By Chloe Banholzer
The New Year is here, and that means it’s the ideal time for you to start planning how you can build on the past year’s accomplishments. Taking some time to reflect on your current business practices is the perfect way to kick start 2019 and make it your best year yet. By identifying what you currently do, and defining whether it’s working or not, you’ll save yourself headache and any potential financial waste.
If you read my articles regularly, you’ll be familiar with the fact that customers find your business by searching online (if this is your first time reading, welcome, and, FYI, customers find your business by searching online). Your first step to year-round business success in 2019 is to consider your current digital marketing strategy. Think about how you currently manage your website, social media, advertising, and other promotional channels. Is your current strategy working? Planning and documenting your strategy using a promotion calendar can help you not only develop your game plan, but it will help you stick to your goals or resolutions.
Your digital marketing endeavors can help you drive more sales and traffic online and in-store. By taking a look at the events and promotions that are going on each month, planning marketing materials that coordinates with these events, and executing on that content, you can create a robust digital marketing strategy that holds strong year round.
Start with your goals
Diving into your digital strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by setting goals for the year based on past results. Take a look at your website, Google My Business, and social media statistics to gauge your annual performance. Then use that data to set some attainable goals for the next year, and don’t forget to monitor your analytics as the year goes on to track how you’re doing!
Save time and make money: Keep your goals realistic and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). Goals that are set too high can be a morale killer, so it’s better to start small and build as you go. You don’t want to set yourself or your team up for failure.
Improve your website
Next, optimize your online presence – especially your website. Remember to think of your website as your online dealership – it can greatly contribute to customers’ perception of your business, and determine whether they visit you in person, or your competition.
Revisiting the fact that customers find your business by searching online, I want to be more specific. Customers find your business by searching online, on their smart devices. Make sure your site is mobile friendly (a.k.a., responsive). Did you know that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in the United States? People love their smartphones, tablets and other mobile gadgets, so make sure that your website is optimized for their mobile viewing. And more importantly, Google ranks websites based on their mobile site.
Keep an eye on your website analytics. Website tools, such as Google Analytics, can be a little overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. Once you know what information you should pay attention to, it’s much easier to use these tools to your advantage.
Save time and make money: Invest in a website platform that’s built for outdoor power equipment dealers. These platforms will take all aspects of your business into consideration, and develop a website that meets your business’s needs. An outdoor-power-equipment-specific website – such as the ones we create for dealers at ARI – can even display your catalogs online for customers to browse.
Expand your inventory awareness
Do you currently use third-party sales channels? In other words, do you list your products on Craigslist or eBay along with advertising them on your website? These third-party sales channels can help you reach more customers and land more leads than relying on your website alone. Check out these tips for getting started with third-party sales channels.
Save time and make money: Invest in inventory posting tools such as Auction123. Tools such as these, often called “inventory syndication tools,” pull data directly from your website and allow you to quickly and easily upload inventory photos and information, saving you or your staff the time and effort of making updates by hand.
Use digital advertising
Don’t fall for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising myths. The world of PPC advertising can be a bit complex, and what you might think would be beneficial (such as reaching the largest number of people possible) can actually hurt your campaigns.
Target locals. According to Brightlocal.com, consumers will travel an average of 17 minutes from their location to reach a local business. If you’re targeting your ads beyond that scope, you may be wasting your time and money by reaching prospects who aren’t willing to make the journey to your location!
Save time and make money: Enlist the help of a digital advertising specialist or company who knows and understands your industry. Having a team on your side can help drive big results and show you reports that break down what works and what doesn’t. Remember, PPC ads only charge you when a customer clicks your ad, so any budget you put toward your advertising will only be used if the ads are actually working!
Be smart on social media
Social media, particularly Facebook, has a new motto: “Show Me the Money!” To get any real results from Facebook, you have to put money toward your posts. Boosting a post for $10 or $20 can greatly increase your chance of success. Consider running full ad campaigns on Facebook if you don’t have the resources to run Google AdWords campaigns.
Don’t forget to check your Facebook Insights. Social media can be a great tool for spreading the word about your business, but how do you know if your social strategy is successful? Tools such as Facebook Insights show you statistics about interactions with your posts, your audience demographics, and even how you stack up to your competitors on social media.
Save time and make money: Don’t spend more than 15 minutes per week on social media. Spending time writing organic (unpaid) posts and linking to products or sales won’t get you anywhere in a hurry. Facebook limits unpaid posts’ reach to barely 2 percent of your followers, making them a waste of time and staff resources in most cases. Put some budget toward the important posts (sales and events) to make this channel worthwhile.
Monitor your online presence
Remember to claim and monitor your online business profiles consistently. Online business directories can automatically populate your information, but they don’t always get it right. Claiming your business listings online through local directories such as Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, and Yelp gives you the authority to manage your listings and ensure accuracy.
Finally, remember that reviews matter. Think of the reviews you receive on Facebook, Google, and other platforms as a conversation. If an unhappy customer leaves you a negative review, it can be tempting to ignore it or respond with a snappy comeback. But if you take their comments seriously and give a polite, considerate response, you may be able to fix their problem and salvage a customer relationship. Plus, future customers will see that you take customer satisfaction seriously. Positive reviews deserve responses, too. Thank your customers by name and invite them to visit you again.
Save time and make money: Invest in an online-directory-monitoring tool that sweeps the web for all mentions of your business and helps you correct them all at once, versus searching the web and editing them individually. Equally helpful are first-party review platforms that can quarantine negative reviews for up to 7 days before they go live, helping you solve any customer frustrations before they become public.
Creating (and sticking to) your New Year’s (business) resolutions might seem like a lot of work upfront, but it doesn’t have to be. Tackle each section one by one, and soon you’ll have a digital presence that delivers results and satisfaction for both your customers and your bank account.
Chloe Banholzer serves as marketing coordinator at ARI Network Services. She’s helped thousands of dealers across the country with their digital marketing through her HelpForce webinars which cover a broad range of topics including search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, e-mail marketing, and online presence optimization. She’s dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 26,000 dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”