It’s No Different Online

When speaking with clients, I often find myself using the phrase “It’s no different online” to explain the similarities and common characteristics of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses with online business. The majority of my current clients have never developed a website nor run a successful online business (usually their first online endeavor) so it’s important for me to communicate online marketing information in ways that can be easily digested.

I need the client to completely relate their experience and knowledge with the concepts I’m explaining in order for them to gain full comprehension (and actually learn as opposed to just listening).

So let’s elaborate on this and take it a step further. For a minute, let’s just say that the online world (that I love so much) was still just an archaic system for scientists to share documents. No e-commerce sites, blogs, search engines, nothing at all. You’ve never even heard of AOL, dial-up, or the internet whatsoever.

You’re starting a business and want to list some of the marketing related tasks to start your new retail storefront. You’ve already rounded up a full selection of products/services and have your unique selling proposition all ready to go. What’s next?

1. You need a great name. While including the name of the product or service that you sell (without making the name too long) is a great way to ensure customers easily recognize what you have to offer, it’s definitely not necessary. A name that customers easily remember and that seems to almost brand itself is far more important. Picking up an established name might be a good idea, depending on the company’s history and public opinion of that company.

Online Equivalent: Choosing a domain name

2. Next is your logo, branding, and identity. Portraying the right image is crucial to your company’s success. The store should include your branding where appropriate, be very functional to the consumer, and have a flow that encourages buying. You also want to ensure that your store is inviting to users and customers are made aware of special pricing. Consistency is also important and provides a general aesthetic appeal.

Online Equivalent: Logo and Website Design

3. Pick your location carefully. Have plenty of parking in a high traffic area, and make sure it’s a nice safe neighborhood with other quality businesses around you. If you can afford to do so, occupy your own stand-alone building instead of in a strip mall or large shopping mall.

Online Equivalent: Hosting Company or Server Co-location

4. Store must be easy for customers to get to and be easily accessible by all visitors. A well laid-out store is a great asset as it aids in the overall buyer experience. Attention is given to items that you feel are very important but clearly marked aisles are a must. Shelves must be well organized and help for finding what you’re looking for be present at all times.

Online Equivalent: Site Architecture, Link Structure, and Site Map

5. Create marketing materials and educational brochures to inform potential customers while soft-selling by including company information and contact info, distributed via US Mail and by handing out to businesses directly.

Online Equivalent: Email Marketing, Press Releases, Article Distribution

6. Partner with other related businesses to get the word out about each others companies, or simply offer your sales/informational materials in their store without providing their info in your store. Find educational, government, and charitable organizations that you can provide products/services for at a discount or for free in exchange for advertising consideration.

Online Equivalent: Link Building, Directory Submission, Content Hosting (Pre-Sell Pages)

7. To expose your business to customers looking for exactly what you have to offer, advertise in relevant television, print, and classified ads.

Online Equivalent: Pay Per Click, Banner Ads, Text Link Advertising

8. Produce a catalog that details every product/service by department, and update it regularly. Ensure priority is given to certain items by assigning a high priority (featuring on cover and/or backpage).

Online Equivalent: Comparison Shopping Feeds, XML Sitemaps

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of the tasks involved in starting a company, just a short example to show that it really isn’t any different online. While the tools and methods may be completely unrelated, it’s all just marketing. If executed poorly, positive results won’t follow. But unlike traditional businesses if online marketing is done successfully the rewards can be exponentially greater since the boundaries haven’t even been predicted yet.

What are some other commonalities among these two business types?

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