You want to attract more customers? Expanding your online presence is a smart start, but where do you begin? There are so many products and services available — from email marketing tools to online ads to websites — that it’s tough to figure out which Web-based solutions are right for you.
Here’s the key: look for products and services targeted for your specific business type. Don’t be fooled by “one-size-fits-all” products; your business is unique, and your online marketing strategy needs to take your specific business type into account.
In this series, we’ll explore how three different business types — brick-and-mortar businesses, service-area businesses, and online-only businesses — can use the Web to gain new customers. Let’s start at the physical storefront.
4 steps to marketing your brick-and-mortar business
Derived from the building materials often used to create physical storefronts, the phrase “brick and mortar” describes businesses with a street address — including restaurants, retail stores, nail salons, auto repair shops and the other establishments we frequent for all kinds of products and services. Any business that offers face-to-face services for customers at their own physical location or storefront falls into this business type.
Owning a brick-and-mortar business can be challenging, so marketing your business online should be as simple as possible. Here’s how to get started:
1. Buy a domain
In today’s digital world, if your business isn’t online, you don’t exist. More than 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses (with 72 percent just as confident in online reviews as personal recommendations). Your website is your business’s home on the Web. It’s like a satellite location, with global reach, for your brick-and-mortar website. And it needs a great name.
That’s your domain. With the continuing rollout of new domain name extensions -- like .nyc, .photography and .guru -- there’s never been a better time to secure a website address that’s short, memorable and representative of who you are and what you do. (Get some tips for brainstorming an awesome website name and learn more about selecting and registering strategic domain names.)
2. Build a website
Whether you choose to build a website yourself with an easy, template-based site builder or a popular content management system like WordPress®, or to hire a pro to build it for you, you need a website to anchor your online presence. (Check out what one website expert has to say about that.)
A website is online real estate that’s all your own to tell your unique story, showcase your products and services, and connect with customers and prospects.
Since brick-and-mortar businesses rely on in-person, face-to-face sales, keeping your website simple and uncluttered is key. Make sure your business’s most critical information — like your NAP (that’s your name, address and phone number) — appears clearly on every page. Include your hours of operation. And leverage the power of video to give site visitors a sneak peek at your real-world storefront, your team, and your signature products/services.
A well-planned and executed site can drive foot traffic through your doors — and, with all the affordable site building resources available, you can have a site up and running in no time. Here’s a pre-planning worksheet to help you get started.
3. Get listed on local review and directory sites
You might think that getting a website is enough to get you more customers, but your customers are searching for businesses like yours all over the Web. Sites like Yelp®, Foursquare® and TripAdvisor® have become incredibly popular because people trust other people. If your restaurant is ranked No. 3 on Yelp with a four-star rating after 174 reviews, for example, you’re pretty darn likely to attract the attention of people looking online for a local meal.
As a business with a physical location that customers visit, it’s incredibly important that you make sure your business shows up on these websites. While you can enter your business info on individual sites, you’ll save time by using a product like Get Found. You simply enter your business information in one place and it publishes on many relevant third-party websites.
4. Consider online ads and vouchers
After you’ve built out a professional website and listed your business on popular third-party sites, there are a few additional steps you can take to reach more customers. Consider online advertising — such as ads on Twitter® or Facebook® or a Google AdWords™ campaign — to reach targeted consumers with brand-specific messaging. A search engine ad campaign will ensure your business pops up when people search for a particular keyword of yours; this can be incredibly useful (albeit more expensive) if you’re a business in a competitive market. Here are some tips for crafting effective online ads.
And everybody loves a deal, so check out running a discount voucher on a site like Groupon®, LivingSocial® or Gilt City®. The aim of the discount voucher is to attract customers to your business by providing a good discount or deal and hope that they turn into repeat customers. The vouchers also might help customers who otherwise wouldn’t hear about your business discover your products or services. Each site appeals to a different core customer base, so do your research to figure out the best fit for your business.
Getting your brick-and-mortar business online might seem challenging, but following these steps can help turn online visitors into offline sales. And who doesn’t want more customers visiting their shop?