We've asked a coterie of marketing experts to join Entrepreneur's Team Digital to provide answers to your common questions about building an online presence. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #TeamDigital. Each week, we'll spotlight a different topic, and twice a month we'll host Google Hangouts where Team Digital will chat about best strategies for managing an online reputation, marketing through social media and using mobile techniques to attract customers.
In this week's column, viewer Angle Bush from our June 12 Google Hangout asks Team Digital: What has been the most unique and successful example of online marketing from a small business that you have seen?
(Please note: examples cited are not clients of Team Digital members.)
One of the best things a small business can do online, specifically with social media, is to listen and engage with their audience -- and that doesn't require a big brand. Pittsburgh's Franktuary, a popular hot dog shop with three locations, embodies this practice across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and its blog. Everything from its weekly #TuesdayTrivia hashtag series to consistently answering questions and feedback from their audience in a friendly tone helps Franktuary connect with its customers providing a behind-the-scenes look into its delicious dishes it's making every day. If you're a small business, take note of its hustle.
Neil Patel's KissMetrics is an excellent example of a small business that's doing it right. Its focus is entirely on providing amazing, inspiring, useful, resourceful and valuable content. This content gets mentioned, linked to, and shared across the Web, raising KissMetrics' brand awareness, traffic and conversion rates. In today's era of online marketing, it's all about the content. Lots of great content published and promoted strategically is what propels small businesses to the front of the pack.
The owner of a local formal dress shop posts pictures of the prom dresses purchased so that high school girls can look up what's already been bought at her school to avoid that very embarrassing OMG moment. Now that's a good use of online marketing. You can imagine that the girls flock to that site and to that store.
A good strategy is personalizing the experience. People looking to drop $150 on a pair of running shoes from an online merchant often have some questions. Patton Gleason from OptimalRun.com created a process where people can submit questions about several types of shoes and his staff sends back a personalized video explaining and showing the actual shoes and benefits of each. They find that not only do they usually make the sale, they get tons of testimonials and social shares of the videos. Here's one testimonial: "It was amazing and so helpful and kind: I finally felt like someone was actually listening to me instead of just trying to rush me into making a purchase."
This is a story of online marketing that started via listening. A hungry man who likes steak (me) jokingly tweets to Morton's Steakhouse that he's landing at Newark in two hours, would they please bring him a Porterhouse. He tweets it the same way you'd tweet "Dear Winter, please stop snowing." To his utter surprise and delight, a waiter is waiting at the airport with a Porterhouse when he lands. The now no longer hungry man goes home and writes a blog post about the event, which immediately goes viral, resulting in millions of dollars of free publicity for Morton's. The restaurant kept the story alive long after the steak had been digested by offering smaller "moments of magic" to its now ballooning Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Moral? More often than not, you, as a small business, have the opportunity to let OTHERS do your own marketing.
A local cupcake shop, Cupcake Royale, does an amazing job with its local social presence on Facebook. The store often asks members of its community what flavor cupcake they would like to see, and/or what else it can be doing for them. This strategy of using social media as a real time surveying tool is awesome. For example, rolling into the summer Cupcake Royale asked: "What summertime cupcake flavor do you want to see in the our delicious cupcake case?" and the community loved it. This might not seem amazingly unique but it is. Local businesses need to go beyond just customer service or broadcasting on social channels. You should be using it to find out exactly what your customers want to see and then use it to promise and deliver. That's how brand loyalty is built.