1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is the foundation of this strategy. Creating high-quality, actionable, and useful content is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. If you want to be perceived as a company with in-depth knowledge and expertise of your industry, you need to create high quality content that addresses the problems and questions of your target customers.
This includes creating content for your own blog, guest blogging on other established blogs in your niche or a niche that complements your industry. Target the blogs where you can engage your potential customers.
Take your content right where your audience is. Get active on forums and discussions websites like Quora, LinkedIn groups, Twitter and any other platforms where you can talk directly to your customers. Share your content on social networks, create engaging and educational email courses, and write eBooks and Whitepapers on industry issues.
Make sure everything you know about your industry is out there in the form of your content.
2. Reputation Management
You’ve created a great blog with high-quality content. You have also been featured on high-traffic blogs in your niche. You have traffic flowing in to your website from different sources.
But when a customer decides to visit your outlet or buy from you online, what does he do first? He looks for reviews about your company.Generating positive reviews and maintaining a strong online reputation is crucial, especially for local bricks and mortar businesses.
Research shows that dissatisfied customers are twice as likely to write an online review as compared to satisfied customers. So even if you have lots of happy clients, your reputation can be tarnished by just a few unhappy customers, because they speak out more often.To counter this, make sure you have lots of happy client reviews on the web. Your reputation is at stake here and, with it, thousands of dollars in potential sales.
It maximizes positive reviews from satisfied customers using a series of follow up emails and updates, and minimizes negative reviews by proactively approaching dissatisfied clients for feedback. So before they can write negative reviews about your company on a public forum, they’re given an outlet to express their anger and dissatisfaction.
In short, the online reputation of your business is the gatekeeper for all other forms of marketing. So take it seriously.
3. Influencer Outreach and Networking
Every niche or industry has certain influencers who command respect and enjoy a large following. They’re perceived as the ultimate industry experts and their opinion holds a lot of weight. Your target, as a local business, should be to get in the good books of these influencers. Even a few words of endorsement from influential figures in your industry can skyrocket your reputation, credibility and sales figures.
There are different ways of getting in their radar. For local bricks and mortar businesses, the best thing is to associate with the influencers in real world. But to do that, you’d first need to engage with them in the online world.
You can start by following their Twitter account and joining their blog’s mailing list. Tweet the different posts from their blog (don’t forget to tag them), comment on their posts and respond to their Tweets. Do this for a while so they start recognizing you. You can then invite them to your outlet or offer them something complementary (even if that means sending a gift through a courier service)
You need to invest time and energy in building your network and engaging the influential figures in your industry. These relationships can pay back dividends
4. Email List Building
If you’re not building an email list, you’re not building your business (even for a bricks and mortar business). In this age of competition, where companies are approaching customers through multiple channels, you need to engage your customers regularly even when they’re not buying from you. Keep reminding them about your presence and stay in touch with them through informative emails, exclusive offers and discounts.
Make sure your website and blog are optimized for email conversions. Place email opt-ins on multiple prominent locations of your website. Use pop-ups and free giveaways to seduce your visitors.
5. Offer Ecommerce and Online Shopping
If you’re currently not offering online shopping options on your website, seriously consider doing so. The global ecommerce growth, thanks to smartphones and tablets, is reaching unprecedented heights. Just recently, the Chinese ecommerce giants Alibaba made more than $9 billion sales in one day. Even local customers are much more likely to buy from your online store as compared to previous years.
Thankfully, adding ecommerce features to your website or setting up an online store is not difficult these days. You can create a fully functional online store and add complete ecommerce features to your website with tools like Selz. It’s an easy to use ecommerce and shopping cart solution that is equally effective for selling digital and physical products and services.
6. Facebook Advertising
It’s by far the most economical, targeted, and effective paid advertising mode especially for local small businesses. You can choose your target audience based on interests, age groups, location, Liked pages and many others criteria.
It’s most effective for boosting your list building activities. My personal formula is to create a landing page (use LeadPages or create a simple one on your blog), add a free giveaway on the page and use Facebook advertising to route traffic to the email list. It’s almost like switching a traffic button on.
But if you’re using it for the first time, start with a small budget. Test $20-30 ads with different configurations. Once you get the right combination, increase your budget gradually.
If trends from the previous years are anything to go by, 2015 will be a rocking year for small businesses that are prepared to take advantage of the different online marketing, advertising and promotional channels. The significance of content marketing will increase even more. But you’d have to combine smart reputation management techniques with it to ensure that visitors convert into customers. As I said at the start, if you stay focused on these six points, it’ll be hard for your competitors to catch you.