How to Compete with the Big Box? Think Locally

When Retail Giants Come To Town

What do you do as a small, independent retailer when a major food chain, big-box store or national franchise becomes a direct competitor? All along you’ve been specializing in items that aren’t in the mainstream but sell well, and then some big box outfit decides they’re going to build in your community, do you hide your head in the sand and wait to be driven out of business or do you take proactive steps to stay in business?

Perfect examples of this are Walmart and Target Stores, the retail giants are on a building spree, Walmart moving into small to mid-sized communities with Neighborhood Markets and region serving Superstores and Target with it’s Target Express stores with a paired down inventory of its big brother. When this happens, what can you as a specialty retailer do to remain in business and retain your dominance in any niche market?

Your first reaction might be to lower prices in order to compete with the big stores. But that’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. There’s no way you’ll ever compete on price. Yet there are steps that specialty merchants can take in order to maintain position. Here’s a list of things your business can do to maintain the customers you already have and win even more business when being forced to compete with the retail giants:

  • Connect with locals using social media. Large chains and franchises typically do a terrible job of maintaining social media profiles in the local communities where they have stores. Set yourself apart by ramping up local engagement via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

  • Blog locally. If the big boys even have a blog, they’re not likely spending time focusing on local issues. By frequently blogging about topics that your local customers actually care about, you increase your store’s odds of generating positive local search results online. And you’re telling your customers they should have more — not less — information about the products and services you sell.

  • Support local causes. National chains move slowly, especially when it comes to sponsoring or supporting local events. As a local yourself, pay attention to what’s coming up on the local events calendar and join up with civic-minded organizations that are targeting the same people who might like to buy your products or services. Supporting local causes endears your brand among your target demographic.

  • State your differences as positives. Don’t bash the competition — either in front of your staff or with customers. Instead, point out the clear differences between your offerings by speaking in positives, not negatives. For example, “Featuring locally-sourced ingredients that are healthy for you and your family since 1997” is a better message than “Buy local!” or “You call that organic?”

  • Use size to your advantage. In most cases, everything you see on the shelves of a big box or chain store, or being sold or offered by a franchise, is there because one person — a national buyer or category manager — approved it. You, however, can start selling a new item on a moment’s notice. By specializing in the niche items that helped you build your enterprise, you’ll continue to drive business in your direction.

 

Is Your Business Trapped In A Time Warp? 12 Signs that You Are Stuck & Will Lose Business To The Competition

Once upon a time we all lived in small towns, or at least tight knit communities and neighborhoods.  If you needed your hair cut you’d go to Kelly’s Barber Shop, you bought your sandwiches from Sub Shop #10, and the pharmacy on the corner didn’t belong to Walgreens.  Businesses didn’t have to market, network, advertise, tweet or blog about their services to get and keep their customers.  They offered their goods and services, and people came for them.  It’s how business was done.

That was then.  Welcome to the modern world!   If you think you can rely on your business surviving the old fashioned way, where people buy from you because they always have, stop and think again!  Even if you’re located in a sparsely populated burg, the town folk now have the internet, smart phones and all kinds of other techie gadgets… they can find it cheaper, better and quicker on Amazon if you don’t get your head in the game and convince them they want their money flowing in your direction.

Are you going to just trust fate?   You basically have two choices:  To be passive or to be proactive.   Obviously choosing to do nothing is about as passive as you can get… might as well throw in the towel now and save yourself the hassle and grief.  If you are immobile and stuck, you are in serious trouble.  The protective bubble you are wrapped in may feel comfy, but this cloak is indeed deceiving.  You are trapped in a time warp and will eventually lose your business to the competition.  Make sure these obvious issues don’t apply to you:

