Combing the Internet (with the help of Google News) for items that might work as “Virtual Press Clips,” we’ve been struck by the number of small print firms that still don’t have a presence on the web. What we didn’t understand is that small businesses without web sites are not the exception but the rule, and that as a result, there’s a “great divide” of connectivity between these companies and the consumers who would like to learn more about them. “The Great Divide” is the title of a survey report by WebVisible, a provider of local interactive advertising services, and Nielsen Online, a research arm of The Nielsen Company. Based on an October 2008 survey of 2,159 U.S. Internet users including 261 small business owners, it concludes that despite strong online media usage by all concerned, there is still a considerable difference in how local businesses are found and how these businesses advertise on the web. According to the report, the gap can’t be ascribed to consumers, who generally are happy with their online experience when searching for local businesses: • 66% typically find what they need when searching on the web, though 39% have trouble finding specific businesses when they are not adequately represented on the Web. • 92% of Internet users have researched a product or service online, then purchased offline from a local business at least once. • 71% of consumers feel the local business web sites they visit are good or great. 29% feel they are “fair” to “very bad.” • 82% say search engines were among the many tools they use to find local businesses. But, many if not most small businesses are failing to capitalize on these trends: • Only 44% of small businesses have a web site. • Of those that do have a web site, 61% spend less than three hours a week marketing their web site. • Of small businesses that have a web site, 51% believe both the quality and ability of their site to acquire new customers is only “fair” or “poor.” • 78% of small business owners dedicate 10% or less of their overall budget to marketing efforts. • Half of small business owners spend less than 10% of their marketing budget on Internet advertising, while 30% do no Internet advertising at all. “If an advertiser’s marketing budget were to correspond to consumers reported frequency of media usage,” states the report, “a recommended marketing mix based on a simple weighted average would include a bare minimum of 55% of the budget directed toward Internet advertising.” The recommended mix, based on patterns of media usage by consumers, is search engines (25%), yellow pages directories (17%), local newspaper (16%), internet yellow pages (15%), direct mail (11%), e-mail newsletters (10%), e-mail offers & e-coupons (5%). If your printing business doesn’t have a web site or isn’t marketing itself along these lines, we’d like to know your thoughts. Are you convinced that web sites, etc., just don’t work well as promotional tools? Or, is launching a web site something you haven’t had the time, the budget, or the know-how to do? “The Great Divide” can be downloaded here. Also of interest is WebVisible’s “8 Tips for Successful Online Marketing,” available for free download as well.