Is your gut—or your grandchild—telling you that you need to upgrade your store’s marketing for the digital age?
We understand the challenges of managing a brick-and-mortar business—it can be hard to keep up, let alone get ahead of the curve. And while it could easily cost thousands of dollars to transform your marketing, you can take some of the most important first steps yourself.
Update your website for mobile screens
It might seem counterintuitive to focus on your digital presence if you don’t sell online, but let’s face it: your new customers are more likely to see you online before they ever set foot in your store. Whether they find you on Yelp, on social media, on Google or another listing service, you can bet they’ll visit your website to get a sense of your style, your products, your service—and of course, your location and hours.
If you don’t have a website, start small with a few pages that talk about where you are, who you are, what you offer and how to contact you. Consider hiring a professional marketer or copywriter to work with the design team on creating the right content for the site, taking into consideration mobile screens and user behavior on-the-go.
If you already have a site, it’s time to re-evaluate it in the context of consumers’ mobile experience—and the fastest way to find out where it fails is to put it in the hands of users. A quick way to do some basic user testing is to invite a panel of customers to complete sample tasks with your site on their smartphones. Where do they stumble or get lost? Those are the problems to tackle first, and it will help you evaluate whether to fix them on the existing site or undertake a redesign.
Start (or improve) your Facebook page
Much has been written about Facebook’s algorithm changes over the past five years, and it’s true that you just can’t get the same kind of visibility as you used to back in the early wild days of social media. As investors are looking for return on investment, the platform has become a pay-to-play venue where organic content is de-emphasized in users feeds, in favor of paying advertisers and highly-viral content.
Chances are you’re not going to come up with the next ice bucket challenge, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on Facebook entirely. It’s still free to create a page, post content, tell your story, share videos, and promote events for your business. And it’s a valuable tool if you have a large personal network on the platform that you can invite to connect with your business page.
Facebook’s ability to re-target users on an individual basis—for example, delivering an offer to only people who’ve visited your site—is virtually unparalleled in the US, making it a good way to test the waters of digital advertising. If you’d like to explore paid advertising for select offerings and events, a marketing firm can help you develop an advertising strategy, targets, goals and budget for a cost-effective campaign.
Form relationships with local partners
Once your business is established online, it pays to forge relationships with the business owners, community leaders and influencers who shape the opinions and behavior of those around them. Start a conversation with your fellow business owners, then trade marketing materials and ask directly for referrals if it makes sense for both of you. And it doesn’t have to be an obvious connection: clothing stores can recommend doughnut shops just as readily as wedding-cake bakers can recommend florists.
Similarly, if there are influential individuals or organizations in your community, talk to a few of them to suss out potential partnership opportunities. These can range from the very basic—getting listed on a directory of local shops—to full-fledged influencer programs on social media which allow you to reach new audiences. Be sure to follow FTC rules for disclosing monetary and other compensation to avoid hefty fines, and consider hiring an influencer marketing expert when you’re ready to expand beyond your strategy beyond a handful of personal contacts.
Play to your (content) strengths and passions
Got an eye for photography? Consider an Instagram account to showcase your personal point of view. Business owners with a knack for writing may find success on Twitter, and aspiring filmmakers can reach huge audiences on YouTube. Choose a platform that feels most in line with your creative talents, prepare content in advance of the launch, and use scheduling tools to cross-post to other channels as appropriate. Be ready to invest time though, and think of content on social media as an extension of your existing marketing program.
If you’re already on social, perhaps it’s time to rethink your content strategy as an integrated whole. Ask a marketing expert for an initial consultation to help you identify which efforts worked best and why, how to apply those learnings to other channels, and ensure your strategy fits the current digital and social channel landscape. Regardless of which channel it’s built for, remember that content must continue to drive engagement, consideration, brand awareness, buyer intent or sales, depending on your business goals and your typical consumer’s path to purchase.
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