What is the best way of getting the word out about a small local shop called “Country Arts and Jewelry” which has limited Internet exposure and only basic marketing capabilities?
Is the Internet right for my marketing needs?
This topic seems to be one which many small shop owners often talk about, yet they have little grasp of the complexity the Internet and social media options can entail. With the holidays fast approaching there is a big push for small local businesses to get their advertising out there so potential customers can find their stores. There are now so many reliable options for marketing your shop that it is getting hard to choose which of these may actually produce immediate positive results.
Many of the older more established shops in our area have become accustomed to using print ads for the majority of their marketing exposure and there is a vigorous interest in attempting to move into the digital realm. What some of the shop owners I deal with do not realize is the large amount of time, effort, and money that it takes to put together a truly viable web presence. This is most poignant where they currently have very little or no Internet presence. Realistically the most some of these folks will be doing over the next year will be collecting email addresses for newsletters that they will release before each major holiday season.
Getting a website is not a magic sales bullet!
In order to get them a website that fits their style will take many meetings and plenty of money to just get things started. Some do not realize the time it takes to get customers to come and see their new web site and then hopefully drive them to the physical store. Their next logical question seems to be when can I start selling on line? The pitfalls there are very high for a shop that has no tech savvy employees and they can inadvertently cause themselves more grief in the long run if this phase is done improperly.
One problem scenario I have personally witnessed is when merchandise is on your store shelves and on-line at the same time. It is important to have a plan that helps make sure the physical items are available to an on-line customer. This “arts and jewelry” store has easily over a hundred thousand separate little trinkets, jewelry and larger items. They have it all cataloged somehow but to transfer that inventory to an on-line presence is going to be very complicated.
How will they implement their inventory control?
So I have asked therm to work with me to break the store down into separate components where they would identify the items which might sell well on line. The rest will be mentioned on their website but will not be for sale there. Also if a store item is going to be sold at the only in the physical store the first thing they will have to do is remove that item from the on-line store. This will take some intense attention at first until they get a program in place to ensure the store and on line data always match.
For now the store and many of their items are too small to use any smart automation for inventory control like bar code readers, so it will be up to the owner to reconcile the web info with real world every day. The other thing they are not familiar with yet is the incredible effort it takes to properly do a reliable shipping program. They will go from having virtually nothing shipped out on a daily basis to offering worldwide shipping. This one factor alone has driven many smaller shops away from doing any on-line sales effort.
What is the next first step?
So what I have proposed to this small local business is that we do a staged implementation where we put into place a series of marketing tools to work for them over a period of time that makes good business sense. They need to budget for the time that will be invested and allow for use of their limited financial resources. They will probably need to hire someone part time just to keep up with the Internet data entry and sales tracking plus for taking care of the shipping once sales do begin to roll in.
Best guess on their project would be to have a legitimate email marketing program within the first month. Investigating using tools such as “Constant Contact” to get the program off the ground. Next will be their own website. For now they are only afforded a page on the local tourism site: www.tourgeauga.com which is helpful, and for the fee of just $65 per year they could probably not get much more bang for their buck.
Once they have a web site with traffic and possibly even a web log, and some useful links to relevant sites, we can then look at implementing a web store with on-line check out and credit card acceptance as well. They already accept credit cards in the store so that is an easy add on or upgrade.
What would a program like this cost them?
So what is the overall financial impact for a small shop trying to get into some basic Internet marketing? Simple calculations put the minimum value at about $2000 for the first year with an on-going cost of probably half that depending how advanced they want to make their web presence and how much they actually do sell on line. So the question for them is how much product do you have to move on-line in order to make up your costs, and then clear some profit above and beyond? That is the magic number that can drive their decision as to how much and how far they want to go with this modernization of their sales effort.
Obviously some of the funds which are now going into print ads can be diverted into this new program and that could be enough to fund the entire operation depending how aggressively they attack this new process. All things considered it makes good sense to investigate moving towards an on-line presence before making any first steps, but it simply does not translate well for every single business entity. So they need to become far more technically educated to what this upgrade can really do for them.
What is my next big job with this shop?
That is one of my first jobs as their technology consultant. Their education began when I first started working on their computers for their store. Hopefully the culmination will achieve their goal of having a viable on-line presence within a year. My advice to them has been: Do your homework and the answer is almost always going to be the most obvious one.
To view their information on the “tourgeauga” web site please go here:
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