How to harness your offline business to grow your online presence

Here at OPS, we work with printers to help them take advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet. The world wide web opens up a wealth of new avenues to explore; target new customers, better serve existing clients and increase awareness of your business.

Growing your online presence is going to become increasingly more important. eCommerce is growing at such an incredible rate for example in the US, they are looking at 30% year on year growth in online sales in 2011 that is sure to be a trend mimicked in the UK.

We work with clients offering SEO, pay-per-click management and a host of other online marketing services and here are a few tactics we suggest that will enable you to harness your offline operation and translate it into online marketing success.

Use QR codes

A quick response or QR codes are those unusual looking bar codes that you will start to see more of in the future.

A QR code usually links an offline marketing campaign or physical presence usually to a URL (webpage) of some kind. Many modern phones have the facility to read QR codes so it is worthwhile starting to incorporate these into offline marketing that you do or around your physical business for customers to see and use when they visit your operation.

These are much more than a gimmick because mobile use has seen and will continue to see phenomenal growth so it is advisable for your business to get on board with this. It makes it easy for potential and existing customers to do things that you want them to do e.g. leave a review because rather than having to remember a web address they can just scan the barcode and get taken to the page automatically.

There is an example of a QR code above on the right – if you have a QR code scanner on your phone it will take you to our homepage.

Encourage reviews

If your business doesn’t have a Google Places listing then it really should, even if you don’t have an address that people usually visit, it is worthwhile claiming your spot on the map because it will improve your visibility in the search results for local terms for example “printers in exampleshire” or wherever you happen to be based.

Encouraging customer reviews will help enhance your listing (adding social proof to the service you offer), it will help your rankings as local businesses with more positive reviews tend to be more visible and it will likely increase the amount of traffic you get from the search engines as businesses that have reviews and in particular ratings will see rich markup on their listing in the search results (see example below).

This listing with shiny gold stars next to it is obviously going to attract more attention and more clicks than a plain listing with no reviews or social proof attached to it.

Offer discounts and financial incentives

The third and final way we suggest you can leverage your offline operation to increase your visibility online is to offer financial rewards to individuals for doing what you want them to. For example, you might offer a discount for completing a review or a voucher code if they become a fan on Facebook.

A discount or financial reward, as incentives go, are far more powerful than other fringe benefits such as ‘being the first to hear about your latest news’ which is what a lot of companies try to entice customers with.

Be careful with this method though and ensure your margins remain in tact – heavy discounting is not a route to long term business or marketing stability.

The above methods can be used in conjunction with another, for example a QR code could be used to send customers to your Google Places listing and you might offer a discount for anyone that completes a review.

Online marketing isn’t the big, bad expensive world it once was – even small businesses can take advantage of the opportunities on the internet. Talk to us today if you need help marketing your print business online.

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