How often can you be involved with something in your business marketing program that is truly effective and has a very strong ROI? It our experience, with working with the ICB community, we would have to say not very frequently. More importantly, usually when this kind of opportunity is available you see it being used by everyone as regularly as possible.
The Internet is one of those marketing tools that is very effective when properly managed, and it is relatively inexpensive there by providing a strong ROI. However, in a recent study by an international business consulting group, it showed that the ICB community was only using 3% of its advertising budget for Internet marketing. The big question is, why is that? It is an effective marketing tool. It is inexpensive, and it can reach over 90% of your customers. Why then is the ICB community apparently ignoring it?
We read one report that said the reason the ICB was not using it was because many of the ICB owners have a long history of family members who were stuck on traditional methods of marketing and another report, which said that ICB didn’t have the financial resources to get the job done.
We believe them both to be wrong, and it is not uncommon for the large marketing companies just not to understand the ICB owners. After working with independent business for a number of years, we understand their situation. The majority of ICB owners are what we call “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.” That simply means they are very business running their business and have not had the time to understand, learn and/or implement a business plan which would encompass the embracing of technology. Unfortunate as that may seem it is understandable.
The sad part of this situation is with the proper guidance, learning and using Internet marketing can be simpler than it appears and once implemented, it becomes a very strong tool for keeping a business prosperous and providing new opportunities by being able to compete with their largest competitors not only in the local community, but it can open up a much larger market.
All ICB’s need to determine for themselves what the potential Internet market can bring to them and to what degree it should be used. The tools of using the Internet may be only an email marketing program, but it could be website marketing, a newsletter, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), modified e-commerce or full e-commerce, SEO website development, Internet business director enhancement, in-store digital signage connected to your website, store online loyalty programs, website product branding. The list goes on, and it may seem intimidating. However, the benefit of Internet marketing is everyone can start out with the basics such as email marketing and with a good technology implementation program, the process can continue to grow over the next year or two making it very possible for an ICB to have the time to commit to a solid long-range plan. We strongly recommend that the ICB start slowly and get the basics taken care of. Doing that will make a much more successful and satisfying program.
Getting started is easy and does not require a large amount of cash. The first thing is that you must learn as much about your current customer’s technology habits. Do they have an email address, are they connected to any social media site (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and do they “like” business sites, do they buy online, have they done any “Showroom” shopping, and other similar like questions? This is important because once you have gotten that kind of information from your existing customers it will help you develop a more successful program.
The easiest way to get this information is by offering your existing customers some buy benefits if they take the time to complete a “confidential” questionnaire. Confidential is very important and the customer has to have the assurance that you will not sell or use their information for anything other than your operation.
The offering should be something of true value. A large discount, 25% or 30%, on their next purchase is a great benefit to both the customer and yourself. The customer will appreciate the discount and from your standpoint, it does not require you to put out any cash to get the information which is needed to get the program developed. Granted, your cash flow will be impacted, but at least you do not need to put any cash up front to get it started.
Once the information has been obtained you will then be capable of creating an Internet marketing program which will reach your current customer base as well as allow you to reach out to others on the Internet providing you with a great tool for continued growth.
Watch for other articles over the coming months on how to build a program now that you have the needed customer information or give your Technology Strategist a call and ask how they can help get an Internet marketing program up and running with their help.