For many local businesses, online marketing is only part of the game. And, if you don’t have an online store, then it might seem like marketing on the web is an afterthought – something that has no relation to your sales and foot traffic.

Think again.

The truth is that a growing number of consumers rely on social media to find recommendations for local businesses. And those recommendations and reviews have a huge impact on which businesses they decide to patronize.

In other words, your social media accounts should be helping you to get more foot traffic in your store or office – and if they’re not, here are some things that can help.

Advertise an Inexpensive Item or Freebie

A lot of times, people just need an incentive to come visit your business in person. One way to entice them to do it is to advertise a special sale item or a giveaway item to get them to come in.

For example, you might:

  • Run a buy one, get one free special (BOGO) on a popular product
  • Advertise a sample day where you give away free samples of your most popular merchandise
  • Choose a small freebie to give away

Giving people something for a reduced price or for free triggers something called reciprocity – a cognitive bias that makes people want to reciprocate when you do a favor for them. It’s responsible for that feeling of guilt you get when someone gives you a gift at the holidays and you don’t have one for them.

Incentivize Your Existing Customers to Make Referrals
(and Incentivize New Customers, Too!)

Your existing customers may be more inclined to refer their friends and family members to your business if there’s something in it for them. And, the people they talk to will be more likely to check out your business if they’ll get something too.

The solution? Offer a two-way deal where both your existing customer and the person they refer get something in return. An example might be a 15% off coupon or a free item. That way, your existing customers will feel that they’re offering their friends something valuable – and vice versa!

Partner with Other Local Businesses on Social Media

One of the best ways to connect with new customers in your area is to partner with other local businesses – particularly those whose audiences overlap with your own.

For example, if you own a clothing store, you might partner with a local shoe store or jewelry store. Or, if you own a nursery or floral shop, you could partner with a wedding boutique or bakery. From there, you have options, including:

  • Running a social media contest where you and your partner(s) post content and run ads to promote the contest. (Each contest sponsor should contribute part of the prize)
  • Offering special promotions and package deals for people who are willing to patronize both businesses.
  • Cross-posting content that’s relevant to both audiences.

You get the idea. The key is to make sure that the businesses you partner with are ones whose audience is likely to buy from you.

Share Coupons

Print-at-home coupons are a great way to incentivize people to come into your store. Everybody likes to save money and get a bargain.

If you decide to create a coupon, make it a significant one. A lot of local businesses offer one of these options:

  • A buy one, get one free (or get one half price) coupon
  • A coupon for a significant percentage off an item or total purchase (10% is the minimum)
  • A coupon for a free item with a purchase

A well-thought-out coupon can accomplish several things at once. First, it can incentivize your existing customers to come into your store and make a purchase. Second, if you encourage them to share the coupon, it can help attract new customers to your store.

Create a Social Media Code Word or Hashtag for Your Business
(#ucwebs #helpingbiz)

Social media is a great place to work on your word-of-mouth advertising. Think about what you can do to get people talking about your business – and how you can use that online chatter to encourage people to come see you in person.

One option is to create a “secret” code word or a special hashtag for your business. You can spread the word by asking people to share it – and by letting them know if they come into your business and mention the code word or hashtag, they’ll get a discount or a freebie.

This option is essentially a word-of-mouth coupon. There’s nothing to print. Instead, people simply need to know the code word and mention it when they check out.

Share Images of Your Customers

Social media marketing is an ideal way to forge personal connections with your customers and get to know them. One way to do that is to get in the habit of taking photographs (with permission, of course) of your customers while they’re shopping. If you get their okay, you can then share them (and tag your customers) on social media.

What this tactic does is show people how much fun they can have shopping at your store or patronizing your business. And, when you tag customers, you’ll also be putting your content in front of their friends! That’s a win-win.

Run Targeted Local Ads

While there are lots of ways to leverage organic social media marketing to get more foot traffic in your business, the fact is that paid advertising is still the best option if you want to make sure your content is seen by local people – the ones who are most likely to buy from you.

The good news is that social media advertising makes targeting easy. You should choose an audience that is specific to your geographical area. By narrowing it down further – with demographic information and interests – you can minimize your costs and maximize your reach.

Foot traffic doesn’t materialize out of nowhere. But a careful leveraging of your social media following can help you encourage your existing customers to make additional purchases from you – and incentivize their friends and other new customers to buy from you, too.

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