Today's Ecommerce Times has a good article on small businesses called "Can a Small Biz Make it Online?". It's certainly worth a read if you operate a small business on the web.

The article stresses that the #1 challenge for small online businesses is getting noticed.

"The biggest struggle young companies face when bringing their business online is getting noticed," Chris Hall, marketing programs strategist and tactician for Chris Hall Marketing, told the E-Commerce Times."

Without a good bit of internet marketing knowledge, it is difficult to get noticed online. The best way a small online business can maximize their revenue is using email to retain loyal customers while acquiring new customers through press and search engines.

"Limited marketing budgets are to blame for most of the challenges small businesses face when deciding to go online, acknowledged Sonal Gandhi, SMB marketing analyst at JupiterResearch."

Start-ups don't often have the funding that a larger company might have, so they have to find marketing partners on a shoestring budget. If you're a small business owner, consider asking prospective consulting firms to do work for you under a revenue sharing agreement. By sharing incremental revenue, you'll pay your consultant only if they lift your sales.

Once established, it makes sense to invest in at least a basic analytics package and understand conversion rates, which pages are the most popular, and what products are the best-sellers, Mulpuru said. "Then companies can look to big competitors for where to expand to next, and which customer-friendly features it may make sense to integrate next."

I can't even begin to tell you the importance of web analytics to your online business. Not having web analytics is like trying to take your body's temperature without a thermometer. A good businessperson can spend 5 minutes per day examining their web analytics and get new ideas for growing their business.

As they become immersed in all of the technological research, SMBs must not lose sight of the basics, however.

As engaging as researching technology on the web can be, rely on your marketing consultant to do a lot of the legwork and research for you.

Let me offer up this as a parting thought. Many of the small business owners I work with devote most of their day to the operations of their companies. Getting packages shipped, dealing with the accounting and books and managing employees can take up a lot of time. I advise them to use their morning or evening commute to think about customer service and the way people buy and use what they're selling. By understanding their customers, they'll be able to offer better customer service and keep customers loyal.