  1. RESISTING TECHNOLOGY: This is how you’ve always done things and this is how it shall be done.  You just keep it status quo and let the other guys use the new technology and processes.  Stay in this time warp and watch your clients high tail it away from you quicker than you can say 8-track tape or plastic pink yard flamingo.
  2. AVOIDING SOCIAL MEDIA: Can you say “FREE ADVERTISING”?  If you don’t have time to post things yourself, find someone to do it for you.  Take advantage of all the resources that are available.  Keep your name out there.  Let people look for YOU to see what you have to say… Don’t let them find your competitors because you don’t want to take the time…
  3. TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF: Why would you try to do it all?  Delegate!  If you can’t afford a staff, or if you don’t want one, at least get a Virtual Assistant to do the things you don’t like to do (or that suck up all your time!)
  4. USING A ROLODEX: Seriously?  How about a CRM or at the very least pop those numbers into your phone! Get an app like Inigo and exchange contact info with a simple text message even if you forgot or ran out of business cards! Who even has a Rolodex anymore?!
  5. GETTING THE SAME RESULTS AND STILL DOING IT THE SAME WAY: Hello… McFly!  If what you have done has been ineffectual, or at the very least yielding minimal results, why are you doing it the same way again and again and again?  Find what works!  Move on from what you have been doing.
  6. FORGETTING YOUR PURPOSE: Remember why you wanted to be an entrepreneur.  Maybe it’s time to reevaluate those goals and recall what got you onto the path of being a small business owner in the first place.
  7. NOT NETWORKING: You say you’re not a people person?  Well who do you think buys your goods and services?  Exactly!  Step outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there.   Use the opportunity to rub elbows with some people who may be able to help you grow your business.  Listen to other people… what are their stories?
  8. LIVING BY THE CLOCK: Business ownership is not for the meek.  It’s also not for the basic nine-to-fiver.  If you’re looking for a 9-5 gig, perhaps being an entrepreneur isn’t your thing.  You don’t have to breathe business 24/7, but you have to be open to the occasional early phone call or late appointment if you want your business to thrive.
  9. STAYING DISORGANIZED: Simple things like losing phone numbers, forgetting appointments and not being able to find important documentation will destroy you.  Can’t do it alone?  Get a Virtual Assistant to help you get your act together.  Don’t let your ADD stand in the way of your personal and professional success.
  10. RANDOMLY SWITCHING IT UP: Switching it up from time to time may sound like a good thing, but you need to let your ideas come to fruition too.  Constantly changing things around will not let you get an accurate feel for what works and what doesn’t.  Make sure you are constantly evaluating progress.
  11. KEEPING YOUR POSSE: Are some of your partners, staff or even the vendors holding you back?  You may love them but make certain you share the same goals and passion.  If not figure out an amicable way to go your own way.  Keeping your posse when they no longer share your dream is a big mistake.
  12. ALWAYS PLAYING IT SAFE: You need to take a risk from time to time.  Look around you.  What is your competition doing?  Why are you playing it so safe that you are blending into the background?

Being an entrepreneur takes courage.  It takes knowing when to walk, when to sprint, and when it’s time to run away from the habits that have you stuck… It’s knowing how to get out of your own way, how to move on, and how to get out of the time warp before you lose your butt to the competition.

6 Reasons to Avoid DIY Website Builders

If you clicked on this link, it’s very likely you are…

  • A new business in need of “web presence” (not to be confused with a website)
  • An existing business with outdated, “I hate mobile” website coding.
  • Have an OK website, but need an increase in “Web Presence” to get a leg up on competitors.

The Online DIY Website Builders spend millions on advertising (Wix and SquareSpace spent over $10 million during Super Bowl 50). Don’t get lured in…

