Today’s consumers have a wealth of information literally at their fingertips. Just a few years ago, traditional marketing for a small business consisted of ads in local newspapers and magazines, billboards and signs, and maybe even purchasing commercial time on a local radio or television station. The rapid advent of technology has profoundly impacted the way small businesses market their products and services. In order to keep up with the times, small businesses have to reassess their marketing strategies to incorporate and function in the rapidly changing digital world. As the tools change, the small business has to shift its initiatives to accommodate technology and social media.
As we examine some technology considerations for small businesses in the modern world, we’ll look at some examples from Austin-based businesses. This tech-friendly city is home to enough techie start-ups that it’s been dubbed the Silicon Valley of Texas. Thanks to the influence of technology companies, many of Austin’s small businesses are early adopters when it comes to integrating new technologies:
A website is absolutely critical to your small business. According to Austin lead SEO consultants, the majority of internet users will research goods or services online before buying, even in the local market place. Customers need the ability to find you and communicate with you digitally. In addition to providing a communication platform, a website provides you with the means to share details about your products and services, customer feedback, and photos or videos to attract customers. Not only does your site have to exist, it also needs to be easy to navigate, educational, engaging, and discoverable. To be discoverable, your site must be search engine optimized to have the best chances of ranking in users’ search results. Today, having a digital marketing strategy is a must.
The explosion of social media provides endless opportunities for the small business owner to communicate with current and prospective customers. Whether through a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or by participating in an organized application, such as Groupon, social media is a valuable tool. Social media technology enhances the age-old marketing technique of word of mouth and allows you to interact with customers and encourage them to share your product information with others. Austin’s beloved pizza place, Homeslice, has over 14,000 Twitter followers and uses the platform to keep its loyal fan base up-to-date on everything from special events to daily specials. Their prolific use of social media is likely one of the top reasons this place is always crowded!
Just as social media can be used to promote your business, negative comments or reviews can spread like wildfire. You have to stay on top of social media to address and resolve negativity as it occurs.
One of the most cost effective ways to reach a large number of customer to market a product or service is through email marketing. Email marketing provides an ideal means to share information, promote new products, offer discounts or share information. Digital newsletters add interesting content to entice customers. No longer do you have to spend money on mailers – with email, reaching customers is FREE. Austin-born lifestyle brand, Kendra Scott, does a fabulous job of keeping customers wanting more with its glossy weekly emails touting new products and flash sales. A solid marketing campaign is no doubt one of the reasons Ms. Scott now has dozens of stores across the country.
Use of In-House Technology
For businesses with brick and mortar locations, in-store technology is another rapidly changing arena. Technology such digital signage allows businesses to capture the customer’s attention and market specific products. Innovative point of sale systems provide employees with real-time information about a customer’s preferences as well as inventory tracking. Portable point of sale systems, using cellphones and tablets, provide easy transactions and eliminate the concept of standing in line to check out. These new technologies have enabled small-time businesses to provide their customers with a less cumbersome way of collecting money than insisting on cash or check. Take, for instance, vendors at Austin’s City Wide Garage Sale, Austin’s monthly vintage market featuring wares from antique dealers and fine junk aficionados from all over the state. In previous decades, vendors had to keep lots of cash on hand to make change or hope that customers had their checkbook. These days, you’ll see many vendors swiping credit cards with a simple device attached to their phones.
Cellphone marketing allows the small business to send text messages to alert customers to specials and promotions. Many businesses have cellphone applications to provide information about products, provide coupons and offer discounts to customers. Customer loyalty cards are rapidly being replaced with cellphone apps. Some businesses, like Rick’s Dry Cleaners, make practical use of cellphones by sending text reminders that their order is ready for pick up.
A small business has to embrace technology to survive in today’s digital world. Like it or not, businesses need to have strategies in place and budgets to allow for digital marketing to provide service to today’s technologically savvy consumer. Businesses have to keep up with current digital trends in order to compete in today’s marketplace.