While some believe that “if you build it (your website), they will come,” most small businesses should face the reality that there is a lot happening online to distract their customers. How do you cut through the clutter and stand out? As part of her holiday series, Donna Fenn shares tips from successful small business owners on how they are differentiating themselves from competitors via online promotions. From working with bloggers to getting in the gift-giving sprit, you’ll have four bases covered this holiday season.
Janet – @jzablock
Strategic Online Marketing for the Holidays
By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert
Chances are you’re ramping up your online marketing campaign for the holidays right now – along with everyone else, unfortunately! As you look to reach your current and potential customers, the challenge is to market to your customers in the places where they’re most likely to notice you, and with messages compelling enough to convert prospects into buyers. To help differentiate yourself from your competitors, consider trying these online marketing strategies:
Court the right bloggers. Diana Charabin, founder of Tiny Devotions, taps into bloggers who write about yoga and contemplative practices to help her get the word out about her mala beads, which are frequently used in meditation. Rather than approach very high profile bloggers who are typically inundated with requests to review products, Charabin instead targets “the mid-range bloggers – the ones who may just have a few thousand Twitter followers, but they’re very die hard.” She sends them her products, but makes it clear that there’s no obligation to write about the company. It’s a strategy she can use throughout the holiday season, as bloggers are always hungry for content that can be turned around quickly.
Have a mobile strategy. Dr. Marvin Lee, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor, has been working with a company called Signpost to help him with online marketing and to ensure that his content and offers are mobile friendly. “I’m a doctor and I don’t want to wear a marketing hat,” he says. “But you need an online presence, and if that doesn’t translate to mobile devices, you’re behind the times.” For a quarterly fee of $375, Signpost promotes his business on multiple channels, including Yelp, Foursquare, MapQuest, Amazon, and Google. Over the holidays, he’ll promote a special $39 introductory offer that includes a consultation, a first adjustment, and x-rays if needed. “My job is to convert the lookers to regular patients,” he says.
Offer gift-giving advice. At Book Bouquet, founder Kim Shanahan is already busy marketing her company’s book-centric gift baskets on Facebook. “Every day, we’ll have a post that’s related to how people within our company are using the special that we’re promoting,” she says. That may include gift baskets for coffee-lovers, cooks or movie buffs. She also offers customers the option of spreading payments over three months.
Personalize your communication. Sure, your customers want to feel that you know them, but they also want to know you. Ada Polla, CEO of the family-owned skin care company, Alchimie Forever, says that email blasts containing images of and content about her mom and her three sisters “get click rates that are much higher. We’re a family-focused company and email is much more successful when it’s highly personal.” This year, Alchimie will offer a 30% friends and family discount on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the email blast will contain images of all four Polla sisters peppered with a bit of family storytelling.
Remember that one of your greatest strategic advantages over your larger competitors is your ability to connect intimately and authentically with your customers. Online marketing enables that, but also make sure that you’re not just “broadcasting.” Now’s the time of year when you need to make certain that you’re also engaging in dialogue with customers who respond to your online marketing efforts.
Please check out other posts in our “Secrets of Small Business Success” series:
Secrets of Small Business Success: Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight
Secrets of Small Business Success: Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful
Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 15, 2013 at 8:05 am