Most offline business owners just don’t understand the online business world. They think that to make it worth their time to grow their business online they’ll first need massive momentum offline.
A fantastic way to generate momentum offline is to use online marketing strategy. Let me explain.
The Child Day Care Example
Let’s say you and your wife want to start a day care center. First, you try it in-house. Nothing major, just a few neighborhood children. You go through the town, fill out all the paperwork, check zoning, and everything is now all legit. Great.
But you’re capped.
How many kids can you pack into your home (legally) in addition to the ones you may already have? Maybe 3-5? So clearly you can’t scale a business with these limitations. You’ll need to start thinking bigger.
The primary complaint is likely to be that renting space for a day care center costs too much. Then there are zoning and insurance issues, finding the right location, renovating the property yadda yadda. Yes, plenty of variables.
There are nitty-gritty details and variables to starting any business. But with market research and solid online strategy you can test the waters and see if your day care idea is viable in your area.
Market Litmus Test
The time to speculate about your business survival isn’t after
- You rented the space
- Renovated it
- Put out your grand opening sign
Then sat back waiting for families to enroll their kids. You’ll want to create some buzz and use a similar launch formula that online marketers use.
You start by creating a simple website. Put up some pictures of yourself and write about your work history with kids. Go the extra mile and ask parents of children you’ve watched to write a testimonial about their family’s experience with you. Then share these testimonials on your site (with permission).
Use your website as your business hub. Share the URL with everyone on your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (that old dinosaur?), or anywhere that you have online presence. You should invite conversation on your site so use WordPress to write a few articles and generate some comments.
One caveat: if you use Facebook don’t make your posts an all day pitch fest for your day care services. Make it known what you do and post about it in a sparing, conversational way. Then monitor feedback and develop rapport with everyone that leaves a comment.
Be bold and ask the people you know to help pass your name along; if they know you let’s hope they have at least one good thing to say about you.
You’ll begin to see parents asking about what you offer and where you’ll be located. This is just pre-launch. Let them know that you haven’t chosen a location. Use their location(s) to help you plan where you will rent space.
Consider linking up with your local Chamber of Commerce and chatting with the town and other small business owners about applicable laws (zoning, insurance, and otherwise) once you begin seeing some positive online response.
Supercharge Your Marketing
So you have experience in the field, you’re engaging parents, and now you’re seeing some demand. Ready to get serious?
It’s time to set up a way for parents to raise their hands if they want to be informed of when you sign a lease. Set up an email marketing campaign using the service Aweber to allow parents to sign up to your newsletter about finding a day care center. Then keep them updated on areas you’re scouting, properties you’ve discovered, and solicit them for their input.
The parents on your email list are interested in your service and you’ll have a stronger chance of converting them to paying clients compared to traffic from search engines. Share your pricing with them and gauge their response.
Keep your newsletter parents informed. Soon you’ll begin weeding out the potential delinquent payers from the genuinely interested parents who stay in touch.
Then ask the parents on your newsletter list to help spread the word. Why be shy? This is your hard work coming to a head and you deserve some praise. Tell parents that you need their help signing a few more families to your great service so you can succeed in opening for business soon. Chances are they’ll gladly help you sell your services.
Now that they’re comfortable with you they want their child in your care because you became a friend; not just another child care provider.
If you want to create a remarkable experience you have to deliver great benefits every step of the way. There will be competition but, luckily, you’re a smart marketer so you’ve been developing real relationships to help you edge out competitors. Now it’s time to deliver the knock out punch: your unique offer.
Here are some prompts to get you thinking outside the box…
- Create a password-protected community on your site for parents of enrolled children to interact
- Provide [protected] weekly pictures or just article updates about their child(ren)
- Offer online tuition payment via PayPal
These features of your service can be translated into benefits. Explain how your online community makes busy Moms and Dads feel more connected with their kids’ lives. No more missing out on Junior’s day at day care; parents will feel like they’re right there all week as they read your updates in the parent-only forum.
You get the idea. Be different and be willing to put in the work. It won’t be easy but the harder you work to build the buzz while gathering a community around your service the more rewarding this will be for everyone involved.
Season To Taste
This advice is universal. You can employ the same strategies outlined above to most offline businesses. Get out there and create buzz around your business idea and start monitoring feedback. Then see what people have to say about your offer.
Be sure to ask yourself what makes your offer so special.
Can you think of an example of an offline business using this type of strategy?