Here are 6 reasons to avoid DIY website builders

  • You can’t change templates. So you built a nice little Wix site yourself. Congratulations! You wrote all the content, uploaded all the images and videos, logos, etc. You spent a few nights slapping it all together, only to show it to someone who was subsequently, less than impressed. You looked through some other templates and saw a better one. Think you can use that without starting all over again? Think again. You can’t. Every time you change the look of your website, you need to start from the very beginning. Back to Square One. That frustration is one of the best reasons to avoid DIY website builders.  
  • They advertise how easy it is, yet many give up, which is why Wix (and others) offer professional help for a “low fee”. You can find one of the Wix “approved designers” HERE. Please tell me you clicked, because if that is a professional site, I am now the world’s leading brain surgeon. Look, if you are going to pay someone, do it right the first time.
  • “If it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist” is a quote from Jimmy Wales (a guy who founded a little site called Wikipedia) and it’s true. That Go-Daddy site with all the great pictures of your food, or images of you servicing vehicles, or videos of your pet grooming business? They don’t exist. Why? Go-Daddy actively blocks Google from indexing anything other than text. Hint: Any web designer/builder worth a buying a beer for, embeds the three important things Google looks for in a picture; title, alternate info and description, so they can index it (and link it on the web to your business) for search. That’s one of the big reasons to avoid DIY Website Builders, you’re really not on the web, you are on their domain. Let that sink in.
  • Ali vs Frazier, the Jets and the Patriots, Google and Wix. History has given us a long list of great rivalries, and you can add Google/Wix to the mix. Google has a very tough time indexing Wix sites. So tough that Wix advises you to wait 90 days before you are indexed by Google. Reality Check: In the past, it could take Google up to 4 weeks to list your site. Much, much faster now. Someone tell Wix it’s 2016. If it takes 3 months for Google to crawl a Wix site, something is likely very, very wrong. And there is… just last fall, after an algorithm update, all the Wix-built sites vanished from Google. It got fixed (by Google), and no other real websites were affected, but it shows that Google Search has some real troubles with WIX. Wix tells you how much Google likes them though. Right. Sure they do. It’s also a very good reason to avoid DIY website builders.
  • They all own your website and all the content, images, logos… One reason to avoid DYI website builders is they all own your website. Read the fine print. Here is a simple fact; If you hire someone to build a website, when it’s done, it’s yours free and clear. You can host it wherever you want. You can take it to someone else down the road for an overhaul…it’s yours. Not so with any DIY website. They own it, they can change it whenever they like (think about the changes over the years on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). You pay for the website for as long as you have it, and when you stop, it’s gone (think cable TV subscription). In reality, that’s not how it works, but as a caged rat, you do help them pay for Super Bowl ads….
  • There’s this little thing that has exploded called content marketing. In a recent B2B survey, Content Marketing  was named as one of the top 3 business strategies by over 2/3 of business owners. You are locked out of Content Marketing. Why? Proper content marketing is heavily contingent on you having a blog/news/updates page on your domain as a subdomain, which is not possible on any DIY website builder.

The very biggest reason to avoid DIY website builders is because with all the work you put into it, not only is the SEO blocked, not only are there serious indexing issues, not only does the site look like it’s homemade, shopping cart limitations would take a whole new post, it’s not even that you don’t own the site…

The Biggest Reason to avoid DIY website builders?

It’s just a website. (and a bad one at that)

It’s just a website and that may have worked in the past, but in 2016, if you want to grow your online presence, you need to employ social media, SEO and most of all, inbound content marketing so you can truly tell your story directly to your target audience. Or embrace Wix, SquareSpace, Go-Daddy and all the rest; where SEO is stone-age, the websites look no better than what was common in AOL days, and they firmly lock you out of digital marketing efforts such as content marketing.

And that my friends, is the very biggest reason to avoid DIY website builders. They do absolutely nothing to increase your online web presence.

Video is Not Enough: 6 Ways to Drive In-Person Visits with Digital Marketing

Many designers are hopping on the SEO Video trend in 2017 and their clients take their word as the gospel truth and put all their marketing dollars into that basket without considering what the real effects are of ignoring other key items and options they should be taking advantage of.  Video has it’s place in digital marketing for sure, but with the rise of personal assistants such as OK Google, Siri, Alexa and the like Voice Search and Artificial Intelligence are going to be the key motivator for helping in-person sales when one can simply ask the assistant “What is available for family fun’ in ‘insert your town here’ or ‘Where’s the best place to eat’ in ‘insert your location here’ … ask and be told what you want to know.

It’s no secret that in-store traffic is valuable for most businesses. In fact, while the average website conversion rate is 2.35% across industries, for in-store traffic the average conversion rate is 33%. That is to say – if you can move that website visitor to knock on your door, there is roughly a 1 in 3 chance they will make a purchase. So how can you make that happen?

