winners. They show your expertise, help your clients who perceive you as giving something back, and they keep you at top of mind when people think of their next purchase.

    An additional opportunity is viral marketing media. You write an ebook or report about “Gardens that Attract Native Birds” and give it away free. People pass it to others, like a virus and inside it has your advertisements, links to your site or your business address and so on.

    These strategies have all been remarkably good for me and if you choose the right mix for your business, they will be good for you too.

    Robin Henry
    Desert Wave Enterprises, Central Australia

  • Mary Lee Barton

    But what about small businesses that cater just to local customers? We live in a small town in northern CA that has a number of downtown businesses. that could use some advice on recruiting and retaining customers. How do these folks grow their business if they don’t think they need an Internet presence? (I do like the idea of monthly newsletters.) A second question is–how do you tell them they NEED help? Many of these people are born and raised here, and they think they don’t need management training.

  • Owen

    Small businesses in small towns, are like acorns. With nurturing they can grow into giant oak trees! In the 60′s we used to talent scout local businesses as potential candidates for growth through franchising. In packaging franchises we would take a hard look at local businesses throughout the country that stood out head and shoulders above the typical “skin of your teeth” operations that characterize local operating businesses. At least one business stands out in almost every town as having a good reputation among the local clientèle. Their AD’s, charity profile and PR is right on target and customers think of them as the first place to go for —, because of the value and customer relationship that is well known locally and in neighboring towns.

    It is all about brand identification as the place to go. Free and valuable white papers can be easily identified in newspaper articles by referencing a web site that is designed to act as a brochure or convenient on-line store. Done well this adds to prestige and the delivery of a better consumer experience.

    I advise my local business clients to open a strategic Internet presence for attracting new and keeping in touch with existing clients or customers in both the local area and within their regional market area. Most all local businesses can use a marketing makeover to take full advantage of the economic downturn. Those that don’t make critical adjustments could easily face those dreaded GOING OUT OF BUSINESS signs on their front doors. It is a great market for great white paper writers who can focus on delivering the paradigm that consumers need now and can use today to survive and take advantage of the current economic climate.


  • Mary Lee Barton

    Thanks, Owen. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I teach Communication in Business at the local university, and my students will definitely benefit from your suggestions. Last semester I asked them to write a modified white paper, and despite the excellent instruction ;-) which I based on Michael’s book, the results were less than stunning. This semester I’m asking them to choose a local business or nonprofit, study their marketing and communication strategy, and make some recommendations about how these might be improved. Your input will be very helpful.

  • Titan Koffer

    i am still thinking of a way to put white paper on my website. hopefully, it will get to pick up traffic as what michael have suggested. I am still getting more helpful tips from this site.

  • Robin


    Convert your white paper to an Adobe PDF file and upload it to your web site. Then people can download it. If you need to know more, email me at emujoe AT and I’ll help out.


  • Kim

    Before you get into marketing products online I think its important that your prepared to keep a close look at the numbers. There is a fine point where using PPC (pay per click) methods become pointless. You do get the advantage of targeting very specific audiences for your niche buy you got to find the right plan to get the best ROI.

    Kim’s last blog post..keep wasting your time on linkedIn.. it makes business a lot easier for me

  • Carla Alvarez

    The best thing for my business overall has just been to keep active, and that includes publishing information, newsletters, networking, contacts, etc. It all works together.

    How do these folks grow their business if they don’t think they need an Internet presence?

    Every business needs an internet presence. Even if you just serve local customers, how do the majority of people find their service providers . . . the internet.

  • Robinoz


    It’s true, every business, if it’s serious needs an Internet presence. It need not be more than a single page with contact details and a description of what the business does (benefits to customers).

    It’s a bit like working for a huge recruitment firm and having a email address … it’s all about credibility. And after all, you can set up a domain name with domain name email addresses, and Internet site, hosting and more for $10 per month (peanuts) at places like and many others.

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