How to Use Online Marketing to Drive Sales
Now that you understand why online marketing is so crucial for your local business, let’s talk about some specific ways you can use online tools to increase your sales.
- Use social media. Social media usage is growing daily. Regardless of your industry or product, it’s safe to assume that most of your customers have at least one social media account. Many small businesses fail to use social media effectively. Here are some suggestions:
- Start with Facebook. It is still the largest and most popular social media site, and its versatility allows you to interact with customers in a variety of ways. Two great options are using Facebook Offers, or Local Awareness ads to reach more locals in your area.
- Don’t rule out other sites. Pinterest users are more likely to make purchases based on what they see people share than users on any other social media site. They also tend to spend more money than people on other sites – something to keep in mind.
- Integrate your marketing efforts with customer service to maximize customer engagement. Answering customer questions can go a long way toward building brand loyalty.
- Don’t forget the “social” in social media. People want social media content to be fun and informative.
- Use coupons and promotions. One of the primary reasons people give for following companies on social media (or subscribing to their email lists) is that they want to get special deals. Traditional retail stores can and should use coupons to encourage customers to visit. However, even businesses who don’t normally use coupons can find ways to offer them. For example:
- Service-based industries can offer a free consultation or evaluation.
- Restaurants can offer a free appetizer or beverage with the purchase of one (or more) entrees.
- Offer a time-specific promotion to drive sales at slow times. For example, if you own a garage and Monday is your slow day for oil changes, you might offer 10% off to people who come in on Monday.
- Not all coupons need to be online. A lot of stores give out a coupon with a purchase to entice customers to come back to the store.
- Sponsor a contest or giveaway. Everybody loves the idea of winning a free product or service, and online marketing lends itself to such things. Consider running a contest that encourages people to share your information with their social media followers. For example, you might offer one entry in a raffle to people who share information about the contest on Facebook, and a second entry if they also Tweet about it. Contests are a very effective way to get customers to share information about your company – and to get your products in front of new customers without having to spend any money.
- Start a “Refer a Friend” program. This type of promotion won’t work for every business, but for service-based businesses, it is a very effective marketing tool. Instead of giving out coupons, tell existing customers that you will give them a freebie or discount if they refer a friend and the friend makes a purchase. It’s a way of increasing customer loyalty and attracting new customers at the same time – and it doesn’t cost you anything up front.
- Don’t forget about mobile customers. If your website isn’t mobile-adaptive, it might be time to think about revamping it. More people access the internet on smartphones today than ever before, and the numbers are still rising. In addition to updating your website, here are some other things to consider:
- Text messages have a 99% open rate (much higher than email) and they’re a great way to reach local customers when they are out running errands.
- Consider offering mobile customers a special mobile-only coupon.
- Time text messages to coincide with subscribers’ activities. For example, you might send out a coupon for a free appetizer during Happy Hour, and time it to go out right when most people are leaving work on a Thursday or Friday.
- Start a blog. Blogging is easy and inexpensive, and it is a great way to engage your customers on an ongoing basis. With a blog, you can highlight new products as they arrive in your store, feature customer reviews, and even offer video demonstrations with ideas for how to use products. You can also:
- Share blog posts on social media.
- Include links to blog posts in text messages or emails.
- Invite customer comments and feedback.
These are just a few of the most effective ways to use online marketing to increase your in-store sales. Thanks to the popularity and versatility of social media and other online tools, the possibilities are endless – so use your imagination, and watch your sales go through the roof.
How to Market Your Home Services Franchise
One of the great things about living in the modern era is that you can hire somebody to do almost any task you can imagine. Our lives are busier than ever, and sometimes we need help around the house. Home service franchises are increasingly common, and they run the gamut from housecleaning services to pet care to health care.
One of the benefits of selling franchises – or buying one – is that you have brand recognition from the start. Most customers need to be exposed to a product or brand several times before they make a purchase. When a name is already familiar to a potential customer, it increases the likelihood that they will utilize your services. An example of a home service franchise with great name recognition is Comfort Keepers, a company that provides non-medical home health services.
