During a recent Kansas Main Street, Inc. Quarterly Training, the subject of business exposure was talked about extensively. Why? With mass media the amount of exposure a business needs to make a lasting connection with a consumer has increased substantially. Just twenty years ago, if you make three or four solid contacts with a consumer, and you followed up with good products and services, you could develop a loyal customer. Now the contact number is thirty. That's right, you need to have ten times the contact per customer to create a lasting relationship. Scary.
Most of you (statistically speaking) are spending a small percentage of your income on advertising. For retailers, you may spend 3-5% of your gross income (some less). For many service businesses, it's as low as 1%. This spending gap results in a frequency gap. Without the advertising dollars spent, it is hard to create the frequency necessary to develop a solid impression. But, you can't spend what you don't have, so lets talk alternatives that you can utilize in addition to a more robust ad budget.
77% of consumers want to receive their business outreach offers via e-mail: http://marketingland.com/77-percent-of-us-want-to-get-marketing-messages-via-email-theres-no-close-second-place-study-says-9420 Traditional e-mail (like your outlook or Google accounts) don't serve as a good bulk mailing tool. Some of the most popular E-newsletter options include: ConstantContact, MyEmma, Benchmark, MailChimp. Once a week, or once every two weeks, consider reaching out to your customer base to build frequency. You have to provide good and meaningful content, but the most expensive plans on e-newsletter sites run about $50 per month, and some of the options listed are free.
Outreach must be compatible with the language and devices of your targeted clientele. Modern handheld technology now means 43% of mail is opened on a mobile device: http://blogs.constantcontact.com/fresh-insights/email-on-mobile/ If
you were out during this Saturday's Trick or Treat, you may have noticed several parents walking around with their smart phones "up". They weren't just taking pictures. We talked with several families that didn't need a paper trick or treat map because they simply downloaded a copy of the map from the Emporia Main Street web site, our e-newsletter, our Facebook Page or our Twitter Feed. Handheld business device communication isn't an abstract idea in Emporia. It is happening right now.
Creating digital relationships and converting those relationships into sales takes a shift in thinking. Luckily, newer business experts can provide you with some needed guidance. See:www.gitomer.com for Jeffrey Gitomer, who offers his own free "e-zine" on cultivating relationships – and sales.
Although we've talked about digital media (beyond Facebook and Twitter), other media types continue to grow in popularity. Remember, it's not always about the bulk number of participants in a digital media type, it's about the number of participants that will spend money with your business after connecting with you via digital media. The top usage for YouTube, for example, are instructional videos. It's a fairly short trip from "instruction" to "purchase" for enterprising businesses. See: Ten strategies and best practices for using YouTube in business: https://www.udemy.com/blog/youtube-for-business/
Other small social media types take out the "multiple Farmville account users" and let you connect with a smaller group of dedicated users that you can potentially turn into dedicated consumers. One example of a smaller, but more dedicated social media group is contained in Google+ for business: http://www.google.com/+/business/
Remember, to keep all these new on-line gizmos from sucking the time out of your day, consider using a multi-platform management tool. One of the most popular for managing multiple social accounts, scheduling posts and more is www.hootsuite.com
I've talked to some of you that don't want to be on-line because you are afraid that you might get negative comments. Well, we hate to break it to you, but people can comment negatively about your business on-line even if you aren't on-line. Great customer service is required in the modern age because bad customer service can go viral quickly. Don't believe me? Click on this fun video (fun unless you are United Airlines, that is): Watch: "United Breaks Guitars" on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo )
Remember that you can create a "passive" presence on-line simply by "claiming" businesses in a variety of platforms like "Yelp", "Urban Spoon" and more. Because Google is the worlds largest search engine, make sure your business is registered correctly with Google Places for some of the cheapest and best real estate on the web, ABOVE the search results! https://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/
All of these connections simply reinforce a divide occurring in physical businesses. Business futurist Victor Wong says the following about the future of store fronts: ""I believe either offline retailers are going to have to be like Walmart or be like Apple in the future. They won't be able to charge a 20-50 percent markup on a pure commodity shopping experience; instead they must produce an amazing retailing experience or they must simply have cheaper prices than the Internet has to offer."
We want to thank John L. Addessi of the Kansas Small Business Development Center for the information included in this article. For more information about SBDC officials from across the state of Kansas contact them via: http://ksbdc.kansas.gov/Pages/default.aspx or toll free at: Toll free: 1-877-62K-SBDC.