Imagine that you own a food shop in Ikeja. Every morning, you put a sign outside your store with offers of the day. Those who pass your store see the same sign – regardless of whether or not they are potential customers that have never visited your shop or regular ones that can’t go through the day without visiting your shop.
Now imagine that you could change your street sign for every person that walked past your shop to match his/her interests. Now, you have the guy who prefers amala because he is from Oyo. The goat meat lover who visits your stop every evening would see a sign offering a special discount on the delicacy.
It is hard to imagine how this scenario would work in the offline world. But it is happening for small business owners that are visible online every day.
On the Web, businesses can customise their store signs in infinite ways – and then get instant feedback from their customers about the most effective promotions. They can also reach millions of people who are searching for their products and services.
By putting their signs online, business owners can tap into a new customer base – whether it is a tourist planning his first visit to the neighbourhood or local people hunting for nearby offers on their mobile devices.This may sound complicated, but it is actually easier (and cheaper) than you think.
Make sure your customers can find you
More than one billion people are online – including 48 million Nigerians. This means that nowadays, it is more important than ever for your business to be online as well. Most small businesses assume that having a web presence means spending a lot of money to hire a designing firm and building a website from the scratch. But it does not have to be so. Online directories make it easy to get your business information online in just a few clicks.
For example, joining Google business listing means your store information will start to appear in Google search results and on Google Maps. You can update your Google listing with information like trading hours, store photos and special offers and coupons. And these come at no fee. Online directories make it easy (and cheap) to have a web presence, which can translate into more patronage for your store.
Learn what your customers want
Once you claim your local business listing, you can tap into a lot of information about your customers and learn some search terms that people use to find your shop. Remember the food shop in Ikeja? In the offline world, the managers would have to ask each customer coming through the door how they find the shop. Online, they can see data about what brings people to their store – did they search for “amala” or “rice” to get the listing of the food shop? Do they live across town, but drive miles to patronise the shop? With such information, you can understand your customers and make informed decisions about how to attract more.
If you have claimed your Google business listing, you can start tapping into the information right within your listing. Or, you can use free tools like Insights for Search to compare search trends across time, regions and categories to understand things like seasonality and how people search for your business.
Find your customers wherever they are
Your offline sign catches the attention of people as they walk down the street and pass by your business. But how do you reach out to those who don’t pass your store but live nearby and would visit if only they know about it?
To take another example, if you own a children toy store, how do you catch the attention of parents in your area who do not walk down your street? How about when they are reading their favourite children blog or watching videos on YouTube?
Tools like Display Ad Builder let you create professional ads that mirror your street sign without hiring a designer or start from the scratch. You can customise dozens of templates with your own text, images and logo as well as change the colour and background. Once you have a display ad you like, you can place it on relevant sites across the web, such as the cat blog or YouTube videos. Online display ads help you to find your customers without waiting for them to walk past your store.