5 ways to get bricks-n-mortar customers online

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Here's the thing about moving traditional customers online; you have to find innovative marketing strategies and ideas to get them to migrate.

But why would you want to do this in the first place? Surely, there's a lot to be said for face to face customer service? Sure, but there are also great marketing advantages for anyone who is able to market to their customers via email, newsletters, or interact with them via the Internet.

This article will highlight 5 innovative and creative marketing strategies that you can use to take existing customers and turn them into a loyal and engaged online fan base, that will help to grow your company and generate more revenue online.

Advantages of getting traditional customers online

The main advantages of being able to interact and engage with customers online are:

  • customers can access information more readily
  • provide additional support (think: forums, Q&A, expertise, etc)
  • extended reach - both in terms of time and geography
  • opportunity to market new deals, discounts, products and services
  • sell direct to customers
  • grow reputation and visibility via social media

There are actually plenty of compelling reasons that businesses should make every effort to engage with customers outside of their traditional business domain, in addition to the ones listed here.

Capitalize on your traditional customer base to grow an online customer base.

5 marketing strategies to take customers online

eCommerce and the Internet is growing rapidly. Traditional businesses need to take advantage of evolving online shopping trends because more and more people are turning to their connected devices to find products and services.

Since online retail is open 24/7, your existing customer base risks being slowly eroded by competitors who offer a great online shopping experience.

If you haven't already got a great eCommerce, mobile eCommerce (m-commerce), website or blog up and running, read the following articles show you the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective ways to build an online store, blog or website (note that it is far easier and cheaper to set up a great online store or website now than it was just a few years ago):

1. Offer additional customer support online

One of the best ways to get traditional customers signed up to your website or blog is to offer them online support and access to information about their products and services.

Not only is this a great way to get people online, it also:

  1. saves you time and effort providing face-to-face support
  2. creates a better customer experience

By giving customers easy online access to information they would otherwise have to call, or come down to the store for, you make life easier for both parties.

2. Integrate the Web into existing products and services

Why not split the value offering of a purchase into an online and offline component? In other words, make sure that there is a valuable online component to every product purchased via your store.

It can be anything. Use your imagination. For example:

  • a grocery store might offer delicious free recipes for customers to create their own meals based on what they have purchased
  • an office supply store might offer an online discount on printer ink for anyone purchasing a new printer

Offer something that makes it worthwhile for customers to visit your website, and keep them engaged and buying from you.

3. Provide special deals online

Are there products and services that would be cheaper to store and sell via a website, instead of taking up valuable shelf real estate? If so, offer these products at discount prices via your Website.

By ensuring that there are always great value deals and discounts available for online customers, you will set up a culture of visiting your website to find new deals - instead of wandering around the mall, looking at competitors' speciahs.

4. Make it easy for customers to find you online

Is you business website or blog address on your invoice slips? Is your website URL on product packaging and bags? Is your website or blog address up in the front window?

Chances are that your store is closed for more hours a day than it is open. But an online store or website is available 24/7. Why miss out on customers who can't come in during office hours? Make sure that anyone who sees your store knows how to find it online just by looking.

Build your website address into your brand. It is after all, a client facing ambassador for your business.

5. Use social media

Social media is a really powerful tool for marketing and generating sales. However, it's a chicken and egg scenario because it only works once you have fans and followers.

This makes it crucial that you begin growing a social following on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, FaceBook, or whichever social network is most relevant. Consider the following scenario:

Every customer who comes into your store and makes a purchase, begins following you on Twitter (because you offer them huge specials available via Twitter only).

After a year you have a few thousand local customers following you on Twitter.

On a busy shopping day - like black Friday - you begin offering time sensitive, huge discounts, to attract customers to your store. People watching their Twitter feed for discounts, rush to your store to take advantage of the deal.

Getting people in to the store is now something you can do with a single tweet. Converting, cross-selling and up-selling is up to your in-store sales techniques.

Are you running a traditional business? Have you had success in growing online? Share your online marketing strategies, or ask questions, in the comments.

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I am an ardent supporter of creating great quality content that ranks well in Google search for marketing purposes.

Recently, however, I have been forced to concede that organic traffic from Google is no longer reliable enough.

Since 2012 Google's search results have been in upheaval, and while the general thrust of the changes are to improve search results and cut out spam, there has been significant collateral damage along the way.

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Content fatigue, when it comes to finding innovative and creative marketing advice, is becoming a serious time burglar for me.

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Social media marketing is one of those things that most entrepreneurs and small business owners wonder if they really need.

In general, my answer is yes, but I need to qualify that by saying that the amount of time, effort and cash you invest must be proportional to the returns you want (and can realistically achieve).

I serve on the board of a wonderful not-for-profit, registered charity, and we have utilized the tools and technologies provided by the Web, and in particular, social media, to drive visibility, engagement, and awareness that would simply be out of reach otherwise.

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Customer service is a great marketing opportunity

Any company that outsources their customer service is being silly, and are inviting competitors to swoop in and pilfer their client base.

Customer service is one of the few real opportunities you have to forge a solid relationship with people. Why on earth would you want to hand it over to someone else (who hides you from the people that sustain your business)?

And while handling customer complaints and queries can seem like a chore, it can be converted into one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to you.

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Finding the best affiliate programs to make money from your blog, or Web content, is easy if you work with WordPress and Web hosting/Web design.

WordPress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world, with a huge community of webmasters, bloggers and developers.

This makes it an attractive niche market for bloggers and affiliate marketers who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to discussing Web design and Web hosting.

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Great marketing ideas that don't involve press releases

If you have been tempted into using an online press release distribution service (free, or otherwise) then I'm here to warn you about the risks.

Search marketers used pr distribution services to quickly spread "news" and articles of dubious quality around the Web. This lead to a huge increase in targeted backlinks that improved organic traffic listings and PageRank in Google.

Essentially, press release distribution services became a great black-hat SEO strategy that worked well - until Google caught on.

Big brands, especially ones in trendy, fashionable industries should be killing it when it comes to social media marketing, right?

Actually, there's fairly obvious evidence that they are wasting a lot of money on social marketing campaigns that are not generating returns.

This is good news for smaller businesses that are prepared to use social media correctly, because it levels the playing field for those without endless budgets.

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For many bloggers, webmasters and entrepreneurs there's nothing quite as exciting as seeing an article or brand mention taking on a life of its own and gener

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