How Can a Traditional Brick and Mortar Business Thrive in Today’s Economy?
Before I explain the title, and the subtitle, let me take you back to another recession, the recession of the early 1980s. The mid to late 1970s was a transitional period, there was much going on in the world:
• The Vietnam War had just ended.
• President Richard Milhous Nixon had resigned from office in disgrace.
• President “Gerry” Ford did his time…”Go Wolverines!” I’m a Buckeye fan myself!
• Then we had a peanut farmer in the White House who promised never to lie to us. Interestingly, many of us believed him, and still do! Knowing the man, it is not hard to believe he was, in fact, telling us the truth…even about that!
• The Cleveland Plain Dealer announced $1 per gallon gas prices and by the following Monday morning every small car in the tri-state area had been sold off of dealers’ lots!
• The workers at The American Ship Building Company, Lorain, Ohio, also known as AmShip, went on strike. George Steinbrenner said go back to work “Or else!” and, when the workers refused, George closed the Lorain yard down after an 82 year history of building ships. People knew to take George seriously after that…even Billy Martin!
• The Midwest became known as The Rust Belt.
• The domestic automobile industry was traumatized, reshaped, and rebuilt.
• Interest rates for cars went to 22%, the prime was through the roof!
• US Steel was sold to the Japanese, and guys making steel and $80,000 to $100,000 a year in the mill were on the streets. Republic Steel was resurrected as LTV Steel before eventually going the way of many US steel companies.
• The manufacturing base shifted and we made the first steps to an information-based, service economy.
• Millions were outsourced, put out to pasture, either by layoff or by means of early retirement, and faced unemployment, re-training, re-education, and a much different working and personal life than the lifestyle they had experienced just a few years before
• Some businesses went under and others flourished, much as we see today!
I could go on indefinitely but you get the idea, I hope…we have faced this sort of thing before, and, we will undoubtedly face tough times again.
Interestingly, each and every time we go through a down economy, regardless of what we end up calling it (i.e., recession, mini-depression, “the worst downturn since The Great Depression,” etc.), we come out the other end stronger and more vibrant, a “leaner, meaner fighting machine!”
Are the transitions difficult?
To be sure!
Are their casualties, business and personal?
However, difficulties and casualties aside, the strong survive…if they are also flexible and open to new ideas, concepts, and technologies.
Likewise, the business owner who is unable (read: unwilling) to change will go the way of the Dodo and the Wholly Mammoth!
In order to survive, flexibility and adaptability are essential.
So, what does the above have to do with websites and the survival of traditional brick and mortar businesses?
What does all this have to do with the Internet and what is now being referred to as new media, inbound marketing?
Well, to be perfectly frank, if you aren’t on the Internet or thinking about getting there soon…R…E…A…L…S…O…O…N…your traditional brick and mortar business may not make it!
There is in fact a transition underway and, interestingly, there is a transition within the transition occurring as we “speak!”
What the heck am I talking about?
Enter the Internet and Online Marketing: E-commerce and the Emergence of the Website
In the early 1990s the Internet was emerging as the place to be, people were making a lot of money, many doing nothing more than throwing up a website with a few products on it and collecting the money.
That may be an oversimplification…but just barely!
In retrospect, the first websites were something akin to the Model T, particularly by today’s standards; and, most businesses did little more than Marketing 101 kind of “stuff,” stuff being a technical term, to drive traffic to their online presence, their website.
Google, YouTube, Blogging, and Email
Fast forward a few years. Enter Yahoo, then Google, YouTube, blogs, and email marketing. By the mid 2000s, online marketing is in full swing and the Internet begins to affect and impact traditional brick and mortar businesses in a big way. Online and offline businesses begin competing for the attention of consumers and websites appear in offline advertising, what is now referred to as outbound advertising.
Outbound advertising being anything intrusive:
• Newspapers and magazines
• Phone directories
• Direct mail
• You know the drill
With the transition to online marketing, and the need for a well-established Internet presence in high gear, consumers begin to initiate the search for products using the Internet and “Googling” becomes a verb! Inbound marketing emerged as a consequence of search-driven consumer inquiries and behaviors.