Here are six ways you can use digital marketing to drive in-person visits to your business location:

1. Optimize Your Website

Did you know that your user’s experience begins before a prospect even visits your page? User experience begins wherever on the web prospects find you. Everyday consumers turn to search engines like Google to find answers to what they are looking for. Some experts say that as much as 30% of all searches queries have local intent.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, uses a knowledge of search engines and how they work to update and tweak your website to make sure you are easier to find in the search engine results pages. A secondary impact of a well-optimized site is a better user experience on your page. This is because when determining your page rank (where you land on the search results page), search engines account for everything from navigation, to page load times, fresh relevant content, images, media, and more.

In addition to a strong SEO strategy, a few things to consider for your website that can help increase in-store visits:

  • Online appointment scheduling – Appointments can be scheduled after-hours!
  • Calls to action – Make it clear what the next steps are. Ex: Visit us today!
  • Print-at-home and mobile couponsThat can only be redeemed in-store

2. Take Advantage of Paid Search

For searches with high commercial intent, paid listings still reign supreme. They receive preferred placement at the top of the search engine results page across Google, Yahoo, and Bing. We’ve already talked about local intent and how important it is to rank for these searches. How can you optimize your PPC campaign to be competitive for these searches and increase in-store visits?

Here are a few things to consider:

3. Get Smart About Social

Social media marketing yields hard-to-measure results. And with all the other aspects of your business that need to be managed, Twitter or Facebook may be last on your list. However, if you are not taking advantage of social media at all, you could be missing out on opportunities to drive in-store visits.

Facebook is a great place to start – it hosts a wide demographic of users in every geography and is relatively simple to use. You don’t need to post daily to be successful, but you do need to have a presence.  Here are a few easy ways to encourage in-person visits using Facebook:

  • Optimize your profile
  • Make certain your business information is accurate (including location address and hours)
  • Showcase positive customer experiences
  • Promote sales or store events with Facebook Ads
  • Share pictures of goods and/or services

4. Harness the Power of Mobile

With the advent of the smartphone, today’s world is smaller than ever. We are always connected; even while we dream. A recent study found that 71% of people sleep with their smartphones. You can take advantage of the amount of screen time prospects spend on their phones and tablets with mobile advertising. Geofencing is a cost-effective way to get in front of your local prospects while they are on the go. Whether you want to target a radius around your store, or even target local competitors directly, your brand can appear on the screen of users just steps from your door. And it presents you with another perfect opportunity to entice them with coupons or specials.

5. Don’t Forget Current Customers

When putting together a marketing plan designed to drive in-person visits, you cannot neglect your loyal customers. Returning customers are the most valuable segment of your business. They keep coming back to use your services time and again – increasing their lifetime value. And they also become brand ambassadors and influencers, recommending you to family, friends, and colleagues. Because returning site visitors are often already customers, retargeting is a great way to get in front of them again. Tailor your message for these ads to your repeat customers. Make sure it is seasonally appropriate and related to goods or services they may need in the near term. And don’t forget a call to action!

6. Claim Your Local Listings

Prospects often turn to the internet for directions and general business information. These are common searches before an in-store visit takes place. While your business information may be front and center on your web page, a prospect might not look any further than your map listing. Don’t make your customers and prospects jump through hoops to get to you. Remember your competition is at every turn trying to distract them. Loyal customers are less susceptible, but first-timers can be easily deterred by something as simple as not finding your store location the moment they need it. Make sure that you have claimed and verified your local listings. Focus on big hitters like Google My Business or Yelp. But don’t forget industry-specific listings such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, ZocDoc, or ApartmentRatings.

Website traffic is important – and should still be a metric that you consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. But in many industries, conversions or purchases are still made offline. That means if you focus your marketing on driving website traffic, you might not get the results you need. By taking advantage of the strategies listed here, you can drive more in-store traffic and watch your business grow.

Marketing Your Small Town Business

Marketing is not a one-size fits all process – small town business marketing ideas differ from marketing ideas that work in a city. In order to be successful, you must cater your marketing toward your target customer audience and reach them appropriately.

Small town market demographics

The first thing to do is to figure out how to market yourself to your customers. Who are your customers? Where do they spend their time? What are they interested in? Once you determine who you are marketing toward, then you can start to work on the marketing.

