August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4
By Mara Bollettieri
In this digital age, virtually all consumers use the Internet and social media. Whether it’s texting, sending “likes” and messages on Facebook, posting a picture of an aesthetically pleasing cappuccino on Instagram or searching for what’s trending in the news on Google—we are all guilty of it.
As digital continues to permeate our lives, it’s important for flooring dealers to make sure their businesses are easily accessible to consumers via the Internet. While having a business website is a step in the right direction, it’s crucial to have potential customers actually visiting the site.
Before entering a showroom, consumers will want to see what a dealer has to offer and/or search for online reviews of the business.
FCNews spoke with some digital marketing professionals about driving traffic to websites. The following are some of their tips and best practices.
Email previous customers. One of the best ways to get visits to a website is through email marketing, experts say. Dealers should email past customers and/or people in their network to get themselves heard. This can then lead to traffic, especially if the emails are filled with testimonials from happy clients.
Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant, suggests interviewing satisfied customers in a video or simply quoting them, and then putting this content in mass emails. “Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools to drive traffic to your website and is often overlooked. Companies invest more money in attracting new customers than grooming sold customers.”
In order to send bulk emails, Calandrino suggests using a server, such as Follow Your Customer or MailChimp, that specializes as a marketing automation platform. It’s important that the server includes an “opt-out” option in emails so people have the choice to unsubscribe—that way they don’t get annoyed by the emails and complain about the store through online reviews.
Calandrino also recommends that retailers send emails once a week that vary in topic. She suggests writing interesting tidbits or information followed by a link to the dealer’s website. “You can put offers in your emails, but you don’t want to do offers every time—maybe you do one offer every two months,” she explained. “If you keep sending me offers, and I already bought, I’m just going to get annoyed. But if you send me some golf tips or you tell me about the best place to go by the lake, I might find that amusing. Or if it’s summer, send a barbecue recipe. The point is just to keep these people—who know you and like you—to keep knowing you and liking you.”
Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews columnist and retail marketing expert with Flooring Success Systems, believes content sent in emails should not always be flooring related. He suggests using the “90/10 formula,” which he explains is 90% fun and informative content, and only about 10% flooring. “Email is still a powerful marketing tool, if done correctly,” he stated. “This [90/10 formula] will create engaged readers who actually open and read your emails. Include links in your email driving them back to your website to read your latest blog post, watch an instructional video, announce a new product or take advantage of a special offer.”
Get social. With consumers tweeting and Facebook posting on a regular basis, dealers need to make sure their businesses are known on various social media platforms. Since people are frequenting these platforms, sharing content on them can help lead consumers directly to a dealer’s site.
“Make sure you’re sharing fresh content on social networks,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “Depending on the network, you may also do some paid advertising to promote your presence. Some of the retailers I’ve worked with have found Pinterest, for example, to be a great place to pin images from your blog article, and you can pin images of products or room scenes arranged in a logical way.”
Whittemore also suggests paid advertising on Facebook, which can promote a dealer’s online presence. “Social networks are satellites—you don’t own them,” she said. “Although you have your own profile, Twitter or Facebook can lock you out at a moment’s notice. It’s important to remember that [social media] is a way to hang out where people are and if they’re aware of you and interested in what you do, then you’re able to invite them over into your space for a more qualified conversation.”
Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy, also notes that paid Facebook advertising allows retailers to reach the consumer. “Facebook advertising, in particular, can target your customer demographics and link the ad directly to your website,” he said. “All dealers should have some degree of social media strategy at work, with one of the primary objectives to drive traffic back to the website. Being active on these platforms will provide you with opportunities to further engage your prospects and customers on your websites.”
In addition to dealers creating awareness through social media, satisfied customers are able to refer flooring dealers to their network. Calandrino refers to this as “social proof,” a sort of reputation that is spread about a dealer via reviews and recommendations on the Internet. She explains that roughly 74% of people ask their social media friends, specifically on Facebook, where to buy certain products or certain services. “Social proof is critical these days because we are so inundated with stuff,” Calandrino said. “You need social proof for your business. Ask your customers, ‘Would you mind putting up a testimonial on Facebook? Let’s talk about what you bought and how much you loved it.’”
Blog to get the job. Although it takes some extra time, many social media experts note that blogging can help bring potential customers to a dealer’s site. “Blogs, when done well, can give your website destination-worthy content that Google respects as authoritative,” Friederichsen said. “When that happens, you may find yourself on page one of Google for a keyword search that ties in with your blogs. That gets your site seen, and who knows—they may just spend a little extra time browsing around your site to get to know you.”
Whittemore also views blogging as a key ingredient to online success. She believes a retailer’s website is the digital equivalent of his or her physical showroom. The digital showroom needs to have fresh content and be as welcoming as the physical space. Fresh content on the dealer’s site can lead to more activity, meaning more visits. Blogging on the store’s website as often as possible will show the business is active. “The best tool is a blog,” Whittemore said. “Your blogging platform needs to be alive with information. It should not always be about selling. It’s about solving problems, providing solutions and giving helpful advice. It’s helping to build trust and usefulness. That’s a really important part of the formula.”