In a long and varied career, I have spent a few decades in coaching, sales, sales management, IT, and running my own businesses.
So you have a ‘real world’ business and you have been doing real world marketing. Maybe you are advertising in newspapers/magazines or trade journals. If you are a local-based business you might have had roadside banners made, or maybe printed some brochures and flyers and had them distributed. All of these methods have two things in common: they are traditional (tried and trusted) and they can be expensive.
Even if your ‘Bricks and Mortar’ business has very little to do with the internet, let’s say you are a plumber—so your business is highly practical, skilled and physical—you can still benefit from having an online presence. Even if your business is a long, long way from a typical internet-based business. But why not just carry on with the real-world way of marketing? Well, you will be glad to hear that I’m not saying do away with traditional marketing methods. What I suggest is that even if you are ‘not interested’ in internet marketing for your business, you really, really should consider it.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Often it is inexpensive or even free
- Most likely when someone is looking for a local plumber etc., they will turn to Google first (if not, a close second)
- It can often be easily monitored to check if your marketing efforts are working
- Often it is easy to set up (although some methods have more of a learning curve)
- You can often set it up on automatic, saving time and money
Here are a few examples of what you can do:
Be Found Online: Get a Website
When your local, potential customers are looking for a plumber (or electrician, builder etc.), the first thing they are likely to do is ask their friends and relatives if they could recommend one. Word-of-mouth has always been the best form of free advertising. However, if they don’t come across the tradesman they are looking for using this method they will invariably turn to Google. When people turn to Google, they will research plumbers (or electricians, builders etc.), and find a plumber’s website, where their plumber of choice will have all his/her contact details, plus testimonials saying what a great plumber he/she is (almost as good as word-of-mouth).
The common theme when advertising your business online is to have a focal point that all your customers are directed to—invariably that should be a website. If you haven’t tried advertising your business online before then the first step would be to get a website up and running. Then put your website address on as many free forums and online directories as possible, before spending anything on programs such as AdWords.
So, whether you love the internet or not, you will need a website. If you don’t get an online presence you are likely to be missing out on a whole lot of business. Getting your own website is easier than ever, with companies such as Squarespace making it easy to get up and running at a reasonable cost if you are not interested in learning how to build your own website. Your other option worth considering is getting a website designer to do it for you for a one-off cost—it may be cheaper than your think.
AdWords is a way for businesses to advertise directly in Google. Importantly you can set it up to show your adverts only to your local area (if you are a local business), monitor the responses you get (this is not so easy with traditional adverts in newspapers and magazines). You also get to set your own budget—so no nasty surprises. To find out more about AdWords, just google ‘adwords’.
Join Forums or Facebook Groups
You can garner some great free advertising when you join some online forums or like-minded groups on platforms such as Facebook. By joining a forum, specifically one in your area of expertise, you can not only participate in helping others on the forum with your expert knowledge (raising your profile within the forum), but some forums will allow you to insert a link to your business website—so potentially sending more customers your way. How do you find a forum for your industry? Just google ‘forum’ and then your industry (i.e. forum plumber).
Online Directories and Listing Sites
There are hundreds of online directories and listing sites that you should explore. Most of these sites will allow you to insert a link to your website (and possibly show your telephone number), again sending more potential customers your way. The majority of these sites are free to put your basic details on (although some will try to ‘upsell’ their premium advertising packages). Here are a few of the most obvious ones:
- Localworks (US)
- Google My Business
- Free Index (UK)
- Freeads (UK)
- Craigslist (US)
- Gumtree (UK)
Use the Power of YouTube
Promoting your business using YouTube is a great idea and yet another place to be found on the web. Making a simple video for YouTube can be as easy as talking into your iPhone. The two provisos when uploading content onto YouTube are:
- Make your videos useful. Video tutorials helping people with specific problems go down well on YouTube, so have a think about the type of problems your potential customers might come across, and show off your expertise by making short videos on how to solve them.
- Make sure the videos you share have good content and the picture and sound quality is high. Also make sure you include a link back to your website within the description. Sign up for a YouTube account to get started.
Getting Started with YouTube
LinkedIn groups can be a great way to connect with others in your industry to help spread your message. Best of all you can promote your services within the groups as long as you don’t go over the top, but like all social media, don’t forget about the social bit and make sure that you get involved in the conversations within the group and try to be helpful—this will help build your reputation within the LinkedIn community.
Build an Email List
If you aren’t collecting email contacts of potential customers then you are missing a great opportunity to start building relationships with your future customers. Potential customers should at the very least be able to sign up to your email list from your website—but most customers will need a little encouragement, after all we all get swamped with emails every day—so offer them something of value in return from being able to contact them in the future. What you offer them is up to you, but whatever it is it needs to be of value to them. Often companies will offer an eBook (it doesn’t have to be ‘War and Peace’) or a useful report. Make sure that when you do contact your customer back that you are not just selling to them, again a series of short emails offering useful advice might be appreciated and then when you do tell them about your latest offer, they may be more likely to take you up on it.
Build Customer Trust with Review Websites
Unless your business is recommended by word-of-mouth—invariably the best way to get new business—your potential customers will have trust issues, after all they don’t know you or even know someone who knows you. Websites such as Trust Pilot and Yelp help you get over the trust issues, as your potential customers can go onto these websites and read verified reviews about your business, so helping them make the decision to become your next customer.
Tips for Promoting your ‘Real World’ Business Online
Take a common sense approach to using social media. Most people, when they go online are looking for something to entertain them or educate/help them—I if you can do both while simultaneously and subtly promoting your business then you are likely to get more hits, your content is likely to be shared and you will eventually get more business.
Building Your Business Online Takes Time
Building up an online presence takes time. Don’t expect things to happen overnight, one of the reasons some websites start getting a lot of interest is because they have been around a while (probably over a couple of years). Don’t give up on your online strategies just because you don’t see immediate results.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
In all your efforts apply the 80/20 rule. As I said earlier, it takes time to build an effective online presence, but in the end, you will start seeing more results (hits, enquiries etc.). It is important that you monitor which social media efforts are having the greatest effect (is it Facebook, your website or LinkedIn etc.). The 80/20 rule in this instance, states that 80 percent of your new customers will come from 20 percent of your online efforts. By monitoring your efforts, you can find out where that 80 percent of customers are coming from (the 20 percent of effort), when do find out, then re-double your efforts in that area (so if it’s Facebook, do more posts or adverts, if it’s your website, work on the SEO and blog posts etc.).
Don’t Be Spammy
In all your efforts remember most people go online looking for entertainment or help—so don’t try to sell to them at every opportunity—you wouldn’t like it and neither will they. Build up trust first by helping them, then they are more likely to become a customer down the line.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius