Many small / local businesses build their own websites or hire a friend / relative to build and maintain their site for them due to budgetary restrictions. And this is ok... most of the time. However, there are a few basic guidelines you should remember when designing your own site without the help of a seasoned professional.
Knowing that budgets are always tight if you're not going to have a professional build your site you may want to consider hiring someone to conduct a site audit and provide an objective opinion on how to improve your site. Besides you'll want a non-biased opinion.
Sites like www.elance.com are a great resource to find reasonably priced professionals to conduct an audit.
1. Know who your customer is and isn't
There is no reason to waste a single dollar on marketing towards the wrong audience. Get to know the demographics of your market, keep a log of who walks in if you have to. Casually ask how they found you, or offer a coupon for completion of a brief survey. All easy to do and cheap.
2. Turn your customers into brand ambassadors
This sounds like something only a brand with a massive budget can do, but by properly leveraging the power of todays technology it's very easy to amplify the reach of each and every customer for just about nothing.
3. Measure your ROI
Does that print ad in the local paper you've been running for 10 years still make sense?
4. Look big, act local
Just because you serve your local market doesn't mean you can get away with a website your nephew built 10 years ago. You need your brand to look polished by todays standards. I recently saw a local business still using an AOL e-mail address, couldn't help but to laugh.
5. If you're able to sell online, DO IT
Nothing will expand your market more if you are able to create a transactional website. And don't be put off by the idea, it's surprisingly easy to do.
We are going to assume you've already jumped into the social space with your business. Maybe you have a twitter account and a facebook page, but you're not seeing the type of engagement you'd like.
Every customer that walks through the door represents an opportunity to AMPLIFY your social voice. However, you need to first make sure that you engage with the customer you already have before you can engage with new ones online.
No one will 'like' your page, follow your feed, or check-in if you don't give them a reason to. There needs to be value in doing these activities to the customer, afterall you're asking them do something for you. This could come in the form of a small discount, or perhaps a buy one get one free drink.
Bottom line, if you want to get the most social value out of your customers you MUST be providing them with incentive.
On the off chance you don't know what retargeting is, it is an increasingly common practice of creating banner ads that "follow you" from page to page after visiting your site. It is also a means to continually target potential customers who didn't open your e-mail.
Given that consumers are very well trained to ignore banner ads and e-mails hitting them with multiple messages isn't a bad idea on face value. BUT there is an art to it.
Your goal is to get the right message to the customer at THE RIGHT TIME. The right time does not mean ALL THE TIME therefore sometime it will eventually be correct.
If you know more purchase happen between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm that might be an ideal time to retarget. Don't show me the same banner ad all day long, it's annoying!
When it comes to e-mail retargeting there is a right and wrong way to go about it. Do send the same content with a different subject and re-worked to appear different. DO NOT EVER resend the exact same e-mail and indicate in the subject line I'm being retargeted (yes this actually happened to me today.)
Lesson of the day: Think about the message you're sending from the perspective of your customer.
1. I'm a small business, I don't need to be able to sell directly through my website.
Many small business owners think that the effort that goes into creating a transactional website won't pay out. However this couldn't be more wrong! Analyze your web traffic, now compare that to your foot traffic. How many potential sales have you lost?
2. All I need is a website and I'll be found.
Sorry, but those days have long since passed. Being found takes active effort on the part of the small business owner. Especially when it comes to SEO a little know how can go a LONG way.
3. Location is the only thing that matters.
If you have a great location and you're still hurting to turn a profit it may be time to re-evaluate your marketing strategy.
4. I'm stuck with the name of business for my website.
If you own Johns Deli you don't HAVE to have JohnsDeli.com or more accurately you don't have to ONLY have JohnsDeli.com. There are many URL strategies that work besides the most obvious ones.
After years of seeing awful local marketing on cable TV, on the streets, and online I've decided it's time to do something about it.