Do you own a local small business? The kind of business that exists under a roof and at a physical location, and maybe even since before the internet was invented? The term “online marketing” might feel like it doesn’t apply to you and your small business, but it does. Yes, even stores and businesses that have a physical, brick and mortar location need and can strongly benefit from establishing and growing an effective online presence.
Kelly Butcher of Simplification Services has worked with a lot of brick and mortar businesses on their online marketing and overall online presence, so I’m grateful to have her here to share some insight on the Whats, Whys, and Hows of websites, social media, and SEO for brick and mortar businesses.
Online Marketing 101 for Brick & Mortar Businesses
Q: Countless businesses existed before websites and social media. And so many small businesses offer services offline or sell products or services in their physical store location. What do you tell your brick & mortar clients about why online marketing is important for them?
A: Everyone is online these days searching for the products and services they need and want. Consumers will often visit the website or the Facebook page of a brick and mortar establishment before deciding if it’s worth a trip to the store. Marketing a brick and mortar business online allows the business owner to control the purchaser’s first impression of the business and set the tone for the buying experience. They will most likely look at reviews, as well, before deciding on making a purchase.
Q: What’s your top suggestion on where a brick and mortar business should start with their online presence?
Online marketing can drive foot traffic to a brick and mortar business and can be an effective tool for a business to connect with their customer base. The business website is the foundation of their online presence. Websites have replaced old-school yellow pages and can be thought of as a digital brochure, so having a website matters a lot. A website lends credibility and offers the potential customer insight into the business.
The website doesn’t have to consist of a lot of pages, even a simple 1 or 2 page website will do the trick. At the very least, the website should include the phone number and other contact information, the physical address, map and the hours of operation. Additional information that your customers want to see include information about the products or services you offer, pricing, company information, return policy and more.
Which leads me to the next point and that is why having a social media presence is also a powerful marketing tool. Social media marketing can level the playing field for local businesses competing with big box stores. If the brick and mortar business consistently posts content that appeals to their target market, posts content that advertises inventory, sales or special offers, offers social media exclusive deals, and highlights what sets their business apart from the competition, their followers or “tribe” will spread the word about the business to their friends and network.
Q: When a brick & mortar small business is working on their social media presence, what tips do you have for deciding what platforms and how many platforms to start building?
Deciding which social media platforms to utilize and how many platforms to build and manage depends on several factors. First and foremost, social media should be used as a tool to drive traffic to the brick and mortar location or website (which in turn will drive traffic to the physical location).
Determine the objectives for using social media – does the business want to increase brand awareness or lead generation, for example? Next, the business needs to research their target market and find out where their customers are hanging out on social media. They need to look at which social media channels their competition is using. The types of products offered also plays a part in determining the best platforms to use. And, finally, how much time does the business have to devote to creating and managing content and monitoring social sites? It might make sense to outsource social media marketing activities.
Q: What about other internet listings like directory listings?
For local businesses one of the critical things they should be concerned about is local SEO. Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) is the process of optimizing the online presence to attract more local business. In other words, local SEO is a way to fine-tune how – and where – the business shows up on Google and other online directories (such as Manta, Hot Frog, CitySearch), to local prospects.
At the very least, the business will want to make sure to claim and optimize their Google My Business Listing – it’s free! Make sure to Include the entire business address, local phone number, business hours and primary business category. In addition, photos and videos highlighting views from inside the store or products that are sold can be added. These images will show up in Google searches for images and maps, too. The business can also highlight special offers, events, holiday store hours, etc with GMB posts.
Many people rely on reviews on Google or Yelp before visiting a storefront. For brick and mortar businesses, claiming and optimizing Google My Business listing, Bing Places for Business and Yelp listings are critical so the business can control the information that consumers see. Yelp, for instance, relies upon users of their platform to provide information about the business, essentially leaving the business with little control over what the consumer sees.
Q: What about online advertising? What’s a cost-effective way for a brick & mortar small business to advertise?
Online advertising can be a cost-effective way for a local business to advertise. Facebook or Google PPC ads gives the ability to narrow the scope of the target area to the geographical region the store is located in. Local businesses can use online advertising to highlight particular products or offer special deals and coupons.
Q: Lastly, what are a few tips you can share that will help a brick & mortar business integrate their online marketing and advertising with the offline marketing and advertising they’ve been accustomed to doing?
It’s no longer necessary to develop different strategies for offline and online marketing. Instead, businesses should plan a strategy using both offline and online strategies that deliver a central message with a clear call to action (CTA). The brick and mortar business should speak with one voice that identifies the brand and sends a cohesive message.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Mobile check-in at physical locations. Encourage this behavior by offering customers discounted or free items for every check-in.
- Use hashtags across social media accounts, on banners, flyers and other print advertising to advertise events, find out who’s talking about the brand online, or for offering rewards.
- Use custom URLs in both offline and online advertising that lead the consumer to a custom web page or landing page dedicated to the campaign.
More About Kelly Butcher
I have been working with small business owners and entrepreneurs since 2013 to help them with the overwhelm and frustration that can come with trying to wear too many hats and trying to do it all when it comes to marketing their businesses. I really like working with clients who have a clear direction about what they would like to accomplish and helping them put that plan into place. Find out more about how I help small business on my website at SimplificationServices.com.
When I’m not working, I like to spend as much time as possible at the beach with my husband and our two sons and daughters-in-law and traveling to new places.
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