Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Do you own a traditional business with a physical location? Do you have an online presence to go along with it? If so, your website can serve dual purposes for your business: it can be an additional source for your customers to shop and buy your products and services, or it can simply act as a supporting branch of your brick-and-mortar location. Either is a valid use for your online presence, but many traditional businesses use theirs for the latter - to drive traffic to their business' physical location(s). So how can you use your website to drive customers to your store?

Use Your Website to Encourage Repeat Business from Current Customers

One of the biggest mistakes that most businesses make is constantly pursuing new customers and forgetting about existing customers. Avoid this at all cost. Your current customers have purchased from you in the past and they know your business. You simply cannot find a more qualified pool of people to market to, so take advantage of your relationship with them. Not only will your current customers be more likely to buy from you, but they'll be more likely to recommend new customers to you, so keep them close by treating them well.

First you'll have to collect their information so you can stay in touch with them and alert them about news and specials, etc., but once you've got that out of the way, there are several ways to encourage repeat business. Since an active customer base is the quickest and easiest way to boost sales, I'm going to focus on that aspect of using your online presence to drive offline sales in this article, but most of these ideas will work with new customers as well.

Use Your Website to Build Credibility

One of the simplest ways to use your online presence to drive offline sales is to build credibility with site visitors. There are many, many ways to do this - here are a few.

Become a member of a reputable service organization - and make sure both your current and potential customers are well aware of that you are a member. Once you become a member of an organization like the Better Business Bureau, for example, you can put their logo on your site. This will give you a lot of credibility. Every chance you have to let your customers know about what a stand-up business you run, do it. You can do this with professional organizations, industry organizations, and chambers of commerce as well.

Use customer testimonials wisely. Most savvy business owners already know how valuable testimonials can be to establishing credibility. Well, what if you take a slightly different approach? Try using customer testimonials that focus on the benefits of your brick and mortar store. You obviously have customers who already shop at your physical location - ask the ones that love your products and services to help you with some testimonials about the virtues of your store.

With any testimonial, it's best if you write it and then ask your customer to approve it. That way, you'll get the testimonial you want when you want it without hassling your customer. All they have to do is sign off on it - not spend time writing it for you. Make it easy for them to help you out, and reward them when they do.

Testimonials that extol the great qualities of your store might include details about how personable your staff is, what great customer service you have, and the convenience of your location. You can probably think of fifty reasons why people shop at your store. Start making a list and then compose ten testimonials based on the list.

Pick one at a time and ask a loyal customer to sign off on it. Keep doing this until you have endorsers for all of them, and then rotate three or so every couple of months on your site. As you get more customers, revisit your list and write new testimonials to be approved. Your loyal customers will love helping you out, and their testimonials will help you solidify your relationships with new customers.

Remind website visitors about the benefits of shopping in your store. If your business derives most or all of its profits from in-store sales, remind your customers about the benefits of shopping there. When customers visit your store, they don't have to pay shipping, they can take the product home right away instead of waiting for it to be delivered, they get hands-on customer service, etc.

As with any of these promotional ideas, there's surely a long list of benefits to visiting your store. These things might seem obvious to you, but posting these facts on your website will remind your customers that there are many benefits of shopping in your store and increase visits from new customers who might otherwise purchase products online.

Start implementing ideas like this into your marketing strategy, and you're sure to see an increase in in-store traffic. Next time I'll include even more great tips for driving customers into your store from your online presence.
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