NSights Blog

Online? On-site? Both are important for small business

Some helpful online marketing tips for business owners

Small business owners are some of the busiest people around. They manage business strategy, monitor the budget, plan inventory, hire staff and, yes, sometimes even clean toilets. And then - a new trend comes along and gets added to the mix. Like online marketing.

To help busy business owners tie online marketing to their on-site sales, here are a few tips and ideas.

Photo campaign: The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" is true now more than ever. Since the advent of smart phones, picture-taking is now part of every major event or life moment. Small business owners can use this to their advantage with photo-centric online campaigns.  A simple photo campaign can be executed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or your website. The most common campaigns: 1) Ask customers to submit photos of themselves with a product or service and 2) post a photo about your business asking followers to provide a caption. Offering an incentive for participation, such as 10 percent off, buy one-get one or even just a simple add-on (like free sprinkles at an ice cream shop) will encourage participation in the campaign and create a tie between the online photo sharing and the on-site experience.

By activating your customers to share and engage with pictures of your product, you are getting information in front of a wider audience and reaching new potential customers with your business information. By offering an incentive for participation, you reward customers/followers AND you encourage them to return to your store for future purchases.

Engage now: when customers are in your store (or office), use that as a chance to create connections for future engagement. According to the Pew Research Center, at least 68 percent of adults in the U.S. use social media. Getting in-store customers to engage with you on social media sites opens the door for future communication and repeat sales.

Create a "call to action" for in-store customers to get them to connect with you online. This could be a small sign at the register suggesting customers "Like us on Facebook" or "Follow us on Twitter." Or, you could create a dedicated "photo op" spot within the store, to encourage customers to take a photo and post it to Instagram or Snapchat, tagging you. This benefits you by getting in-store customers to connect via social media. You are creating a way to stay in touch with them after they walk out your doors. You are also creating the possibility for them to become ambassadors, by sharing their experience with their followers, who may be potential customers.

Larger campaigns: Creating your own online campaign is great, but tying into existing campaigns can be even better. Take advantage of the online activity being created and supported by others to draw attention to your business and engage with your customers.

Find a campaign or hashtag that aligns with your business goals and get involved. A great example is the ongoing Shop Small (#ShopSmall) initiative and recent Small Business Saturday (#SmallBizSat) campaigns that are backed by American Express. These annual campaigns actively promote small businesses around the country and encourage people to visit their local small businesses. Using these hashtags and the available resources, support and engagement that these campaigns offer can expose your business to exciting new opportunities.

By tying into an existing campaign, you can reach a MUCH larger group of potential customers more quickly and at a lower cost than you would otherwise. Additionally, you get to be part of a campaign that has other positive benefits. For example, 90 percent of consumers surveyed say Small Business Saturday had a positive impact on their community. So whether you own a local coffee shop or a small retail store, tying into campaigns like this is something you and your customers can feel good about.

When thinking about how to promote your small business, think about the on-site promotion and the online promotion, and then create ties between them for maximum impact. For assistance putting together an online/on-site promotion plan, visit the Nevada SBDC or attend a free workshop from local business support resources: www.nevadasbdc.org

(Note: Lauren Thomas is a marketing intern at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. She is a fourth-year marketing student at the University of Nevada, Reno and offers insight to clients for building their marketing strategy and leveraging trends and best practices to reach their target markets.)

Lauren Thomas headshot