No matter what your business sells, how it sells it or how and where people buy you it, people are going online to find it, pure and simple. That’s as true for those one of kind hand made earrings as it is for the spa and auto repair shop in their neighborhood.
And, it’s increasingly true for the local insurance provider, landscaper, plumber, attorney and tax professional.
So, what does this mean for the local small business? You’ve got to start thinking about your online presence as a central tool for driving people offline and into your store, sales presentation, meeting, demonstration, appointment or evaluation.
Below are five ways to think about your online activity as an offline opportunity generator.
1) Online calls to action
When people do find and visit your site make it easy for them to use your website to get a free pass, coupon or trial product.
Enable tools like click to call or chat from Olark, so they can get in touch right now and get their burning questions asked
Put a tool like GenBook on your site they can find a time and schedule appointment without needing to call.
Make sure that you have turn by turn directions and links to maps so they can find your business and even send the directions to their smartphone.
2) O2O advertising
Most people run ads to get people buy, what if you thought about your online advertising as a way to simply drive people offline – O2O?
Create local campaigns using Google Adwords that drive people to your website to take advantage of the calls to action, such a free pass or coupon, that I discussed in the previous point.
Make sure that your Google Places page is complete and compelling and consider the coupon and advertising options available for this tool.
Look into Facebook targeted ads for your calls to action. You can target local Facebook folks all the way down to targeting fans of your competitors.
To make your O2O advertising even more effective create local landing pages for each campaign or even neighborhood you are targeting.
3) Networked networking
Offline networking is still a great way to create and build potential relationships, but you can really amplify this tactic when you add some simple online tactics to your networking efforts.
When you connect offline with a prospect at say a Chamber event, move to also connect online and watch how much faster you can build a relationship.
Look at tools like MeetUp that make it easy to create offline events and gatherings using an online marketing system.
4) Local social groups
Most social networks give you the ability to create groups. Some organizations have had tremendous success by creating and facilitating local, special interest groups on networks like LinkedIn.
The key here is to think “interest group” and not something that’s clearly a promotional tool for your business. If you can create an industry group or some other niche topic that allows your customers to explore and expand an interest they have, you’ve hit on a formula that’s very potent.
5) Online and on the go
Increasingly, our prospects are not only online they are mobile while doing so. There are some very creative ways to take advantage of this fact and drive people with great buying intent offline.
First off make sure you claim your location on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. This way you can enhance the details and make sure people using geo location services can check in at the right place.
Create and test an offer on a service like Foursquare that can help highlight your business when someone checks in at another nearby business.
Look into the group coupon tools like Groupon, Google Offers or Living Social, but make sure you’re ready to capture the leads these programs produce in a way that allows you to turn a low profit sale into a long term customer.
Think about ways to create check-in games that you could use as part of a promotion. Get a group of strategic partners to participate and offers special deals for people that have checked in at a number of your partners on Foursquare of that take a photo of their purchases at a number of partners and posted it to Twitter or Instagram.
As you can see, the way you can employ this kind of thinking is limited only to your imagination, but there’s no denying the importance and effectiveness of this strategy.