Maintenance & Marketing (continued)
Mix it up
When you find a channel that is working for you and gaining some interest, don’t start posting exclusively about what you offer. That’s a total turnoff. You want to build long-term relationships with people and provide value. Contribute opinions and ideas without mentioning your products or services. Answer questions. You want to build a loyal audience, and relationship-building on social media is a great way to build a potential customer base and have customers tell their friends and family about you. But don’t turn them off with constant sales pitches. They are there to solve problems. Offer them solutions.
Experiment with paid ads
If you have a small ad budget, see if paid ads work for you on one or more social media channels. Know going in that you can’t do this just one time. The average person needs to see the same message nine times to remember it. Base the success of these campaigns on website conversions to gauge the effectiveness of these ads. Remember, you want to build relationships continually with increasingly loyal customers. Everyone starts out as a prospect; your marketing and ad strategy is always about converting them into long-term customers. Everyone these days is bombarded with messages, thousands each week, so you need to stand out from the get-go. If paid ads don’t work, it may just be a timing issue, or you may be targeting the wrong audience with the wrong message. Advertising is all about experimentation and results. You won’t always strike gold, even if you have the best do-dad or whatchamacallit in the world. And never mistake a lot of site traffic with success. It’s all about making a sale and turning that prospect into a loyal customer.
Get your name out
Your car, van, SUV or pickup can serve as a free billboard as you drive around town. Think about getting a vehicle wrapped with your name, product and website address. Or, if the budget is tight, put your website address on your back window. If you are selling products, make sure that the shipping box and inside packaging are branded with your company name and website (think Amazon). This information should also be on the packing slip and invoice. A little thank you card doesn’t hurt either. If you have a physical store, make sure your bags have your phone number and online store address printed on them, especially if they are designed to be used again and again.
Update your bricks and mortar location
If you have a physical store, make sure your website address is prominently placed on your countertop as a tent card or on postcards that can be placed in a bag. Window clings are another excellent strategy. Add them to your storefront windows and on each side of the front door so customers can see them as they enter and exit. If you have a Closed sign, add your online store address. If you run a restaurant that offers online ordering, make sure the address to order is easy to find and add it to your print menus as well.
Have a contest
A contest is a great way to drive traffic to your website and online store. You need to make sure that the contest is legitimate and legal, and you need to offer something of perceived value to the winner or winners. In return, you can require information from the entrant, including their email address and phone number (after all, you need to contact them if they win) that you can use to increase your contact list for emails and texts. Just be sure that the fine print of your contest lets contestants know they are giving you permission to contact them with other promotions, such as contests, giveaways, and special discounts in the future, and allow them to opt-out.
Legal Note: In Washington State, you can’t require a person to purchase anything of value in order to enter your contest or receive a scratch ticket or game piece. You must provide the option to enter without a purchase, such as a request to enter via email. Also, you can’t place the non-purchase entries in a separate bucket from the entries of customers who purchased something. You must draw from all entries received.
You don’t need to offer online ordering to offer specials to your customers. Discount coupons included with a purchase are a great way to get return customers. So are discounts, specials and coupons during slower times of the year. You can also offer unique online coupons that visitors to your site can access when they subscribe to your newsletter or blog or provide their email address to be notified of upcoming sales. Experiment with offers to see which ones get the most response. If you want to track them, consider doing each as a QR Code and use a tracking tool such as Bitly’s QR Code Generator to see who is taking advantage of your offers. If you offer online ordering, consider adding a discount coupon on the customer’s next order in your shipment.
Don’t forget your voicemail
If you have an on-hold message or a message before someone can leave a voicemail, be sure that you include your online store address. Say it clearly and slowly so someone can get it the first time, or say it at the beginning and the end with store hours or other contact information in between.
If you’re in a rural community, becoming a sponsor of a major event is reasonably affordable. It’s harder to do affordably in larger cities, but you can still be a “below the title” sponsor, snatching up a package that is more affordable but still effective. These sponsorships will allow your business to appear in event schedules, have signage on a stage you’re sponsoring, a booth at a festival or street fair, or even the ability to carry a banner down the street in your town’s annual parade. Like anything else, consider where your audience is and sponsor activities, sports or events they frequent. This is a great strategy to gain visibility and build community goodwill at the same time.
Use your customers as a salesforce
Sites like Yelp, Amazon and Yahoo carry a lot of weight with prospective customers who want to know what others think. Reviews or testimonials show you’re legitimate and that you deliver on your promises in terms of quality, price and customer service. You can also use testimonials on your website. And while you’re at it, you may want to create a customer referral program that gives your customers a discount for referring a friend or family member to your online store.
Set a schedule and stick to it
Like any marketing or advertising campaign, your website needs a schedule that complements all your other promotions. To help you stay on top of all the updates, create an editorial calendar so you and your team can stay ahead of holiday-specific promotions, anniversary sales and other sales opportunities. Once it’s set up and active, a website and, if you have it, an online store, are two of the most inexpensive strategies you can implement to attract customers, drive sales and increase customer loyalty.