CHICAGO — Small businesses like vended laundries have long considered the building blocks of their marketing efforts to be things like store signage, newspaper advertising, a Yellow Pages listing, and direct mailers.
But in this digital age in which we now live, those marketing building blocks have evolved to include business websites and social media like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat that can connect businesses and customers virtually.
“Traditional marketing is a completely different concept entirely,” says Jennifer Rae Schulman, president of Fortune Web Marketing. Her New Jersey firm offers an array of online marketing services, including search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing services, and will be exhibiting at the Clean Show in Las Vegas. “Digital marketing must be done frequently and with more consistency.”
“Every business should have social media in its marketing plan,” says Dennis Diaz, president of Spynr (pronounced “spinner”). His New York company offers software and online marketing services to laundries and dry cleaners, and will be exhibiting at Clean. “Social media has one of the highest lead-to-close rates. The key is figuring out which one is right for your business.”
TIPS FOR SUCCESS, MISTAKES TO AVOID
The first step toward digital marketing success is getting started, Schulman says: “Don’t be intimidated. Realize that this is where your customers are and spend most of their time online. Do something, even if it’s one post per week, and most certainly invest in Facebook advertising. It is an extremely cost-effective and a proven way to grow your following.”
If you’re going to manage digital marketing yourself, Diaz advises to invest in content creation, a graphic designer and publishing/monitoring automation tools like Hootsuite to help you manage the workload.
“Build out your campaigns in advance. Block out time to schedule all of your posts up to six months in advance. But never ‘set it and forget it.’ You want to schedule in advance to be consistent in your effort, but drop in daily to listen to your audience, monitor performance and tweak things. Also, invest in ads. Social media is not free anymore—you can boost your chances of being seen by doing so.”
Small businesses that are successful at digital marketing use video cleverly, with great branded graphics, Diaz says. They use keywords in their posts, and they post often and consistently. And their messages have clear calls-to-action.
Aside from posting regularly, Schulman says successful digital marketers take advantage of data analytics tools inside their social channels, or a free tool like Google Analytics.
“In just a few minutes, you can look inside your Facebook page dashboard and see what day and what time of day you get the most engagements,” she says. “Thus, easily identifying when your customers are on Facebook and engaging with (you).”
There are some common mistakes that small businesses tend to make in their social media marketing efforts.
“Most businesses start but don’t follow through, such as using cheap graphics,” Diaz says. “They use photos of storefronts as their profile photos. There are heavy content ‘jackers’—businesses that constantly share others’ content and never have content of their own to share.”
“The only thing worse than not participating in some sort of social media is having a page that you don’t post to for months or years,” Schulman adds. “It does not represent your brand well.”
Using video and going “live” are what’s hot in social media right now, Diaz says. “If you have a decent following, adding video and going live could enhance your social media engagement efforts.”
Schulman considers Facebook and Instagram to be the “hot” social media networks at the moment, but says Instagram and Snapchat are growing in popularity among marketers.
IS IT A WORTHWHILE ENDEAVOR?
Small-business owners are typically no strangers to multi-tasking, so organizing and executing a social media campaign may be just one more thing to add to their routine.
For store owners who believe their time and talents are better used elsewhere, there are plenty of companies whose business is focused entirely on developing and managing campaigns for small-business clients like vended laundries.
But how much does something like that cost?
Diaz says the investment and return on same varies across the board depending on the channels used and the goals of the campaign.
“First, determine what your goals are,” he says. “Do you want to grow your social following or fan base, increase engagement, convert fans to customers? These goals can come in stages, too. For example, you will need to build an audience before you can increase engagement or get sales.”
Schulman says it’s difficult to put a price on a social media marketing strategy.
“Each company should have a more catered approach to what channels and how many posts per month would suit their needs,” she says. “One other factor to determine is how much outreach and relationship building with social influencers a client may need.”
So how can a laundry owner tell if their digital marketing efforts are bearing fruit?
“You could always ask people to follow you and ‘check in’ for some sort of incentive,” Schulman says. “Also, keep an eye on your foot traffic—if you start participating in a social media strategy, and your following increases, your foot traffic should as well. In addition, always look at the data provided within the social (media) tools themselves.”
She suggests offering promo codes or coupon codes that are unique to your social media accounts.
“It’s important to have a solid website to measure this effort,” Diaz says. “Social media is a referral source. Your social posts should contain calls to action with a link back to a page on your website. … Your job is to nurture that lead into a customer with e-mail and other marketing touches. If you follow that flow, you will be able to see the results of your social media marketing. Don’t let social media be the end-all-be-all in your marketing strategy.”
Is there anything to fear from digital marketing?
“I don’t think there is anything to fear—social media might open your eyes, though,” Diaz says. “Expect honest feedback about your business. Customers will express their opinions about your business, good or bad. It will require you to put your customer services skills to the test.”
“It’s more evergreen and much less expensive than, say, direct marketing,” Schulman says. “So, for less money, with very little risk, what have you got to lose?”
If you missed Part One, you can read it HERE.