For 15 years I was a multi-store owner for wedding services and invitations. When I joined Encore in 1996 after already doing marketing seminars for the industry and having written a book on marketing for the wedding industry; I felt like a teacher ready to impart knowledge to my “students,” the dealers.

So much has changed in the last 12 years and some of my “students” were actually my teachers. I came to realize that I did so many things wrong as a retailer and strengthened my knowledge by listening.

I realize that I need to go back to school and learn as much about the internet as my 50 year old brain can tolerate. This week I attended a seminar by Network Solutions on Search Engine Optimization. The speaker was engaging but overwhelmed me with implementable information that I have to digest slowly. The unbelievable thing about the web is that you can be a company that provides the services you speak about and tell your audience everything they need to do and how to do it with no worries that anyone will actually do it. It is just too detailed and time consuming for the vast majority of retailers to act on.

I am thoroughly convinced that in our industry online marketing is going to be the only meaningful way to bring customers into your store besides word of mouth, networking and some target advertising in bridal magazines. The yellow pages, newspaper, and other print methods will continue to provide diminishing returns. Print cannot compete with the informational and visual experience a bride looking for wedding invitations can receive researching online.

Almost every business has received some sort of solicitation from a company claiming that they can put your company on the top of Google and other major search engines when someone does a key word search like “wedding invitations.”

My answer to you is that the task is impossible and impractical for local retailers. However, it is possible when someone is doing a search including geographic information like “wedding invitations in Denver.” The whole key to succeeding online is to find relevant key words to your business and apply the formula to potential traffic divided by competition and the higher the result the better the key word.  So how likely can you decide to sell online and be successful? Not likely because there are millions of web sites competing to be found when a consumer does a search for “wedding invitations.” How likely can you have an attractive web site that spotlights your local business and attract local customers? Very likely, as far less web sites will be competing to be found when a local search is being done. A local search indicates the customer’s preference to buy locally and is not as important for an online retailer to be found.

I had lots of information crammed into a four hour seminar. I am not going to do that you. More to come soon…