Search-Driven, New-Media, Inbound Marketing is Born
Significantly, as the transition from an emphasis on outbound advertising to inbound marketing has taken place, the transition from the simple, “slap five pages together for free” website to a complete Internet image, an online marketing presence, has occurred.
In fact, those days are gone!
More to the point, some of the websites being offered up today won’t even last the time it takes to “Blink!” If you are unsure what I am talking about, read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005); and then, look at your website from the perspective of a first-time visitor.
The Death of the Website
In 2010, it is not enough to throw up a website and sit back and wait for people to find it. If you wait for the money to begin to pour in, you may be waiting a long, long time!
It’s like an old mentor of mine used to say:
“Don’t hold your breath waiting for a response…unless you tell them to ask for Blue Boy!”
The “If you build it, they will come!” mentality must be changed, the transition recognized, and the proper strategies implemented. If the proper marketing strategies are not applied, the traditional brick and mortar business, and many online businesses, will simply go the way of Lucy, the Dodo, and the T-Rex.
Yes, even the rock group T-Rex. I know I just dated myself with that one!
As we enter the final year of the first decade of the 21st Century, and yes, we have one more year; the days of the free website are gone. The era of search-driven, customer initiated search is in full swing.
The Ultimate Internet Image is now a requirement if you are to compete and make it, online and offline, in today’s economy!
The Emergence of the Blog, Video, and the Landing Page
A few years ago I heard the term blog and quite frankly I had no idea what people were talking about. Now, I wouldn’t be without one…for every online and offline business I am involved with, and as the central feature of every online marketing strategy I develop.
Blogging for Business: The Central Hub & Linchpin of the Ultimate Internet Image
The blog has taken the place of the website as the center piece for many forward thinking businesses, the hub or linchpin for not only relationship building but as an e-commerce vehicle, as well. The premium blog theme of today has built-in capabilities to service virtually every need of the online and traditional brick and mortar business. The blog offers a video and article distribution platform, as well as a complete shopping cart for merchandise marketing and distribution. In other words, the blog can be set up to be a fully functional relationship marketing and e-commerce solution for both online and offline, brick and mortar businesses.
Video and Article Marketing
Video is the rage, online and offline. If you are not using video to promote your business, both using the Internet and the latest podcast technology, you are leaving vast sums of money on the table.
Both in terms of keeping in touch with and marketing to your current clientele, ten times more profitable than marketing to the “cold” market, and as a vehicle to promote your merchandise and service(s) to prospective clients, video is not simply an option, it is essential.
The use of articles, also essential, enhances your authority, both online and offline, enabling you to reach your current client base with your message, as well as establishing your authority with those considering your merchandise or services.
Additionally, articles are an excellent vehicle for building links and traffic to your blog or website. Links and longevity, along with traffic, will enhance your page rank, still important. By this I mean the search engines will validate your Internet real estate by moving you ahead of your competitors and on to “page one” much sooner.
The Landing Page
The landing page is a central feature online and should be an integral part of your marketing strategy, even for offline, traditional brick and mortar businesses. The landing page, also referred to as a “squeeze page,” is a very important component in any effective online marketing strategy.
The idea behind the landing page is to offer the client or prospective client an enhancement for providing you with their name and email address.
There are as many techniques for securing a “lead,” a prospect’s name and/or email address, as there are businesses online but only a few work and only a few of them are strategies I would recommend for my clients.
Ultimately, it is about providing something of value, something the client wants, usually in the form of information, and providing it free of charge. Significantly, you must make sure it is something of value, something you could charge for!
That is the key, providing valuable information in return for the understanding that in the future you will only “bother” them, and because of the spam most marketers send out today, you will only send them items of value (i.e., information, coupons designed for your email recipients alone, a newsletter, or some other enhancement).
By only sending quality content to your prospective clients, you have a better chance that they will want to open your mail, click your links, and continue to subscribe to your messages.
