We start week three with Ramon Ray (@ramonray), a tech journalist and author. Ramon answers our questions about marketing your small business online and gives a quick summary of what marketing techniques work. Read on folks….
Q. Do you feel supporting local businesses is important and why?
A. It is very important. For a few years. I think that “supporting” local businesses goes directly into supporting one’s local community. So you (and others) buy goods from your local hardware store, this local hardware store is now going to hire a few employees and they’re going to put money back in the economy. Hopefully, the local business deserves the support and offers great customer service and competitive pricing.
Q. How can a local retailer or service business use the internet to drive customers through their doors?
A. Ensuring they capture contact information of every person who comes in their door and then reaches out to them with at least a simple email newsletter on a regular basis. This will bring repeat business back to your door. To get the first customer I think local advertising is best – whether its the web site of the local newspaper or local radio station but finding local online resources that attract local customers. But also don’t ignore non-Internet methods as well – they are indeed powerful.
Q. When looking at a website of a new business, how do you judge if the business is credible or not?
A. I think overall that a website should look good, be well designed. We shine our shoes and iron our clothes but don’t spend enough time on a great website. Ensure there are NO spelling or grammar errors. I often have trouble in this area since I rush and don’t proof my work enough! Even for a very small business, their is no excuse to have a bad website. Your competitors, be they other small retailers or multi-billion dollar giants, have good websites and when people are home or on their mobile phones deciding what retailer to go to, they are going to make one part of their evaluation based on your web site. PERIOD. Is your web site shined and ironed?
Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the retail space, like a clothing store, a coffee shop, or a restaurant, what online tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?
A. It’s important that they have a plan of action to nurture and keep in touch with existing customers and enable the customer to refer others. So at the very least a simple email newsletter. If the retailer’s brand and what they are selling supports this, then a reason for customers to engage with them online as well – free coupons on Fridays through Facebook. Monday night Tweet chats about, say, coffee or fashion. Part of this is being creative and knowing how to best leverage the many technologies around us.
Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the service industry, like a lawyer, realtor, or electrician, what online tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?
A. Similar tools to the retailer but I think in a service industry a steady email newsletter or blog that offers rich information about the market they are in is most important. For example, a realtor should have an online presence that shows them as the ultimate source of information about the real estate market in their local area. I think having an online mechanism making it easy and directly asking for customers to refer other customers to the business is so important. A referral engine!!
Q. What do you see as the best use-case for running promotions through a social check-in tool like Foursquare? How about a deal site like Groupon?
A. A service like Foursquare is best use a a free platform for returning customers to earn points or be incentivized to come back and “check in.” Every month reward the mayor with tons of free things. Groupon, overall I think it’s a waste of time. However, if one wants to try it (but really read up on what your getting into , ensure you can manage the in store couponing and etc) then give it a try. For many they do see a boost in business. But about the repeat customers or profit that must be carefully thought out.
Q. What’s your favorite example of a company running an online promotion that drove additional traffic to their physical store(s)?
A. Rita’s, the national chain of ices, has a simple email newsletter we get with coupons and other things. We always use those to go to Rita’s on a regular basis. So I think simple and engaging is the best way.
A. Not that I can think of. Most businesses are NOT engaging locally enough but relying on word of mouth and walk in traffic
Q. What’s your favorite social media tool that a small business should use to promote themselves?
A. Well not so sure about promoting themselves but if it is social media then a combination of Tweet Deck to post and keep up with live tweets and Facebook posts. Using something like NutShell Mail to keep up with the social media world when one is not “online.” You’ll get an email of what’s happened online at the frequency you choose – daily, hourly, monthly…whatever you want.
Ramon Ray is a journalist, technology evangelist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com, author of “Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses” & “Technology Resources for Growing Businesses” and a national, in-demand speaker. He’s written thousands of technology articles and news items for Smallbiztechnology.com and other media including Inc. Magazine, Black Enterprise Magazine, and Entrepreneur.com.
You can also check out our previous interviews from our Small Business Saturday series to find out some of their useful and valuable marketing tips!