Thursday, April 12, 2012

How Local Businesses Can Stay Relevant and Competitive By Using Blended Marketing

By Tammy de Leeuw
"The Grouchy Marketing Lady”

Across the world, locally-based businesses are discovering that developing a systematic, automated, blended marketing plan is crucial to their success. 

Brentwood, California Massage and Vitality Spa owner Melissa Kirk says that small business owners who haven’t learned how to meld traditional marketing with social media, video marketing, and email are missing out on an opportunity to stand out in a crowded field, create loyalty among their current clients, and make connections that lead to long-term relationships.

“When I started my massage business, I was dependent on the foot traffic generated by the place where it was located (inside a local gym.)  Most of my online traffic came from walk-ins and from the domain name I had acquired when I purchased the business.  That was enough to get me found, but to keep my business growing I had to figure out new ways to attract potential customers,” she says.

Kirk discovered an interesting thing when she began to use traditional marketing techniques such as direct mail and closed circuit television advertising. 

“People would go online to find “massage in Brentwood” and I would usually come up on the first page.  They would see my picture and then recognize me from my direct mail and television commercials.    I began to see that no one thing lead them make an appointment with me.  Rather it was a combination of things that resulted in increased visibility and increased perception of value and expertise,” she says.

Having had success merging offline marketing with digital marketing, Kirk decided to refine her plan even further when she began her new venture, Brentwood Vitality Spa in late 2011.

“Vitality Spa was a bit of a challenge in the area of just being able to increase awareness. Although the spa, like the massage center, is located inside a gym, it is in a place in the gym that has lower traffic and fewer chances of walk-ins.  I knew video would be a big help in getting the word out,” says Kirk.

Kirk set about producing informal videos providing everything from general health education, to demonstrations, to client testimonials.  She then had these videos optimized for local search and distributed via multiple sites, including You Tube.  Integrated with that were video email campaigns to existing clients and prospects.

The results were astounding. In just a few weeks, Vitality Spa was ranking on the first or second pages of major search engines for terms such as “infrared sauna in Brentwood,” “spas in Brentwood,” and “detoxification in Brentwood.”

Page rank is important, especially in a business like mine where people are doing lots of mobile searches.  Still, no one thing is the magic bullet when it comes to client acquisition,” she says.  “It’s a matter of trying different techniques, making adjustments, and understanding that you are, whether you like it or not, a marketer.”

“With the spa, I had to quickly make people aware that it was there, that it was connected with me, and that it offered treatments that were different than those of my competitors.  Video was a big help in doing that and in breaking down barriers and helping me start conversations more quickly.”

Kirk also made sure that the videos lead viewers to her social media pages and multiple web and blog sites and that she was diligent in capturing information.

“I know the biggest reason for having a blended marketing campaign is to compile lists of people who are interested in the solutions my business has to offer.  It is so important not to just throw things out and expect them to generate clients.  You have to have a way to ensure that people engage- and remain engaged.  Building an active list makes marketing a whole lot easier and more productive.” she says.

In addition to video, Kirk has started a blog, which allows her to demonstrate her expertise in health-related issues, as well as create content that can be repurposed for other marketing, such as creating direct-mail pieces or article marketing.

“When you start using a blended marketing approach, you discover that a lot of what you create content-wise can be adapted to multiple mediums.  For example, a video can be transcribed and annotated to rank higher on search engines. It can also be used to create short articles and blog posts.  Photos can also be optimized to improve search and used on multiple web sites.  There is lot you can do to maximize the time spent on marketing,” explains Kirk, who has now hired outside personnel to help her keep her marketing fresh and up-to-date.

“You can’t just create a blended marketing plan and then walk away from it.  People have short attention spans, especially people on the internet.  They have come to expect a constant stream of fresh, relevant content.  You can never say, “It’s done”, she explains.

“It was worth seeking out professionals who could execute my vision and keep up with it so I could spend time building client relationships,” Kirk says.

Kirk’s dedication to improving her marketing and her openness to new ideas is starting to pay off.

“The spa is getting busier all the time, “she says.  “People are starting to join our Facebook page, comment on our videos, and volunteer to give testimonials.  I have enlisted my staff to get the word out about our resources and to encourage people opt in to our mailing lists.  I continue to go out in the community”

So, what advice does Melissa Kirk give to people starting from scratch, who have no warm client base, no inherited clients, and no list?

“You are going to have to go out and hit the pavement a bit.  For instance, do as many local events as possible, especially events that don’t cost too much.  Partner with other merchants who offer complementary products and services to cut your advertising costs. And, it’s really important to continue to refine your referral marketing and reward your clients for becoming your evangelists,” she says. 

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