Question: Reddy, Southlake, Texas
We have a retail storefront and a Web site. How do we market our Web site to people beyond our store customers?
There are several ways you can market your store to a wider audience online. In fact, your client base can expand dramatically if you promote your business online effectively, all for minimal cost.
The primary way large businesses are promoted via the Web is through direct advertising. Advertising online can take the form of a banner, logo or pop-up advertisement. While advertising can be expensive, many Web sites are buying advertisements to support their growth and development.
For advertising to work, it must be targeted to the right audience. Google’s AdWords program is a scalable and targeted way to get your business promoted. Several online sites offer to display ads that you write for a nominal cost, usually a price-per-click (each time a prospective consumer clicks a link to your Web site). For example, Google might charge 1 cent per click, and will allow the advertiser to cap the amount spent on advertising. This means that if your business is only able to budget $10 per month on advertising, Google will run your ad until $10 worth of people have clicked through to your site, charging you that 1 cent per click.
Some sites are willing to provide banner ads for free provided you post an ad of their choosing on your business’ Web site in return. If your business is small and cannot afford expensive ads online, then there are several simpler methods to try. First, make sure that all the major search engines know your business exists online. By employing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, your Web site can see immensely increased traffic. Make sure your site is optimized for various Web browsing software (e.g., Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox), for slow connections, and for search engine “bots” that find your Web site online. If you offer several site features such as discounts and coupons, your business will see more traffic from bargain hunters as well as the general public. If you offer a newsletter for your business via e-mail, then customers can be kept updated about new promotions and sales your business is having. Resist the temptation to mass e-mail your Web site address to prospective clients as many of your customers and potential customers will view this as spam.
You also can try to creatively promote your site through other means such as social networking sites, forums and chat rooms. Social networking sites have become a popular means for communication among people young and old all over the world. Younger people tend to spend more time online; ensuring that your business appears on the most sites it can is essential to reach this demographic. Facebook, for example, can be employed as a great marketing tool to reach high school and college age young adults. Make sure your reputation online blossoms by offering free products for completing surveys so that you can improve your site, business model or inventory. Additionally, free samples really catch on in the Web-based world and may be just what you need to reach new audiences.
Selling ideas online? Forums are a place where people meet to ask questions and get answers. It may be that a product you are selling is perfectly suited to answer someone else’s needs. If you are truly creative enough, you can even promote your product on YouTube. If your business sells tangible products, then another way to garner new customers online could be through online sales via third-party sites such as eBay, or major retail hubs like Amazon. These allow small businesses to sell goods while promoting their own storefront and site. By offering some savory deals, you might draw customers to your own storefront. While it may cost your business some of that precious profit margin to sell on these sites, the benefits of a larger market share and repeat customers will far outweigh any losses. Make sure that your business name on these sites matches your real store to maintain consistency.
There are also professionally available solutions to help you out if you are totally stuck or the above ideas don’t seem to work. For example, there are many writers willing to compose an advertisement for your site, which can range from a simple plug for your business to a full-blown review. These advertisements can be run on radio, television, online, and even in newspapers. There are companies that will help you produce marketing campaigns that range from mass-market fliers to press conferences that help to turn heads. These companies also can help to optimize your site so that your business can enjoy maximum exposure on the Web. Depending on your budget, there are many ways to widen your Web presence and boost sales.