Online marketing for your small business is much more than simply creating a static website, replicating the print media advertising model. That kind of business website – and therefore that level of online marketing – can produce very little by way of results.
The Internet gives you a tremendous number of very powerful – and very free tools to use in marketing your business.
Limited to 140 characters in length per “tweet,” you might be tempted to think that there’s not much by way of marketing that you can do with Twitter. But don’t be so quick to dismiss this very powerful, completely free marketing tool.
A recent article in USA Today really drives home the capabilities of this microblogging platform:
Cheryl and Karen Daskas, owners of the upscale Tender boutique in Birmingham, Mich., were trying to find a way to draw their social-media friends into the store this year. So they created an offer. They would sell their private-label Tender tights for $15 a pair — a bargain at a store that sells $1,500 messenger bags and $300 designer dresses.“We sold out thousands of pairs in a few days,” Cheryl Daskas said. “Blasting it on Twitter really drove it home. It was a lot of fun.”
The article went on to point out that using social media tools – like Twitter and Facebook – is a very definite growth trend, expected to increase “exponentially in 2012.” And this even though the general feeling is that the economy is still on the sluggish side.
The ability to actively engage your customers and potential customers is the key. Do more than just post links to your site; share stories, post pictures, encourage customers to post their pictures, hold “caption contests” – these are just some of the easy (and amazingly powerful) ways you can increase your brand’s visibility, foster goodwill with customers and potential customers, and drive business not just to your site, but to your bottom line.
Online marketing experts suggest doing more than just throwing out post after post about the awesomeness of your product; instead:
Rather than product-focused content, focus on content rich with tips and tricks which can help to relieve your target customers’ pain points. When you target the content you’re offering to the different marketing personas you have defined for your business, then your prospects will be much more likely to engage with your brand and therefore, more likely to complete a lead-capture form for a piece of your content. In short, providing targeted, useful content will help you generate more qualified leads who may genuinely be interested in what you have to offer.
The key – and the true power behind online marketing – is to find your crowd, to find the people that will help you tell your story:
These are your influencers, your colleagues, or your friends. They are the people nearest to you. Southwest Airlines is a strong believer in this. According to Brooke Thomas, emerging media coordinator, stories can be found everywhere, especially on Twitter: “Every tweet is essentially a story idea.” A recent example of Southwest embracing crowd-generated content was when frequent flyer Paul Lovine proposed to his girlfriend on a Southwest Airline flight and then tweeted that she had accepted. Southwest picked up the story, contacted Paul, and wrote a blog entry about it. Why would Southwest Airlines go through this trouble for one passenger? In our personal lives, we are judged and defined by the company we keep, by the people that surround us. It’s the same for brands and companies. A brand is defined by its customers, its friends, and its influencers. Engaging with them and sharing the stories they tell about your brand ultimately reflects what kind of company you are or want to be – your influencers can add to your credibility.
The “big boys” are keenly aware of this, which is why large media- and marketing-conscious companies like Coca-Cola, HP, and others invest a sizable amount of their operating capital in online marketing efforts, leveraging the interactive power of social media.
You as a small, local business, in many ways, can leverage that same power even more effectively.