We are wrapping up our Small Business Saturday Q&A with the accomplished and highly-respected, Aaron Strout (@AaronStrout), an online marketing wiz and head of the marketing company WCG. Aaron answers the last series of questions and offers some great examples of successful online promotions and his favorite online tool to date.

We hope you have enjoyed and learned more than a few web and social strategies from our cadre of social media experts. With so many online marketing tools available (and more to come), sometimes it can be overwhelming deciding which tools are best for your business and which ones you can probably skip. So, we thank our fabulous experts for weighing in with their thoughts on what works, their favorite web tools, their favorite examples of businesses with successful new media campaigns, and just good ol’ advice on how a small business can put its best foot forward. And, above all, we thank them for their ongoing support for small business.

Q. Do you feel supporting local businesses is important and why?

A. Good question for me as someone that lives in Austin, TX, a place that takes “local” seriously. For starters, small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. The more of them there are, the more jobs and money that gets pumped back into the system. Personally, I love the uniqueness of local businesses because they often express the style of their locale. Some large businesses attempt this — many unsuccessfully — but it’s tricky because it tends to go against their basic branding principles.

Q. How can a local retailer or service business use the internet to drive customers through their doors?

A. This is a softball for me as the head of location-based marketing at WCGFoursquare for starters. Offer great specials, interact with your customers and treat your influencers well!

Q. When looking at a website of a new business, how do you judge if the business is credible or not?

A. There is no “one” answer. Some of the best mom and pop shops have crappy websites. It’s the nature of the beast. If anything, I actually prefer simpler sites with the right information vs. fancy or flashy.

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.

  1. Set up searches on Twitter using HootSuite or TweetDeck.
  2. Make sure their Google Places page is correct.
  3. Claim and utilize their business on Foursquare and Yelp (and make sure they are monitoring their reviews on Yelp).

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. Believe it or not, my answer would be similar to that of restaurant retail or clothing store.

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. I really love what LevelUp is doing right now (requiring that businesses that sign up offer a “Try it, Like it and Love it” offer). Encouraging repeat behavior drives loyalty. Foursquare also does this well. An offer there might look like a free “X” every third time someone checks in. Or an experiential offer “lunch with the owner — coffee tasting with the manager.” To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Groupon’s current approach. They offer a one time, unrealistically inexpensive offer that overwhelms the small business and often leaves a bad taste in the customers’ mouths. This model will not last over time.

Q. What’s your favorite example of a company running an online promotion that drove additional traffic to their physical store(s)?

A. Tasti D-Lite

Q. Is there a small business in your city that has done an interesting promotional campaign that’s noteworthy?

A. One Taco did a very cool promotion with Gowalla offering to convert “virtual tacos” into “real tacos.”

Q. What’s your favorite social media tool that a small business should use to promote themselves?

A. Foursquare

Aaron Strout is the head of location based marketing at WCG, a global agency offering integrated creative, interactive and marketing communications services to clients in healthcare, consumer products and technology. At WCG, Aaron not only focuses on helping customers with mobile marketing and location based marketing but also helps provide social voice for the company. He also is co-author of the book, Location Based Marketing for Dummies (Wiley).

You can also check out our previous interviews from our Small Business Saturday interview Series to find out some of their useful and valuable marketing tips!