Marketing Your Business Online (A Real Example)

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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.

Wrong.

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.

However…

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.

Deliver Benefits

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?

Photo: goodncrazy


21 Responses to Marketing Your Business Online (A Real Example)
  1. wilson usman
    February 9, 2011 | 10:32 am

    hey jon,

    I think offline business slowly but shortly are starting to get the power of using the web. I’ve noticed in my town how more and more small businesses are starting to incorporate online strategies.

    Great post!

    • Jon
      February 13, 2011 | 11:23 pm

      It’s neat to see some of the mom and pop shops around your town start to dabble with Facebook or a website. Some get it right and some just go through the motions. But the bottom line is they realize they shouldn’t ignore the web. Thanks, Wilson.

  2. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    April 25, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    Jon, aloha. What a terrific post. You laid out the process in such a clear and compelling manner. No doubt this will open the eyes of many of the benefits on the online world.

    Jon, though I don’t personally know anyone who is using this strategy effectively, two businesses that immediately come to mine are the restaurant industry and the spa industry. Your model is perfect for them.

    Quite honestly, Jon, if I weren’t so committed to what I am doing and–let’s face it, from having worked from home for so long–I would approach various local businesses to help them see the light. What a difference this could make for small business owners.

    Jon, thx so much for a great start to my week. Until next time, aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:04 pm

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks! I agree that helping your local businesses is a huge opportunity. It’s still the wild west and individual consultants can show business owners the way. There are a few large companies our there offering these services remotely but it’s a big pie. Wise of you to point this out.

      See you soon…

  3. Stacy | Grow With Stacy
    April 25, 2011 | 6:55 pm

    Hi Jon,
    I found this topic especially interesting since I have been running a home preschool for years! I had never thought to get ideas from that business and incorporate them into my online business marketing.

    Actually you have given me good ideas for both businesses!

    Thanks! :)
    Stacy

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:05 pm

      Stacy,

      Wow – it seems this spoke to you. I didn’t know you have been running a home preschool, how neat. Have I missed a post about your adventures in doing this? Let me know so I can go read :)

      Thanks and best wishes with your new inspiration.

  4. Jym Tarrant
    April 25, 2011 | 11:46 pm

    Hey Jon,

    Love the approach you’ve taken by sharing a ‘real life’ example of employing these online marketing strategies.

    I agree with you – the internet makes a great place to connect with people in your niche or locality, build a buzz for yourself or your brand, network with potential partners, clients or customers and prepare the ground for your actual business launch.

    Anyone not using the internet, even for such a non-conceptual, tangible venture such as child-care, is missing out on much potential for their business.

    Thanks for putting this together, I enjoyed looking at online marketing from this perspective!

    All the best,
    Jym

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:10 pm

      Jym,

      Thanks! I like to pull real life examples into conversation so I try to do the same when I write about things like this.

      Glad you enjoyed the read. The internet is a magical and wonderful place filled with opportunity for just about any business type. Ok, maybe it isn’t magical but it’s certainly useful.

      Take care :)

  5. Dev
    April 25, 2011 | 11:56 pm

    Hi Jon,

    You’re sharing some awesome methods to market a business online. Thanks for sharing this useful info, jon.

    I love the point about newsletter marketing.

    Dev

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:11 pm

      Dev,

      Hey there! I still have to take Blokube for a spin using the link you sent me about article submission.

      Thanks for the praise, Dev. I’m going to keep it interesting for you.

  6. Oliver Tausend
    April 26, 2011 | 8:13 am

    Hi Jonathan,

    I like it how you tie the offline and online together. They are one and the same, simply differents means of communication. It amazes me that a lot of people think that the online world isn’t real. It’s a part of our real world.

    Thanks for sharing this case study.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:33 pm

      Thanks, Oliver!

      Yep – it just isn’t real to some folks. It’ll be a lot more commonplace (doing business online) in a few short years. Let’s hang in there so we’re the ones the newcomers look up to soon.

      See you around…

  7. Adrienne
    April 26, 2011 | 10:00 am

    I loved this example as well Jon. I started my career working in two different day cares so I know what’s involved in getting them up and running.

    I just don’t think that people in the offline world have any clue how important all of this is to building their offline business. But you definitely spelled it all out for us. It’s the best way to get other’s opinions before trusting their child to just anyone. Business owners need to really pay more attention to how this all really works.

    I always enjoy learning from you. Awesome job of mapping this out.

    Adrienne

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:37 pm

      Adrienne,

      Oh wow looks like you and Stacy have similar experiences in this industry.

      Right on – we can vet our care providers in any industry by reading what other real people are saying about the provider. Glad you enjoyed the map here, Adrienne, and thanks for sharing.

  8. Jane | SEO Blogs
    April 26, 2011 | 10:43 am

    Hi Jon,

    Wonderful and well done post. I like the closeness of your idea to day to day life and the way you have demonstrated it. And, it is a great business model for the problem you have proposed.

    Cheers for making my day.

    Jane.

    • Jon
      April 26, 2011 | 10:38 pm

      Howdy Jane,

      Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I enjoy reading things that have real world examples and case studies so whenever possible I’m going to try to use that approach in my content. See you again soon.

  9. Tisha
    April 27, 2011 | 7:43 am

    Hi Jon,

    Isn’t it a great feeling that you were able to right a post that someone can relate to. I’m happy that Stacy was able to be inspired by what you wrote.

    You are so right, The internet is the best way to market your business even if it is not a web based business.

    ~tisha

    • Jon
      May 7, 2011 | 1:26 pm

      Hi Tisha,

      You bet it is! If there is ever an actionable take away that someone jumps on after reading my content I’m absolutely elated :) Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Diana Simon
    April 28, 2011 | 6:57 am

    Hi Jon,

    A fantastic post which clearly shows how an offline business can benefit from having an online presence. Such a simple example that shows how simple online tools can help you grow an offline business.

    When you mentioned putting up a website to share testimonials and initiate a conversation, it is in a way allowing you to see what your target market wants. This will see what you can improve on and offer services that would help them even more.

    Your idea of creating a password protected community for parents to interact would really make you stand out from the crowd and I love the idea of sharing pictures of their children. Very innovative yet requires minimal investment!

    • Jon
      April 28, 2011 | 8:54 pm

      Diana,

      I’m glad you picked up on some of the magic behind testimonials and welcoming feedback from your audience. How else would one know what to provide exactly, right?

      Thank you for your input and I hope someone out there takes action with this.

  11. [...] never thought about market research or product [...]

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