Here is a beginners guide to online marketing for your service industry business that you can follow to online viability.
1. Define your market
Why does every piece of marketing advice start with this? Because no one really takes the time to do it.
The first key to success for online marketing will actually take a lot of navel gazing. What is your business? Who is your customer? Where does your service reach? Where would you like your service to reach? You may think that something like this has nothing to do with your online marketing but it actually does very much. Say you opened up a corner bistro cafe in a suburban neighborhood. You may have always imagined your customer would be the upper-crust literati of your town. But if the reality is that your biggest customers are kids with skateboards who like your dessert selections, then that is your customer. That doesn’t mean that it will always be that way but you need to embrace the full reality of your business. If you don’t want those kids in your cafe anymore that’s something that an online marketing campaign can help you alleviate.
Tip: Make sure you know the amount and volume of traffic coming through then target the traffic you want! Use an online survey tool like QuestionPro to collect demographic and psychographic information from your customers. Instead of putting a link to a survey on your receipt, post QR codes or short web links around your establishment to entertain customers and collect their preferences. For example if you have a restaurant, post a trivia question at the table, have them go to a link to get the answer and ask them a question or two.
To use the QR code feature, just click on a survey and at the top, you’ll see that you have the ability to customize a link, send the link via Facebook or use a QR code. If you want to use a QR code, download it and add it as an image to any printed piece. When people scan on the QR code, they will go directly to a survey.
2. Dig Deep
The next thing you need to do, once you know the customer you have and the customer you’re trying to reach, is you need to get deep in the weeds. That is you need to know your industry and your local competition inside and out. What are the nearest competition doing in their online marketing campaigns? What are similar businesses in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Rio, Japan, or London doing? This is going to take a little bit of work on your part but by looking to what others are doing you can see what works, what doesn’t, what you think is brilliant, and what you’d rather not do. One good idea is to find out what these businesses are doing on social media and follow them. You might get some great free advice from a business owner in another part of the world which you can take and use for your business!
Tip: If you find something that works somewhere else, it can’t hurt to “borrow” what’s successful!
3. Stake your claim
The next step in your online marketing manifesto is you need to establish yourself in the online world. The same way you would go around to local businesses and introduce yourself in person, so too do you need to do the same thing in the online world. That may be something as simple as becoming a Twitter follower or it may actually mean partnering with neighborhood businesses which complement one another. If you’re a dry cleaner and you’re out in front of a strip of hotels with banquet facilities it would make a lot of sense to try and corner that market by offering discounts to banquet customers. The good news is that everyone is looking to score some kind of “online-only” deal so if you offer them a percentage discount, that’s only going to earn you more traffic. If it’s a wedding party then the chances of the local wedding guests using your cleaners for their finery is even more pronounced. Plant the seed in the guests mind and then let it grow!
Tip: Who are your neighbors? Get to know the lay of the land by getting out, meeting and sharing!
4. Use Social
Concurrent with your laying down virtual roots then you need to of course get on the social media front. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are three of the big players in this sphere but it’s something you can’t be passive about. If you set up a Facebook page, make one offer for a limited time and then fall off the face of the earth you’re going to lose the interest of your subscribers. You shouldn’t make hourly notices either; that’s the other end of the extreme. But if you’re a bar, restaurant, or masseuse and you make a weekly post about your service business, that’s fine. If you’re an accountant you probably want to ramp up your social media and Internet marketing campaign around the end of the year and during tax season. That is something you may not have time for but doing so will only enhance your online marketing presence.
Tip: Social media is the place to play, offer contests, and get customers sharing with their networks!
Once you’ve had some success in online marketing then you can start a blog. This is where you can “pull back the curtain” so to speak and really begin to let your devoted customers get a peek at how things run. People love videos so YouTube is a good place to get familiar with as well. But you can post notes about specific deals for customers on your blog for that night. You can also show people the prep for some of your favorite dishes, the mixing of your best cocktails, or the best tricks which have been turned at your skate park. Brian storm with the youngsters; they know what’s up!
Tip: Video or text your blog is your gateway to the world; a view inside your business diary!
6. Rinse and repeat
Once you begin online marketing it’s like the scarlet letter; you’ve got to keep doing it or your business will become stale. The problem with this is that the online marketing world is always changing; you have to “keep up with the times” or your business is going to be as stale as a Disc Operating System or maybe worse, MySpace! A business who doesn’t at least try and keep a couple of steps from being totally out of step is like picking out who has modeled their club going outfit after Don Johnson in 1987. Don’t let your business become Don Johnson in 1987; it might have been envious for the time but today it’s just embarrassing.
Tip: Your marketing has got to keep pace with the current trends!
7. Keep it fresh
Another thing you’ve got to do is keep things dynamic and interesting. Most people will click something more than once but if you haven’t done anything to keep them engaged and excited about your shop then they won’t come clicking again. You don’t still watch VHS tapes on your VCR, do you? When you have DVDs and flat-screen HD technology. So why put your customers through the equivalent of the VHS online marketing experience?
Tip: Keep people guessing at what you’re going to come up with next!
8. Stay true to your brand
Even though you have to have an evolving online identity you also have got to have something familiar about your online marketing presence. Why do you think McDonald’s has been so successful with those Golden Arches? Or the Yankees have remained so popular with their Pinstripes? It’s the same for your marketing; you have to draw them in with new and exciting and close the deal with classy and familiar.