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6 Strategies for Marketing Your Retail Business Online

6 Strategies for Marketing Your Retail Business Online
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In Start Your Own Retail Business and More, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. and writer Ciree Linsenman explain how you can get started in the retail industry, whether you want to start your own specialty food shop, gift shop, clothing store or kiosk. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer a few tips to help you get the word out online about your business.  

When it comes to marketing your business, social networking is much more than social. It can position you as an authority in your field and coax your audience to depend on your wisdom. With a little dedication, creativity, and knowledge, it can be an incredible tool, not only for growing your business but also for changing the way others perceive you. Simple assignments online can multiply your relevant, real-life connections, manifesting in customers and recognition.

The appropriate pairing of a social networking style with your particular business image is important. If your laundromat is known for its family-friendly movies, which run while patrons wash their clothes, you can connect to your biggest audience (parents) by thinking about their interests. Many parents want to know about the content of movies before they let their children watch them. Creating or joining an online “G-rated movie” community on Flixter, a social film review site, might be a productive way to grow your laundromat’s visibility with parents in your community.

Different social networking sites cater to different demographics. Online research firms can help you find the age, sex, hobbies, location, race, and even political interests of your target market for accurate positioning of your debut. These statistics are always changing, so it’s a good idea to do quick searches biannually. Some networking sites, such as Facebook, do all the work for you within their site. These sites' highly specific, ad-serving systems allows advertisers to sort and target users by demographic then place your ad on the pages of like minds.

Many of these sites are community-based platforms and attract like-minded users with photos, ads, videos, special interest articles, and information. Active online socialization multiplies one’s fan base, members, and friends. Creating a web presence with great online manners, receptivity, and linking oneself to specific special interest groups can expand your retail market.

In order to get you started with your new marketing medium, try the following six simple steps.

1. List your business on Yelp and be sure to include photos and a detailed description. If you focus on stellar customer service, people will naturally review you in a positive light and you’ll be found more quickly in online searches.

Whatever you do, don't ask people to review you. Reviewers with only one review (yours) look fake to hardcore Yelpers. Yelp users look for sincerity and authenticity. They get to know one another and come to rely on specific user’s reviews to match their own tastes. Yelpers choose favorite reviewers and follow their advice on which restaurants, auto mechanics, or ophthalmologists to patronize, and who has the best products and why.

You can see how it would benefit your business to engage in discussions with users. Say a reviewer writes about the van you designed for him and has been waiting for one more part to come in to complete the project. Perhaps he's upset your employee took two days to call him back and writes something like, “The owner is unresponsive.” If you write review responses, many people will see them. This is a great opportunity to offer a sincere apology, invite the customer to experience a perk on the house or simply clear up the misunderstanding. You also let the customer know that you'll deal appropriately with additional employee training to ensure their next experience will be 100 percent. You’ve just gotten some great feedback that you may not have from someone in person.

2. Create a business or “fan” page on Facebook.com complete with detailed information and photos. Start conversations with like-minded users online. Use your growing visibility to announce events, specials, hot news in your industry, and ways your business helps the community. There are many user-friendly features on Facebook, which will aid you with its many uses.

3. Give a professional, informational tutorial in your area of expertise once a week and post it on YouTube, linking it to keywords so other users can find you. If you make your videos funny, charming, or unusual and begin to use that as your brand, users will start to follow and engage with you online, which translates to the spotlight shining on your business.

You’ll also need an inexpensive video camera and some moxie to start your YouTube celebrity. And be sure you know your material thoroughly before posting.

4. Join Meetup.com. Meetups are a great way to meet very specific hobbyists, collectors, professionals, and students of many topics. Most of the events posted on this site are free or low cost. Your raw vegan food company is begging to be known by all the hungry folks in the sub groups: Veggie Cyclists, Vegetarians for Animals, Macrobiotics, and Raw Vegan Foodies.

5. Start Instagram and Pinterest boards with inspirational images for your followers with linked resources. Hold a contest for the most breathtaking, or funny images in your field.

6. Create baby-boomer-specific ads for blogs expressly for seniors, such as suddenlysenior.com. Don’t forget this collectively wealthy group, who are looking to try new products and services. Offer to host a senior photo portrait event with funky backdrops, costumes, a raffle, and a singles match-up dance contest or speed dating theme with another like-minded business.