This gets deeper into email marketing than I had wanted to but it is important. We will cover email and the proper use of it in an upcoming article and post. For now, suffice it to say, if you have people visiting your website and you are not actively attempting to collect their name and email address, you are losing business with each and every visitor who leaves your website and does not bookmark it or tag it in some other way.
If you are unsure of whether to send an email message to your subscriber-base?
The fastest way to be unsubscribed en mass is to fill the inboxes of your list with junk!
It’s like every one of our online grandmothers would say if given the opportunity:
“If you don’t have something of quality of send, don’t send anything at all!”
Poetic license and all!
If you are not collecting names and email addresses actively, and you have a lackluster website, 99.999% will not be back!
Get current and get active!
The Tip of the Inbound Marketing Iceberg
There is a lot more to cover, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing an online presence, The Ultimate Internet Image.
Blogging for business is essential. Continuing to lose business with a static, often stale and outdated website is costing you money and may eventually cost you much more.
Video marketing is not only effective, it’s where the clients are; and, it is where you need to be!
Article marketing enhances your presence both online and offline, creating interest and links back to your site…crucial in today’s world of links and longevity.
Email marketing, if done properly, and using the right sort of landing page and enhancement will develop and/or improve your relationship with current and future clients by providing useful information in a timely manner.
Metrics, tracking your visitors, not only to your online real estate by means of analytics, but tracking and developing a relationship with clients and prospective clients who visit or call on your business in person via your blog and email is crucial and should be integrated into your current marketing strategy.
Helping People versus Providing Value
Ultimately, it is about helping people and providing value. Interestingly, when an interviewee goes to a medical school interview the first question they often face is:
“Why do you want to be a doctor?”
I would ask the same thing of an inbound or Internet marketing consultant competing for your business:
“Why do you think you are the person to help me with my online presence?”
And, more importantly:
“What separates you from every Tom, Dick, and Julie competing for my business?”
The answer the prospective med student provides usually goes something like this:
“I want to help people!”
This is the response heard day in and day out by interviewers at medical schools across the country…and it is not enough!
The answer from an inbound or Internet marketing consultant, and it should be the former and not the latter, if they do not understand the nuances and the profound differences keep searching, should go like this:
“I love what I do, enjoy people, and take your success personally. You get me with every transaction and for the life of the relationship and, most importantly, I will provide real and lasting value!”
You see, anyone can say they can “help” you with your Internet marketing strategy. All a consultant has to do is throw up another static, stale, and dated website and they will help you all right…help you out of your money and help you right out of business!
The true master of his or her craft, an inbound marketing consultant, one in business for himself or herself, will be able to offer real and lasting value…because it is there name and reputation on the line too!
Additionally, someone in business for themselves as an inbound marketing consultant, using that designation…inbound marketing consultant…will take very personally your success, and failures, on the way to a long term relationship and The Ultimate Internet Image. An inbound marketing consultant will understand the dynamics of inbound marketing versus outbound advertising; and, how to use that understanding, and both strategies, to your advantage.
Once again, there is so much more and we will cover it in future videos, articles, and blog posts.
We will discuss in depth “moving the free-line,” the idea of providing an information product or some other enhancement, something you could easily sell but are providing at no charge in order to build authority, credibility, a relationship, and your list.
In order for a traditional brick and mortar business to survive and thrive, in fact for any business to survive the current economic downturn, an understanding of and providing for all of the above must part of your marketing strategy.
Inbound marketing must be applied to and be an integral aspect of your business model.
In other words, the transition must include you!
The use of blogs, video, articles, landing pages with free offers, email marketing strategies, viral marketing, and more must be an integral part of your marketing strategy.
Enhance your authority online and in your community, have people from Tampa to Timbuktu saying your name and promoting your business! It must be designed and implemented properly and, if done so, the viral effect will occur all day, every day…it is amazing! It happens to me each and every day. It can happen for you too!
Build wide, build deep, and above all…build based on inbound marketing!
Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
PS, For a free consultation and assessment of your current marketing strategy, as well as a localized competitive analysis, contact me at 216-712-6526 or email me email@example.com