Residential Lighting: What is Internet marketing, really?
Bob Negen: Electronic marketing is using both e-mail and a website to deepen relationships with current customers and find new customers. Most retailers buy into the “Field of Dreams” myth: “If you build it, they will come.” They assume a website will drive massive amounts of traffic to their store all of a sudden. It’s just not true.
RL: So, is a website a wise investment then?
BN: Yes, but a website for independent retail storeowners is primarily a marketing tool. It should be for local customers doing local searches. To the vast majority of independents, I say forget about trying to talk to the world. The minute you try to sell lighting online, you’re playing the price game. Most independents won’t win that game.
RL: If we’re not selling online, what should we put on our site?
BN: Too many sites have page after page of lamps. Make it more personal; [post] case studies and feature events. Say you’re hosting a design forum at your showroom [with] John Q. Expert. Post the event on your website: “John Q. Expert will be at the showroom on Saturday.” Talk about what customers will learn, and link to Mr. Expert’s Web site. Then, send a series of e-mails to customers. Continue to mention it as the event gets closer, and provide a link back to your site each time. For most retail storeowners, that’s all the e-marketing that needs to be done.
RL: Do you have other tips for e-mail?
BN: E-mail is a tremendous tool to connect with customers and position yourself as the expert. Keep your messages short and sweet, interesting and frequent. Send e-mails featuring the latest design trends or ways to save energy with lighting. Messages should make customers feel good about doing business with you. E-mail is relationship-building first, a sales tool second. There is a tendency to get distracted — don’t. Stay focused on your customers.
RL: Do we need to worry about search engine optimization (SEO) or other scientific approaches to increasing website traffic?
BN: No. As long as your website uses keywords correctly, you’ll come up [in local searches]. The only time you need to worry about SEO is when you’re trying to sell to the world. Here’s a better trick: Tell a customer who is pleased with your store to go to local.google.com, write a review and give you five stars. Then, when other people do a local search—“lighting stores Grand Haven Michigan”—and see your store with 10 reviews, each with five stars, you’ll get the business.
Bob Negen is a retail veteran turned marketing consultant. His Grand Haven, MI-based company, WhizBang! Training, hosts Web sites and offers e-mail marketing programs for independent retailers.