Look up the demographics of the area before you start to market – find out who is in your audience. Are you marketing to a community with young children, stay at home parents, church-goers, Veterans, eco-conscious vegetarians, farmers, Spanish-speaking agricultural workers, or motorcycle riders in their 50s? Do some research before you start.

Develop messaging for the local culture

Once you know who you’re marketing to, you can develop your messaging in accordance with the local culture. Messaging is part of marketing strategy and is important to lock down. Depending on the town, the population may have conservative religious and political views or be focused on sustainability and town preservation. Family values and town traditions may resonate more with small town or rural community than innovation and technological change. Read the local paper for news about the area to learn more about the community so that you can resonate with people.

Structure your messaging to mirror the tone of the small town or area that you’re marketing to. Hunting humor that is appreciated by one community with a hunting culture may be offensive to another community seeking to protect an endangered species.  Keep local culture in mind when marketing to a small town or rural community.

Online marketing for small town businesses

Online marketing efforts in less populated areas will differ from online marketing efforts in more populated areas. In a small town or rural area, you will be marketing to a smaller number of people. Depending on your business you may have a lot or very little competition. If you don’t have a lot of competition, your business will be easier to find online. But, just because you’re easier to find online, doesn’t mean that people are looking.

Rural customers are less likely to have high speed internet than customers living in cities or even small towns. High speed internet is costly in rural areas and landscape like mountains in some small towns makes internet service unreliable. While internet at home might not very common, that doesn’t mean that online marketing is out of the question. Many people living in small or rural towns use their cell phones to access the internet instead of a home computer. What does that mean for your business?

Mobile responsive websites

If you are marketing toward people in small towns or rural areas, your business website must be mobile friendly. Google is cracking down on mobile responsiveness for websites. Websites that are not optimized for mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, and iPads will be ranked lower in search engine results than websites that are mobile responsive. Check here to see if your website is mobile responsive.

Mobile responsiveness is important for your business – if potential customers cannot access your website online, they cannot learn about your business. If your website doesn’t pass Google’s mobile-friendly test, Perihelion can build a mobile responsive website for you.

Online directories

Registering your business with online directories like Google+, Yelp, and Yellow Pages is important when you’re marketing in less populated areas. Depending on the town, people may not travel in the direction of your business on a daily basis and may not see that a new business has opened for weeks or maybe even months. By registering your business with online directories, potential customers who are looking up your type of business on Google or Yelp will come across your business when they need it.

Not only are online directories good for reaching local customers, it will also help you get found my people driving through the area. If you’re opening a business that is off of a major transit way, you may pick up customers passing through. You never know who is looking for your type of business on their road trip to visit the Largest Ball of Twine.

Advertising online

Facebook or AdWords advertising may beneficial to marketing in a small town. With Facebook Advertising, you can build your ad’s audience based on demographics or a geographic radius. You can run the ad on desktop or on mobile devices. You can even cater the ad toward locals who Like specific Facebook pages like the local Chamber of Commerce or by profession, like farmers.

In a small town or rural area, AdWords can help your small business get found on local geographic searches more than other companies. If you’re seeking to build an online presence, or are a seasonal operation looking to make a splash, a Google AdWords campaign can give your business a boost while organic traffic to your website builds up.

Downtown The Dalles

Downtown The Dalles, OR

Build trust and a good reputation

In a small or rural town, you can be sure that word of mouth referrals will be a good way to get the name of your business out. But in order to get people talking about your business, you first have to gain their trust. Don’t barge into small town claiming that you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Aside from the fact that sliced bread is pretty great, people simply will not trust you. If you go in trying to establish relationships with other business owners before establishing a rapport, they will think you’re trying to scam them.

Small towns and rural communities are tight-knit groups of people. They know their neighbors, probably grew up together, and help each other out. This type of community is great for a business’s reputation, but you need to earn the trust of a rural community first and build your reputation. Start by introducing yourself to people before marketing yourself to them. The most important part of selling your product or services is helping people.

Get to know the people in the small town or rural communities – not only will they learn to trust you once they know you’re genuine, but they will also open up to you about themselves. This will enable you to figure out how your business can help them – an integral part of your marketing messaging.

Getting the word out about your small town business may seem daunting, but by using these methods, you can soon be on your way to successful marketing!