Challenges of Marketing a Home Based Business
In spite of the name recognition you bought along with your franchise, there are some challenges associated with marketing a home service franchise.
- No physical location. For services like home repair, home care, plumbing, electricians, etc. you probably won’t have a brick and mortar location. Because your franchise is service-based and mobile, paying for office space probably isn’t necessary. That can be a good thing in terms of your monthly budget, but it does mean that you are going to have to rely on online marketing, especially having a well-designed, high ranking website to help you attract customers.
- Updating local listings. When you are marketing a business that has multiple locations, keeping your online listings consistent and up-to-date is crucial. Google’s algorithms deliver search listings that are specific to each searcher’s location, so it is essential to have your local listings in line.
- Duplicate content. You might think, because you want customers to know that your services are consistent from location to location, that each franchise’s website should have the same content. However, that is not the case. Google can and does penalize websites that have duplicate content. While you might need to have similar content on each location’s website, you also need to make sure that the content is original to avoid taking a hit in your search ranking.
- Localizing your mobile websites. It is absolutely essential to have a website that is mobile-adaptive for your company. More customers than ever before are accessing websites using their smartphones, and they are notoriously impatient. Your site needs to load quickly and be easy to read and use on a mobile device to be successful. You also need to make sure that your mobile sites are customized for the local area so they are easy to use.
- Managing your reputation. One of the downsides of being part of a company that sells franchises is that sometimes, a single franchise location can get into trouble and, by association, taint the whole brand. When each location is fully localized, it becomes easy to reap the benefits of brand recognition while also distancing yourself from any trouble or negative press.”
“For many people, the benefits of being associated with a franchise – especially one with a great reputation – far outweigh the risks. But the right marketing strategy is critical.”
Marketing Tips for Home Based Businesses
Now that you understand what the challenges of marketing a home service franchise are, let’s talk about some of the ways you can overcome those challenges.
- Standardize your local listings. Your NAP (name, address, and phone) listings are essential for local SEO and marketing. Even a small discrepancy in the way your name is listed (such as writing out ‘Avenue’ in one listing and abbreviating it as ‘Ave’ in another) can have a negative effect on your search ranking. Review your online listings and make sure they are consistent.
- Make the content similar, but your own. Take the information on the company’s main website as a suggestion and rewrite the content to be specific to your area and customers. That way, you will improve your local optimization by including keywords specific to your service area, and avoid the inevitable penalties from Google for having duplicate content on your site.
- Check out local options for your mobile site and make sure to use them. You want customers to be able to access your site from anywhere, and that means not skimping on having a mobile-friendly or (even better) mobile-adaptive website. Your site needs to be quick to load, easy to read, and simple to navigate. It also needs to have the same information and functionality as your regular site.
- Separate your franchise. If one franchisee runs into a reputation problem, do what you can to distance yourself from the problem without badmouthing the company. For example, you might make a point of telling customers on your website or social media that you are “independently owned and operated” or something like that. There are ways to create a buffer zone and preserve the reputation of the company while also reassuring customers.
- Make use of two important services, Amazon Home Services, and Google Home Services.
- Amazon Home Services is currently available in 15 major metropolitan areas. The way it works is that when customers buy a product on Amazon that’s related to your service, they see a suggestion of local service providers that can help them with it. For example, a customer who buys a new air conditioner might see a selection of HVAC companies in their area who can help them install it. The service is also usable as a stand-alone option to search for services. Providers pay a small fee to Amazon to be included.
- Google Home Services works on a similar principle, but it is specific to Google searches. This service is currently being tested in the San Francisco area with plans to expand. When you search for something, part of what you will end up seeing in your search results is a list of local service providers. There are two basic ways to get your company included. First, you can optimize your site for keywords and hope that it shows up in a list of organic search results. Second, you can pay for a Google ad to have your company featured when someone searches for the service you offer.
As long as you pay attention to the five areas detailed above, you can be sure that you are getting the most out of marketing your home service franchise.