You’ve probably heard a lot about how important it is to build a strong online brand. While that’s certainly true, I understand how difficult it is for shop owners, who have their hands full just running their businesses, to navigate the world of digital communications. Establishing a solid online presence takes time, so before I launch into a lot of tips about how to improve your social media activity or improve your website, I’d like to take a step back.
Before you start developing an online marketing plan, consider two questions: what is your brand and who are your customers? The answers to those two questions will guide all of your online activity and will help you build more effective digital communication strategies. The most successful businesses have a great sense of who they are and who they serve.
So, consider your own shop. How does it look? How does it feel when you walk in the door? What sets you apart from the shop next door? What is your culture? All of those characteristics form your brand, and you need to convey those unique characteristics through your digital platforms. For example, let’s say your shop not only offers loaner cars, but loaner bikes as well. Photos of those loaner bikes belong in one of the rotating banners on your website as well as on your social media channels.
Now, think about who you serve. Do a lot of busy moms visit your shop? Are you in a college town and naturally mobbed by Millennials? Or maybe you’re located close to a downtown area and get lots of professionals who stop by on their way to work? While you might have one or two demographics that stand out, most shops serve a mix of customers and a mix of generations. Multi-generational marketing can be tricky, but it’s worth tailoring your messages to meet the preferences of the various groups you serve and to keep traditional marketing methods in mind.
Now that you have a better handle of who you are and who you want to reach, let’s take a look at the strategies you can use to build a stronger relationship with your audiences.
Search Engine Optimization may still be a foreign term for some shop owners, but many have realized the importance of increasing the online visibility of their websites. After all, the majority of your customers are going to find you after conducting an online search. The way I look at it is if you build a clear and concise website, then you’ve done most of what Google wants, and you should see traffic result from your efforts. As an example, reflect back on those questions you had to ponder to narrow down your brand. Let’s say your niche is servicing Subarus and you’re located in Salt Lake City. To maximize the chances of someone clicking on your site, you should build landing pages that list the various services you provide for all the various Subaru models you fix. That way, if someone does a Google search on Subaru oil change or Subaru transmission repair, your site should come up.