Two weeks ago, we left Neal sitting pretty in his local hardware store, Neal’s Hardware, with a great free offer, a lot of new customers and a great strategy for distinguishing his neighborhood store from those superstores like Lowes and Home Depot. (If you missed that story, here it is.)
My reason for telling you this story (and for continuing to do so now) was to show you how Internet marketing and social media are no more complicated to owning a local hardware store. A really cool hardware store. Like Neal’s Hardware.
So, as I said, we left Neal in a pretty good place! His basic marketing was off to a strong start, but… Neal stills needs more business!
See, he has big plans to expand, add a garden center and specialize in non-toxic paints. Plus, he’s had his eye on the new pickup truck. So even though his free offer and regular mailings are keeping the cash moving in, he needs to increase that flow!
Neal realizes that in order to fund his future dreams, he can’t stay stuck in his hardware store and wait for people to come to him. He has to get out and go where the action is, where his potential customers are. He has to rub elbows with a variety of folks who either need his goods or can refer others to his store.
So he joins the local Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary. He shows up at meetings and mixers, joins in the conversations, and plays it smart by spending most of his time asking questions and listening to others talk about their businesses and their lives.
When people ask him what he does, he tells them about the store and his services, and, if it feels right, he hands them a card for the free digital tape measure. “Come on by the store and I’ll give you one of these great digital tape measures,” he says.
But Neal doesn’t stop there.
He knows that if he’s going to compete with the superstores, he has to position himself as the friendly expert who can help people solve their home repair problems. That’s when he gets a great idea!
He calls the local newspaper and asks for their ad rates for a long column ad to run once a week, every week. The price feels right so he kicks off an ad campaign. But instead of placing one of those “come on in!” ads, he uses the ad space to publish his own fix-it column! Every week, he tells readers how to fix another common repair or redesign problem. And, of course, each ad ends with an invitation to drop by and get a free digital tape measure.
Between his column and his networking, Neal’s driving a lot more people into the store, giving away a lot of tape measures and building a pretty massive email list… all while making new friends and strengthening his relationships with both his potential and tried-and-true customers. (Oh, and he bought that new truck!)
How Does This Relate To Your Own Internet Marketing?
Once you have your basic Internet marketing system in place, which consists of your website, free offer and email marketing, you need to go out and be where the action is! You need to meet people where they’re hanging out and find ways to get your expertise out there.
In Internet marketing, one of the ways to do this is through Social Networking or Social Media. You know, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. These platforms allow you to find, follow and befriend your ideal customers and referral sources. And like Neal, if you’re smart, you will show up consistently, join the conversation, be interested in what others have to say, be helpful and always lead people back to your website.
Plus, you want to find ways to not only meet people and make connections but share your expertise. Like Neal did with his ad campaign. You can do this through article marketing and blogging. Or creating helpful YouTube videos. Again, all of these activities lead people back to your website and your free offer so you can continue to build your email list and thereby build your relationship with your customers.
Back to Neal…
Now, Neal’s biz is taking off! People are stopping by for their free gift, giving him a chance to demonstrate his unique selection of nuts and bolts and exceptional customer service. Plus, the folks on his mailing list are starting to know and love him. His regular newsletters are fun and helpful, and they give his customers ideas on how to create more beauty and functionality in their home.
Plus, they much prefer to stop by Neal’s store and talk to someone they know and love than feel lost and overwhelmed in some big superstore.
To further serve his clients, attract more traffic into the store and increase his income, Neal decides to offer a free do-it-yourself workshop every Saturday morning. During these 2-hour workshops, either he or one of his suppliers teaches his customers how to do something cool, like choose the right paint colors or build their own outdoor fountain. These workshops not only provide a service to his customers and give his suppliers a chance to shine in the spotlight, they feature one or more of the products he sells in the store.
As an added bonus, Neal is now often asked by his suppliers to come talk to their staff and customers so he can share his expertise… and bring more recognition to Neal’s Hardware!
Now Neal is making plans to launch a “Neal’s Deals” membership program where members get deeper discounts, members-only educational programs, early access to the store on sale days and an invitation to the Neal’s Hardware Holiday Party. All for the annual fee of $77! Knowing Neal, it’s sure to be a bit hit!
Back to YOU!
Another way you can grow your own business online is by offering your own free workshops in the form of teleseminars or webinars! And like Neal, you can offer your own great content or invite colleagues to be guest speakers. Either way, it’s a great way to build your tribe (and your email list) and get known for offering great, valuable content. And, as Neal did with his Saturday workshops, you can offer your audience the products or services you have “in stock” that will help them get the results they want!
Teleseminars and webinars also give you the chance to form strategic alliances with colleagues and other experts. You invite certain experts to talk to your audience, thereby giving them the chance to reach a wider audience, and they can return the favor. It’s a win-win-win! Your clients get a lot of valuable content and access to expertise they may not otherwise have. Your strategic alliance partners get to introduce their services to your clients, and you get to introduce your services to their audience. Lovely!
Are you beginning to see how the possibilities are endless when it comes to Internet marketing? Can you see how it’s not any more complicated or mysterious as having a really cool, local hardware store?
Hey, who knows? Maybe you’ll soon be offering your own membership program… just like Neal!
The trick is to start with the basics (what I call the Strong Start triangle) and build from there. Don’t try to do it all at once! You’ll go nuts and it won’t work! Take it step by step, evaluating what is working and what’s not.
And remember, you get to do this in a way that works for you! If you hate to write, article marketing and blogging are not good strategies for you. But maybe video marketing is! Or pay-per-click ads.
If social media scares you and Twitter makes your stomach clench, don’t do it! There are so many more options for you!
Let’s create an Internet marketing plan that is perfect for you, one that is easy to understand and put into action! I’m ready to help you every step of the way.