One of the greatest uses of the Internet for small local business is as a tool to enhance their greatest offline strength – the ability to engage in person.
While the Internet offers the ability to reach globally, it possesses real power for the local business in its ability to extend reach locally.
Local marketers that fuse what they are doing offline, in their store, in their leads groups and in their community, with the awesome depth and ease of reach available through an active online presence can amplify the impact of their efforts in ways that produce a much greater return on investment all around.
The in person experience is the ultimate competitive advantage for the small business and it’s how they beat the online and big box competition. Many people have begun to call this thinking O2O or online to offline marketing.
Here’s a taste of what I mean:
Meetings that start online and end offline
What if you started a local leads group and used MeetUp.com to help facilitate the promotion and invitation to your referral group that also met in person once a month in your place of business.
This could create a powerful network of strategic partners using a suite of online tools to build each others businesses passively while still connecting at a much deeper level by meeting in person.
Networking that is both on and offline
Local business owners understand the power of networking and belonging to local groups such as their Chambers of Commerce. What if you supplemented your local networking events with social media and networking tools?
Think about the impact of meeting someone at a local event and then connecting through Facebook or LinkedIn to continue to communicate and share. Now, imagine what the relationship might look like the next time you bump into each other simply because you were able to connect, learn and engage online in between meeting face to face.
By connecting some simple tools like Rapportive, SproutSocial or BatchBook you can easily add the social network participation of everyone in your contact database. Do you see how that might speed communication and networking in the best sense?
Snack sized online showcase
The next time you plan a seminar or workshop, add this feature. Invite all of your clients and prospects to the live event, but add several opportunities for them to sample the great content in a few easy to attend online events.
Interview speakers, tease content and give them a taste of the value of attending in person. It’s become much harder to attract customers and prospect to events and so you need to sell the value in many ways.
By creating preview type marketing and distributing it through online channels using tools like GoToWebinar or Vokle you can create a sense of excitement and offer potential participants proof that there is a compelling reason to attend the full deal.
GPS as a marketing game
Mobile is for the most part an online game that is played locally. People that use their mobile devices for locating, shopping, and sharing are often doing so with local buying in mind.
Smart local businesses are plugging into tools such as Foursquare to build brand pages and reward local offline purchases, but they are also creating their own games using platforms such as Twitter and Scvngr.
Create a local social group
Social networks such as LinkedIn allow members to create and moderate groups on any subject.
Some smart local marketers have picked up on this and created very locally based groups around a topic of interest. Of course the topic has the most traction if it has broad appeal rather than simply promoting one business.
If you can create a group that brings lots of your prospects and network together in support of a topic of interest you might find it to be a powerful way to drive offline behavior inside the group as well.
Bryan Elliot’s Linked Orange County is a good example of what’s possible.
There are so many ways to use online tools to make your business more attractive to offline prospects. The key is think about how to efficiently access increasingly larger online audiences to build the trust required to drive them into your profitable offline offerings.